101-103: Dr. Ted Lyon on LDS Church Change, Latin American Missions, LDS Membership Statistics, and Thoughtful Faith

Dr. Ted Lyon has served as a BYU Professor, LDS Mission President, LDS MTC President, and is currently serving as the LDS temple president in Santiago, Chile. He is both a believing Mormon, and an intellectual.

  • In part 1, he discusses changes in the LDS church during his lifetime.
  • In part 2, he discusses tough lessons learned by the LDS church in Latin America dealing with low quality of baptisms, and retention. He also discusses the importance of reconciling thought with faith.
  • In part 3, he answers questions from the audience, and concludes with his testimony of the truthfulness of the LDS church.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 1

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Part 2

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Part 3

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  1. Terrence Malick

    Mr. Lyon,
    I went to an LDS sacrament meeting only once.
    It was a testimony meeting.
    All the women were crying their eyes out like you were when you heard Gordon “Believe me!” Hinckley bearing his testimony.
    Actually, that testimony meeting scared me out of the church.

    While John Dehlin claims you are an intellectual, I would rather say that you are an overly emotional person. When people fall for such testimonies, it is not their rational thought but simply their feelings which guides their behavior.
    When somebody else gives a strong testimony that something is true, that does not make it true one little bit.

    If you want to read a really strong testimony, try “Mein Kampf” by Adolf Hitler. Very strong testimony indeed. And many people also fell for his speeches. Still, it is not true that Judaism is the root of all evil.
    Adolf Hitler knew how to manipulate the feeling of people. Likewise, Gordon Hinckley does, likewise testimony meetings are arranged in such a way to arouse these strong emotions. Bearing testimony is a means to arouse emotions, emotions which then guide a person’s behavior.
    Still, feeling such emotions does not make the church true.

    The truthfulness of something cannot be found in the emotions one feels towards it.
    Therefore, I think that people basing their behavior on such emotions should not be called “intellectuals” but rather “emotionals”.

    Do you base your testimony solely on emotions, or is there an intellectual side too?
    I would rather be interested in that, knowing that emotions can be manipulated easily.

    Terrence Malick

    1. An open letter to Terrance Malick:  Except for Kubrick, I would say you are almost in a class almost by yourself  in capturing images on the screen.     I knew I would like The Tree of Life and was not disappointed. Artistic with an excellent script, soundtrack.   A fine treatment of family life, the dual nature of man, transgression, repentance, forgiveness, mercy, grace,  beauty, etc.   At least these are some of the words I would use to describe what I saw.  And it all seemed very familiar.  Not depressing, but affirming.  Not all in my family who attended agreed with me.  One found it quite depressing.   I expected to like this film, since I enjoyed Days of Heaven and had read reviews for The Tree.  I very rarely go to a theatre as so much of what is produced today is trash to make money.   So I googled your name and Mormonism and  it was somewhat disconcerting to read your letter.     I don’t consider myself to be overly emotional.   As a trial attorney for 37 years I  could not afford to be, but emotion is not a bad thing in and of itself , especially when it derives from reason.  You can probably admit that as a director.  Obviously saying something is so, does not make it so.  On the other hand, the fact that a person testifies to something does not mean that what he testifies to is false , whether the testimony is conveyed with emotion or a dry eye.  And it does not mean that he is trying to “manipulate.”  Your  comparison of Gordon Hinkley to Hitler and manipulation was therefore most disappointing.  What you are apparently  saying is that you do not believe Mormonism itself is “true.”    That is ok, your choice.  However your opinion does not establish that Mormonism is “false” anymore than mine establishes that it is “true.”     I do find it interesting that your depiction of  family life in The Tree of Life resonated with me.     The film to me was edifying, made me more empathetic to the human condition and encouraged me to be a better person.   Regardless of what you might have thought or what you think about my faith, I applaud you Mr. Malick for your skills in filmmaking and for having the discipline to make a film with an edifying script, with earnest characters not corrupted by foul language, gratuitous  violence and gratuitous sex.      While I doubt this will ever reach you, if it does, I would welcome your response.   Mark Whitney

    2. Terrance,
      I too loved your film! I found it very moving. Honestly, one of my favorite movies.
      Emotions can be manipulated, but so can intellect. That’s why testimony is neither emotion or intellect alone. Testimony is based on spiritual endowments of knowledge or pure intelligence, which cannot be conveyed unless you experience it for yourself. It transcends human understanding.

  2. In response to Terrence Malick’s post, I don’t think we can get a real sense about the anatomy of Dr. Lyon’s testimony from this one interview. I agree that emotions probably play too large a role in some people’s testimonies, but I don’t think it’s fair to assume that about Dr. Lyon. I suspect that he could have cited many aspects of his belief which are intellectually based, had that been the point of the interview.

    I totally adore The Thin Red Line by the way.

  3. “I guess we know which side Terrence Malick plays for”

    I don’t know if I agree with that. As a young missionary in Tennessee, I attended my first Assembly of God Revival. I pondered over it for days after that, marveling how everything that was done at it – from the rock-oriented gospel music to the tragic stories shared by the traveling evangelist – were designed to intensify emotion in order to bring people to the altar. It was very effective; and since that day I have sought to carefully separate spiritual experiences derived from the still, small voice from those aroused by emotional sources. It’s not always easy to do.

    I certainly disagree with Mr. Malick in his appraisal of President Hinckley. I have always felt he and other general authorities try to speak calmly and with little verbosity to allow the Spirit to speak. When emotion is shown, such as with President Eyring when he spoke of the Savior in the Christmas devotion, it is obviously non-premeditated and very sincere.

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  5. John,

    I would be interested in hearing more about the mission experience of the “Brad Wilcox” that Ted Lyon mentions. Apparently, as Ted Lyon explained, Wilcox was not a numbers focused mission president instead focusing on more intangibles … spirituality ???

    Perhaps an upcoming MS podcast ???

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  7. Carlosgaido2002

    Thomas Lyon was my mission president in Chile. Even though we weren’t super close, I know he did his best as a leader. He always came across as very educated, even if a little too proud of that very fact, which was confirmed to me in conversation with some of his Spanish students at BYU. Unfortunately, President Lyon was one of those mission presidents who gave his missionaries unreasonable goals. He always told us, at least through his AP’s, that if we had faith, we should be able to baptize 10 people each month, which is, to paraphrase John’s quote on his very first podcast, setting a goal that rests on the free agency of other people. That little detail made my mission more miserable, since it made me feel that maybe I didn’t have enough faith, or that I didn’t do my part, even though I did everything I was supposed to do, and more. Now I have mixed feelings about my mission, since it could have been such an amazing time in my life, but because of all that pressure, it was an amazing time mixed with mental torture. Does that make sense?

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