When The Prophet Speaks

July 11, 2008 | 108 comments
By

Dave’s Mormon Inquiry has a post up about a new article in Meridian Magazine today that likens the brewing battle over gay marriage in California to the War in Heaven. The comments of the post link to an editorial from the Daily Universe editorial board this week that I found pretty shocking. The money quote:

Consequently, “active Mormons” know that when the prophet speaks, the debate is over. No matter how diligently someone reads their scriptures, attends church or pays a full tithe, unless they sustain President Monson, his counselors and the other 12 apostles, [by supporting the proposed amendment to legally define marriage as a union between a man and a woman] they are not “active Mormons.”

This brought to my mind the well-known Improvement Era article from 1945 that President George Albert Smith personally denounced, which concluded that:

When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.

In response, President Smith penned a letter to a local Christian minister who had raised a question about that article in which he said:

I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts. The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings. This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow.

The Prophet Joseph Smith once said: “I want liberty of thinking and believing as I please.” This liberty he and his successors in the leadership of the Church have granted to every other member thereof.

I don’t want this post to lapse into a discussion about the merits of gay marriage, but I’m curious whether people believe that the Daily Universe editorial can be sufficiently distinguished from the Improvement Era article? Does merely changing the word “thinking” to “debate” fully address the objections President Smith raised?

Note: I’m going to do my best to keep an eye on the discussion, but I’m pretty busy today so please try to keep the comments civil and on topic.

Tags: ,

108 Responses to When The Prophet Speaks

  1. queuno on July 11, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    I wonder if the Daily Unifarce has forgotten that … at the moment … the issue of supporting the amendment only applies to Californians. As a Texan, I have no voice in it, nor have I been asked to support it. Therefore, as an “active Mormon”, I don’t really have to do anything.

  2. Lincoln Cannon on July 11, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    This active Mormon knows that when a person speaks, it is up to me to discern whether that person speaks at that moment as a prophet of a God worthy of worship.

  3. Katya on July 11, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    1.

    Over 10% of the student body is from California, though, and most don’t bother to change their voter registration when the come to college. So a number of them are eligible to vote in this election, if they get their absentee ballots in.

  4. Drex Davis on July 11, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Well, it’s certainly a new definition of “active”! Wow.

    Regarding the Improvement Era Quote, I’ve always thought it interesting that the quorum of the 12 and the prophets don’t follow this line of thinking at all. They *continually* question policies and pronouncements (doctrinal and non-doctrinal) from *previous* members of the 12 and first presidency (and even their own previous doctrines and pronouncements from time to time!).

    If all members of the church (and prophets and apostles fall into this category) were to unthinkingly accept any statement or position as unnassailable merely because it was posited by the brethren, then we’d still be living in polygamy, extending the priesthood based on race+merit and not merit alone, and a myriad of other areas in which the prophet and the 12 questioned, thought about, debated about, and eventually changed positions firmly established by previous prophets and apostles in pronouncements taken to be permanent.

    I’ve heard a lot of complaints lately that the church is engaging in a form of tyranny. However, I actually think that the church is merely responding to a form of tyranny through the few vehicles it has.

    If we lived in a truly minarchist country (those of us in the US), I don’t think the church would be involved at all, because the church would be free to operate according to the dictates of its own conscience. The reason the church has to get involved is because people (by way of government/legislation) are trying to use the government to control religious institutions – trying to use the backdoor by way of government to force the church into practices that the church doesn’t want (but which special interests want to force it to do).

    On the other hand, in a minarchist world, the church might still be polygamous, a state of affairs which, personally, I would really struggle with. The reason I say “might still be” is b/c if you read the revelation by President Woodruff, he says that he had a vision that the government would destroy the church if polygamy were not abandoned (tyranny of the government over the free practices of consenting adults). So he chose to save the church from the destruction by the state, at the expense of a policy and practice (and, at the time, a practice that was widely accepted as an eternal doctrine).

    Anyway, we don’t live in a minarchist world, so I understand the church’s need to get involved in such . . . it’s a protection against an encroaching state . . .

    I, admittedly, don’t know enough about this issue to opine (and since I’m in AZ I’ve not been paying much attention as I’ve seen that it’s specific counsel to CA saints). It’s important to understand that sometimes the church is asking us to help erect a moat to keep it free from state encroachment, and the issue at stake is often secondary to the desire to keep the state at bay.

    For all of our integration into American society and government, we are right to fight legal encroachment into areas it should stay out of.

  5. Researcher on July 11, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    One of my few memories from ninth grade consists of my seminary teacher telling us that we should always, in all circumstances, follow our church leaders (every one, including the bishop) in every particular and that it would be a sin to not do that. Even if they were wrong. If you follow someone down a wrong path, you would still be justified.

    I was raised in a very faithful church home where you never criticized your church leaders. Where the prophet was followed in every particular. He says to plant a garden, you plant a garden. He says to read the Book of Mormon, you read the Book of Mormon. If I lived in California I would probably write a few letters. As a matter of fact, now that I’m thinking about it, when we lived there, I actually did write letters and call into an NPR show on the topic.

    However, going back to what Brother M said to us in ninth grade and what was similarly said in the Daily Universe (DU) and Improvement Era (IE), there is something fundamentally wrong about this position. I will be right up front and speak in Mormon language and say that it is a satanic counterfeit of true loyalty and true adherence to the gospel plan.

    I have no problem with “following the brethren.” I do have a serious problem with statements like those from Brother M, the DU, and the IE. I’ve heard that IE quote a number of times and it is very heartwarming to realize that the prophet at the time also had a problem with it.

  6. Adam Greenwood on July 11, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    I’m with the Daily Universe.

  7. Drex Davis on July 11, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    I see know that my rant veered of from the question . . .

    “Does merely changing the word “thinking” to “debate” fully address the objections President Smith raised? ”

    No, it doesn’t. And thank goodness. But really since when has the thinking of regular-member-folks like us actually been taken into account in the debates? Aren’t those held by the brethren behind closed doors?

    Might be better said, “When the prophet speaks, the 12 stop debating.” (Until they start debating again!).

    As far as our own opinions, I think church leaders couldn’t care less about the “debates” members have about such practices, provided that it doesn’t cross over into the public, hostile criticism of church leaders.

    These sorts of quotes come from overzealous members who are not in leadership – members who, frankly, might be skirting the line very closely to a form of idolatry, or at least a Pharisaical worldview.

  8. Jonathan Green on July 11, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Fortunately, the Daily Universe is even farther from speaking for the church than the Improvement Era was.

    I’m with George Albert Smith.

  9. DavidAK on July 11, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    I’m with Jonathan Green.

  10. Researcher on July 11, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Looking at Adam’s comment in #6, I will admit that there is a grain of truth in the DU statement. We should follow the brethren. I’m with Adam on that, if that’s what he was agreeing with.

    However, language like “active Mormons” is hostile and divisive.

    “No matter how diligently someone reads their scriptures, attends church or pays a full tithe…”

    Statements like that make me thankful that I don’t live in Utah.

  11. Marc Bohn on July 11, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    Adam – So what say you to the question I raised in my post? How do you distinguish the premise of the Daily Universe editorial from the premise of the Improvement Era article? Do you think that merely changing the word “thinking” to “debate” fully address the objections President Smith raised?

  12. Chris P. on July 11, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    While I tend to have a knee-jerk reaction against anything written in the pages of the Daily Universe, the irony of the Smith quotation, and Marc’s use of it, is that it too seems to invoke the same type of appeal to authority that the DU people are claiming.

    In other words, if we base the validity of Smith’s quotation on his authority, isn’t the statement self-defeating….

  13. Kevin Barney on July 11, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    If anyone wants to see all the 1945 documents, take a look at “A 1945 Perspective,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19/1 (Spring 1986): 35-39:

    http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/dialogue&CISOPTR=16763&REC=11

  14. sjl on July 11, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    I am against gay marriage, but I think editorials like this do much to damage the cause. Instead of being seen as presenting reasoned argument against SSM, LDS will be seen as following a heavy handed policy of “obey or consider yourself a lapsed Mormon.”

    As far as the post’s questions is concerned, no, there is no difference. Particularly because the line “When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy” refers to debate and is therefore part of G.A Smith’s rejection.

  15. mpb on July 11, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    #12

    Smith’s statement is descriptive…the DU and IE pieces are referring to proscriptive statements made by church leaders.

    So no, I don’t think the statement is self-defeating.

  16. Neal Davis on July 11, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    I believe that ideally we embrace George Albert Smith’s position; socially and practically, we tend to list towards the DU/IE 1945 view, which I believe are substantially the same, at least in Spirit. In any real implementation, they are the same.

    @#5:
    “One of my few memories from ninth grade consists of my seminary teacher telling us that we should always, in all circumstances, follow our church leaders (every one, including the bishop) in every particular and that it would be a sin to not do that. Even if they were wrong. If you follow someone down a wrong path, you would still be justified.”

    Amen to your conclusions. This type of reactionary reasoning on the part of leaders who felt themselves infinitely justified almost drove my family out of the Church, and did drive some members of my extended family away. So is it worth the price?

  17. sjl on July 11, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    “Smith quotation, and Marc’s use of it, is that it too seems to invoke the same type of appeal to authority that the DU people are claiming.”

    Not really. Smith wasn’t using his authority to establish a new policy, but rather he was rejecting an middle managment level attempt to create a policy that doesn’t and shouldn’t exist. Besides, a certain amount of this irony is inherent in all forms of government. We appeal to authority to protect us from authority.

    By the way, that Merridian piece was one of the lamest commentaries on the SSM issue that I have read.

  18. Bob Stocks on July 11, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    To me, the issue is one of trust. I firmly agree with the need to acquire one’s own “testimony” about a pronouncement or a doctrine. That’s the whole point of free will and agency. My experiences have shown me that there is wisdom in following their counsel. But there may be times where the subject matter is something that I really don’t understand. In those cases I put my trust out there, believing that these men really do lead by inspiration like we say they do. I don’t feel that this in any way compromises my agency or ability to think though the issues they present. On the contrary, I feel it’s an extension of that very thing, based on previous experiences and faith.

  19. CraigH on July 11, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    I’m most struck by the efforts to define who’s a Mormon, an active Mormon, a Christian, and so on. After all the complaining we Mormons have done to certain Christians, thus that we should be able to define ourselves as Christians, I wonder why the Universe feels the need to define who’s a real Mormon? Or why we need to insist that a FM can’t be a Mormon either? There will be no definition of any of these terms that satisfies everyone who claims the term. So why keep drawing lines?

  20. Drex Davis on July 11, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    CraigH,
    Great point. The irony there is too precious.

  21. Cicero on July 11, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    “Debate” and “thinking” are not the same.

    When God (through His prophets) gives a direction, the debate is over. You may continue to oppose it if you wish, but I have long ago discovered that arguing with God does not get you anywhere.

    We are definitely still supposed to think about the issue. Particularly good things to think about include: Why am I in disagreement with God (or the Church) on this issue? What reasons could God have for taking this position? How am I wrong? Why is God right? What can I do to gain a testimony of this doctrine that I have doubts about? How can I sustain God and His Church despite by doubts? (see Julie’s post about “Blood on the Doorposts” for this kind of thinking).

    See, there is a lot of thinking left to do. I don’t see anything in Pres. Smith’s statement that suggests debating with God and His prophets is a profitable enterprise, or that such debate is going to change God’s mind.

    Unfortunately you edit the important part of the Daily Universe quote. Once read in context of the original editorial, it is clear that by “sustaining” the prophets, the Daily Universe means “do not actively oppose the Church taking this position”.

    Essentially it is an editorial decrying those who have openly announced their opposition to the prophetic counsel, and have encouraged other members to also oppose and disobey this counsel. This is what the Daily Universe is talking about when they use the word “debate”.

    I agree with the Daily Universe- such actions are inconsistent with membership in the Church, and the belief in modern day prophets.

    If you truly believe in Mormon doctrine, then those openly opposing prophetic counsel are in the process of apostasy.

  22. Jim Donaldson on July 11, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    > … we should always, in all circumstances, follow our church leaders… in every particular and
    > that it would be a sin to not do that. Even if they were wrong. If you follow someone down a
    > wrong path, you would still be justified.

    How do you think that will go with those who were responsible for Mountain Meadows?

    While I understand that there is a difference between the Last Judgment and Nuremburg, it didn’t work at Nuremburg–and probably isn’t going to work many other places either.

  23. Jim Donaldson on July 11, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    > … we should always, in all circumstances, follow our church leaders… in every particular and
    > that it would be a sin to not do that. Even if they were wrong. If you follow someone down a
    > wrong path, you would still be justified.

    How do you think that will go with those who were responsible for Mountain Meadows?

    While I understand that there is a difference between the Last Judgment and Nuremburg, it didn’t work at Nuremburg–and probably isn’t going to work many other places either.

  24. queuno on July 11, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Over 10% of the student body is from California, though, and most don’t bother to change their voter registration when the come to college. So a number of them are eligible to vote in this election, if they get their absentee ballots in.

    I’d like to see that actual statistic from a reputable source … but any rate, my objection in #1 stands that the editorial needs to be directed to California Mormons, not Texan Mormons or French Mormons or Peruvian Mormons or Georgian Mormons.

  25. NOYDMB on July 11, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    I believe there is a large difference between saying “The thinking is over” versus the debate is over. What’s the point in believing in living day Prophets if you ignore everything they say? What’s the point in saying we have the priesthood, if you fight the authorized servant with your whole “heart, might, mind and strength” as some apostates have recently? If Thomas S. Monson be prophet, then listen to him, or if the Gay Agenda be your god, then serve it, but let’s hear no dishonesty about serving Jesus Christ and supporting the gay agenda, for members of the CoJCoLDS.

  26. Peter LLC on July 11, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Cobbler, stick to thy last!

    In the case of The Daily Universe this would mean keeping the opinion page free to debate the merits of important topics like one-strap backpacks and whether an SUV is a righteous form of transportation if used to take roommates to the temple.

    Regarding the editorial in question, this is all I need to know in order to dismiss it summarily:

    This editorial represents the opinion of The Daily Universe editorial board.

  27. Peter LLC on July 11, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    What’s the point in believing in living day Prophets if you ignore everything they say?

    Since when is righteous living an all or nothing proposition?

  28. NOYDMB on July 11, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    A parable:

    When it was flooding upriver in Wisconsin and Iowa, imagine a civil engineer instructing the citizens of Illinois and Missippi to strengthen their levys. Instead of doing so, they say, “Your not my boss. You know no better than I. Until I’m convinced that this action is good I will do no such thing.” But instead of investigating, by looking at water levels, flood plains, and models, they talk about equality. And how the citizens of France don’t have to build up the Levys. The problem is that Prophets use prophetic vision, the Lord inspires them to lead the church. They have expertise in moral matters, just like the civil engineer studying water levels and warns about floods. Just because the problem is a little further upstream doesn’t mean we should ignore the council. President Hinckley warned us the time of the testing of our loyalty would be coming. I believe it is here. The church will not remove our agency, but those who disregard the prophet’s council do so at not only their own peril, but at the peril of all others that they manage to lead ASTRAY. God help us all.

  29. C Bass on July 11, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    According to what most of you have said is there ever a time that not following the Prophet would be a sin? Let’s be clear when we speak, following a Bishop is one thing and following the Prophet is another.

  30. NOYDMB on July 11, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Peter LCC,
    The Gospel covenant is trying to keep all of the commandments all of the time.
    Human weakness makes us weak and unable to keep them all of the time.
    Pride teaches us to be OK with that.
    The Spirit teaches us to not be OK with that.
    You are either in Christ’s covenant or without, there is no middle ground.
    You either support the Prophet or you don’t, there is no middle ground.
    If you silently disagree, that is one thing, but no one who writes on any blog is silent, by definition they are LOUD.

  31. SingleSpeed on July 11, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Comments like the one from President G.A. Smith like the one quoted here always seem a little disingenuous to me…or else we misinterpret them. All he’s saying is that nobody is forced to follow the path that the leaders of the church recommend. He doesn’t say that you are justified if you choose a different path – you’re free to choose a different path, but it may very well be the wrong path. It would be like me showing up at church one week and announcing that I’ve prayed about it, and have decided that the prophet’s counsel regarding tithing and chastity don’t apply to me. Sure, I’m free to make that decision, and my right and responsibility to make that decision is a key aspect of the gospel. I’ll bet G.A. Smith would defend my right to make such a decision – but I’ll bet he’d also tell me my decision was dead wrong and that I’d have to repent if I acted on my decision.

    So I guess what I’m saying, is that as depressing as it is, I think that, yes, using “debate” instead of “thinking” appropriately accomodates G.A. Smith’s objections.

  32. Mark IV on July 11, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    I love the Daily Universe. The letters section and the Police blotter are better than any comics page I have ever seen. Remember though, when you agree with the DU, you are two thirds of the way to DUH.

    There a two interesting angles to this conversation. It is my understanding that priesthood leaders in California have been advised to NOT make support for prop. 8 a litmus test of membership or faithfulness. As far as I know, people will be able to turn down the invitation to advocate for it or support it and still keep their callings, recommends, etc. So, ironically, the editorial board of the DU and those on this thread who DO think it is a litmus test find themselves taking a position that is opposed by church leadership. I call upon you all to set aside your pride, get a strong dose of humility, and follow the brethren on this issue.

    Second, I’m glad we are having this conversation. When Mitt was still actively campaigning, many of us stated loudly and adamantly that he would not be subject to control from SLC, and that the very suggestion was preposterous. Oops.

  33. Thomas Parkin on July 11, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    I think we are acting perfectly within our rights and privileges to question and even disagree with official pronouncements, things spoken over the pulpit, etc. That can be, and often is, done in good conscience and with humility, with a genuine desire to know the best possible course of action and a willingness to conform to if and when it is discovered. through the Spirit. And while it isn’t discovered individually, simultaneously, I don’t mind that people come to differing tentative conclusions. And I doubt that the prophet would mind it either – so long as this kind of searching is, in fact, being done. What troubles me is when I see members who seem to be faithful, yet allow their temperaments and susceptibilities, and especially their political sense, to definitively, conclusively trump open council from the highest leadership of the church. And while I think there might not be a lot of copping to it – I think that we’ve seen a lot of it.

    ~

  34. TrevorM on July 11, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    On matters of Salvation I am 100% behind the Prophet his counselors and the twelve. However, leaders have been wrong on things like this before. I don’t think it is wrong to have reservations on a subject like this. I cautiously support the brethren on this one, but politics are different than salvation.

    The issue at hand though is the slurring of doubters as “less-actives” or less valiant or on some lower faith-plain is hurtful and wrong. I don’t care if you support the church’s position on this or not. It is NOT productive or right to speak this way.

  35. Rusty on July 11, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    NOYDMB,
    You mean this gay agenda?

  36. Drex Davsi on July 11, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    “What’s the point in believing in living day Prophets if you ignore everything they say?”

    Isn’t that contradictory? If I ignore everything a person says, am I even aware they exist?

    “When God (through His prophets) gives a direction, the debate is over. You may continue to oppose it if you wish, but I have long ago discovered that arguing with God does not get you anywhere.”

    If you think of debate=discussion, as I do, then saying the “debate” is over doesn’t make sense.

    If you think of debate=arguing, then saying the “debate” is over does make sense.

    I don’t think it’s ever healthy to stop discussion. But some members who spout “when the prophet has spoken the debate is over” actually are wishing to stop discussion . . .

  37. mpb on July 11, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Mark, thank you for that information. If that is true then my attitude about this issue has changed a good deal.

    There is that quote about Brigham Young “desiring the coffin” when he learned about polygamy for the first time. That’s kind of how this particular issue has made me feel.

    Anyone who has read the Prince and Wright’s book on David O. McKay knows that there is a lot of debate, discussion, and dissension, even at the highest levels of church leadership, but in the end leadership has proven quite capable of uniting once the dust settles. I don’t see why the ability to air out issues in this fashion should remain solely with GA status.

    That’s why comments like NOYDMB’s bug me. I have always viewed the bloggernacle as a forum for faithful exploration of troubling issues. It is usually quite easy, for me anyway, to distinguish comments that are intended with malice towards the church, its positions, and its leaders, versus those that are the result of folks coming to terms with issues they find troubling. I find that most blogs, especially T&S, do a good job of sticking to the latter.

  38. Aluwid on July 11, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Thinking is definitely appropriate, although I would hope the thinking would be along the lines of: “The man I believe to be a prophet of God considers this important enough to specifically ask all the church members in California to support it. Is my opinion different? Why? Have I allowed my perspective to be shaped too much by worldly wisdom?” Debating on the other hand starts wading into active confrontation against God’s representatives. If you don’t believe they are God’s representatives then that is understandable, but I don’t follow the logic of fighting against someone that you believe has the authority and inspiration to lead God’s church with only your own intellect as ammunition and justification.

    I am largely in agreement with the Daily Universe article, at least when referring to people that are actively arguing against what the church is asking them to do. But perfection is not a requirement to be considered an “Active Mormon” so I don’t think it is correct to also lump those that quietly choose to not follow this council in the same group as those that are actively speaking against it. As an analogy, we’re asked to be Home Teachers, and many of us don’t do it. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t active, it just means we aren’t perfect. On the other hand, if we publicly speak out against the Home Teaching program and denounce it then I think our faith and support of the church can fairly be held in doubt.

    So yes think away, but the debate is over. And keep in mind that we’re free to believe anything we choose to, it’s when we start to try to persuade others to agree with our error that we can find ourselves at odds with the church.

  39. Researcher on July 11, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    I have no problem with the leadership of the church encouraging support of morality and the family in society. Good for them, trying to hold the line.

    I do have a problem with members like the editorial board of the Daily Universe using these issues as a bludgeon to beat other members of the church into their particular way of thinking. I have not read the entire editorial, but from the excerpt on this page, as I said before, it seems like they are being contentious and divisive. Such a position serves no purpose but to set themselves up as judges in Zion and to alienate members who may be struggling. Instead of balm to a wounded soul, they are heaping ashes. (Or giving a paper cut and pouring lemon juice in, since I’m mixing the metaphors here). Let’s remember our dear President Hinckley and his counsel over many years to act in positive, bridge-building ways.

  40. Kari on July 11, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    I think that Julie’s Blood on the Doorposts post was a much better written argument in favor of “obedience über alles” than the DU’s, even though they say the same thing.

  41. Drex Davsi on July 11, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    What I find interesting is that there was a time, in the church, when “by common consent” meant something more than it does today and when “debates” did not necessarily end when the prophet spoke (see Orson Pratt and Brigham Young, etc.). This is wholly speculative on my part, but I can only imagine the debates that must have gone one between, for example, Elder Mark E. Peterson and Elder David O. McKay about God’s plan for Blacks and the Priesthood. They both had very public, very different feelings about the matter. Ultimately, neither was alive in 1978 when the change was made, but they helped frame the “debate”. The public differences of opinion each espoused on the matter leads me to believe that privately there were differences of opinion amongst even the leaders about these matters. (Just see “Mormon Doctrine” by Bruce R. McKonckie for his opinion [which he considered doctrine], which he publicly espoused, and later turned out to be not-the-case.)

    I do think that it’s in every members purview and is every members privilege to ask “why” when asked to do something if they are troubled by it (or even if they just want to understand). If the answer is “because I said so and that’s all you need to know” then OK, fine. But asking “why” and receiving an explanation as to “why” we’re asked to do something is OK and can help us perform our stewardships appropriately.

    We work out our understanding of doctrine and interpretations of doctrine through not only instruction, scripture and prayer, but also through discussion. If something doesn’t make sense to us, it’s perfectly OK to ask “why”. If that explanation then still doesn’t make sense, there’s nothing wrong with saying again, “i still don’t understand why” and then following the promptings of the spirit in determining what to do next.

    I’ve followed plenty of counsel I never understood even while asking why because I felt the confirmation of the spirit. I’m not sure that I’d be OK going forward in any behavior that I _both_ (1) Couldn’t understand and (2) Strongly felt the spirit telling me not to do it, even if it was a leader asking me to do it. . . I figure after my life I’ll have to give an accounting to God and he will weigh in the balance my desire to never do anything to offend the Spirit while doing my best to be obedient to all counsel. My own personal approach is first to be obedient, then if something doesn’t feel right, to address it and work it out directly with the leader.

    I sometimes like to imagine that I’m 180 years old, and I lived through all epochs of the church, through all the practices, etc. And then I ask myself, “Throughout my church experience what would be permanent and what wouldn’t be?” And part of that would be that, “Prophets receive revelation”. And part would be that “sometimes subsequent teachings or revelation directly contradicts previous revelations or teachings.” And lastly my charge throughout that life would be to do my best in whatever circumstance I’d find myself, to let go of old practices I thought were permanent doctrine when the revelation changed, and understand that, in the last analysis, I’m accountable to God and will give rendering to him in a day of accountability.

    The question is, I guess, if you feel strongly that God and the Prophet are asking you to do two different things, whose side do you come down on? I know some would say, ‘That’s impossible, the Prophet will never ask you to do something that God” But Moses, the prophet, aught, “Though shalt not Kill or Steal” and yet Nephi killed Laban and took the plates . . . So God can prompt people at times to do things that *seem* to contradict his own commandments from the prophets. One only need look also at the life of Joseph Smith in certain circumstances to find evidence of this notion at work.

  42. Drex Davsi on July 11, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    It should go without saying that if you decide to not follow the prophet or a local leader, you should be willing to accept whatever consequences come to you .

    My great, great grandfather (a very faithful early member of the church who served mutiple missions and was a polygamist) was excommunicted from the church b/c he caught his bishop and stake president stealing water (this is back in AZ pioneer days). He told authorities about it. The Stake President and Bishop excommunicated him for “bearing false witness” against the local leaders of the chruch. My Grandfather tells me that my Great Great grandfather was totally at peace and didn’t lose his testimony. He would say something to the effecft of, “My testimony is in the savior and in the plan, and I understand there are imperfect people in the church who can do harm. When I die, I’ll give an accounting to God, and I know I’ve done right by him.” His family was outraged that his good name had been tarnished and that he had been told that he’d “lost his exaltation” to which he replied to the effect, “I don’t care about my good name, only my standing with God, and as regards my exaltation, we’ll see what God has to say about that.”

  43. A.J. on July 11, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    I like this blog post \”how to support ban on same sex marriage without coming across as a tool\” http://www.soymademegay.com/2008/06/how-to-support-a-same-sex-marriage-ban-without-coming-off-as-a-tool/#comment-83

  44. jjohnsen on July 11, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    “There a two interesting angles to this conversation. It is my understanding that priesthood leaders in California have been advised to NOT make support for prop. 8 a litmus test of membership or faithfulness. As far as I know, people will be able to turn down the invitation to advocate for it or support it and still keep their callings, recommends, etc. So, ironically, the editorial board of the DU and those on this thread who DO think it is a litmus test find themselves taking a position that is opposed by church leadership. I call upon you all to set aside your pride, get a strong dose of humility, and follow the brethren on this issue.”

    There is a California couple that I’m friends with that I’ve been emailing back and forth about THE LETTER. They were worried because they didn’t support it, and were going in for recommend interviews. It turned out not to be a big deal. They explained to their bishop and SP that they didn’t support the ban, and were told it would have no effect on either of them getting temple recommends or participating in the church. The bishop urged them to just stay out of the fight, and not let it become a source of contention in the ward.

    And then he called them both to be nursery leaders for a ten year term.

  45. Jim Donaldson on July 11, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    The prophets over the years have repeatedly encouraged us to store food, up to a year’s supply. That is certainly good advice. Many of us do it. Many of us don’t. Is that a litmus test for ‘activity’ or ‘righteousness?’ Is this similar to supporting the church’s approved political issues?

    Is there any litmus test for righteousness? Are the temple recommend questions a litmus test for righteousness? Will we be able to get into the celestial kingdom if we can honestly answer those questions correctly?

  46. Roland on July 11, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    #1 – Contrary to popular belief – this issue will impact Mormons outside of California – strongly, here and now.

    In the letters read at LDS Churches in California last sunday – members were asked to start making contributions to http://www.ProtectMarriage.com.

    You do not have to be resident of California to participate in this very important issue.

    As a LDS Member (Californian or not)- you should be in prayer asking the Lord what is an appropriate amount for you to donate.

  47. Roland on July 11, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    #4 – Mixing Church and Politics – For those who believe that LDS keeps this seperate, please consider the following:

    - Joseph Smith campaigned for President of US, was Mayor of Nauvoo, General in the Nauvoo Legion and ordered the destruction of a printing press.

    - Brigham Young was governor of Utah Territory for many years.

  48. Peter LLC on July 11, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    30:You are either in Christ’s covenant or without, there is no middle ground.
    You either support the Prophet or you don’t, there is no middle ground.
    If you silently disagree, that is one thing, but no one who writes on any blog is silent, by definition they are LOUD.

    NOYDMB, I guess I appreciate the concern, but disagreeing with the opinion of the Daily Universe editorial board will in no way place anyone outside the covenant in contravention of the will of His prophets.

    When it comes to spiritual guidance, I prefer to skip the anonymous middlemen and go straight to the source. But different strokes for different folks, I reckon.

    Finally, you can add “obnoxious” to your list of what bloggers can be.

  49. Drex Davis on July 11, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Good questions Jim.

    We know that this life is the time to prepare to meet God.

    So, in my opinion, all the above (as with any church program, ordinance, and teaching) is designed to help prepare us to meet God. We’re all at different stages in our preparation . . . I think our direction and trajectory are probably more important than where we reside on the continuum.

    I don’t think it’s possible for any of us to do everything perfectly all the time. But we can all strive to our utmost within the capacities we have. Really, only we and God know whether or not we are striving to our utmost.

    Many members have made commitments to support and defend the church. If anything in our life or behavior is insupportive or leaves the church vulnerable to attack, we might want to look at changing it. That might be a good litmus test. It’s also fairly subjective.

    Speaking of litmus test, how’s your garden coming along?

  50. ronito on July 11, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    We want you to think for yourselves. But if the prophet says something you need to stop then. Let us not forget Brigham and his Adam-God theory and Orson Pratt.

  51. sister blah 2 on July 11, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    queuno #24– Here is the BYU demographics info page, and it says that 13% of BYU students are from California.

  52. Katya on July 11, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    24. I’d like to see that actual statistic from a reputable source …

    Californians make up 13% of the student body, according to this: http://yfacts.byu.edu/viewarticle.aspx?id=207 (but your larger point is taken)

  53. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 11, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    I would first note that the Daily Universe claiming that a particular viewpoint renders one an “inactive Mormon” is not simply a arguable description, but strikes at the heart of a student’s ability to even attend BYU. It is a threat of suspension. As such, I think it may well go far beyond what even the Brethren have said is Church policy. After all, if you are not going to be denied a temple recommend for lack of active support to the advice of the Brethren, why should it affect your attendance at BYU? Such unwarranted adding to the words of the Brethren is itself contrary to the guidance of the Brethren.

    As #42 (Drex) points out, one of the fundamental principles of Church leadership is the problem of leaders abusing their priesthood authority, and the statement by the Prophet that true priesthood authority does not reside in such actions. Bishops, Stake Presidents, General Authorities and even Apostles have been excommunicated. The only fully reliable religious leader on earth is the Prophet himself, partly because (this is the sense I get from the statements about it) the Lord will simply take him out of mortal life before he can do too much damage.

    As many have noted, it is clear that the Brethren engage in a LOT of debate, as well as prayer, about policies and decisions before they are promulgated. Elder Eyring has related how, when he was Commissioner of Education, he first observed how the Presidents of the Church strive for consensus among the Apostles, and are willing to table a question if one of them is even uneasy about a proposed decision. He noted that, as a scholar of organizational behavior, he found the Brethren operated as an outstanding decision-making body.

    So when the First Presidency and in many cases the Twelve as well have a consensus on an issue, and announce it to the Church, we individual Saints may not have participated in the debate, but we can feel assured that THEY have reached consensus on the issue. Separate and apart from our confidence in their ability to receive revelation, we know that the Brethren are pretty consistently outstanding people whom almost any governmental entities or corporate boards would be proud to have leading them. They have wisdom in law, social policy, medicine, education, as well as in religious faith and doctrine. When a body of people with those qualifications takes a question seriously, and offers their considered advice, any rational person should take that advice seriously, and if we casually and publicly oppose it, without even pondering the advice and the reasons the Brethren gave it, it is simply foolish.

    Brigham Young repeatedly advised the Saints to seek their own testimonies from God about the truth of the things he taught over the pulpit. I assume that includes the same kind of study and pondering and prayer, with humble willingness to be enlightened against one’s will and one’s own prejudices, that is involved in finding a testimony of the Book of Mormon.

    As far as the issue of gay marriage in California goes, it boils down to the views and reasoning of two opposing groups: the four out of seven justices on the California Supreme Court and the 15 ordained apostles of the Church. Even the three dissenting justices on the court argued strongly that the majority had overstepped their authority, and created a fictional “right” to gay marriage. Agreeing with the three dissenting justices, plus the 15 Brethren, is a fully rational and honorable and moral and legally justificable position. Specifically, a court decision does not preclude an effort by the people to overrule it by amendment to the law that the court asserts was the basis for the decision. That is the honest way to enact one’s disagreement into law. There is nothing immoral or disrespectful to the authority of the courts or the state constitution about doing so. Judges, after all, are just attorneys with authority to decide things rather than simply argue about them. They do not acquire wisdom or divine inspiration by dint of donning that authority, any more than attorneys who are elected as governors or legislators do.

    As an attorney myself, I see the reasoning of the majority to be disgustingly specious and disingenuous, lacking in logic and consistency. As the dissent pointed out, the reasoning of the majority would also justify making polygamy and incest between adults a constitutional right.

    One can certainly present an argument that one’s own reasoning leads you to conclude that it is appropriate to enact gay marriage into law. But simply asserting that one’s own reasoning must be automatically assumed to be a better guide to truth than the considered judgment of 15 experienced and wise men who have a lifetime of engagement in the “real world” of practical affairs along with their extensive experience in dealing with the foibles and failings of humanity, especially including sexual morality, seems to me to boil down to an assertion that you are always a more reliable guide to right and wrong than the people that Latter-day Saints sustain as inspired in their leadership of the Church. One is always free to dissent, but to claim you are sustaining the Brethren while automatically disregarding their counsel, seems hypocritical to me.

    My own experience as a California attorney and review of laws related to sexual behavior in California leads me to conclude that the California ruling is a real threat to Churches like the LDS, Catholics and others that hold to traditional sexual morality as taught in the New Testament. For example, after the US Supreme Court upheld the right of the Boy Scouts to exclude from leadership positions those who are homosexual, many Calfornia cities withdrew all support for the Boy Scouts, and there was an effort in the California State Bar to bar anyone from serving as a judge who belonged to the Boy Scouts as an adult leader. Actually, the wording of the rule that was proposed would also exclude from judgeship anyone who belonged to a church that took a similar position of discrimination against practicing homosexuals. If the constitutional amendment is not enacted, I feel certain that this kind of sanction and many others will come before the courts and the Assembly, including proposals to revoke the tax exempt status of any organization that does not sanction gay marriage, and to disqualify from holding state or local government office anyone who does not endorse gay marriage. You may think this is far fetched, but precisely such penalties are being gradually enacted in Canada on that grounds.

    It might be useful to compare the issues that arose during the controversy over the Equal Rights Amendment. It is clear from the present perspective that the advocates of gay marriage would have seized on an ERA as establishing a firm constitutional anchor for the legal equivalency of homosexual relations with heterosexual relations. Equal pay and equal treatment for women alongside men was not per se a problem, and statutes and court decisions based on the “equal protection” requirement of the 14th Amendment have taken us to almost total legal parity while preserving the ability to make a few distinctions that take into account the basic distinction that women can bear children while men cannot, and that protecting that capacity is not unreasonable discrimination against men. Thirty years down the road from that controversy, the wisdom of opposing the overly simplistic and therefore infinitely malleable ERA is now becoming apparent.

    And it should be remembered that only a few people who opposed the Brethren over the ERA were ever subject to Church membership disciplinary hearings. To obtain that result, one had to be actively and publicly fighting, NOT in the ERA legal process itself, but against the advance of the Church itself. When Sonia Johnson made it clear that the advance of the ERA was more important to her than the advance of the Church, that she asked the help of those outside the Church to penalize the Church to pressure it into reversing the opposition of the Brethren to the ERA, she was clearly choosing one over the other. Her excommunication merely formalized her own decision to take a stance against the Church per se, as distinct from a stance against the policy on the ERA. Her continuing to be a member of the Church would allow her to abuse her membership as a vantage point to publicly oppose the larger mission of the Church.

    So I would suggest that there is certainly room for members in California to disagree with the advice of the Brethren on this issue, while still being “active Mormons”, but to publicly try to enlist Church members to follow you rather than the Brethren, and to hold the Church up to ridicule by those outside it in order to advance you own opinion, is nothing less than explicit rebellion, and to use one’s membership in the Church, or record of current or former leadership positions to support your views, is just as much an abuse of authority and priesthood as that of any Bishop or Stake President who uses his position to satisfy his pride and ambition.

  54. Drex Davis on July 11, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    #47 – That’s not what I’m trying to get at, at least not at all the point I was trying to make. As church members we ought to be involved in governance organizations that effect us, whether we’re leaders or not.

    If legalizing same-sex marriage were not a potential threat to the autonomy of the church and its practices in the future, would this response be warranted? I doubt it. My point is that in a minarchist (night watchman) state, all churches could include or exclude people based on any criteria they’d like.

    We believe in the word of wisdom and that drugs are harmful but the church hasn’t asked us to formally organize against pro-marijuana legislation, or anti-tobacco legislation.

    I believe the concern is that our Government continues to encroach on personal and private-association liberties and if trends continue it church’s may be forced to recognize such marriages in the future by a government which no longer recognizes the rights protected in its constitution. It’s been happening for a long time. Our democracy is less of a democracy than it was at its inception, and 200 years is still early – we’re still an “experiment”.

  55. Drex Davis on July 11, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Raymond,
    Excellent post. I’m not an attorney. Much of what I was trying to express you have done far better, more precistly, and more eloquently.

    This issue is about the church’s freedom to operate autonomously and not be strong-armed into having to adopt or die . . .

  56. bbell on July 11, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    “My own experience as a California attorney and review of laws related to sexual behavior in California leads me to conclude that the California ruling is a real threat to Churches like the LDS, Catholics and others that hold to traditional sexual morality as taught in the New Testament. For example, after the US Supreme Court upheld the right of the Boy Scouts to exclude from leadership positions those who are homosexual, many Calfornia cities withdrew all support for the Boy Scouts, and there was an effort in the California State Bar to bar anyone from serving as a judge who belonged to the Boy Scouts as an adult leader. Actually, the wording of the rule that was proposed would also exclude from judgeship anyone who belonged to a church that took a similar position of discrimination against practicing homosexuals. If the constitutional amendment is not enacted, I feel certain that this kind of sanction and many others will come before the courts and the Assembly, including proposals to revoke the tax exempt status of any organization that does not sanction gay marriage, and to disqualify from holding state or local government office anyone who does not endorse gay marriage. You may think this is far fetched, but precisely such penalties are being gradually enacted in Canada on that grounds.”

    This is legally speaking exactly where we as a church along with the Catholics / Baptists etc are headed.

    There will be long and protracted litigation over the rights of churches to be exempt from laws barring discrimination against gays. I would like to think that the 1st amendment will protect us but its not worth taking the chance and losing this particular battle at this time would over the next couple of generations make it difficult for the LDS church to continue its teachings and practices.

    The example to watch is Canada and the UK. I would guess that in the next decade we will start to see LDS SP’s and visiting GA’s facing legal sanctions or the threat of legal sanctions over sermons or other types of teachings regarding this issue. There is no 1st Amendment outside the US and the prosecutions over this matter have already stated in Canada. Google “Canada Human Rights Commissions” for further clarification.

  57. mmiles on July 11, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    TKS–
    Could you please email me at amamiles @ yahoo dot com

  58. Seth R. on July 11, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    And to think I’ve been spending the last year online trying to defend Meridian’s readership base from ex-Mormon and anti-Mormon critics….

    And then doofuses like Mr. Lawrence go and pull the rug out…

    You’re not helping Gary!

  59. Bob on July 11, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    #53 & #56: What happens in California will be decided by the Courts, the Legislators, or the People.
    Religion does not have a vote..or a veto.

  60. Aluwid on July 11, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    #59: No one is arguing with you on any of those statements. Did you think they were?

  61. quin on July 12, 2008 at 12:10 am

    Just a couple of questions…

    Why does the author provide active links to the blog, the Improvement Era article and the letter but does not provide links to either the DU article or the Meridian Magazine article?

    Is it possible to form a correct opinion about either the DU article or the Meridian article without bothering to read either of them?

    President George Albert Smith rejected the incorrect notion fostered by a leaflet that the Church teaches its members not to think for themselves. The DU article rejects the same incorrect notion fostered by those who speak and blog that the Church does. President G.A. Smith states that every individual can choose to follow or reject the teachings of the Lord and His Church. The DU article says the exact same thing. President Smith spoke out sustaining the prophet and what happens when we oppose him (below). The DU article did the same.

    “Not only has the Lord given us the advice already recorded in the scriptures to guide us but he has placed as a leader in this church one of his sons who has been chosen and ordained and set apart to be the President. He is our pilot and he will be directed by a voice that will enable him to lead us where we should go. If we are wise we will not set up our judgment against him but will be happy to honor him in his place as long as the Lord sustains him. We have had misguided souls in the Church who have, in their ignorance, opposed the advice of the pilot, not sensing the fact that they were opposing the Lord, and they have fallen into darkness and sorrow, and unless they repent they will not find a place in the celestial kingdom.

    Let us remember that the President of this church has been officially designated as the pilot of the Church here in mortality to represent the Master of heaven and earth. (General Conference October 1937)

  62. Bob on July 12, 2008 at 12:48 am

    #60: Yes:#53 & #56 would like the views of the Church to prevail.\
    “As far as the issue of gay marriage in California goes, it boils down to the views and reasoning of two opposing groups: the four out of seven justices on the California Supreme Court and the 15 ordained apostles of the Church……..”

  63. An observer on July 12, 2008 at 12:54 am

    I’m a little late to this conversation, so forgive me if I am redundant.

    I think it is very interesting that the DU editor or board wrote that piece under the title “Follow the Prophet,” but they reject the prophet’s example by getting so hot and absolute in their rhetoric. The first presidency reiterated church teachings and encouraged members to take a certain course, to support a certain measure. These so-called “followers” really amp up the rhetoric by, say, assailing the activity of fellow members that might struggle even intellectually with a message or accusing members of switching over to Satan’s team for the last few innings.

    That looks more like leading the prophet than following the prophet. If the prophet doesn’t think this critical issue is worth casting blanket aspersions on the faith of members or issuing widespread threats that people with questions are, per se, inactive or following Satan, then why do you? Do you know something about the Lord’s way that our prophet does not? If you follow him in doctrine and action, do us all the favor and follow him in civility, tone, and trust that the members will figure it out for themselves.

  64. norm on July 12, 2008 at 1:59 am

    #63, thank you.

  65. ronito on July 12, 2008 at 2:26 am

    this posts reminds me of the saying,
    “The catholics say that the pope is infallible. And none of them believe it. The mormons say their prophet IS fallible. And none of them believe it.”

  66. Peter LLC on July 12, 2008 at 3:19 am

    61:Why does the author provide active links to the blog, the Improvement Era article and the letter but does not provide links to either the DU article or the Meridian Magazine article?

    Only the gods know, but they aren’t telling. Perhaps it’s a test–are T&S readers capable of due dilligence?

    Is it possible to form a correct opinion about either the DU article or the Meridian article without bothering to read either of them?

    If you were to probe the meaning of “opinion” a little deeper, I think you would find there is no such thing as a “correct opinion,” just “your opinion and those held by others.”

  67. Aaron Brown on July 12, 2008 at 3:46 am

    I long for the day when LDS church meetings and materials tout not only the virtues of obedience, but its potential hazards as well. As my daughter gets older, I guess I’ll have to supplement the messages she receives in church with correctives that keep her more balanced than the diet of weekly obedience rhetoric from her church meetings is likely to provide her. Unfortunate, really, but that’s life in the modern-day Mormon Church I guess.

    (I’m not speaking to the merits of the Church’s position on gay marriage at all. I’m speaking to the one-sidedness of LDS discourse on obedience in general, of which this editorial is a disturbing and all-too-typical example, nothing more).

    AB

  68. quin on July 12, 2008 at 4:36 am

    Rhetoric is merely conversation meant to persuade others to one point of view. For example, you obviously want to persuade readers that the authors of the DU article are “leading the prophet”, “assailing the activity of fellow members that might struggle even intellectually with a message” and that these “so-called followers” have issued “widespread threats” “that people with questions are inactive or following Satan”. But you meant those things in the most civil and least absolute way possible, right?

    The article draws a line between those who agree with the First Presidency’s statement or disagree with it but support the First Presidency anyway and those who become “outspoken antagonists” of the Church’s position. It is calling into question the commitment of those who raise their hands to indicate that they sustain the prophet and his counselors and then verbally oppose and contend against them.

    In one of the last talks given a year ago by our late and beloved prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, he spoke boldly about that same war in heaven and the influence of Satan:

    “That war, so bitter, so intense, has never ceased. It is the war between truth and error, between agency and compulsion, between the followers of Christ and those who have denied Him. His enemies have used every stratagem in that conflict. They’ve indulged in lying and deceit. They’ve employed money and wealth. They’ve tricked the minds of men. They’ve murdered and destroyed and engaged in every kind of evil practice to thwart the work of Christ.”

    “…the adversary has never stopped trying. In the October conference of 1896, President Wilford Woodruff , then an aged man, stood in the Tabernacle on Temple Square and said: ‘There are two powers on the earth and in the midst of the inhabitants of the earth—the power of God and the power of the devil. In our history we have had some very peculiar experiences. When God has had a people on the earth, it matters not in what age, Lucifer, the son of the morning, and the millions of fallen spirits that were cast out of heaven, have warred against God, against Christ, against the work of God, and against the people of God. And they are not backward in doing it in our day and generation. Whenever the Lord set His hand to perform any work, those powers labored to overthrow it’.

    President Woodruff knew whereof he spoke. He had then only recently passed through those difficult and perilous days when the government of the nation had come against our people, determined to destroy this Church as an organization. Despite the difficulties of those days, the Saints did not give up. In faith they moved forward. They put their trust in the Almighty, and He revealed unto them the path they should follow. In faith they accepted that revelation and walked in obedience.”

  69. quin on July 12, 2008 at 5:06 am

    Peter- Thank you for pointing that out. I was trying not to offend anyone who might be guilty of not doing their due diligence.

    I would do my own due diligence on the potential hazards of obedience that Aaron speaks of, but I must not have access to all the corrective supplements that he does. The only potential hazard mentioned in the material I have is being persecuted by the wicked for being obedient, and even that serves the divine purpose of providing the evidential fruit that others may know them by, so it’s all good.

  70. kristine N on July 12, 2008 at 6:41 am

    “There will be long and protracted litigation over the rights of churches to be exempt from laws barring discrimination against gays.”

    We, as a church, already restrict temple marriage to those who can clear a bar set forth by the brethren. I don’t buy this argument that churches will be required to solemnize non-traditional marriages. The government can prohibit behaviors under the first amendment, but I seriously doubt it could get away with compelling practices. Can any of you lawyers out there point to specific cases where a church was legally compelled to adopt a practice it rejected on religious grounds?

    Most of those arguing for gay marriage do so based on civil rights (and by this I mean things like insurance, hospital visitation, and inheritance–not civil rights in the 1960′s sense), and on cultural (but not specifically religious) acceptance. There are churches that fully support non-legal commitment ceremonies, and would almost certainly perform legally binding marriages given the opportunity. I have my doubts that gay rights activists will suddenly turn their attention to litigating the practices of specific churches once they’ve won the right to legally marry.

  71. SilverRain on July 12, 2008 at 7:23 am

    There is a delicate balance, in my opinion. As a general rule, unless there is an obvious danger to life of body or spirit, I think it is better to follow. There have been times when I felt strongly that what my leaders told me to do was wrong. As I prayed, I got a niggling little feeling to just do it. I have always, always been blessed for doing what my leaders asked of me after letting them know of my concerns.

    It’s far too easy to forget that they are people, too. They are imperfect. That doesn’t mean we should disregard them (for we are imperfect, too!) but that we can sometimes support them in their mistakes (after letting them know our feelings appropriately) and let them distinguish from their own experience what is right and what is wrong.

  72. Eric Russell on July 12, 2008 at 9:22 am

    Aaron B, I tend to think the church’s rhetoric reflects the needs of its population. I think all church members fall short on how obedient we ought to be and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who is obedient to a fault.

  73. Aluwid on July 12, 2008 at 9:24 am

    Bob: “Yes:#53 & #56 would like the views of the Church to prevail.”

    Yes, some voters would like to see that happen, others would not, but what in the world does that have to do with your previous message?:

    “#53 & #56: What happens in California will be decided by the Courts, the Legislators, or the People.
    Religion does not have a vote..or a veto.”

    Churches don’t have a vote, nor do they have a veto, but they do have a viewpoint and the voters have a right to decide which viewpoints they will base their votes upon whether you agree with those viewpoints or not.

  74. Researcher on July 12, 2008 at 10:13 am

    70 Can any of you lawyers out there point to specific cases where a church was legally compelled to adopt a practice it rejected on religious grounds?

    Well, I’m not a lawyer, but let’s start with a case heard in the Supreme Court by the name of REYNOLDS v. U.S., 98 U.S. 145 (1878) and take it from there…

  75. Researcher on July 12, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Also, quin asked back in 61

    Why does the author provide active links to the blog, the Improvement Era article and the letter but does not provide links to either the DU article or the Meridian Magazine article?

    Probably because he was posting this in response to the post at Dave’s Mormon Inquiry which did link the articles. I would read the omission as common blog etiquette and a hat tip to Dave. I could be wrong.

  76. Kaimi Wenger on July 12, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Raymond (53) writes:

    “You may think this is far fetched, but precisely such penalties are being gradually enacted in Canada on that grounds. ”

    This seems like a problematic assumption. After all, Canada is a country that does not have the same first amendment protections as the United States.

  77. Geoff B on July 12, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Kaimi, do you have any problems with the actions of the Canada Human Rights Commissions, especially as a supporter of the ACLU?

    I’d like to say to all those who have come here to support the Church position — and encourage others to follow the prophet on Prop. 8 — that is is extremely encouraging to see people brave enough to speak and write about the issue. Of course the politically correct thing to do is to question once and question again and come up with all kinds of reasons why you in particular don’t have to support the Church’s position on SSM. Unfortunately, this is not what prophets are urging you to do. They are urging you to do everything you can in California today — and in Hawaii and, later, elsewhere to support traditional marriage.

  78. Ardis Parshall on July 12, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    70 — There’s United States v. Lee, 455 U.S. 252 (1982) which compels payment of social security taxes by Amish who employ only other Amish, although “the Amish religion not only prohibits the acceptance of social security benefits, but also bars all contributions by Amish to the social security system” (they have an internal system for caring for the elderly and disabled). The reasoning was that it would just be too much bother for the state to accommodate the varying religious objections to this or that or the other tax by every conceivable religious group: “Because the broad public interest in maintaining a sound tax system is of such a high order, religious belief in conflict with the payment of taxes affords no basis for resisting the tax.”

    With reasoning like that, is it too farfetched to think that the Court would rule that “the broad public interest in maintaining a sound SOCIAL system is of such a high order, religious belief in conflict with [SOCIALMANDATE] affords no basis for resisting”?

    But I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on the blogs.

  79. Eric Boysen on July 12, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    The church could easily be prevented from legally solemnizing marriages. I doubt if the Church would be singled out in such a fashion today, but a general recognition of only civil marriage could be made to apply. Heck, even the civil marriage ceremony could be eliminated—get a license, wham, you are married.

    The Church would respond, I expect, by continuing to solemnize marriages in the temple extra-legally. This would be essentially the same as is required in many countries that require marriages to be performed in public. The legal wedding takes place in a chapel or courthouse followed by the temple sealing.

    More troubling are the social service issues like adoptions, etc. that as I understand now prevent Catholic and LDS agencies from arranging for adoptions in Massachusetts.

    The ramifications of same gender marriage, particularly when forced by the judiciary rather than by legislation or initiative, are staggering.

  80. Jim Donaldson on July 12, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    >Heck, even the civil marriage ceremony could be eliminated—get a license, wham, you are married.

    This is true in Colorado already.

  81. Eric Boysen on July 12, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    #70 – I note that Lee prominently cites Reynolds. Interesting.

  82. Eric Boysen on July 12, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Oops. #78.

  83. Bob on July 12, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    #73: The Church is going beyond a “viewpoint’, it is using it ‘power’ to decide a ruling in California.

  84. Eric Boysen on July 12, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    As a former Unitarian-Universalist, I expect there is as much from the pulpit agitation against the proposition in other churches as our leaders supply for it. If the sword of excomunication were held over their heads if they supported the proposition…well, what that mean to a UU?

  85. Kaimi Wenger on July 12, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Sheesh. Have any of you Chicken Littles actually _read_ the opinion?

    Let me say it in capital letters, since apparently no one has thought it relevant:

    THE CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT HAS EXPLICITLY STATED THAT THE RELIGION PROTECTIONS IN THE CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION (ART I, § 4) MEAN THAT NO CHURCH WILL BE REQUIRED TO CHANGE THEIR POLICIES ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AND NO CHURCH CHURCH OFFICIAL WILL BE REQUIRED TO SOLEMNIZE SAME-SEX MARRIAGES.

    This is straight out of _In Re Marriage Cases_ — which is, in case you haven’t noticed, the exact same case that establishes same-sex marriage. Is SSM is law, so is the EXPLICITLY STATED exemption for religious organizations.

    Stop yammering on about Canada, and read the damn California opinion, people.

    Here’s a link: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S147999.PDF

  86. Ardis Parshall on July 12, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Pardon my yammering, Kaimi. Like nothing ever changes.

  87. Aluwid on July 12, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    #83: The church will decide nothing, the decision rests with the people. In the meantime we are all free to execute our First Amendment rights in an attempt to influence voters to choose to see the issue the same way that we do.

  88. Kaimi Wenger on July 12, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Not you, Ardis. You can yammer all you want. :)

    Your comment isn’t all incorrect in its implications, I think — it’s true that there are actual potential legal concerns, which I may write about in a future post.

    But the specific idea that _In re Marriage Cases_ will lead directly to temple-solemnized gay marriages — which others suggested first, and have said often and directly — is directly counter to the text of the actual opinion.

  89. Jim Cobabe on July 12, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Ardis boldly asserts:

    I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on the blogs.

    And we ever thank you, Ardis. For some things we are truly grateful in our heart of hearts.

    :-)

  90. NOYDMB on July 12, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    Dear Kaimi,
    If you, for one instant, think that just because they (the court) say: This shouldn’t be taken this far, actually believe it won’t be, you are more Naive than any other Mormon I’ve ever met in my life, and that includes all of the missionaries.

  91. CaliSaint on July 12, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Stop yammering on about Canada, and read the damn California opinion, people…The specific idea that _In re Marriage Cases_ will lead directly to temple-solemnized gay marriages…is directly counter to the text of the actual opinion. is directly counter to the text of the actual opinion

    Pardon my yammering, Kaimi. Like nothing ever changes.

    Kaimi, as a \”living\” Constitution groupie, you of all people should know that law is what judges want it to be, text be damned.

  92. Kaimi Wenger on July 12, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Um, yeah, 91. It’s wonderful that a first-time commenter has decided that I’m a “living constitution groupie,” whatever the hell that means.

    The _In Re Marriage Cases_ decision _says_ outright that it does not require religious organizations to solemnize same-sex marriages. Those nefarious judges you’re worried about? The ruling itself says it doesn’t require religious organizations to solemnize same-sex marriages.

    So, either the decision is valid law — in which case, religious organizations don’t have to solemnize same-sex marriages. Or, it’s not, in which case same-sex marriages don’t exist at all.

    Either way, religious organizations don’t have to solemnize same-sex marriages.

    Is this really so hard to comprehend?

  93. Researcher on July 12, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    What I don’t comprehend (okay, I’m being silly here) is how these discussions invariably turn to the topic of SSM.

    (I thought we were talking about the Daily Universe’s comments about “active Mormons.”)

  94. bbell on July 12, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    #70.

    Catholic Charities in Massachussetts over adoption. Its the first case like it. The battles will be long and expensive and both sides of the conflict see it coming.

    The legal battles will be over things like employment, social services etc at first and then gradually move to more central issues.

    #85. That is what the courts are saying now. But as time moves on the real danger is that there will be a cultural and legal attempt to eliminate the rights of churches to be exempt. I simpy do not trust the judiciary. If you go to law school now the aspiring lawyers are fervently in favor of SSM. These are our future judges and they will decide the future on this issue.

    I would replace “active Mormons” with “less then fully committed Mormons” if I was the editor of the Daily Universe

  95. Marc Bohn on July 12, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Easy people. Let’s keep this post on course. I’ve been meaning to find time to respond to several comments and will try to do so in one shot here now. First up, I didn’t directly link to the Daily Universe and Meridian articles because I wanted to direct traffic through DMI since the comments there are what spurred this post. If anyone has had trouble locating the articles through the DMI link, the BYU Newsnet article is here and the Meridian Magazine article is here.

    My shock at the Newsnet article had to do with the chutzpah of the editorial board thinking it was appropriate to draw some artificial line on what constitutes an “active” Mormon. I find the effort extremely wrong-headed and one that suffers from dichotomous thinking that does great violence to the truth. I understand “debate” to mean “discussion” in the context in which was used above, and I have a hard time squaring the thrust of the Daily Universe article with George Albert Smith’s letter. While I do think there is some difference between the terms “thinking” and “debate,” I don’t think the Daily Universe article is in line with the spirit of Smith’s sentiments. The article overreaches in attacking the “activity” of members who, by the article’s own admission might be diligent in reading their scriptures, attend church and pay a full tithe, and this overreach ends up consuming any other valid point the article may have to make. One big problem, as I mentioned, is that the line the article draws is artificial. What does it mean to sustain the Prophet? Does failure to follow a prophetic admonition automatically mean someone does not sustain the Prophet? Are these people automatically considered no longer “active?” Or is it just if a member expresses a concern about an admonition? Or does it depend on the topic of the admonition (e.g., would supporting the MX Missile system thirty years ago have made one not “active”)? I could make a long list of prophetic admonitions that many of us are likely out of step on. Does our failure to live up to those admonitions call into question our sustaining vote? Should the Daily Universe really be trying to parse what makes one “active,” thereby marginalizing all those who don’t fall within its problematic definition? In my view, either/or thinking rarely works to clarify what is really at issue.

    I think Smith’s letter carves out a space for discussion as well as thought. His letter sought to “confirm” that “the Church gives to every man his free agency, and admonishes him always to use the reason and good judgment with which God has blessed him.” If members are honestly striving to do this, I don’t think it productive to lob grenades attacking their level of “activity.” I think that leads to a corrosive spiritual environment and certainly doesn’t seem in line with the Joseph Smith quote that President Smith used to underscore his point: “”If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.”

    Several people have alluded to Orson Pratt’s and Brigham Young’s legendary differences of opinion, and I think them very applicable in this situation. In spite of their strong disagreements, Young, President of the Church at the time, refused to entertain the thought raised by others of disfellowshipping or excommunicating Pratt, saying “I am determined to whip Brother Pratt into it and make him work in the harness…. If Elder Pratt was chopped up in inch pieces, each piece would cry out Mormonism is true.” Is it not possible that the same could be said of many of our brothers and sisters who might oppose the California amendment on gay marriage?

    I think the way in which people go about discussing and disagreeing with something is really the key here; especially on an issue like SSM where one may not be in doctrinal disagreement, but could be merely disagreeing on policy grounds (though many of Pratt’s disagreements with Young were sufficiently doctrinal). It ishould be stated that it is possible to agree with the general principle at work in the views of general authorities without necessarily agreeing with the means that might be suggested at any one moment for pursuing that principle. If members have prayerfully considered an issue and still finds themselves in disagreement, some may take Julie’s path and cede on that particular issue out of faith, others may seek to be an alternative voice as described by Armand Mauss, others may dissent like a General Authority (hat tip again to Julie), while others may feel so strongly about an issue that they feel compelled to speak out, but I think tone and approach in all of these circumstances is of fundamental importance. I would never feel comfortable labeling someone as not “active” if they avoided attacking the Church and expressed their sincerely held disagreement in a measured and reasonable way. I think we as members should be extremely wary of efforts to condemn faithful members who have an issue with a particular policy or admonition and throw them overboard. It’s in no one’s best interest to lose their fellowship.

  96. Alison Moore Smith on July 12, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    #11 Statements like that make me thankful that I don’t live in Utah.

    Statements like that make me thankful you don’t live here, too.

    One of my few memories from ninth grade consists of my seminary teacher telling us that we should always, in all circumstances, follow our church leaders (every one, including the bishop) in every particular and that it would be a sin to not do that. Even if they were wrong. If you follow someone down a wrong path, you would still be justified.

    Years ago I had a neighbor who served as a bishop in a BYU married ward. He had an affair with one of the women in his ward. I’m wondering if that seminary teacher can explain to me why the woman involved had to undergo church discipline…just for following her leader.

  97. Researcher on July 12, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    “Statements like that make me thankful you don’t live here, too.”

    Why thank you. There are many reasons why we aren’t supposed to be living in Utah, and the blurry line between politics and religious life that I was mentioning is just a bonus to make me feel good about the distance from family and the other sacrifices I make to follow my husband’s career around the world.

    I can’t imagine having my righteousness or level of devotion to Jesus Christ impugned by all my neighbors if they don’t know exactly how many letters I’ve written or whether I have a Prop something or the other sign in my front yard. As I mentioned before, I’m actually lockstep with the Brethren on the SSM issue (although I try to avoid discussing it at all on the blogs if possible), but there are certain lines I will not cross in order to please some judgmental fool writing some censorious editorial in a college newspaper.

    I’m glad that we also agree on the issue of not blindly following someone down to hell.

    [Since this post stirred my memories of that seminary teacher, I was telling my husband last night some of the horribly inappropriate things that Brother M shared with his ninth grade students. That comment about following any leader in any circumstances was one of the least offensive things he said by far. It is unfortunate that he was teaching seminary.]

  98. NOYDMB on July 13, 2008 at 1:02 am

    A reminder from BCC pointed out just how timely this talk by Elder Ballard was, and it is especially valid considering the current blog question.
    http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-14-23,00.html

  99. JKS on July 13, 2008 at 1:21 am

    Thank you NOYDMB. That talk by Elder Ballard is very applicable. I appreciate you linking it so I could read it.

    Marc Bohn,
    I read the words by Pres. G.A. Smith and didn’t see him denoucing anything. Here are his words with my thoughts in parentheses.
    I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church (he isn’t denouncing, but clarifying the article that expressed the idea incompletely or imperfectly). Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts (the church expects individuals to think and pray and then follow the prophet’s teachings and obey the commandments having come to a testimony of the true gospel….not made up their own morality). The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings (the Lord gives us a choice to choose the right or choose the wrong…..free agency doesn’t mean there isn’t a wrong choice. We are given the choice to reject the prophet’s teachings and accept the consequences of that choice). This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow.

  100. Marc Bohn on July 13, 2008 at 3:05 am

    If you followed the link to the letter in its entirety you would have seen President Smith say:

    “The leaflet to which you refer, and from which you quote in your letter, was not “prepared” by “one of our leaders.” However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.”

    Perhaps you may disagree, but I stick with my characterization of the letter as “denouncing.”

  101. norm on July 13, 2008 at 4:13 am

    In sum, Pres. G.A. Smith specifically rejected the ideas (a) that Lucifer wins when members speak out against their leaders and do their own thinking and that (b) the thinking is done, the controversy is over, no other ways is safe or that when a church leader speaks it is necessarily and always God’s plan.

    As Rev. Cope and Pres. G.A. Smith, I take great comfort in the freedom of conscience and inspiration from God that Brigham Young hoped would be the basis of believers’ conviction and fear that any of our conviction is rooted in mere say-so or reckless devotion to the brethren.

  102. Kaimi Wenger on July 13, 2008 at 9:58 am

    90 writes,

    “If you, for one instant, think that just because they (the court) say: This shouldn’t be taken this far, actually believe it won’t be, you are more Naive than any other Mormon I’ve ever met in my life, and that includes all of the missionaries. ”

    Huh?

    It’s a direct statement of state constitutional interpretation by the state’s highest court. (And, while the holding/dicta divide is often unclear in opinions, this statement is a necessary component to the central holding to the case, and thus is either a secondary holding or part of the main holding.)

    You’ve said that it’s “naive” to suggest that the state will follow a direct statement from the most recent written opinion of the State supreme court. Actually, it’s pretty basic, black letter law.

    If I ask on an exam, “The most recent interpretation of a provision (in this case, Article I, section 4) is a direct and very recent statement from the state’s highest court. Will this be followed by state officials?” — there _is_ a correct answer. The answer (barring something like federal unconstitutionality) is YES, it will.

    You may have a crystal ball into the mind of the Cal. justices. I don’t. I do know that, whether or not anyone believes one thing or another, the written opinion is what controls.

    Also, I teach law for a living, while you are an internet troll.

  103. Kaimi Wenger on July 13, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Bbell (94) writes,

    “#85. That is what the courts are saying now. But as time moves on the real danger is that there will be a cultural and legal attempt to eliminate the rights of churches to be exempt. I simpy do not trust the judiciary. If you go to law school now the aspiring lawyers are fervently in favor of SSM. These are our future judges and they will decide the future on this issue.”

    It’s true that we can’t predict what any particular court or legislature will do in the future. A court or legislature could take any number of steps.

    However, we _can_ make some projections or judgments about the likelihood of any particular change. And if you read the _In re Marriage Cases_ opinion, you’ll see that the holding — permitting same-sex marriages — explicitly depends on the fact that these will not be forced on religious organizations. The court would have to entirely rewrite the underpinning of the same-sex marriage holding to change that. I would say that’s probably unlikely to happen any time soon.

    As for law students — well, I spend a fair amount of time around law school these days. (grin)

    There are certainly students of mine in favor of same-sex marriage. There are also students who are opposed, and students who are ambivalent.

    I’ve had this discussion with one of my students, who is one of the most vocal gay-rights advocates I know of at my own (not particularly conservative) school. She has no interest in forcing churches who don’t like gays to marry gays. As she notes, there are many churches which are happy to marry gay couples — her and her other gay friends, if they’re choosing a church wedding rather than a civil wedding, go with those venues rather than giving business to churches that don’t like gays.

  104. Doug Hudson on July 13, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    I’ve seen a number of gay marriage opponents state their concern that churches will be forced to perform gay marriages, but I’ve never actually seen any gay marriage advocates suggest this, so I am curious why people think this will be the case.

    Were churches forced to perform inter-racial marriages? This isn’t a leading question, I genuinely don’t know the answer. Likewise, did anyone ever try to take legal action to force the LDS to give black men the priesthood, prior to the raising of the ban?

    Of course, the US government has acted before to PREVENT churches from performing certain types of marriages (cough), but are there any precedents of the government forcing churches to perform marriages?

  105. Cicero on July 13, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    #95:

    I suppose we are reading the Daily Universe article differently. It seemed to me that when read in context the Daily Universe is specifically objecting to “debate” in the for of open, public opposition to the prophet. Including attempts to convince other members to openly oppose the prophet.

    Things such as efforts to encouraging members to walk out of sacrament meeting when the letter was read.

    I view such actions as beyond then pale. Those members who engage in such activism have moved from simple disagreement with Church policy into the realm of open attacks upon the Church and so yes, I do question the sincerity of their membership.

    You apparently interpret the DU denunciation as being far more broad in application. I you are correct, then I would of course be more prone to agree with you.

  106. quin on July 13, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Marc stated “I would never feel comfortable labeling someone as not “active” if they avoided attacking the Church and expressed their sincerely held disagreement in a measured and reasonable way.” I do not read the DU article as speaking out against sincere members who disagree but refrain from attacking the Church. I read the article the same way cicero did…that the DU article is drawing a line between “active Mormons” and Mormons that have become “outspoken antagonists” against the Church’s position and/or the Prophet and apostles.

    I agree with another poster that their choice of terms was unfortunate…because to many, being “active” in the Church is not synonymous with being a faithful believer or completely converted.

  107. Marc Bohn on July 13, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Cicero and Quin: The Daily Universe article clearly struck me differently than you both. I actually just re-read it and still had a difficult time coming up with a sympathetic reading. The pointed reference to the “debate” being over seems to me to be directly intended at silencing any disagreement, however sincerely held. The article, in my mind, clearly suggests that one cannot be an “active” Mormon while opposing the amendment. In its introductory paragraphs it sets up three categories of people, “members [who] agreed with the statement,” “[members who] disagreed but chose to follow their Prophet,” and “others.” While it labels these “others” as “outspoken antagonists” of the Church, under the categories the article sets out, it is apparent that anyone who chooses to voice their disagreement with the Church’s position falls within the label of “outspoken antagonists,” regardless of the tone or approach they might have taken in disagreeing. Of these “others” the article says “these individuals claim to be “active Mormons” and disagree with the Prophet’s counsel.”

    I think we’re in agreement, however, on the article’s unfortunate choice of words.

  108. Fred Gedicks on July 14, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    I understand Kaimi’s frustration over the imagined fear of forced performance of SSMs by LDS authorities or other clerics whose beliefs would prevent such performance. I also agree with Kaimi’s apparent judgment that this fear is, um, ludicrous.

    Think it through. First, are LDS authorities legally required to perform any particular heterosexual marriage right now? Is a bishop legally required to marry a hetero Latter-day Saint and a hetero Baptist, or two hetero Baptists, or even two hetero Latter-day Saints? Is a bishop legally required to marry an interracial couple, an international couple, a couple living in different places, a couple with lots of nose rings and tattoos, two 18-year-olds, an elder and a sister missionary, even if they’re LDS and want to get married? (For the severely irony deficient, these are rhetorical questions to which the obvious answer is, “no.”) The legalization of SSM changes nothing in this regard. Of course, one may hope that there would be ramifications for the LDS priesthood holder who violates LDS policy by refusing to perform a hetero marriage of two worthy and competent members, and one would think that a church committed to heterosexual marriage would be generally inclined to accommodate any two heteros who want to marry regardless of whether they seem to be a conventional couple or not. But that’s a question for another thread.

    Second, think through the issue in terms of the membership combinations that a bishop might reasonably refuse to marry. I literally cannot imagine a constitutional cause of action against a bishop for declining to marry two persons who are not LDS. How often is it going to be the case that both halves of a same-sex couple seeking an LDS marriage will be members? Even in that instance, it is still difficult to imagine a secular court ordering an LDS bishop to perform a marriage of two Latter-day Saints that is against the bishop’s or the Church’s understanding of its policies, doctrines, and theology. Such an order would be premised on either a finding that the bishop/Church was misapplying or misunderstanding LDS policy/doctrine, or a finding that the such policy/doctrine was unconstitutional, criminal, or otherwise prohibited. As to the former, there is a deeply entrenched doctrine that prohibits secular courts from interpreting theological doctrines; in other words, a secular court is simply not permitted to find that the bishop or the Church has misapplied its own doctrine. As to the latter, race discrimination is probably a good proxy for prediction in this area. Notwithstanding strong constitutional racial anti-discrimination doctrines and racial anti-discrimination statutes at both the federal and state levels, it is neither unconstitutional, nor criminal, nor otherwise prohibited, for a private association to discriminate on the basis for race in admitting members or in performing association rituals or other activities. (American Nazi Party, anyone?) It is, again, difficult to imagine that a holding that prohibits California from excluding SS couples from civil marriage will somehow be converted into a constitutional or criminal prohibition on churches or other private associations who reject the moral legitimacy of such marriages. If it hasn’t happened with race, it’s not going to happen with SSM.

    Finally, from yet another standpoint, a lawsuit by a SS couple, LDS or not, seeking an order that an LDS priesthood authority perform their SSM is tantamount to an argument that a voluntary religious association has no control over who may belong it, or what it believes. These cases uniformly come out in favor of the association.

    In short, whatever arguments there may be against the CA decision, forced performance of SSMs by LDS bishops is not one of them.