(When) are bloggers permitted to criticize church leaders?

October 6, 2004 | 320 comments
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This topic has come up in recent posts around the bloggernacle. For example, Rusty at Nine Moons discusses an instance where a bishop committed all of the men in the ward to “1) To never watch an R-rated movie ever again. Also, to never watch a PG-13 rated movie without his wife’s permission. 2) To use the internet (at home presumably) only with his wife’s permission (by assigning a password on the computer that only the wife knows).” The comments to Rusty’s post include a number of attacks on him for posting criticism of the Bishop. (e.g., “did you pray [before posting this critique] . . . I can say with absolute certainty that you could not have“). Meanwhile, Steve at BCC wonders whether he is allowed to criticize conference talks for style. (The BCC commenters, perhaps inured to Steve’s views, haven’t yet asked him if he prayed before posting them, but I suppose it’s just a matter of time).

So let’s see what people around here think. Is it permissible for a blogger to comment on (perhaps critically) statements by a church leader? Is it permissible in some situations and not others? (When?) And, of course, why or why not? [Note — this topic is open to several different interpretations; please keep our commenting policies in mind. Thank you.]

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320 Responses to (When) are bloggers permitted to criticize church leaders?

  1. Times and Seasons » Benefiting from the Keys on January 25, 2005 at 2:55 pm

    […] from the Keys by Frank McIntyre Way back in the dawn of time, we had a rather lengthy discussion about the appropriate role of criticising Church leaders. Apparently […]

  2. john fowles on October 6, 2004 at 12:02 pm

    This idea and particularly the example that Rusty uses about that Bishop hit close to home with me. That is because as a Zone Leader in my mission, I wanted us to move forward in a community-minded way. So, after lengthy discussions with my DL (i.e. the DL of the district of which I was a member) I called a special zone meeting (not the official zone conference) where we had a very spiritual BoM study and spiritual thoughts out of the D&C. Then we spent some time making common goals for the zone. Then came the crushing blow (that I had no idea would be such a stumbling block for some): my DL and I suggested that we all kneel down together and repent collectively for our misdeeds and laziness. I explained that this wasn’t an indictment on any one individual missionary but that if we could repent together and move forward on our new goals together, it would strengthen the work in the zone. I had felt that this was an inspired approach and that the Lord would bless us for our humility and renewed efforts. But this idea created contention immediately–some even refused to participate. In the end, after we were mostly all on our knees, if I remember correctly, we didn’t end up following this course of action after all and just stood up again. I guess that looking back, I see that I must have come across as Rusty’s bishop in the story–committing people to do things that they weren’t inclined to do on their own and thus coming across as lame.

  3. danithew on October 6, 2004 at 12:02 pm

    It’s difficult to know where a little bit of constructive criticism (truth) turns into speaking evil of the Lord’s annointed. I had to simultaneously gasp and laugh at this line Steve wrote:

    I like folksy stories as much as the next person, for example, but can I say that I am sick of Pres. Monson’s tripartite phrasings and passive voice(without going to hell)? Talks were written; speeches were delivered; congregations were bored.

    Steve did a great job of mimicing President Monson’s cadences in writing that last part. I’m trying to decide if that’s acceptable or unacceptable insolence (after all, it’s directed at a member of the First Presidency).

  4. Steve Evans on October 6, 2004 at 12:18 pm

    My thought: T&S once again shamelessly poaches the Bloggernacle!

  5. Kevin Barney on October 6, 2004 at 12:28 pm

    I understand that the Church is very concerned about pornography these days (it was a big topic in our last Stake Conference, and was addressed at General Conference). But if my bishop tried to ram these proposals, which obviously have not been thought all the way through, down my throat, I would have a negative reaction, too. What else should he expect?

  6. The BRETHREN on October 6, 2004 at 12:40 pm

    Difficult question. I have a very dear friend who, faithful as hell, nevertheless must leave the room whenever Pres. Monson speaks. On the other hand, I know plenty of bright LDS who adore him. I admit that Brother Evans’s phrasing, “I am sick of x,” made me grimace a little; it seemed rather on the sharp side. Like Danithew, I found the parody amusing; I will have to think about the intro a little bit. Breasts.

  7. danithew on October 6, 2004 at 12:44 pm

    Since Steve Evans and Rusty (of Nine Moons) have been critical of priesthood authority, I guess the question to ask is whether they’d still pass Adam Greenwood’s culinary hosting standard of righteousness. Could one in good conscience host both of themn for dinner? Or might it be better to have only one of them over at a time? What if Kingsley showed up?

  8. Bryce I on October 6, 2004 at 12:54 pm

    I may be splitting hairs here, but at least Rusty’s criticism is directed at someone else’s bishop. I have much the same reaction when I hear my brother tell me stories of his stake president threatening not to give temple recommends to single men who aren’t dating.

    As for Steve’s post, I’ll post my thoughts over there if I get around to it. Short answer — there’s at least one good reason for having a three-member First Presidency and a Quorum of the Twelve — you can’t please everyone.

  9. danithew on October 6, 2004 at 1:03 pm

    In all seriousness though, I really wonder what is acceptable? It’s easier for me to complain about a bishop formulating some odd solutions to a largely unseen and assumed epidemic. It’s harder to give voice to my personal irritation if a general authority seems to fall into an absurd or stale speaking style.

    I usually try to overcome the latter by reminding myself that WHAT the Lord’s anointed are saying is much more significant than the style in which they are saying it. I’m afraid that if I get distracted by stylistic issues I might miss the message that the Spirit would like me to hear.

    Ezekiel 33:31-32
    31 And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.
    32 And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.

    Ezekiel hears that the people praise his singing voice and his song but they refuse to heed the message of his prophetic lyrics. How much worse would we be if we criticize the singers and their unpleasant(?) singing voices and perhaps entirely miss the saving message in the process.

  10. GAF on October 6, 2004 at 1:04 pm

    I don’t mind criticism of a speaker’s style–we all have our own styles and preferences. The gospel is very personal and the Spirit will speak to us in whatever way will be most effective. I think that’s why having so many speakers at General Conference is a good thing. We can plug our ears through the grating monologues and then be touched through someone else’s message–as long as we approach Conference with the attitude of humble learner.

    As far as criticizing policies put forth by local leadership, I have a huge problem concerning this–by that I mean I do it a lot. And I feel guilty as all get out about it. But the policy implemented by our bishop has affected my family in a very adverse way. Well, it’s affected me. My husband just goes along with it. If he (the bishop) prayed about it and got confirmation that it was the right thing to do, why oh why do I have a hard time with it? Is it because I am being selfish? I refuse to talk to him about it (about anything really). I’ve made mention to counselors of my difficulty, and they just say, “We feel it’s the best way.” Then when I talk to others who are affected, I haven’t heard one good thing about the change. The whole thing is over the bishop moving Cub Scouts and Activity girls to a different night as YM/YW and for Cubs and Activity Girls Night to be at members’ houses. And the bishop wanted these meetings to be in the afternoon so that it wouldn’t affect the fathers’ time at home. More work for the moms and sometimes, if there are multiple children involved, one child doesn’t get to go to the activity. Our ward boundaries are huge so it means 20 minute drives one way.

  11. The BRETHREN on October 6, 2004 at 1:08 pm

    Bryce, I commend you on that answer. Different strokes for different folks. Really, what does pointing out Pres. Monson’s supposed deficiencies do for me, you, the Kingdom, the Cause? I think of my relationship with the Apostles as a sort of intimate one, given the covenants I’ve made, and far, far different from, say, my relationship to my congressmen; when it comes to criticism, therefore, I must ask myself: What is the point of this? What purpose does it serve? I.e. the same type of questions I would ask myself prior to criticizing a friend. To criticize a friend’s mannerisms, speech patterns, etc., and especially sarcastically, would, for me, be a no-no; and so, perhaps, I can extend the same courtesy to the Apostles.

  12. Steve Evans on October 6, 2004 at 1:26 pm

    “Since Steve Evans and Rusty (of Nine Moons) have been critical of priesthood authority,”

    I think it’s clear that I haven’t been critical of priesthood authority. I also have heard Danithew’s point about missing the message, many, many times. I don’t think I’m missing the saving message of the speakers, however. Can’t we criticize speakers’ styles and still grasp their message?

    “To criticize a friend’s mannerisms, speech patterns, etc., and especially sarcastically, would, for me, be a no-no; and so, perhaps, I can extend the same courtesy to the Apostles.”

    Well now, that’s just it — I would turn to my friends to get criticisms on my talks, to get correction on social matters, etc. I may have been a little sharp w/ Pres. Monson (for the record, I love him) — but we don’t really need to put him up on a pedestal any more than he already is, do we?

  13. The BRETHREN on October 6, 2004 at 1:50 pm

    Restraining sharpness for friendship’s sake is not a pedestal, is it?

  14. Kristine on October 6, 2004 at 1:52 pm

    Don’t the Brethren occupy a different position than friends? After all, it’s not as though President Monson is going to read or hear a criticism of one of his talks and be hurt by it. Our interactions just aren’t the sort of two-way conversation that friendship is. I think the GAs occupy a strange space as public figures. There aren’t any other kinds of public speakers whom we would refuse to criticize–leaders of corporations, political leaders, other spiritual leaders (the Dalai Lama, the Pope) all come in for criticism by Mormons, but somehow we’re supposed to willingly suspend all of our critical faculties when listening to or speaking about the GAs? I’m not saying we *shouldn’t* listen somewhat differently, but I’m not sure that mute adoration is the appropriate posture for receiving their words, either.

  15. lyle on October 6, 2004 at 2:05 pm

    maybe suspension of criticism would be appropriate until one has tried to live what is being advocated/viewing it in the best possible light first? maybe this is a just a different iteration of “did you pray first,” but…it seems easier/more likely than not to bring beneficial results from respect & obedience up front, followed by questioning after. just call me a sheep who follows, and ignores only after experience/etc. disproves. :)

  16. Karen on October 6, 2004 at 2:10 pm

    Lyle, I’m not sure that your comment really gets to the heart of the question, as you are talking about substance rather than style. I too am of the sheep mentality when it comes to substance–and am pretty happy to occupy that sphere. (Although I prefer to refer to it as I’m happy to be a faithful Mormon and leave out all references to farm animals!) :o)

    I think the question, at least that Steve was posting, was whether or not it’s appropriate to express frustration in the manner in which the message is being presented…because at least at times, it seems like the delivery can get in the way of the message.

    What do you think about that distinction?

  17. Rusty on October 6, 2004 at 2:12 pm

    Restraining sharpness for friendship’s sake is not a pedestal, is it?

    Like Steve insinuated, if I were giving a talk/lesson/lecture, I’d hope my friends would point out the fact that I’m boring them to death, or offending them, or whatever straying from the topic, or whatever. Doing so doesn’t show disrespect, rather it shows love and concern. I think some of the comments at BCC make some of these “friendly critiques” funny, which I would REALLY appreciate. Coat it in humor, and it goes down much smoother.

  18. Kristine on October 6, 2004 at 2:13 pm

    lyle, I’m pretty sure the world is about to end, because I agree with you./ducks to wait for explosion of computer/

    If I’ve read your comment correctly, that is largely my approach, with the exception that I feel comfortable discussing my questions and concerns about GAs counsel during the “trial period.”

  19. Frank McIntyre on October 6, 2004 at 2:27 pm

    There is a large difference between advice to a friend about them being boring and criticisizing that friend behind their back. We often call the second backbiting when we do it to friends.

    Does that mean we should never criticise church leaders’ style? Probably not. But I suppose the rule about X positive comments on style per one negative one might not be a bad idea to keep us focused on the good, where X is some rather large number.

  20. Aaron Brown on October 6, 2004 at 2:30 pm

    Without presuming to address all the issues raised here, let me just say that one of my pet peeves — arising out of our preoccupation with not criticizing our leaders — is how the whole practice of “discussing conference” becomes an obligatory devotional exercise in which all the talks are inevitably described as “wonderful,” “needed,” “timely,” etc., regardless of what is said. At least that’s been my experience in discussing conference with friends and relatives. If it goes without saying that everything must be fabulous, then I’d just prefer not to say it. :)

    Lile, do we really have your permission to call you “Sheep Who Follows” from now on (the comment policy notwithstanding)? :)

    Aaron B

  21. Frank McIntyre on October 6, 2004 at 2:49 pm

    The reference got lost in my bad html—John 10:27-28

  22. Nate Craig on October 6, 2004 at 2:54 pm

    Being a newcomer, I have to say that I have been impresses with this blog. Members of the Church are always skirting around when it is appropriate to critize Church leaders. I can honestly say that I am of the Holland-Eyring school. Deep messages that are to the point but can be read several times with added meaning. Their delivery is a style of their own. Both are vey different but very effective. I think Pres. Monson’s talk are meant for either new members of the Church or old members that want to feel good. Alot of good qoutes and simple messages (tripartite is a great word for it). But I really don’t think that is critizing the “Lord’s anointed”. An example of that, in an albeit extreme case, is if someone where to say that Pres. Hinckley’s talk on pornography was untruthful or that he is out of touch with the general Church membership. Then I think that is getting close to inappropriate criticism.
    But I agree with Aaron B., we have a fascination to say that Conference is always “life changing”. There are talks that I think are boring and personally not helpful. They may be for someone else, but I can do without a talk on the joys of family history. But in saying that, I almost dread what new program the Bishop will come up with since being inspired by Conference. But like most Bishops, the program will fizzle in 2-3 months.

    Nate C.

  23. Steve Evans on October 6, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    Nate C, if you like this blog, I know some others you’ll love.

  24. Kristine on October 6, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    Hi Nate, welcome! Are you related to Marshall and Ruth Craig?

  25. Nate Craig on October 6, 2004 at 2:59 pm

    Kristine, probably not. I grew up in Kentucky and my parents are first-generation members.

  26. The BRETHREN on October 6, 2004 at 3:07 pm

    Again, sarcasm, sharpness, are not necessary when necessarily critiquing friends. I really hope my friends do not cleverly ape me for a laugh when I’m not around. Kristine, perhaps friendship is not the right analogy, but I do feel there is an intimacy involved that is unique and absolutely separate from mute adoration. Refraining, for the sake of whatever that intimacy is, from saying “Boy do I love x, but boy do his talks suck” is not mute adoration.

  27. Austin Frost on October 6, 2004 at 3:10 pm

    I personally am not averse to doing so; however, when I do, it seems like the words “evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed” echoes in my mind. I was openly critical of Elder Bednar on Fairboards.org prior to his call and when I heard it.

    There is a bishop of a BYU ward who counseled the Relief Society to ask the young men they date, “When was the last time you viewed pornography?” That is wrong, and I will criticize that man until the day he dies, regardless of the forum.

  28. The BRETHREN on October 6, 2004 at 3:15 pm

    “… I will criticize that man until the day he dies, regardless of the forum.”

    Good night, that seems like a little much! Does mercy, forgiveness, charity, etc., play a role in all of this?

  29. Austin Frost on October 6, 2004 at 3:18 pm

    Yes…it does. That is what makes his request so ridiculous!

  30. The BRETHREN on October 6, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    Ah, I see. It only works one way.

  31. Austin Frost on October 6, 2004 at 3:25 pm

    I can say the same of your reply to my original comment. But, I’ll rephrase. I will criticize that man’s counsel until the day he dies (or retracts).

  32. Kaimi on October 6, 2004 at 3:26 pm

    Kingsley,

    There are some important differences. My friends, who I (generally) don’t criticize, don’t possess the power to take away my temple recommend on a whim, remove me from callings, or even potentially excommunicate me.

    If Steve Evans says, “from now on I will only have lunch with people who wear purple suspenders,” well, I suppose I won’t be able to have lunch with Steve, but otherswise, life will go on.

    If a bishop says, “I’ll take your temple recommend away unless you wear purple suspenders,” suddenly that impacts me quite a bit more.

    A bishop is in a position to make announcements that will directly impact a number of people. He’s not in the position of a friend. He’s not making the annoucements from such a position. And so it doesn’t necessarily seem inconsistent to treat him differently than a friend making a statement.

  33. Steve Evans on October 6, 2004 at 3:28 pm

    So, The Breth, your problem is not necessarily with the idea of critiquing a GC talk, but doing so with sarcasm or sharpness? I can accept that as a totally fine way to approach the question.

    I suppose then you would think, given your views thus far, that I’d gone too far in my oh-so-witty remarks about Pres. Monson. My intent was not to offend anyone, of course, so I hope you can take it in the tongue-in-cheek way most of my remarks are made. Adam, N.B.: this does not constitute an apology.

  34. The BRETHREN on October 6, 2004 at 3:38 pm

    “So, The Breth, your problem is not necessarily with the idea of critiquing a GC talk, but doing so with sarcasm or sharpness?”

    Yes.

    “I suppose then you would think, given your views thus far, that I’d gone too far in my oh-so-witty remarks about Pres. Monson.”

    No, not really. I laughed. “I am sick of” jolted me a little.

  35. The BRETHREN on October 6, 2004 at 3:46 pm

    Kaimi: As I admitted to Kristine, friendship is perhaps not the right analogy. Also, I was addressing the idea of the unique relationship between the Saints and Apostles, and not the (more complicated?) relationship between the Saints and Bishops. E.g. Pres. Packer says something a little insensitive in a Conference talk, and I want to discuss it; is it possible to do so without sarcasm, making fun, etc.

  36. Kim Siever on October 6, 2004 at 4:00 pm

    I had a similar post a few weeks ago about a local stake policy regarding growing facial hair.

  37. Kim Siever on October 6, 2004 at 4:01 pm

    I could think of a few other issues locally, but I think I made enough of a stink locally.

  38. lyle on October 6, 2004 at 4:09 pm

    karen: I reject the distinction; much as I reject other dichotomies (sp?) such as means/ends, etc. Of course, absolute positions tend to create inconsistency. I guess I simply don’t see how one apostle/GA’s “style” should be a subject of discussion or pigeonholing. If I don’t like the style, or substance, I’m more likely to looking inward for the reason that otherwise. [I hope! :)]

  39. sara on October 6, 2004 at 4:09 pm

    Laughing about something as simple as an apostle’s tone of voice is in no way “criticizing priesthood authority.” They’re old men. They sometimes talk funny and are boring. We all will be like that someday – it’s a HUMAN characteristic (not a spiritual matter). I will not get offended when my grandkids someday tease me about my jiggly arms. Saying that it seems extreme and unnecessary for a bishop to commit a morally clean married man to such stringent and insulting rules is not saying that I doubt he receives revelation for his ward or that I know better than he does. Bishops, too, are human and at times make decisions that are not necessarily direct results of revelation from God. Ask any bishop if he feels like he’s ALWAYS made the PERFECT decision with regards to ward council, and I’m sure he’ll say no. They’re HUMANS, not celestial beings.

  40. danithew on October 6, 2004 at 4:25 pm

    Whoa, the comments kind of exploded while I was away for a class.

    Steve my man, I’m sorry if I came across as overly critical of you or if I misunderstood what you were saying — obviously you were not being critical of President Monson (or priesthood authority per se) but rather just his speaking style. I was trying to be a bit playful in the quoted comment (way back in this thread — both for the original comment and Steve’s response) and maybe it came across otherwise.

    My bad.

  41. Rusty on October 6, 2004 at 5:11 pm

    What about criticizing EQ/RS president? First, second councilors? What about the young mens leader that says stuff to your son that you don’t agree with? The nursery leader who only plays with your kid and doesn’t try to give a lesson?

  42. MDS on October 6, 2004 at 5:30 pm

    I have been taught that “evil speaking of the Lord’s annointed” refers not just to our file leaders, but to anyone who has been through the temple.

  43. Kristine on October 6, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    “The nursery leader who only plays with your kid and doesn’t try to give a lesson”

    or the nursery leader who tries to give your kid a lesson instead of just playing with them and singing a couple of songs (which is the age-appropriate thing to do with the under-3 set!)

  44. danithew on October 6, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    I’m going to have to think some more about what it actually means to speak evil of the Lord’s anointed. What point we can go to with criticism (assuming it is honest and accurate criticism) is an significant concern.

  45. Aaron Brown on October 6, 2004 at 6:05 pm

    As Ward Mission Leader of my ward, I am one of the “Lord’s annointed” … at least if you take literally the idea that callings received from the Bishop are inspired. Thus, I would appreciate it if you all would refrain from ever speaking evil of me.

    What does this mean, exactly? Let me spell it out for you: Adam, Steve E., Lyle, et al. must give complete deference to both the style and substance of my every comment. Kaimi, please see to it that my counsel is formally incorporated into the T&S Comment Policy forthwith!

    Aaron B

  46. john fowles on October 6, 2004 at 6:11 pm

    Aaron B., are you overlooking the stewardship aspect of this issue of evil-speaking? T&S and the commenters you singled out are not under your stewardship in your calling. The missionaries, however, and aspects of your ward life that deal with missionary work are under your stewardship. I would hope that members in your ward would refrain from speaking evil of you in the efforts that you are making to magnify your calling.

  47. Ian R on October 6, 2004 at 6:16 pm

    It all depends on the issue and on the particular criticism. I do think though that the presumption (in a legal sense) needs to be that public criticism, whether in the bloggsosphere or otherwise, is inappropriate.

    As for whacky local policies, eg the facial hair issue, I think confronting your leaders in a one-on-one setting is fine and dandy.

  48. Steve Evans on October 6, 2004 at 6:19 pm

    I actually am under Aaron’s stewardship, and humbly beg forgiveness for each time I labeled his posts or comments hackneyed, overblown, or grammatically retarded.

  49. john fowles on October 6, 2004 at 6:36 pm

    Steve, in relation to the stewardship issue, I would add that any preclusion of evil speaking also is restricted to matters pertaining to Aaron’s stewardship. So his comments in the blogosphere are not included.

  50. Steve Evans on October 6, 2004 at 6:52 pm

    No John, I was specifically referring to Aaron’s leadership over me in the bloggernacle. I couldn’t care less that he runs his ward mission into the ground…

  51. Aaron Brown on October 6, 2004 at 7:07 pm

    Steve, I ORDER you to make effusive, adoring comments after every single one of my posts, no matter how pedestrial or pseudo-intellectual they may appear. A**-kissing is hereby mandatory. No follow-up questions please. Just obey.

    Aaron B

  52. Steve Evans on October 6, 2004 at 7:10 pm

    See, Aaron, that’s why I love your posts, they just make the Gospel seem so clear! I particularly enjoy your coy turns of phrase (a**-kissing — giggle!). Thanks again for doing such a great job!

    Yours very truly.

  53. john fowles on October 6, 2004 at 7:11 pm

    Steve, domination is not necessarily “leadership.” Whereas Aaron achieves the former over you by nature, he lacks a mandate for the latter.

  54. Adam Greenwood on October 6, 2004 at 7:46 pm

    Hush, John Fowles. I like the new Steve.

    To be clear: Kingsley is welcome at my home anytime, if he is gagged. Steve Evans and Rusty N. Moons can stop by anytime. I’ll serve up a dish I call Borgia Broth. Have as much as you want, fellas, ‘cuz I won’t be hungry. :)

  55. Aimee on October 6, 2004 at 8:27 pm

    In my opinion, it’s probably best to keep criticizims to yourself, about church leaders, fellow members, or just people in general. Usually it doesn’t do anyone much good.

    Your question on if it is permissible or not is another thing, because of course it is permissible. We all have our agency, we fought a war in heaven for it, and therefore we can do what we please.

  56. Rosalynde Welch on October 6, 2004 at 8:31 pm

    I think that critical utterances, like all language, generate meaning as much from context as from content. So a particular string of words, say, “Bishop X’s new guidelines about children in sacrament meeting are making my life difficult,” would have different meanings depending on whether they were uttered to one’s spouse at home, to one’s friends at playgroup, or over the pulpit in sacrament meeting. I do believe that it is possible to harbor personal doubts and reservations about priesthood leaders and church programs without putting oneself in spiritual peril, and sharing those doubts with the leader him or herself, with trusted friends, or appropriate authorities could be an appropriate way to deal with the issue. But trumpeting one’s grievances indiscriminately would probably be inappropriate, both because it could put another person in spiritual peril and because it would undoubtedly be corrosively divisive.

    So what about blogging one’s grievances? Hmmm. I’d feel uncomfortable singling out specific local or general leaders, or specific programs, for sustained criticism, for both of the reasons suggested above.

  57. Mark Mason on October 6, 2004 at 8:58 pm

    I must be old fashioned. I find little evidence of personal humility in the thought of having to plug my ears at any general authority’s address. I would be concerned if I felt that way because I would consider 2 Nephi 9:28-29, that my learning may be getting in the way of my understanding. Why would I want to criticize the speaking of the Brethren? For myself the act would betray my devotion to the concept of a priesthood quorum.

    I am reminded of Zion’s camp march and the criticism that spread through the camp. It caused misery in the lives of the brethren. I for one want to stay as far away from evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed as I possible can and will give no room to the adversary to find weakness in my determination to do so. I am sure William Law, Robert Foster, Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Orson Pratt, Orson Hyde, William McLellyn, John C. Bennett, and other brethren found rational explanations for their departures with the prophet.

    I think Elder Holland sums up my thoughts when he said:

    Not long ago Sister Holland and I met a fine young man who came in contact with us after he had been roaming around through the occult and sorting through a variety of Eastern religions, all in an attempt to find religious faith. His father, he admitted, believed in nothing whatsoever. But his grandfather, he said, was actually a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “But he didn’t do much with it,� the young man said. “He was always pretty cynical about the Church.� From a grandfather who is cynical to a son who is agnostic to a grandson who is now looking desperately for what God had already once given his family! What a classic example of the warning Elder Richard L. Evans once gave.

    Said he: “Sometimes some parents mistakenly feel that they can relax a little as to conduct and conformity or take perhaps a so called liberal view of basic and fundamental things—thinking that a little laxness or indulgence won’t matter—or they may fail to teach or to attend Church, or may voice critical views. Some parents . . . seem to feel that they can ease up a little on the fundamentals without affecting their family or their family’s future. But,� he observed, “if a parent goes a little off course, the children are likely to exceed the parent’s example.

    As for criticizing one’s bishop for the counsel he advises. Charity suffereth long and is kind. Be patient with bishops. You might be one some day.

  58. Jack on October 6, 2004 at 9:48 pm

    How about a burping contest using the last names of GAs? I remember a couple of elders trying to one up each other with Le Graaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand Richards!

    I think some of this argument boils down to having a little respect for others.

  59. Rusty on October 6, 2004 at 9:57 pm

    Kristine, what I actually meant was what you said, I fully agree with you.

    Aimee, I generally agree with you. But there are different kinds of criticisms. When my sister told me what her husband thought about some of my actions, I welcomed the information as a starting point of change. I knew that he loved me, that was never in question. But there were things that he didn’t approve of, which I realized could be true, and went on to attempt a change. At times the Church needs to be told it’s time to change. They hired a huge PR firm to help change our image (criticism), the logo (criticism), and other things (all criticisms). Criticism is part of improvement and growth. Again, Steve is not criticizing the doctrine taught, but rather the way that it’s taught. I’m not criticizing the bishop himself, but the wacky things he commits his ward members to do.

  60. Adam Greenwood on October 6, 2004 at 11:50 pm

    It’s certainly out of the ordinary, but what’s so wacky about it? I once had a bishop commit the ward’s leadership (its presidencies) to something similar. Once I got over the rarity, I buckled down and found real spiritual blessings. Most of the rest of the leadership grumbled and made a pretty ugly scene. It retrospect the Bishop probably shouldn’t have done it, not because the his counsel was wrong but because the people recieving it were so stiffnecked.

  61. Bob Caswell on October 7, 2004 at 12:19 am

    Wow, Adam, I am impressed! I’m glad that worked out for you; but I hope your bishop’s counsel wasn’t too close to that of this bishop… And your “spiritual blessing” wild card is hard to contest. I don’t doubt that you received a spiritual blessing.

    I’m sure that there has to be at least one spiritual blessing for just following counsel – no matter how silly – from someone who has stewardship over me. The problem is that I rarely know what that spiritual blessing is or what to call it, thus I just refer to it as a “spiritual blessing” until I realize that I’m kidding myself and haven’t received anything!

  62. Jack on October 7, 2004 at 12:35 am

    Garsh! I feel left out. I can’t remember one single instance when I was challenged with goofy counsel buy local leaders. There have been a couple of close calls but a back door was opened for my escape.

    All in all I’d have to say that I’d probably be lying in a ditch somewhere without inspired local leadership.

  63. Jack on October 7, 2004 at 12:41 am

    D–n! Why are my misspells always some sort of Freudian slip?

    “buy local leaders”

  64. Rusty on October 7, 2004 at 12:54 am

    what’s so wacky about it?

    Aside from the R-rated movie thing, I’d have to say that it’s a bit wacky to “commit” (missionary style) every priesthood holder to not watch PG-13 movies without permission from your wife (what do the single guys do, ask their moms?), and to not get on the internet without your wife’s permission. The whole point of my blog is that I think it’s a lost opportunity that he commits them to being “less bad” rather than being better. Why not commit them to increase their study of the scriptures, or being a better home teacher, or volunteering, or whatever. Yes, it seems a bit wacky.

  65. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 12:55 am

    But Adam, we agree on so many things, like the fruitlessness of sheerly machoistic, masochistic critical distance, and the beauty of jumping at an Apostle’s command and then asking how high, and the romance of space, and the joy of the Saints, and how the Church is as true as the Gospel, etc.

    P.S. What do you call 5 lepers in a hot tub? Give up? Oatmeal. See you at dinner.

  66. Bob Caswell on October 7, 2004 at 1:02 am

    Jack, oh boy, you’re missing out! Come to the stake where Xboxs are evil, driving one mile over the speed limit is a sin, and “Internet” and “p0rn” may as well be one word. I hate for you to feel so left out; you’d love it here!

  67. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 1:18 am

    My Bishop’s commandment was fairly similar. It was no more intrinsically wacky than telling people not to watch r-rated movies or not to watch porn or even not to do anything. In theory you’re right. If we would just pray enough, study our scriptures enough, serve enough, and love enough, we wouldn’t need any prohibitory commandments at all. We would just naturally do the right. St. Paul makes this point repeatedly.

    But sad experience has shown us that people need prohibitions, which is why we’ve had them from the first Adam to this Adam and will to the last Adam. So there’s nothing per se wacky about a Bishop deciding that his men need to make their media choices a matter of family counsel, and commanding a specific, bright-line way of doing it. Good for the Bishop.

    The only thing wacky about it is that Bishop’s rarely do give commandments to their wards. But I think that’s more because they’ve learned that certain places they’d like to lead no one will follow than because there’s anything wrong with the idea. We Church members have unfortunately become accustomed to our authorities being fairly remote and speaking to us only in fairly general terms, terms that we can interpret and debate and contextualize until they suit us. If we are uncertain about the meaning of the prophets we don’t have the inconvenience of the prophets answering back. And so we come to think that some areas of our free agency are more than a gift, a stewardship, that suits God’s purposes. We come to think of them as a right. We imagine their deeds to be held in fee simple. So when a Bishop comes trampling across the borders we’ve become used to, we get angry. He is *trespassing*.

    I have every sympathy with that response. It is only human, only natural. I only say, from my own experience, that heeding the counsel brings blessings. Bob Caswell gives with one hand–“I don’t doubt that you recieved a spiritual blessing’–what he takes with another–‘spiritual blessings,’ he thinks, often turn out to be code for no blessings at all. He out to have given and not taken; the blesssings we recieved were very real. They were a more tangible and closer presence of the Spirit; more and clearer revelation; and a greater sense of God’s approval. These things were probably always there but humbling myself to do what the Bishop asked cleaned a little of the smear of Self off the windows of my soul.

  68. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 1:35 am

    And to think Esau sold his birthright for a mess of THAT.

    But of course you will be gagged, Sir. I find the feast of reason a very inferior article on which to dine, Sir, and the feast of unreason we’d share does not lag it, Sir. Good roast beef for us, Sir.

  69. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 1:48 am

    Now the Star Wars theme is playing in the HBLL, and the students are streaming out, and I must say farewell, farewell, a-dreaming of the Brethren I go, arm to the square.

  70. Larry on October 7, 2004 at 5:45 am

    What if the Bishop gave the command because in interviews with the wives he learned things that were not confessed by the husbands. How square the arm now?

  71. Bob Caswell on October 7, 2004 at 9:35 am

    “Bob Caswell gives with one hand–”I don’t doubt that you received a spiritual blessing’–what he takes with another–’spiritual blessings,’ he thinks, often turn out to be code for no blessings at all.”

    Adam, I thought I had made it clear that I was referring to you in the former and to me in the latter. I’m glad that for you the spiritual blessings were visible, *worth* it, and not code for something else. Because for me, I use the Internet dozens of times a day for work purposes. If I had to call my wife for permission each time… oh man, that would be a HUGE pain. What if I couldn’t get a hold of her? I guess I couldn’t get my work done and thus not be able to provide for my family. No matter, blessings are on their way! The blessings I get from such annoyances better outweigh the blessings (we’re talking bread coming down from the sky) I get using the same time and energy say, reading the scriptures a little more, praying more often, providing an act of service, etc. I have seen blessings from the latter (for which I have received counsel) whereas I’m extremely skeptical about the former.

    Oh and Adam, maybe you can indulge me by providing an example of counsel a bishop has provided that is inappropriate, if there is such a beast. Asking for examples that are on your side of the line has been a favorite past time of yours in past discussion, so I thought I’d give it a try. :-)

  72. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 10:08 am

    Larry: What if Ed Decker is right! What if the Twelve participate in secret bloody rituals and the spires of the Temple are there to crucify Christ anew! Oh! Oh! Arm trembling … trembling …

  73. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 10:11 am

    How depressing if our faith in anything, our Church, our friends, family, country, lover, football team, etc., should depend on What Ifs.

  74. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 10:28 am

    But suppose that was your Bishop, Bob. If you weren’t comfortable assuming that he didn’t mean your work-related access, call him up and ask him for a dispensation. I did this all the time on my mission. Local leaders can be interrogated.

  75. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 10:34 am

    Oh, and I’m sorry that I misunderstood you. And here’s an example: A Bishop counsels you to solve your problems by killing your wife. He’s out of line.

  76. Kaimi on October 7, 2004 at 10:51 am

    Adam,

    A related problem is the holier-than-thou attitude that some members tend to apply. “I’m obeying more commandments than you are. I’m obeying commandments that aren’t even commandments. Sinner.”

    As for wacky advice, my Bishop told the entire ward, from the pulpit, that they should not listen to rock or country music. In particular, country. Country music, he explained, will make a person want to drink beer and commit adultery.

  77. Larry on October 7, 2004 at 10:53 am

    Kingsley,
    “What if” may have been a poor choice of words to advance a position of “things as they really are”. Decker has no knowledge of the real world.
    However, “what if ‘s” can be a useful tool in creating scenarios if not taken to the extreme.

  78. danithew on October 7, 2004 at 11:00 am

    Kaimi, did you see the research study on country music and suicide that won an Ig Nobel prize this year?

    Here’s a link to the article: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=95183303

    Here’s a quote:

    This article assesses the link between country music and metropolitan suicide rates. Country music is hypothesized to nurture a suicidal mood through its concerns with problems common in the suicidal population, such as marital discord, alcohol abuse, and alienation from work. The results of a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas show that the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the greater the white suicide rate. The effect is independent of divorce, southernness, poverty, and gun availability. The existence of a country music subculture is thought to reinforce the link between country music and suicide. Our model explains 51% of the variance in urban white suicide rates.

  79. john fowles on October 7, 2004 at 11:24 am

    What an interesting study! Personally, I don’t listen to country music. The only time I like it is when I’ve been in Europe for a while and happen to hear it either on a random radio station or department store (both very rare over there) or after I’ve just returned from an extended period in Europe and hear it in the car or in a gas station on my way home from the airport. There’s something very American about it when you’ve been overseas for a while. But I had never considered a link between it and suicide. I would have thought there would be a higher link between death rock and suicide.

  80. Kim Siever on October 7, 2004 at 11:44 am

    I want to kill myself when I hear country music just so I can stop hearing it.

  81. danithew on October 7, 2004 at 12:05 pm

    Having been a huge “classic rock” fan in past years I used to be the first to bring up the point that “country music” is an oxymoron. But I’m repenting a bit. Johnny Cash has been growing on me and I’m intrigued by the fact that Jack White (of the White Stripes) is such a huge Loretta Lynn fan and that he produced her latest Van Lear Rose album. I heard their duet on the that album’s single “Portland, Oregon” and loved every bit of it [how in the heck have I not gotten around to listening to that whole album yet?!]. I also am becoming more and more of a fan of Ray Charles and I understand he performed country music as well (can’t wait for this Ray Charles movie to come out).

    Too many great artists that I’m crazy about have paid their respects to country music — so that sends me a loud message that I need to pay attention to something I’ve been missing out on. Though I haven’t come around to the point where I’m fully embracing the pure strains of country, I know for sure that when rock music and country music combine, extraordinary things happen — whether it’s Jackson Browne, the Eagles, Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits), Jack White, etc. and etc.

    So I’ll just say it again one more time. Country music is another significant factor in the huge story of American popular music and these days I’m extremely hesitant to knock the whole genre (pssst, don’t tell my wife I wrote this — she’ll divorce me). :mrgreen:

  82. danithew on October 7, 2004 at 12:09 pm

    Let me add to what I wrote above that Mary Chapin Carpenter’s cover of John Lennon’s “Grow Old With Me” is one of the best recordings I’ve ever heard. Just more evidence for my “when rock weds country, they’re going to raise some really hot daughters” argument.

  83. danithew on October 7, 2004 at 12:34 pm

    Whoa, I just derailed that thread. Let me try and get it back on track. Kaimi, I think you should take all the stuff I’ve talked about in these comments to your bishop and tell him some guy in Salt Lake City says he’s wrong (er, and skip the whole Ig Nobel awarded study about country music’s negative influence on urban suicide rates). Thanks.

  84. Russell Arben Fox on October 7, 2004 at 12:39 pm

    “I know for sure that when rock music and country music combine, extraordinary things happen – whether it’s Jackson Browne, the Eagles, Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits), Jack White, etc. and etc.”

    Others you don’t include: the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Band (Bob Dylan’s outfit), Dylan himself on certain albums, Alabama, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Byrds, etc. Re: Mark Knopfler: great example; he’s one of the greatest rock guitarists of recent years. But I’d say he’s invested himself more in folk music than country. Still, that just goes to show how meaningless a lot of these genre distinctions are, especially in the context of general pop music.

  85. danithew on October 7, 2004 at 12:49 pm

    I was hoping someone like RAF would come along and add to the list. Thanks bud! :mrgreen:

  86. CB on October 7, 2004 at 12:55 pm

    Danithew,

    I have seen research that suggest there is a correlation between a high IQ and tendency to suicide.

    Assuming that both of the studies we cite are true, what does this say about the IQ of people who don’t like country?

    You can add Uncle Cracker and ZZ Top to your list.

  87. Ebenezer on October 7, 2004 at 1:21 pm

    Re: Kaimi #76

    A related problem is the holier-than-thou attitude that some members tend to apply. “I’m obeying more commandments than you are. I’m obeying commandments that aren’t even commandments. Sinner.�

    Your phraseology seems to imply that there is an exclusive, causative relationship between strict obedience and an holier-than-thou attitude. I don’t think that is true. Strict obedience does not automatically lead you down the path to the land of holier-than-thou.

    The problem you describe is not with strict obedience but enmity and competition. We live in a society largely based around these principles and they become inappropriately mingled with the gospel. There is nothing wrong with strict obedience. There is something wrong with placing our own obedience in competition with that of another. Enmity is expressed by the member who looks down on another who they judge to be less obedient. A less recognized form of enmity is that of the member that resents the “extreme� obedience of another because it implies that his or her own obedience is not good enough.

    Directed down with disdain or up with resentment, Pride spays our obedience and renders it barren.

    Unfortunately, a habit of criticizing the brethren does seem to be related, at some level, to enmity.

    Additionally, the implication that someone is “obeying commandments that aren’t commandments” stands contrary to the principle of stewardship. An individual member who feels that God does not want her to eat meat, or drink cafinated soda, or watch movies rated PG-13 is acting perfectly within her realm of authority. But the minute she tries to tell her neighbors that they should adhere to these same proscriptions, she has stepped outside of her stewardship and is in the wrong. Conversely, if I call her an extremist for obeying commandments that are not commandments, unless I am her Bishop, I have stepped outside my stewardship and am wrong.

    All stewards make mistakes. But such things should be taken up with the steward directly, or with a steward of higher and more comprehensive authority… not bandied about among members, friends, and bloggers.

    The real struggle is with pride and attempts to exercise what I call Unlicensed Dominion, not with obedience itself.

    From Elder Eyrings talk on Saturday:

    “Satan will always work on the saints of God to undermine their faith in priesthood keys. One way he does it is to point out the humanity of those who hold them. He can, in that way, weaken our testimony, and so cut us loose from the line of keys by which the Lord ties us to Him and can take us and our families home to Him and to our Heavenly Father….

    “The warning for us is plain. If we look for human frailty in humans we will always find it. When we focus on finding the frailties of those who hold priesthood keys, we run risks for ourselves. When we speak or write to others of such frailties, we put them at risk….

    “To keep ourselves grounded in the Lord’s Church, we can and must train our eyes to recognize the power of the Lord in the service of those he has called. We must be worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost and we need to pray for the Holy Ghost to help us know that men who lead us hold this power….”

  88. Kaimi on October 7, 2004 at 1:36 pm

    Ebenezer,

    You’re right to note that the real problem is pride. In my limited observation, members are often not content to impose additional requirements on themselves. Instead, they seek to impose additional requirements on others as well, and disparage those members who don’t follow those requirements.

    “Everyone should have a rule that they don’t watch movies unless they’re rated G,” for instance. It’s fine to apply that sort of rule in one’s own life. But it seems, very often, to become, “I’m shocked that Russell is watching PG-13 movies — doesn’t he know that everyone should only watch G-rated movies!”

  89. CB on October 7, 2004 at 2:07 pm

    Ebenezer, Adam,

    You are both pretty good salesmen, but I’m still not buying.

    I think it is quite a bit more complicated, at least for me. Is it not possible to see a local leader who imposes his own guidelines as being out of order? If I am a priesthood leader, and I think the prophet didn’t go quite far enough in his condemnation of some behavior or other, so I add a few proscriptions of my own, what does that say about me? I’ve seen leaders who don’t think the recommend questions cover all the ground they should, so they add some more, in spite of the instruction at the top of the page that they are to ask the questions as written. .

    I guess I’m going a lot on my own experience here. Usually, when I feel like giving a lot of advice to others, or micromanaging my kids lives, I am pretty sure I’m on the wrong side of the temptation to power which “almost all men” are subject to. I don’t think leaders, local or general, are immune to that temptation, but at least our general leaders have a lot more experience, and when they act unanimously, it inspires confidence.

    I agree that we need to show respect, lots of patience, and not speak disparagingly. But some lighthearted observations about speaking style or manner of dress are not out of bounds. I bet the GAs do it among themselves. In that spirit, I would like to nominate a phrase that should be granted emeritus status immediately:

    “Sit at the feet of.”

    In conference, it is tiresome, but tolerable. When it gets copied down to my EQ presidency meeting, it is beyond irritating.

  90. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 2:16 pm

    Larry: True, true–however, if not taken to the extreme (e.g. what if the Twelve are green slimy aliens a la The Simpsons), it is hard for me to think of a What If scenario, regarding the leadership of the Church, that would really weaken my compass-squared arm. I mean, what if an important member of the original Twelve betrayed the Son of God to His death; what if many of the Twelve in Joseph’s day were scoundrels; what if an influential member of the Seventy molested a little child; what if a stake president in California got caught with a prostitute; etc. In every dispensation the Saints have been stared dead in the face by the sometimes flabbergasting weaknesses of their leaders, and have had to resist the kneejerk impulse to steady the ark; ours is no different, obviously. So I salute, knowing that the majority of the men and women placed over me are decent, and that some of them are really quite special. Of course I am susceptible to arm-weakening from other areas, like booze and so forth, but mere idiocy on the part of a bishop (or an Apostle, for that matter), isn’t going to do it.

  91. CB on October 7, 2004 at 2:19 pm

    Kingsley,

    I think the question is this:

    Are you allowed to point out the idiocy?

  92. Jonathan Stapley on October 7, 2004 at 2:19 pm

    If we are retiring phrases I would submit the use of “even�, e.g., “I have to go the restroom, even the receptacle of my waste�

  93. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 2:30 pm

    CB: That wasn’t Larry’s question.

  94. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 2:31 pm

    Jonathan Stapley is a funny man.

  95. CB on October 7, 2004 at 2:35 pm

    Kingsley,

    You are correct, sir. It is not Larry’s question, but it is Kaimi’s (or Steve’s) original question.

  96. Kim Siever on October 7, 2004 at 2:37 pm

    “what does this say about the IQ of people who don’t like country”

    Since this describes me, I would be interested in the answer to this question.

  97. danithew on October 7, 2004 at 2:44 pm

    Kim,

    I’m not sure there is any correlation really between the fact that people with high IQs might be more likely to commit suicide and the fact that playing country music unceasingly in an urban area drives the masses to suicide — unless for some reason those with high IQs really like to torment themselves.

    And it looks like I just went and fell into an old pattern, even though I claimed I was cured of slandering country music and its listeners. Gasp!

  98. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    Kaimi,
    You are right that the problem is pride. You are wrong in where you put it. I doubt it is pride that made the Bishop counsel his members not to watch PG-13 movies without consulting their wives (though it’s possible). Pride, on the other hand, may well have had a role in people refusing to accept the counsel.

    CB,
    “Is it not possible to see a local leader who imposes his own guidelines as being out of order?”
    Of course it’s possible. We all agree that sometimes people in positions of authority act for the wrong reasons. I keep arguing because I don’t get a clear sense from you and Mr. Nine Moons that you think a local leader could be *in order* when imposing his own guidelines. You seem to think that the guidelines we get from SLC are not only true but also complete. That is, you seem to think that if SLC says, arguendo, Thou Shalt Not Watch R-Rated movies, SLC had told us all we need to know about movies. We now know r-rated movies are bad and PG-13 movies are acceptable. I think this is wrong. I think all we know is that R-rated movies are wrong. I think this attitude is the reason why the brethren have backed off talking about r-rated movies, because people were ceasing to exercise judgment about PG-13s.

    I also disagree that there’s no middle ground between universal problems that SLC can address and problems that vary so much based on individual circumstances that they need to be left to each person’s discretion. I believe that wards vary. Sometimes guidelines will be appropriate in one ward and not in another.

  99. CB on October 7, 2004 at 3:02 pm

    Jonathan,

    Doesn’t “even” usually have “unto” somewhere close by in the sentence? “Unto the throne, even that which is porcelain” – yeah, that’s about right.

  100. Kaimi on October 7, 2004 at 3:04 pm

    Adam,

    The pride that I found most disturbing was in the commenters to Rusty’s post, who said things like (the one I quoted): “Did you pray [before posting the critique] . . I can say with absolute certainty that you could not have.”

    Presuming to lecture Rusty for his post, to say “with absolute certainty” that he must not have been praying (what, does this person have a testimony of Rusty’s lack of prayer?), is exactly the kind of hypocritical, holier-than-thou, nosy little self-appointed-authority internal policing that members seem unfortunately prone to doing.

    Yes, there are other kinds of pride that we should be avoiding. My comment was not meant to suggest that the holier-than-thou is the only kind of pride. But it certainly exists among members, who feel it proper to randomly call others to repentence based on the most casual observations, and obliged to tell other members all sorts of things that just aren’t their business to be saying.

  101. Steve Evans on October 7, 2004 at 3:14 pm

    “I think all we know is that R-rated movies are wrong.”

    Do you really believe this? Or were you just using it as part of your arguendo? That’s a difficult assumption to make, IMHO.

  102. Kaimi on October 7, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    Yes, Adam. Do we really all know that R-rated movies are wrong? This seems to be what you’re saying.

    This leads to the question, “if they’re wrong, why aren’t they formally proscribed.” And, as much as members sometimes imply otherwise, they are _not_ formally proscribed for adults. (They’re mentioned in For the Strength of Youth. Of course, that also says no single-dating).

    Without making this an R-rated movies thread (we’ve had those in the past), isn’t it problematic to assume that (for example) Steve Evans knows that his R-rated movie watching is wrong, but does it anyway, because he’s a stiffnecked, disobedient type?

  103. Jonathan Stapley on October 7, 2004 at 3:29 pm

    CB

    I do believe that “unto� is often found in proximity to “even�. However, “even� is almost exclusively followed by a noun…�unto the throne, even the porcelain paragon of purification� (alliteration added in memoriam)

    What part of speech might “Even� be in this case?

  104. Ryan Bell on October 7, 2004 at 3:38 pm

    Uh, guys, I’m pretty sure Adam is saying that R-rated movies are wrong as part of the hypothetical in which Salt Lake told everyone not to watch R-rated movies. Its for pretends.

  105. Steve Evans on October 7, 2004 at 3:40 pm

    Ry, that’s the way it sounded, but I really couldn’t tell.

  106. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 3:40 pm

    Not to hijack the conversation, but I find the whole discussion about R-rated movies so ridiculous. It’s an arbitrary rating, assigned by the movie industry itself. Why the Church would support such a thing is… well, ridiculous. The Church might do better to set up a committee to rate the movies itself.

    The best example I can think of is Titanic, which had a reprehensible moral message, as far as I could understand: a girl, basically prostituting herself for her mother’s sake, meets a homeless guy, has sex with him on the boat (and we see shots of her unclothed body), and then we he dies tragically, she never speaks to her mother again, but goes to her grave dreaming of her romance (without considering the fact that she married someone else and had children, grandchildren, etc.) And this is all presented as an exemplary set of choices.

    It was PG-13, in case you all didn’t know.

    There are a number of R-movies which are certainly worth watching, even ones which present what some might consider an eternal viewpoint.

  107. Logan on October 7, 2004 at 3:42 pm

    Kaimi, I just wanted to point out that the current For the Strength of Youth and the last one actually do not mention R rated movies.

  108. john fowles on October 7, 2004 at 3:49 pm

    Adam said, in the context of his hypothetical that if SLC mandated not watching R-rated movies, then all we would know from that is that we shouldn’t watch R-rated movies; we wouldn’t know anything about PG-13 movies. Steve and Kaimi seem to have misread it as we all know instead of all we know.

  109. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 3:49 pm

    D. Fletcher, I don’t find the restriction as absurd as you claim. It works as a sort of general rule, certainly, as the majority of R-rated movies these days have very reprehensible things in them (I speak as one who knows). It is really all that arbitrary? Reach into the glass bin and pull out a number, etc.? You are correct in noting that smut is smut, so that the Saints should carefully screen PG-13s &c., but does the presence of evil in a softer rating cancel out the presence of evil in a harder rating? I just have to disagree with you that the Church’s support of the R-rated ban is ridiculous (it’s not even close to that), because, in general, you’re going to be better off supporting it (with some fantastic exceptions, as you pointed out).

  110. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 3:50 pm

    CB: Sir, you are correct. I was responding specifically to Larry.

  111. Jason Richards on October 7, 2004 at 3:51 pm

    And what about folks outside the USA who don’t have the advantage of the MPAA’s Rating system? They have to judge for themselves! And discern the suitability of a film by the light of Christ. Why didn’t the Bishop challenge them all to refrain from watching any film without thoughtfully discussing it with their wife/parents as appropriate?

  112. Steve Evans on October 7, 2004 at 3:52 pm

    JF: “Steve and Kaimi seem to have misread it as we all know instead of all we know.”

    Not so much of the misreading… I quoted him. But I think you’re right about what Adam was trying to say.

  113. danithew on October 7, 2004 at 3:54 pm

    Part of the problem with the R-rated movie issue is that its (as far as I know) an American standard. This is a worldwide church standard that needs to be set. Even if LDS Americans could agree on what MPAA rated movies are acceptable and which ones are unacceptable, the system (to my knowledge) is not used in other countries outside the United States. Anyone know about this for sure?

  114. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 3:57 pm

    Current favorite movies: Kill Bill 1 and 2, The Godfather 1 and 2, Five Easy Pieces, The Shining, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Brideshead Revisited, Women in Love, On the Waterfront, Annie Hall, Manhattan, etc. That’s one, two, three, four … eleven R-rated movies! Well, Brideshead‘s unrated but it’s got boobs in it. So you see, D. Fletcher, though I disagree with you, I absolutely hear you, man.

  115. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 3:59 pm

    Don’t we need a rating system for books, newspapers, cable-TV, Internet, junior high school … how about Church? If a GA says “boobs” in a talk at GC, maybe that should be classified as a PG-13 talk. If a friend of your child uses profanity, by all means, don’t let your child play with him. Maybe parents could rate their children, so only children with a G rating can play with other children with a G.

    It’s ridiculous.

  116. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 4:01 pm

    On the Waterfront? Not sure your point about that… an unrated film.

  117. John H on October 7, 2004 at 4:02 pm

    The Church’s support of R-rated movies is practically non-existent, however. At least some General Authorities have said the rating system is flawed and uneccessary. L. Tom Perry denounced it in a general conference address, telling the Saints they don’t need a man made rating system to decide what to see, since they have the spirit of God.

    Only one President of the Church has specifically condemned R rated movies, and that was Ezra Taft Benson in a talk to the youth. So while a handful of statements exist from some Church leaders (mostly Seventies) that specifically single out a specific rating, the notion that seems prevalent in the Church that “the prophet said not to see R rated movies” and that widespread condemnation exists of the R rating in Mormonism is incorrect.

  118. John H on October 7, 2004 at 4:06 pm

    Sunstone published an article on R rated movies a year or so ago. Go to http://www.sunstoneonline.com/magazine/issues/126/16-22_a_hatch_movie%20ratings.pdf for one of the most brilliant, thoughtful, ingenius articles ever authored in the history of mankind.

  119. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 4:21 pm

    D. Fletcher: Oops, Waterfront slipped by me there. I think your reaction is a little extremist. It’s like if I said, I don’t know, a general policy against caffeine isn’t so retarded, and you responded with, What, so now we’re going to start carrying around these machines that test everything we eat for any sign of impurity and what about chocolate, huh, that’s got caffeine in it, why doesn’t the Church just hold our hand and restrict chocolate, huh, what what, etc. etc. etc.

  120. Mark B on October 7, 2004 at 4:21 pm

    D. raises a good point–the rating system is too often unrelated to the underlying immorality of the movie. Thus the insanity of the Varsity Theater at BYU showing thousands of films with blatantly immoral themes while making sure that the stray F word is bleeped out and no errant breasts make it onto the screen.

    I still remember walking out of the big “let’s machine gun the Ayrabs” scene in The Wind and the Lion with my wife, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant at the time. I suspect the people we stepped over figured that she had just gone into labor, but we had just got sick of the mindless violence.

    [putting on hard hat to ward off brickbats of lovers of The Wind and the Lion.

  121. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 4:23 pm

    ” … the rating system is too often unrelated to the underlying immorality of the movie.”

    Name at least 5 recent R-rated films whose rating had nothing to do with their content.

  122. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 4:25 pm

    Why John H, I didn’t realize you were John Hatch. There! There’s an article I can specifically remember reading and really enjoying. Thank you.

  123. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 4:28 pm

    I don’t get your beef, D. Fletcher. As Kingsley points out, there’s nothing inherently absurd about making use of a rough rating system. Neither is there anything ridiculous about using a rating system when one is already at hand, but not creating one in, really, not very similar circumstances (children?)

    I know Kingsley and I aren’t pitching softballs, but you can get in better hits than this.

  124. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 4:32 pm

    Here’s another example: Friends (the TV show)

    No profanity. No nudity. No violence. It was on at 8:00, the earliest primetime slot. It was just a fun show, fun people (and smart!), presenting a fun way of life that everyone should be so lucky to have.

    Eh?

    P.S. Sorry to overreact about the rating system. I didn’t mean to be extreme. Obviously, the ratings help people decide what to watch, and what to let their children watch. But often, movie-makers will alter their movies in order to get the exact rating to bring in the largest principle audience. It’s Hollywood, and when our leaders, whose are God’s chosen, insist on Hollywood’s rules without qualification, I think it’s ridiculous, and I for one, will never take it seriously.

    P.P.S. Ordinary People is a good movie, with a perceptive message about dysfunctional families, that was R-rated for profanity (the f*** word that everyone seems to love). Today, it might be a PG-13.

  125. don on October 7, 2004 at 4:33 pm

    I think this thread has gotten off subject. Bishops need to re-read D&C 121 before they go committing priesthood holders to wacky ideas.

    As far as movie ratings go I just posted a new blog at Nine-moons that’s related to the movie rating system and members.

  126. Kaimi on October 7, 2004 at 4:40 pm

    Kingsley writes, in response to Mark B’s statement (â€? … the rating system is too often unrelated to the underlying immorality of the movie.â€?):

    Name at least 5 recent R-rated films whose rating had nothing to do with their content.

    That’s not the same thing. Mark B suggests that the rating is often unrelated to immorality. You suggest that this must be shown by a list of films “whose rating had nothing to do with their content.”

    Would it be incorrect to say that a film like Titanic (PG-13) has a worse moral message than some R-rated films such as, perhaps, Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, or The Passion of the Christ?

    For that matter, one of the most moral films that I’ve ever seen is Requiem for a Dream. It’s a very disturbing film about four normal, likable people who become involved in drugs, and slowly destroy their lives. It’s got drug use, violence, and nudity. And it’s the single most effective anti-drug message I could ever imagine. It should be required viewing for ninth graders — I think that seeing handsome Jared Leto and beautiful Jennifer Connelly slowly become unrecognizable would hammer home the message that drugs destroy people in a way that dry speeches could never do. The film originally received an NC-17 rating; there is an edited, R-rated version available as well.

  127. Ebenezer on October 7, 2004 at 4:43 pm

    CB:

    Is it not possible to see a local leader who imposes his own guidelines as being out of order? If I am a priesthood leader, and I think the prophet didn’t go quite far enough in his condemnation of some behavior or other, so I add a few proscriptions of my own, what does that say about me?

    Clearly a leader who imposes his own, uninspired guidelines is out of order. It is not beyond the authority of a Bishop, however, to be inspired with additional guidelines for his particular congregation. We must take great care in determining whether or not the fence he builds around the law is, in fact, uninspired.

    Even if we are correct, and his instructions are not from the Lord, what authority do we have to make such a determination and to correct him, let alone to broadcast the fact to other members inside and outside of his stewardship? If we believe that his guidelines are not of the Lord, we should take the matter to someone with such authority. Taking our criticisms to the members and the blogs seems to me an inappropriate response that represents an, often unconscious, assumption of authority that we do not rightly possess. Is our assumption of unlicensed dominion any more justified than his wielding of unrighteous dominion? I think it is not.

    While the Church as a whole may not have an “official” policy on movies with an R rating, I think that we have a duty to yield to the authority of those with stewardship over us and the inspired fences they may erect around the law. If our Bishop or Stake President asks us to refrain from watching movies of a certain rating, we should comply, even if our friend in the neighboring Stake has no such restriction. If we believe their instructions are an uninspired or an exercise in unrighteous dominion, then we must appeal to an authority of greater stewardship rather than unrighteously assume authority that is not ours.

    The ultimate authority, with universal stewardship, is the Owner of the Vineyard. If our steward is unrighteous, we should appeal to Him, in faithful, personal prayer, that the steward be removed. I have full confidence that the Lord’s hand is upon this Church and that if we respect the principles of stewardship and refrain from trying to exercise authority that has not been given us, and instead appeal to Him, unrighteous leaders will not long stand.

  128. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 4:49 pm

    Kaimi, thanks, that’s exactly the right point. I was going to use Trainspotting to make a similar point that a movie might have a virtuous message, even though it’s got profanity and other objectionable content which might pull it an R rating.

    Something like Friends is much more likely to harm your children, to harm their understanding of morality.

    P.S. I couldn’t go to Passion of the Christ, because at this late hour in my life, I’m really tired of seeing violence. I foolishly looked at the video of that man being beheaded in Iraq (on the Internet) and I think it was traumatic for me.

  129. Kaimi on October 7, 2004 at 4:53 pm

    I just checked the IMDB comments from viewers (see http://imdb.com/title/tt0180093/usercomments ) about Requiem, and a surprising number say the same thing:

    “A film that should be played in every high school”
    “Every teenager should see this film, along with every adult, after seeing this no one in their right mind would even be tempted by drugs.”
    “It is a testimony against drugs, from someone perceptive and well documented.”
    “Finally a Film that turns you away from drugs”
    “A friend of mine who occasionally smoked weed before, told me that he had never touched it again after watching the movie. This film had such in impact on him that he swore never to touch it again.”

    etc.

    It’s a disturbing film, and not something to show a five-year-old, or even a ten-year-old. But it’s one that I’ll encourage my own kids to see when they’re teenagers.

  130. Ryan Bell on October 7, 2004 at 4:55 pm

    D, I have a really hard time understanding how you can say “when our leaders, whose [sic] are God’s chosen, insist on Hollywood’s rules without qualification, I think it’s ridiculous, and I for one will never take it seriously.”

    In the same sentence you can admit that the leaders are chosen by God AND that you will never take them seriously?

    This weekly- (and weakly) repeated revelation that “My heavens, did you know it’s not church members who set the MPAA ratings!” is getting awful tiresome. So what? When church leaders ask us to follow the law, shouldn’t we say “But the laws are made by politicians in Washington!!!! In reality, we’re just being told to do what lawmakers say, and they don’t know the gospel, and blah blah blah.” The point is, church leaders, who are chosen by God, told us to follow them, so we should. Church leaders may, on occasion, attach a principle to a floating, variable measurement. Perhaps instead of saying “you must forgive seven time seventy times” they’ll say ” you must forgive x times y times, with x being the value of the NASDAQ exchange on that day, and Y being the temperature in celsius degrees.” If they were to say that, is it automatically invalid because the two inputs were set by external, secular, human or natural factors? Or should we take that position as a momentary endorsement of the measure by the church leader?

    The bulk of your arguments against the ratings system are really fallacious confusions of the ratcheting effect. IF (and I do mean IF) it were church policy not to see R-rated movies, it would say nothing about watching Friends or Titanic. Those two shows are completely irrelevant, as far as the above-mentioned church policy. Why must Friends and Titanic constantly come into it?

    Finally, Jason Richards:
    “And what about folks outside the USA who don’t have the advantage of the MPAA’s Rating system? They have to judge for themselves! And discern the suitability of a film by the light of Christ. Why didn’t the Bishop challenge them all to refrain from watching any film without thoughtfully discussing it with their wife/parents as appropriate?”

    Uh, Jason, presumably, this bishop doesn’t have any people in his ward that live outside the United States. That’s just a guess.

  131. Ryan Bell on October 7, 2004 at 5:02 pm

    D, again your language is suspect:
    “I was going to use Trainspotting to make a similar point that a movie might have a virtuous message, even though it’s got profanity and other objectionable content which might pull it an R rating.”

    On the one hand, the film is laudable and very worth seeing. On the other hand it’s got ‘profanity and other objectionable content.” Why is the profanity and objectionable content irrelevant? Am I to conclude that only the morality of the overall theme matters, even if reaping the benefits of that theme must expose me to non-thematic evil and immorality?

    Can’t I find the good themes without the salacious or vulgar packaging elsewhere? If so, why is Trainspotting’s moral theme so precious as to be worth the cost of the superficial smut that accompanies it?

  132. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 5:02 pm

    “The bulk of your arguments against the ratings system are really fallacious confusions of the ratcheting effect. IF (and I do mean IF) it were church policy not to see R-rated movies, it would say nothing about watching Friends or Titanic. Those two shows are completely irrelevant, as far as the above-mentioned church policy. Why must Friends and Titanic constantly come into it?”

    My point about Friends and Titanic is that I think the Church should encourage parents to consider the message of the entertainment they allow their kids to watch, regardless of the rating. The rating only tells you what specific content, like profanity, might be objectionable.

    If a Bishop says, “no R rated movies” to his priesthood holders, I think that’s a pretty arbitrary thing to say, and I (admittedly, a single guy) probably wouldn’t follow his indictment to the letter.

    HA! There’s a joke there…

  133. Ryan Bell on October 7, 2004 at 5:14 pm

    1. The Church DOES do that. For that very reason (we presume), they have stopped pushing the R only formula.

    2.BUT, even if they were still pushing the thing with the R’s, I cannot understand why that position would automatically exclude the other position of encouraging people to use their judgment about all media. Let’s try:

    “Please, do not watch any R-rated movies. Of course, there are many objectionable things in many forms of media that are not R-rated, so please, avoid anything that would offend the spirit or corrupt your soul, regardless of rating. But remember, no R’s. And also, nothing else objectionable, either.”

  134. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 5:17 pm

    It seems contradictory, D. Fletcher, to say in the same comment that language and objectionable content don’t really matter if the them of the movie is moral, and then say that you won’t watch The Passion because of the scenes of violence. The Passion has a good theme, I hear.

  135. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 5:20 pm

    Schindler’s List is another very valuable movie which is worthwhile for teenagers and adults, particularly if they see it together. It has some profanity and some nudity (and some violence), which earned it an R rating, the first of Spielberg’s movies to get that rating.

  136. ??? on October 7, 2004 at 5:25 pm

    My life is an NC-17 movie, so when I watch an R-rated film, I inevitably experience spiritual growth…

  137. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 5:26 pm

    It’s hard to think of a bright line rule that isn’t imperfect in some way, D. Fletcher. Those of us who still support rules have usually come to terms with their inherent imperfection by now.

  138. Logan on October 7, 2004 at 5:27 pm

    But Ryan, why do you put those two things together, then? It seems from an earlier comment that you believe a rule that said “no R rated movies” would preclude seeing even a hypothetically appropriate one. If that’s the case, then we’re not talking about appropriate media anymore — we’re talking about some sort of obedience or submission or something like that. But by intertwining “Don’t see R rated movies” and “avoid oblectionable material”, you imply that the reason we don’t see R rated movies is because they have objectionable material. Which is it?

  139. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 5:30 pm

    My point about the Passion was personal; I determined for myself (regardless of rating) that I didn’t want to see it. I think my parents taught me very well how to make these determinations (for myself).

    I know plenty of other Mormons who went to it, though, and found a lot to like about it, including some people in my own family.

    Honestly, I’m not trying to be contradictory. I’m trying to say, the rating system isn’t scripture (as a number of you have pointed out) and a lot of other stuff should go into choosing a movie. An R movie may be perfectly OK to see, just as a G-rated TV show might be objectionable — I hope I never have a Bishop who asks me to choose movies based on his ideas of what’s good and bad.

    One more point about Titanic: there was a video store in Utah which edited the movie for consumption for Mormons. Presumably they edited out the breasts and sex scene. But they can’t edit out the overall message — it’s basically following the letter of a law (yes, I know it isn’t a law) but not the spirit.

  140. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 5:30 pm

    My point about the Passion was personal; I determined for myself (regardless of rating) that I didn’t want to see it. I think my parents taught me very well how to make these determinations (for myself).

    I know plenty of other Mormons who went to it, though, and found a lot to like about it, including some people in my own family.

    Honestly, I’m not trying to be contradictory. I’m trying to say, the rating system isn’t scripture (as a number of you have pointed out) and a lot of other stuff should go into choosing a movie. An R movie may be perfectly OK to see, just as a G-rated TV show might be objectionable — I hope I never have a Bishop who asks me to choose movies based on his ideas of what’s good and bad.

    One more point about Titanic: there was a video store in Utah which edited the movie for consumption for Mormons. Presumably they edited out the breasts and sex scene. But they can’t edit out the overall message — it’s basically following the letter of a law (yes, I know it isn’t a law) but not the spirit.

  141. Steve Evans on October 7, 2004 at 5:33 pm

    “Those of us who still support rules have usually come to terms….”

    A little condescending, no? D. isn’t advocating total anarchy, nor is he incorrect to point out that by incorporating the MPAA’s standards by reference, the Church may be putting some sand in their foundation. While bright line rules can’t be universally applied, that’s no reason for us to embrace this particular set.

  142. lyle on October 7, 2004 at 5:33 pm

    Kaimi:

    To sum up the answer to your question from the posts above, criticism is allowed when:

    1. It suits us
    2. Church leaders are out of tune with reality
    3. Church leaders are illogical
    4. Church leaders offend a few sinners to warn the rest of the flock
    5. They talk about something that we feel strongly about & disagree with them on
    6. They talk about anything that isn’t just “repent” and “love God & your Neighboor” or “Christ is our savior…and the atonement is real complicated.”
    7. We’ve had a bad experience with 1 church leader before, and therefore, all the rest must be flawed,

    etc.
    Did I miss any? :)

  143. Kim Siever on October 7, 2004 at 5:49 pm

    We went through this MPAA ratings outside the USA a little over at Bob and Logan’s place. We were going over a list of the top R-rated movies and someone said that The Breakfast Club was R-rated. This completely shocked me because I couldn’t think of anything from it that would warrant it such a rating. Sure enough, In Canada, it was a PG.

    I guess the point is if you still want to watch R-rated movies, come to Canada. They are PG here and you can still live the letter of the law. :)

    Actually, that brings up an interesting point. Should the 166,000 of us in Canada follow President Benson’s advice, but use the MPAA system? Or should we follow his advice and use the CMPDA system?

  144. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 5:54 pm

    See how arbitrary these things are, Kim? And movies which used to be R, are now PG. I guess breasts are not so objectionable now as in the 70s, or the F word. And they must not be as sinful in Canada as they are here.

    2 by-the-ways: By the way, President Hinckley mentioned not going to R movies in the Jubilee at Radio City Music Hall (I was there and heard it).

    By the way, I just finished John Hatch’s Sunstone article which is really excellent (although you’ve got some dates wrong John, the Code went into effect in 1934. Prior to 1934, one can see plenty of breasts in the movies.)

  145. Ryan Bell on October 7, 2004 at 5:55 pm

    Logan, that’s an amazing way to make nonsense out of a very sensible set of propositions.

    The fact that I”ve stated one bright line rule without explanation or rationalization, and another flexible rule tied to a case-by-case metric need not be taken as an invalidation of the first by the second. People are sophisticated enough to simultaneously follow some rules that are simply hard and fast, without reasoned explanation, and others that depend on judgment and rationality.

    For example: NEVER look at pornography. But also, use judgment on media that is not pornography.
    NEVER golf in a lightning storm. But do not infer from that rule that it is always wise to golf in conditions other than lightning storms.
    NEVER run people over. But also be careful in other driving situations.

    In other words: In this one area, I ask you to forego the use of your own imperfect reason and trust me completely. But in other, related areas, please use your judgment.

    I can’t see what’s incoherent about that.

  146. CB on October 7, 2004 at 5:57 pm

    Adam,

    You have described my position correctly. I think policy comes from 50 E. North Temple, SLC., and that it is the job of local leaders to implement that policy (a pretty hard job, btw), not wing it making up their own. Local leaders are advised repeatedly to avoid making decisions for members such as who to marry, what to major in, what career to pursue, whether to get a divorce, etc. I really like pres. Faust’s statement in this regard. “It is not the job of church leaders to explain every jot and tittle of human behavior.” The very good reason for this policy is to force members to take responsibility for their lives and choices. Therefore, I would be pretty skeptical if a bishop pulled rank and started telling the ward his version of what the prophet really would say, if only he were present. I believe such an approach limits member’s growth and is therefore, almost always, misguided.

    Ebenezer,

    Let me try to explain. I am not saying we should correct our leaders publicly, or broadcast our differences to others. I understand that you think blogging about it constitutes broadcasting. However, I do not share that view.

    You are right to identify this as a matter of stewardship. I guess we are not in agreement about who is violating whose stewardship. My understanding is that the individual and the family are sacred, eternal things, and that the ward is only a temporary adjunct.

    I would never pray for a local leader to be removed. I love my wacky bishop! Maybe I’m just lucky, but I have the kind of relationship with him where I can say “that’s baloney”, and he says “Really?” and we chat as friends. I have the utmost respect for the priesthood keys he holds. I really love him and appreciate him. I am unwilling to allow him to get between me and the prophet.

    Finally, a bishop who thinks it is his responsibility to make people’s decisions for them is taking himself way, way too seriously. He needs to go join the teacher’s quorum in a water balloon fight or something.

  147. John H on October 7, 2004 at 5:59 pm

    *I’m rushing to your defense D! Get your head down before it gets blown off!*

    The “R rated” movie debate is a bit tired by now, but I’ll just chime in. I don’t think D., or myself, would fault someone who wants to set some boundaries for themselves and then decides not to see certain movies based on a rating (though I should probably only speak for myself).

    The problem of course comes when those of us who choose a different path are suddenly assumed to not have any moral standards, or to be somehow unworthy because we don’t use the rating system. Again, people greatly overexaggerate Church leaders’ statements on specific ratings and their directives on films. Articles in the Ensign, the Church News, and Elder Perry’s talk that I cited above have all criticized the rating system as an ineffective way to determine what to see. Frankly, it’s difficult for me to see why someone would ignore these things and continue to insist the rating system is somehow reliable unless they are more interested in patting themselves on the back because they can say they’ve never seen an R rated movie.

    The difference between me and someone who uses the rating system is that I use my own values and the values that my faith has taught me to make decisions, instead of letting 10 people in Hollywood I’ve never met, who aren’t LDS, and who don’t necessarily share my values tell me what to see. There are plenty of articles (aside from my own) that detail the ridiculousness of the rating system and how arbitrary it is. For example, the MPAA is supposed to automatically give any movie that uses the F-word to describe a sexual act an R rating. But they have what’s become the “Julia Roberts Exception.” She manages to get away with it. Of course political clout makes a huge difference too – Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg have gotten the MPAA to change ratings to their films without making any cuts, edits, or changes. Does that somehow make the film more appropriate to see?

    Jack Valenti, the president of the MPAA has said that film ratings are for parents with children, and that if you are over 18, the rating system has no meaning for you. It seems silly to use a system designed to help parents be a little bit more informed about what their children should and shouldn’t see to make our decisions for us.

  148. Jonathan Stapley on October 7, 2004 at 6:01 pm

    I’ve found this whole movie rating discussing quite fascinating. For some reason the Word of Wisdom keeps coming to mind (Maybe it because I have a friend with a 1,000 bottle wine cellar that while I’m not quite covetous of, I aspire to have in the millennium). Here we have a recommendation that has been adopted as commandment in part. However, obesity will kill more people in America this year than smoking. And by the looks of our congregations we may well be setting the bar to which America is reaching. Obviously we are not running without being weary and walking without fainting. The whole image of many of these people running is in fact disturbing.

    Let’s say a Bishop commits his ward to abstain from rated R movies. Now let’s say a Bishop commits his ward to have a BMI (Body Mass Index) less than 25. Which one will instigate the greater uproar? I bet that if the leader was faithful, in either case, following the Bishop’s council would lead to Blessings.

    I’m definitely not trying to equate the two scenarios, but I imagine that the biggest issue would not be the lack of conformity to the Bishop’s council, but the member’s judgment of those who chose not to conform.

  149. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 6:02 pm

    “[Requiem For a Dream] should be required viewing for ninth graders.”

    I think the sight of beautiful Jennifer Connelly down on all fours performing an explicit sex act might not be, you know, good for ninth graders, however profoundly shocked they might be by the sight of an actor becoming ever more pale through the effective use of makeup.

  150. Mark B on October 7, 2004 at 6:03 pm

    Thanks, Kaimi, for explaining what I had tried to say.

    Sorry, Kingsley, I can’t name five first-run movies I have seen in the past two years, much less five R-rated ones.

    My point still is that we cannot abdicate our decisions about what entertainment to watch to the MPAA, and that movies or TV shows that pass the rating test may nonetheless be immoral. D. gives some clear examples, and in the process gets in a few deserved licks at “Clean Flicks” and people like that. The idea that erasing some T&A or a few vulgarities from a movie makes it acceptable, despite the basic immorality of the story, is ridiculous. Sort of like those strategically placed stars on the Girls Gone Wild adverstisements.

  151. Logan on October 7, 2004 at 6:06 pm

    Not so fast, Ryan, here’s the difference — I understood you to say that the rule should be followed even if there were an “appropriate” R rated movie, and said as much. If I misunderstood you then I apologize. But if this is what you meant (and I do think it’s what you said), then you seem to be advocating following the rule because it’s a rule. There are some movies that are not seen because of the rule. The counterexamples you cited are irrelevant because there is no following those rules because they’re rules. Violating each of those rules is intrinsically harmful — that is, it would be harmful whether or not there were a rule. Not so in the case of R rated movies if you allow for the possibility of an otherwise appropriate one. Hence the inconsistency.

  152. Kingsley on October 7, 2004 at 6:14 pm

    Clean Flicks serves a decent purpose. If I want to watch, say, S.’s List without seeing a prostitute’s lolling breasts, etc., is that acceptable? Or, following Kaimi’s logic, is the sight of lolling breasts going to convince me to stay away from prostitutes, so leave it in by all means. The idea that by forcing kids to watch x you are going to prevent another Holocaust is ridiculous, yet another empty boast from Hollywood swallowed by a credulous public. I doubt if my kid will walk away from an edited version of Titanic terribly wounded by its sappy, idiotic view of romantic love; I know he’ll walk away from Requiem wounded by ghastly images he’ll not be able to forget.

  153. Mark B on October 7, 2004 at 6:17 pm

    It’s interesting that this discussion has digressed into a long quibble about movie ratings, when the greater difficulty with the counsel is that it suggests a relationship between husband and wife that is as wrong and potentially damaging to a marriage as a suggestion that the wife should never buy a new hat without her husband’s consent. (I know, nobody buys hats anymore, but I did see this in a movie once. Unrated, since it came out before the ratings did.)

    The notion that either spouse should be the “granter of permissions” to the other is a dangerous one. Do we really expect either husbands or wives to be subservient to the other? I suspect that some who write here would have gone (rightly, I believe) into hysterics (note the xx-linked etymology of that word) if the bishop had been speaking to the relief society and asked them to agree never to spend more than 10 minutes on the telephone without their husband’s consent, or to never make a comment in sunday school without that same consent.

    I imagine that I wouldn’t go ballistic (is that the xy equivalent of hysteric?) if the bishop said, “Husbands and wives, counsel with your spouses about the time you spend on the internet, and watching movies. If you’re doing things that you wouldn’t want your spouse to see (other than buying flowers to surprise her), then you should stop that. Remember, communication with your spouse can save you–both of you–from transgression. [Sort of the same way that a companion can do the same for a missionary.]

    Otherwise, the counsel seems harmless enough, although I’d have a hard time paying my bills if I didn’t use the internet, and my “law library” would have to expand substantially and take a much bigger bite out of the revenues.

  154. wendy on October 7, 2004 at 6:18 pm

    Prostitute? I’m not sure which version of Schindler’s List you saw. Perhaps the lingering memory of the fleeting sight of her naked breasts has driven you mad.

  155. Ryan Bell on October 7, 2004 at 6:20 pm

    Logan, the hard line rule might be “close your eyes whenever you scroll past a comment by Kingsley.” It doesn’t matter. The point is, it is perfectly logical to subscribe to some bright line rules without applying rational tests to them, and some flexible rules that require the application of judgment.

    The inconsistency you see is based on the assumption that followers of the bright line rule miss out on something indispensible when they don’t go see the one in 100 R-rated movies that teach nice things. I don’t think there’s any film, from X rated to G, that is so good we will be damaged if we don’t see it. Thus, placing a complete prohibition on Rs, and a judgment-based precaution on everything else, makes perfect sense.

  156. Mark B on October 7, 2004 at 6:22 pm

    I can’t remember if they lolled or waggled.

  157. Steve Evans on October 7, 2004 at 6:26 pm

    Ryan: “it is perfectly logical to subscribe to some bright line rules without applying rational tests to them”

    No, it ain’t.

  158. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 6:32 pm

    Here’s an example that might clarify what Ryan Bell and I are arguing, Logan.

    Let us suppose that a man drinks liquor from time to time. He knows that he can handle a few drinks without impairing his ability to drive. The number of drinks he can handle varies based on the varying strength and quantity of the drinks, the time of day, whether or not he’s eaten beforehand, how tired or ill or depressed he is, any medicines he may have taken, and so on. In other words, its a question of judgment. No bright line rule on the number of drinks will perfectly match the times when he is able to drive and the times when he isn’t. Let us also suppose that there is some actual cost to his not driving home. Maybe he has to take a taxi and he can ill afford it. Maybe he has to wake somebody up to come get him.

    Now, let us suppose that this man (or, if you want to drag authority into it, this man’s respected boss) realizes that after a few drinks he can no longer trust his own judgment about his condition. The rule is created: if you take any drinks at all, you must take a cab or call a relative. This rule is obviously imperfect; there will be many times when the man will *feel* capable of driving and will, in fact, be capable of driving. But do you see that even then he can obey the rule not just out of some principle of “submission” or “being obedient to authority”?

  159. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 6:32 pm

    Kingsley, you have mentioned specific things about those two movies (Schindler’s List and Requiem for a Dream) which suggests to me that you have seen them, in their entirety, despite their R-rating. Since you have seen them, I believe it is your perfect right to judge them as appropriate or inappropriate for yourself or your children. If Requiem isn’t right for you, because of some questionable behavior performed by Jennifer Connolly that you wouldn’t want your children to see, lest they be traumatized, then I applaud your understanding of this, and support whatever decision you make about it, as I would hope you might support me not going to The Passion because I don’t wish to have nightmares about a flayed Jesus. (I also won’t watch any more Tarantino films after seeing Reservoir Dogs and throwing up afterwards.)

    I don’t think the rating system should be ignored, totally. But it isn’t the Word of Wisdom, it isn’t scripture, as John has pointed out, the rules are very arbitrary and change from movie to movie, and also, I’ve seen too many people follow the letter of the law, but ignore the spirit of the law where it really counts, not letting their kids see R-rated movies but not really checking out the content of the PG-13s.

  160. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 6:33 pm

    “The notion that either spouse should be the “granter of permissionsâ€? to the other is a dangerous one.”

    But also a true one. I don’t feel free to do some things without clearing it with my wife. I ought not to.

  161. Ryan Bell on October 7, 2004 at 6:33 pm

    Steve, so every time you follow the commandment “thou shalt not kill” you need to go over a logical checklist and deduce that yes, that rule is, in this instance, correct?

  162. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 6:35 pm

    Then we’re agreed, D. Fletcher. If the prophet or a bishop or even oneself had a rule against r-rated movies, that would be fine as long as one didn’t assume that all PG-13 movies, or books or plays or strip joints were therefore OK.

  163. John H on October 7, 2004 at 6:35 pm

    “I don’t think there’s any film, from X rated to G, that is so good we will be damaged if we don’t see it. Thus, placing a complete prohibition on Rs, and a judgment-based precaution on everything else, makes perfect sense.”

    Ryan, I hear this logic used often in the ratings debate, and I’m convinced it’s very flawed. “What does it matter in the grand scheme of things,” we often hear,” whether or not I see Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan?”

    It doesn’t matter if you see the film. But what does matter is our judgment and where we place our values. I’d argue that even decisions about seeing movies should be informed and thoughtful, and I reject this notion that “it just doesn’t matter.” I’ve been deeply moved and affected by some of the films I’ve seen – I think our art does matter.

    I actually think you, Adam, and others have made some good points. I think people like D. and I are just fed up with raised eyebrows from home teachers when they see our DVD collection, or from stupid comments in Church. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone say they were watching a preview of a film and since it looked good, they kept their fingers crossed that it wouldn’t be rated R. If they found out it was, they were disappointed. This doesn’t exactly evoke images of Saints concerned with morality and correct choices; it does evoke images of people obsessed with rules and being disappointed when they have to follow the rule.

    Some Latter-day Saints seem to spend so much time focused on what *not* to see that they’ve forgotten there’s plenty of good things they can and should be seeing.

  164. Steve Evans on October 7, 2004 at 6:35 pm

    No, Ryan, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that it is not perfectly logical to subscribe to some bright line rules without applying rational tests to them.

  165. Steve Evans on October 7, 2004 at 6:36 pm

    oops! forgot to close that bold tag. I’m not THAT involved in this discussion.

  166. Ryan Bell on October 7, 2004 at 6:38 pm

    Steve, thank you for that elucidation of your position.

    Let me try again: Is there an instance in which a person whom you trust to a very high degree can tell you never to do x, even when the reasons not to do x are difficult for you to divine, in which you ought to still follow that advice?

  167. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 6:40 pm

    And to bring this discussion full circle, is there any reason that aforesaid trusted person couldn’t be a bishop who is trusted ex officio?

    If your answer is yes then I am going to feel very silly for having argued through 167 comments for a proposition people already agreed on.

  168. Steve Evans on October 7, 2004 at 6:43 pm

    “Let me try again: Is there an instance in which a person whom you trust to a very high degree can tell you never to do x, even when the reasons not to do x are difficult for you to divine, in which you ought to still follow that advice? ”

    Yes. But that’s not necessarily the product of logic, unless the trust is based upon logical grounds. Of course, I wouldn’t apply that question to the R-rated movie issue, because it doesn’t quite fit the fact pattern at hand.

    Ours is more like: “Is there an instance in which a person (A) whom you trust to a very high degree can tell you never to do x, even when the content of x is not fixed over time, and determined not by A, but by some third party whose interests may in fact be opposed to A, where you ought to still follow that advice?”

  169. Steve Evans on October 7, 2004 at 6:45 pm

    Adam, do we believe in trust ex officio? Do we believe in very high standards of trust because of someone’s calling? How far are you willing to take that principle? Clearly, not everyone will draw the line as boldly as you.

  170. Ryan Bell on October 7, 2004 at 6:46 pm

    John,

    I had to grin at your example, because I myself have sat in a theater, seen an interesting trailer, gotten excited, and then been crestfallen when they showed the R rating at the end.

    It seems you imagine my inner dialogue as being the following:
    “Man, I would love to see this movie, please, oh please….Dang! It’s R-rated, so even though I would love to see the graphic violence and sexual references and glamorized drug use, I will bind myself to a rule that for reasons I don’t fully comprehend, will prevent me from partaking in such pleasures.”

    On the contrary, my thoughts run much more like this: “wow, this movie looks really good, I’d love to see it, I hope it’s not objectionable….oh, too bad, it has an R-rating. This piece of data provides very strong evidence that there must be something in that movie, though I might not have known it from the scenes in the trailer, that I do not wish to see. Too bad, I’d love to see the plot/story/characters I saw in that trailer, but it’s not worth it to me if they come together with sex/drugs/rock and roll.”

    In response to your idea of the value of art, let’s say I concede that point (just for now), that there are values or lessons taught in art that are so important that we are lesser for not seeing them. However, this assumes that your piece of art is unique, being the only one that offers that lesson or value. I would argue to the contrary, that if the lesson taught in the r-rated movie is valuable, it’s quite likely I can find it taught just as well in some other piece of art without objectionable content. If you insist that I see Schindler’s List, I will insist that I can read “Night” or “Man’s Search for Meaning” or “The Hiding Place” or watch “Hogan’s Hero’s.” :)

  171. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 6:47 pm

    Adam, what I said to Kingsley about supporting his viewpoint, came after I pointed out that he had already seen those two R movies. He was judging them, based on having already seen them. He didn’t follow a hard rule, and I think he’s the better for it.

    I think we’re all in agreement here, that there are some things in movies that are probably worth skipping.

    Where we disagree is whether the Bishop or Hollywood Production Code should make that determination for us. I say that I want to make it for me, and for my (potential) children.

    The Word of Wisdom came from God. The MPAA set up the current guidelines for ratings. I don’t think these are comparable rules.

    P.S. Fortunately, my home teacher is Steve Evans, someone I admire and I think he likes my taste in movies, too. I’ve got 1600 DVDs, so some of them are probably R-rated — I don’t really check this when I buy them.

    :)

  172. Steve Evans on October 7, 2004 at 6:49 pm

    D., when you have over 1600 DVDs, your taste in movies equals “movies.” You’re an omnicinemavore.

  173. Ryan Bell on October 7, 2004 at 6:49 pm

    Steve, my answer to your hypothetical is still yes. Remember, we’re talking about trust against logic, not because of logic. So if official (A) is someone I really trust, what does it matter where that his methods or metrics appear as foolishness to me? Why should I look when Moses carries around a brazen serpent? In the end, do we trust the person or not? Your hypothetical assumes that we do. The rest is irrelevant.

  174. Steve Evans on October 7, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    Fair enough, Ryan. Perhaps you are right.

    What about taking out the presumption of absolute trust, as we could in the case of a bishop, and replace with a level of trust as per Adam’s ex officio? Would your answer change?

  175. lyle on October 7, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    i doubt i could live up to it as well as you adam; but i’ll stand where you draw that line (in theory; and as discussed in concrete here, at least) :)

  176. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 6:55 pm

    “D., when you have over 1600 DVDs, your taste in movies equals “movies.â€? You’re an omnicinemavore.”

    I just have no life, that’s all.

  177. Logan on October 7, 2004 at 6:55 pm

    Man, we’re moving TOO FAST!

    Ryan, performing the actions of seeing certain movies and not seeing others in either case is the same, but not the process of making the decision. If you don’t see a movie because it’s rated R you’re not using your judgment as to whether or not to see it. You don’t see it simply because you are following the rule. That’s fine if that’s what you want to do. It’s logically consistent, if that’s what you’re insisting. It’s not consistent in terms of judgment and decision making, though.

    For movies that are not R rated — ones for which we are to use our judgment — we can truly say that we don’t see a movie because we have determined that it is not beneficial or that it is harmful.

    For movies that are rated R — the ones for which the rule applies — you can’t say that. You are refusing to watch them because of the rule, and not because you have made a determination based on their content. It may be the case that many (most?, all?) of the R rated movies would be rejected if you were using your judgment for them, but you’re not. We know this is the case because even hypothetically appropriate movies are rejected.

    You can’t have it both ways. Either you don’t see R rated movies because of the rule, or you don’t see them because of your decision based on their content. While it is possible to accept or reject movies consistently based on your criteria, the reasoning behind it is consistent.

    If you use your system — no R rated movies, and no other objectionable movies — you can’t say that the reason you don’t see R rated movies is because they’re objectionable. Yet many people give precisely that reason. And I think it sends the message that that’s the reason when you put the two in such close connection with each other. You give the impression that the rule against R rated movies is there because all R rated movies are objectionable. But since the rule actually rejects movies whether they’re objectionable or not, that impression is wrong.

    So, the inconsistency is when it is stated or implied that R rated movies are not seen because of a rule and because they are objectionable at the same time. It must be one or the other. It’s the WHY, not the WHAT, that I find inconsistent.

  178. Kaimi on October 7, 2004 at 6:58 pm

    Kingsley,

    You write:

    I think the sight of beautiful Jennifer Connelly down on all fours performing an explicit sex act might not be, you know, good for ninth graders, however profoundly shocked they might be by the sight of an actor becoming ever more pale through the effective use of makeup.

    That’s a surprising mixture of real and fake. Either the kids will recognize that actors aren’t really dying, and that it’s all makeup, and they will recognize that the sex scene is equally an artificial portrayal (no one thinks she’s really having sex); or they may see the movie as real, both the sex and the drug deaths.

    I liked this movie for a specific reason. It has been my observation that the most problematic drug attack on kids is that “drugs are cool.” Drugs are the choice of popular musicians, athletes, and actors. Drugs are what the “cool kids” take at school. And this attack is so effective because it gives the teenager a reason to discount what parents and church leaders say — “my parents are not cool, so they don’t understand that drugs are cool.” It’s an approach that I have seen be devastatingly effective on kids I grew up with. Or the related, “I’m not cool, maybe it’s because I’m not smoking pot like my friend.” If a kid comes to believe that the only reasons not to take drugs are the reasons mouthed by his uncool parents, then those messages, couched in church terms, can be dismissed.

    And I think that the movie is possibly the best counter-statement available. It doesn’t worry about whether drugs are against the Word of Wisdom. It doesn’t have a lot of preaching. No preaching whatsoever, in fact. And it begins with the coolest kids imaginable — Jared Leto and Jennifer Connely. And then it slowly but surely drives home the message: Drugs will kill you, and they will destroy your life. And precisely because it’s as bluntly realistic as it is, I think it makes that message effective.

    Kids will rebel, they will do things their parents tell them not to, they will go through that phase. During that phase, they typically won’t be so dumb as to do things that they really think will kill them. Maybe they’ll smoke, or drink, or swear, or even have sex, but they won’t be driving on the wrong side of the road, because that would just be stupid. If I can drive home the message that, whatever they may think of me or the church or obedience, or whatever, that drugs will kill them, then that’s something that, even when they’re being rebellious teenagers, they won’t mess around with. Hence my statement — it should be required viewing for ninth graders.

  179. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 7:03 pm

    Ryan Bell said, “even when the reasons not to do x are difficult for you to divine”
    Steve Evans said “even when the content of x is not fixed over time, and determined not by A, but by some third party whose interests may in fact be opposed to A”

    I say, how are these any different? All Steve E. has done is replace Ryan Bell’s general statement that the reasons for the rule might not be apparent with some of the specific reasons that a ‘no r-rated movies’ rule might not make sense. Steve’s formulation is just a more specific version of Ryan’s.

    Steve,
    We’re not arguing that we trust the bishop 100%. We admit that sometimes the bishop will be wrong.
    But we’re wondering if there also times when we’d disagree with the bishop’s new rules and we’d be the ones who are wrong. Cuz if so, it seems we probably ought not to criticize the Nine Moons bishop who asked his men to live some new rules.

  180. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 7:04 pm

    Logan,

    I know you’re on my side of this, and I’m grateful, but I need to point out, there are plenty of things I’ve never tried that I know are bad for me, anyway. Like heroin. I don’t need to experience heroin to know that it’s not going to do me any good. I’m not missing out by not trying it. Let’s just say, I follow the hard rule on heroin — don’t do it.

    But movies — as an adult Mormon male — I don’t really think movies are going to harm me. There may be stuff that I don’t want to see, but I do think it’s up to me, and no one else, to decide.

  181. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 7:05 pm

    I’m not buying it, Logan.
    See my drinking and driving example above.

  182. Ryan Bell on October 7, 2004 at 7:06 pm

    Logan, you are correct, sort of. In my rendering, I do not abstain from R-rated movies because they are automatically morally objectionable. I abstain because they are objectionable to those in authority over me, as “r-rated movies.’ Thus, while I make judgments about the content of the lesser rated movies, I make no such judgments about the content of r-rated movies. The judgment is already made, not because of their content, but because of what people I respect and follow have said about them.

    But remember, I didn’t say that in that hypothetical one should avoid R-rated because they are always bad. They should be avoided because there’s a hard and fast rule put in place by leaders. So it is consistent, you see.

  183. Ryan Bell on October 7, 2004 at 7:08 pm

    Ahh, but D, you do think there are movies that will harm you. And I agree with you.

  184. Ebenezer on October 7, 2004 at 7:08 pm

    Re: CB #146 :

    You are right to identify this as a matter of stewardship. I guess we are not in agreement about who is violating whose stewardship. My understanding is that the individual and the family are sacred, eternal things, and that the ward is only a temporary adjunct.

    Look again at the quotation from Elder Eyring’s Saturday talk from my first comment :

    “Satan will always work on the saints of God to undermine their faith in priesthood keys. One way he does it is to point out the humanity of those who hold them. He can, in that way, weaken our testimony, and so cut us loose from the line of keys by which the Lord ties us to Him and can take us and our families home to Him and to our Heavenly Father…”

    The way I understand it, the family is not an eternal thing, it is only made eternal when sealed through the exercise of priesthood keys. Those keys are held only through delegation from the prophet in appointed stewardships. While the particular arrangement of stewardships and sub-stewardships may or may not be eternal, the keys are, and the family cannot be eternal except under their binding authority. The eternal family is subordinate to the line of priesthood keys and outside of their influence our stewardship is merely temporary.

    CB:

    I am unwilling to allow him to get between me and the prophet.

    You seem to have a good, appropriate relationship with your bishop, but, as I see it, the bishop is by definition between you and the prophet, whether you want to allow it or not. If, after you tell him that that you think something he has said is “baloney,� he insists that it is right, you should either submit or appeal to a higher authority. Refusing to comply because you disagree or, worse, pronouncing your disagreement to the whole ward or publishing it in a magazine or a blog, seems to me a dangerous and inappropriate response.

  185. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 7:09 pm

    “Cuz if so, it seems we probably ought not to criticize the Nine Moons bishop who asked his men to live some new rules.”

    Adam,

    Here’s a question. What exactly is the relationship between a Bishop and the male members of his ward, anyway?

    You have called the Nine Moons priesthood holders “his men.” His? Isn’t he there just to give spiritual guidance, and perhaps temporal help when needed? Is it really the Bishop’s place to give rules like that? And if we are critical of him, are we critical of the rules themselves, or of that fact that he has taken it upon himself to make rules?

    Just asking the question.

  186. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 7:10 pm

    D. Fletcher,
    Why do you get to decide it’s up to you? Well, yeah, because God gave you free agency, and, uh . . .

    Uh, better question. What criteria do you use in deciding that something is up to you, and therefore inappropriate for church leaders to say something about? The church is against heroin and you’re ok with that, although it appears they could have left you to your own devices without any problems. Why would it be wrong for the prophet to put R-rated movies off limits?

  187. Ivan Wolfe on October 7, 2004 at 7:11 pm

    One thing I’m tired of is judgmental Mormons who condemn me for not watching R-rated movies.

    Of course, I remain open to the idea that there may be an R rated movie out there worth seeing. I just haven’t seen any yet, and while I love movies, I also realize I will never see all (or even) most of the movies available.

    But, at some point, someone will mention Schindler’s List, I will mention I haven’t seen it, so I can’t comment – and then that person snorts, gets haughty and says something like “Oh, you’re one of THOSE Mormons. Get over it. R-rated movies are just fine.”

    There’s enough judgment being flung about by both sides. Please, please, please stop complaining that the other side persecutes you more. Suffering more than your opposition does not make you right (this is aimed at no one in particular, and includes myself).

  188. Steve Evans on October 7, 2004 at 7:12 pm

    “We’re not arguing that we trust the bishop 100%. We admit that sometimes the bishop will be wrong. But we’re wondering if there also times when we’d disagree with the bishop’s new rules and we’d be the ones who are wrong.”

    Well schucks, that’s not really saying much at all, is it? I mean, everybody has the potential to be wrong. Not sure where that gets us, exactly, except that you seem to be saying that it’s better not to ever disagree with the bishop, than to disagree and run the risk of being wrong. On that point, rational minds may differ; I’d rather do what I knew to be right, no matter what, than to bow to authority, no matter what.

    And my question was different than Ryan’s, and not just in the general/specific line: saying “difficult to divine” is entirely different than the reasons I list. I don’t think the reasons for the bright line rule are difficult to divine at all — it’s done because it’s easier that way. My beef is that the church has inappropriately placed a great deal of decision-making authority in the hands of non-mormon, contradictory, and scheming individuals.

  189. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 7:12 pm

    “Ahh, but D, you do think there are movies that will harm you. And I agree with you.”

    But I don’t let the Bishop, or Hollywood, decide which ones. And “harm” is a relative term. I don’t want nightmares, but I don’t think I’ll ever see a movie and not be able to function. Also, I’m already grown. I would try and make a distinction between myself, a 46-year-old movie afficianado, and a 13-year old Beehive. (Do they still call them Beehives? Oy, sorry about that.)

  190. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 7:15 pm

    My answers to your questions are, in order,

    1) He is their priesthood leader, their judge in Israel, etc.
    2) Yes.
    3) Yes.
    4) Yes.
    5) A very good question. If Bishops are never supposed to give rules of any sort, then of course people are criticizing his usurpation of authority and not his actual rule, and then our whole discussion about movie ratings is wholly purposeless. I disagree that Bishops are never supposed to give rules of any sort.

  191. Aaron Brown on October 7, 2004 at 7:15 pm

    Yes, R-rated movie discussions in the Bloggernacle can be tiresome, but this one seems much more interesting than most of the others have been. I’ve only skimmed, and I’ll have to read all the comments this evening after work. In the meantime, I ORDER you all to push pause until I’m available. (This means you Steve E.)

    Aaron B

  192. Steve Evans on October 7, 2004 at 7:17 pm

    I hereby order a pause in the discussion as per Aaron’s timely (and may I say well-phrased) order.

  193. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 7:21 pm

    “Well schucks, that’s not really saying much at all, is it? ”

    I too am of the opinion that my position rests on truisms. I would not have it any other way..

    You already know what I think of your position on “doing what I knew to be right, no matter what, rather than bowing to authority, no matter what.” But since neither of our positions has been seriously challenged by life (at least mine hasn’t), perhaps we can agree to disagree. If we’re wrong (and one of us is) God will sort us out, though perhaps painfully.

  194. Ryan Bell on October 7, 2004 at 7:24 pm

    Steve, your position on trusting yourself over authority is difficult to reconcile with accepted doctrine.

    Here’s how I break it down: Bishop/prophet/other church authority directly responsible for me tells me something I disagree with.

    Choice 1: I opt not to follow him. I may be right, in which case the gain is freedom from unnecessary restraints. I may be wrong, in which case the penalty is the punishment given to people who have disobeyed their righteous church leaders.

    Choice 2: I opt to follow him. If he’s right, I will gain the blessings of obedience and the blessings of following whatever principle he’s teaching. If he’s wrong, I will gain the blessings of obedience but no other blessings related to the incorrect doctrine he’s teaching.

    Adding up the costs and benefits, it looks like a clear-cut case for following the Bishop regardless. If he’s wrong, you wasted a little freedom and were still blessed.* If he’s right, you’re still blessed (this assumes the commandment won’t place you under grave condemnation, like if he asks you kill puppies or something).

  195. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 7:27 pm

    Surprising even myself, I recognize that this discussion has come back to its original theme: it isn’t about the rule of R-rated movies at all, it’s about someone’s right or authority to make such a rule (as in the Bishop of a ward) and someone else’s subsequent right to criticize, or blatantly disregard the rule. I’m not saying these rights exist — I’m saying that this seems to be the central discussion here.

    I think my position is clear: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me watching R-rated movies. I wouldn’t make that judgment for anyone else, and I certainly wouldn’t encourage anyone to see an R-rated movie against their judgment, or take a teenager to one, etc.

    If my Bishop chose to make a rule such as this, I might not publicly criticize such a rule, but I would hardly alter my behavior. Nor would I feel the need to repent for past behavior, since I don’t consider the watching of a movie, any movie, sinful. Even a hardcore porn film, the watching of which might not be conducive to a good marital relationship. It might not be good for you, but it isn’t a sin.

  196. Logan on October 7, 2004 at 7:28 pm

    Thank you, Ryan, for at least understanding my point. And I know that you haven’t explicitly said that they should be avoided because they’re bad. But when you tied the two together so closely eariler, I got the impression that you were implying it. That’s why I asked originally, “Which is it?” Now I know. And if we could all make that distinction, I’d feel better about it. But I don’t get the impression that comments from the Brethren or others that do happen to relate to R rated movies make it very clearly. You don’t hear leaders saying “Use your judgment on many movies, but if they’re rated R, you are no longer to use your judgment. Avoid them because I said.” At least I don’t.

    D. and Adam: in applying my point to your two examples, here’s how it would be. For the heroin example to apply, there would have to be a hypothetical instance in which heroin use is not harmful. And then we could talk about why you make the decision because of certain things.

    For the drinking example, let’s say that in one particular instance, the man does in fact know that he isn’t impaired. Now let’s say someone asks him why he’s taking a cab home this time. Can he say, “it’s because I’m impaired”? No. He’s taking the cab home because he’s following the rule. It may be the case that this rule allows him to play it safe, and it may in fact be a *good* rule, but the reason he is taking a cab home is NOT because he is impaired, it is because he is following the rule. So long as we are careful to make that distinction, I’m much happier to coexist peacefully.

    I’ll now comply with Aaron B.’s pause order. But only because it’s an order. Not because there’s any intrinsic value to it. ;)

  197. Kaimi on October 7, 2004 at 7:38 pm

    Ryan writes,

    Here’s how I break it down: Bishop/prophet/other church authority directly responsible for me tells me something I disagree with.

    Choice 1: I opt not to follow him. I may be right, in which case the gain is freedom from unnecessary restraints. I may be wrong, in which case the penalty is the punishment given to people who have disobeyed their righteous church leaders.

    Choice 2: I opt to follow him. If he’s right, I will gain the blessings of obedience and the blessings of following whatever principle he’s teaching. If he’s wrong, I will gain the blessings of obedience but no other blessings related to the incorrect doctrine he’s teaching.

    Adding up the costs and benefits, it looks like a clear-cut case for following the Bishop regardless. If he’s wrong, you wasted a little freedom and were still blessed.*

    But you’re not really adding up the costs and benefits here, are you? You’re adding up some benefits.

    Say that the bishop tells me to wear purple suspenders every day. I don’t want to, but what the hell, let’s be obedient. As a result of my over-wearing purple suspenders, everyone at my firm thinks I’m crazy; I am never sent to court and have no client contact (who wants to send someone with purple suspenders to argue a motion?); I don’t develop good legal skills; etc. (Perhaps this leads to financial trouble, family trouble, and so forth).

    Anyway, it’s a stylized example, but the bottom line is that there are _costs_ to obeying extraneous commandments. What if your bishop ups tithing to 35% in your ward? Do you happily pay, because if he’s right, extra blessings, and if he’s wrong, hey, nothing lost?

  198. Steve.Evans on October 7, 2004 at 7:51 pm

    “Steve, your position on trusting yourself over authority is difficult to reconcile with accepted doctrine.”

    David didn’t think so. Or Alma. Or Daniel. Or…….

  199. Ryan Bell on October 7, 2004 at 7:52 pm

    D, I think you have helpfully synthesized the crux of this entire debate for us. Here it is folks:

    You, the reader, have made a personal choice that x is not harmful to you, and you feel no moral obligation to change your participation in x.

    Then, your Bishop announces to you that you are no longer to partake in x.

    What is your position in regards to x? Will you now abstain from x? Is x ‘wrong?’ I think it’s clear that Adam and I would say that x is now wrong, regardless of our previous position as to such activity. Where does everyone else come down?

    By the way, I am now leaving work. I will check back later on tonight or tomorrow. The weight of Aaron’s authority as mission leader of his ward in California is too much for me to deny, even where I sit in Salt Lake. This is a very powerful steward.

  200. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 8:06 pm

    I had to go get dinner anyway. For the record, I’m eating a tuna and egg-salad sandwich (tuna salad and egg salad all mushed into one salad) on 7-grain bread with lettuce, and a side of leftover risotto. Lemonade to drink, and a Vermont chocolate bar with almonds for dessert.

  201. greenfrog on October 7, 2004 at 8:19 pm

    Sandwich? Blecch. But share the risotto. And I’ll flip you for the chocolate.

  202. Laura on October 7, 2004 at 8:35 pm

    Ryan writes,

    Here’s how I break it down: Bishop/prophet/other church authority directly responsible for me tells me something I disagree with.

    Choice 1: I opt not to follow him. I may be right, in which case the gain is freedom from unnecessary restraints. I may be wrong, in which case the penalty is the punishment given to people who have disobeyed their righteous church leaders.

    Choice 2: I opt to follow him. If he’s right, I will gain the blessings of obedience and the blessings of following whatever principle he’s teaching. If he’s wrong, I will gain the blessings of obedience but no other blessings related to the incorrect doctrine he’s teaching.

    ———-

    Choice 3: I opt to inquire of the Lord whether or not the Bishop is right and then decide to obey based on the answer I get from the Lord. If there’s a confirmation that the Bishop is right, I do what the Bishop says. I gain the blessings of a sure knowledge and testimony that my leader is doing the will of the Lord and that I am too.

  203. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 8:47 pm

    Good response, Laura. What if you don’t get a clear answer? Do you interpret that as God saying, ‘Duh, you already know that it’s right to do what’s in your heart,’ or do you interpret that as God saying, ‘Duh, you already know to obey those I have put over you.’

    I think God has put prophets and authorities over us not only to signal what we should be praying about but sometimes because our own channels of revelation get blocked

  204. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 8:47 pm

    Yes, but in David’s case the consequence was
    damnation
    and in Alma’s case an angel had to call him to
    repent.

    ;)

  205. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 8:52 pm

    “Here’s how I break it down: Bishop/prophet/other church authority directly responsible for me tells me something I disagree with.”

    An important point needs to be made, so I’ll make it.

    I do not lump together bishop/prophet/other church authority. These are separate levels of authority, and I will respond differently to different levels of my “judge in Israel.”

    If the Prophet had a revelation which condemned some behavior which I hitherto considered benign (like movie watching), I’d really consider following his counsel. He’s the Prophet. He has revelations. He knows, more than I, the intentions of God, and the potential for future exaltation and/or condemnation. Most of the commandments I have rarely broken, and some, never. (I never murdered anyone, eh? as far as I know.) It would have to be a commandment, so that if I continued breaking it, my level of participation might be seriously impaired.

    But the Bishop of a Ward making a “rule” to his Melchizedek Priesthood Holders about not going to R-movies, or having to ask their wives about using the Internet, smacks of an ego run amok. Some might call it “unrighteous dominion.” He may be my Priesthood Leader, but I do not believe it is his place to make such a rule. I don’t have a wife to get permission from, anyway.

    Now you may suggest that a Bishop is Ordained of God, and as such, has the authority to speak with the Prophet’s voice. What if such a Bishop asked you, and you alone, for 11% tithing? It’s a hypothetical that probably wouldn’t happen, and I only use it under extreme measures of a potential all-out Blog Battle.

    You would question your Bishop’s right to ask for that, just as I question his right in asking me to give up something that I don’t think is sinful, or harmful to me. If a Bishop asked me to give me R-rated movies, I might just appeal in a higher court — write a letter to one of the GAs, maybe Marlon Jensen, since I like him so much.

  206. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 8:55 pm

    Sorry,

    “If a Bishop asked me to give me R-rated movies,”

    should read

    If a Bishop asked me to give up R-rated movies,

  207. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 9:01 pm

    I just read Marlin Jensen’s obituary, from 2002!

    I am such an idiot.

  208. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 9:03 pm

    Nope, he’s still alive. Marlin K. Jensen

    I’m still an idiot.

  209. CB on October 7, 2004 at 9:12 pm

    D.

    I like that idea.

    In our case, it was a counselor in the bishopric who was shocked and appalled to hear that we were taking our children to the art museum in our city. He had heard that there were depictions of naked people there. The thing is, we had made the decision to go in an effort to innoculate our kids against pornography. Teach them to choose the good and all that. He strongly advised us against going. He was particularly concerned about the efffect that the sight of an undraped female form could have on our son. We thanked him for his concern, and tried to explain that looking at Renoirs is not the same as looking at pornos. He wasn’t convinced. Of course, we went anyway, as our family home evening.

    The thing is, I trust his intentions, and I know he had our interests at heart. I emphatically do not trust his judgement.

    Here’s my question – what is the best way to sustain such a leader? To give unquestioned obedience would be to allow him to persist in this kind of nonsense.

  210. Taylor on October 7, 2004 at 9:19 pm

    It seems that there is a tension in Mormonism between emphasizing the humanity of our leaders (JS was a great example of this) and emphasizing the divine authority of our leaders (JS was a great example of this also).

    Asking when we can criticize our leaders doesn’t quite seem to take into account the paradox of an LDS concept of authority, which is certainly authoritative, but also teaches a radical suspicion towards leaders (D&C 121).

    Perhaps a useful way of phrasing the question would be, “How do I recognize unrighteous dominion?”

  211. obi-wan on October 7, 2004 at 9:19 pm

    Fascinating that in 207 posts (so far) no one has articulated why this bishop’s actions are presumptively illegitimate, and so at least worthy of public discussion, if not public criticism.

    The fact is that the bishop in the example is trying to dictate to the couples in his ward the degree of trust in their relationships. I don’t know how anyone else structures their marital relationship, but mine is based on trust rather than mistrust. Passwords on computers is not how we do business in our household. My wife would not agree to locking me out of the computer anymore than I would agree to lock the checkbook and credit cards in a safe and make her ask permission for the key (to curb overspending, of course) or she would padlock the pantry and make me ask permission for the combination code (to curb overeating, of course).

    Perhaps there are couples who want to arrange their relationship that way, but the bishop simply has no business dictating that kind of marital conduct. If he has some counsel or advice, we should be happy to listen to it, but the last time I checked, I am still the patriarch in my family, and the final say on how matters are conducted in my houshold still rests with my spouse and myself. As far as I am concerned, any bishop who starts demanding “commitments” that interfere in how my wife and I structure our relationship is overstepping his stewardship. I am no more obligated to pay attention to that pronouncement than if he suddenly announced a revelation for the whole Church, or than I would be to listen to the bishop in the next ward over if he started giving the members of my ward instruction on how to conduct sacrament meetings.

  212. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 9:25 pm

    “the bishop simply has no business… overstepping his stewardship”

    Yes, that’s it exactly, Obi-wan.

    “Perhaps a useful way of phrasing the question would be, “How do I recognize unrighteous dominion?â€?

    Yes, that’s it exactly. Taylor…Petrie?

  213. Kim Siever on October 7, 2004 at 9:28 pm

    I had baked potatoes with sour cream and bacon bits, roasted chicken and mixed vegetables.

  214. obi-wan on October 7, 2004 at 9:32 pm

    Perhaps a useful way of phrasing the question would be, “How do I recognize unrighteous dominion?�

    According to Section 121, just look for somebody in a leadership position, and the odds are overwhelming that he’s exercising unrighteous dominion.

    Maybe the better question would be “How can we recognize and emulate those (apparently very, very rare) individuals who don’t exercise unrighteous dominion?”

  215. obi-wan on October 7, 2004 at 9:33 pm

    Drat — didn’t close the italics properly. I don’t suppose there’s any way for the bloggers-that-be to restore the preview function to the site?

  216. Kim Siever on October 7, 2004 at 9:33 pm

    obi wan,

    For what it is worth I commented on that very thing over at Nine Moons:

    Given that 20% of women view pornography in the workplace (as reported by President Hinckley on Saturday), why did this bishop not give this same commitment in Relief Society?

    I think his method is wrong. Why does he not just focus on the people with the problems rather than all the men? Why doesn’t he encourage frank, open discussion between marriage partners instead of instilling distrust?

  217. Chris Grant on October 7, 2004 at 9:34 pm

    D. Fletcher writes: “Even a hardcore porn film, the watching of which might not be conducive to a good marital relationship. It might not be good for you, but it isn’t a sin.”

    Unless you’d be one of the few lust-free users of hardcore pornography, the Doctrine & Covenants speaks as if this would be something that would demand repentance, which suggests to me that it is indeed a sin.

  218. D. Fletcher on October 7, 2004 at 9:39 pm

    I don’t believe there’s a lust-free person in the universe.

  219. John H on October 7, 2004 at 9:47 pm

    And this is what I get for leaving and going to the park with my kids – 100 posts to catch up on. I won’t go back to the R rated thing, since it appears we abandoned that.

    I particularly appreciate the post that points out there’s plenty of examples in the LDS tradition to mistrust authority. I think the tension between obedience and agency is deliberate, and I’m frankly wary whenever someone tries to suggest that we’re really all meant to be totally, 100% obedient no matter what.

    There are examples in the Church of leaders overstepping their bounds. Fortunately in Mormonism, these seem fairly rare. But, they do happen.I completely reject the post above that suggests following Church leaders, even if they’re wrong, results in blessings for us because of our obedience. If that’s what God’s like, I’d rather go to hell and make a heaven out of it (to use Joseph’s line). If God doesn’t hold us even slightly accountable for our decision to follow leaders, even in the face of doing what we might believe is right, then he’s a lousy God (to use Homer’s line).

    Saying we’re just supposed to follow and the blessings will flow unto us sounds a lot like passing the responsibility from us to the leaders.

    And unless I missed a post, Kaimi’s excellent point of detrimental effects (the purple suspenders) of following leaders went unanswered. The fact is, there’s many, many ways that following a leader could be detrimental.

  220. Chris Grant on October 7, 2004 at 9:48 pm

    D. Fletcher writes: “I don’t believe there’s a lust-free person in the universe.”

    Okay, so does that mean that you do or don’t think that D&C 42:24 has something to say about the sinfulness of using hardcore pornography?

  221. Chris Grant on October 7, 2004 at 9:58 pm

    John H writes: “And unless I missed a post, Kaimi’s excellent point of detrimental effects (the purple suspenders) of following leaders went unanswered.”

    Okay, here’s my answer. Rather than broadcasting to a few billion Internet users how cuckoo my bishop is for being fixated on purple suspenders, I’d consult with my stake president. (Just how far up the line do you think this purple suspender conspiracy goes?)

  222. Chad Too on October 7, 2004 at 10:00 pm

    /tongue-in-cheek mode on

    Since, as Adam rightly points out, Bishops are Judges in Israel, does that mean that we can call Bishops who impose new standards and commandments without SLC approval Activist Judges in Israel? ;-)

    If so, Adam opposes it. ;-)

    /tongue-in-cheek mode off

    In all seriousness, though, is there some guidance in the judiciary model? That Bishops are to judge whether or not the law is being followed, but not to create new law? I ask this in sincerity, I’d like to know your thoughts.

  223. john fowles on October 7, 2004 at 10:05 pm

    That is an interesting question Chad Too. Unfortunately, I think the comparison with judges in Israel and the American constitutional structure of government and the roles of the branches of that government really works in this case. I think that if a bishop is inspired to institute a program that he thinks is necessary for his ward at a given time, then he can do so. He should do so humbly, though, and hopefully his ward would work together with him on whatever the challenge or issue is that is facing the ward.

  224. Keith on October 7, 2004 at 10:05 pm

    This has been interesting to follow. Nibley, in his “Criticizing the Brethren” has this insightful observation (something I’ve found helpful when I’m bothered or troubled by something leaders may do or say (or not do or say), or where I might be less than pleased with the way something comes across):

    “This has always been the familiar scenario in the Church—people using perceived imperfections of the Church as a pretext for them to relax their own personal moral standards. The psychologists tell us regarding our own emotional feelings not to keep these feelings bottled up too tight, because it can lead to an explosion. So what should we do? Be like the importunate widow and complain; itemize your griefs, your doctrinal objections, your personal distastes to yourself, and then lay them all out in full detail before the Lord and get it out of your system. (You may wonder why people see me talking so much to myself.) With this understanding—you will do all this before the only Person qualified to judge either you or your tormentors. As you bring your complaints, be fully aware that he knows everything already—including everything there is to know about you.”

    This approach seems to allow us to be watchful and honest about what we see going on, but it requires that we be even more watchful for our own lives and brutally honest about our own motives and standing before God. This doesn’t always solve the problem of what I do if I think the counsel from the bishop might not be rigth, but it may make more likely that I’m seeing the situation truthfully.

  225. john fowles on October 7, 2004 at 10:12 pm

    I meant to say that the comparison doesn’t work.

  226. Ethesis (Stephen M) on October 7, 2004 at 10:40 pm

    According to Section 121, just look for somebody in a leadership position, and the odds are overwhelming that he’s exercising unrighteous dominion.

    I loved that comment.

    Finally got the computer fixed, log back on and see this explosion of posts.

    I also find Nibley, in his “Criticizing the Brethren� to be useful in leading my life.

    My brother had the interesting situation where his Bishop was teaching that charity was wrong because it interposed us between God and the dicates of fore-ordination, and that we ought not to help others, lest we interfere with the justice or plans of God. It was amazing how closely he tracked the Book of Mormon.

    The he went on to explain how children who die before they are eight really don’t go to heaven because they’ve chosen to avoid the trials of life, and how anyone with such a child is a defective human being, for being linked to them.

    So, my brother mentioned the doctrines to his Stake President, whose first response was “well, I’m not going to release him” (to which my brother’s first thought was “what do I care about that — it is your decision, not mine”) but he did have a stiff talk with the poor man who hasn’t preached that sermon yet.

    In my household I refer to such people as “poofs” (though I recently discovered that the phrase has another meaning, so I’m looking for a replacement) — as in lightweights — and just feel modest embarassment for them.

    I’ll have to dig out the Sacrament talk I gave on the subject of how we are all *children* of God, not real adults.

    Great thread.

  227. Jack on October 7, 2004 at 10:43 pm

    Wow! I was wondering how this thread sored beyond 200 comments so quickly – until I got to the ratings argument.

    Good gravy! Why is it that we cannot live without the cinema? If you argue that you *can* live without the cinema, then I can only suppose that you can’t handle someone else telling you what to do. It’s completely adolescent.

    If someone is going to see an “R” movie then do it with gusto! Don’t do a bunch of moral gymnastics to justify your behavior. I know a squeeky clean type member of a bishopric who went to see “Braveheart”. Even though he is very committed to following counsel, he felt that this was an appropriate exception to the rule. Good for him! He hasn’t fallen from grace in my eyes. (of course, we could argue whether or not the movie was worth while artistically. I think if you changed the spelling of the title to “Brayfart” that it – the title – would reflect the content, or it’s handling, a little more accurately)

    Which reminds me – D. your critique of “Titanic” is right on. (I’m serious! You need to write a book or column on the arts) That thing is nothing but a 250 million dollar chick flick. An absolute dereliction of insight into the human condition.

    So, while we’re arguing where the line ought to be drawn in terms of ratings, maybe we should consider the fact that there are really only a hand full of great movies per decade. There’s not really much to loose if you’re viewing fewer lousy movies.

  228. Adam Greenwood on October 7, 2004 at 11:26 pm

    It comes to this:
    for some, the tension between inspired authority and the fallibility of authority is resolved fairly easily in favor of fallibility. For others, the tension is resolved fairly easily in the other direction. I have yet to see an argument here that doesn’t come down to, at root, ‘I don’t want to live in that sort of world.’

    And this is true of the question of the Bishop’s authority, in spades. Some assert that he is a friend, an executive, and the prophet’s, I don’t know, enforcer; but that the limits on his authority are clear. Others (like me) assert that he’s a sort of prophet in miniature. No one has presented any arguments.

    So, having tread a few measures with the opposing viewpoint here, and finding myself dancing in repeated circles, I choose to retire from the floor. In lieu of a bow, I will say this:

    Do not criticize your bishop on the internet.

  229. Jack on October 7, 2004 at 11:28 pm

    I love the Nibley quote.

    As I said earlier in the thread, I haven’t had a run-in yet with absurd counsel. But if I do in the future, I would try to remember that the Bishop’s God is my God and that He’ll prepare a way for my escape even if it means that I have to go right through the middle of the thing.

  230. Larry on October 7, 2004 at 11:46 pm

    This has been an interesting discussion on a controversial theme. Perhaps Bro. Packer’s talk on Sunday says more than we know. We have been to virtually every side of this discussion and yet it appears that every arm is to the square when it counts…

  231. Bob Caswell on October 7, 2004 at 11:51 pm

    “Do not criticize your bishop on the internet.”

    I never have; he has done nothing [that I can think of right this instance] to merit criticism. On the other hand, other members’ bishops are fair game, right?

    “Others (like me) assert that he’s a sort of prophet in miniature.”

    All I hope, Adam, is that there isn’t a strong correlation between those that think this and those that want to and eventually become bishop…

  232. Jack on October 7, 2004 at 11:52 pm

    Adam, don’t retire just yet. We want to out do the boilerplate thread.

    I think a good reading of Alma 13 and Eph. 5 reveals an important principle of the Priesthood. The High Priest stands at the head or is the head and that the body must be governed by that head in order to function as one. One gets the idea that there is no safety outside of the Priesthood body or family. My point is this; the Bishop is the presiding High Priest over the ward and therefore holds all of the keys necessary to govern as the spiritual leader of the ward. If we doubt this then we can appeal to the stake president who is the presiding High Priest over the stake. But why fuss over it? You’re gonna run into the same thing all the way up the ladder – a presiding High Priest. Sure there are weaknesses in the men who preside, but to deny that they have special gifts because of their callings is tantamount to denying the priesthood itself.

  233. D. Fletcher on October 8, 2004 at 12:20 am

    We didn’t hear from Aaron yet.

  234. Ebenezer on October 8, 2004 at 4:16 am

    My view is very similar to Adam’s: Priesthood authority is the power of attorney: the authority to represent and speak for God within a certain stewardship. Each and every steward, from apostle to parents, to the individual, is a “prophet in miniature” over his or her realm of authority and subordinate to those in greater authority. Direct revelation from God and authority to speak in his behalf is available at all levels of the Church, but at the same time God’s church is a house of order and therefore revelation and power of attorney is valid only within our own stewardship.

    Instructions from priesthood leaders are either inspired of the Holy Spirit or not. If they are inspired then they are binding and we should obey. When a leader does give instructions that we believe to be uninspired, we should approach that authority directly with our disagreement and if necessary his or her leaders.

    What justification can any of you offer for proclaiming disagreement with a priesthood authority to other members, or publishing them in a magazine or on a blog? What are you trying to accomplish? Does public criticism and disagreement really accomplish that objective? Whence is your authority to do so? What good fruit does it produce?

    Some of the disagreement seems to arise over how we are to decide whether or not certain instructions are inspired or not, and what to do in the case that they are not.

    There are costs to obeying so-called “extraneous” commandments. But the fact is that there are costs to obeying all commandments. We obey commandments because we have faith that God will bless us despite the costs. So we cannot base our judgment of whether instructions are inspired or not (extraneous or not) upon the costs.

    Weighing instructions from our leaders on the scale of ridiculousness is equally unhelpful. The Lord required Gideon to downsize his army to only 300 to take on the massive army of the Midianites and the Amalekites. The Lord told the Israelites to march around Jericho and blow their horns. The seeming ridiculousness of the instruction, be it wearing purple suspenders, bathing in the river Jordan seven times to cure leprosy, or looking at a brazen serpent as an antidote to snake venom, is not a viable measure of whether the instruction is inspired not.

    By nature of his or her position, a steward is often privy to information that we are not. When instructions don’t make sense to us, it very well could be because we are ignorant of the context.

    Instructions given by someone in a position of authority should automatically bear some weight. Even if the instructions themselves are not specifically “inspired,” if the individual was called into the position by inspiration then to a limited extent the fact that Lord placed him or her in that position is an endorsement of their instructions. If the Lord wanted your views he would have called you instead.

    All stewards are human and make mistakes. Even knowing the exact mistakes they will make, the Lord puts certain people into positions of authority anyway.

    We have varying degrees of faith in the Lord’s control over and involvement in the Church as well as the clarity and frequency of his communication to her leaders both general and local. Some of us have invested our faith in the idea that the church at all levels is guided mostly through inspiration from the Lord. Others seem to have placed a good deal of faith in the prophet and apostles, but not so much in the local priesthood, who they see as well meaning, but often wrong. Still others seem to suggest that the church is mostly guided by flawed men with good intentions and an occasional flicker of inspiration.

    It seems to me that we should apply Alma’s test: plant the word in our hearts and see if it grows. You can sit and examine the seed and endlessly debate whether or not it is good, but the only way to really know is to plant it and see if it grows.

    If your bishop tells you to be clean shaved and shore haired, to not watch R-rated films, to not drink cafinated soda, or to wear purple suspenders, give it a try and see if the seed grows and produces desirable fruit.

    We should respect the principle of stewardship by submitting to the rightful stewardship of those in authority and not assuming authority that has not been given us.

    Most importantly, we should stop placing our own obedience in competition to that of others.

  235. John Mansfield on October 8, 2004 at 7:28 am

    God bless Captain Vere!

  236. Ethesis (Stephen M) on October 8, 2004 at 8:37 am

    By nature of his or her position, a steward is often privy to information that we are not. When instructions don’t make sense to us, it very well could be because we are ignorant of the context. True, but I would posit that my brother’s bishop, who got severely disciplined for preaching that sermon, probably did not have such information.

    I guess my brother should have just spurned the poor, considered Joseph Smith and others who had children die defective and not mentioned it to the Stake President ….

    And, I presume your approach is that studying things out does not include discussing them?

    Though When a leader does give instructions that we believe to be uninspired, we should approach that authority directly with our disagreement and if necessary his or her leaders. is a good point.

    Which leads to another point.

    One of the great tensions in the Church is balancing growth over need for quality leadership. Several outside statisticians have noted the Church’s growth curve and the fact that it becomes hard to predict it as closely as one might desire because the Brethren manipulate the growth rate.

    The reason for that is that at times it is easy to let the branches outstrip the roots in growth. Then we have more people who have had the gospel shared with then, but more stewards with significant weaknesses. Other times the roots seem to outgrow the branches. Then we have the leaders we need, but people are not joining the Church as quickly.

    It is a very hard balance to preserve. It is a point of continuing concern and significance.

    It is also one reason that I think that we need to be more patient, even with complete poofs (ok, anyone have a better name?). God is doing the best with what he has available and the poor people in those callings are working long hours on short pay (one of the short sides of not encouraging more priestcraft).

    Not sure if the mix of mild humor and concern I feel comes across in this or not.

    But this thread does come to significant places, far beyond whether any and all R rated movies should be banned (or discussions of the changes in what historically made an R rated movie or the fact that at times movies had different ratings in different locations, or the thought process that goes into opting out of a PG-13 rating).

    Interesting thread.

  237. Bob Caswell on October 8, 2004 at 10:04 am

    “It seems to me that we should apply Alma’s test: plant the word in our hearts and see if it grows. You can sit and examine the seed and endlessly debate whether or not it is good, but the only way to really know is to plant it and see if it grows.

    If your bishop tells you to be clean shaved and shore haired, to not watch R-rated films, to not drink cafinated soda, or to wear purple suspenders, give it a try and see if the seed grows and produces desirable fruit.”

    Ebenezer, at what point can we skip the “plant the word in our hearts” part and jump straight to “it didn’t grow”? For example, Adam already gave me an example of when I shouldn’t listen to my bishop: when my bishop tells me to murder my wife. So based on this information, there are times when our own judgment supersedes that of our bishop’s. If this is the case, then there does seem to be a stage in all this where we have to decide whether or not Alma’s test is applicable without assuming that it must always be done. Thus, “we should apply Alma’s test” is somewhat of a blanket statement because “give it a try” may not always be the best option.

    So this brings us full circle to the conflict of WHEN we should apply Alma’s test not “should we”. We know there are many circumstances in which we should but let’s not assume that the circumstances for when Ebenezer applies the test or the same for when Bob applies the test. I may need to apply the test in wearing purple suspenders whereas you may not, or vice versa. But to assume that the only way to know if a seed is good must be to plant the seed… well, that’s based on the assumption that when you plant the seed, it doesn’t ruin the soil somehow and make it very difficult to plant other seeds. Maybe we should at least look at the seed and make sure it’s not a rock.

  238. Anonymous on October 8, 2004 at 10:30 am

    I used to know a bishop who considered himself a miniature prophet. I met him in the course of a disciplinary council being held on his behalf. He had been getting revelations that he should marry two additional women, both from his ward.

    Since his two new wives also lost their membership, I’m having a hard time seeing what blessing they got as a result of their obedience.

  239. Chris Grant on October 8, 2004 at 10:35 am

    Anonymous: Has there been someone in this thread who’s been arguing that we should obey our bishops even when to do so would be a clear violation of the teachings of the General Authorities? If so, I’ve missed it.

  240. lyle on October 8, 2004 at 10:35 am

    anon:

    cherry picking examples to pick the rotten one’s…doesn’t make a point that translates well to the entire universe of experience.

    and obedience probably includes the concept of understanding steward & following it; i.e. in your example…duh. The women in question weren’t obedient, nor was the apostate ex-bishop. None of the three were obedient to the teachings of the Gospel in a post Off. Decl. world.

  241. Bob Caswell on October 8, 2004 at 10:49 am

    “cherry picking examples to pick the rotten one’s…doesn’t make a point that translates well to the entire universe of experience.”

    Well then, lyle, the same would hold true for cherry picking examples to pick the good ones, would it not? This would make for a discussion void of examples and full of hypotheticals. I say leave both kinds in the discussion.

  242. Steve Evans on October 8, 2004 at 10:54 am

    And so, this becomes the longest thread in T&S history. Friends, what have we to show for it? At least the boobs/erections thread had funny jokes.

  243. D. Fletcher on October 8, 2004 at 11:00 am

    No, I think we’ve learned a lot here. I have.

  244. Mark B on October 8, 2004 at 11:01 am

    Adam:

    In comment #160, you appear not to have seen the subtle point I was trying to make in my comment #153. I never suggested that one should not consult with one’s spouse. In fact, the second paragraph of my comment sets forth just such a scenario.

    On the other hand, I still maintain my first point, which you quoted. Asking a spouse for “permission” seems the wrong basis for a healthy relationship. It suggests that one party is the moral or spiritual inferior of the other, and that the weaker of the two can only do what the stronger permits. That’s not the way my marriage works, and I don’t think that our marriage would work if either of us felt that the other was “Big Daddy,” from whom permission must be obtained to do certain things.

    This does not mean that spouses should not counsel together, and make decisions jointly. Perhaps you think that the difference from your “clearing it with [your] wife” is merely a semantic quibble, but I think there is a significant difference in the attitudes described by the two phrases.

  245. Ebenezer on October 8, 2004 at 11:07 am

    Bob:
    So based on this information, there are times when our own judgment supersedes that of our bishop’s.

    I have no argument wuth you here. If you have concerns, that is when you approach the Bishop or his authorities. If necessary, talk to the authorities over his autorities. Either the Bishop will be corrected or upheld and if he is upheld then it is time to plant the seed.

    Anonymous:
    If the Bishop tells two women that he has received a revelation that they need to marry him, it is clearly contrary to the instructions given to the general church. Talk to his authorities and he will be disciplined. I have never suggested otherwise.

    I’m talking about an appropriate process of responding to disagreement with autority here: 1) Evaluate the instruction. 2) Take concerns directly to the leader and or his leaders. 3) Either the leader will be corrected or upheld. 4) if higher leaders uphold his instructions it is probably time to plant the seed. 5) (from an earlier post) if needed appeal directly to the Lord to intercede. It is His church and he will not allow unrighteous leaders to long stand.

    As I see it, no where in the process is there a need to approach the members, or the blogs, with the disagreement or criticism. Such things will be handled through the proper authority and when we try to take it into our own hands we are wielding unlicenced dominion.

  246. Bob Caswell on October 8, 2004 at 11:13 am

    “The women in question weren’t obedient…”

    Lyle, there is nothing intrinsically righteous about “being obedient”. True, that may be the context that you and I are used to. But one can be obedient to the devil and still “be obedient”. Hence, my pet peeve with the use of the phrase “be obedient” in the Church. Rather than focus on “being obedient”, let us focus on what we should be obedient to. So, these women were indeed obedient…just to the wrong person.

  247. Jack on October 8, 2004 at 11:16 am

    I think there may be two elements or orders of the priesthood that seem to oppose one another at times. One is administrative in nature and is what we see most of the time in the church – that which governs the church and dispenses necessary ordinances and revelations for the benefit of it’s members. The other is patriarchal in nature and while it is less visible in the workings of the church, it is powerful in its own sphere. The latter is not necessarily subsumed by the former in a hierarchy of stewardships. For example, a stake president may ordain a patriarch but he cannot reveal lineage in the absence of the patriarch by virtue of his stewardship. Also, the government of a righteous father (or mother!) is not necessarily subject to a higher level of stewardship within the church. If a father determines that a certain course of action such as moving to a new location or home-schooling his children or anything regarding the relm of his patriarchal stewarship, is best, there is no higher authority that can overturn that decision or course of action. Therefore, in my opinion a bishop may offer general counsel to married couples as to the inner-workings of their marraige but the finale word on such matters is to be found between the couple. However, if a couple is struggling against sin, then the bishop may give specific counsel to aid them in overcoming that sin as he is a judge in Israel and has the right to help anyone within his stewardship in the quest for repentence. I admit that there is a lot of gray area in this matter and if the bishop were to come to me with feelings that were contrary to my own with regard to my stewardship as a father, I would give them serious thought because there is some overlapping in these two elements – the which I don’t fully understand.

  248. Bob Caswell on October 8, 2004 at 11:24 am

    “As I see it, no where in the process is there a need to approach the members, or the blogs, with the disagreement or criticism…”

    Ebenezer, I appreciate your further insights on the matter. I think one problem is that most members don’t have access to your well-put-together five-step process, which is ironically available on a blog. Furthermore, it is only human for humans to not make a big stink about their bishop by appealing to a higher level of authority, where they’re likely to receive little to no empathy. From my experience, this can be especially true with women who have particular issues within the Church. Going to the stake president is just a hard thing to do when they already know the outcome. They (we, all of us) want someone to come down to our level, to understand us, to love us, etc. My friends are so much better at that – because they actually know me – than my bishop or stake president. If I had a friend come to me with issues concerning his/her bishop, I’d listen and help as much as I can before tactfully discussing something similar to your five-step process. I’d do this even if it meant that some criticism would inevitability occur.

  249. Bob Caswell on October 8, 2004 at 11:28 am

    Steve (All),

    You realize, don’t you, that I’m only in this conversation because Kaimi slipped me a 50 with the sole purpose of making sure that his post attracts so many comments that there is no chance in hell that one of Nate’s lame throw-away posts could ever catch up. Whoops! Did I say that out loud? :-)

  250. Logan on October 8, 2004 at 11:44 am

    Hey — I only got a twenty!

  251. Ebenezer on October 8, 2004 at 11:45 am

    You make a good point Bob. I personally don’t think that there is anything wrong with going to a trusted friend, family member, or teacher etc., in private, to discuss our concerns with what a leader has asked of us. Such discussions, as you point out, should lead to something like the steps I have proposed.

    It is public discussion, or wide-spread “private” discussion of disagreement with leaders that I think is contrary to the Lord’s established system.

    I am very aware of the irony of my posting my thoughts on the internet. It concerns me somewhat and I think about it frequently. If my leaders were to ask me to stop blogging about the church, I would.

  252. lyle on October 8, 2004 at 11:55 am

    Bob: I think there is a distinction between faith promoting stories & horror tales of bad church leaders. I don’t recall the last time I heard about the latter in General Conference, but maybe I’m just apostate myself. Also, as Pres. Hinckley seems to think that as a whole ‘we’ are doing well, I’m more inclined to believe that postive stories are more representative of the whole than not.

  253. John H on October 8, 2004 at 12:00 pm

    Great points, Bob.

    We talk about obedience in the Church with the assumption that what we’re being obedient to (and the actions we’ll be taking as a result of our obedience) will always be a good thing.

    Being obedient doesn’t result in blessings just because. Doing so seems a lot like Brigham Young’s warning against pinning one’s salvation on the sleeve of their leaders. Reading this thread, one could easily come away with the impression that the argument is being made that members have little to no responsibility with their actions, and that leaders have a burden of epic proportions since they are not just responsible for themselves, but for everyone else, since everyone is going to be doing what they say.

  254. KCG on October 8, 2004 at 12:07 pm

    All or many of these comments, excluding the obvious, seem to place reason over revelation. Isn’t that dangerous? Sure, local leaders of God, and prophets of God, are subject to human failures. But this thread expends much time and thought, I believe, trying to expose, magnify, and maybe . . even . . celebrate(?) those failures. It seems that a sense of gratitude, or maybe more appropriately, a hallelujah, are in order given that we have General Authorities and Local Leaders called of God, able to receive inspiration from Him, for us(me). Wow. I feel better.

  255. Bob Caswell on October 8, 2004 at 12:09 pm

    Hallelujah!

  256. Bob Caswell on October 8, 2004 at 12:15 pm

    “…seem to place reason over revelation. Isn’t that dangerous?”

    In all honesty, I think placing revelation (or perceived revelation) over reason is just as dangerous… but that’s just me. I think there are plenty of reasons illustrating how both can be dangerous (usually at different times). One thing I really, really like about the Church is that there is a happy medium between reason and revelation. It’s nice that the Church is true, but it is all just as nice that the Church makes sense.

  257. KCG on October 8, 2004 at 12:22 pm

    Bob–“Its nice that the church is true, but it is all just as nice that the Church makes sense.”

    Both are very nice–I just find that revelation provides a nice “rock” upon which to build my reason–and all the intellectual candy–that the Church–Prophets–Spirit, provide.

  258. Bob Caswell on October 8, 2004 at 12:34 pm

    KCG-

    I’m with you.

  259. John H on October 8, 2004 at 12:53 pm

    Often these discussions go around in circles, and I think we’ve hit that point with this one. People like me dig into Mormon history for examples we’ve probably all heard, of times when leaders were wrong, or when leaders contradicted each other, etc. We use silly or extreme examples (the purple suspenders, the bishop who received revelation that he should marry two women in the ward) to demonstrate the dangers of unconditional obedience. We might bring up the famous study conducted at Yale (I think) of students being coaxed into delivering electric shocks to other students under the guise of researching negative reinforcement. But at the end of the day we’re usually hard pressed to come up with many examples from our own life where it was *essential* we disobeyed a Church leader or when we personally were in harms way because of our obedience. I’ve said I disagree with leaders over SSM, and I will continue to do so. But my own disagreement hasn’t jeopardized my membership, and I have yet to be threatened or coerced into agreeing. When it comes to most of the advice and counsel dished out from leaders, it’s tough to find much fault (hey, who’s against prayer?)

    On the flip-side, there are those who insist being obedient is the way to go. The logic is frequently trotted out that if we’re obedient, we’ll receive blessings regardless, therefore it makes more sense to be obedient than not. But often the proponents of this logic can’t or don’t explain where any responsibility lies in our life, beyond just doing what we’re told. Often they ignore the (admittedly) extreme or silly arguments others might cite. And they always, always rely on the assumption that Church leaders are ordained of God, therefore when they speak, they speak the will of God, and they seem unwilling to entertain the possibility that these assumptions could be incorrect.

    Because of my own bias, I’ve probably been far more harsh to the second group, but my point is, both positions seem to have their own set of problems. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of different personalities choosing what they consider to be the lesser of two evils?

  260. Chris Grant on October 8, 2004 at 12:55 pm

    John H writes: “Reading this thread, one could easily come away with the impression that the argument is being made that members have little to no responsibility with their actions, and that leaders have a burden of epic proportions since they are not just responsible for themselves, but for everyone else, since everyone is going to be doing what they say.”

    Would that impression be true? If so, which posts, in particular, are making that argument?

  261. lyle on October 8, 2004 at 1:08 pm

    No…I think John H has a point. But only one that comes with a predisposed mind to looking for the negative. With a doctrine that promotes Agency above all else, (other than the Atonement)…how do we get leaders controlling the masses? Unless of course, one is willing to skip all the intermediate steps: 1) testimony of the restored gospel; 2) prophets; 3) stewardship in revelation, etc…

    then again, maybe I’m John’s posterchild. :)

  262. John H on October 8, 2004 at 1:21 pm

    Chris Grant:

    I’m not going to wade through 260 posts to find the one’s in particular I’m referring to. IIRC, however, there was at least one post sometime back that laid out the logic as such:

    We have two choices, either obey or disobey. If we disobey, we may be right and receive blessings for doing the right thing. However, if we are wrong, we’ll lose those blessings. If we obey, we may be right and will receive blessings. If we obey, our leader may have been wrong but we’ll still receive blessings since we were obedient. Logic then tells us that we should always obey.

    Other posts have argued that Bishops really are miniature prophets, and that we ought to be following their counsel. So, if we’re arguing that we always follow the counsel of leaders, how exactly does that leave us with responsibility for our actions beyond doing what we’re told?

    If you’ve had a different impression through this thread, Chris, no one will tell you you’re wrong. But I stand by what my impression has been.

  263. john fowles on October 8, 2004 at 3:14 pm

    John H. wrote And they always, always rely on the assumption [1] that Church leaders are ordained of God, therefore [2] when they speak, they speak the will of God, and they seem unwilling to entertain the possibility that these assumptions could be incorrect.

    I understand your discomfort with regards to the second assumption there. It takes a high level of trust to operate under that assumption. It also requires giving leaders the benefit of the doubt that their motivations are righteous and that they are in tune with the spirit with regards to their stewardship. All of this boils down to humility and putting aside a personal agenda or analysis in order to defer to the individual with the ordained stewardship. And the reason this proves so difficult is because it runs contrary to our nature as human beings; it offends the natural man.

    But with regards to the first assumption in your list–that “Church leaders are ordained of God”–I don’t see how we as Latter-day Saints can entertain the possibility that this assumption is incorrect, that they are not ordained of God. Whereas we can entertain doubts about whether they are speaking for God in their stewardship in a given instance or not, it doesn’t seem consistent with basic tenets of LDS doctrine to operate under an assumption that LDS leaders are not ordained of God. If the fact of their divine ordination is taken away, then there is no difference between Latter-day Saints and the other myriad protestant denominations; the Church can make no special claim to divine access. In fact, if that is the case, then the Church is morally inferior to protestant denominations that make no claim to divine revelation or ordination. That is, the founding of and current adherence to the Church revolve around fraud because if JS wasn’t ordained of God, if he wasn’t literally a prophet who received direct revelation as he claimed to be, then his establishment of a Church and the attendant delusion of so many people is morally culpable. If that is the case, then current belief that Church leaders are ordained of God is mere perpetuation of that fraud.

  264. Bob Caswell on October 8, 2004 at 3:32 pm

    john folwles,

    If John H. will allow me to intervene on his behalf, I think you may have [slightly] misread his comment. He stated it like this: X exists, therefore Y. I don’t think John H. has a problem with the X nearly as much as with the Y. I think he was just pointing out the slippery slope of assuming that ordination automatically causes God’s will to come out of every breath of a priesthood leader.

    And when you say in reference to the second assumption, “It takes a high level of trust to operate under that assumption.” I think it would also require infallible leaders, which I’m sure we don’t have. Don’t get me wrong, I usually trust my bishop nine times out of ten. But I’m not necessarily going to trust him that tenth time just because I did the other nine.

  265. Jonathan Stapley on October 8, 2004 at 4:08 pm

    Is it possible that what we are talking about is not whether it is ok to criticize a Bishop or not, but whether or not we are justified in venting our frustrations when confronted with a situation that is offensive to our individual sensibilities? In short, is it ok to take offense?

    If that is indeed the reality, then I believe the answer is no. For example, I believe in evolution. I probably even champion it. I’ve come to a peace that recognizes any contradictions between my belief and the discourses of prophets, accepted canon, Mormon folk lore, etc. If a bishop asked me to forsake the belief I would politely decline. He then may choose to not extend any calling that relates to the teaching of doctrine. At that point I could choose to harbor feelings of resentment, dejection, righteous indignation (at least from where I am standing), and/or leave the church. Or I could choose to let it roll off my back and keep living my life as if nothing happened (maybe even empathizing with the Bishop). I have heard that the closer we become to the Savior, the less offended we become by others. This is because we have true charity for others.

    A Bishop can choose to only let priesthood holders that have white shirts, ties, are clean shaven and have short hair to administer in the Sacrament. He could ask me to fulfill the mission of the church by having more children closer together than I have at present. He could ask me to abstain from eating chocolate. I then exercise my agency as a function of my beliefs. If it is a big enough deal, I may even take it to the Lord.

    Nothing outweighs the primacy of agency within the gospel (including the atonement). One must, however, accept the consequences of any choice. There is no case in which one should do something for any other reason than because one loves the Lord and one believes the choice in question is not wrong.

    Disclaimer: I do not want to insinuate by the examples presented that I am devoid of being offeneded. I’m very comfortable with my stance on evolution. If it were about just about any other one my pet idiosyncrasies the outcome would likely end in a year-long sabbatical from church attendance after having vented on a blog somewhere ;)

  266. Bob Caswell on October 8, 2004 at 4:19 pm

    Sweet!! Evolution! Let’s keep the never-ending post rolling, baby!

  267. Kim Siever on October 8, 2004 at 4:35 pm

    I had an experience two weeks ago regarding evolution. I would be happy to discuss it. :)

  268. John H on October 8, 2004 at 4:45 pm

    John Fowles:

    Bob is right (thanks Bob). I don’t have the problem with X so much as I do with Y. I might have a problem with X if we’re talking about uber-extreme cases where a leader will have “lost” their priesthood and calling because of their unrighteousness, as is the case with the Bishop who had a revelation, or the Lafferty’s, etc.

    John, we’ve had this conversation before, and we’re both pretty much in the same place :) Let me try saying just one thing. You often speak of “trust” and “humility”, etc. in these kinds of conversations. Here’s where I have a problem with your position: You assume a much higher level of trust and obedience is necessary than I think Church leaders have ever called for or insisted upon themselves. Church leaders have never, to my knowledge, said “trust us” or just “be humble” and follow us. Perhaps you don’t intend to do so, but your posts repeatedly operate on the assumption that leaders always, or at least usually, speak from the mouth of God. Yet Church leaders themselves have never, ever said that. They’ve never implied it.

    Quite the contrary, President Hinckley is often cautious to point out that he’s not making a prophecy, or that he’s expressing an opinion (as when he expressed support for the war in Iraq). There is also a difference between speaking as an authority and speaking as the mouth of God. I rarely, if ever, hear Church leaders attributing their words as coming from God. But, they do have a very serious calling as witnesses of Christ, so they speak authoritatively on subjects they believe in. But speaking with authority is different than speaking the will of God.

  269. Keith on October 8, 2004 at 5:09 pm

    I think a key element in all of this is agency and accountability. (I’m not certain I agree with Jonathan Stapely that nothing takes supremacy over agency, but that’s a theological argument for another time.) I’ve made covenants with God, including not speaking ill, living by every word that proceeds from Him (whether by his voice or the voice of his servants)–all of this willingly submitting my will to his. I’ll be accountable (with absolutely no shading of the truth) for what I do, and more so because of the covenant. This accountability would also include how my decisions affect others and not just me.

    Regardless of whether one sides with the ‘it’s better to give the local brethren heed’ or the ‘don’t follow uncritically because errors might be made’ side of the issue, it strikes me that the fact that we will be held accountable for every thought and word (a daunting fact) would cause us to make decisions to obey or disobey counsel (that we think is odd) only in fear and trembling. I think there is an honesty that could be brought about by asking ourselves seriously when we disagree with counsel whether we might be in the wrong. It doesn’t follow that by asking that question we will simply give up and follow the counsel, but it would help us respond in humility.

    The kind of attitude I think we have to have is expressed by Kierkegaard when he says that before God, human beings are always in the wrong. This isn’t to say one might not have the right idea or be doing the right thing. What is being pointed out here is the ultimate kind of claim that the Divine must have in our lives if we are truly related to God in the right way. Before we ever get the place of authority right, we have to be related right to Authority. And there’s really no way to escape the fact that our attitude towards God must be one of “Thy will be done.” I don’t have too much concern, then, for how one will come out in a difficult decision with regard to counsel from the brethren if this attitude is truly taken to heart. Such decisions must be made in faith and fear and trembling–which are the same thing.

  270. Larry on October 8, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    Without agency there is no existence.

  271. Aaron Brown on October 8, 2004 at 10:08 pm

    Jonathan,

    Unlike Bob, I hope we don’t turn this already-too-long thread down some other interesting but tangential road. That said, I think your “evolution” example isn’t analogous to any of the other examples of what some hypothetical bishop might demand of you. What bishop is going to grill you on a pure question of belief (rather than obedience to some order) that is tangential (arguably) to central gospel concepts? I guess I don’t see your example as a realistic concern. But if I’m wrong, and someone’s got a horror story about a bishop trying to ram anti-science orthodoxy down your throat, please DO share it!

    Aaron B

  272. Aaron Brown on October 8, 2004 at 10:14 pm

    Thousands of years from now, when the Morlock and Eloi historians are reviewing the ancient T&S Archives to figure out how early 21st Century Mormons felt about R-rated movies, they’re going to have a real difficult time finding this discussion by looking at the thread title. What a shame. Let’s hope they have the technology to search the comments.

    Aaron B

  273. Steve.Evans on October 8, 2004 at 10:40 pm

    By the way, I just put up a poll for the 2nd debate. For those interested, our last debate poll results were as follows:

    Senator Kerry 66.7%

    President Bush 18.3%

    Jim Lehrer 15.1%

    total votes: 126

    Our polls have an error margin of +/- 35%

  274. Jack on October 8, 2004 at 10:56 pm

    Let’s not poop out! We’re almost at the 300 mark.

  275. Jonathan Stapley on October 8, 2004 at 11:37 pm

    Aaron B:

    I chose the evolution example precisely because it is a matter of belief and as such it is more difficult to obfuscate the issue. But as it relates to the issue, I will elucidate: Any council that a Bishop may give is an opportunity to make a set of choices. The council may or may not be in accord with ones set of beliefs (as for the ratings prohibition this has already been documented). If the council is in harmony with ones belief then we (hopefully) chose to act in accordance with his council, e.g., love the Lord or pay a generous fast offering. But what if the council doesn’t jive with one’s beliefs? Regardless of what he may be asking, the real issue is the conflict between his council and one’s beliefs.

    I will reiterate that agency is the paramount virtue. So you have to chose to accept your belief system as superior to the council in question and not follow it, or reevaluate the belief system (maybe in conference with the Lord), in which case you may or may not change beliefs.

    And what of the consequences of either choice (i.e., follow the council or not). Does it really matter? Maybe the castigation of the ward family against your watching (insert Movie Title Here) is too much for you to bare? Then perhaps you believe that the support of your piers is more valuable than your being faithful to your beliefs.

    The real question is why am I not concentrating on the DVD of SNL: Best of Phil Hartman…or my wife who is laying next to me for that matter?

  276. Wilfried on October 8, 2004 at 11:54 pm

    Ok, we must get this to 300…

    In comment 113 Danithew wrote:

    “Part of the problem with the R-rated movie issue is that its (as far as I know) an American standard. This is a worldwide church standard that needs to be set. Even if LDS Americans could agree on what MPAA rated movies are acceptable and which ones are unacceptable, the system (to my knowledge) is not used in other countries outside the United States. Anyone know about this for sure? ”

    I don’t think anyone answered this question yet. Well, that rating system is not used in European countries, where, as far as I know, the only usual rating system is “not under 18″. I guess that would be X-rated in the US. Films that in the US are R-rated or PG-13 can and are viewed by children from all ages. So the teenagers of the ward go, as a church activity, see Titanic or Braveheart. Never heard a discussion about inapproriateness. They see quite other things on TV… As a matter of fact, I think they would be immensely surprised to hear that in the US there is “a problem” with these movies. What problem? Opens the door for a long discussion on cultural perceptions and morality.

  277. Ethesis (Stephen M) on October 9, 2004 at 12:10 am

    He could ask me to abstain from eating chocolate.

    _Mormon Doctrine_ discusses what happened with that Bishop …. (by inference).

  278. Larry on October 9, 2004 at 1:29 am

    Well let’s try this to continue the blog. What is the right attitude in a case where a Stake leader is reported for abuse and the leader has an established pattern for this, having once been disfellowshipped, and the victim is exed w/o a court. Does this constitute grounds for criticizing or citiqueing leadership?

  279. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 1:41 am

    Jonathan,

    I’ve found that beliefs are always in flux. Even the few things that don’t have the appearance of changing are nevertheless growing (i.e. testimony, love, etc.) and therefore changing much as a child changes by growing into an adult.

  280. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 1:52 am

    Larry, that’s a very extreme and unfortunate situation.

    My guess is that such situations speak so loud for themselves that further commentary (criticism) is probably unnecessary.

  281. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 1:54 am

    281 and counting.

  282. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 1:55 am

    282

  283. Larry on October 9, 2004 at 2:11 am

    The problem is that I know of an individual to whom this happened. Worse yet is not what happened to the victim, because I believe the atonement will be of full force in his behalf hereafter, but what of those who observed from a distance and lost confidence in leadership that could take a generation or two or three or four to restore.
    The problem becomes one where their dictates are now filtered through coloured glasses. I wonder if it would be out of line to refer to one of Brigham’s comments about not following blindly but exercising our agency and receiving our own confirmation which then makes it revelation to us personally. Will this help continue the blog?

  284. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 2:22 am

    Help me out here!

    Peas and carrots, peas and carrots, peas and carrots…

    Actually I do have something to say in response to Wilfried’s comment. I think the dichotomy between the European and American rating system is evidence that inspired local leadership is necessary. As the church continues to spread over the globe it becomes more evident that loyalty to local leadership is key to the church’s survival.

  285. Larry on October 9, 2004 at 2:34 am

    Okay, let’s go with that thread. It seems that the questionning of leadership occurs in older established areas of the Church, as opposed to new, enthusiastic, and vibrant congregations.

  286. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 2:35 am

    Larry, no doubt such situations can leave a wake of disaster trailing behind them. I think you are right in implying that all should learn to be spiritually independent. But, then it follows that the spiritually independent will be able to withstand such disasters and help in the effort to restore order.

  287. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 2:44 am

    Oops I think we’re talking past one another Larry.

    You bring up an extremely important point IMO. I agree that most of the harping on authority comes from the older more established areas of the Church?

    Why exactly is this so? Have the “branches become too lofty”? Do we think we are “wise” because of our learning – even if it is a higher education in “gospel studies” that we’re pursuing?

  288. Larry on October 9, 2004 at 2:46 am

    The theme of this blog is to determine whether or not bloggers are permitted to criticize Church leaders. If what the leader does causes those who have faith on the faith of others to look thru a glass darkly, does that not require an explanation which can be interpreted as criticism to help clean the glass.

  289. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 2:47 am

    X the question mark after “of the Church”.

    Anything to get another comment in.

  290. Larry on October 9, 2004 at 2:54 am

    Let me try to get back on track. I think you hit the nail on the head re:287. When people are aspiring instead of inspiring they usually come from a “holier than thou” sphere which can come from looking beyond the light not just walking to the edge.

  291. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 2:58 am

    This is a fun two step.

    I don’t like the idea of criticizing church leaders on the blog lines. It’s to open and unsafe. We can’t know how far reaching the effects of one simple comment may be.

  292. Larry on October 9, 2004 at 3:01 am

    Good point. So the question is not “if” but “where”.

  293. Larry on October 9, 2004 at 3:13 am

    Are we going to fall short?

  294. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 3:20 am

    I hesitate to comment too quickly because I keep pulling you back to the previous thought, but here goes…

    Yes, we have a great example in Abraham as one who did not “aspire” to position though he had great desires to be a father of nations, a possessor of great knowledge and priesthood power etc. It’s not an easy balance to strike, but if we follow his example as one who was able to pay tithing to an authority and almost with the same jesture sacrifice his own son, we may begin to get a feeling for how personal revelation and counsel transmitted through local leaders need not be at odds with one another.

    That said, inasmuch as my faith is not nearly as developed as that of Abraham’s, I find it necessary to lean on the counsel of local leaders so as to keep myself from doing anything too goofy.

  295. Larry on October 9, 2004 at 3:27 am

    Consider Abraham’s environment. It is felt by some that he knew and associated with Noah. Can you think of better mentoring? Also, who was Melchezidek and how well did Abraham know him?
    When I think of Abraham’s test I have come to believe that the test was more Isaac’s because of the level of understanding (faith, light) that Abraham had achieved.

  296. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 3:29 am

    Your question of “where” is THE question. (given the fact that we’re committed to never de-edify the Kingdom)

    I think the first place we need to go is to the Lord, second to the leader him/herself and third to the leader’s superior.

  297. Larry on October 9, 2004 at 3:36 am

    Which side of the equation is de-edifying the Kingdom, though? If unrighteous dominion has been exercised and no one says anything “betimes with sharpness”, even if you are not the leader’s file leader, are we not guilty of de-edifying. Particularly for those who see thru the glass darkly.

  298. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 3:37 am

    Larry your comments are always very insightful. I’ve enjoyed chatting with you very much, but alas I’m about to turn into a pumkin. It must be late where you are as well. Did I understand correctly that you reside in Canada?

  299. Larry on October 9, 2004 at 3:41 am

    That is right. Otherwise known as Zion.
    Thank you and have a good night. I stayed up to enjoy this with you.

  300. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 3:43 am

    Yes, I implied that it may be appropriate to speak with the leader in private. But I would feel uncomfortable making public pronouncements against him/her.

  301. Larry on October 9, 2004 at 3:50 am

    Re; 301 Never in public. My point is that in private “sometimes” it may be appropriate in conversation to critique, if not criticize.
    Nothing can be more heinous in the principle of followership to make public statements critical of those we sustain. Which perhaps brings us to the conclusion that bloggers are not permitted to criticize our leaders ever.
    Thank you again!

  302. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 3:50 am

    I too stayed up to converse with you.

    Yes, I felt a little bit “Zion” coming though, would that it could always be that way.

    Thanks brother.

  303. Ethesis (Stephen M) on October 9, 2004 at 6:33 am

    Well let’s try this to continue the blog. What is the right attitude in a case where a Stake leader is reported for abuse and the leader has an established pattern for this, having once been disfellowshipped, and the victim is exed w/o a court. Does this constitute grounds for criticizing or citiqueing leadership?

    “Abuse” — where someone is exed without a court?

    You have typed this all up and reported it to Salt Lake haven’t you? Used the 800 number for reporting abuse and asking for advice?

    I’d write a letter to a GA, lay it all out and ask for someone to check on it as it is generating problems.

  304. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 11:47 am

    Ouch! I Guess I didn’t fully understand Larry’s comment when I read it last night. I assumed that it was something which occured in the past and that appropriate action had already been taken to correct it, though it may take years to overcome its negative effects . If however, it is still going on unchecked, then I agree with Ethesis’ prescribed course of action.

    Am I correct in my understanding that church leaders are required by law to report all cases of confessed abuse – or at the very least to notify the parents of the victim if he/she is a minor?

  305. Ethesis (Stephen M) on October 9, 2004 at 2:29 pm

    Am I correct in my understanding that church leaders are required by law to report all cases of confessed abuse or go to jail for a crime of moral turpitude ….

    Pretty straightforward and simple.

    Any professional who comes to know of it has the same duty to report, in addition to any church leader.

  306. Ethesis (Stephen M) on October 9, 2004 at 2:50 pm

    I want to be very clear.

    In most states it is a serious crime of moral turpitude not to report abuse.

    There are no exceptions and no privileges other than a limited attorney-client privilege. No clergy privilege. No accountant or medical professional privilege. No confessional prohibition.

    The 800 number and the related guidelines are very clear. If, somehow, you get someone on the other end of the 800 line who is confused, report them so that they can find other employment.

    BTW, anyone guilty of incest is to be excommunicated immediately, do not pass go, do not collect $200.00, hold a court immediately, report immediately to the criminal and civil authorities, and not to be rebaptised without explicit written permission from the First Presidency.

    Anyone who tells you differently as an authoritative direction on which you are expected to take action should be reported to the Church Audit Committee. The Church is very, very, very serious on this point. It will draw action about as fast as a Stake President circulating bogus revelations and statements from the Prophet in Church meetings. I say about, because I know of nothing that will draw direct attention from the brethern on a par with offending the little ones by abusing them, especially a family member doing so.

    It is easy to discuss Church discipline, local leaders and local decisions and such, especially in terms of “rumored to have been told me by someone who might read Sunstone” sorts of things, but some things are deadly serious.

    Not that I don’t have my own perspectives, I’ve served on the board of a rape crisis center and on the board of a Child Advocacy Center (an organizational name, btw, as well as a movement), intervened to get a child into therapy when the parent with custody was unable to understand what was happening (Mom had gone through trauma too intense to detail, but as a result missed what had happened to child at the same time), though I had to pay for the beginning of it myself when I really did not have the money to spare, and had a presentation put on by Bishop Mark Romney for our local JRCLS chapter and some Stake Presidents. I learned a lot, not to mention what I learned from the Dallas Catholic experience and their lawyers.

    Anyway, just being very, very clear. Not to mention, realizing that my posts usually get ignored/not commented on, so I want to make sure this isn’t seen as a throwaway comment.

  307. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 2:52 pm

    Ethesis, I don’t think it’s that straight forward in all cases, though I think it should be as a general rule. I am aware of a case wherein both the perpetrator and the victim were both minors. The parents of both were made aware of the abuse by church the appropriate church leaders and determined a course of action on there own without any civic involvement.

  308. Ethesis (Stephen M) on October 9, 2004 at 2:55 pm

    Stake President circulating bogus revelations and statements from the Prophet in Church meetings thinking of one, of course. Bless his heart.

    That resulted in a direct call from an Apostle to the leader in under a week from the copy being mailed.

    But, no public criticism from me to anyone.

  309. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    Ethesis, in light of your most recent post I would be interested in hearing your views on the caes I just mentioned.

  310. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 2:58 pm

    Your most recent post about abuse, that is…

  311. Ethesis (Stephen M) on October 9, 2004 at 3:02 pm

    wherein both the perpetrator and the victim were both minors.

    Special case as to church discipline, especially if minors of approximately the same age, but check your criminal statutes on reporting, not to mention your licensure statutes if you are an attorney, a nurse, a doctor, a psych, an accountant, etc..

    I really would check.

    There is a reason why people keep getting arrested for failure to report.

  312. Ethesis (Stephen M) on October 9, 2004 at 3:45 pm

    The issue, is, of course, whether there was abuse or “just” relations. I.e. was it a 16-year-old predator and a 12-year-old or two fifteen year olds. When you say “parents of both” it seems to imply that they were not related.

    But if it was abuse, rather than relation, then …

  313. Jack on October 9, 2004 at 5:52 pm

    Ethesis, thanks for responding.

    I share your opinions on this matter.

    I hope that we will not underestimate the great burdens that local leaders willingly carry as they seek the welfare of those over whom they have stewardship. Most attend to their callings at great sacrifice seeking only to do what they feel the Lord would have them do. We can’t ask for more then that.

  314. Ethesis (Stephen M) on October 9, 2004 at 6:01 pm

    I hope that we will not underestimate the great burdens that local leaders willingly carry as they seek the welfare of those over whom they have stewardship. Most attend to their callings at great sacrifice seeking only to do what they feel the Lord would have them do. We can’t ask for more then that.

    Very well said. It takes an incredible amount of time and energy to serve. The rewards, vs. the level of criticism, are miniscule, even for loved leaders.

    I admit I’m guilty of asking people who have criticisms if they are ready to take over serving (if they know what it really takes). My favorite response was from a brother who took that as a threat …. good humored, but who really feared that he was going to end up with the calling. It has been two years and I haven’t heard any other complaints from him. (Hey, I’m just teaching the CTRs so it wasn’t as if *I* was going to do anything, but he has been in bishoprics before and the question if he was ready to take over if he got called, seeing as the current Bishop was at 5 years … ).

    There is a reason God has said he will not let us be ashamed if we respond to his call.

  315. Ken on October 13, 2004 at 10:04 am

    Concerning whether or not we should criticize our church leaders, I have waited untill now, after my Bishop has been released, to say this .
    I was ward clerk in my ward and made all the meetings with the Bishop and other leaders in the ward. I think I am maybe only one of two of possibly three Democrats in my ward and certainly the only one who will openly admit it.

    During President Clintons last months in office the Bishop and other ward leaders started having political discussions (instead of the Bishopric and other meetings we were suppose to be doing). Of course it was all one way.Clinton was a dog and anyone that was a supporter of his was stupid.

    Well I took it as long as I could, which was not very long before I had to start letting them know that I was a Democrat and didnt support their view and anyway we should’nt be discussing this in church. It got to the point that in one meeting, someone passed around Bush/cheney bumper stickers right there in the Bishopric meeting. I told them what they could do with the bumper stickers and let it go at that.

    It never stopped even after the So called election and Bush got put into office by the Supreme Court. I constantly got E-mails from certain individuals in the ward criticizing my being a Democrat and trying to convert me to their side.

    The Bishop even released me from the job as Clerk because he was uncomfortable with a Democrat in his midst. (He didnt say so but I am smart enough to know that).

    About this same time, my son who was in high school dedided to bleach his hair blond. ( my son has black hair normaly). Well the Bishop decided that this was a distraction to those taking Sacrament so he would not allow my son to pass Sacarament any more.

    Did all this upset me with my church leader? You bet it did, but I never went over his head or complained about him to the stake president, I just waited untill the day he was released.
    He was released about a year ago and now I can get it off my chest. I am still a democrat my son has moved on with his life and is now in college and not very intrested in going on a mission like he once was, and guess what? My ex Bishop has a son who is passing Sacrament and he has his black hair bleached blond!

  316. Blake Ostler on November 14, 2004 at 1:31 am

    I have thought a great deal about what kind of authority to grant to statements by “the Brethren,” the local bishop and so forth. I like a lot of what I read here — the process of sorting through and thoughfulness and playfulness impress me. For my part, I long for the day when the prophet had the courage to utter those magic words: “thus saith the Lord ….” In other words, it is not I who speak, but one who speaks through me who can demand allegiance. Where have the prophets gone? I remember telling investigators on my mission that we are led my modern day prophets who receive revelation and inevitably the question would be asked: “what revelations have they received and what do they say?” I always ended up quoting Joseph Smith and then they would ask, “what about the one who’s prophet now?” I would fumble and say ;; ‘he says, “be good”.’ Whoaaa Nelley, now there’s a revelation!

    I grant the kind of authority to the statements of “the Brethren” that I grant to elders and those who have the wisdom of a life well-lived and sufficient life-experience to know what the good life looks like. I grant the current Bishop the charity of the benefit of the doubt to support the poor guy with 6 kids and no time to be a father — and take it with a grain of salt. I don’t look to them for spiritual truth or insight except to the extent I see their comments as spiritually insightful — but not as revelation. They are inspired to the same extent and in the same way that the Primary President is inspired — and I often see her as more inspired and more insightful. Where have all of the prophets gone? They have gone to corporate public relation statements every-one. In the place of “Thus the saith the Lord,” we now get “the Brethren have met and prayerfully thought it over… and we all feel good about what we came up with.” Good enough for me — except when I look for spiritual insight and truth. For that I go not to the Brethren, but to my knees.

  317. Larry Graff on December 10, 2004 at 5:49 pm

    I’m new so bear with me…

    I once met Elder Mark E. Peterson of the Quorum of the Twelve. He was visiting my mission (Ireland) and I was assigned to go to the airport outside of Belfast to pick him up. I was so excited that I was actually going to meet an Apostle of the Lord and even drive him around. My companion and I waited outside the terminal for him due to security precautions.

    Finally, his plane arrived and he came through the gates to meet us. Wow, was I disappointed. There in front of me was a tired looking old man in wrinkled brown suit. On closer inspection I noted that there were gravy stains on his drab tie. He road next to me all the way to the mission home and said little. He was obviously tired and a bit grumpy. We turned him over to the mission president and left for our assigned area. My faith wavered a bit. This was an Apostle?

    The next morning was our mission conference and my companion and I were there early. As we walked into the foyer, we saw the mission president and Elder Peterson standing at the chapel doors. We shook hands with the president and then turned to Elder Peterson. He was wearing the same wrinkled suit and gravy stained tie, but there was a glow and power in and around him. He had assumed the mantle of authority and when I shook his hand, I knew beyond doubt that he was an Apostle of the Lord. I actually felt a little relieved because, “if an apostle can have a bad day, there’s still a chance for me [who has so many].�

    My point is that every leader in the church has moments where they are more human and less divine and vice versa. Evil speaking means speaking evil of them. Acknowledging their humanity is important. I’ve seen some well-meaning church leaders do some awfully stupid things. They are still the Lord’s appointed and I will follow them to the limits of my conscience and the guidance of the Spirit.

  318. Clark on December 10, 2004 at 7:01 pm

    I sometimes wonder if the Lord doesn’t always have his prophets utter “thus saith the Lord” or some variation, simply because he knows no one would listen to anything they said that didn’t include that thereafter. i.e. the assumption that a prophet is only a leader when acting as a prophet.

  319. annebg on January 25, 2005 at 10:37 am

    I like this topic. There was a general authoritiy who spoke once saying he’d loved every one of his bishops. I cannot say the same. I’ve had some bishops I know had no business being bishops, so I know mistakes can be made. I kept my mouth shut, did my best, and it passed. And everyone breathed a sigh of relief. We have the right to use our good sense and agency.

    We recently had a bishop change and a person objected rather strenuously to the point of going house to house. There was a flap and instead of him being kicked out of the church, they moved his membership to another ward, he goes to another ward, and he’s in the stake leadership. I personally was sort of disgusted by everybody involved. But I still pay my tithing and go to church, and I’m not above telling him to go to ***should he get in my face, which he’s been wise enough not to do.

    Nobody’s infallible, but I figure God will work things out in the long run, especially with the prophet. I know I was worried about Elder Benson becoming the prophet but it worked out okay.

    As for Elder Monson’s speaking style, I agree, it is grating. But he’ll do okay, too. In the end God is in charge. Although if my husband said to me, “Anne, some cheese and crackers would be nice,” I’d reply, “you’re right, get me some while you’re up.”