Cyrus and an Evangelical Theology of Mitt Romney

September 27, 2006 | 26 comments
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For those engaged in the perennially fun pastime of Mitt Romney watching, one of the more interesting places to go is the Evangelicals for Mitt blog. They had an interesting post a while back on what a pro-Romney Evangelical theology would look like. Charles Mitchell writes:

While some of our e-mailers seem to think we here at EFM are Mormons, we are evangelical Christians, which means we think reading the Bible is important. . . . Well, as we discuss Gov. Romney with evangelicals across the country, one frequent refrain is that folks want some sort of example from Scripture that God has worked through unbelieving rulers to the benefit of His people.

The answer, it would seem, lies in the Book of Ezra. There, Cyrus, the pagan king of Persia, acts as God’s instrument in restoring the Jews to the land of Israel after the Babylonian captivity. Mitchell goes on to write:

So God worked through Cyrus–and his successors–to bring the exiles back to Jerusalem. To my mind, this data point thoroughly dispels the idea that our almighty Lord can or will only work through a leader with certain views. If He wants to, He can, because He can do all things–and He has done this particular thing before. Period. . . . So let’s put that aside, because any way you slice it, examining Ezra shows that the idea that God can only work through an orthodox leader is clearly not biblical. Our Lord worked through Cyrus and his successors; certainly He could work through a President Romney, too. And should there be a President Romney, it will only be because He allowed it to happen. Of both of these we have absolute conviction, and the rest is gravy.

It is not a bad little bit of political exegesis. What is interesting to me is the insight that it gives into the conservative Protestant theological imagination. The conclusion strikes me as rather obvious, but thinking about it I realize that it is because I grew up with Mormon arguments along these lines. There has always been a sense in which Mormons have lived in countries ruled by unbelievers. Hence, Mormons cannot ever see God at work in the acts of the state (mind you, I don’t think that God works with any regularity through states) unless one is willing to see God at work amongst the unbelievers. Indeed, the idea is in some sense written into Mormon scripture. The Doctrine & Covenants speaks of God raising up righteous men in the American founding. Yet historical novels from Deseret Book notwithstanding, the American Founders were not unbaptized Mormons. Adams was a Unitarian. Washington was a quasi-conforming Episcopalian. Jefferson and Franklin were Deists. Yet Mormons have little trouble seeing these men as instruments of God’s will. Protestants, in contrast, suffer from the theological handicap of living in a Protestant country. Sure there are differences between Protestants, but a Methodist president doesn’t seem all that religiously different to a Baptist. Faced with the prospect of a truly religiously different president, conservative Protestants must either consign him to the forces of the godless, or else play theological catch up with the Mormons.

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26 Responses to Cyrus and an Evangelical Theology of Mitt Romney

  1. Ronan on September 27, 2006 at 10:56 am

    Nate,
    That Friberg of GW praying at (Valley Forge?) is bunk? Say it ain’t so.

  2. Nate Oman on September 27, 2006 at 11:05 am

    Ronan: Even quasi-conforming Episcopalians pray on occasion I suppose. Suffice it to say, of course, that Lord Cornwallis never prayed…

  3. Frank McIntyre on September 27, 2006 at 11:28 am

    Valley Forge would probably be enough to drive even the quasi-conforming to their knees.

  4. Geoff B on September 27, 2006 at 11:39 am

    Nate, if you’re like me you probably don’t spend that much time looking at that many other Bloggernacle sites. Given that, you may be interested to read my take on this on M*:

    http://www.millennialstar.org/index.php/2006/09/21/evangelicals_on_ezra_cyrus_and_mitt_romn

  5. a random John on September 27, 2006 at 11:48 am

    What if we modified the sentence thusly:

    And should there be a President Clinton, it will only be because He allowed it to happen.

    Would all of the same logic still apply? As I stated on the M* thread on this topic, I find that the Evangelicals are saying very little here. They are stating that Romney shouldn’t be disqualified from consideration simply because he belongs to a non-Christian cult. But the same logic applies to every candidate running. In my mind the message is as much negative (Romney’s Christianity is very questionable) as it is positive (but we still can vote for him).

  6. Mark Butler on September 27, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    The Calvinists aer on to something:

    Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?
    (Amos 3:6)

    Now of course there is a great mystery here. I would call it giving some-body a taste of his or her own medicine, i.e. the leaders they deserve, so they can see their own weaknesses reflected thereby.

  7. Mark B. on September 27, 2006 at 12:14 pm

    As I mentioned on that other blog, the Cyrus example isn’t nearly as good as the Assyrian king Isaiah cites. See Chapter 10.

    The Assyrian king example is better because he doesn’t pretend to be doing good–in fact he’s bent on destroying Israel. Cyrus, like an ancient Jimmy Carter, thought he was doing the right thing.

    Once you’ve got the epitome of wickedness (Assyria’s king) doing the Lord’s work, the floodgates are open.

  8. john f. on September 27, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    Mark Butler: I like Joseph Smith’s perspective on that verse: and “the Lord hath not [known] it” — the KJV language really does raise some thorny issues, don’t you think?

    Mark B. — great comparison to Carter! I agree with you that the Isaiah cite is a better example of this phenomenon.

    Nate: great post. As Latter-day Saints, we are certainly capable of seeing the Lord working through unbelievers. They can become instruments in His hands for a greater purpose, even if entirely unwittingly, as with the Assyrian king discussed by Isaiah, as Mark B. pointed out. Ultimately, I suppose Latter-day Saints believe that such leaders can cause good things to happen or be good leaders entirely aside from their personal religious beliefs. As far as their personal religious beliefs, that is between them and God.

  9. Matt Thurston on September 27, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    Interesting. This is probably only tangentially related, but I’ve referenced a couple of current news interesting items related to Evangelical Christians in a post entitled “Dear God, America Calling” at SunstoneBlog:

    http://sunstoneblog.com/?p=133

    One of the referenced items is the recent Baylor study “American Piety in the 21st Century,” supposedly one of the biggest and most ambitious surveys/studies about American religious belief. One of the questions on the survey is tantalizing to me and could shed light on Romney’s ability to win some Evangelical Votes.

    Question #50 states:

    How much would you say that you “trust� the following people or groups? (Responders must select one of four boxes: 1.) A lot; 2.) Some; 3.) Only a little; 4.) Not at all.

    The 17 “people or groups” for which each responder must answer 1, 2, 3, or 4 are:

    People in general
    Your neighbors
    Your co-workers
    Strangers
    The United Nations
    The U.S. Government
    George W. Bush
    John Kerry
    The media
    The police
    Immigrants
    People of other races
    People who don’t believe in God
    Protestants
    Catholics
    Muslims
    Mormons

  10. Mark Butler on September 27, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    Mark B.,

    The Old Testament is full of this doctrine and indeed it is very disturbing at first. I would properly say that the Lord anticipates (and to some degree influences) the actions of the wicked so well that he is able to turn their doings to his own purposes. A classic example is turning the wicked against the wicked, humbling the proud by lifting up the poor, and so on.

    I would further say that it is the doctrine of At-one-ment that the Lord take upon the infirmities of his people, and he uses tough medicine to heal his own wounds, in the manner I have spoken. To make complete sense of Old Testament prophecy, one must understand the doctrine of Christ, the Leader of the Band, or in more formal terms, the recursive and self-referential nature of scriptural synecdoche – the body of Christ, the children of Israel, and the priesthood of Abraham.

  11. Mark B. on September 27, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    I’d be more concerned with the Baylor survey, Matt, if “Catholics” and “Protestants” weren’t above Mormons on the list.

    And, John F., I probably should have added GWB to Jimmy Carter, since he has been perhaps more open about suggesting that he was trying to do what God wants. Funny thing, though, Jimmy seemed much more “religious” than W.

  12. a random John on September 27, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    Matt Thurston,

    Looking at the survey it appears that you have swapped Mormons and Muslims. In any case this is simply the order in which the groups appeared in the survey question and it isn’t the result of it or any sort of ranking.

  13. Cyril on September 27, 2006 at 3:33 pm

    Nice scoop Nate. I will have to change my subscription to the star.

  14. Matt Thurston on September 27, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    A Random John and everyone else…

    Sorry if I didn’t make it clear in #9, but the 17 “people or groups” is NOT the order in which they finished or ranked, but the order in which they were listed on the survey question. Its a listing of topics for which the responder needs to check one of the four boxes, not a ranking. In other words, I don’t know the results of the survey for this particular question. The survey contains all kinds of conclusions and results, but not for that particular question. I did switch the order of Muslims and Mormons, but that was only for dramatic effect as your eyes scanned the list, not to suggest Mormons were the bottom of the barrel. I certainly hope we beat out the athiests and the media! (Or is that redundant?) Kidding.

  15. DKL on September 27, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    Mark B Funny thing, though, Jimmy seemed much more “religious� than W.

    Only if by “religious” you mean “inept” (which, I’ll grant, is often quite plausible).

    I agree with arj. I find it insulting that they feel the the need to overlook the fact that he’s Mormon. Implicit in this is that there are circumstances in which it is not appropriate to overlook the fact that someone is Mormon, They could never get away with saying that they’d overlook the fact that someone was a Jew (nor should they).

  16. YL on September 27, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    DKL 15 Good point.

    Nate Oman: You’re right that Jefferson and Franklin did not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. That’s because Christianity had not resolved an issue that Joseph Smith resolved magnificently:
    If Jesus is the Christ [which He is!], and if we must follow Christ [which we must!], then what happens to all those who never had the opportunity to believe in Christ. The rest of Christianity still has not resolved this issue.

    But be careful in your use of the word “deist.” Franklin and Jefferson were definitely not deists as the term is used today: belief in the watchmaker god, who like a watchmaker creates his world or watch and then like the watchmaker ignores the world – leaving it up to men’s suposedly marvelous talents of reason to solve their own problems. Jefferson and Franklin definitely did not believe in the watchmaker god. Jefferson feared that God’s wrath would be upon America because of slavery. As Franklin’s request for daily prayer in the 1787 constitutional convention shows, Franklin believed that God had blessed the colonies during the Revolutionary War.

  17. Mark B. on September 27, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    DKL–

    I’m not sure which of those two presidents would win in an ineptitude contest.

    But, do you remember Jimmy? The Baptist Sunday School teacher. The man who confessed to having “lust in his heart” for women other than Rosalyn.

    The outward signs of religiosity were, I think, much more evident in Jimmy Carter than in George W. Bush. He claims to be the Boy Gone Wild who has found Jesus, but you don’t him running off to church Sundays with a bible under his arm (at least, not as often as Jimmy).

  18. Matt Bowman on September 28, 2006 at 12:26 am

    YL – Jefferson was most certainly a deist (somewhat in the tradition of Toland, or, to a lesser degree Locke), and Franklin self-identifies as one in his autobiography. The Jefferson quote you’re citing (“I tremble for my country . . .”) reflects his Deist belief in the essentially moral structure of the universe, not in an interventionist God. Though he was convinced of the metaphysical importance of morality, he did not believe that God had ever revealed himself to, or involved himself in the affairs of, humanity; indeed, it’s questionable if he believed in a personal God at all. Franklin shared Washington’s semi-elitist view of the importance of religion as a conduit of moral virtue; he was thus in favor of such ceremonial acts as the prayers you reference. However, he also denies belief in divine revelation in several places, including the autobiography.

    I’m not convinced that Jefferson and Franklin’s ideas about Christ stemmed from the dilemma you propose; I think they were more influenced by contemporary Enlightenment thought and rational theology than angst about salvation.

    I’m also not sure what you mean by ‘deist as the term is used today;’ it’s a fairly anachronistic term (the people around today who’d qualify are now usually known as Unitarians) and practically every time I’ve seen it used it’s in reference to the seventeenth and eighteenth century school of thought.

  19. Eugene V. Debs on September 28, 2006 at 11:09 am

    As DKL points out, the bias in the argument put forward by Evangelicas For Mitt becomes obvious if you substitute \”Jew\” for \”Mormon.\” It\’s the worst kind of \”some of my best friends are…\” doublespeak that loudly reveals the disdain the writer/speaker has for the ethic or racial group his or her best friends belong to. Evangelicals don\’t have much use for Mormons, unless the Mormon in question is doing their political bidding. If Mitt wants to be the Evangelical\’s house Mormon, (Uncle Mitt?) more power to him, but I don\’t think a Romney win in the South Carolina primary would make life any easier for, say, the missionaries in the South Carolina Columbia mission.

  20. Craig V. on September 28, 2006 at 6:29 pm

    Since I probably qualify as an Evangelical my thoughts on this may be of some interest. I was somewhat shaken by DKL’s comparison. I believe that I do harbor some prejudices in my heart that are both wrong and hurtful. I hope that DKL and others will forgive me for this and help me find my way to a more objective and just relationship with members of the LDS.

    On the other hand, it seems to me that not all religions are equal. There’s a difference between forming judgments based on one’s ethnicity and judgments based on one’s religious affiliation. I think we would all agree with this, at least at the extremes. For example, if a member of Jim Jones’s People’s Temple was running for political office back in the 70s, I believe we would all agree that such a religious affiliation would rightfully cause us to question his or her fitness for political office. Once we move away from the extremes, discerning the propriety of such judgments becomes more difficult. We are, however, responsible for our religious affiliations and no church or church member is entitled to an exemption from public scrutiny and criticism.

    In this vain, there are aspects of the LDS church which cause me to look upon it differently than the institutions of Judaism. My perceptions may be dated, and I heartily welcome evidence that I’m wrong, but here are some points that concern me.

    1. The LDS church doesn’t seem able to acknowledge when it is wrong. Admitting Blacks into the priesthood is an example (which we explored on another thread). Rather than repudiating a racist teaching, the church claims a new revelation and hides behind the mystery of the ways of God. I know of no main line religion that treats its past errors this way.

    2. The LDS church is not very forthcoming about its own primary documents and history. In fact, at times it seems to punish those who, from within her vale, try to bring these things to light. I have seen some positive change here, but not enough to convince me that the problem is no longer real.

    3. The LDS church prefers to assert rather than demonstrate its authority. My experience has been that an open, honest conversation about her truth claims is, at some point, not allowed.

    Do such concerns justify a prejudice against a Mormon running for public office? I agree that they don’t. They do, however, point to why all religious institutions are not treated equally.

  21. YL on September 28, 2006 at 7:23 pm

    18. Matt Bowman

    The 2006 World Book Encyclopedia under “deism” says: Deism accepts “reason as the only guide to truth….Deists compare God’s act of creation to that of a watchmaker who builds a watch, sets it in motion, and then refuses to intervene in its actions.”

    Thomas Jefferson did not accept “reason as the only guide to truth.” In many statements – including his most famous statement on this (“The Dialogue between the Head and the Heart”) – Jefferson rejects reason as the ultimate guide and believed, instead, that “the moral sense,” the “heart,” the “conscience” was the ultimate guide. Jefferson even said that a farmer probably knows more of moral truth than a professor because the professor would use his reason to rationalize.

    “The dilemma I suppose” [if everyone has to accept and follow Christ, then what happens to all those who never had the chance] – which Joseph Smith so magnificently resolved – great bothered Jefferson. Jefferson detested Calvin because of Calvin’s obscene answer to this dilemma: the people who never had a chance, were (to Calvin) obviously predestined to be damned; the people who had a chance and accepted Christ were obviously predestined to be saved – because, Calvin said, God controls the time and place of all births. Jefferson so detested this false doctrine that he told John Adams: “Calvin was an atheist. Calvin believed in a false god. It would be better to believe in no god at all rather than to believe in Calvin’s god.” Obviously Jefferson believed in God.

    Benjamin Franklin’s statement about his being a deist refers to his accepting deism as a young man. Franklin also said that he gave up deism as a young man because his friend in England cheated Franklin and used deistic arguments to justify the cheating.

    Franklin came to believe in many gods, a hierarchy of gods with our being subject to the god of this earth [which actually is quite different from deism].

    In the 1787 Constitutional Convention in a speech addressed to the President of the Convention [George Washington] Benjamin Franklin said the following:

    http://www.constitution.org/dfc/dfc-1787.txt

    “…how has it happened, Sir [George Washington], that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. — Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor.

    “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel.”

    This is not the statement of a deist.

    George Washington never went into detail about his religious beliefs, but in a few places he acknowledges God’s intervention during the war and in his life.

  22. Margaret Young on September 28, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    Wonderful to see you involved in one of our conversations again, Craig. I have so many thoughts about your comments but no time at the moment to craft a meaningful response. You raise excellent points, as always, and they deserve honest and probing answers. Of course, many T&S bloggers would do much better than I, but since you mention issues which have been particularly difficult for me–and I am a solidly loyal Latter-day Saint–I really do want to say something. Knowing me, I’ll probably wake up in the middle of the night and write my thoughts. Anyway, I’m glad you’re still involved with us!

  23. Mark Butler on September 28, 2006 at 9:30 pm

    Jefferson’s point is well taken, but Calvin was no atheist. It is important to remember that his theology was superior in most respects to that which it replaced, which had become corrupted in some ways far worse than the problems Calvin introduced.

    As theologies capable of inspiring religious devotion are concerned, Calvin’s (for all its weaknesses) was a theological tour de force. America was originally founded on the strength of his conception – which also governed Britain and Northern Europe for about two hundred years.

  24. DKL on September 28, 2006 at 10:22 pm

    Craig, I think that you’ve made an interesting and informed point. Nevertheless, I disagree with your evaluation. Specifically, it’s not clear to me when you are talking about the Church as an institution, the Church leaders, and the Church membership. I’ll address each of your points with these distinctions in mind.

    Craig V: 1. The LDS church doesn’t seem able to acknowledge when it is wrong.

    1. As far as an institution admitting that it is wrong, I’m not sure what sense there is in this. Church leaders have admitted that they advanced incorrect views of blacks and the priesthood. Church members have a variety of views, from the one you mention to the belief that the policy was racist and not inspired. The church has no official opinion on this matter.

    I invite you to compare it to the situation with women and the priesthood. If Mormon leaders received a revelation indicating that all worthy women could now hold the priesthood, I do not believe that the church leaders are obliged to take an official position on whether the previous exclusion was sexist.

    Craig V: 2. The LDS church is not very forthcoming about its own primary documents and history. In fact, at times it seems to punish those who, from within her vale, try to bring these things to light

    2. The LDS church as an institution treats its documents as a private collection. And the LDS church draws boundaries about what constitutes proper scholarship within the bounds of Mormonism. Evangelicals do this as well. I’m sure I cannot write a book that argues that Jesus never lived and that the New Testament is sheer fiction, and still claim to be an Evangelical. The same kind of boundaries exist within Mormonism. You and I and others may disagree on the exact placement of these boundaries, but the mere existence of the boundaries does not indicate anything that differentiates Mormonism from other religions.

    Craig V: The LDS church prefers to assert rather than demonstrate its authority. My experience has been that an open, honest conversation about her truth claims is, at some point, not allowed.

    3. Regarding the institution, there is no real way for it to have such dialogues. Regarding the leaders, frankly, most of them aren’t well versed enough in history or archeology or sociology to speak to the issues that surround the truth claims of the church. They just don’t see this as their role. Regarding church members, I think that your generalization is just plain incorrect. You’ll find as many varied personal approaches to religious truth claims among Mormons as you will among Evangelicals, and the church has nothing to say about this. I, for one, am quite willing to have open, honest conversations about Mormon truth claims–ask the people here.

  25. Margaret Young on September 29, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    Long response to Craig V:
    Craig suggests that not all religions are equal, and that Mormonism in particular raises some red flags in people who know much about it, namely:
    1) The LDS church doesn’t seem able to acknowledge when it is wrong. Admitting Blacks into the priesthood is an example…Rather than repudiating a racist teaching, the church claims a new revelation and hides behind the mystery of the ways of God…
    2. The LDS church is not very forthcoming about its own primary documents and history. In fact, at times it seems to punish those who, from within her vale, try to bring these things to light.3. The LDS church prefers to assert rather than demonstrate its authority.
    Let me say straight up front that I really like Craig, though I have never met him. His comments on other threads have been consistently thoughtful and honest, and I know that he enters our conversations not to condemn but to get a better understanding. I am under the impression that he has been disturbed to find some anti-Mormon prejudice in his own heart and wants to address it openly and maybe even heal it.
    But now, to his post.
    The Church seems to be personified in Craig’s observations–which is an not uncommon phenomenon. I’ve heard the LDS Church referred to as “the Borg� and its members as assimilated cogs, all dressed alike and marching in step. I’m almost always uncomfortable when someone outside my faith system defines me according to their perceptions. How could I possibly be who I am–an educated, deep-thinking, fully alert, believing Mormon–if I didn’t see my religion as fundamentally in harmony with eternal truth? But that underlying issue–the image many non-Mormons have of Mormons–is important to face.
    The Public Affairs folks (many of them my dear friends) are commissioned and anxious to present a good image of Mormonism. Someone (I’ve heard it was actually an advertising company in New York) decided on a method for helping the LDS image renew itself so the church would no longer be seen as an odd, often murderous sect separated from the rest of the world and kidnapping women to become plural wives. The Public Affairs committee devoted itself to helping non-Mormons see us as a mainstream religion devoted to the traditional family. There has been a concerted effort in Mormonads (prolific in _Reader’s Digest_ years ago), missionary campaigns, and conferences to portray the Church as a family-based organization with unique resources for family support–and not just for the immediate family but for the generations leading up to it. With that strong focus, other matters have often been buried or ignored. The fact that we haven’t fully succeeded in “reinventing� our image is evidenced by Craig’s post.

    I believe Craig is representative of clergy and members of other faiths in his concerns about Mormonism. And I’ll admit to being disappointed by the fact that I have never visited a non-Mormon church without finding anti-Mormon material in the church-run bookstore (attached to the church) or in pamphlet form on the shelves or in its library. One of many examples happened on a Sunday when I went to a non-denominational service in Denver. I visited the bookstore while the minister was concluding one of three sermons. Amidst all of the books on building Christian marriages and learning to love Jesus, I found a video of _The Godmakers_. There, on the video cover, was a couple dressed in robes which I regard as holy. The most sacred of places and rituals I participate in was being openly mocked. That reality didn’t help prepare me to hear the pastor’s sermon. Nonetheless, I sang the hymns and enjoyed the energy of the meeting. But even in his sermon, the pastor managed to take a pot-shot at the Mormons. So there I was, singled out in this “non-denominational� church as one who was either deceived or evil. It was contrary to the Spirit of God.

    That said, I recognize that we Mormons have brought a lot of criticism on ourselves by our monolithic concern with image, which has often made appear rather narrow and self-protective. Let me address only one of Craig’s concerns, the one I know best–the fact that the LDS Church hasn’t yet repudiated its past teachings on race. I admit that this issue is a thorn in my side. But let me leave my usual position of activism and relate something about the change of that priesthood restriction.

    President Spencer W. Kimball had a problem with racism. Most people of his generation did. The amazing thing is that he recognized it and was willing to look at the long-standing policy with fresh eyes. Not only did he look into the issue, he asked all of the Twelve to investigate it as well. Research it–maybe even using Church Archives. President Kimball was open to change. I think it’s a miracle when that happens in ANYBODY. Many people suggest that the revelation was politically based, but anyone who has read either of Ed Kimball’s biographies of his father will know that President Kimball agonized over the decision. He went to the temple daily, in the early morning, to pray about it. He met with Black members of the Church. He expressed very strong opinions on racism in General Conference (referring to prejudice directed towards Native Americans).

    All of those present in the temple on June 1, 1978 record the revelation as “Pentecostal.� There was unanimity, and a feeling so holy that nobody spoke after President Kimball offered his prayer asking for a confirmation of the decision to lift the priesthood restriction. President Hinckley referred to that time in the temple during the most recent General Conference and said, “I understand the full impact of the revelation.�

    Of course, I would love to hear a repudiation of the damaging folklore which still infests our Mormon wards, but I want to say as strongly as I can that I believe the change in policy was indeed a revelation, and that it came to a man who knew he was weak but was ready to receive whatever wisdom God offered.

    I think Spencer W. Kimball represents many of us. We know we’re weak and that our strength comes only through Christ. We know we’re always seeking greater light and knowledge, but that we’re still seeing “through a glass darkly.�

    Finally, I believe more strongly in my religion the deeper I delve into it–and I do confront hard questions and research them relentlessly. (Thus far, I have not been denied access to any material in Archives.) I find more as I seek more–particularly if I do it in a spirit of faith rather than bitterness. I cannot reduce my religion to my pet issues–and I have a bunch of pet issues. Despite them all, there is a feast of good things in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I am grateful to partake. I know very well that the Church–that huge institution–has far, far to go. So do I.. I pray for mercy, and I hope others will (as Emily Dickinson said) “judge tenderly.�

  26. Craig V. on September 29, 2006 at 9:49 pm

    Unfortunately, I do not have the time this week to give DKL and Margaret the well thought out response that is deserved. Hopefully, I will find a bit more time early next week. For now I wanted to say thanks for deepening the dialog and thanks for putting a more human face on Spencer W. Kimball. I suppose the bigger issue here is how do well intentioned adherents to faiths that are in sharp disagreement create an atmosphere that is full of mutual respect, free of prejudice and also one where real discussion takes place? Perhaps, in a small way, we are giving an answer to that question.

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