Balancing Political Positions with the Church and the Gospel

March 29, 2011 | 106 comments
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0a-Equal_Rights_Amendment_MapMy earliest memory of conflict over Church decisions came because of a local stake division and boundary changes.I remember my mother venting about how one high councilor in one stake prevented the boundary change from following local political boundaries, which would have, in my mother’s view, give Church members a more unified voice in local politics.

Just a year or two later, if I recall correctly, the LDS Church announced its opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, and the kind of conflict I saw increased substantially, and culminated among LDS Church members around Washington DC, where we lived, with the excommunication of Sonia Johnson.

Since then I’ve wondered about how LDS Church members arrive at the point that their political opinions lead to conflict with the Church, and to loss of their membership. The latest issue to lead to this kind of conflict is the recent Utah legislation described as taking a moderate approach to illegal immigration. On more than one occasion I’ve seen comments on the bloggernacle which criticize the Church for supporting this moderate position.

What makes this most recent reaction over immigration somewhat unusual is that the members criticizing the Church are conservatives. In other cases where the Church has gotten involved in politics (ERA, Proposition 8, the repeal of the 18th amendment), liberals have been the ones who have found their positions opposed by the brethren. Even those cases in which conservatives have found themselves out-of-touch with Church leaders (MX Missile, and for a few the priesthood revelation) somehow seem less vital than those which liberals have faced.

I’m somewhat confused at the vitriol of many of the reactions. I too have been occasionally caught off guard by the Church’s actions.While it was a welcome change, the priesthood revelation was a surprise. But the MX missile opposition was a real surprise. And to be honest, as time goes on and I raise two daughters, I am less sure of the opposition to the ERA.

I conceed the need for some kind of reasonable disagreement with Church leaders. Neither the gospel nor the Church seeks for mindless obedience, and I’m persuaded that there is a role for some kind of loyal dissent—with emphasis on the “loyal” part. From what I’ve heard the old saw that “once the brethren speak, the thinking has been done,” wasn’t even believed among the brethren, let alone be really considered as doctrine. [The Salt Lake Tribune addressed this issue somewhat recently.] We permit disagreement with Church policy, depending on how members act on that disagreement.

At least some of this reaction may have come from differing conceptions of the gospel. We all understand the scriptures and counsel of Church leaders in a form that fits our conceptions to some degree. We hear what we want to hear and emphasize what we think is most important, at least to some degree. I have the impression that we don’t interpret every scriptures the same way that we once did. In addition, there are in the gospel areas were apparently contrary principles need to be balanced: justice and mercy, becoming godly and remaining approachable, supporting the institution while helping the individual, allowing freedom yet supporting righteousness. Perhaps then it is no surprise that some have conceptions that end up leading to conflict with the Church.

I don’t know exactly what solution or solutions there are or how they might work. I don’t think there is a single, simple solution. Since the problem originates in our conceptions, the only solutions I can imagine are ones that require working out new conceptions. So the best I can offer is a series of questions that we can apply when our ideas, especially our poitical ideas, run into conflict with what the Church says or does. I’d be interested to see what additional questions, or other ways of approaching the problem of our ideology conflicting with the Church.

Here are my questions:

  • Importance: Is this issue more important than the basic truths of the gospel: faith, repentance, baptism, doing good to all men, etc.
  • Humility: Am I sure that my way of seeing this issue is better than those who I have agreed to support as the Lord’s inspired representatives?
  • The Long View: Could the Church’s actions simply be temporary; something that the Lord will change later? Is this an issue for loyal disagreement?
  • Personal: Does this really affect me or my salvation?
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106 Responses to Balancing Political Positions with the Church and the Gospel

  1. Dane on March 29, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    apparently contrary principles need to be balanced: justice and mercy, becoming godly and remaining approachable, supporting the institution while helping the individual, allowing freedom yet supporting righteousness.

    This has been on my mind a lot lately, specifically with regards to raising kids. My wife and I (like all parents, I imagine) have different perspectives on various aspects of child raising. I used to think it was just a matter of finding the “right” approach and going with it, but I’m increasingly convinced that the “right” approach is to have both (or multiple) approaches. This presents a span of experience and reflects the complexity of real-life problems more effectively than any single solution can. So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m grateful for those in the church who disagree with me, and I’m grateful that I can also hold my own distinct opinions. Perhaps the variety makes it more likely that those in need will be able to find the solutions that address their own specific situations.

  2. Jax on March 29, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks for the post Kent. I’m usually more aligned with stricter policies regarding illegal immigration than the new Utah legislation supports. IMO it is far to lenient on people who are by defintion law-breakers.

    But I fully trust the Church leadership to make correct decision in accordance with the Lord’s will. Sometimes it isn’t what I expect it to be, or would like it to be, but I accept it. I personally don’t think in these kinds of matters (immigration debate, priesthood worthiness, marriage defense, etc) that it is NOT the leadership making the decisions on what the Church will or will not support, but the Lord. I believe He is actively involved in making the decisions and it is the Brethren who then carry them out.

    I think when those decisions go contrary to many peoples preconcieved ideas or desires that they immediately impune the motives of the Brethren and look for nefarious reasons for them. I think we need to be willing to NOT know the motive the Lord chooses. Perhaps it is to aid missionary work, to not lose political influence that could dampen temple construction, perhaps it is to hold to principles such as mercy or justice. I don’t need to know the specifics even though I would very much like to. But many don’t accept that the Lord’s thoughts are not our thoughts and that He, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, can do what he wants with HIS church and it is up to us follow.

    I liked your questions and wish that more people would use them when making decisions on what and when to criticize church officials.

  3. Adam Greenwood on March 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Wherever the line needs to be drawn, those activists who vow to get back at the Church are on the wrong side of it. That was the Sonia Johnson sin, and that was the sin of several angry Utah Tea Party quotes I read recently. I could only hope they weren’t actually Mormon.

  4. Jon on March 29, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    I come from a different view than Jax in that I don’t see the brethren as infallible. I see them as imperfect and trying to do their best and not necessarily inspired by every action they take (like the scripture says, it’s not prudent for the Lord to command in all things). I do think they do have much experience and insight that we don’t since they see things from the “top”.

    Having said that I do question sometimes and I disagree with them sometimes but I still respect their positions. For example, the proposition 8. I don’t think we should use the violence of government to force people to do things we want them to. I think we should use persuasion rather than the sword. I think a more principled approach would have been to get government out of marriage altogether and let it me a secular practice. But I won’t let this idea get me exed out of the church either. I’m not going to publicly denounce their position and call them bad for their position. I understand where they are coming from but think it is a position of fear (as shown by some of the reasoning behind it), but we need not fear if we are with the Lord.

    I also wish the brethren would clearly denounce war instead of leading many in the church to believe that whoring after war is OK. I know in the past they have been more anti-war but in the present they pronounce it but don’t state it clearly. I don’t know why this is. I don’t judge them for it and am glad that they pronounce their faith in Christ and urge people to read the scripture and understand His glad message. So, I think that (testifying of Christ) is more important than both the issues I’ve raised. If they didn’t do that then I would denounce them but if they did not proclaim that Christ is the Son of God then they wouldn’t be prophets.

    So coming from your questions:
    1. No, these issues aren’t more important.
    2. I don’t know. I could be wrong but it seems like my principles that I have espoused are consistent, but I’ll continue to listen to the brethren and read the scriptures to know if I should be corrected.
    3. I could see the actions as temporary or just as a lack of understanding of certain principles (assuming I’m right but see #2 on that one).
    4. It doesn’t affect me or my salvation directly so it isn’t that important. I just wish for peace and a more loving world.

  5. Kent Larsen on March 29, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    Adam, I’m very pleased that we agree.

    I think Sonia Johnson would have been better off if she had taken a more nuanced and less combative view of the issue. With 30+ years of hindsight, I think that the ERA might have, at best, sped up some of the changes we’ve seen and perhaps introduced others. Theoretically, they may have been changes we don’t want—it’s hard to say. Regardless, with this hindsight, its hard to see much benefit from her combat with the Church.

  6. Grant on March 29, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Pretty much in line with your questions, but not as systematic,what I do is to emphasize basic principles in my life and dealings with others, faith, repentance, baptism (ordinances), Holy Ghost, with the attitudes of Faith, Hope, and Charity, the latter being of course the greatest. Any conflict in doctrine or teaching or policy beyond this I approach as respectfully and humbly as possible and exercise patience. I absolutely refuse to directly criticize the Brethren although this slips in more than I would like to admit (although with deceased Brethren and former local leaders more than with current ones). If you are quiet, you can respectfully decline from any belief or practice. And I don’t feel any overwhelming responsibility to have everyone agree with my views (even as I try to promote them on my own blog and respectfully and appropriately within authorized bounds when I teach or speak).

    As some examples, I don’t like youth conferences, treks, or EFY as I see them as overly manipulative and “phony.” And they are clearly outside the basic principles of the gospel and not necessary for salvation. There are enough real challenges our youth face and plenty of real outdoor activities and service projects to be done for group activities which I prefer. So I quietly attempt to avoid being involved and don’t encourage my kids to participate (sort of like not encouraging daughters to go on missions – a policy I fully support). If they want to, it’s certainly within their agency to participate and probably won’t do them terrible harm. Oh, and I have been in Young Mens’ positions for a good part of my adult life and my local leaders seem to think I’m pretty good at it.

    I’m also a Democrat, which is sometimes a real challenge in the church (especially in Utah) and it is so funny when people find out, and are so “shocked” because I am otherwise such a “faithful-orthodox” member.

    I was anti-MX before the church position came out and was so pleased to have gotten that one right. More challenging was my opposition to the Iraq War (even if history pretty much proved me right) I was shocked by President Hinckley’s conference address of April 2003. Even though he expressed it was his “personal” views that were in support of the war, I found it difficult to be on the opposite side as the President even on personal matters. So, while my sentiments and personal position didn’t change, I was quiet – and a little heart-broken. But that was perhaps a blessing as it gave me a little humility.

    It also led me to one of the most humbling and powerful lessons of my life in priesthood charity. I was High Priest Group Leader at the time (see, perfectly orthodox) and had to do a “teachings for our time” lesson on that very talk. As I presented President Hinckley’s talk I was very open with my own views, to the point of tears. The surprise was when my two assistants with very different views from mine came to my defense. One a Viet Nam veteran and the other in active duty. Do you think we learned some true things about the gospel regardless of positions on the war? Yep.

  7. Paul on March 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Kent, thanks for your thoughtful post. I think your questions are about right, though I confess I’m always a little troubled by the “does this affect my salvation” question — not in this context necessarily, but in general.

    I think that question in particular has become a bit of a banner for those who would prefer not to think harder about something and signal that they (and others) should move on. In fact, what may not be important to one may be important to another.

    And in fairness, you label that question as personal, and reflect on it personally, which is, in my view, the right approach.

    Grant — appreciated your experience with your TFOT lesson. A nice example of the value of a humble heart expressing itself honestly.

  8. Tristin on March 29, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Wonderful, insightful post, Kent. Thank you. I recently shared the SLTrib article you mentioned with an acquaintance in the church, and the guy nearly punched me in the face just for showing it to him. He was offended and outraged, though he could not or would not articulate what it was about the idea of fallible leadership made him so angry. Even after a series of examples of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other prophets’ mistakes, he refused to even consider the idea anything other than anti-Mormon propaganda.

    The questions you pose seem extremely useful, and I realize that I have been unconsciously using a version of them in my own mental debates about church policies for quite a while. They have helped me maintain an independent view without developing a sense of enmity or resentment in relation to the church. I think they are vital to the spiritual well-being of any member that does not take a blind faith approach to following the brethren.

  9. Jacob M on March 29, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Tristin – I don’t think it was the “fallible leadership” concept that made your aquaintance so angry. It was the tone of the beginning of the article. Look at the first paragraph.

    President Thomas S. Monson, his two right-hand men and 12 apostles will take to the podium at next weekend’s LDS General Conference and offer sermons that many Mormons will treat like faxes from God.

    First, calling his counselors “his right-hand men” is not how the average member of the church would refer to them. It seems demeaning of their station. Second, that General Conference addresses are “faxes from God,” also trivializes how members feel about the conference. I won’t threadjack too much longer, except to say that it’s not surprising that after reading that he felt that the other stuff was all anti.

    Back to your regularly scheduled comments on the OP

  10. Jax on March 29, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    @ Jon

    I don’t see them as infallible. Far from. But I think the positions that the Church takes stands on are directed by Him and it is mostly up to fallible men to implement them. I don’t think every action is inspired, nor every line of every talk. The spirit prompts the direction and the message comes across according to the ability of the person involved. I diagree with them sometimes too, but figure that they are guided appropriately on major issues, like those I cited above, and are then left to use their abilities as best they can.

    It would be a lovely day indeed if they came out openly against war. I thought serving in the Army was a terrible idea for LDS people until my wife and I were unmistakenly called to have me do so. So I served out of obedience to God and loyalty to country but hating almost everything the military does and stands for. Wish fervently that the Brethren would openly oppose war except for purely defensive purposes!

    Also agree on the Prop 8 position you have. Why should government be included at all in family life? I think it’s foolish to pay the gov’t to allow me to get married (marriage license) and to dictate to anyone who then can marry or how many they can marry. But since the gov’t and legal system are unfortunately going to intervene, it would be prudent for the Church, any church, to push for gov’t intervention and legal support in favor of your positions instead of opposed to them.

    But why can’t they be guided always? Is it not our gift to have the Spirit with us ‘always’? And, assuming that they do (even if nobody else I know does), why wouldn’t they be getting nearly constant guidance? They may misinterpret the inspiration they recieve occasionally, as do we all I suppose, but that is part of being infallible, isn’t it? Just a thought.

  11. Jeremy on March 29, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    The thing that flummoxes me about so many Mormons’ divergence from the Brethren on the immigration issue is that, from a doctrinal standpoint, their whole position (and the surprising anger and sometimes outright racism that accompanies it) seems to hinge almost entirely on a very narrow, self-serving, tautological reading of the twelfth Article of Faith.

    They can’t seem to square the 12th AoF saying “obey the law” with the Church saying “The law is lousy; make a better law.”

    Moreover, previous Church involvement with politics would appear pretty clearly, to the outside (and maybe to many insiders), as a somewhat predictable outgrowth of a Church culture that is largely a subset of a very conservative larger cultural region. An observer back in the day might well have thought sure, Mormons oppose ERA because they’re all in a geographic area that would likely have that inclination even if Mormonism were taken out of the equation. In other words, Mormon folks might look to scripture for backup after they’ve made up their minds about such issues–and can probably find some success in selectively enlisting scripture– but probably didn’t rely on scripture very much in arriving at their opinions in the first place.

    But the current immigration controversy is different. Aside from the weak and highly selective invocation of the 12th AofF, where does a conservative Mormon look if he wants to convince himself that his position on immigration is somehow a “Mormon” position? Now, if you have a problem with immigration polices on the basis of your opinions about fiscal issues, entitlements, etc., that’s fine–but that’s a political position and perhaps to some extent an ideological position, but it is not in the least, so far as I can tell, even arguably a “Mormon” position.

  12. Bob on March 29, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I don’t agree that the GAs are getting any directions from above about their ‘Political Positions’. They are fallible men, and do sometimes they take the wrong political position. I see no reason to look to them for anything outside their giving calling in the Church.
    We who are American citizens. We should act in accordance of the wisdom of our system (also fallible). We can and should use the morals we learn from our Church. But not take directions from, or follow the political actions the Church.

  13. Dan on March 29, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    I guess I appreciate that President Hinckley supported the war in Iraq, because that action eventually broke my belief that prophets and the church are any better, smarter, wiser, or have better insight into the future or the present than the rest of us. I can thus go on living life, accepting what they teach and not being all that bothered when they say something that I may not necessarily agree with.

  14. Jon on March 30, 2011 at 7:42 am

    @Jax,

    I guess I don’t see them as infallible in many of their positions because of history and the scripture I paraphrased before, that it is not prudent for the Lord to command in all things.

    I could be wrong on prop 8. Maybe looking into the future it is better this way. Maybe it was just to cleanse the church and not necessarily for any other reason, who knows. Just like the OP talked about the lady that was critical of the church for ERA we can see her fruits years later and ask are they good? Did she continue to follow Christ even after being exed from the church? I have know idea. All I know is that I try and understand the principles and then I’ll pray about it later, it’s not something I have seeked guidance for so I cannot speak as one having authority. I’m sure the brethren have but that doesn’t mean the Lord guided them to that decision, because of the scripture above. They also must seek and ponder for what is right and principled and maybe they haven’t thought of the alternative of getting government out marriage. This is why I won’t criticize them for their decision but I can disagree with it and I can have a change of heart later when I seek for guidance myself.

  15. Carl Youngblood on March 30, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Kent, while I think your questions are good, they all seem to be focused on what degree of personal inconvenience we should be willing to undergo for the sake of our church membership. They neglect other serious considerations, such as:

    To what degree is my assent, passive or otherwise, to church policies and teachings, as well as my financial support of the Church, contributing to oppression and suffering on the earth?

    You seem to assume that Church positions either result in positive outcomes or largely benign consequences, but this is not always the case. There are undoubtedly some aspects of church policies and practices that are not good and result in oppression and suffering. To the extent this is true, we should be willing to acknowledge our collective responsibility for supporting such causes with our time and money.

    While I think most members would agree that the tradeoff is worth it, and that the Church’s influence is a net benefit, we would be kidding ourselves if we tried to claim that there have not been any significant cases of oppression and suffering as a result of church policies and practices. And we would be wrong if we claimed not to share at least some degree of responsibility for these injustices.

    We need to remember that every time we support one cause with our time and money, we neglect to support another. To the extent our time and attention is devoted to things that are inconsequential, we are failing to make use of the means available to us and are thereby guilty also. Even more so if we actively take part in supporting a cause that contributes to undeserved suffering.

    I’m not directing my comments at any specific policy or practice, just pointing are that there are two sides of the coin, and I don’t feel like one of them was adequately acknowledged.

  16. Rameumptom on March 30, 2011 at 9:26 am

    If nothing else, I find that the few occasions when the Church steps in to establish its views on a political issue, it causes us all to think and consider our position. In that I find value. I find I can sustain the Brethren, even though I do not necessarily agree with everything.

    As for the Immigration issue, I think the Church is taking a wise, middle ground approach. I would hope that we could give illegal immigrants an opportunity to enrich themselves by allowing them to actually become Americans.

    I knew my great-grandfather. He was born in the Ukraine as a German-Russian. Many came over here a century ago on tourist visas, never returning back because of the difficult situations then in Russia. Irish came in droves here during the potato famine. Each of these groups and more have given great blessings to our nation as they have integrated, as well as brought the good in their own cultures to share with us.

    We would be foolish to keep ignoring the immigrant issue. In fact, I’m sad that the Democrats spent all their muscle and capitol on health care, rather than on fixing the immigration problems.

  17. Bob on March 30, 2011 at 10:26 am

    @ Rameumptom: “We could give illegal immigrants an opportunity to enrich themselves by allowing them to actually become Americans”.
    After 10 years, most of the Latios will be ‘American’ by birth. But they will want to retain some amount of their Latio culture, and that will come by a weaking of the Mormon culture.

  18. Kent Larsen on March 30, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Carl, well said. FWIW, I never intended for the list of questions in the OP to be comprehensive, so adding questions to address your suggestions would be welcome.

  19. Paul on March 30, 2011 at 11:00 am

    #17 Bob: Because culture is a zero-sum game?

  20. Kent Larsen on March 30, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Paul, I think you are right. Observing elements of one culture doesn’t necessarily mean that elements of other cultures are excluded. If I celebrate Brazilian Independence Day (Sept 7th) or the Portuguese April 25th holiday, does that somehow mean I can’t celebrate on July 4th?

    Somehow, I’ve managed to learn how to make Brazilian feijoada without forgetting how to make funeral potatoes. It only replaces Mormon culture when I have to decide what to eat tonight!

  21. Bob on March 30, 2011 at 11:56 am

    @Paul: Yes_ when two cultures share the same space, each will change, or one will be eliminated. That’s the history of mankind.
    Mormon culture in Utah already has been greatly weaken by other cultures moving in over the years.

  22. Grant on March 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Good Heavens! as a caucasian, LDS, Utah Resident (although not born here) with pioneer roots as deep as anybody, I’m doing everything I can to change the aspects of Utah Mormon Culture I don’t like and some of which, I sincerely believe, are contrarty to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and even the current leaders of the church! (oh, and I make feijoada and hang my Brazilian flag out on Sept. 7) (and my Welsh flag out on March 1).

  23. Paul on March 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    #21 Bob: And that’s a bad thing? I listened to Elder Packer speak in a priesthood leadership meeting in Michigan 10 years ago and you’d think he was trying to stamp out Mormon culture everywhere (in favor of the simple truths of the gospel guiding our lives).

    Interesting that such a large portion of the church is Latino now, between Mexico, Brazil and the rest of Latin America. Seems like a bit of that culture in Mormonism wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

    (I know I’m picking at a scab here, and I’ll stop.)

  24. Jon on March 30, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    @Bob,

    So you think that mormons should go back to their cultural roots and start using midwives, stop using modern medicine (herbal medicine only), stop using A/C, stop using natural gas, stop using paved roads, stop using electronic devices, start making their own clothes, etc?

    Mormon culture isn’t necessarily the best just because it’s mormon. I agree with Grant on that one.

    All the land is God’s land. We have no right to stop one group from peacefully migrating unless we personally own the land and wish not to sell to some other group of people. Natural law dictates this.

  25. Brad Dennis on March 30, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    For me it is not a question of whether the First Presidency supports a political position that I like or not, it is whether they get involved in politics. I generally oppose any church intervention into political issues whether I agree with the issue or not. I generally disagreed with Prop 8, but support the Utah compact on immigration. However, I disagree with church leaders on both fronts for taking a political stance. Neither of these issues are life or death issues for the church. Gay marriage could be legalized in the US and have relatively little effect on the church. Likewise Utah could impose strict policy against illegal immigrants and the church would still be alive and well. The church’s silence on issues should not be interpreted as acceptance of something one way or another, but as a strong commitment to being apolitical. The church should only get involved in political issues when they could have a potentially directly harmful effect on the livelihood of the church.

  26. Jon on March 30, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    I disagree with the sentiment that Churches should stay out of politics. This sentiment is relatively new and has roots from a misrepresentation of the separation of church and state (not found in the constitution). It’s government which must stay out of churches but not the other way around. Why? Remember what the definition of government (or rather the state) is. The monopoly of force. Therefore, churches have a direct interest in politics since the state can do whatever it pleases since it has this monopoly and it is up to the individual to try and mitigate this monopoly. Individuals can do this, in part, by using the sway of the church over it’s people to hold back the power of the state. The position that churches stay out of government is not founded in the founders ideas, as far as I know of, but just the opposite, they were seen as essential in interacting with the state.

  27. Bob on March 30, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    @ Jon: I think it is good the Mormon Church wants to be kind and warm to the immigrants to Utah. That’s what a church should do.
    What I am saying, it may not be the best thing for the Mormon culture of Utah. At this point, the Mormons culture has the power in the governing of Utah. This may not hold as the number of Latio voters becomes larger. This is happening in California. The culture wars have been happening my whole in California. I foresee a time they start in Utah.

  28. Jon on March 30, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    @Bob,

    Oh, I see, you are worried about the political implications. I can see that being a valid concern. My idea would be to use gentle persuasion instead of the sword (the state, AKA government) to convert them over to better ways of doing things (assuming their way isn’t good).

  29. Jon on March 30, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    @Bob,

    Also, some history might be in order here. The mormons were persecuted for the same reason (at least one of the reasons) in Illinois because the church would use it’s weight to change political outcomes. Those that lived there before the mormons didn’t like that too much.

  30. AHLDuke on March 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    The longer I have been a member of the Church, and the more history of the Church that I have been exposed to, it becomes easier to view the Prophet and the 12 in terms of prerogative and authority rather than infallibility. It is their exclusive prerogative to decide and pronounce what the Church’s position is on certain issues and what the Church’s doctrines are and how they should be taught. However, that prerogative does not mean that they possess any special insight that makes their views automatically right and unchallengeable. I do not have to agree with every statement and every action, and I can vocally disagree and live my life in accordance with my own conscience, but I cannot challenge their right to say what the Church’s stance is.

  31. Brad Dennis on March 30, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Jon #26, you’re probably listening to too much Glenn Beck. I mean how is the current government interfering in church issues? Look at the Supreme Court, they just ruled that it was unconstitutional to keep the Westboro Baptist Church from protesting at soldiers’ funerals in an 8-1 vote.

    But generally, you are committing a red herring. I am not talking about the question of what the US constitution does and doesn’t say. I am talking about the LDS church’s decision to get involved in politics. The reason I don’t want it: it has a generally divisive effect on its church members (more than it would if the church were apolitical), not that it is a question of the separation of church and state.

  32. Jon on March 30, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    @Brad,

    I just assumed that’s where you got your ideas about the church not participating in politics (and others). I know I can’t always assume and get it right but since we have never blogversed I did it anyways. Just as you assumed that I’m a right wing republican (assumption) that loves to listen to Glenn Beck (stated). Which is entirely incorrect. I consider myself more of a classical liberal with anarchic persuasions along the lines of the Rothbardians (wiki anarchocapatilism or Mises Institute or Murray Rothbard). I do not suppose that churches don’t have a rule in politics today but I hear from many how they think the separation clause in the constitution dictates that churches not participate in government which is entirely not true.

    So we should understand each other better now. My my main point still holds, where the state exists it is up to the churches to curb it’s violent monopoly.

  33. Jax on March 30, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Brad,

    Jon didn’t say that the gov’t was interfering in churches, but was providing an argument on why churches have an interest in being involved in politics. No red herring at all.

    The church’s involvement in politics SHOULDN’T be divisive. Everyone should recognize that all churchs have a right to be involved, just like all other charities, clubs, businesses, and individuals. And church members should realize it is there obligation to stand with and support the church as required by the covenants they have made. I disagree with Church positions occasionally, but I don’t let it ‘divide’ me from the church of from it’s leaders. And neither should anyone else.

  34. Brad Dennis on March 30, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Jax, I also don’t reject the church based on disagreement with some issues. I agree that people should be unified with it. But the LDS church leaders can’t control what followers’ reactions will be to their decisions. They took a stance on Prop 8 which ended up alienating many liberal members. They then took a stance on immigration which ended up alienating many conservative members. From a personal bottom-up perspective, I agree with you: people should support the church based on covenants regardless. But if I were a leader (looking at matters from the top-down perspective) I would have tried to dissuade my fellow decision-making leadership cohorts from taking political stances in order to minimize the risk of being divisive.

  35. Adam Greenwood on March 30, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    They took a stance on Prop 8 which ended up alienating many liberal members. They then took a stance on immigration which ended up alienating many conservative members. . . But if I were a leader (looking at matters from the top-down perspective) I would have tried to dissuade my fellow decision-making leadership cohorts from taking political stances in order to minimize the risk of being divisive.

    Alienation is a risk. But, on the other hand, Church leadership reasonably sees a risk that as gay relationships become normalized, church practice will be marginalized. And reasonably sees a risk that as conservative American Mormons push for hard immigration restrictions, Mormon missionary efforts to hispanics will suffer. So Church leadership is in a position of having to balance risks that are largely incalculable on both sides. I can’t be certain that they came down on the wrong side (in fact, I’m willing to believe they didn’t).

  36. Jax on March 30, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Brad,

    I understand your point, and it is difficult to decide at times what side of an issue to be on, and which issues are important enought to take a side on at all. That decision can be hard enough for individuals, let alone for a someone who is going to want their followers to agree with. So how does one decide which issues are important and which side of that issue to support?

    My contention is that only the Lord has the knowledge to make those decisions wisely, which is convenient since He is the only one with the perogative to make them for His church. I think He does and will make the decisions and the leaders implement them; not that the leaders make the decisions. When talking in conferences/devotionals (general, stake, or other) I know they include personal opinion and stances. But I believe that when they take action ‘as the church’ that it is with the Lord’s approval and under His direction.

  37. Brad Dennis on March 30, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Adam, I agree that church leaders are acting because they perceive that if they fail to take a political stance that they may face those very risks that you mentioned above. However, I don’t see how legalized gay marriage or harsh immigration policies in and of themselves would pose an immediate and direct threat to the church. Gay marriage is already legalized in a number of US states and countries where the church exists. But the church doesn’t seem to suffered in those places solely as a result that policy. While I believe that the church would hurt its growth potential and status among Latinos if it took a harsh stance against illegal immigration, I don’t believe that the church would be significantly jeopardized by remaining silent on the immigration issue. I’ll concede that there may be some risk involved by inaction on these two issues; however, I believe that the greater risk is the potential division caused among members because of church involvement in political issues.

    Jax, the way I see it, God allows a great degree of latitude in human decision-making, even if these humans are Joseph Smith or the current church leaders. He may inspire, but he doesn’t dictate. This would violate the principle of agency. The process of church involvement in political action is very much a product of human-reasoning.

  38. Jax on March 30, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Brad,

    It is impossible for any of us to “see how legalized gay marriage or harsh immigration policies in and of themselves would pose an immediate and direct threat to the church” but the Lord can see it and direct us on the best path. He knows when to use justice and That is why we place faith in HIM. We trust that He knows the way and guides us on it. At least that is what I believe. And I think it is what we’re suppose to believe.

    Free agency isn’t lost at all if the Lord dictates how the Lord’s church is run. No more than personal freedom is lost when an employer mandates what time an employee shows up to work, what clothes he wears, or what duties he performs. The agency is yours but if you want to keep your position (employment or priesthood) then you don’t go contrary to what the man in charge dictates.

    Would you argue agency was lost by the giving of the Ten Commandments because He can’t dictate what His church does? The argument is ridiculous and I’m almost a bit embarrassed for you for having said it. It is IMPOSSIBLE for agency to be taken away from anyone on this planet! It isn’t that it shouldn’t be taken away, it CAN’t be! Options may be reduced or limited, but agency exists all the same.

  39. Kent Larsen on March 30, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Personally, I’m not willing to limit the Church to the “immediate and direct threat to the church” standard. It seems to me that the Church also has an interest in the overall moral situation in the world and in the countries where it has a substantial portion of the population. At least, this seems what the Church’s standard is.

    It also seems like they are much more worried about political divisions where the Church headquarters is located: Utah and the U.S.

    In contrast, the Church doesn’t seem to have used its influence in the Arizona legislature to ameliorate Arizona’s anti-immigration law. Nor has it gotten involved in political issues, as far as I can tell, in either Mexico or Brazil, each of which has more than 1 million LDS Church members and have had LDS Church members in their national legislatures.

  40. Dan on March 30, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    I agree with AHLDuke in comment #30.

  41. Grant on March 30, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Like Dan, I agree with AHLDuke in #30 except for one slight nuance. I DO believe they have “special insight” but agree it does not make “their views automatically right and unchallengeable.” However, that “special insight” and the authority issue that AHLDuke recognizes lead me to give their views a little more weight in my considerations than I would for anyone else (including, or maybe especially, all us bloggers).

  42. Brad Dennis on March 30, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Jax, much of church policy has been formed through counsels and discussion. Not all of the apostles and the first presidency agree on everything. Consensus is needed among the brethren for general action to be taken. I trust that brethren make decisions based on approximations of what they believe God’s will to be. But unlike a manager who can appear personally and make rules for his or her employees, God probably doesn’t appear personally and tell the twelve directly what action to take. If God did, then why is there so much evidence of historical disagreements among the brethren? Part of agency involves experimentation and negotiation. Policy-making in the church seems to me to be more a part of the process of human experimentation towards establishing a just society, the negative and positive consequences of which aren’t always immediately manifest. In fact I get the sense sometimes that church leaders were surprised that there was so much internal opposition to its stance on Prop 8, and many high-ranking leaders are even reconsidering taking such a stance in the future. Just last year General Authority and Church Historian Marlin K. Jensen seemed to be apologetic over Prop 8. I don’t know I could be wrong though.

  43. Sonny on March 30, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Jax, if I read your comments correctly, and I fully realize I might not be so forgive me if that is the case, it seems that you take a position that because this is the Lord’s Church then all decisions taken by his representatives (or if not all then most, or at least the ‘important’ ones), are representative of His will, or were made because He wanted it to happen (whatever ‘it’ is). Other posts here seem to be suggesting that some decisions made by the First Presidency, or other General Authorities, were ‘allowed’ to happen by the Lord but not necessarily that they represented the Lord’s will. Am I making sense with that last sentence? In other words, we have human vessels that were anointed to lead and guide the Church as best they can, but because they are human some things may have been decided (or said over the pulpit as doctrine) that they later realize was not correct. A case in point was brought out in the SLT article mentioned in the OP. Bruce R. McConkie said in effect to forget what other prophets and apostles (himself included) had said about the Blacks and the priesthood, and that they were operating on limited light and knowledge at the time. It does not mean they were not the Lord’s representatives, it does not mean they should not be sustained and supported. However, it does suggest that like Brad has said, they do the best they can, and sometimes they get things wrong. I guess it could be argued that the Lord intended for them to get it wrong initially for some reason known only to Him and then corrected things later, but personally I think that in these instances it makes more sense to conclude that the Lord allowed certain things to happen and that not all Church Authorities decisions/statements are the exact will of the Lord.

  44. Raymond Takashi Swenson on March 30, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    If we look out at the rest of American Christendom, we can see churches taking official positions on all sorts of political issues and even on candidates. John F. Kennedy gave his speech promising not to let his catholic background influence his decisions in the White house in response to Baptists denouncing him over the pulpit. Every Democratic candidate in my lifetime has made a point of speaking at Sunday meetings of large black churches. The American Conference of Bishops of the Catholic Church has taken all sorts of positions on political questions, including not only abortion but also on the death penalty and types of government aid to the poor and other social justice issues. The more liberal of the mainline Protestant denominations are known to take basically left wing positions on a whole host of issues, including gay marriage.

    By comparison, the LDS Church has been very selective in voicing a position on political issues.

    President Hinckley’s April 2003 conference talk on war in the Middle East did state as his personal view that there was a motive of defending American liberty that justified military action, but he said again and again that others in the church are free to disagree and state their views. He only called on all those involved in debating the issue to not get caught up in personal hatred of their opponents, especially within the Church. He emphasized again and again the terrible suffering caused by war, by both soldiers and civilians. He did assure those who lived up to their oaths of military service that they do not have a duty to override the decisions of those they swore to uphold as their commanders. This was hardly a ringing jingoistic speech, meant to persuade or shout down those who disagreed with the wisdom of invading Iraq. He did not threaten the fellowship of anyone who disagreed with him, but instead affirmed their right to come to their own conclusions. He did not claim that he had received revelation on the topic of the justification for the invasion. In other words, he fully supported the right of Grant to have his own views on the Iraq invasion, in full fellowship in the Church. Grant may be sad that President Hinckley did not advocate Grant’s own position, but that is not a basis to criticize President Hinckley (as some commenters have done).

    Sonya Johnson was free to voice her support of the ERA, and did so for years. What caused her excommunication was when she explicitly announced that the victory of the ERA was more important to her than the saving work of the Church; that people who supported the ERA should turn away the missionaries and tell them that the Church was being punished for taking a political view that disagreed with hers, even though the Church had not punished Sister Johnson for taking a political view that differed with that of the Church.

    Sonya Johnson continued her trajectory of rejecting the Church and its doctrines, chaining herself to the gate of the new Seattle Temple, and eventually coming out as a lesbian New Age feminist advocate of hippie-style free love.

    Was the opposition to the ERA wise? If the ERA had become part of the US Constitution, there is no question that it would be cited as authority to recognize gay marriage. While that point was raised back during the ERA controversy, the notion was ridiculed by ERA proponents as extreme rhetoric, not a real possibility. Yet here we are.

    By and large, the Church allows us members to decide what the gospel means in our political role as citizens. And we often come up with differing outcomes. We can love and tolerate each other as brothers and sisters in the Church, just as we should love and tolerate each other as neighbors.

    As to whether the government should back out of the marriage business: Would you have divorce and support obligations and the division of property be outside the cognizance of the law? Would you allow the existence of marriage, and what it means in terms of inheritance, and citizenship, and taxation, and residency, and child custody, and adoption, to be totally outside the ability of the government to protect the innocent and ensure the rights of children and powerless spouses? Do you think it is not the province of government to dictate how old someone must be to marry? Or to ban marriage between siblings or parent and child? Or to bar polygamy and concubinage?

    Let me state my personal view on one political topic. The same-sex marriage debate is NOT about whether gay people can live together, share their property, or even adopt children. Even in states like Massachusetts that allow it, most long term gay couples don’t bother. andin states like Calkifornia and Washington, other laws allow gays virtually every legal right that married couples have. Making gay marriage the official position of government is all about making any voiced oppostion to homosexual acts, even the personal decision to not associate oneself with it, punishable by government. That has already happened in government forums in Canada, and in some cases in the US. It is all about making the government take sides in the debate over sexual morality, and take it decisively against traditional sexual morality that favors marriage between a man and a woman. It is all about censoring the expression of dissent by Catholics, Baptists and Mormons. It is definitively NOT about taking government OUT of the marriage business; gay people can do what they want with each other without government interference. It is all about making the rest of us bow down to homosexual and other atypical sexual practices and classify us as evil if we open our mouths to discourage or criticize it. And it is being forced upon the majority of Americans through the fiat of judges who think they are more enlightened than the rest of us.

    You are free within the Church to disagree with me. Just as I am free to disagree with you. At no point in the Proposition 8 debate did the Church tell members that their own position was a matter of their fellowship in the Church, or ability to get a temple recommend. but ultimately, the purpose of gay marriage is to enable gays to punish anyone who simply voices opposition to their practices, including denying Catholics the ability to arrange adoptions, and eventually to deny tax exemptions to churches that refuse to endorse homosexuality as equivalent in morality to normal sex within monogamy.

    On the other hand, when the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, which act primarily through consensus, have reached a consensus on an issue of this kind, we ought to pause and reconsider what our reasons are for disagreeing with a particular recommendation of the Brethren. Do we think we are smarter than they are? Kinder and more compassionate? Less parochial in our outlook and experiences? A better judge of legal issues or of social policy? The Brethren are not a bunch of professional clergy whose educations hav been narrowly focused on theology. They are “men of the world” in terms of their experience in the world of people’s dealings with one another, and their collective wisdom, purely based on their achievements in their pre-General Authority careers, is something to be reckoned with.

    We all know of their selflessness and their concern for the happiness and welfare of the members of the Church and for the rest of God’s children. We cannot automatically ascribe to them motives of venality and prejudice or parochialism. They are constantly reaching out to nations and cultures around the world. They do not assume that any notion that pops into their own heads is the word of God. We should, at the least, respect their position, when it is stated, as one held by reasonable and sincere men who have concern for all affected by the issue at hand. We should be sure that our own position is similarly motivated by love for others and for the principles taught by the Savior. If we find ourselves caught up in anger toward the Brethren, and opposition to the Church and its work of salvation, then there is good reason to question our personal position.

  45. Amari on March 30, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    The division between the gospel and Mormon culture in Utah can be troubling.

    Has it occurred to anyone else that the reason the Church would move to Missouri would be to get away from “the Mormons?”

    Consider how liberating it would be for a world wide church to be free of the ultra conservative western American politics and traditions.

  46. Grant on March 30, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    @Amari:
    Amen!

  47. Bob on March 30, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Can anyone show me where the Church took Political Positions that were wise or helpful?
    Was it wise 1846-47 to move the whole Church to what was then Mexico, and at the same time sent 500 Mormon boys to go to war with Mexico?
    Was going to war with the USA a good political position? The history goes on…
    In the 50s, 60s, 70s, there were great differences in political positions within the higher lerdership of the Church__who should have been followed??

  48. Jax on March 30, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Sonny,

    You stated my position fairly well. I guess the difference is that many believe as you have stated, “we have human vessels that were anointed to lead and guide the Church as best they can” but I believe it is Christ who leads and guides the Church. You think that Pres. Monson is the top of the pyramid but I don’t.

    As I said earlier, i don’t think every statement at general conference, stake conference, devotionals, etc. is “the will of the Lord” and is infallible. I think everyone gets impressions regarding the will of the Lord, but when those impressions pass through the filter of our experiences and individual paradigms that they get interpreted differently. For example, Elder McConkie knew that the Lord didn’t want non-whites to hold the priesthood, and he misinterpreted that to mean that they never would.

    I don’t know what insight was gained for them to support the Utah immigration legislation, but I believe they got enough to know that it is His will that the Church formerly does so. I don’t think they make major policy decisions (which is what I view this as) without direction from above.

    An analogy I would use is a CEO (the Lord) giving direction to a company, via a memo perhaps (inspiration), but letting the department heads (apostles) work out the implementation. But it would be beyond their authority to make major decisions without consulting and getting affirmative approval from the CEO. Small regulatory things that they handle routinely without direct consultation.

    However, the analogy falls apart when we talk about the true and living church because of our claim to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Is it not our perogative to ALWAYS be guided and corrected? I know I don’t always have the spirit with me, but don’t we at least assume that the apostles do? I would think if anyone would have it as a constant companion, that it would be them.

  49. Grant on March 30, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Jax-
    I know you mean well and your loyalty to the church and the Brethren is to be commended. But this statement:

    “Elder McConkie knew that the Lord didn’t want non-whites to hold the priesthood, and he misinterpreted that to mean that they never would..”

    is not historically correct nor doctrinally sound. After the Revelation on the Priesthood Elder McConkie counseled us to disregard anything he or the other Brethren had ever said on the subject. That was a very important admission that they were simply wrong. There never was a revelation, as far as I know, that Africans with dark skin could not hold the Priesthood. Any speculation or teaching to that effect was said to be wrong my Elder McConkie himself. It appears it was a policy that crept into the church under Brigham Young and maintained until 1978 with much speculation to justify it. The Prophet Joseph actually ordained at least one man of African descent to the Priesthood. The policy was so ingrained into the church that it took a revelation to remove it. There were no scriptures that had to be changed or amended.

    Now, only pure speculation on my part, but maybe there never was a revelation on this until 1978 because nobody asked until President Kimball did.

    I think the important thing is like President Hinckley said in his press interviews when asked about this policy was something to the effect of “That is all behind us now.” with the intent of moving on. I think we should move on. But it does disturb me when we depart from true facts and sound doctrine. I try my best in spite of mistakes, but I will keep trying.

  50. Mark D. on March 30, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Was it wise 1846-47 to move the whole Church to what was then Mexico

    Utah wasn’t part of Mexico in 1847 or at any other time in any real sense. Sovereignty requires rule, and neither Spain nor Mexico ever bothered to exercise the responsibilities of sovereignty in the Utah area.

    Spain claimed Utah until the Mexican revolution, and then Mexico claimed it, and then on June 14, 1846 the California Republic claimed it, and a few days later (when the navy arrived in California) the United States effectively claimed it. Mexico ceased its claim on February 2, 1848 in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo.

    Of all these people claiming it, only the native Americans and the Mormons exercised anything resembling real government authority in the territory until 1851. The day the Mormons arrived, they were the government, for all practical purposes.

    Without knowledge of the difficulties that the LDS would face in northern Mexico about seventy five years later, moving to nominally Mexican territory probably wasn’t such a bad idea. Mexico wanted settlers to immigrate to the country during most of the period, and welcomed the latter LDS settlers. The folks in Missouri and Illinois were not half as hospitable.

  51. Jon on March 31, 2011 at 6:21 am

    @Raymond,

    If you see I’m a bit of a classical liberal (as posted before) so I don’t believe the state should be involved in much of anything. If we are to have it rule over us it should be over contract law and property rights, very limited. So a marriage would fall under contract law, you would marry with a private organization and write out a contract and then the law would have binding but not otherwise. There’s a whole load of theory behind this. If you wish to learn more read mises.org.

    @Grant,

    I think this is what people refer to when they talk about a revelation about blacks and the priesthood (in the past at least).

    Abraham 1:25-27

    Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal. Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood. Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry…

  52. Grant on March 31, 2011 at 7:39 am

    @Jon. I am aware that scripture was used to justify the policy. But there is nothing in that scripture that says Pharoah or Ham had a black skin. It was simply assumed apparently based on generations of false doctrines using the “curse” of Ham and Cain (not even the same curse, really) to justify African slavery. We know they are false, because Elder McConkie said to disregard all that.

  53. john f. on March 31, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    We know they are false, because Elder McConkie said to disregard all that.

    We know they are false for a lot of additional reasons as well, such as that the idea of black skin as curse and justification for American racism/segregation seems to have come down to us through Protestant theories used to prop up slavery and segregation.

  54. Grant on March 31, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    no argument there, John F. It did seem strange to me to be using Elder McConkie in my arguments. But I really do respect him for his service, his testimony, and at least that once, admitting he was wrong.

  55. Jax on March 31, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Maybe the idea of a black skin as a curse came down to us because of passages like 2 nephi 5:21

    As for the slavery/segregation, there is no justification for that.

    Grant,

    I don’t think the church followed an incorrect practice for 100+ years simply because nobody had asked if it were right, as you suggest. A simple reading of Off. Dec. #2 makes that clear:

    “Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, WE HAVE PLEADED LONG AND EARNESTLY IN BEHALF OF THESE, OUR FAITHFUL BRETHREN, SPENDING MANY LONG HOURS in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.” (EMPHASIS ADDED)

    Nor does your implication, that withholding the priesthood wasn’t the will of the Lord, make sense when reading the very next paragraph:

    “He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple.”

    I read that to mean that it wasn’t the will of the Lord that those blessings be extended up until that point in time. Now, I wasn’t even born when this happened, so I’m sure that there are lots of first hand accounts and explanations given by general authorities that give lots and lots of reasons for the change and the new course of action that I haven’t ever heard. But the cannonized text seems to support my position.

    Perhaps your example of Elder McConkie is another misinterpretation on his part. First he assumed that non-whites not having the priesthood meant that they never would have it, and then when the Lord revealed otherwise Elder McConkie assumed it meant that they were always supposed to have had it. I don’t know if any of that is true, but it would explain both the OFFICIAL Declaration and his comments.

  56. Grant on March 31, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    OK. I take my interpretation on the Revelation on the Priesthood from the chapters in Lengthen Your Stride: the Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, written by his son, Edward (published by Deseret Book and here’s a contemporaneous Times & Seasons review: http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2005/10/book-review-em-lengthen-your-stride-the-presidency-of-spencer-w-kimballem/.

    Those chapters on the Revelation are absolutely amazing on how it came about. It was actually Elder McConkie who wrote a long treatise (no surprise there) for Pres. Kimball that there was no scriptural bar to the extension of the priesthood to black Africans. (!!!) I highly recommend the book.

    The way I interpret the language from the Declaration you quote is the most straightforward English in present tense that “We” refers to
    Pres. Kimball and the then current Quorum of the Twelve. I don’t see anything in the language about the long-promised day that the Lord had directed anyone to wait or that anyone had previously asked in the pleading way that Pres. Kimball did.

    I have no desire to criticize or condemn past (or even present) leaders of the Church. And I don’t think I am by noting, as they do, that we are all progressing and learning even from our mistakes. I am just glad like President Hinckley said that this is all behind us now. And I was very relieved as a Missionary in Brazil at the time of the Revelation that it was received as well as it was by the church membership even though we still have a long way to go to be truly in line with the Lord on this and so many other issues.

    There is simply no revelation or accepted scriptural teaching in the history of the church to deny black Africans the Priesthood. The Prophet Joseph ordained Elijah Abel as a Seventy. No hint of any church prohibition came until after Joseph was martyred. http://www.blacklds.org/abel

  57. Sonny on March 31, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Jax,

    Here are a few quotes on the subject that at least for me, shed light on the origins of the ban.

    Dallin H Oaks Interview with Associated Press, in Daily Herald, Provo, Utah, 5 June 1988:
    “Some people put reasons to [the ban] and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There is a lesson in that…. The lesson I’ve drawn from that, I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it.
    …I’m referring to reasons given by general authorities and reasons elaborated upon [those reasons] by others. The whole set of reasons seemed to me to be unnecessary risk taking.
    …Let’s [not] make the mistake that’s been made in the past, here and in other areas, trying to put reasons to revelation.The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent.”

    Marlin Jensen:
    Q. What is that folklore that troubles people?
    A. “The essential idea is that somehow in the life before this life, through some conduct on the part of black people, they were less worthy and had to spend some probationary time waiting then for the priesthood to be given to them. I think it’s that idea that somehow they came here with some inherent disability, spiritually speaking, and that bothers them. It would bother me, too. And I don’t think it’s true. I think those were theories that were advanced, but I don’t think there’s any scriptural or doctrinal justification for them.”
    Full text of issue: http://www.pbs.org/mormons/themes/prohibition.html

  58. Mark on March 31, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    In answer to your questions Kent,

    I think that for question #1 the answer can be found in the order those principles are given. I think they are listed as the first principles and ordinances of the gospel because in the eternal scheme of things they are the most important. I think issues like the ones mentioned are auxiliary in importance, not unrelated to the first principles, but not superseding them in significance. Of course, you don’t have to take me word for that, as with most anything I find that thinking about the issue and question, weighing them in my mind, and asking Father in Heaven about them is often the most effective way to come to an accurate conclusion.

    As for #2, I think consultation with God after careful thinking is always the best policy. After all, we’re not taught to just accept any and every thing the leaders of the church say, but to ask God for spiritual confirmation that they’re true. I mean, if we just accepted everything blindly, not certain that the words were heaven-sent then we’d all probably wear out and be mediocre saints instead of the saviors of the world we’re meant to be.

    #3. That’s definitely a possibility in some cases. For example, standards on grooming are probably not permanent. Elder Oaks mentioned years ago that the reason short hair was required was because at the time the counsel was given the hippie movement was experiencing a golden age and long hair was a token of rebellion, and that that counsel is probably temporary.

    #4. I don’t know how much many political decisions really affect us, but learning the will of the Lord is critical for our salvation. If you weight out in your mind the concern, and pray about I’d be surprised if you didn’t gain a good sense for what is eternally significant about your concerns and what is not.

    I could be wrong, of course.

  59. Suleiman on March 31, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    This is one reason I love the Old Testament. The prophets are obviously so human and fallible, and the cultural elements so apparent to us outsiders. With a little more time and distance, the problems we see with race and politics will diminish.

    Yeah, some of our leaders were racist. But they worked through it. Some of our fellow LDS are completely bonkers politically (No, not us!) But I can love both groups. Give God time. He’ll work the problems out and we’ll think we did it ourselves.

  60. Mark on March 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Unggh, sorry about my typos, I’ll read through more carefully next time. I absolutely detest it when I make simple spelling errors.

  61. Jax on March 31, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Sonny,

    A fantastic quote strengthening my position by Elder Oaks. We all (including myself at times) try to come up with human reasons that the leaders do certain things and lead the church in certain ways. Those reasons, even when from Apostles are usually “spectacularly wrong.” Elder Marlin Jensen’s thought on the topic included in that list of reasons that are ‘man-made’.

    I’ve been saying the whole time that we should have “faith in the command” – as Oaks says – and trust it comes from the Lord, and not have to come up with phony human reasons for it. The whole topic of immigration is the same issue. Many want to say the the GA’s made this decision because of A, B, and C reasons and not because it is the will of the Lord. How about we apply his standard and “…Let’s [not] make the mistake that’s been made in the past, here and in other areas, trying to put reasons to revelation. The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent.”

    I have absolutely nothing but gratitude that all worthy men can hold the priesthood. I haven’t read Lengthen Your Stride and may now pick it up to learn more about how the revelation came about. Out of curiosity, anyone know how the ban came about? Who first said “hey, maybe only whites should get the priesthood.” and why it became institutionalized when there isn’t doctrinal support? That is the book I’d love the read.

    Grant:

    doesn’t this phrase “prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time…” prompt you to think that the praying and such had been happening with past presidents and authorities, or at least that those past people had been told that it would happen in the future, but that it wasn’t right at their time?

  62. Kent Larsen on March 31, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    I think we need to drop the “race” portion of this discussion, since it has gone really far off topic, even though it is interesting.

    Let’s get back to how to work through situations where the Church’s political positions are at odds with some members.

  63. Suleiman on March 31, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Perhaps one thing we can do as members is reinforce the reality that the political philosophies we ALL adhere to are artificial constructs. We are more than willing to describe other ideologies as “philosophies of men,” but are often unwilling to acknowledge the flaws and limitations of our own.

    Another thing we can realize is the ideologies are based on deeply held values which are often spiritual. For example, many American conservatives value social order above personal freedom. They see limitations on abortion and gay marriage as vitally important ingredients to a civil (and often “righteous”) society.

    American liberals tend to value equality and personal freedom above social order. So they respond differently on these issues, much to the consternation of their conservative brethren!

    I think a problem we have in our Church culture is that we don’t talk about how various personal life experiences or a different emphasis on values can lead good Latter-day Saints in a variety of directions politically. And since the Lord hasn’t said anything about political ideology per se, and it certainly hasn’t appeared on any temple recommend interview, I think it may be healthy for us to take that approach.

  64. Jax on March 31, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    I’ve often wondered if the reason the Church doesn’t support any political group is that there aren’t any political parties that support in exactness the positions of the Church – they all depart from our beliefs in some way on most topics.

    So in theory, would the Church support a political party that existed to support the church and its positions?

  65. Kent Larsen on March 31, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Jax, I suggest you look into the Church’s political history, especially around the time of the Reed Smoot hearings. Much of the Church’s reticence about endorsing individual candidates originates at that time, from what I can tell.

    But I can say that the Church once did support a political party in Utah — one it controlled. It has also supported particular candidates (Joseph Smith, at least).

  66. Sonny on March 31, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Jax,

    (Kent, please forgive me for having my last comment on the priesthood ban issue, and then I will let it be).

    Yes, I saw and read those same words Jax that you use to support your position, and that is fine. However, in my mind it only supports your position IF you interpret the sentences literally and also ignore all the other fact that everything else that has been used to support the priesthood ban has now been knocked down. When all of the reasons have been admittedly discredited, it is hard to see any reason for the ban, especially since no one can find an actual ‘command’. It is something that never was supported by revelation. David O McKay tried to find a link to a revelation and could not find one. To me, it was a policy that was assumed to be of divine origin through the years, and there were numerous statements that were given to support it.
    My personal feeling is, and I don’t have anything to support this other than my gut, that many General Authorities today believe that the ban was not Divine in origin either, just like the reasons that were created to prop it up. I believe the Lord, for some reason, allowed it to happen. To me, that makes the most sense when combined with what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.

  67. Grant on April 1, 2011 at 12:58 am

    Back to politics (as much as Jax and Sonny tempt me), it is also part of the history of Utah Statehood that the LDS church leaders did not want politics to be contest between a “church” party and a “gentile” party. So they had congregations divided between the two major parties of the day – Republicans and Democrats. A lot of the people who were “assigned” to the Republican Party were very upset. Things have sort of switched around, and not to the good in my opinion. If I had my way, I would like to see the church do that again (this is of course not at all likely to happen, nor in considering the modern world, really appropriate). They could assign 40% of the Utah church population to be Republican and 40% to be Democratic. The other 20% could be divided up among the Greens and Libertarians or just Independents.

    But I do take the Brethren at their word that they would like to see us involved in whatever party we choose. And we are free to make that choice.

    But if you are in Utah and really want to participate in politics, currently, the Dems are the party to be. I went to my local caucus last year just like the Brethren counseled. I was selected (out of us 4) to go to the County Convention. There, they credentialed everyone present to go to the state convention so I went and met my Uncle who was a delegate from Washington County by pretty much the same process. I also met an old friend of mine from Cache County. It was a lot of fun. And not nearly as contentious as all the silliness at the Republican State Convention or even the precinct caucus my wife went to (a very long night fighting for delegates to the county convention as part of the tea party insurgency).

    Bottom line, the Church speaks out on very few political issues. I have no dispute with those or just get respectfully quiet if I do. All political parties have some good as well as some bad (tea party being mostly bad, though, IMO). And I really think that is because the end result is not nearly as important as the process – the means are everything. (But then I’m an evil Dem, so go figure.)

  68. Brad Dennis on April 1, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Grant, I’m with you. I would like to like to see the acceptance of more political diversity in the church. It is too often assumed that if you are a member that you are at least with the Republican Party, and you get extra points for being with the tea party. Libertarianism seems unduly popular among members too, and increasingly acceptable. But if you are a Democrat, people look at you askance. In my mind, I can’t see why more members aren’t Dems (not that they have to be). But the general economic vision in the Democratic Party (not that it is always lived up to) seems to me to be more in line with the LDS church’s vision of social and economic justice.

  69. M. Buxton on April 1, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Jax #64:

    Today, certainly a big reason the Church would not support a particular political party is that doing so would threaten its tax-exempt status in the United States. I also believe, however, that Church leaders genuinely believe that political neutrality is important precisely for the reasons you mention–no party has a lock on the truth. I sense that many Republicans in the Church think that tax-exempt status is ONLY reason the Church doesn’t support their party–but it would if it could. But this seems both like wishful thinking and a rather cynical view of Church statements on political neutrality.

  70. Jon on April 1, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    @Brad, #68,

    I can tell you why I’m not a big fan of the dems. They’re message is typically good, i.e., they want to help the poor but I just don’t believe that they approach that correctly. I don’t think stealing from people to help other people is good. It is not charity because charity is from the individual and comes from the heart, when you force people through the threat of violence or use thereof to help others it just creates hypocrites of us all.

    I also believe that a free and unfettered market is the greatest thing that can help the poor come out of poverty. We could spend the rest the year arguing these points so I won’t beleaguer them any more. Just letting you know why I choose to be a classical liberal (similar to libertarian) rather than a democrat.

    The same reasoning causes me to reject the republican party, they use the threat of violence, or that actual use of it, to make people do what they deem necessary and good (like the drug war, how many lives has that ruined?).

    I also reject both parties because they both stand for war. We saw needless wars started by Bush and we see needless wars (yes, that is plural) started by Obama (neither party really believes in denouncing war when their party is in power). Neither party believes in civil liberties also.

    Sorry for going off on a tangent from the OP, just thought you would want to understand why I’m not a republican or democrat.

  71. Brad Dennis on April 1, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Sorry I just have to comment on Jon’s remark.

    Yes, of course, because the dems steal from the rich to give to the poor, lol.

    That you are a libertarian is fine. But you should reconsider Rothbard and others at the Ludwig von Mises institute as completely representative of the classical liberal position. Many economists consider themselves classical liberals without associating with Rothbard and the likes. The Austrian school for one is heterodoxical, but it generally seems fringe right-wing rather than mainstream classical liberal.

  72. Grant on April 1, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    For my thoughts on Libertarianism and a new, possible, political/economic philosophy maybe I can get the church to support, see my blog: http://www.moderatebutpassionate.com/2011/04/possible-political-changes.html

  73. Jon on April 1, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    @Brad & Grant,

    Yeah, I can see this conversation going nowhere quickly. I don’t see what’s so funny to say that people shouldn’t steal from one another. What’s the definition of theft? I always thought it was the involuntary transfer of goods or services from one entity to another. If I were to do the same thing the government does with taxes they would call me the mob, wait, people did do that and they did call them a mob. I’ll stop here, we’ll never agree.

  74. Brad Dennis on April 2, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Taxation is theft? Even a great number of your fellow libertarian thinkers would disagree.

    Here is Richard Epstein:

    “The justification for a minimal system of taxation therefore is that it provides more in benefits for the individuals taxed than they lose in revenue”

    From Epstein, “Taxation with Representation: Or, the Libertarian Dilemma,” Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 7-22, January 2005

    Also see Tyler Cowen, Alex Tabarrok, Brink Lindsay, and David Bernstein who argue that a number of public goods do exist which justify taxation.

    Rothbard is not at all a good representation of classical liberalism. He is extreme right-wing and not even accepted by many of the leading libertarian thinkers.

  75. Kent Larsen on April 2, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Jon, you might want to consider that the Church went so far as to announce, in the 1970s IIRC, that those who avoid taxes were subject to church discipline and not worthy of a Temple recommend. Apparently our church leaders don’t see taxation as theft, but instead see payment of taxes a moral responsibility.

    If you don’t agree, then perhaps the OP is on point.

  76. Dan on April 2, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Jon,

    I don’t see what’s so funny to say that people shouldn’t steal from one another. What’s the definition of theft?

    The conversation is going nowhere because this statement goes nowhere. It does not explain reality. Thus a conversation based on this phrase, as you use it, will naturally go nowhere, because it does not exist in actual reality.

  77. Jon on April 2, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Thus we see, that when you agree with the church on something they are absolutely right and not wrong and the person that disagrees is wrong and there is no way that person can be right since it is divergent from your own views and not along with the crowd.

    No one here has given any other definition of theft from a moral perspective that is universal in nature. Why is it OK for a the “officials” to do something that an individual could never get away with morally? Because you are blinded by what is “normal” and do not want to see things from any other perspective. When people disagree with me I can still understand where they are coming from. But liberals never seem to be able to.

    As for the church saying you should pay your taxes I know that. I know it’s in the handbook. But I also know that there are countless examples in the scriptures where civil disobedience is applauded. Do I pay my taxes? Of course I do. If I didn’t I know that the iron fist would come down and crush me and my family and the cost are not worth it. At the same time I recognize the principles of the gospel and I recognize common decency of not taking that which belongs to other in any guise of “I’m helping you son, this is for your own good, now give me your stuff!”

    Just because people cannot see outside of the box doesn’t mean that I’m not right. Just because something hasn’t existed in wide spread usage doesn’t mean it cannot work. Just because no one has flown before does that mean people shouldn’t have tried? Just because no government existed like the constitutional US government before does that mean we shouldn’t try a new system? Can we not see history has taught us the more we steal from our brethren and sisters and give to other doesn’t create a righteous society but a lazy and prideful society?

    You offer no good arguments. You only attack the idea by saying others don’t believe thereof it must not be correct. You say that in some circumstances it’s OK to disagree but when someone thinks something different then you then you say that, “No, sir, you must be on the farm and work like all of us other cattle, no one leaves the farm, our minds must be caged.”

    Like I said, this conversation goes nowhere because no one will argue the actual points that I make and all will want to keep the others on the farm. The state is the last great enslaver of humanity, good riddance when the millennium comes and gets rid of the state. Good thing there were people that believed in freeing the slaves even against the popular opinion. Even though history showed that slaves were part of the human condition from the beginning. Good thing there were visionaries. Likewise, thank goodness that God gave Rothbard insights into what freedom can truly be without the state. Rothbard is the modern equivalent of those that fought for freedom in days gone past.

  78. Jon on April 2, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    P.S.,

    This reminds me of my brother-in-law that when I stated that people shouldn’t join the military because it is an offensive tool rather than defensive. He got irate. Then he went on to say that he sees kids with low self esteem joining and feeling like they are doing something with there lives, etc.

    They say that he doesn’t understand my point because it is too far fetched and is not grounded.

    Is it? Have we learned nothing from Mormon, leaving the military because his country men refused to only act defensively besides offensively? It is no different. If the people are truly the only ones that can keep government in check then why can we not exercise one of the few things we have in our arsenal, which are opting out and civil disobedience. No, people don’t like these ideas because then they must admit they are on the farm and not free. We are not enslaved from the top but horizontally by our friends and neighbors. We must not think any radical ideas, like denouncing war.

    Wouldn’t it be so much more wonderful to teach our kids about helping others and teaching about Christ in other countries rather than teaching them to kill and be machines to their rulers?

    I reject these trains of thought for what they are.

  79. Brad Dennis on April 2, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Jon, you should think your arguments out more carefully and not present them so disingenuously. Read some counter arguments to people like Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises, such as those from even other libertarians like Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, to get some perspective. I think that you should be extremely careful of some of the anti-tax trends of thinking. Civil disobedience???? Was Andrew Joseph Stack justified in flying his plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas in 2010 in protest of taxation, killing himself and one agency employee? Or was he a freedom fighter struggling against unethical ‘theft’ of his money? If you don’t like taxes, then you can write to your congressional representatives and pursue a great number of other legal and civil options.

    Yes the conversation is going somewhere. It is branding your argumentation as extreme and widely unaccepted and poking it full of holes. Judging by your defensiveness and wobbling in your posts above, I take that it is working. I hope you take some time to reconsider the concept of taxation, and civil and legal ways to make your case for how much a just taxation should be. Bear in mind that the vast majority of Americans, and even the LDS church, condemn your anti-tax point of view.

  80. Dan on April 2, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Jon,

    The state is the last great enslaver of humanity, good riddance when the millennium comes and gets rid of the state.

    Dude, Jesus becomes the state.

    http://lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/12.3?lang=eng#2

  81. Allan on April 3, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    @Carl re: post no. 15.

    It would be better if you were specific in identifying which “aspects of church policies and practices . . . are not good and result [or resulted] in oppression and suffering.” At least then, there could be, where warranted, a debate as to whether the specific policy or practice did/does cause oppression, suffering and/or injustice.

  82. Jon on April 3, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    @Allan,

    He might be referring to when the church would take away native Americans to educate them in different schools to “educate” them. I don’t know a much more than that so you would have to ask someone else. I think they were well meaning but it didn’t turn out to be a very good program.

  83. Kent Larsen on April 3, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Jon, the reason I don’t buy your claim about taxes is because I don’t believe it is stealing.

    Governments have a legitimate role, one supported by our religion. We all have a role in government and the right to vote to change the laws. Taxes are not theft simply because we all participate in government or have the ability to do so (I don’t know if you vote or not). If taxes are stealing, then we are all stealing from ourselves. We are the government.

  84. Allan on April 3, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    @Jon

    Interesting that you mention that simply because we had a native american girl live in my parent’s house for a few years when I was little. I believe my parents had signed up as part of the official program of the Church. I suppose I should know as much about that program as the next guy but my knowledge is limited. I only know that it seemed like a good thing at the time and that I was never aware of any negative result arising from it, in our case. Our family no longer has contact with the girl, and I don’t know whether she considers that time to have been a benefit in her life, or whether she considers it to have damaged her life. I have a hard time believing that she is resentful for it because we maintained friendly phone contact for many years after she left.

  85. Allan on April 3, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    @84.

    I don’t think she ever felt like she was compelled to be there, or snatched away from her family.

  86. Jon on April 4, 2011 at 12:08 am

    @Kent,

    No, I don’t feel any better that I can “vote” to have my money spent in some way someone else is going to spend it. It is involuntary. I have no choice about it. It’s ridiculous to say that voting works to change things, it’s only a righteous people that can. When the people become unrighteous, it only leaves you with civil disobedience and opting out of the system. Constitutions don’t work either, people manipulate the meaning of the words until they don’t have any meaning at all. Take the AZ constitution, it says, no debt over $350,000 allowed, period, yet we have over a billion dollars of debt.

    You would think most people would understand McCain is not a good senator but it is impossible to vote him out. Our governor Jan Brewer is horrendously bad and has lied multiple times to get places politically but there was no way someone was going to vote her out.

    That’s why I like voluntaryism, if you don’t like a business practice then you don’t have to do anything special to stop it, you just don’t shop there. As for changing a political system you have to spend an incredible amount of energy to change things and you get an incredible amount of resistance from the people that rely on that job for their livelihood. Take the ethanol fiasco, most people, even the politicians, understand that its original purpose turned out not to be true, but it is impossible to get rid of the mandates and subsidies now. No, voting doesn’t work, especially as the government becomes more centralized and those ruling us are just a bureaucrat stamping papers in some office, just doing their job. If they don’t just do their job then they don’t get a promotion, so they don’t care, nor do they understand the consequences of their actions.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6b70TUbdfs&feature=player_embedded

    @Allan,

    Wish I could remember the interview that I listened to on that one. I think it was from the son of Kimball interview on Mormon Stories Podcast where they mentioned it. I’m sure not all had bad experiences, I’m also sure not all had good either. You were just looking for an example and that’s the best I could come up with. I think, for the most part, the church does good. But just like any organization it will have its faults since it is run by men that are imperfect, just ask the teachers I work with, they’ll tell you I’m imperfect, for sure!

  87. Dan on April 4, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Jon,

    When the people become unrighteous, it only leaves you with civil disobedience and opting out of the system.

    Please go Galt already. All of y’all who complain so terribly about this country. Take your money too.

  88. Dan on April 4, 2011 at 7:59 am

    oh, and mind that you don’t use publicly funded roads, or you might be considered a free rider…

  89. Brad Dennis on April 4, 2011 at 11:49 am

    @ Jon

    “Constitutions don’t work,…voting doesn’t work,… the government is…[too] centralized,” and utterly incompetent….

    Somalia must be some sort of anarchist paradise for you then. Why don’t you just move there?

  90. Dan on April 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Brad,

    Jon has actually advocated for Somalia and its, er, virtues…at Wheat and Tares comment #40.

  91. Grant on April 4, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Oh, my Heck!!

    ya know, pretty much everybody believes that their politics, philosophy, and religion (or none at all) are right and everybody else must be crazy not to agree. That’s why I try so hard for moderation. So, of course I’m right.

    (actually, I know I’m probably not. But I keep trying)

  92. Jon on April 4, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Well, you guys could have an intelligent conversation or you could just continue with the lynching. Either way my views are principled in nature. I haven’t read any principles or arguments against the principles I’ve advocated. If you don’t believe that the golden rule as given by Jesus is true and should apply to all then just say so. So much for discussion. Just like I warned before we started. All have you have gone to the us versus them mode.

    I oppose Bush and his wars, I oppose Obama and his wars. I denounce war. Where are the anti-war protesters from the left now? Why can Obama lock up people in Guantanamo forever now? Where’s the outrage from the left. I know where they are, the same place they have always been, in their unprincipled holes, hiding because the fuhrer has spoken and no one shall disagree, or off with their heads!

    I for one believe in principles. Let me know if you guys are up for an intelligent, principle-based discussion. Until then I’ll just stay off.

  93. Jax on April 4, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Jon,

    Amen to principles. To bad many have their principles based in things other than revealed truth. We haven’t had a legitimate war for decades and we come up with our own reasoned justifications for war rather than live in peace AS IS POSSIBLE!

  94. brian larsen on April 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    @Jon (and possibly Jax),

    I assume you aren’t conflating someone’s disagreement with your position on taxes as a disagreement on when we should go to war. But, Jon, you’ve committed many logical, persuasive errors so far, so I perhaps my assumption is wrong.

    If you look back at the posts, nearly all, if not all of the comments related to war and the church’s position have been similar to yours. A bit more understanding on your part would help others to be more towards yours – a la “golden rule,” as you would have it, i.e. please stop the straw man attacks, and then maybe a conversation could happen.

  95. Kent Larsen on April 4, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Jon (92) wrote:

    Well, you guys could have an intelligent conversation or you could just continue with the lynching.

    Jon excuse me if I’m wrong, but it really appears that you are saying that in order to have an “intelligent conversation” we have to agree with you somehow! We don’t. Those commenting here have given some reasons for their positions, and you have rejected every one.

    And, apparently because we don’t agree with you, we are “lynching” you.

    Isn’t your approach a tad bombastic?

    Either way my views are principled in nature.

    Perhaps. But isn’t their a balance needed between principle and getting along with others?

    The people in the world are imperfect. And, depending on the situation, principles conflict to some degree. Therefore, it isn’t possible to live with others without emphasizing some principles over others — tolerance over obedience perhaps, or mercy over justice (or vice versa).

    There is a danger in adhering too strongly to a set of principles — it leads to fanaticism, with all it attendant evils.

  96. Dan on April 4, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Jon,

    Well, you guys could have an intelligent conversation or you could just continue with the lynching.

    I’m all for an intelligent discussion. But when one side says “taxes are theft”, exactly how does one respond to that? Um, no they’re not? I agree with others that your position is not logically sound. I remember when you used the temple tax that Jesus told Peter to get out of a fish’s mouth as an example where you think Jesus agrees with your position that the temple tax was actually Roman theft. From comment #186-192. You covered yourself there also beforehand by claiming victimhood. You’re not being lynched. But if you take up politically charged positions, expect pushback.

  97. Brad Dennis on April 4, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    Jon,

    I have been trying to have an intelligent conversation with you, but you keep dodging my points. Now it seems that you are playing the victim and acting self-righteous instead of simply addressing the points that I and others brought up. In many of your arguments you are channeling Murray Rothbard (particularly in your argument that taxation is theft), but claiming yourself to be a libertarian. So I showed you that that argument only appears to exist on the extreme end of the libertarian spectrum. How do you account for the fact that many leading libertarians actually disagree with your point of view? Also I looked at the comment that you made on a Wheat and Tares post defending Somalia as a sort of model of anarcho-capitalism based on your strangely conceived notion that it “fending better than its neighbors.” It is fascinating the lengths that you actually go to defend these extreme positions of yours. I think that you would find it easier to simply concede defeat or at least compromise on a number of issues.

  98. Darren on April 4, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    Its interesting reading everyone’s comments and how they have diverged from the original posts.

    Given the message presented by Elder Holland yesterday afternoon. I believe that the messages we hear from the pulpit and from the the brethren under official means are the mind and will of the Lord. It takes faith to follow council that is not in accordance with our own personal views. I commend any and all who do so for it is a sign to me that they have deep abiding faith in the gospel and truly have a testimony of living prophets.

  99. brian larsen on April 5, 2011 at 8:45 am

    @Darren #98

    I understand your concern, but it seems to me that what is largely being discussed here are messages NOT transmitted via the means you describe. As for your simultaneous commendation and condemnation of others(while perhaps well intended), it is neither warranted, nor fair.

    RE: Original OP by Kent

    Importance: It seems to me that many people intertwine their personal views with those of the gospel, and so it is hard for them to separate the basic truths with political views, which is unfortunate. Political freedom (or as some may have it, compete control of “their money”) conflated with free agency comes to mind. While the two may be related on some scale, they are not equivalent. People tend to tie their politics to their identity quite strongly. They do the same with the gospel – and there, in the nexus of their identity, they often are found sleeping together when they shouldn’t be.

    Humility: I really like this point, insofar as humility is a key to all learning and progression, but the word “better” in relation to someone else’s understanding seems a bit problematic because of the lack of definition of what that means. Also, ironically, it could be seen as contrary to the idea of humility.

    The Long View: An important consideration, but in the end not one we can answer. I think we should always consider political (and scientific) involvement by the church as possibly short term, precisely because we can’t really answer the “long view” with much surety.

    Personal: I agree with the earlier comment that “does it affect my salvation” is at times a cop-out for people who wish not to engage. In the end, however, I’d wager that the more honestly and humbly we engage these sorts of conflicts, the more power we will have to weather them (and, if change is needed, create that change via the channels of charity.)

    One of the reasons blogs are so important to me is that they provide a place where people can work through conflicts together in a safe place – even in disagreement. In real life, like in blogs, I think those who have the hardest time navigating the church and politics are those we commonly call the trolls: not really interested in honest and explorative dialogue, but who are certain they are right and who stop being “good” in order to be “right.” I fall into that category at times, and it saddens me when I do.

  100. Grant on April 5, 2011 at 9:34 am

    I still think the answer is that, with rare exception, there IS no gospel answer in politics and that’s why the only direct and specific counsel is to be involved in whatever party we choose. And that HOW we are involved in the PROCESS, not the ultimate issues or answers, is all important. I think politics and government are an opportunity from the Lord to see how we will (or will not) govern ourselves (D&C 134 if you need a cite). And based on this philosophy, which could be entirely wrong but I except responsibility and consequences for it, I choose to be a “passionate moderate” I believe in the process of our wonderful Constitututional Democratic Republic! and reject all political dogmas (or at least most of them).

  101. Jon on April 5, 2011 at 10:11 am

    OK, here’s what was said in the conversation so far.

    I give my reason why I don’t care for the democrats, per Brad’s question.

    Brad’s response: Yes, of course, because the dems steal from the rich to give to the poor, lol. and then he proceeds to say that my position is fringe (not much an argument).

    Grant’s reply: He says to see his blog. I look at his blog. What sticks out is him slandering anyone that doesn’t share his democratic opinion as uncaring because they don’t give. – There is a book written about the subject on how the republican’s, even though they have less wealth give more than democrats, even though the dems have more wealth. We must remember that charity is from the heart of the individual, charity isn’t from people taking from others and then giving it to their political constituency.

    I then state taxation is theft.

    Grant’s response: You are in the minority Jon. You are fringe. See these popular libertarians, they say government gives back more than they take. – Let’s talk about the principles of the matter. It’s only opinion that government gives back more then they take. I say it doesn’t, even if it did at a minarchy level government (i.e., the state – I like government but not the state) we don’t live under a minarchy government (a government that isn’t highly centralized and most of the control is at the local level) – minarchy government was what was attempted at in creating a constitutional government. So where is your response to the principle of what is theft? Why is taxation not theft? Just because the theft creates a common good doesn’t mean it isn’t theft.

    Kent’s response: The church says pay your taxes. Then he conjectures that because of this, the church thinks paying taxes is not theft. – This isn’t a good argument. Just because the church says to do something doesn’t mean that it is a principle. Nor does it mean that the church thinks a certain way, it just means that they say pay your taxes. Why? Who knows. Besides, what I care about are principles and what God thinks. Thou shalt not steal/kill/etc are principles. I need a good argument of why taxations are not theft. What is theft? Why is theft good in certain situations and not others?

    Dan’s response: Jon you are not based in reality. Jon that is a stupid comment and has no validation.

    My response: Why is it OK for a the “officials” to do something that an individual could never get away with morally? Civil disobedience has a history in the scriptures. Man vs the state has been applauded in the scriptures. Why can’t people see outside the box. Why must “new” ideas be viewed as heretical? Where are the good arguments. No one has mentioned what theft is and why it’s OK in certain situations. I then talk about my bro-in-law and his distrust in “new” ideas, insomuch that he rejects peace and says it’s good to teach are young men and woment to kill innocent people.

    Brad’s response: Jon your arguments don’t make any sense and are disingenuous. Read these arthurs. Civil disobedience: what about all the people killing others in the name of civil disobedience. Jon you should persue political means by talking to your representatives and vote. Jon your viewpoint is extreme and your arguments suck. People codemn you because they disagree with you. You are the minority. – My arguments do make sense, you just haven’t addressed them directly. I have ton to read and I will eventually. When I talk of civil disobedience I’m talking of peaceful civil disobedience and opting out of the system (e.g., refusing to ride on busses (if that were needed like it was in the past) and not putting your kids in government schools). I’m not talking about violence. Violence is only justified when you live under a despot (btw the founders believed a despotic government was when you had a single leader be able to declare war without the legislature, sound familiar?). If you haven’t noticed politics only works when you have a righteous people, the US doesn’t have a righteous people anymore now that people covet after the wealth of others and don’t take pride in the work of their own hands (i.e., they don’t like working to pay for their own families, as mentioned in the scriptures). There is a blood lust in the US as we attack other countries to no end, we have forgotten the commandment to denounce war. We worship the god of steal. We don’t obey the sabbath. We don’t trust in God. I don’t care if people disagree with me or if I’m in the minority. I just care about that which is right to do and be. Did the three Israelites eat of the meat that God told them not to, even though they were in the minority? Should the Israelites not have followed Joshua when he built the golden calf (I know they were the ones that told him to but they should have rejected it nonetheless).

    Dan’s response: Jesus is a tyrant. – No Dan, he is not. He lives under the same laws that we must and He cares for us. That is why He wants us to obey the commandments, so we can return to Him. They are natural laws which even He cannot change or break.

    Kent’s response: I don’t believe taxes are stealing. Everyone says taxes are good (even the church) therefore they are good. Taxes are not theft because we all participate through voting. If taxes are theft then we are just stealing from ourselves. – Where does the church actually say taxes are good? Or do they say that taxes have to be paid to please Caesar? Just because people can vote themselves a government paycheck does not mean it is not theft. So the people are the tyrants, just because the majority vote to steal from a minority doesn’t mean it is good or OK. I would agree that we are stealing from ourselves with some people/organizations receiving more than others (like the banks, etc). We must end the covetousness and, when we live under a free market, we can achieve much more prosperity and equality among the people. But when we steal from one another we create a people that are not prosperous and that live under bondage. What is theft?

    Dan’s response: Jon leave the country. We don’t love you.

    Brad: You must love Somalia then.

    Dan: Jon has said that. – I did but you take me out of context (I doubt anyone will read those posts). Somalia is better off than the surrounding countries since they don’t have a dictator. Anarchy only works under a relatively righteous people. But even with an unrighteous people it will fair better than the alternative.

    Brad: Jon, your arguments are weak.

    Kent: Adhering to principles leads to fanaticism. – Perhaps you should understand my views entirely. First, I am an anarcho-capitalist in theory only, I do believe we will eventually live that way, when the people are righteous enough but as individuals we can live the principles now. I think the compromise to anarchy (of the ordered kind, under natural law) is minarchy – a small central government where most laws and judgments and enforcement happen at the local level (your city or even HOA and mostly at a familial or church level, etc). Regardless it is important to understand the principles so we know where we are headed. If we understand the principle of theft then when we steal from others through taxation we know that we need to treat those funds sacredly and make them as low as possible (which would eventually be gotten only by voluntary means, like how the Lord operates). It is important to understand the principle of covetousness in this situation also. If we understand the principle of charity then we would understand that charity only comes from the heart of the individual, we would understand that it is satan’s way when we try and force people to be charitable (through taxation).

    Dan: Your argument is completely illogical, therefore no response is appropriate.

    Brad: Your arguments are poor. Admit defeat. – You never addressed my points. You used illogical points, like the majority is not with you therefore your ideas must be wrong. That argument is the one that doesn’t make sense. I don’t care if the majority is not with me. I just care about truth.

  102. Jon on April 5, 2011 at 10:26 am

    @Grant, #100,

    I think it is important to use the gospel of Christ in our lives to understand the world and make the world a better place. If we use the gospel in our own lives then we can project that in the public sphere also. In olden times people used the gospel in all aspects of their lives to try and be better and create a better society. If we don’t use the gospel wouldn’t it be OK for any murderous regime to rule and create mayhem? I think we must search for the correct principles using the gospel and adhere to those, even if it takes us to places that make us uncomfortable.

    I know I took this answer to the extreme but I think we should use the gospel in all aspects our lives, even political and business.

  103. Dan on April 5, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Jon,

    Dan’s response: Jesus is a tyrant. – No Dan, he is not.

    Um, I didn’t say Jesus was a tyrant. You’re totally projecting there and still misunderstanding that scripture.

    Dan: Jon has said that. – I did but you take me out of context (I doubt anyone will read those posts). Somalia is better off than the surrounding countries since they don’t have a dictator. Anarchy only works under a relatively righteous people. But even with an unrighteous people it will fair better than the alternative.

    by any and all measures, Somalia is one of the world’s worst failed states. There is little redeeming quality in Somalia. In fact according to Foreign Policy, Somalia ranks as the worst failed state in 2010. Matched by demographic pressures, refugees, group grievance, human flight, uneven development, economic decline, delegitimization of the state, public services, human rights, security apparatus, factionalized elite, and foreign intervention, no state fares worse than Somalia. It is hell on earth. If that’s your paradise, then I want absolutely nothing to do with you. Somalia is surrounded by Ethiopia, Kenya, Yemen, and Djibouti. Kenya ranks 13th, Ethiopia 17th, Yemen 18th, Djibouti 74th. Iraq and Afghanistan rank better than Somalia. Hell, even the Sudan ranks better (albeit at #2).

  104. Brad Dennis on April 5, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Jon, still defending Somalia, huh? Look, I have no business in trying to convince you that taxation is not theft anymore than I have in trying to convince flat earthers that the earth is round or 9/11 truthers that 9/11 wasn’t an inside job. Don’t they claim to simply seek truth as well? I think that it is actually a fairly simple argument to shoot down, it is just a question of you accepting it. The founding fathers fought against taxation without representation, not the concept of taxation as a whole. In fact the founding fathers actually feared anarchy, hence the constitution (which I am not quite sure if you actually like). But if you think Somalia is such a great place, then be my guest.

  105. Allan on April 5, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    @86 (Jon)

    Agreed that the Church, being run by imperfect men, has its imperfections. I think however, that that in itself isn’t proof that the Church causes or has caused oppression, suffering and justice. For example (admittedly on a small scale), an average bishop in the Church surely possesses his faults. Can we therefore automatically conclude that the ward members necessarily suffer oppression and injustice because of the Bishop? I don’t think so. In fact, the ward members may develop certain Christ-like attributes by appropriately responding to the Bishop’s imperfections, i.e., sustaining him, praying for him, serving him. In stark contrast to being oppressed, caused to suffer, or met with injustice, the ward members have the opportunity to draw nearer to God and become more like Christ because of the imperfections of a person they are contact with, even though he is their ecclesiastical leader.

  106. Kent Larsen on April 5, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    For the record, I never said, as Jon claims in 101, that “Everyone says taxes are good (even the church) therefore they are good.” Its simply not in the comments I made.

    With the record set straight on that point, I’m going to shut down further comments on this post. We seem to be floating off topic regularly, without coming to any conclusion or making any progress on the topics we are discussing.

    I thank those who have made on-topic contributions.