Is delusional too strong a word?–Part II

Part II: Previous Remarks from Church Leaders

If Kelly wishes to stick to her guns and declare that anything Church Public Affairs says bears absolutely no relation to the Church’s official position on these matters, we could sigh heavily and pull out some recent—and not-to-recent—remarks from the leaders she claims to want to hear from.

Elder Neil L. Anderson

Elder Anderson directly addressed the question that Kelly and OW say they want an answer to:

Some may sincerely ask the question, “If the power and blessings of the priesthood are available to all, why are the ordinances of the priesthood administered by men?”

When an angel asked Nephi, “Knowest thou the condescension of God?” Nephi answered honestly, “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”

When we speak of the priesthood, there are many things we do know.

We know that God loves all His children and is no respecter of persons. “He denieth none that come unto him, … male [or] female; … and all are alike unto God.”

As surely as we know that God’s love is “alike” for His sons and His daughters, we also know that He did not create men and women exactly the same. We know that gender is an essential characteristic of both our mortal and eternal identity and purpose. Sacred responsibilities are given to each gender….

While there are many things we do know about the priesthood, seeing through the lens of mortality does not always give a complete understanding of the workings of God.  But His gentle reminder, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” reassures us that with time and eternal perspective we will see things “as they really are” and more completely understand His perfect love.

We all willingly serve. Sometimes we feel underwhelmed with our calling and wish we were asked to do more. Other times we are grateful when it is time for our release. We do not determine the callings we receive.[1]

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Elder Oaks’ remarks in April 2014 conference got a great deal of attention (if you haven’t read them, you should read them all). Kelly and many others, however, seem unaware that this is not a “new” take on things, or something novel. Elder Oaks taught virtually the same thing (though in less detail) more than twenty years ago:

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that the Prophet’s action opened to women the possibility of exercising “some measure of divine authority, particularly in the direction of government and instruction in behalf of the women of the Church.” (Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1965, p. 5.) President Smith explained: “While the sisters have not been given the Priesthood, … that does not mean that the Lord has not given unto them authority. Authority and Priesthood are two different things. A person may have authority given to him, or a sister to her, to do certain things in the Church that are binding and absolutely necessary for our salvation, such as the work that our sisters do in the House of the Lord.” (Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1959, p. 4.)….

Under the priesthood authority of the bishop, the president of a ward Relief Society presides over and directs the activities of the Relief Society in the ward. A stake Relief Society president presides and exercises authority over the function to which she has been called. The same is true for the other auxiliaries. Similarly, women called as missionaries are set apart to go forth with authority to teach the everlasting gospel, and women called to work in a temple are given authority for the sacred functions to which they have been called. All function under the direction of the priesthood leader who has been given the priesthood keys to direct those who labor in his area of responsibility.[2]

The answer that Kelly claims to want has been available the whole time.

Elder M. Russell Ballard

Elder Ballard likewise cautioned us against Kelly’s specific tactics more than twenty years ago:

In these latter days, we see people, increasing in number, who urge others to feel and voice dissent when frustration and hardship enter their lives. They would have us believe that the Church or its leaders are unfair to women, or that women are denied opportunities to realize their full potential within the gospel framework. Sisters, we know that the Church is made up of mortals, that priesthood leaders are fallible, and some may not always handle their stewardships with suitable sensitivity. However, I want you to understand this plain truth: the gospel of Jesus Christ provides the only way for women or men to achieve their full potential as children of God. Only the gospel can free us from the terrible effects of sin. Only by following God’s plan for us, with faith and determination to live ultimately in eternal families, can we qualify for eternal life in His presence. Ideally, the Church and the family do not inhibit our progress. They expedite it by putting our feet firmly on the gospel path that leads us back to God. We each have the privilege to carefully and prayerfully seek the Lord’s will for us regarding our individual challenges and dilemmas. Personal revelation is personal, indeed. It is not based on gender or position but on worthiness. It comes in response to sincere inquiry. However, revelation for the Church comes only through the Lord’s prophets, seers, and revelators.

In these confusing times, keeping our feet on the gospel path can be difficult. We hear many persuasive voices urging us to turn our backs on revealed truth and embrace the philosophies of the world.[3]

He also pointed out:

Let me also observe that none of the Twelve are shrinking violets. We each have strong personalities. So when we are unified in a decision, you can rest assured that we have counseled together and come to that decision after much prayer and thoughtful discussion. [4]

And, the leaders do not (contrary to Kelly’s caricature) need a massive sidewalk protest to help them realize that this is an issue:

I have heard that some people think the Church leaders live in a “bubble.” What they forget is that we are men and women of experience, and we have lived our lives in so many places and worked with many people from different backgrounds. Our current assignments literally take us around the globe, where we meet the political, religious, business, and humanitarian leaders of the world. Although we have visited the White House in Washington, D.C., and leaders of nations throughout the world, we have also visited the most humble homes on earth, where we have met and ministered to the poor.

When you thoughtfully consider our lives and ministry, you will most likely agree that we see and experience the world in ways few others do. You will realize that we live less in a “bubble” than most people.[5]

President James E. Faust

President Faust could have saved Kelly some tactics that could not work, had she listened. He spoke more than a decade ago:

Continuous revelation will not and cannot be forced by outside pressure from people and events. It is not the so-called “revelation of social progress.” It does not originate with the prophets; it comes from God. The Church is governed by the prophet under the inspiration, guidance, and direction of the Lord.[6]

Even if Kelly doesn’t believe this, she should at least be savvy enough to realize that those in charge do believe it, and so aren’t likely to respond well to her approach—as she was told over and over again.

Sister leaders too!

And, if Kelly even were to insist that she’ll only listen to women—no XY chromosomes allowed—even that message is available, were she willing to hear it. Said Sister Elaine S. Dalton, the general Young Women’s president:

Young women, you will be the ones who will provide the example of virtuous womanhood and motherhood. You will continue to be virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy, and of good report. You will also be the ones who will provide the example of family life in a time when families are under attack, being redefined, and disintegrating. You will understand your roles and your responsibilities and thus will see no need to lobby for rights.[7]

One really has to ask–what’s wrong with all of the above that makes Kelly think she hasn’t gotten an answer until now?


 

Endnotes

[1] Neil L. Anderson, “Power in the Priesthood,” Ensign (November 2013).

[2] Dallin H. Oaks, “The Relief Society and the Church,” Ensign (May 1992).

[3] M. Russell Ballard, “Equality Through Diversity,” Ensign (November 1993).

[4]M. Russell Ballard, “Be Still, and Know That I Am God,” CES Devotional for Young Adults, San Diego, California (4 May 2014).

[5]M. Russell Ballard, “Be Still, and Know That I Am God,” CES Devotional for Young Adults, San Diego, California (4 May 2014).

[6]James E. Faust, “Come Out of the Darkness into the Light,” CES Fireside for Young Adults (8 September 2002).

[7]Elaine S. Dalton (YW Gen Pres), “Prophetic Priorities and Dedicated Disciples,” BYU Devotional, 15 January 2013.

Church Public Affairs goes Rogue? Riiiight.

It is becoming strangely popular in Church dissident circles to claim that when the Church’s Public Affairs department speaks, this does not really reflect the opinions or positions of the prophets and apostles.

I know, I know. This is the same group who are often claiming that some apostle or other is power-mad and out of control, imposing his will willy-nilly (like making sure a dissident gets summoned to a disciplinary council). But this makes for a strange juxtaposition–an out-of-control Church department full of Church employees that the poor apostles simply cannot rein in or fire, while the apostles nearly simultaneously exert their autocratic influence into wards in Washington, DC or Logan, Utah staffed by volunteer clergy.

An odd claim, to say the least.

Section A: Statements from Church Public Affairs

Church Public Affairs has issued statements that make their role clear:

Church Public Affairs “does not act independently of church leadership,” spokesman Scott Trotter….“Official statements on the [LDS] church websites are approved at the highest level.” He added, “The church is naturally concerned when some members deliberately misrepresent its leaders and actions. In such cases, the church reserves the right to publicly correct the record.”[1]

In 2014, Michael Otterson (managing director of Church Public Affairs) wrote:

First, it’s important to understand that the Public Affairs Department of the Church does not freelance. For Public Affairs to initiate or take a position inconsistent with the views of those who preside over the Church is simply unthinkable, as anyone who has ever worked for the Church will attest.
As managing director of the Public Affairs Department, I work under the direct supervision of two members of the Twelve apostles, two members of the Presidency of the Seventy and the Presiding Bishop, and alongside a remarkable and devoted staff of men and women.
This group of senior General Authorities often refers matters of particular importance to other councils of men and women leaders, to the full Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and to the First Presidency for further discussion or decision.[2]

He elsewhere wrote:

Please also understand that no Church spokesperson…issues statements on behalf of the Church that are not either initiated or approved by members of the Twelve and, at times, by the First Presidency. We stand by the statement that was issued on their behalf, and which was accurate in every detail.[3]

Section B: Statements from Church Leaders

Ah, but my readers are a sagacious and clever bunch. “That’s just what a rogue Church PA office would say, isn’t it?”

Well, I salute to your powers of deduction, gentle reader. Bowing to your logic, I offer Elder Quentin L. Cook’s take on the matter:

It’s interesting. People who disagree with anything that is either sent by letter or put in the Newsroom, or however it’s done, can find interesting ways to say that it really doesn’t mean what it says.

You look back at the history of Wilford Woodruff’s announcement on polygamy in 1890 and there were still people quibbling about that for a long, long time.

The Church uses, the First Presidency and the Twelve use, whatever means will be most effective depending on what the issue is and who it affects. Most often that will be a letter to stake presidents and bishops, and it will be sent all over the world. But sometimes it’s for a particular area.

Sometimes we use news releases. Sometimes we use the Newsroom site to put those up, particularly with community issues that are important. When something is put up on the Newsroom or an announcement is made in a different way, that is the Church’s policy.

It’s interesting to me that the announcement that the priesthood would be available to all worthy male members regardless of race was a news release. Ultimately there was a letter sent out, but it was announced at a press conference with the Managing Director of Public Affairs. Some people have chosen to say they’re not going to believe it unless it’s in a letter. Others have said that the prophet will have to tell them personally. I think that kind of tells you where they are when they make those kinds of statements.

When something goes up on the Newsroom site, you can be sure that the approval process is such that those official statements have the complete support of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.[4]

Given the above, on second thought I think the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve could probably squash the sorts of claims we saw in section A–so my wise readers (all five of you–Hi, Mom!) should maybe not toss those out too quickly either.


 

Endnotes

[1] Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Some LDS conservatives now at odds with their church,” Salt Lake Tribune (28 April 2011).

[2] Michael Otterson (Managing Director, Church Public Affairs), “Context missing from discussion about women,” letter (29 May 2014), 4

[3] Michael Otterson (Managing Director, Church public affairs), “Dear Sister Reynolds,” letter (April 2014).

[4] Quentin L. Cook, “Understanding Our External Environment,” Leadership Enrichment Series (23 February 2011).

Timely quotes on the passing scene–Part 7: Other scriptures

Book of Mormon:

Therefore I say unto you, that he that will not hear my voice, the same shall ye not receive into my church, for him I will not receive at the last day. Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also. 30 Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me….Now I say unto you, Go; and whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people; and this shall be observed from this time forward….

And it came to pass that Alma went and judged those that had been taken in iniquity, according to the word of the Lord. And whosoever repented of their sins and did confess them, them he did number among the people of the church; And those that would not confess their sins and repent of their iniquity, the same were not numbered among the people of the church, and their names were blotted out. (Mosiah 26:28-36)

 

Bible:

Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.  For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without?  do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth.  Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (1 Corinthians 5:6-13)

Timely quotes on the passing scene–Part 6: Doctrine and Covenants

D&C 134:10

We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world’s goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them.  They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship.

D&C 42:90-93: Why are some discipline matters announced publicly?

And if thy brother or sister offend many, he or she shall be chastened before many. And if any one offend openly, he or she shall be rebuked openly, that he or she may be ashamed.  And if he or she confess not, he or she shall be delivered up unto the law of God. If any shall offend in secret, he or she shall be rebuked in secret, that he or she may have opportunity to confess in secret to him or her whom he or she has offended, and to God, that the church may not speak reproachfully of him or her. And thus shall ye conduct in all things.

D&C 41:5

He that receiveth my law and doeth it, the same is my disciple; and he that saith he receiveth it and doeth it not, the same is not my disciple, and shall be cast out from among you;

D&C 50:6-9

But wo unto them that are deceivers and hypocrites, for, thus saith the Lord, I will bring them to judgment. Behold, verily I say unto you, there are hypocrites among you, who have deceived some, which has given the adversary power; but behold such [those deceived by hypocrites] shall be reclaimed; But the hypocrites shall be detected and shall be cut off, either in life or in death, even as I will; and wo unto them who are cut off from my church, for the same are overcome of the world. Wherefore, let every man beware lest he do that which is not in truth and righteousness before me.

D&C 64:34-35

Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days. And the rebellious shall be cut off out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall not inherit the land.

D&C 85:11

And they who are of the High Priesthood, whose names are not found written in the book of the law, or that are found to have apostatized, or to have been cut off from the church, as well as the lesser priesthood, or the members, in that day shall not find an inheritance among the saints of the Most High;

 

Timely quotes on the passing scene–Part 5

Marion G. Romney:

Some members assume that one can be in full harmony with the spirit of the gospel, enjoy full fellowship in the Church, and at the same time be out of harmony with the leaders of the Church and the counsel and direction they give. Such a position is wholly inconsistent. . . . Those who profess to accept the gospel and who at the same time criticize and refuse to follow the counsel of the prophets are assuming an indefensible position. Such a spirit leads to apostasy.

– Marion G. Romney, Conference Report (April 1983): 21.

 

Dallin H. Oaks:

We have the concept of apostasy. It is grounds for Church discipline. It is far less frequently grounds for Church discipline than immoral behavior. I think if you had 100 Church excommunications, 98 of them would be for immoral behavior. Two of them, perhaps, or one of a hundred, would be for apostasy.

Apostasy, being rare, has to be carefully defined. We have three definitions of apostasy: one is open, public and repeated opposition to the Church or its leaders. Open, public, repeated opposition to the Church or its leaders — I’ll come back to that in a moment. A second one is to teach as doctrine something that is not Church doctrine after one has been advised by appropriate authority that that’s false doctrine. In other words, just teaching false doctrine is not apostasy, but [it is] teaching persistently after you’ve been warned….

So, we go back to the first cause of apostasy — open, public and repeated opposition to the Church and its leaders. That does not include searching for a middle ground. It doesn’t include worrying over a doctrine. It doesn’t include not believing a particular doctrine. None of those are apostasy. None of those are the basis of Church discipline. But when a person comes out publicly and opposes the Church, such as by saying, “I do not think anyone should follow the leaders of the Church in their missionary program, calling these young people to go out and preach the gospel,” or whatever the particular issue of the day. And when you go out and begin to “thump the tub” and try to gather opposition and organize opposition and pronounce and preach against the Church — that can be a basis for Church discipline.

– Dallin H. Oaks, Interview with Helen Whitney, 20 July 2007, italics in original.

 

Joseph F. Smith:

Of course, if a member or members of the minority regard the action of the majority as a violation of some fundamental principle, or subversive of the inherent rights of men, against which they conceive it to be a matter of conscience to enter protest or absolute repudiation, I understand it is their right to so proceed; but this, let it be understood, would be revolutionary, it would be rebellion, and if persisted in, could only end in such persons voluntarily withdrawing, or being severed from the organization. They cannot hope to be retained in a fellowship and enjoy the rights and privileges of the Church, and at the same time be making war upon its decisions or its rules and policy. But no power on earth, certainly no power in the Church, can prevent men dissatisfied with the Church, from absolutely withdrawing from it; and such is the disfavor with which the Church is regarded by the world that such withdrawals would in most cases be rewarded by the applause of the world. Or, if the dissatisfaction of the member be only with the quorum or council of the priesthood with which he is connected, he would be at liberty to withdraw from that quorum or council, and still retain his membership in the Church. On the other hand, the harmony which I spoke of as being essential to the Church certainly demands that’ the Church shall not tolerate, and indeed, if the life of the organization persists, it cannot tolerate such internal conflicts as those just alluded to, as they would lead to confusion, anarchy, disruption, and final abolishment of the organization.

– Joseph F. Smith, “Editor’s Table: Harmony,” Improvement Era (1905); also in Gospel Doctrine, edited by John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1919), 130.

 

Timely quotes on the passing scene–Part 4

Neal A. Maxwell (with a quote from Joseph Smith, Jr. that those who mis-cite him should consider):

The Lord will tend and tutor His anointed. He has His special ways, and we can trust Him to manage His leaders. Meanwhile those same leaders, whether Moses or Brigham Young, humbly and genuinely wish that every man were a prophet and each individual could have his own strong witness that this work is true (see Numbers 11:29; D&C 1:20).

Some have difficulty, however, about reposing confidence in the Lord’s anointed. Over the decades, “we have learned by sad experience” that it is better for developing dissidents to be lovingly counseled, and, if necessary, lovingly disciplined “early on.” Often, waiting means that any meekness they have vanishes. It is sad that, as their faith shrinks, their circle of influence may temporarily enlarge. From Liberty Jail, the Prophet Joseph, who had known so much betrayal and learned from so much “sad experience,” declared his determination thus: “Your humble servant or servants, intend from henceforth to disapprobate everything that is not in accordance with the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, … They will not hold their peace—as in times past when they see iniquity beginning to rear its head—for fear of traitors, or the consequences that shall follow by reproving those who creep in unawares, that they may get something with which to destroy the flock.”

A few in the Church simply don’t like to have anybody preside over them. They are like the critics of Nephi, who complained that “Nephi thinks to rule over us,” saying that power, instead, “belongs unto us” (2 Nephi 5:3). It was the same in Moses’ time. Dissidents “rose up” against Moses, complaining, “thou … make thyself … a prince over us. … Ye take too much upon you.” (Numbers 16:2, 3, 13.) Some complained then—and a few do now—”Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?” (Numbers 12:2.)

— Neal A. Maxwell, Lord, Increase Our Faith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1994), 92-93.

President J. Reuben Clark:

I wish to make here one observation about the First Vision.

No man or woman is a true member of the Church who does not fully accept the First Vision, just as no man is a Christian who does not accept, first, the Fall of Adam, and second, the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Any titular Church member who does not accept the First Vision but who continues to pose as a Church member, lacks not only moral courage but intellectual integrity and honor if he does not avow himself an apostate and discontinue going about the Church, and among the youth particularly, as a Churchman, teaching not only lack-faith but faith-destroying doctrines. He is a true wolf in sheep’s clothing.

— J. Reuben Clark, “When Are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture,” address given to seminary and institute teachers, at BYU, 7 July 1954, published in Church News (31 July 1954): 9–10; reprinted in Dialogue 12 (Summer 1979): 68–80.

Joseph F. Smith

Some of our good Latter-day Saints have become so exceedingly good…that they cannot tell the difference between a Saint of God, an honest man, and a son of Beelzebub, who has yielded himself absolutely to sin and wickedness. And they call that liberality, broadness of mind, exceeding love. I do not want to become so blinded with love for my enemies that I cannot discern between light and darkness, between truth and error, between good and evil, but I hope to live so that I shall have sufficient light in me to discern between error and truth, and to cast my lot on the side of truth and not on the side of error and darkness. The Lord bless the Latter-day Saints. If I am too narrow with reference to these matters, I hope that the wisdom of my brethren and the Spirit of Light from the Lord may broaden my soul.

Conference Report (October 1907): 6; address of 4 October 1907.

Neal A. Maxwell:

Sadly, there are those in the Church who try to camouflage their behavioral problems by covering up with intellectual reservations or reasons. They fool only themselves.

— Neal A. Maxwell, dictated December 1996, cited in A Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, Co., 1997), 27.

Timely quotes on the passing scene–Part 3: The Abuse of President Uchdorf

In another desperate attempt to imply that one can do or say anything and remain a member of the Church in good standing, some are quoting President Uchdorf:

Regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church.

— Dieter F. Uchdorf, “Come, Join With Us,” Ensign (November 2013).

Things Unsaid

There are a number of things which President Uchdorf does not say in this sentence:

  • He does not say, “regardless of what you teach to others as the truth, there is room for you.”
  • He does not say, “regardless of what you induce others to do, there is room for you.”
  • He does not say, “regardless of how you try to force Church leaders to act through public-pressure and political tactics, there is room for you.”
  • He does not say, “regardless of what truths you deny and what untruths you spread, there is room for you.”

Things Unquoted

There are also a number of phrases from the very same talk which rather undercut what those charged with apostasy would like us to conclude.

President Uchdorf said:

[A non-member] met a nice couple who represented The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked, “What do you require of your members?”

We do not require anything,” they replied. “But the Lord asks that we consecrate all.”

If God requires everything of us, that would seem to include such things as:

  • our desire for power and control
  • our desire for prestige or dominance
  • our desire to use pressure tactics to push for change
  • our doubts, our worries, or our hangups.

This leads to another of President Uchdorf’s quotes, which those circles who support or encourage apostates have treated with considerable scorn:

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.

We consecrate our doubts through our walk of discipleship. We do not fondle them, spread them, or loudly declare that others should share or embrace them.

Some might say, “I don’t think I could live up to your standards.”

All the more reason to come! The Church is designed to nourish the imperfect, the struggling, and the exhausted. It is filled with people who desire with all their heart to keep the commandments, even if they haven’t mastered them yet.

No one is perfect with the standards of a Christian life. But, there is no room for those who decry such standards, or teach others to violate those standards, or who argue that such standards are oppressive or evil:

None of us is quite as Christlike as we know we should be. But we earnestly desire to overcome our faults and the tendency to sin. With our heart and soul we yearn to become better with the help of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

All are welcome who are likewise engaged. But, it is a huge strain to believe that President Uchdorf meant that it’s OK to be part of the Church while flaunting our sin, denying that it is sin, or encouraging others to sin, to “call good evil, and evil good.”

Will we also go away? Or will we, like Peter, hold fast to the words of eternal life?….I plead with all who hear or read these words: Come, join with us. Come heed the call of the gentle Christ. Take up your cross and follow Him.

This last is the core of President Uchdorf’s message–join with us in Christian discipleship. And, that includes taking up the cross, and following Him. Or, as he said elsewhere:

Brethren, discipleship is a lifelong journey following our Savior. Along our metaphorical path from Bethlehem to Golgotha, we will have many opportunities to abandon our journey. At times it will seem that the path requires more than we had wished for. But as men of the priesthood, we must have the courage to follow our Redeemer, even when our cross seems too heavy to bear. [“Four Titles,” Ensign (May 2013).]

To take up the cross is to bear our burdens, our weaknesses, and our thwarted desires. There may be sins we desperately want to commit–we should, instead, take up the cross and not commit them. There may be things we don’t want to do, but should–we should take up the cross, and do them.

We must “hold fast to the words of eternal life”–embrace the scriptures, not denigrate them as nineteenth-century fictions concocted by a fraud.

There is room for everyone who wishes to follow Christ, and will show it by their acts.

If you do not wish to follow Christ–if you wish to deny him, reject his divinity, mock his atonement, criticize those whom he has called to lead, deny his commandments and teach others to neglect them: you may well find (to our chagrin but not our surprise) that there is no place for that. As President Uchdorf taught elsewhere:

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences. [“Four Titles,” Ensign (May 2013).]

His invitation is to this unity–a unity of belief in the gospel, and commitment to obey. If we reject that belief and fight against it and urge others to adopt our way of thinking, if we disparage and actively work against commandment keeping in ourselves or others–we may find ourselves on the outside, looking in.

Other ignored addresses

Those who are anxious to twist President Uchdorf’s words also ignore other counsel which he has given that does not mesh with their view that you can say anything and do anything and remain a member of the Church in good standing.

For example:

Those who are selfish seek their own interests and pleasure above all else. The central question for the selfish person is “What’s in it for me?”

Brethren, I am sure you can see that this attitude is clearly contrary to the spirit required to build God’s kingdom.

When we seek self-service over selfless-service, our priorities become centered on our own recognition and pleasure.

Past generations had their struggle with variations of egotism and narcissism, but I think today we are giving them serious competition. Is it any coincidence that the Oxford Dictionary recently proclaimed “selfie” as the word of the year?…

What is the remedy?

The answer, as always, lies in the words of Christ…. [“Are You Sleeping Through the Restoration?,” Ensign (May 2014).]

Such teaching requires that we lay aside our priorities, obsessions, hang-ups, and hobby-horses. Once again, we must embrace Christ and his word–which leaves little room for one who would deny Christ, ridicule his word, and urge others so to do.

When we are tempted to do things we should not do, let us listen to the loving warning of trusted family and friends, our beloved prophet, and always the Savior.

Church membership involves things we will and won’t do. What is to be done for those who urge us to ignore the prophets, ignore the Savior’s teachings, and do those things we should not do? Are we really to believe President Uchdorf thinks such people should be given free reign?

Often we devote our best efforts in pursuit of a hobby, a sport, vocational interests, and community or political issues. All these things may be good and honorable, but are they leaving us time and energy for what should be our highest priorities? (emphasis added)

Many of those currently charged with apostasy have political priorities that are very dear to them. Some seem to put these priorities over their covenants, over their obedience to Christ and his prophets. They encourage others to do likewise.

I wonder why they cling so tightly to one (misinterpreted and decontextualized) sentence from one Church leader, when that same leader and dozens of others have also clearly taught that what they are doing is wrong?

Are they trying to persuade us? Or themselves?

Timely quotes on the passing scene – Part 2: The Abuse of Pelatiah Brown

It is popular, in certain circles, to invoke the case of Pelatiah Brown in early Church history. Joseph Smith said this:

Elder Pelatiah Brown, one of the wisest old heads we have among us, and whom I now see before me… was hauled up for trial before the High Council.

“I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (History of the Church 5:339-340; see also TPJS, 288)

The implicit or explicit claim then made is that Joseph Smith would be opposed to subjecting those who teach and advance false doctrine, or who seek to undermine the Church, its leaders, or members, to Church discipline.

The First Problem

In the first place, this is absurd, because Joseph clearly countenanced–and participated in–the application of Church discipline to many who opposed the Church, fought against it, claimed its leaders were fallen prophets or frauds, or taught doctrines at variance with those he taught.

What, then, is going on in this case?

Well, those who invoke this episode don’t know (or count on you not knowing) the context.

The Second Problem–What Was Elder Brown Teaching?

Elder Brown advanced some ideas about the interpretation of the Revelation of St. John. You know the Book of Revelation–it’s that massively symbolic book at the end of the Bible that many Christian hobbyists have for millennia interpreted and applied to a vast variety of world figures.

The Beast, for example has been declared to be everyone from the Pope du jour to President Jimmy Carter. (Carter may have been many things, but he was not The Beast.)

In fact, you would know this immediately if those who quoted the above phrase had not omitted key text with an ellipsis.

An “ellipsis” is that little dot-dot-dot (…) mark they put in to show they’ve omitted text. So, I suspect that they did read this part, but omitted it because it undercuts their whole argument.

Let’s read the phrase with the text replaced, as in the original. I have bold-faced text that our helpful quote-miners have not included:

I will endeavor to instruct you in relation to the meaning of the beasts and figures spoken of. I should not have called up the subject had it not been for this circumstance. Elder Pelatiah Brown, one of the wisest old heads we have among us, and whom I now see before me, has been preaching concerning the beast which was full of eyes before and behind; and for this he was hauled up for trial before the High Council.

I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds wich a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.

The High Council undertook to censure and correct Elder Brown, because of his teachings in relation to the beasts. Whether they actually corrected him or not, I am a little doubtful, but don’t care. Father Brown came to me to know what he should do about it. The subject particularly referred to was the four beasts and four-and-twenty elders mentioned in Rev 5:8—”And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four-and-twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints.”

Thus, the high council has objected to one Elder’s interpretation of Revelation, and has disciplined him for it. Joseph says that he wouldn’t even bother to speak on this subject, if not for what they’ve done.

Core Revealed Ideas vs. Peripheral, Speculative Ones

Clearly, he’s not upset that Brown has been disciplined for his views about some core Church doctrine or for undermining belief in a core Church doctrine–like whether God exists, or whether Jesus was divine, or whether Jesus lived as a real person, or whether the doctrine of the atonement is absurd, or whether Church leaders are called of God with a unique and exclusive authority, or whether the Book of Mormon is a divinely-inspired volume. (These are all claims which the current crop of dissidents are being called to account for.)

No, he’s upset that a speculative matter–about which the high council knows no more of the truth than Brown may–is trying to settle a silly squabble over a gospel hobby-horse through Church discipline.

More Context, If You Need It

This becomes even clearer when you read Joseph’s rebukes to all involved (I here bring some snippets; you can read the whole thing at your leisure).

  • “I have seldom spoken from the revelations [of St. John]; but as my subject is a constant source of speculation amongst the elders, causing a division of sentiment and opinion in relation to it, I now do it in order that division and difference of opinion may be done away with, and not that correct knowledge on the subject is so much needed at the present time.” [This stuff doesn’t matter, but so you’ll stop arguing about it, I’ll tell you a bit.]
  • “The evil of being puffed up with correct (though useless) knowledge is not so great as the evil of contention.” [If Brown sinned in insisting upon his interpretation a bit much, those who fought with him about it are in a worse state.]
  • “Father Brown has been to work and confounded all Christendom by making out that the four beasts represented the different kingdoms of God on the earth. The wise men of the day could not do anything with him, and why should we find fault? Anything to whip sectarianism, to put down priestcraft, and bring the human family to a knowledge of the truth. A club is better than no weapon for a poor man to fight with.” [Brown wasn’t exactly right, but his heart was in the right place–he was advancing a doctrine he believed in an effort to bring others to Christ. He was not striking at the foundations of belief or faithfulness.]
  • “Father Brown did whip sectarianism, and so far so good; but I could not help laughing at the idea of God making use of the figure of a beast to represent His kingdom on the earth, consisting of men, when He could as well have used a far more noble and consistent figure. What! the Lord made use of the figure of a creature of the brute creation to represent that which is much more noble, glorious, and important—the glories and majesty of His kingdom? By taking a lesser figure to represent a greater, you missed it that time, old gentleman; but the sectarians did not know enough to detect you.” [Joseph corrects the misunderstanding, but note how kindly–he acknowledges its good intention. In peripheral matters, intention counts a great deal. If Brown had continued to teach false doctrine when corrected by Joseph, the outcome likely would have been different.]
  • “Oh, ye elders of Israel, hearken to my voice; and when you are sent into the world to preach, tell those things you are sent to tell; preach and cry aloud, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel.” Declare the first principles, and let mysteries alone, lest ye be overthrown. Never meddle with the visions of beasts and subjects you do not understand. Elder Brown, when you go to Palmyra, say nothing about the four beasts, but preach those things the Lord has told you to preach about—repentance and baptism for the remission of sins.” [These are trivial and peripheral matters–so don’t preach them, and quit arguing about them! Surely don’t excommunicate an otherwise faithful member over them.]
  • “I make this broad declaration, that whenever God gives a vision of an image, or beast, or figure of any kind, He always holds Himself responsible to give a revelation or interpretation of the meaning thereof, otherwise we are not responsible or accountable for our belief in it. Don’t be afraid of being damned for not knowing the meaning of a vision or figure, if God has not given a revelation or interpretation of the subject.”  [And thus, one ought not to discipline Elder Brown, since no authoritative revelation or standard applies in this case–God has not revealed it.]
  • “we never can comprehend the things of God and of heaven, but by revelation. We may spiritualize and express opinions to all eternity; but that is no authority.”

John Taylor made perhaps the best remark after Joseph’s: “I have never said much about the beasts, &c., in my preaching. When I have done it, it has been to attract attention and keep the people from running after a greater fool than myself.”

Those who quote this (significantly edited) material either don’t know the context (and are thus ignorant) or know it and hope you don’t (and are thus dishonest).

Neither case suggests you should trust their reading.

So, if you know someone being disciplined because of a slightly-bizarre view of the Revelation of St John, quote this episode.

Spare us, please, the specious claim that this means that you can oppose repeated instructions from local and general Church leaders about public acts and teachings.


 

Tune in next time when we see the same treatment offered to a more modern figure: President Dieter F. Uchdorf of the First Presidency. These folks are equal-opportunity quote-miners–both the nineteenth and twenty-first century leaders are fair game, it seems.

Timely quotes on the passing scene – Part 1

A tempest in the bloggernacle teapot is eating up a lot of Facebook shares these days, with people opining and wringing their hands about things they have no control over.

Who am I not to join in?

Short and pithy first:

Of course, there are those few who claim that the Holy Ghost leads them yet they do not follow the Brethren, an inconsistency which will grow among us.

[Neal A. Maxwell, That Ye May Believe (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1992), 53.]

Slightly longer:

A member, at any given time, may not understand one point of doctrine or another, may have a misconception, or even believe something is true that in fact is false.

There is not much danger in that. That is an inevitable part of learning the gospel. No member of the Church should be embarrassed at the need to repent of a false notion he might have believed. Such ideas are corrected as one grows in light and knowledge.

It is not the belief in a false notion that is the problem, it is the teaching of it to others. In the Church we have the agency to believe whatever we want to believe about whatever we want to believe. But we are not authorized to teach it to others as truth.

[Boyd K. Packer, “From Such Turn Away,” Ensign (May 1985): 33.]

And, a blast from the past:

[He] who ignores and repudiates the doctrine of the atonement, . . . Is not worthy of membership in the Church…He may be considered harmless and of no great danger to others, particularly, as long as he keeps his mouth shut and does not advocate his pernicious doctrines, and be permitted to remain a member of the Church; but the moment you find him trying to poison the minds of somebody else—the innocent, the unsuspecting, the unwary—trying to sow the seeds of death and apostasy and unbelief and infidelity in the minds of innocent people, that moment it becomes the duty of the bishop of the ward where the man resides to take him up and try him.

[Joseph F. Smith, in Messages of the First Presidency 5:83, and Improvement Era (November 1917): 7, 11.]

Straightforward ideas, but surprisingly opaque in some quarters.