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/

To judge or not to judge: not much of a question

Justice_scales

I recently noticed a web article on Facebook which explains, in essence, that idea of “Love the sinner, hate the sin” isn’t a good way for Christian to approach such things. Instead, we are supposed to love our neighbor, and hate our own sin.

Now, surely hating our own sins is a good idea. And certainly loving our neighbors is part of the Christian call.

It is not surprising that this approach is superficially appealing. It speaks to the primary “sin” or zeitgeist of the modern, liberal (in the traditional sense of the term, not the politicized variety), secular west. And, that is this: tolerance is the great good, and the only sin that is unpardonable is the sin of intolerance. (I have written about this in detail here.)

Problem #1: Moral Confusion

For starters, though, if this doctrine was really implemented, it leads to moral confusion, if not outright moral paralysis.

If we are only allowed to recognize our own sins, then we become mute in the face of the great evils of the world. I had nothing to do with the murder of six million Jews—thus, under the dictates of “ignore others’ sins,” I’m not either supposed to or required to abhor and resist things like the Holocaust. But, that is absurd.

A double standard?

Now, I’m sure that the author or advocates of this theory don’t really believe the Holocaust or ISIS, or the kidnappings by Boko Haran, or Mao’s murder of millions by famine or Stalin’s in the gulag were of no moral moment; or that we shouldn’t denounce, resist, and even fight and die against such sins and evils.

They simply apply their ideas inconsistently. Thus, they see no irony in denouncing those who notice sin in others—because after all, wouldn’t it then inappropriate for them to point to my supposed sin in recognizing sin in others? Should they be preaching this doctrine at all, save in the chambers of their own hearts? It is logically inconsistent.

But, this doctrine is useful—and thus attractive—if one wishes to silence people who speak against sins that one wants left uncriticized—be it unwarranted divorce, or abortion, or homosexual acts, or whatever.

To speak against these acts is to be intolerant (the great secular sin, remember). So, this “don’t notice others’ sins” claim is a clever method of trying a bit of religious ju-jitsu against the Christian. But, it isn’t likely to be invoked when we are confronted with the sins or evils that the liberal secularist wants to eradicate: like homophobia, or racism, or sexism, or “intolerance.” Those will continue, one suspects, to be fair game for identification. They might even be decried, and those judged guilty of the same might even be persecuted or shamed into silence.

But, either ignoring great evil or selectively focusing only on a certain select class of sins isn’t this doctrine’s only weakness.

Problem #2: Personal evils

Perhaps even more troubling is how this idea eviscerates one of the great beauties and powers of Christianity—the idea that God can liberate us from the effects of others’ sins upon us. This applies not just to the massive, industrial-scale evils of genocide and terror discussed above. It applies to the searing personal ones as well.

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (Matthew 18:21)

Under the proffered doctrine, one might expect Jesus to say something like, “Peter, you shouldn’t be noticing the sin at all. Hate your own sins, my man.”

But, that isn’t what Jesus says. Instead, he says:

Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22)

The very idea of forgiveness, the whole doctrine itself, presupposes two things:

  1. The existence and genuine reality of sin and evil; and
  2. The recognition and identification of that sin and evil by the Christian, and the necessity to react to it in a way that will be spiritually helpful, rather than damaging.

But bluntly, one cannot forgive what one does not spot. (I have written elsewhere of the difficulties people encounter when urged to “forgive” before they have counted the cost of a sin upon them.)

Here again, I suspect the author and advocates are not really taking their doctrine fully and seriously. Are we really to tell a victim of rape, or child abuse, or physical violence that they are not to even notice that they have been deeply wounded, violated, and sinned against? One hopes not.

Is someone violates my trust, am I not to have it register? If a sin causes me sorrow, am I to deny the reality of my tears? The beatitudes (Matthew 5:1–12) presuppose the recognition that one has been sinned against—and yet Jesus offers freedom from that. He does not, however, start by a denial that such suffering has occurred, or an insistence that we not notice it. (That, if anything, seems more Buddhist than Christian.)

Only among our own, or up the power structure?

Another related idea is that Jesus only intends a critique of his own religion or people, and then only of what we might call “the power elite.”

This likewise isn’t true. Jesus was quite happy to call Jews to account for sin. He did not reserve that right to himself; he clearly instructed his followers to reject the teachings and acts of others (e.g., Matthew 7:6; 16:6; Mark 8:15), which certainly implies that one will notice, assess, and then reject.

But, he was likewise willing to critique pagans (e.g., Matthew 6:7; 18:17; 20:25).

Other Biblical data

Besides the gospels, there’s a great deal of other data that shows that this stance simply isn’t Christian or biblical in any meaningful sense.

At the very beginning of the Christian era, Peter speaks to a large crowd. Presumably he’s putting into practice something of what he learned from Jesus. And his very first remarks address sin:

Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:

Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain… (Acts 2:22–23)

Shouldn’t Peter just be forgiving and loving them? Apparently not—he is confronting them with their sinful behavior, and even labels it “wicked.”

But, in a key and more profound sense, Peter is forgiving and loving them. It would be unloving not to speak the truth—to ignore or wink at their sin. And, he is pointing them to the source of forgiveness. His own forgiveness matters little for them (though it matters for Peter, of course). They need God’s forgiveness, and so Peter’s invocation of their sin is prelude to an offer to help solve it.

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:36–38)

Now, to be sure, they can accept or reject the offer. But, Peter seems duty-bound to make it. And, that offer presupposes the existence of sin. It makes no sense to offer someone the atonement and redemption of Christ if one is unaware that one is a sinner. Notice that some in the crowd “were pricked in their heart”—they had not known (or faced up to) their sin, until Peter called them on it. And, Peter went on at length, saying “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” In other words, he indicted all of sin. Far from never mentioning sin and simply spreading love blossoms around, Peter mentioned everyone’s sin.

He returns to this theme repeatedly:

But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses….And now, brethren, I [know] that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. (Acts 3:14–17)

Notice that Peter is not simply calling the power elite to task—he calls everyone, the lowly Jews up to “your rulers.”

Peter later calls Ananias and Sapphira out for lying to the Lord (Acts 5).

Stephen, the first martyr, is pretty clear about sin (Acts 7:40, 51–53) and gets killed for it.

And, don’t get me started on Paul’s writings, or we’ll be here all night.

“Judge not”

It is common, of course, to invoke Jesus’ command to “Judge not, that ye be not judged” in these circumstances. Yet, as we have seen, Jesus at times seems to have encouraged his followers to do some judging, of both ideas and behavior. Furthermore, he encouraged us to follow his example—and the early Christians did so.

Those who invoke this trope tend to ignore (if they know) that elsewhere Jesus explicitly says, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). So, there are contexts and ways in which judgment must be undertaken.

Judge not and judging righteously

So, how might we reconcile these ideas? We are both not to judge, and yet to judge. Was Jesus really that inconsistent? The early Christians did not think so.

I think the best treatment is by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Judge Not and Judging.”

I strongly recommend you consult the entire thing. I offer, in conclusion, only a few highlights:

We must, of course, make judgments every day in the exercise of our moral agency, but we must be careful that our judgments of people are intermediate and not final. Thus, our Savior’s teachings contain many commandments we cannot keep without making intermediate judgments of people: ‘Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine’ (Matthew 7:6); ‘Beware of false prophets….Ye shall know them by their fruits’ (Matthew 7:15-16); and ‘Go ye out from among he wicked’ (D&C 38:42).

We all make judgments in choosing our friends, in choosing how we will spend our time and our money, and, of course, in choosing an eternal companion. Some of these intermediate judgments are surely among those the Savior referred to when he taught that ‘the weightier matters of the law’ include judgment (Matthew 23:23).

I will let Elder Oaks conclude, and again encourage the reader to consult his far better treatment of the issues we’ve raised here:

Let us consider some principles or ingredients that lead to a ‘righteous judgment.’

First of all, a righteous judgment must, by definition, be intermediate. It will refrain from declaring that a person has been assured of exaltation or from dismissing a person as being irrevocably bound for hellfire. It will refrain from declaring that a person has forfeited all opportunity for exaltation or even all opportunity for a useful role in the work of the Lord. The gospel is a gospel of hope, and none of us is authorized to deny the power of the Atonement to bring about a cleansing of individual sins, forgiveness, and a reformation of life on appropriate conditions.

Second, a righteous judgment will be guided by the Spirit of the Lord, not by anger, revenge, jealousy, or self-interest….

Third, to be righteous, an intermediate judgment must be within our stewardship. We should not presume to exercise and act upon judgments that are outside our personal responsibilities….

A fourth principle of a righteous intermediate judgment of a person is that we should, if possible, refrain from judging until we have adequate knowledge of the facts.…

A fifth principle of a righteous intermediate judgment is that whenever possible we will refrain from judging people and only judge situations. This is essential whenever we attempt to act upon different standards than those of others with whom we must associate–at home, at work, or in the community. We can set and act upon high standards for ourselves or our homes without condemning those who do otherwise….

A final ingredient or principle of a righteous judgment is that it will apply righteous standards. If we apply unrighteous standards, our judgment will be unrighteous. By falling short of righteous standards, we place ourselves in jeopardy of being judged by incorrect or unrighteous standards ourselves. The fundamental scripture on the whole subject of not judging contains this warning: ‘For with what judgment je judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again’ (Matthew 7:2; see also 3 Nephi 14:2)….

A standard can be unrighteous because it is too harsh–the consequences are too severe for the gravity of the wrong and the needs of the wrongdoer…. [1]

Conclusion

Can and do people—including and especially Christians—judge unrighteously? Of course.

But, the mere presence of a judgment is not sufficient evidence that such unrighteous judgment has occurred. To make that judgment, ironically, requires the same approach as any judgment. It requires judging.

So, we all must and will make such judgments. We might as well be honest with ourselves that we are making them.

It is either that, moral nihilism, or self-deception.

Jesus hadn’t much patience with the last two options—you might even say he judged them as wanting.

Endnotes

========

[1] Dallin H. Oaks, “Judge Not and Judging,” address given at BYU on 1 March 1998, reproduced in Brigham Young University 1997–98 Speeches; all citations here are from this address unless otherwise noted.

The discipleship of the stressed.

It is easy to be righteous when things are calm and life is good and everything is going smoothly. The test is when there is real trial or temptation, when there is pressure and fatigue, anger and fear, or the possibility of real transgression. Can we be faithful then? That is the question because “Israel, Israel, God is calling.” Such integrity is, of course, the majesty of “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” —right when forgiving and understanding and being generous about your crucifiers is the last thing that anyone less perfect than the Savior of the world would want to do. But we have to try; we have to wish to be strong. Whatever the situation or the provocation or the problem, no true disciple of Christ can “check his religion at the door.”

Jeffrey R. Holland, “Israel, Israel, God Is Calling,” devotional address, January 2012, italics in original.
This is why our tendency to do less well when stressed, tired, worn out, or genuinely wronged is so sobering and telling.

Perhaps at least, we can keep wishing, and not use such extenuating circumstances as excuses. While we should welcome God’s mercy on such points, we ought not to be too merciful with ourselves in advance.

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.

“However” organizations versus “therefore” organizations

President Boyd K. Packer tells an interesting story:

Professors from Harvard University who were members of the Church [of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] invited me to lunch over at the Harvard Business School faculty dining room. They wanted to know if I would join them in participating in a new publication; they wanted me to contribute to it.

They were generous in their compliments, saying that because I had a doctorate a number of people in the Church would listen to me, and being a General Authority,…I could have some very useful influence.

I listened to them very attentively but indicated at the close of the conversation that I would not join them. I asked to be excused from responding to their request. When they asked why, I told them this: “When your associates announced the project, they described how useful it would be to the Church-a niche that needed to be filled. And then the spokesman said, ‘We are all active and faithful members of the Church; however,…’ ”

I told my two hosts that if the announcement had read, “We are all active and faithful members of the Church; therefore,…” I would have joined their organization. I had serious questions about a “however” organization. I have little worry over a “therefore” organization.[1]

The above story is about a specific religious denomination and a specific organization, but that really isn’t what I want to point out. For Pres. Packer, his faith was his item of ultimate allegiance.

We all have one—and it’s interesting to think about what it might be. It can be useful to fill in the blank:

“I am [blank], therefore….”

There are many options:

  • A believing Catholic
  • A skeptical humanist
  • A red-blooded American
  • A police officer
  • An intellectual
  • A parent to my children

What would you put in the blank, such that you cannot picture yourself ever saying,

“I am [blank], however….”?

Ultimately, we have only one thing that always yields a “therefore”—everything else will, when push comes to shove, be a “however” that bows to that “therefore.”


 

[1] Boyd K. Packer, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1991), 113.

On bracketing the truth

It is common, in some circles, to hear people talking about “bracketing” truth claims—to lay aside any consideration of whether certain ideas (often with religious implication) are true, and simply talk about the ideas in an entirely secular context. For example, one might discuss the resurrection of Jesus without trying to address the idea of whether Jesus actually rose from the dead. Instead, one might focus on what early Christians understood by the claim “Jesus is risen.”

Such an approach can be appropriate, at times.

Unfortunately, those who adopt it have a depressing tendency to declare that their approach is the only legitimate way to do valid scholarship on the topic. Thus, anyone who does not bracket the truth claims or implications of the resurrection is said to obviously be engaged only in polemics, or apologetics, or narrow sectarian discourse unworthy of attention or respect. To challenge such notions in print is seen as boorish and unbecoming. Curiously, this perspective is generally just asserted—not argued with evidence and logic—and generally comes heavily larded with a large dollop of disdain. (I speak, on that front, from some personal experience.)

But, leaving aside the obvious intellectual problems which such a stance raises, there are substantial risks for the Christian disciple, for the covenant Latter-day Saint.

Check your religion at the academy door?

All too often, this type of approach is essentially “checking your religion at the door.” But, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was pretty scathing toward anyone who’d consider that, in any context:

We check our religion at the door”? Lesson number one for the establishment of Zion in the 21st century: You never “check your religion at the door.” Not ever.

My young friends, that kind of discipleship cannot be—it is not discipleship at all. As the prophet Alma has taught the young women of the Church to declare every week in their Young Women theme, we are “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in,” not just some of the time, in a few places, or when our team has a big lead.

“Check your religion at the door”! I was furious (emphasis in original).[1]

It is true that the “at all times” and “in all places” and “in all things” would seem to leave relatively little wiggle room—especially when the subject of one’s work bears directly on that witness of God. I don’t see how a Christian could approach the resurrection neutrally, and I think it would be spiritually dangerous to try, and intellectually self-deceptive to believe one could.

Let Your Faith Show

Elder Russell M. Nelson seems to be of the same mind as Elder Holland, and applied the ideas specifically to political, academic, and intellectual work:

Clinicians, academicians, and politicians are often put to a test of faith. In pursuit of their goals, will their religion show or will it be hidden? Are they tied back to God or to man?

I had such a test decades ago when one of my medical faculty colleagues chastised me for failing to separate my professional knowledge from my religious convictions. He demanded that I not combine the two. How could I do that? Truth is truth! It is not divisible, and any part of it cannot be set aside.

Whether truth emerges from a scientific laboratory or through revelation, all truth emanates from God. All truth is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet I was being asked to hide my faith. I did not comply with my colleague’s request. I let my faith show!

In all professional endeavors, rigorous standards of accuracy are required. Scholars cherish their freedom of expression. But full freedom cannot be experienced if part of one’s knowledge is ruled “out-of-bounds” by edicts of men.[2]

If that’s what he thinks about medicine—a subject relatively untouched by most LDS doctrines—what of fields that touch LDS truth claims more intimately?

Every essay a testimony?

Does this mean, then, that every written work need include a bearing of testimony? Hardly—the audience and venue may or may not make that appropriate. But, C.S. Lewis’ intellectual mentor, George MacDonald, gave a wise caution:

Is every Christian expected to bear witness? One who believes must bear witness. One who sees the truth must live witnessing to it. Is our life then a witnessing to the truth? When contempt is cast on the truth, do we smile? [When the truth is] wronged in our presence do we make no sign that we hold by it?… I do not say we are called upon to dispute and defend [against falsehood] with logic and argument, but we are called upon to show that we are on the other side… The soul that loves the truth and tries to be true will know when to speak and when to be silent. But the true man will never look as if he did not care. We are not bound to say all that we think, but we are bound not even to look [like] what we do not think.[3]

Sadly, too many are so worried that their faith might show, that they end up looking like that which they do not really believe, and do not really think.

This impression is only strengthened when they attack, ridicule, or with a sneer dismiss others who do let their faith show more overtly in their academic work. One wonders if this is to avoid feeling guilty for their own lapses, or if it is part and parcel of assuring others that they really are on the academic, secularized “team.”

“Satan need not get everyone to be like Cain or Judas….He needs only to get able men … to see themselves as sophisticated neutrals.”[4]

Such decisions cannot but have spiritual consequences—what one starts doing merely to avoid making academic waves soon shapes one’s views. That which we defend and advocate—or which we refuse to defend or advocate—affects what we end up believing. This should not surprise us, if we consistently exclude (or actively avoid) spiritual evidence, since such evidence cannot but bear on many questions of ultimate importance:

In our own time, Joseph Smith, the First Vision, and the Book of Mormon constitute stumbling blocks for many—around or over which they cannot get—unless they are meek enough to examine all the evidence at hand, not being exclusionary as a result of accumulated attitudes in a secular society. Humbleness of mind is the initiator of expansiveness of mind (emphasis added).[5]

Compartmentalization and citizenship

Thus, compartmentalization or bracketing has real risks:

The mind can become “hardened in pride” (Daniel 5:20; Habakkuk 1:11). And it can also engage in self-deception, as Korihor finally acknowledged (Alma 30:48–50). The mind can let itself become defensively compartmentalized, a fortress astride the path to faith (emphasis added).[6]

And, some of that risk derives from the “incessant requirements” of an academy jealous of our mental and procedural allegiance:

For the academician in his search for truth and in his efforts for its preservation or dissemination, the admiration and esteem of his peers is both useful and desirable. But these too can be easily corrupted into an inordinate desire for “the praise of men.” Sophistry can come to be preferred to simplicity. The language of scholarship, necessary in its realm, can come to be preferred to the language of faith. Once again, even for the person of faith, the incessant requirements of such associations can come to cloud one’s perspective.[7]

But, if we were to follow the apostles on this point, doesn’t that risk putting one’s academic career or reputation in potential jeopardy? Yes, indeed it may. But, we were warned about such risks:

For one reason, it is unfashionable to be spiritual. A genius possessed of religious faith is sometimes tolerated among colleagues in the business, academic, or political world. His bilingual ability to converse in the language of his professional realm and in the realm of faith is noted but not often applauded.[8]

Still, as Elder Maxwell cautioned years ago:

The orthodox Latter-day Saint scholar should remember that his citizenship is in the Kingdom and that his professional passport takes him abroad into his specialty. It is not the other way around.[9]

Ultimately, if my citizenship is not obvious, do I perhaps have a problem?


 

[1] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Israel, Israel, God Is Calling,” devotional address, January 2012.

[2] Russell M. Nelson, “Let Your Faith Show,” general conference, April 2014.

[3] George MacDonald, Creation in Christ (Wheaton, IL: Harold Shaw, 1976), 142. Elder Holland quoted a portion of this, and replaced “think” with “believe”—I think either or both apply.

[4] Neal A. Maxwell, Deposition of a Disciple (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 88.

[5] Neal A. Maxwell, Meek and Lowly (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1987), 76.

[6] Neal A. Maxwell, Whom the Lord Loveth: The Journey of Discipleship (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2012), kindle location 813.

[7] Neal A. Maxwell, Sermons Not Spoken (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1985), 10–11.

[8] Sermons Not Spoken, 12.

[9] Deposition of a Disciple, 18.

The ninth commandment is neglected, being seldom discussed at any length. There are so many different ways to breach “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). We can spread falsehood knowingly and maliciously rather than inadvertently. Perhaps that is the worst form of breaking this commandment. We can also spread falsehood by simply passing it along in the form of idle gossip without malicious intent, which is somewhat mitigating. Either way, the innocent victim usually experiences a double blow: first, damage to his self-image/self-confidence; second, the diminished regard of others. Additionally, the victim probably comes to have diminished regard, even anger, toward those who so traffic in untruth.

– Neal A. Maxwell, That Ye May Believe (Bookcraft, 1992).

It is interesting, and telling, that the victim in this case also has the added burden of struggling against a sin that he or she would not have been liable to: harsh feelings toward the gossip. The victim of gossip must overcome these feelings, but that doesn’t mean the gossip is guiltless of inducing the sin either.

I always sobered by how evil–or even careless–acts tend to ramify and spread. One hopes good acts are as hardy.

Neal A. Maxwell on bearing false witness

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.