Misrepresenting Church leaders for fun and profit

I have a guest post regarding a fairly egregious misrepresentation of Elder L. Whitney Clayton’s BYU Commencement address.

I’ve noticed the same false claims on other anti- and ex-Mormon sites, which suggests that either none of these folks are bright enough to check the original citation, or they are intentionally distorting the record for their own purposes. Or, perhaps some of both is going on.

http://blog.fairmormon.org/2016/04/29/9425/

Cafeteria Christians

As General Conference begins, may I be preserved from any desire to be a “Cafeteria Christian.”

Our relationship to living prophets is not one in which their sayings are a smorgasbord from which we may take only that which pleases us. We are to partake of all that is placed before us, including the spinach, and to leave a clean plate!

Neal A. Maxwell, Things As They Really Are (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1978), 74.

Avoiding spiritual gangrene

God refuses to give his children an aspirin for treating the consequences of sin when what we need is surgery. He will refuse to give us a rubdown when what we need are splints or a cast. He is not a silent, indifferent monarch in the sky, nor is he an indulgent grandfather figure who will give his children the irrelevant and incomplete therapy of partial truth. Only a portion of what he knows can we understand; and so much of what he would have us avoid, we must avoid by simple faith in what lies behind his “divine don’t.” This leaves us in a position like that of Adam, who acted in part on faith: “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” (Moses 5:6.)

 Neal A. Maxwell, “Talk of the Month,” New Era(May 1971).

More and more I am seeing a strange idea. The idea is often present implicitly, but I’m starting to see it stated outright, as a sort of axiom or self-evident point.

That claims is that nothing God will ask of us would make us unhappy, or cause us discomfort, or make us suffer, or ask us to give up something good.

Certainly, nothing God asks will make us unhappy in the long view—but that long view extends beyond death and into the millennial years of the Lord.

“My kingdom is not of this world,” however.

For those who push it, the utility of this point of view is clear, though—one can simply use one’s reaction against a commandment or demand as evidence for whether it comes from God.

With such reasoning, Lehi’s journey in the desert could have been safely discarded. Indeed, Laman and Lemuel did so, complaining years later that but for Lehi’s visionary nature,

it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions. Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy” (1 Nephi 17:20-21, italics added).

Those who so argue will find many with welcoming, itching ears. But, those are not ears that have listened very closely to Jesus’ warnings. Eyes and hands are unarguably good things. Yet, Jesus tells us that even they must be severed and cast from us, on occasion. And, not insignificantly, such warnings come in the context of sexual morality:

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell (Matthew 5:28–30).

One of the cruelest things people do is assure others that their sins aren’t sins, or that they won’t be regarded as sins for long. This distracts from the steeling of self to do the plucking out, cutting off, and casting away.

Such things will undoubtedly hurt. But, it is a poor physician who assures you that a soothing poultice will do when amputation is the only answer. Gangrene does, eventually, set in.

And when it does, the quack is nowhere to be found.

More evidence of John Dehlin’s economy with the truth

In my last post, I pointed out how John Dehlin neglected to release a document that disputes the narrative he wishes to spread regarding his pending Church discipline.

Specifically, he did not release an August 11 letter from his stake president until later.

Now, a perceptive observer has done a bit of forensic analysis on the documents.

This observer points out that the version 3 of the letters has the following file properties:

Version 3
Creation date: Wed 14 Jan 2015 07:55:23 PM EST
Last edit: Thu 15 Jan 2015 02:56:36 PM EST
Tool to create: Mac OS X 10.9.4 Quartz PDFContext

And, the hidden packet with the August 11 letter has these properties:

Dehlin-King correspondence
Creation date: Wed 14 Jan 2015 07:55:23 PM EST
Last edit: Wed 14 Jan 2015 09:23:30 PM EST
Tool to create: Mac OS X 10.9.4 Quartz PDFContext

I’ve bolded the key data.

It appears that the packet was originally created with the letter in it. But, it was edited to remove the inconvenient letter that might lead the press to tell the true story, instead of the story that Dehlin wanted told. But, that creation date still shows in the Dehlin-King correspondence file, which has the incriminating August 11 letter.

(And, the edit to “Version 3” occurred before the release of Dehlin’s press release (which has a creation date of Thu 15 Jan 2015 07:00:50 PM EST).

Full details are here.

This is one more good example of what has gotten Dehlin in trouble–a lack of forthrightness, and a willingness to distort and spin information to make himself look good and the Church look bad.

Dehlin has yet to even acknowledge his deception regarding the August 11 letter, or the implications of its contents for his claims.

I wonder if the media is paying attention? Surely they can’t be OK with being used.

Files in question

Dehlin screenshot 11 Aug link

Summary

A non-tech savvy friend asked for the “neaderthal’s” version. Here was my attempt:

  1. Dehlin makes a packet containing all correspondence between him and stake president.
  2. Prior to releasing his press release, he then EXCISES the 11 August letter from that packet.
  3. However, he gives the game away because when he quietly releases the complete packet, we see that it has the precise creation date as the 1st (incomplete) packet. But, the 1st (“Version 3”) packet was edited at a later date than the complete packet–probably to REMOVE the offending letter.

So, he didn’t just MISS the letter. He had it, cut it out, and then snuck the original file packet back on the site after the initial round of media stories broke.

John Dehlin and media manipulation

Some readers will know that John Dehlin, an LDS member who has long argued against core LDS doctrines, has announced that he is on trial for his membership.

Dehlin has demonstrated his usual skill at manipulating the media, aided perhaps by reporters who are too sympathetic and not inquisitive enough. Recent events give us another glimpse into his tactics. Dehlin announced his council and provided a copy of the normally-confidential documents exchanged by him and his local leader, the stake president. These are linked to here, and are apparently up to version 4. (They were version 3 yesterday). [I link to them here on my site, in case later changes by Dehlin obscure this evidence.]

Ad hominem to start off

One reporter was savvy enough to get a quote from Steve Evans, who suggested that it was unlikely that Dehlin’s support for gay marriage and the Ordain Women movement were behind his discipline.

(It’s also funny to see him resort, as he always does, to using “Mormon apologist” as a smear. I know Evans and consider him a good friend, but I also know Mormon apologetics–and that just isn’t an area that Evans has been much involved in. But, for Dehlin, “apologist” is an all-purpose ad hominem smear–see here on pp. 8-11 for numerous examples. The “apologist” serves as Dehlin’s sociological folk devil. Ironically, he too is an apologist for his own views, and has followers that are apologists for him too. To reason is to apologize, in this sense.)

Trying to rebut Evans’ view

Since this is the narrative which Dehlin has been keen to play up, it is not surprising that he would wish to rebut Evans. Today, he wrote:

In the letter I received on August 7, 2014 from Dr. Bryan King, it lists as #3 on his list of conditions for continued membership:

“Stop promoting groups or organizations that espouse doctrines contrary to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

In my August meeting with Bryan King, I asked him to clarify specifically which groups or organizations were problematic. In that interview (with my wife, Margi, present), he explicitly mentioned both Ordain Women, and my public support of same-sex marriage as being problematic. When asked directly if my public support of same-sex marriage was a problem, he answered, “Yes.”

While it is impossible for anyone to accurately weigh the various factors that contributed to the decision to hold a disciplinary council, it is very accurate to say that my support for same-sex marriage and Ordain Women was a main factor (#3 of 4 specifically listed).[1]

Dehlin includes a hotlink on the text letter I received on August 7, 2014 from Dr. Bryan King. This link goes to a slightly different package of letters. It is available here.

A significant omission

The package appears the same, and it is—with one addition. In the package is an 11 August 2014 letter from Dr. King, Dehlin’s stake president. Dehlin nowhere draws attention to this sudden addition to his packet of materials. He does not even mention it in his rebuttal to Evans. This is unfortunate, because it speaks directly to the issue he wishes to rebut. President King’s August 11 was written in response to Dehlin’s 10 August letter. He writes:

Thank you for sending the [August 10] letter from you and Margi. I fear that in my willingness to engage in a discussion on all of the issues that you chose to address during our lengthy conversations, the direction of my true concerns may have not been clear.[2]

Thus, President King writes to correct what he sees as a misperception on Dehlin’s part. What is that misperception? Unsurprisingly, it is precisely the narrative that Dehlin is now trying to sell to the media. President King continued:

I am focused on five core doctrines of the Church: (1) The existence and nature of God; (2) Christ being the literal Savior of the World and his Atonement being absolutely necessary to our salvation; 3) the exclusive priesthood authority restored through the Church; (4) The Book of Mormon as scripture and the revealed word of God; and (5) the governance of the Church by doctrine and revelation through inspired leaders. As you know, and as my letter outlined, in the past you have written and spoken out against these core doctrines on numerous occasions and in numerous public contexts…. If you are prepared to renounce your previous statements we can move forward together.

Note that it is these statements which King believes Dehlin must renounce. He says nothing–in this clarifying letter–about the other matters that Dehlin wants to make the focus of his narrative. President King seems aware that Dehlin is preparing his letters with an eye to shaping the narrative that he will eventually wish to spread to his followers and the media:

…as I read your response, it reinforced my concern that your letter is an attempt to produce an official document of what occurred during our meetings. I feel that it is impossible to fully recount the spirit and context of our discussions in a written document.

Thus, President King has seen Dehlin’s document, and does not agree with Dehlin’s slant on things. President King has even written this letter to correct the written record. Yet, Dehlin tells the media none of this, does not include this letter in the packet he has released, and has quietly slipped it into this second collection of documents without noting his previous omission, and without citing it. President King concludes:

I hope that in the spirit of confidentiality, you will not be releasing it to the media and posting it on your web site. I hope that I am mistaken about this, because I believe it would undermine the trust we need to have in order to move forward. But if you nevertheless decide to post your letter, I hope that you will have the fairness to post mine along with it, making it clear that I presented my letter to you at the beginning of our meeting and that it contains the true focus of my concerns about your conduct.

Conclusion

President King is certainly not naïve—he predicted Dehlin’s course exactly. He is quite right that in the interest of fairness, Dehlin ought to provide all the data to allow easy comparison. I suppose that by putting the highly significant August 11 letter somewhere on his website, buried in a file that appears to be a duplicate of something he has already released, Dehlin has technically made the material available. (A search of “August 11,” however, turns up nothing. If you don’t know the letter is there, buried in what you have already seen, you will miss it.)

So, I don’t know if I’d really call his treatment of the matter open, honest, or fair. And, the initial rush of media stories has been written without access to this significant and telling piece of information.

Here’s hoping someone in the media is paying attention.

Dehlin has misrepresented matters to them using precisely the same tactics that he has used toward and about members and doctrines of the Church—spin, significant omission, and an avoidance of anything that challenges his narrative.

It seems, according to his stake president, that it is Dehlin’s repeated and open attacks on foundational LDS doctrines that is the key issue.

And, such tactics are not new for Dehlin–as I demonstrated at length years ago. Dehlin likewise tried to censor and hide my report–as I detailed here. Many others have had the same experience (this blog is collecting such examples, to which readers can add if they wish).

He certainly doesn’t want anyone to see data which challenges his version of matters.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


 Endnotes

[1] John Dehlin, “Reasons for Disciplinary Council,” Mormon Stories (17 January 2015, as of 20h01 MST).

[2] Bryan King, letter to John Dehlin, 11 August 2014.

Is delusional too strong a word?–Part III

Part III: A serious conclusion: What if I have questions?

 

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve’s statement read, in part:

We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.

Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.[1]

Kelly, certain that this cannot possibly apply to her and her group, has now declared that this means that:

“Now questions [about women’s ordination] can be asked in every ward and every branch in every place in the world…. The prophet of the church said it’s OK.”[2]

In one of the drier moments of understatement you are likely to see this year, the Tribune then noted, “Few other Mormons read the statement in the same way.”

(Doubtless accurate, except Kelly is not a Mormon anymore, having been excommunicated. More properly, then “Few Mormons read the statement” as she does.)

But, seriously folks….

However, in an effort to help Kelly’s apparent difficulties with either honesty or reading comprehension, I close with the advice which Brother Otterson of Church Public Affairs offered to those who do have genuine questions or concerns about this issue.

Otterson responded directly to the concern that, “There is nowhere for women who don’t feel safe in their wards to have a conversation about some of their negative experiences that isn’t seen as subversive.”

This is a fair and legitimate concern, and I think much of the rather limited success that OW and Kelly have had is due to this type of issue—I think the vast majority of LDS women are not really comfortable with their goals, tone, or approach. But, they are at least saying something, and that can be refreshing to those who genuinely have concerns in this area—often with considerable justification, as Elder Ballard has been telling us for at least two decades.

So, what does Church Public Affairs (and, thus, those to whom it answers) recommend in such cases?

This is a serious question and I think is the kind of discussion that the Brethren welcome as they seek to understand the concerns of the members. My advice is to be patient, and trust in those whom we sustain as apostles and prophets and the revelatory process.

As we have said, most bishops, stake presidents and local leaders do a remarkable job. Sometimes, men and women in wards take offense when counsel is given. And, yes, sometimes we don’t handle things well.

First, local leaders should always be given a chance to listen. If approached prayerfully and sincerely, most will.

Second, every member, whether man or woman, should initiate such an interview with a willingness to take counsel as well as deliver a message.

Third, every ward also has a Relief Society presidency. While matters of personal worthiness must remain a matter between the member and the bishop who is a “common judge,” other matters of personal concern to a woman can be voiced privately to faithful Relief Society Presidency members and other local leaders. Without becoming an advocate, such a confidante could not only offer counsel but could be invited to accompany a sister to see a bishop or a stake president in some circumstances.[3]

Note the recommendations: these are private conversations (not held in media circuses), conducted locally (instead of trying to force events at the general Church level), and they are conducted in a spirit of meekness. We do these things individual to individual, and there is nothing about trying to drum up support or stir resentment or pool our grievances with others, in person or on-line. And so, unsurprisingly, this has not been welcome advice in some quarters.

None of that advice has been taken by OW and Kelly, which sadly—but unsurprisingly—has led to her excommunication.

(Indeed, the only ones who seem surprised at her excommunication seem to be Kelly and her supporters—which again makes me wonder about either delusion or dishonesty.)

The Lord’s way has never been about public spectacle, confrontation, unilateral demands, or posturing.

Instead, sincere members who love each other and the Lord seek only to do his will, and to help each other bear the separate burdens that come to all in different forms.

I trust my readers will be more perceptive and more teachable than Kelly has been. She has had ample opportunity, but seems unreachable.

It almost makes you think she wasn’t actually asking a question at all.


Endnotes

[1] The Council of The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, letter (28 June 2014).

[2]Top Mormon leaders repeat ‘only men’ qualify for priesthood,” Salt Lake Tribune (28 June 2014).

[3] Michael Otterson (Managing Director, Church Public Affairs), “Context missing from discussion about women,” letter (29 May 2014), 3, emphasis and bold added.

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.

Is delusional too strong a word?–Part I

The tragedy that is now-excommunicated member Kate Kelly continues.

Today, a statement from the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was released that bears on her situation and the antics of her protest group.

Most people would see it as the stinging rebuke that it is, but not Kelly. She’s delighted, according to the Salt Lake Tribune (28 June 2014), and says:

Given that I have always sustained leaders of church, and Ordain Women doesn’t teach any doctrine — let alone false doctrine — this clearly exonerates me. I am not guilty of either of those charges.[1]

It’s hard to believe she’s a lawyer.

(Maybe it’s an example of the old legal maxim that He who acts for himself in court has a fool for a lawyer, and a fool for a client.)

It’s also hard to think of a kinder phrase than “verging on the delusional” for this kind of remark. It gets “better”:

Saturday’s statement, Kelly said, gives her reason to hope that when she appeals her case to the First Presidency, her bishop’s decision might be reversed. [2]

Kelly also claims that this statement represents progress because Church leaders have supposedly not spoken out before on these matters.

Part I: Church Public Affairs

Kelly and some of her allies are fond of acting as if Church Public Affairs is some kind of rogue operation that doesn’t necessarily speak for the leaders of the Church. Again, it’s hard to know whether this is a mark of delusion or staggering intellectual dishonesty. I suppose in some sense, it scarcely matters.

In my previous blog post, I discussed this ploy.

Given, then, that Church Public Affairs assuredly does speak for the Church’s highest leadership, it is worthwhile considering what Kelly has already been told about these matters.

On Ordination of Women to Priesthood Office

  • Ordination of women to the priesthood is a matter of doctrine that is contrary to the Lord’s revealed organization for His Church.[3]
  • I suppose we do not know all the reasons why Christ did not ordain women as apostles, either in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon, or when the Church was restored in modern times. We only know that he did not, that his leaders today regard this as a doctrinal issue that cannot be compromised, and that agitation from a few Church members is hindering the broader and more productive conversation about the voice, value and visibility of women in the Church that has been going on for years and will certainly continue….[4]
  • “Demands to ordain women are contrary to revealed doctrine, Church letter says.”[5]

Regarding “Ordain Women’s” Tactics

  • I do hope that you will try to understand how disappointed Church leaders are over the staged event of last weekend, and that you will find peace, comfort and confidence in the apostles and prophets who lead us.”[6]
  • Yet there are a few people with whom Public Affairs and General Authorities do not engage, such as individuals or groups who make non-negotiable demands for doctrinal changes that the Church can’t possibly accept. No matter what the intent, such demands come across as divisive and suggestive of apostasy rather than encouraging conversation through love and inclusion. Ultimately, those kinds of actions can only result in disappointment and heartache for those involved. [7]

Disregarding requests of Church leaders

  • However, no objective person could possibly argue that this was not a protest and rejection of a plea from Church leaders. That request was communicated in writing to the group ahead of time and repeated in the news media.[8]

Endnotes

[1]Top Mormon leaders repeat ‘only men’ qualify for priesthood,” Salt Lake Tribune (28 June 2014).

[2]Top Mormon leaders repeat ‘only men’ qualify for priesthood,” Salt Lake Tribune (28 June 2014).

[3] Jessica Moody (on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), “Dear Sisters,” letter to April Young Bennett, Debra Jenson, Kate Kelly, Hannah Wheelwright (17 March 2014). See also discussion on “Church Asks Activist Group to Reconsider Plans to Protest at General Conference,” mormonnewsroom.org (17 March 2014).

[4] Michael Otterson (Managing Director, Church Public Affairs), “Context missing from discussion about women,” letter (29 May 2014), 5.

[5]Church Asks Activist Group to Reconsider Plans to Protest at General Conference,” mormonnewsroom.org (17 March 2014).

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

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

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

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 8

Joseph F. Smith:

Those who defend us, do so not infrequently with an apologetic air. The Saints are never safe in following the protests and counsels of those who would have us ever and always in harmony with the world. We have our particular mission to perform; and that we may perform it in consonance with divine purposes, we are running counter to the ways of man. We are made unpopular. The contempt of the world is on us, and we are the unloved child among the peoples of the earth.

– Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, edited by John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1919), 118.

Harold B. Lee:

Mark well those who speak evil of the Lord’s anointed, for they speak from impure hearts. Only the “pure in heart” see the “God” or the divine in man and accept our leaders and accept them as prophets of the Living God. …

Conference Report (October 1947): 67.

Boyd K. Packer:

It seems that there comes, each generation or so, a time when the faithful of the Church are under great criticism, even under attack. That has always been true of those who are under covenant to the Lord. As part of our way of life, we must expect, on occasion, to stand condemned by those outside the Church who oppose the standards the Lord has directed us to keep.

Occasionally one inside the Church joins the ranks of the critics. Beware of covenant breakers. It is one thing for nonmembers to criticize and attack the Church and its leaders. It is quite another when someone within the Church does so, after he has entered into solemn and sacred covenants to do otherwise. It makes a very big difference indeed….

Beware of covenant breakers, inside the Church and out. Beware of those who mock the prophets.

– Boyd K. Packer, “Ordinances,” The Things of the Soul (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 193-194 [Address given to 14-stake Brigham Young University fireside, 3 February 1980.]