2023.40 : Heartbroken Saint¹

Salt Lake City, Utah U.S.A. Circa 2023

If it keeps on raining, levee’s going to break
When the levee breaks, have no place to stay
Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan, oh
Oh, don’t it make you feel bad
When you’re trying to find your way home
You don’t know which way to go
Crying won’t help you, praying won’t do you no good

— Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie

My third great-grandfather’s sister was told by Joseph Smith² himself that she was the first woman to obey The Law of Sarah³, and did so happily with a window of the Haun’s Mill Massacre⁴. A couple of years later, she would marry Joseph. Reading her unique attitude towards this pivotal moment in American history, and her daughter’s equally interesting experience and choice with Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, filled me with a deep feeling of kinship across time. Their words and reasoning felt as if my own.

Growing up among the Saints blessed me with my longest-lasting, meaningful friendships. This familiarity both instilled many of the good values I still hold, as well as doing my best to never give my beloved friends reason to put anything on their shelves⁵. Their testimonies⁵ are precious to them. What matters most is our relationship of caring, listening, and when asked – advice (a.k.a. counsel).

For decades these relationships of mutual respect have held, even as the Brethren’s⁶ wisdom constricted the Overton Window⁷. At General Conference⁸, October 1, 2023, during the keynote presentation, President Nelson, whose other title is prophet, proclaimed:

“As you think celestial, you will view trials and opposition in a new light. When someone you love attacks truth, think celestial and don’t question your testimony. The apostle Paul prophesied that ‘in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.’ There is no end to the adversary’s deceptions. Please be prepared. Never take counsel from those who do not believe. Seek guidance from voices you can trust. From prophets, seers, and revelators and from the whisperings of the Holy Ghost who will show unto you the things which ye should do. Please do the spiritual work to increase your capacity to receive personal revelation. As you think celestial, your faith will increase.”

Allow me to highlight the part that jumped out at me: “Never take counsel from those who do not believe.”

Does the prophet only mean theological, doctrinal, and spiritual matters? If so, I get it. Then someone brought to my attention that mixed marriages, where one partner is a believer and the other isn’t, aren’t rare in the church. So, did the prophet just command children not to listen to their non-believing father or non-believing mother? Have fun with that one, my friends in the church. I’ll be over here doing my thing.

Wait… Hmmm… Hold on… Does the prophet also mean, or will his words be interpreted to mean, never take counsel from non-believers on non-religious matters? A grand parade of horribles, with a full marching band, filled my imagination. Were my believing friends just ripped from my life? Calm yourself, I told myself. It doesn’t matter how other Saints interpret the prophet’s words; what matters is how the Saints I love act. Okay. Ask them.

First, I asked a dear friend I have known since 5th grade. I tell myself I can depend on her to tell me to stop being silly. She’s too kind to tell me to stop being stupid.

At the time of this writing, no response. Oh oh.

Next, I asked a woman I have known since we were small children. The woman that imprinted on me what I have searched for my entire life. The woman who knows my heart. She will find the question odd. She will decode any of my poor phrasing into what my heart fears. She will know how to reassure me.

At the time of this writing, no response. Ouch. This is getting awkward.

Next up, my brother from another mother. Again met in 5th grade as boys who bonded as we became men.

That didn’t just happen! No one knows my power of discernment better than he. He’s been on the receiving end of it more than once. He knows I have a superpower of seeing bad news around corners. I can’t see most things, but what I can see, he knows from decades of experience how uncanny my vision can be.

And yet… that was his reply. My heart shattered. Hear my grief in the wails of the amazing vocalists and in the sorrowful lyrics in this week’s companion video.

“We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will stand, truth will endure.” – Joseph F. Smith

“If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Article of Faith 13.

Once again I find strength in Roxanne’s dignity. For those of you who were scared away by the title, I encourage you to read it, it’s not what you think, and it’s better.

And now… know the photograph.


¹ One of the several words The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members refer to other members is the word Saint. Why not Mormon or LDS? Because in 2018, President (Prophet) Nelson said:

“What’s in a name or, in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the “LDS Church,” the “Mormon Church,” or the “Church of the Latter-day Saints,” the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement.”

² The founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

³ A topic for the advanced theology class.

⁴ A topic for the advanced history class.

⁵ Meaning when there are questions of faith, those questions are put on a figurative shelf, belief intact.

⁶ A Saint’s reasons for belief shared with other Saints.

⁷ A common term members use to refer to the General Authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as in “the Brethren.”

⁸ “The Overton Window is the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time. It is also known as the window of discourse.” – Wikipedia

⁹ “General conference is the worldwide gathering of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Twice a year, during the first weekend of April and the first weekend of October, Church leaders from around the world share messages or sermons focused on the living Christ and His gospel. Viewers learn how to find peace, hope, and joy in Jesus Christ; how to strengthen families by following Jesus’s teachings; and how to receive personal guidance and inspiration from God. General conference is streamed and broadcast live in about 70 languages and is later translated into more than 100 languages. We invite everyone—of all faiths, beliefs, and backgrounds from everywhere in the world—to watch, listen, and participate.”

When The Levee Breaks feat. John Paul Jones | Playing For Change | Song Around The World

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