Practical Apologetics: Keeping the Faith

May 9, 2014 | 111 comments
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Another installment in my occasional series (see here, here), this one prompted by a fine little two-page article titled “Keeping the Faith” in, of all places, the BYU Magazine. The Church, both the membership and leaders, finally seems to be waking up to the fact that the Church is losing its youngest adult cohort, the Millennials. What exactly is the problem? What can be done at the local level to address the problem? What can LDS leaders do at the Church-wide level to address it?

1. Yes, there is a problem. But it’s not like the LDS Newsroom posts a press release stating that, in a private meeting last Tuesday, senior LDS leaders acknowledged the problem and appointed a Seventy to formulate an LDS response. You have to read between the lines. There is last week’s LDS Newsroom piece reporting Elder Perry’s meeting with Seventh Day Adventist leaders, in which Elder Perry is quoted as saying we need to “find a way to keeping faith alive in the 14- to 35-year-olds so that faith will grow with them, so they’ll have a foundation for their life.” There is Elder Uchtdorf’s October 2013 Conference talk, “Come, Join With Us,” sounding an understanding and welcoming note not always heard in that setting.

There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith — even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are not seen but which are true.

Part of the problem is that the Internet has made negative information about the LDS Church easily available. Part of the problem is that the correlated LDS curriculum, whatever its merits, has made young LDS more vulnerable to credible negative information. But the biggest problem is simply generational: there is indisputable demographic data showing an across the board decline in interest in organized religion — of any variety, not just LDS religion — by young adults, the 18-to-35s that Elder Perry referred to. Putnam and Campbell is just one source that addresses this in some detail. We’re not losing all of the Millennials, just a lot more of that cohort than was the case even 20 years ago. That is the problem.

2. What can individuals do in response to the problem? The “Keeping the Faith” article does a nice job offering ideas (please republish this in the Ensign!). Just the headings in the article give you a pretty good sense of the content: Information Explosion; Destigmatizing Doubt; Embracing the Questioner; Educating Yourself. Among the detailed suggestions:

  • “Do create an atmosphere of warmth and openness in your home that invites conversations on difficult topics of all kinds.”
  • “Do react matter-of-factly and kindly to questions, no matter how distressing they might be to you personally.”
  • “Don’t communicate that it’s wrong or unfaithful to have questions or doubts.”

While the article is addressed to parents responding to a child expressing doctrinal doubts, the discussion applies to young adults, old adults, and local leaders as well. I have sympathy for local leaders who get little training or direction for dealing with faith crises — they deal with plenty of other crises, too. The anecdotal reports one hears often report sympathetic and supportive bishops and stake presidents, but not always. The institutional tendency within the Church of equating doubt with sin or unfaithfulness is a real obstacle to progress. Too often our reaction to doubt is to unwittingly push people out by overreacting and by mischaracterizing their doubts or weakened faith. We really have to dial it down.

3. We need a plan. A plan to, as the article authors put it, destigmatize doubt. It has to be a centralized plan that will result in some specific changes at the general level and that will generate some specific helpful guidance to local leaders. Perhaps there is already a plan. If so, please execute the plan immediately. What do you think ought to be in the plan? Here are a few of my ideas.

  • Broaden the curriculum. The article features commentary and advice from BYU professors Rachel Cope and J. Spencer Fluhman. “Fluhman and Cope say they have seen an increase in distressed students coming to them with tough questions. Both suggest that parents — and all Latter-day Saints — become more prepared to discuss hard issues of faith and less afraid to engage in open dialogue.” So parents should actually buy and READ Leonard and Allen’s Story of the Latter-day Saints or Bowman’s The Mormon People. And a few other books. But the LDS curriculum people ought to pull their heads up out of the ground and start incorporating LDS scholarship into the lessons rather than scrupulously avoiding any citation outside the curriculum echo chamber. Memo to Salt Lake: Last chance for inoculation before the epidemic hits if it’s not too late already.
  • Faith is enough. There is an institutional practice of expressing faith as knowledge: “I know the Church is true.” If you can’t say that, you are supposed to read and fast and pray until you can. I have talked with young LDS who think they have faith and serve in church and read the scriptures but don’t feel they meet the “sure knowledge” hurdle and consequently think they are not really a full Mormon. The internal dialogue is something like this: “It’s clear what they expect and what I’m supposed to say, and despite doing the right things I’m not quite there. Maybe the Church isn’t for me.” We really need to convince ourselves that faith is enough, then stop making a generation of self-questioning Millennials feel like faith is not enough for them so, as a consequence, the Church is not the right place for them. What a stupid message to send our young people. President Uchtdorf gets it. Does anyone else?
  • Doubt is not sin. LDS leaders need to give specific guidance to local leaders that doubt is not sin and expressions of doubt should not be treated as indications of faulty conduct or as invitations to identify such conduct. People who express a faith crisis need support and encouragement, not the Spanish Inquisition. Nobody expects that when they go to their bishop looking for answers or at least sympathy and support. But sometimes that’s what they get.
  • Ninety-minute block? I used to push for the two-hour block, but times have changed. Three hours is just too much.

So — what do you think? Is this really a problem? Anything you can suggest we do as individuals at the local level? Any other suggestions for positive change at the general church-wide level?

Note: The BYU Magazine article was also discussed in a FAIRBlog post. The post also links to and discusses a New Era article, “True or False?“. The post notes that both articles include discussion of new essays at the LDS.org Gospel Topics section addressing doctrinal and historical issues. Another related post is “What do Millennials Want from the Church?” at FMH.

111 Responses to Practical Apologetics: Keeping the Faith

  1. John Mansfield on May 9, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    I’m sure that it’s a problem, but I’m skeptical that it’s significantly more of a problem than retention of young adults has ever been.

  2. Cameron N. on May 9, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    ^ Exactly my feelings John. My only suggestion is less lax parenting and testimony building in childhood and better communication skills and openness between parents and kids.

  3. Owen on May 9, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Could you elaborate on why you think “times have changed” in a way that affects how long the block should be? For my priests, shorter church just means more video games. If anything, I’d like more time with them, although maybe not sitting in a classroom. But between trying to run Duty to God, Venturing, and Come Follow Me, all in a youth-led way, the half hour to forty minutes we get on Sunday and hour an a half on Tuesday is ridiculously short. It’s so much less time than anything else they’re involved with such as sports practices, extracurricular clubs, jobs, etc. But they DO have the time, as evidenced by their Minecraft achievements.

  4. Owen on May 9, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Although, there is seminary, which seems to be where they’re actually learning the scriptures…

  5. Howard on May 9, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Why are Millennials leaving?

    Three-quarters of Millennialls agree that present-day Christianity has “good values and principles,” but strong majorities also agree that modern-day Christianity is “hypocritical” (58 percent), “judgmental” (62 percent), and “anti-gay” (64 percent).

    http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2012/04/26/why-are-millennials-leaving-the-church/10212

  6. theoldadam on May 9, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    I give a hearty “Amen!” to any Mormon who says that faith (in what Jesus has done for us) is enough.

  7. Brian on May 9, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    The 90 minute block alone will save tens of thousands.

  8. Jared vdH on May 9, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Hey all, I’m a YSA, well for the next 7 months at least (Hitting the age limit). For 7 of the 10 years I’ve been a YSA I’ve been a ward clerk in one form or another. One year I spent in an Elders Quorum presidency, and two as a gospel doctrine teacher. I don’t think it’s the three hour block that’s an issue. While I have been called as a clerk, I have usually made up reasons to go find clerk work rather than attend Sunday School and Elders Quorum. It’s not a question of time – anyone who knows a clerk knows that they’re usually there early and stay late. I did this because I am usually quite bored with the bland way these lessons are taught. I’d rather spend time in the clerks office polishing Church records than sit in some of these classes.

    Maybe I’m just a snobby elitist when it comes to teaching in the Church. I don’t think the lessons need to be “scholarly” at least in the stereotypical sense. While I think I would enjoy those more, I know plenty of people who wouldn’t. But we can certainly do more to get people to really think about the scriptures. If anything I hope the new “Come Follow Me” style lessons will at least get people, teachers and members alike, to ask different, interesting, and challenging questions of the scriptures. We need to break out of the rut teaching in the Church has become.

  9. Steve Smith on May 9, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Yes, there is a problem that is larger than it was in the past, and denial of it isn’t helping. I sometimes wonder what is motivating denial of what seems quite obvious. Is it that to acknowledge larger rates of disaffection is implicitly acknowledging weakness in the church?

    I like your suggestions, Dave. I might add that moralistic therapeutic deism may be a stopgap solution. Let’s focus more on the scriptures as literature instead of emphasizing them as literal history. Let’s also emphasize religion as orthopraxy over religion as orthodoxy. Religion is the means through which we congregate, become aware of each others’ needs, and seek ways to serve one another. Religion should serve as the catalyst for righteous initiative, not as a drill sergeant. Religion needs to be less about pay, pray, and obey, and more about serve, discover, and love.

  10. SusanS on May 9, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    I think that a large body of the church, especially the boomers in the leadership positions still have strong memories of the 80s and early 90s where any expression of doubt or deeper investigation into the history of the church led to excommunications. Mark Hoffman was the boogeyman for members as the example of what happens when people tried to approach the church from a scholarly perspective. If you had doubts, you kept them under your hat and toed the line. I still think that this anti-intellectual sentiment is still strong among the boomer generation. I’m actually kind of grateful for this demographic crisis because it’s bringing about changes that should have been made a long time ago. It’s just unfortunate that some people are losing their faith as a consequence.

  11. Frank Pellett on May 9, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Funny, I thought Mark Hoffman was the boogeyman for people trying to do fake history and blowing up anyone who might unmask you.

  12. SusanS on May 9, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    I compared him to an irrational fear of an imaginary specter for a reason.

  13. Wilfried on May 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Thanks, Dave. I concur that the problem is real, though it is also true the church has known previous periods of rather significant disaffection. But this interconnected, media-savvy, and information-soaked generation presents different challenges.

    I assume each of us would like a church that corresponds best to his/her personal wishes. Tailor-made. Give me a 90-minute block, please (I heartily agree). But then in my ward in Belgium I see a group of (older, single) members for whom the church is their Sunday haven and social club, which makes them stretch their Sunday attendance easily to 5 hours. So, perhaps more flexibility for individuals according to needs and possibilities? The one-size-fits-all and all-or-nothing correlated approach is a major problem. A minimal attendance expectation, without obligations nor social pressure for more, would probably help many young people keep their ties with the church during their fragile years. And, by all means, reverse the present tendency to fundamentalization and polarization. The world outside Mormonism is wonderful too.

  14. Neal on May 9, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    “Both suggest that parents — and all Latter-day Saints — become more prepared to discuss hard issues of faith and less afraid to engage in open dialogue”. Yes, and exactly how do you answer said “hard issues” when the Church has given almost no official answers to thorny questions like Book of Mormon anachronisms, Joseph Smith’s polyandry, Kinderhook plates, and a myriad of other things that are “hard”? Until the institution takes the bull by the horns, parents and others are out there swimming with the sharks alone. Like that’s gonna work…

  15. Cameron N. on May 9, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Shorter church meetings would be helpful if all parents and families were more diligent in raising children to be natural disciples. Personally for me, and I think for most kids and families, less church would only weaken our testimony building experiences and thus only exacerbate the issue. These are kids who believe it but are pretty slothful until they think about a mission. Sporadic prayer and scriptures, etc.

    The laziness problem goes both ways as well. Just as members shouldn’t be lazy about scripture study, living the gospel, and real prayer, I suspect most are pretty lazy about learning about the thorny stuff. So many members just believe all the ‘bad’ stuff out there immediately, and are just as lazy about accepting that as true as they are about spiritual learning and progression. Often the difficult issues require a decent amount of effort to realize why they shouldn’t be a testimony barrier. Even if it doesn’t bother you, you should be learning more about it so you can help others in your sphere of influence.

  16. E on May 9, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    I am also wondering what are your reasons for believing that LDS millenials specifically are leaving? I also feel skeptical that retention of the current cohort has changed compared with previous generations. What is this belief based on? Anecdotally I am not seeing it, but I realize my observations are not generalizable.

  17. Chet on May 9, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    15 “These are kids who believe it but are pretty slothful until they think about a mission. Sporadic prayer and scriptures, etc.”

    As a parent of two teens, I would concur. At home we were discussing Moroni’s promise recently and my kids seemed pretty nonplussed. I guess I could have quoted scriptures about how the wicked shall burn…

    Trying also to reconcile this post with Wilfried’s most recent post, and I may or may not be in the middle of my own faith crisis.

    Steve Smith (9) thank you for the comments on orthopraxy. The home teaching reporting “requirements” I have experienced lately are quite bothersome. If there are needs I will make sure they get reported. Until then, please don’t ask for lengthy details, especially if you are not my quorum president.

  18. RW on May 9, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Dave,

    About the “hard issues.” It is doubtful that most parents are able to cope with the hard issues, let alone explain them to their children. It strikes me that most adults have come through their time being incurious and non-questioning, thus ill prepared to discuss advanced apologetic.

    I have a family of gen x’ers, preliminary to the millenials, half have left the Church over various. Polygamy, fundamentally, Joseph Smith and 14 year old girls, ranks high. Social issues, like gays and homophobia rank right behind. My son, white hot on his mission, came home and hit on the Joseph Smith problem. Too bad. My daughter, with many gay friends, foundered on homophobia. My other daughter’s husband also crashed on polygamy and that sexual moral issue, which took her down and her family.
    I doubt there is anything to do without a full transfusion, top down. Anything else is tweaking around the edges.

    We need to start talking about real history and historical problems, methods and issues, theology and the meaning of modernism, humanism and the modern age, and sexual morality, its meaning and psychological dangers, and regarding polygamy, feminism and the priesthood, the Mother God, starting at age 12.

    We need to change the operant idea of the church from the negative idea of obedience to positive concepts of freedom and what it means to be God-like. I sincerely doubt this is possible. Without a major change to counter the great negative forces, we will become just another odd sect and will probably remain so at a few percent of the population,

  19. GBO on May 9, 2014 at 10:26 pm

    I could not agree with #14 Neal enough. We can’t even say out loud the reasons many Millenials (disclosure: I am one) list for leaving the church out loud. We call them “difficult issues.” Like they are some anatomical term we are all embarrassed to say out loud. The reason many people find them so difficult is that there aren’t good answers to them. I feel like I have to twist my arms and legs into knots in order to reconcile polygamy in the Nauvoo period with everything I have been taught about prophets and revelation growing up, and even the way we talk about prophets today. The two just don’t match. It’s no wonder people end up bitter and angry after learning that, in order to accept these many issues, you have to essentially unlearn what you were taught growing up and accept a much, much different form of Mormonism. If that is the case, I just wish that I had been taught this from the beginning. I have an example. In the Gospel Art Book, there is a picture of Joseph Smith sitting at a desk looking at plates while Oliver Cowdrey sits across from him and is transcribing what Smith is saying. But, if the church KNOWS that is not how the plates were translated, why keep those pictures in???

  20. ricke on May 9, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    It’s not just the curriculum writers who need to pull their heads out of the sand. The first three comments above expressed skepticism that young people are dropping out of Church at an increasing rate. They must not live in college towns, or work with college-age young people! For real statistics about the massive defection from religion of Millennials in general, check out the research done by the Barna Group or the Pew Research Center. As for the person who asserts that times have not changed, I must suppose they have never used Google to prepare a lesson or talk for Church. Who can seriously dispute that the Web has made access to negative information about our Church easier to get than it ever was before. I am as disgusted with this kind of lazy, apparently-willful ignorance among lay members as I am with obfuscating curriculum writers. And anyway, if the rate of defection were not increasing, does that mean the Church would be justified in doing nothing.

  21. Jettboy on May 10, 2014 at 9:10 am

    let them leave. Let them fall. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not of this world and therefore the world’s ways of learning are irrelevant. A testimony is not built on the facts of history, but the closeness and revelations of God. The problem isn’t the Church’s approach (as that has been the same since the start of the Restoration) even if it can be tweaked, but that straight is the way and few there are that find the path. Its always been that way. It always will be that way. As was stated before, this is not just a “Mormon” problem, but simply the way things are in the modern Western world of anything goes.

    The famous “burned over district” of camp meetings and revivals was a reaction to drops in church attendance and not growth. We are just seeing the Europeanization of the United States with loose morals and strict scientism up against the traditions and moral philosophy of religion. It will just have to play itself out. In the process, where the church gets most of its growth might very well shift outside of the Western world. Perhaps what needs to happen, like the revivals, is more preaching and teaching with power and authority and less apologetics. In the end, the prophecies have taught that this last days falling away will happen and a repeat of the Great Apostasy only averted by the heavy hand of an angry God burning the wicked to save the remaining faithful. I trust God. I trust His servants. I don’t trust Internet backseat drivers.

    How many here have tested these theories in their own homes? What is the success rate? Just asking.

  22. RW on May 10, 2014 at 9:45 am

    @21, Jettboy,

    The human problem is this: we, of another generation, have looked at the polygamy issue, have stared at the problems of the Book of Mormon, have struggled with the numb mindedness of the top-down obedience Church, and have dealt with the issues. We have a sense of the spirit of the Restoration.and the sacrifice by many which brought it about.

    To see these people leaving the Church needlessly is painful. For those of us who have looked unblinking at the whole and have found value, have found the Savior, we want to help others to be able to do the same. We see that the loss is not inevitable, nor as you seem to think, desirable.

    The strait gate and narrow path, you seem to have found it. Go in thereat, and be joyful.

  23. jader3rd on May 10, 2014 at 9:47 am

    I think that two big reasons have already been pointed out on T&S
    1. There was a post (can’t find it at the moment) that dealt with the fact how the church as a great cadence going for it with expectations and ranks changing every two years deacon, teacher, priest, etc. And then after mission there really isn’t a good transition to a world where that doesn’t happen any more. I think that there’s a good possibility that too many become dependent upon that attention they get as a Youth who then are not prepared for the roles being changed and now they are they adult.
    2. In “The Message of Mormonism (pt. 2): Angels, Visions, Prophets, and Gifts of the Spirit” article it talks about how our message is less about Angels and Visions in modern society because those things don’t resonate as well. Given that the message is still “the heavens are open” I personally think that more people, even intellectual ones, would be retained if it wouldn’t be too abnormal for an Apostle to say something like “In a conversation I was having with an angel a few months back”. Kind of like Jacob in 2 NE 10. I understand that Joseph Smith would have received the highest concentration of revelation given that he was introducing the dispensation, but does it feel to anybody else that the revelation has kind of been cut off?

    Personally I haven’t had an issue with not having resources to find out information about “the hard questions”. I think a bigger issue is how members will carry over beliefs and attitudes from their protestant heritage, or absorb it from modern day media about what/how Christians believe, and keep it part of their LDS faith. Things like hatred towards evolution, and trying to defend some Bible literalism. I would LOVE a General Conference talk from Elder Eyring about reconciling some scriptural passages with different scientific discoveries. Certainly nothing like “The Church believes that this historical event happened exactly in this manner”, but something like “As I was learning about blah, I thought about how it’s related to and gave me insight into this gospel principle”.

    As for Jared vdH #8 comment, I do agree that classes can get pretty boring (and I’ve only had one teacher that was so bad I had to regularly walk out of his classroom), that should be more of a challenge to make them better. I am saddened by the time a bishopric member broke up my favorite Gospel Doctrine class dynamic. It was in BYU ward where we had two classes. Most everyone went to the “popular” class. I went to the “other” one. Over the course of a few weeks everyone wanted to feel like they were with the rest of the ward and the “other” class was reduced to the teacher and three students. So the teacher found the lecture format to be awkward, and had us all sit around the same desk. It turned into a conversation and was awesome. The next week two more guys showed up and we had a few weeks of 6 people sitting around a table talking about the lessons subject matter. One Bishopric member felt that it was unfair to the “other” teacher that their attendance was so low, so he encouraged people who would listen to go to our class. So they would sit at the edges when the core six would still sit around the table. This went on for a few weeks and we loved it. When the teacher asked the people in the perimeter if we should break up the core table and return to normal they said no. They loved observing our conversations without feeling the pressure to participate. The bishopric member still felt like it was wrong, and forced us to break up that dynamic. I don’t know how I would implement that dynamic should I ever be the Sunday School President, but it would be really nice.

  24. Jettboy on May 10, 2014 at 10:49 am

    “For those of us who have looked unblinking at the whole and have found value, have found the Savior, we want to help others to be able to do the same.”

    So would I, but on the Lord’s terms with the Lord’s ways. Not by turning Church into an academic society where its moral foundations are challenged by worldly philosophy to keep the numbers up. What does it profit to gain the whole world and lose our soul?

  25. Trevor on May 10, 2014 at 11:18 am

    ^ Truly I feel the light of Christ emanating from Jettboy’s approach to religion :-/

  26. Fletch on May 10, 2014 at 11:19 am

    hmmmm

  27. Fletch on May 10, 2014 at 11:25 am

    @jetboy – My man your take on this is exactly why the youngsters are leaving. It’s a mentality that once you’ve stepped away from it is really pretty sick. Millenials and a good deal of other mo’s from various generations are finally fed up with the “jet boy” mentality that kind of prevails in the upper circles of the kingdom. Their response is kind of “right back atcha brother”. If you want to be self righteous, arrogant, a-holes, that’s cool……but we’re outta here. I’m kinda of siding with the we’re outta here sentiment right now. Can’t stomach it any longer. Enjoy the Celestial Kingdom. Sounds like a real blast ;0

  28. Fletch on May 10, 2014 at 11:46 am

    jetboy what’s wrong with being an “academic society”? The “Glory of God is Intelligence” right? This is the age of information. the Church can no longer get away with sweeping uncomfortable history under the rug. You used to have go dig in libraries to find such information. Now you have it instantly in volumes. It’s real information. Much of it is from Church or Church friendly sources. When you repeatedly tell the members “Move along, nothing to see here……” they know there’s something to see here. Many church leaders are finally coming to grips with this and making appreciated efforts to deal with a new segment of the membership that is not ok with turning off their minds and following the bretheren blindly. Elder Marlin Jensen is a classic example. I know he’s emeritus now, but he openly recognizes that there is another massive “falling away” under way and the answer is certainly not “let them leave”.

    I think the Lord must cringe sometimes at what his children say to each other. Holy warriors like yourself who believe you’re boldly defending God may actually be the one’s he’s most saddened by some times.

    It really is a new age. The church is morphing like it always does. It has accommodated members before and it will again. Orthodoxy sometimes has to give a little. Let me know if you’re interested in multiple examples of this in the Church.

  29. Amy T on May 10, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    …. And now we’ll take a quick break from this debate for a spelling lesson…. The words “millennium” and “millennial” have two Ls and two Ns. Think mille (thousand) plus annum (year). Two Ls, two Ns. ….

  30. Fletch on May 10, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks Amy. Where’s spell check when you need it? See? All the more reason for intellectuals in the church :)

  31. jader3rd on May 10, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    @ Jetboy #21

    let them leave. Let them fall
    I’m pretty sure that’s in direct opposition to the council that Jesus gave when he said “Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs”.

  32. Wilfried on May 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Jettboy (21):

    “We are just seeing the Europeanization of the United States with loose morals and strict scientism up against the traditions and moral philosophy of religion.”

    At least now we know who is responsible.

  33. christiankimball on May 10, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Maybe counter-intuitive to some, but I would make room for back benchers. Mostly as a social, cultural matter: open welcome to the guy in casual slacks and no tie, the woman in pants(!), sitting on the back row. To ask and answer questions without a “get it right now or get out” pressure. To make worthiness interviews optional, that is, to allow (as a matter of social acceptance) some people to continue attending and participating and being part of the life of the church without any of the interviews.

    (Credit Wilfried @13 to the extent I may be echoing part of his comment, and to endorse the whole of his comment. We would do well to move away (keep moving away) from a one-size-fits-all program.)

  34. Fletch on May 10, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    lol. Blame Europe. Blame science. Blame someone as long as it’s makes us feel righteous and superior.

    C’mon brother. The victim card, the martyr card, the “us vs. the world” card. All so over-played.

    God loves all 7.5 billion of His children and has great and grand eternities in store for all of them. You’ve surely heard the joke about being quiet in heaven so the mormons don’t hear us because……………they think they’re the only one’s there.

    My hunch is he dearly loves and honors every child who sincerely seeks him (and even His children who don’t necessarily seek Him), regardless of the sect/belief system they belong to.”

    Who knows? None of us does for sure. I think it’s a story with a happy ending though, and not one that ends with 99% of God’s children being separated from Him and their loved one’s because they weren’t Mormon.

  35. Dave on May 10, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Thanks for the comments everyone.

    It seems like people kind of fall into three camps: (1) those who think disaffection today isn’t really a problem and isn’t really any different than in prior years; (2) those who think there is a problem but think the Church should just stay the course rather than craft changes aimed at keeping self-obsessed Millennials happy; and (3) those who favor wholesale progressive changes despite the consequences (some unforeseeable) for the Church.

    What do actions the Church has taken thus far seem to indicate? The fact that the Church is doing things (linked articles, essays in Gospel Topics, remarks by Elder Perry) show the Church acknowledges there is a problem and rejects #1. So it is a question of what measures the Church can take and how far any contemplated changes should go. The trick is to find the effective middle ground between “too little, too late” (#2) and so much change that the mainstream membership gets alienated (#3, if taken to its logical conclusion).

  36. Wilfried on May 10, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Dave, I think your “camp 1″ mixes two aspects. Even those who think the problem isn’t really any different than in prior years may be convinced of (2) or (3). Actually, church history tells us there have been quite a few episodes where church leaders led reforms to tackle disaffection, adapt to new challenges, and rekindle the dedication of a generation that was slipping away. Thus, recognizing that things aren’t really different than in the past can certainly include the conviction that we need changes now.

  37. Stephen R. Marsh on May 10, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    “there is indisputable demographic data showing an across the board decline in interest in organized religion — of any variety, not just LDS religion — by young adults” Indeed. Across Europe and finally getting into the United States we have a post Christian world slowly coming into being.

  38. Martin James on May 10, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    I think the focus on the past is the wrong answer. Yes, information about the past matters to some people but it matters much, much less than present and the future.

    The church seems more yesterday than latter-day. What happened to the Second Coming rhetoric? Signs of the times. Gog and Magog and the moon turning to blood and all that.

    Kids need to go to the temple earlier, like about 12.

    There are some contraindications to a lapse of the latest generation. The BYU’s seem to be full and full of eager, qualified people. The number of female missionaries is hardly a sign of a collapsing church.

    The lesson of Vatican II in Europe and North America is that easy religion leads to no religion.

    You can’t fight something with nothing. And right now, all my kids hear is blah, blah, blah when they go to church.

  39. ES on May 11, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Jettboy, whatever happened to Luke 15:4? “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?”

    Doesn’t that mean we are supposed to find out what’s wrong and bring them back or help them stay?

  40. Goran on May 11, 2014 at 9:14 am

    1. Maybe take a populist view on things? Millennials seem to hate the corporate worship culture of the mormon church.
    2. The church needs to be less of a controlling parent and more of a wise partner.
    3. Focus on the gospels …. really take a look at liberation theology … it’s not the communist doctrine the elites claim it is. They know it’s simply an empowering doctrine that takes power away from the elites. That’s why they don’t like it and why the elites in Christ’s time didn’t like it either.
    4. Disclose where the money goes. The secrecy seems to say that the church has its priorities wrong.

  41. Jettboy on May 11, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Seems kind of a waste of time ES when it is apparent that the sheep have either taken up the cause or gotten eaten by the wolves. You have to be sure they are sheep first or all you are doing is endangering the 99 perfectly healthy. Goran is an example by judging the Kingdom with Marixism rather than accept judgement of self. The message is clear from the “millenials” that the Church needs repentance, not them as individuals. God becomes a social construct rather than a focus of worship.

  42. Fletch on May 11, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    jettboy you are ignorant. You have a misguided understanding of the Gospel. Sincerely hope you can get it fixed brother. You’re comments are like a car wreck that I can’t look away from. I’m almost convinced you are just a troll trying to get people’s goat. Hope that’s the case, cuz if this is genuinely who you are it’s really sad. Start over bro. You can change

  43. john on May 11, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    The church needs to admit to mistakes and make it ok to disagree.

    The hypocrisy of saying God is leading the church and that leaders will never lead you astray has been shown false.

    Credibility is lost … the young generation are well educated and trained in rational thought.

    You can’t issue a proclamation starting you know better than the world and swear it is God’s way and will ever be so….not when they have had to back track on this in major ways in the past.

    If God is leading then god makes mistakes…thus losing his God status

    If men are leading then those men need to deal with the fact of people who doubt their inspiration…and that they just might not be right….our

  44. Fletch on May 11, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Well said John. Current prophets are constantly ducking and dodging past prophets statements and policy’s and even revelations. They demand an awful lot of accountability of the membership. It shouldn’t be blasphemous to ask for some accountability in return.

    I know their task is not easy. They do an admirable job. I would love however, just once to see them offer a humble and honest apology instead of “everyone else was racist, so we were too” excuses like they offered regarding blacks and the priesthood.

    When you have two separate first presidency’s sign statements claiming revelation from God (blacks condemned for non-valiance in pre-mortality) , and then decades later release an official statement “disavowing” those revelations (see mormon.org), it is completely fair game to raise a question or two.

    The fact is they have unquestioned loyalty from most of the true believing membership so they easily side step most uncomfortable issues. It’s just that increasingly more members are not as willing to just look the other way, or worse yet, keep their heads buried in the sand.

    No easy answers for sure, but this new generation grew up with unlimited instant access to information that none of the previous one’s did. You can’t completely blame them for wanting explanations of things like polyandry, marriages to 14 yr. olds, Book of Abraham translations, and the dozens of other issues that are worthy of examination.

    Who knows? Pretty fascinating to watch it unfold though

  45. LB on May 11, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    I am wondering if you could clarify something, not just here in the comments, but in an article. I keep hearing about the awfulness of “anti-mormon” literature and I am surprised the faithful are so ignorant in calling it such. Most of that which is categorized as “anti” is really in large part people discussing Church History, or things that actually happened. Thank God for people who want to discuss truth and not sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened, that would be a lie. So the problem isn’t the internet like you say “Part of the problem is that the Internet has made negative information about the LDS Church easily available.” it is that negative things have indeed happened. Leaders did some awful, stupid, questionable, things that people find shakes their faith in the Church. When we only talk about them as means of wickedness or doubt or not being “faithful” enough it leaves no room to believe in the Gospel. I think you can do both. If we weren’t taught infallible religion, infallible leaders, “perfect” church, “perfect leaders, and otherwise modern religious discourse of the “one true Church” without fault, learning the history of the Church wouldn’t be so problematic to faith. It is commonly said the the Lord would never allow the prophet of God to lead the Church astray taken from Woodruf’s comments on the manifesto, but how do we know when he said it, he wasn’t preaching falsely? How do you know he wasn’t leading you astray when he said he’ll never lead you astray? His comment was validating himself, is a circular argument, and circular arguments are logically invalid, he should have just said “because I said so.” ANYONE who thinks otherwise needs to revisit the prophet Balaam in the Old Testament.
    The Church needs to accept that the negative things people read or find out about actually happened and that it is only logical that until the Church stops criticizing the people who want to discuss history, the Church is in the wrong, not those leaving the Church because they are being effectively lied to.

    So long as the Church and its leaders expects itself to be perfect, they are only fooling themselves if they want to stand for anything true.

  46. rah on May 11, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    While I agree that the anti-intellectual, hagiograpic version of correlation is one reason that the church faces issues with Millenials, I am with those that think the bigger, longer term problem is not with needing to better and more honestly explain the past. Rather it is about recapturing dynamism and “prophesy” by really engaging and leading on the issues of the day. However, our past and correlation as well as our church leadership structure have ground this process to a crawl. I think a good portion of the millenials could handle “Joseph Smith wasn’t perfect and he made mistakes. Polygamy was one of those mistakes”. What millenials (and I am a bit to old to be one of them but I identify with the concerns we are attributing to them) really “want” or I will be more generous to them and say authentically “feel” is that the church is getting more and more out of step with their morals. I think there are 3 biggies. Two we talk about ad nauseum on the bloggernacle and one a bit less.

    1) Women’s equality

    2) Homosexuality

    3) Increasing and ever more visible inequality

    These more than historicity issues are the bigger issues. We can back pedal on historicity all we want and honestly I find that many questioning members are happy to do that and maintain identity and activity in the church. However, what does them in is when they are then asked to accept and believe things that they just feel morally conflicted about. Structural gender inequality in the church just feels wrong. While benevolent patriarchal rhetoric works for some, for many it only works because they hope for, even expect big changes in the future. Our inability to address polygamy not in how it impacts the past but how it impacts how we see women’s divine destinies NOW, is a big area of pain and discontent. Millenials confidence erodes as they wait and watch for these changes and answers. When they have kids, especially daughters it will keep gnawing at them and even become more acute not less because they have ‘settled down’ into marriage. There is a reason why say OW is almost entirely made up of millenials.

    Same with homosexuality. Prop 8 was a huge lingering shot in the foot even as we try hard to backpedal on some of the more ugly aspects and statements. As more and more gay people come out that means more and more of us will know them and interact with them, make friends with them for who they really are. And we won’t be able to hold the notion in our heads that they are “sinning” or “evil”. We will see good fruits. Excluding them in our theology and services as spiritually equal just feels wrong. We feel it in our bones. The cognitive and emotional dissonance is horrible.

    Finally, we are looking to religion to help make sense of the growing and simply more visable inequality in our world. At some point inequality becomes so wide and so stark that it feels (and simply is) immoral. When you visit countries and see, meet and even interact with people that are literally starving, facing daily violence and then return to 5,000 square foot houses etc. it is morally jarring. We more and more desperately want our religions to help make sense of this and to help. We look for moral leadership and mobilizing mechanisms for doing something about it. I think there is great hope and promise for the church to draw and keep millenials by really magnifying the new “4th mission” of the church. However, while it is something that we talk a bit about it is not something we emphasize or organize around. To the extent we do, it is one area of the church millenials (and many members) really are proud of and identify with. We will need to build on that. If we fail to how central that will become to being able to feel like one is a moral person (for many millenials) then it risks again leaving the church to be viewed as hypocrites rather than helpers.

    I think in the end these issues will be more important and more difficult for us to address than admitting JS gave us the Book of Mormon while looking in a hat or gave different accounts of the first vision or the provenance of the Book of Abraham. These just become part of a mosaic that makes it easier to leave when you see the institution conflict with your own moral compass with claims you should follow along because you should trust prophets who won’t even stand up and apologize for things like the priesthood exclusion.

  47. Laura on May 11, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    what rah said.

  48. Wilfried on May 12, 2014 at 1:20 am

    Indeed, well said, rah.

    My daughter and her many dozens of friends are millennials. As far as I see, I think most of them can relativize the “difficult” details of Mormon history and doctrine as mere blips, because they focus on a much broader and future-oriented perspective of equality, solidarity, and social gospel. And I see it on both sides of the Atlantic. We’re dealing with a global generation with tremendous potential. We can’t afford to continue to lose so many.

  49. Jettboy on May 12, 2014 at 10:18 am

    “the church is getting more and more out of step with their morals.”

    No, they are getting more and more out of step with the Church’s morals. For that reason alone I see no reason to cow-toe to them unless they repent, and not the other way around.

  50. Jonathan on May 12, 2014 at 10:50 am

    rah:

    You are describing an organization of individuals and a community, and not a Church. Take, for example, your second issue — homosexuality. How exactly would a Church, with the doctrine of the eternal nature of gender and the requirement of heterosexual marriage for eternal salvation properly accommodate homosexuality? How do we exclude them from our theology? We teach one doctrine — our sexual natures, appetites, and passions must be kept within the bounds the Lord has set — for both homosexual and heterosexual natural men and women. None of us — none — can surrender to our physical desires and claim discipleship.

    It seems that people who condemn the truth being taught are doing so because they feel that teaching hard truths is somehow self-righteousness or proof-positive of hypocrisy. We are at war on Earth — the continuation of the War in Heaven — and war is hell. All who fight the hard battles within their own souls bear the scars of that battle. It is painful, and it is frightening. But it is also necessary and right, and we who fight the battle within ourselves (in whatever way we are called to fight it) do no service to others to abandon them to their own battles — or, even worse, condemn them to live forever in enemy territory rather than trying to rescue them because we find it socially awkward to preach truth to them or feel better about ourselves if we are ‘tolerant’ of behavior the Lord cannot tolerate (because the Lord, our example, cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance).

    If we seek to save our brothers and sisters (including the Millennials), we cannot abandon doctrine. We preach the truth and hope for the Spirit to testify of that truth and heal us and others. We avoid offense whenever possible, but the first and second greatest commandments are to love God and love our fellow man (including preaching truth to them). Tolerance for sin is not part of the big two.

  51. Josh Smith on May 12, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Jettboy (#49), I think you meant kowtow. It’s a deep bow where the forehead touches the ground. Then again, maybe “cow-toe” is an actual word too. If it is, please educate me.

    Generally …

    Sometimes at church I look around the room and wonder why all the people are there. I sometimes forget that each individual is there for individual reasons. Here are a few of the reasons I see:

    *Some find genuine spiritual growth.
    *Some genuinely love the people who find spiritual growth, but don’t necessarily find that same spiritual growth themselves.
    *Traditions that mark the passage of time–birth, childhood to adolescents, adolescents to adulthood, marriage, death.
    *Belonging to a community and having a “job” or “purpose” or “calling” that is personal and meaningful.
    *Music.
    *Relationships–family and friends.
    *Best youth programs in the entire world.

    There are a lot of reasons people go to church. Personally, and this is just me, any one of the reasons listed above justifies 10% of one’s income and lifetime church attendance.

    (Unfortunately I don’t think a 90-minute block would help. I think it would cut down on the number of “callings” available.)

  52. Martin James on May 12, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Well Jonathan, since you asked…

    One way is to make room for brain gender that doesn’t match the genitals. God allows people who are clearly not male or female to be born, so why not people of mixed gender?

    Then you can keep marriage fidelity and homosexuality disappears if one uses a more accurate definition of gender.

    Do you know what God meant when he said male and female? I don’t think you do.

  53. Jared vdH on May 12, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Martin James,

    How does homosexuality disappear if one uses a more accurate definition of gender? Two homosexual men who love each other are still men in their brains and genitals. I think you’re conflating homosexuality with transgender individuals.

  54. Martin James on May 12, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    I’m saying that one option is to make men who want to marry men a new category. Its all just words.

  55. Josh Smith on May 12, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Martin James (#54):

    I’m saying that one option is to make men who want to marry men a new category. It’s all just words.

    Unclear pronoun! “It”? What’s all just words? I’d take a guess, but it would either be wildly inappropriate or offensive.

  56. Jared vdH on May 12, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    “It’s all just words.”

    Yet words have meaning. By saying making “men who want to marry men a new category” it sounds like you want to make same sex marriage “separate but equal” rather than just equal.

  57. Jonathan on May 12, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Martin:

    I believe a loving Heavenly Father understands gender far better than I do. I believe that if mistakes are made (and perhaps they are), then He will recompense all of us after this life. And I believe that it is still the best kindness we can show for all to advocate for the doctrine and obedience to the standard — no sexual relations outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.

    The arguments of the Gay Marriage Movement only make sense if there is no afterlife. If God commands His standards on marriage to be followed, and we follow them (even when it is hard or painful), we can stand confident that we will be blessed far more than our meager offering deserves. You cannot say that this is cruel doctrine to wait upon the hereafter, either, as that same claim of cruel doctrine would apply to the unmarried, the widow, or those who have spouses incapable or unwilling. Life hurts, but the doctrine is still the way to happiness.

    If Christ rose from the dead, then every tear I have cried struggling to set aside my nature and take upon me His name will be dried and will be counted unto me for righteousness. Each and every shortcut I have taken will be counted unto me for wickedness. Likewise, if there is a problem, I trust God to dry each and every one of their tears — including those that might be caused by my inadvertent or clumsy offensive behavior — and their obedience will be counted unto them for righteousness…if they obey. If they don’t obey, then they are left to themselves.

    Finally, and this is a rhetorical rather than a doctrinal point — do you really think that we would be having this discussion if the issue was limited to those tiny percentages of people who advocated homosexual marriage for true hermaphroditic individuals? And beyond, do I know what God meant when He said male and female? No. But I am not so foolish as to put my wisdom above and beyond that of His prophets on the subject.

  58. Fletch on May 12, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    I don’t know Martin. For a lot of years members privately (some publicly) put their wisdom above the prophets on blacks and the priesthood (meaning they didn’t like it or agree with it). In time, it seems their wisdom or instincts were spot on (meaning the doubters) when the Church completely disavowed the “wisdom”, even revelation, of the prophets on the issue.

    That’s what I mean by holding the bretheren accountable as they hold us accountable. Repeatedly prophets claimed one thing about blacks and the priesthood (see first presidency statement signed by David O. Mckay and counselors) and then in recent months the Church has completely “disavowed” these recent prophets statements about the issue.

    Try to get a current prophet to back an early prophet (of this dispensation) on any number of things………….interracial marriage, polygamy as requirement for Celestial Kingdom, Polyandry, just to name a handful (I could go for awhile).

    Is it fair game to wonder why doctrine testified to in God’s name by past prophets is now condemned and disavowed by the Church currently?

    It’s touchy stuff for sure. I believe they are men of God. I don’t advocate nit-picking every word out of their mouth to try and catch them in a mistake. That is not the spirit I intend this in. It’s a fine line between obedience/loyalty and zombie-like following of principles that bother us at our core. I don’t think that’s what the Lord expects of us.

  59. Fletch on May 12, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Sorry. the above should be addressed to Jonathan not Martin.

  60. Jonathan on May 12, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Fletch:

    Two things. First, it is possible to be intellectually correct and spiritually desolate. For example, if you and I argued before 1978 about black and the Priesthood and you told me that blacks would one day be ordained and I disputed that, you would be intellectually correct and I would be intellectually wrong. If, however, you followed your own counsel and spoke out in opposition of the Brethren on the issue or performed Priesthood ordinations, you would be spiritually wrong no matter how intellectually correct you were. Obedience, in a very real way, isn’t obedience unless we are called to put aside what we ‘know’ to follow what we KNOW.

    What you are pointing out are issues with the knowing side of the doctrine. But the Lord rarely calls on us to know something — He calls on us to do something or be something. The know can be wrong, but the do is what we are to obey. I don’t know why blacks couldn’t hold the Priesthood prior to 1978 (but you do a disservice to President McKay and others who testified that the day of their ordination was coming). I don’t know why, for example, women aren’t ordained now. While I do not know what to know, I do know what to do. Follow my leaders, and do not speak evil of them, and obey the commandments, and circumcise my heart.

    That is anything other than zombie-like following of principles. While I understand that it was not intended as an insult, it is a fallacious way of looking at obedience. Obedience is not a passive closing of the mind and reason. Instead, it is an often painful process of setting aside what I think for things more important. God gives us reason, which we are expected to use, but God did not solely give us reason or expect us to wholly rely upon it. Only by trusting the Lord (through His leaders), especially when we disagree with them can we later look back upon our lives and see the blessings that obedience created for ourselves and others — and, by so doing, generate the faith necessary to do again what we are called upon to do. I have followed leaders, even when I disagreed with them and even when it was painful to do so, enough that I can state that following your leaders is the way to happiness, even when the doctrine is hard to accept.

  61. Martin James on May 12, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    First, it is possible to be intellectually correct and spiritually desolate.

    Can’t that same position be used to say your position from above

    “How exactly would a Church, with the doctrine of the eternal nature of gender and the requirement of heterosexual marriage for eternal salvation properly accommodate homosexuality? How do we exclude them from our theology?”

    is spiritually desolate. My whole point was not to argue for homosexuality, is was just to point out that tomorrow’s theology can be very different from today’s.

    You have to admit that today’s leaders don’t sound the same as prior ones. There are people that think they are changing doctrine too much and people who think they are changing it too little. Why?

  62. Fletch on May 12, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    Jonathan,

    Thanks for the feedback. You say you don’t know why the blacks were denied the priesthood until 1978. I would suggest that the saints of that era “knew” exactly why. While the bretheren confirmed that they would one day receive it, they also explained that the “negro” race was cursed because of their lack of valiance in the pre-mortal existence and because of Cain’s sin in mortality. (the 1949 first presidency letter is the more blatant of the two. Mckay’s is far less blunt about the curse of the blacks)

    My point is, saints of that era “knew” the truth about blacks was because of their fence sitting in a previous existence. Their prophets told them so. It was thus the truth because it came from the prophet/s (not as theory but as a signed letter from the first presidency. Again especially see the 1949 letter).

    Why is it no longer the truth 50 years later? Now in 2014 an official statement from the Church states that that wasn’t truth at all but rather the racist theories of Brigham Young.

    I respect the happiness that your obedience brings you. I’m not advocating open defiance or disobedience to General Authorities. It has to be ok however to use the reason God gave you when a doctrine/policy/statement doesn’t ring true in your heart.

    To give that compass or barometer away to another individual or group of individuals (the prophets) completely is dangerous and not healthy.

  63. Ryan Hammond on May 12, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Jonathan,

    I can’t hold with your interpretation of what is “spiritually correct”. I don’t believe in surrendering my moral agency to priesthood leaders, ever. I don’t believe that being obedient to an immoral or wrong order that you know is wrong is justified by God just because you thought you were being obedient. This is how the Mountain Meadow Massacre happens. By this standard Jesus himself is imperfect because he stood up to the legitimate Levitical priesthood institutions of his day because they were wrong. I am happy to accept your definition of such obedience as not being “zombie-like”, but I find that type of zealous obedience to leaders to be both scary, spiritually immature and akin to what BY called “blind obedience”. It aligns with that old and rebuffed refrain “When the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done”. Remember that refrain was spoken out against by the prophet of the time. Ezra Taft Benson was called before the 12 and again the 70 to apologize for his 14 Fundamentals of Following the Prophet for having gone too far. I know this is a fundamental difference between how people in your camp and in my camp see the gospel. Maybe you and others are willing to lose a good portion of Millenials who won’t accept a religious world view where they are asked to set aside their own moral compasses for strong form obedience at all costs. I am not. Remember there is another, well established theological pole in Mormonism. “Teach them correct principles and let them choose for themselves”, a church governed “by common consent”. etc. I think we need both the Iron Types and the Liahona types. Chasing either one out of the church makes us weaker.

    I for one don’t see how teaching blacks were spiritually inferior as gospel truth out of obedience to Mark E. Petersen and crowd brings anybody blessings nor was ever “spiritually correct”. If everyone had just laid down and refused to question this teaching (as most did) then change would not have come in 1978. Even the prophet who made the change said this. It was those courageous enough to stand up for what the Spirit was telling them and say, “I think this is wrong. This can not be of the Lord”, that helped open the minds of the membership and leadership. It was Hugh B. Brown working tirelessly on his fellow apostles. It was Lester Bush risking his professional reputation and church standing to research and publish his 1973 Dialogue piece that directly contradicted a signed letter from the first presidency as to the facts of the origin of the priesthood ban. It was Steven McMurrin willing to publicly question the church’s policy as president of U of U. It was the men called to be bishops who refused out of moral conscious that they could not hold a calling that asked them to discriminate. These people were called “apostates”. They were threatened with church discipline. They were marginalized from their church communities. I ask you, who do you think was more morally courageous or “spiritually correct”? Them or the LDS person who kept their head down and said, “well this feels really wrong to me but at least I will be obedient to the leaders” You ‘don’t know why’ the blacks couldn’t have the priesthood before 1978. Yes we do. You just don’t want to know. There is NO revelation that started it. Joseph Smith ordained black men. Brigham Young under pressure from slave owning Mormons entering Utah and based in his own prejudiced began the policy. Christian theologians trying to justify slavery in Europe and the US concocted the curse of Cain/Ham and other interpretations. Mormon theologians adopted them and then expanded on them. So lets be clear. The racial priesthood ban WAS NOT OF GOD. The real question is “how come God let us as a Church err in such an egregious way for so many generations?” Now that is a good question for us all to struggle with. I would humbly suggest that one reason was because too many members who knew it was wrong the way they know the gospel was true didn’t speak up enough. Didn’t question enough. And many because they thought this demonstrated “obedience”.

    Who knows maybe the Saints who were persecuted for teaching and believing racist (now) “folk doctrine” will have the Lord pat them on the back and say “Well done, my good and faithful servant”. I doubt that is how it goes down. I think the Lord will be forgiving and understanding of those who based their actions in obedience to leadership on the matter. He is after all our Savior.But blessings? I don’t think so. Racism doesn’t bring blessings whether it is honestly come by or not. Whether it is justified by obedience or not. In my view, we are the Church. The leaders serve the Church to the best of their abilities. They are NOT the Church. They will be responsible for what they do with their stewardships and I with mine. I don’t go around ordaining women in opposition to current church rules. That is not my stewardship. But heaven’s it IS my stewardship to have an opinion on the matter and to express that opinion honestly and respectfully.

    I look carefully at our “doctrine” on gender and I see very little “thus saith the Lord”. The official stance of the church is that we don’t know the origin of homosexuality. We have now declared past, more hardline statements (that it was a result of masturbation, or a learned form of sexual perversion, or a bad relationship with the father or..or…or) as “speculation”. When BKP expressed that God wouldn’t make someone homosexual, the leadership took the very rare measure of correcting the text and striking the statement from the conference record. The major document that we have on this is the Proclamation on the Family, a document written by lawyers for political and legal purposes. A document that has never been canonized and when called “a revelation” (again by BKP) was corrected to be described as “a guide”. The only real biblical injunctions on homosexuality come from the same time period and society that were writing God’s rules for when it was ok to stone your women and when prophets were supposedly ordering genocide and had lots of God-given rules for how to treat your slave’s properly. And even the few mentions in these scriptures are really unclear as to if the authors were condemning homosexuality. In fact there is far more scriptural evidence for a racial priesthood ban than on what God may think about homosexuality. Given how deeply prejudice has been against homosexuals, I think we can at least say we are at risk for that long held societal prejudice driving wrong doctrine just like how racial bias drove the creation of “folk doctrine” over the priesthood ban. Beyond that I think we can make a distinction between what we may currently believe as doctrine and some God-directed effort to politically and socially disenfranchise same-sex families. Its not like the fruits of that effort have been very good for the Church. Nor have any of the basic claims made by our leaders for justifying such treatment played out in empirical reality. So count me a huge skeptic that despite the best intention of our leaders and community that God is driving the bus on homosexuality at the moment.

    I for one have a nice big religious imagination. I can totally imagine a revelation that leads to greater understanding of homosexuality from an eternal perspective. I could imagine gay and lesbians being married in the temple with their kids sealed to them. Why not? Maybe that is how it is in the eternities. I don’t think we know. I do know that the way we have talked about and treated our gay brothers and sisters feels wrong to me. It bucks against my conscious. I know that the way our past (and many of our current leaders) have talked about and treated our gay brothers and sisters feels dead wrong to me. I believe much of this was rooted in human prejudice and bigotry. God has let us go down that path before.

    I think the evidence on the role of women in the church is even a clearer case of mortal prejudice and lack of imagination. Joseph Smith clearly had a much more expansive view than we have now. Our sisters had more priesthood power authorization in the past than they do now. They could lay on hands to bless and heal. They were envisioned to be a Kingdom of Priests. They were envisioned to have their own autonomous quorum with the right to call their own leaders, set their own agendas and work as co-equals with their male quorums. Where is all that now? Gone and easy to trace. As a husband and father, I can say honestly and without shame what we have isn’t good enough. It isn’t what God wants. My wife is NOT destined to be a priestess that worships me but a priestess to God (sorry Brigham). We are grappling with what being truly equal in Christ means. That is a good thing. Whatever it means, shoving a few pictures of some women leaders at the bottom of the male hierarchy isn’t it. I think we will get their eventually, but it will move a lot faster if we could open up our minds and imaginations so the Lord can fill them instead of hiding behind “obedience” to the status quo that requires us to constantly rejustify it.

  64. SilverRain on May 13, 2014 at 5:26 am

    Obedience doesn’t require “surrendering moral agency” at all. In fact, viewing obedience that way is overly simplistic.

    I have experienced both being prompted to follow and prompted to speak up or act against the actions of my leaders in the Church. Being unwilling to entertain the thought that your “moral compass” might be misguided or unable to see how it might sometimes be the greater good to submit to leadership even when they are wrong displays a spiritual immaturity.

    Stepping back from our own perceptions and trusting God sometimes requires rebellion, and sometimes requires submitting our will to God’s choice of leaders. Pretending that one’s initial “moral compass,” informed almost solely by our culture, is the only accurate measure of righteousness is plain hubris.

    I have been blessed and have blessed others many times when I have managed to trust God, and not lean purely on my own understanding.

  65. SilverRain on May 13, 2014 at 5:33 am

    For what it’s worth, I am (barely) a millennial. And, despite not having lived through it myself, I see little difference between us and, say, the sixties or the twenties. There is nothing new with us. We think we are the answer to the world and, in ten years or so, newly humbled by the world and beginning to lose the parents who supported our egocentrism, we will for the most part settle down, turn back to our Heavenly Parents, and raise the next generation of bright new stars.

  66. Steve Smith on May 13, 2014 at 10:13 am

    “If, however, you followed your own counsel and spoke out in opposition of the Brethren on the issue or performed Priesthood ordinations, you would be spiritually wrong no matter how intellectually correct you were. Obedience, in a very real way, isn’t obedience unless we are called to put aside what we ‘know’ to follow what we KNOW.”

    Wow, just, wow. Never have I heard more candid encouragement of blind obedience. Yeah, if he had spoken out against the brethren’s policy towards the blacks pre-1978 he would have been a hero and spiritually enlightened for challenging a blatantly racist policy.

    “Follow my leaders, and do not speak evil of them, and obey the commandments, and circumcise my heart”

    Sounds like you would have followed Jim Jones all the way to Jonestown. We should obey principles, not blindly follow humans. We should hold authority accountable to abide by their own principles that they claim to advocate and point out logical inconsistencies in their reasoning. That is the moral thing to do. That is how we feel the spirit.

  67. Jonathan on May 13, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Martin:

    “Can’t that same position be used to say your position from above…is spiritually desolate?”

    I cannot see what you mean at all. Not meaning that I disagree with your argument on the merits, but rather I do not understand the argument that you are making.

    “You have to admit that today’s leaders don’t sound the same as prior ones. There are people that think they are changing doctrine too much and people who think they are changing it too little. Why?”

    Because, ultimately, to the extent we distrust our leaders it is because we lack the faith that the Lord is the head of the Church. I am not Panglossian, by any means, and I know that our leadership probably makes mistakes (listening to Elder Eyring, I am struck that he is a man deeply afraid of failing the Lord which would be an impossibility unless failure in an Apostle was possible), but I am unwilling to risk my salvation on any issue standing against my Priesthood leadership. I believe they are called of God, set apart through unbroken succession from the Hands of Christ Himself. If they make mistakes, I will follow them until and unless the Lord tells me otherwise.

    Fletch:

    “My point is, saints of that era “knew” the truth about blacks was because of their fence sitting in a previous existence.”

    Once again, I point you back to my earlier point. We are almost never told what to ‘know,’ only what to do. I fault no man on Earth for believing whatever they believe and knowing or not knowing whatever they know or don’t know. We are called upon to do, however (and that includes not speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed — criticizing our leadership).

    “Now in 2014 an official statement from the Church states that that wasn’t truth at all but rather the racist theories of Brigham Young.”

    Reread the official statement — your assertion here is factually incorrect.

    “To give that compass or barometer away to another individual or group of individuals (the prophets) completely is dangerous and not healthy.”

    I understand exactly what you are advocating, here, and I can see how you come to this conclusion. But you are looking at the situation examining the dangers of going too far in one direction without looking at the dangers of going too far in the other direction. How many people in the history of the world have gone too far being overly zealous in their dedication to proper Priesthood authority? MMM (I disagree with this — see below — but I can concede it for this example)? Any others? Lots of times with apostate religions, but very, very rarely with the true religion. How many people in the history of the world have gone astray by not being dedicated enough to proper Priesthood authority?

    I agree that there may be a limited risk in being “overly obedient.” I posit that this risk is so overwhelmingly exceeded by the risks of deviating from our Priesthood leadership and doing right in our own eyes as to make the risks of overzealous obedience negligible by comparison.

    Ryan Hammond:
    “I don’t believe in surrendering my moral agency to priesthood leaders, ever.”

    Nor do I — proper exercise of moral agency is using that agency to obey. Obedience does not and can never terminate moral agency.

    “This is how the Mountain Meadow Massacre happens.”

    I have heard this argument repeated numerous times, and it always struck me as untrue and self-serving. Yes, there were some in authority who ordered the massacre (the attempted links to Brigham Young, on the other hand, have always been forced and results-driven — never convincing). So you had a local Priesthood leader telling a member to violate the commandments of God given on Mt. Sinai. What does a proper understanding of obedience lead you to do in that situation? Of course, you follow the clear command of the scriptures.

    How in the world do proponents of the various social gospels of the day piggyback from that moment into advocating disobedience to Priesthood leadership today on moral issues consistent with the scriptures? What, to use gay marriage as an example, have we learned since 2005 that is sufficient to set aside all the words of the prophets, apostles, and the scriptures since God spoke to Adam? The two are so completely different in situation as to make one a caricature of the other.

    “By this standard Jesus himself is imperfect because he stood up to the legitimate Levitical priesthood institutions of his day because they were wrong.”

    Christ was and is the proper Priesthood authority. Christ was a king standing up to his own bureaucracy.

    “Maybe you and others are willing to lose a good portion of Millenials who won’t accept a religious world view where they are asked to set aside their own moral compasses for strong form obedience at all costs. I am not.”

    The issue is not the numbers of acceptable losses — there is no such thing. The issue is saving as many people as is possible. We don’t minimize our losses by taking away the parts of the Gospel that offer hope of salvation. That is the equivalent of attempting to save people from an infectious outbreak by bombing the entire city. I am saying that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, including obedience, is the only way for any Millennials (or anyone, for that matter) to be saved. We do them and us no favors if we abandon the truth.

    ““Teach them correct principles and let them choose for themselves”, a church governed “by common consent”. etc.”

    I am all for that. But common consent is not democracy, but rather a willing use of moral agency to support the leadership the Lord has revealed and appointed.

    “I think we need both the Iron Types and the Liahona types. Chasing either one out of the church makes us weaker.”

    I agree wholeheartedly. But, properly done, Iron Rod Mormons would not run afoul of Liahona Mormons because the scriptures preach the importance of following the Spirit and Liahona Mormons won’t run afoul of Iron Rod Mormons because the Spirit teaches in support of the scriptures and the Lord’s Priesthood leaders.

    “If everyone had just laid down and refused to question this teaching (as most did) then change would not have come in 1978. Even the prophet who made the change said this.”

    Please source the claim that President Kimball stated that the 1978 revelation came as a result of agitation and not inspiration.

    “I ask you, who do you think was more morally courageous or “spiritually correct”? Them or the LDS person who kept their head down and said, “well this feels really wrong to me but at least I will be obedient to the leaders” ”

    If, while their head was down, they were praying for change (as did President Kimball and others), then the person who was willing to wait upon the Lord and follow His leaders. You ascribe the change to the agitation, I ascribe the change to the Lord. You feel like public pressure and intellectual arguments are the way to move the Church forward, I believe that the Lord is in charge of this Church and it has not gone astray. Thus you see heroism in those willing to ‘speak truth to power.’ I see heroism in those willing to await Truth from Power.

    “You ‘don’t know why’ the blacks couldn’t have the priesthood before 1978. Yes we do. You just don’t want to know. There is NO revelation that started it. Joseph Smith ordained black men. Brigham Young under pressure from slave owning Mormons entering Utah and based in his own prejudiced began the policy.”

    You tip your hand, here. I do not know why the blacks couldn’t have the priesthood before 1978. You claim to ‘know,’ and this knowledge allows you to condemn past leadership. And, using that knowledge, you claim the privilege of condemning present leadership as being just as imperfect as those in the past.

    “So lets be clear. The racial priesthood ban WAS NOT OF GOD.”

    Source? Or personal opinion? The official statement you state claims that the Priesthood ban wasn’t of God says no such thing — only that certain explanations for the ban were incorrect. I suggest that much of your evidence of this ‘clear’ fact is drawn from similar inferences you have made.

    “In my view, we are the Church.”

    And that, in a nutshell, is our difference. This in not our Kingdom, and we are not the Church. You see the Church as a social organization that has rituals and organizes service projects. I see the Church, for all of its imperfections, as the Kingdom of God on the Earth. Our differences, I believe, derived from this viewpoint. Jesus Christ is the head of this Church — it is not ours.

    “it IS my stewardship to have an opinion on the matter and to express that opinion honestly and respectfully.”

    It is your stewardship to have an opinion. It is often, but not always, within your stewardship to express that opinion honestly and respectfully. But it is foolish to think that it is always appropriate or permissible.

    “The major document that we have on this is the Proclamation on the Family, a document written by lawyers for political and legal purposes.”

    I could not disagree more with your antipathy with the Proclamation on the Family. It has been cited countless times in General Conference, was promoted and agreed to by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, and if your argument in favor of your position relies upon you disregarding the Proclamation on the Family I would assert that you have placed yourself on a very sandy foundation.

    “The only real biblical injunctions on homosexuality come from the same time period and society that were writing God’s rules for when it was ok to stone your women and when prophets were supposedly ordering genocide and had lots of God-given rules for how to treat your slave’s properly.”

    I would appear that, in addition to disregarding the modern prophets, you likewise disregard the scriptures as well (anachronistic, bigoted, etc.). Is there any external standard of morality that you are willing to hold to? A sandy foundation, indeed.

    “Beyond that I think we can make a distinction between what we may currently believe as doctrine and some God-directed effort to politically and socially disenfranchise same-sex families. Its not like the fruits of that effort have been very good for the Church.”

    Sorry to be escalating in my language towards you, but this is garbage. The purpose of the work against Prop 8, for example, was not hatred (if you believe that, you have bought hook line and sinker a political gospel). The purpose was not to socially disenfranchise same-sex ‘families.’ The purpose was to protect families.

    “Nor have any of the basic claims made by our leaders for justifying such treatment played out in empirical reality.”

    I would argue that Elder Oaks fears of religious persecution have played out. I would argue that your approach to the subject right now is a playing out of the claims made my our leaders. I would say that the push for homosexual adoption and the closing down of Catholic charities for not facilitating those adoptions is empirical reality justifying those actions.

    “Why not? Maybe that is how it is in the eternities. I don’t think we know.”

    And based upon a why not and an I don’t think we know, you are prepared to hold the Church to be bigoted. I do not have your confidence in my own limited understanding.

    “I do know that the way we have talked about and treated our gay brothers and sisters feels wrong to me.”

    That is an overly broad statement. So we have called homosexual behavior a sin, and that makes them feel bad? That is just the truth. That does not give license to them nor obligate us to deviate from the laws of God — they apply to others just as they apply to us. So we have called homosexuals evil? That is a problem, and one we should change in ourselves in how we treat our brothers and sisters. If that is the treatment you are bothered by, then your conscience is driving you correctly. If, on the other hand, your feelings are leading you to say that their behavior is ok, when the clear indication that we have is that it is not (from the scriptures, past leaders, present leaders — you need to disregard them all to hold this position), then you have truly become a law unto yourself.

    “Joseph Smith clearly had a much more expansive view than we have now.”

    I agree with this statement, but following dead leaders in opposition to living ones is never a correct way to approach the Gospel (as you, yourself, have pointed out — your approach must not be results-oriented).

    “Our sisters had more priesthood power authorization in the past than they do now. They could lay on hands to bless and heal.”

    Once again, I agree. And, in the early Church, we spoke in tongues. But, to avoid confusion, we were asked not to engage in using that particular spiritual gift any longer. So too were the women asked not to use the laying on of hands. It is appropriate, in both cases, to follow the direction of those with the proper keys.

    “They were envisioned to have their own autonomous quorum with the right to call their own leaders, set their own agendas and work as co-equals with their male quorums.”

    I think the evidence here is much more speculative. It is made by those who think correlated Mormon is the equivalent of apostate Mormon, but actually examining the history you see that Joseph Smith was intimately involved with directing the Relief Society.

    “As a husband and father, I can say honestly and without shame what we have isn’t good enough. It isn’t what God wants. My wife is NOT destined to be a priestess that worships me but a priestess to God (sorry Brigham). We are grappling with what being truly equal in Christ means. That is a good thing. Whatever it means, shoving a few pictures of some women leaders at the bottom of the male hierarchy isn’t it. I think we will get their eventually, but it will move a lot faster if we could open up our minds and imaginations so the Lord can fill them instead of hiding behind “obedience” to the status quo that requires us to constantly rejustify it.”

    There is some that I agree with, here, particularly the importance of grappling to understand what it means to be equal. But can we also agree that if the Priesthood power and ordination is to mean anything at all, such changes must come from revelation to those holding the proper keys? Can we likewise agree that if Priesthood matters at all, then we should follow those who currently hold those Priesthood keys? Otherwise, why chase after power that is meaningless?

    Ryan, I am going to be blunt with you — and I hope you understand enough of my point of view that you understand that this is coming from a place of love. You have stated that you don’t think the prophets of the Old Testament were inspired (“supposedly ordering genocide”), the prophets of the New Testament were inspired (“had lots of God-given rules for how to treat your slave’s properly”), early Church leadership (“sorry Brigham” and “The racial priesthood ban WAS NOT OF GOD.”), and modern Church leadership (“Whatever it means, shoving a few pictures of some women leaders at the bottom of the male hierarchy isn’t it.”). I don’t see who and what you can hold to and trust to keep you from going astray. You cannot hold solely to revelation (although vitally important), because we believe in continuing revelation rather than continuous revelation. My fear for you goes back to what I wrote earlier about the relative risks of obedience versus putting our own wisdom first — it is too easy to go astray once unmoored. Sonia Johnson is the perfect example, in my mind. Once you start publicly saying the Church is true but the prophet is wrong on this issue, it seems it is only a matter of time until you abandon the Church. I don’t want that for you. I hope that you will examine the issue of obedience careful, understand that for obedience to mean anything it must mean putting the moral wisdom of others above our own (otherwise we are laws unto ourselves), hew closely to the Lord’s Priesthood leadership.

  68. Jonathan on May 13, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Steve:

    “Never have I heard more candid encouragement of blind obedience. Yeah, if he had spoken out against the brethren’s policy towards the blacks pre-1978 he would have been a hero and spiritually enlightened for challenging a blatantly racist policy.”

    A) it is presumptive to state that it was a blatantly racist policy; B) it is not blind obedience to bend your heart to follow the leadership you know the Lord has put in place.

    “Sounds like you would have followed Jim Jones all the way to Jonestown.”

    Leaving aside the disparagement intrinsic in this comment, I will say that I would follow the Lord’s anointed whereever it may lead me. Just as easily, you could say that I would have followed Peter to the cross. Or would that not have been appropriate for a convert after Christ’s death. ‘Sounds like you would have followed Petros all the way to the Roman Coliseum.’ Indeed.

  69. Trendy on May 13, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    I don’t understand the logic that says less church is going to equate to more spirituality. We have four kids between age 7 and 14 and the three hour block seems to work quite well. Three hours of church doesn’t feel like big burden. My kids don’t complain much and we have good discussions about what was taught each week around the dinner table. Maybe we are just lucky to have good teachers. I’m starting to wonder if we’re just a generation of complainers.

  70. Martin James on May 13, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Jonathan,

    I applaud your effort to respond to so many posts. Slothful you are not.

    My argument was that by referencing doctrine and theology in a way that limited options is an intellectual and not a spiritual argument and, hence, subject to your won criticism.My argument might not have made sense to you because doctrine and theology seem to you to be spiritual things, but I view them to be intellectual things and that is why I think your position on “spiritually correct” applies. Basically, I view all the wordiness we do as intellectual and all our attempts to use arguments as not primarily spiritual. What I think many arguing for obedience are not understanding is that the people who oppose them do feel that they are being obedient.

    As for my second point about the counsel of leaders, I find their words to bear many, many interpretations and not be as clear as you might think. For example, say counsel to “support your leaders” one person may think that means do whatever they say, another may take support to be correct them when they error.

  71. Steve Smith on May 13, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Jonathan, you essentially believe the LDS church leaders to be infallible, at least in word (maybe not necessarily deed).

    “A) it is presumptive to state that it was a blatantly racist policy; B) it is not blind obedience to bend your heart to follow the leadership you know the Lord has put in place.”

    A) Of course the policy was racist, and I don’t mean that even disparagingly, but just as a statement of fact. The church forbade black men to enter the temple and hold leadership positions in the church simply on account of their race. They discriminated against people because of race. That is the textbook definition of racism. Let’s call a spade a spade.

    B) In comment 60, you were telling Fletch that he would be “spiritually desolate” to even openly question the church leaders for their policy towards the blacks since it would be an act of disobedience. Obedience is to principles and to God, not humans. It is one thing to say, “I will obey what the leaders are saying because it is consistent with the principles and the scriptural canon that they uphold,” and a completely different thing to say, “I will obey the leaders simply because they are the leaders and they claim to be God’s emissaries.” You are in essence saying the latter. Again, that is the textbook definition of blind obedience. All LDS people should have the good wisdom to rise up against the sort of infalliblism that you stridently preach. This is wrong, just absolutely wrong.

  72. Jonathan on May 13, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Martin:

    “Basically, I view all the wordiness we do as intellectual and all our attempts to use arguments as not primarily spiritual.”

    I think I understand you correctly now. My view can best be described that there is Truth, and doctrine and theology is our best attempt at understanding truths that lead us to that Truth. But they are limited and imperfect — poor reflections and shadows. I think we both agree with each other to that point. But I take it one step further (perhaps you do as well, your post is silent on the issue). Although doctrine and theology are at best poor shadows of the Truth, they are also the best representation we have at the moment of the Truth — and because we see looking through the glass darkly we take a horrible risk when we deviate from the guideposts (imperfect though they are). If those guideposts are changed, updated, or improved, and we hold to our leaders then we adopt the new. But when we get ahead of the guideposts, thinking we know where the changes are coming, we risk going down the wrong track and becoming lost. For each person who deviates from the leadership and stays faithful to the Gospel (and they exist — I know some), there are dozens who begin by opposing the leadership and end by opposing the Lord. There are a number of times that I have read a Facebook post and told my wife that “such-and-such” will apostasize in the next six months. I have, to this point, always been correct. For whatever reason, taking the position that the Church is true but the leadership is wrong on this issue almost always leads to the position that the Church isn’t true. That is not an intellectually necessary conclusion, but it is a practical consequence far too often. That is the fear that I have in seeing those who do not hew closely to the Priesthood leaders. If I stay by my leadership, and the leadership changes I will change with it (and will be safely found there). If I attempt to run ahead, I can get lost — and even if my understanding better represents the Truth on that issue, I might get sufficiently far afield as to lose attachment to the Priesthood leaders and far away from the Truth in other areas of my life.

    “What I think many arguing for obedience are not understanding is that the people who oppose them do feel that they are being obedient.”

    Absolutely — I think I have heard it said that each man is the hero of his own life story and I believe that to be true. This is also how it should be — we are co-writing an epic story with our Author, and may it lead to happy endings for all. And, despite the appearance of my language, I do not for a moment think myself capable to judge anyone. But to those who take the approach of seeing obedience in putting their own wisdom before the Lord’s anointed, be careful…be so very careful.

    ‘For example, say counsel to “support your leaders” one person may think that means do whatever they say, another may take support to be correct them when they error.”

    Fair point. If a leader takes a position, and you disagree with that position, and you express your opinion in private, I believe you are supporting your leader. If you take the dispute into the public sphere, or agitate for change, I do not see how that is supporting your leader. Hold to whatever beliefs you may have in your heart, address things with your Priesthood leader, and pray to the Lord that either you or the leader (or both) will better understand the Truth, whatever that happens to be.

  73. Jonathan on May 13, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Steve:

    “Jonathan, you essentially believe the LDS church leaders to be infallible, at least in word (maybe not necessarily deed).”

    Not at all. I do not see the leaders to be infallible, but rather that obedience (even to fallible leaders) is the correct path of discipleship. The Lord has established their times and places appointed.

    “They discriminated against people because of race. That is the textbook definition of racism.”

    Racism: “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.”

    Racist: “a person who believes in racism, the doctrine that a certain human race is superior to any or all others.”

    Yes, they discriminated (another loaded word, but appropriate in its denotation), but to argue that the discrimination was racist or racism is unsupported by the facts.

    ” “I will obey the leaders simply because they are the leaders and they claim to be God’s emissaries.” You are in essence saying the latter.”

    I do not follow them simply because they CLAIM to be God’s emissaries. I follow them because I know them to be God’s anointed Priesthood leaders.

    “Again, that is the textbook definition of blind obedience. All LDS people should have the good wisdom to rise up against the sort of infalliblism that you stridently preach. This is wrong, just absolutely wrong.”

    How often should I return to the Lord for confirmation that President Monson is not a fallen prophet? Should I leave General Conference and ask whether I should follow the counsel of President Packer or Elder Oaks? Or should I recognize and remember the blessings of the Lord in providing me a testimony of the Restored Gospel and His Church upon the Earth and follow those He has selected to lead it? When your eyes have been opened to knowing the Lord has selected your leaders (fallible men though they are), your obedience is not blind. Ironically (and I do not apply this to you, as I do not know you), many times those claiming blindness in obedience in others are the very people who are blind themselves. To quote Elder Maxwell:

    “Spiritually numbed, Laman and Lemuel felt that the people of Jerusalem were undeserving of prophetic criticisms leveled (see 1 Ne. 2:13). Yet a pervasive spiritual decline was actually under way, occurring, as often happens, “in the space of not many years” (Hel. 4:26). A parallel and trampling decline is being missed by so many today, too. Ironically, those engaged in such a lemming-like march to the sea are often proud of their own individualism! Advice is seen as an insult, and counsel as a contraction of their agency.”

    Too often, those condemning “blind obedience” are well into the path of their own lemming-like march to apostasy — all while so proud of their eyes-open approach to the Gospel. I hope that this does not describe you, but it has described others I have known.

  74. Steve Smith on May 13, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Jonathan, I think we’ve given you enough rope and you’ve pretty well hanged yourself.

  75. Steve Smith on May 13, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    PS, Jonathan, I noticed how you conveniently dodged my main point that obedience should be to principle and to God, not humans. Instead of answering tough questions you appear to want to plug your ears and shout, “la, la, la, la, la.”

  76. Jonathan on May 13, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Steve:

    Obedience should be to God, not to humans. This includes obedience to God when He tells us to follow our Priesthood leaders. When God told the children of Israel to follow Moses, it would be the height of foolishness to then say that they followed God rather than man when they chose to disobey Moses. No “la, la, la, la” required because that is not a tough question.

    Out of curiosity, Steve, are you an active Member of the Church, an inactive Member, an ex-member, or a non-member? Your use of “the LDS church leaders” and ” All LDS people” seem to indicate a space between you and the Church.

  77. Jonathan Green on May 13, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    For the sake of clarity, and in case anyone is confused, I’m not the “Jonathan” posting on this thread. I have enjoyed his comments quite a bit, however. Please come back again.

  78. Steve Smith on May 13, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Jonathan, I’m active LDS. Do you accept that according to LDS doctrine, people can have a personal relationship with God and receive personal revelation? Or can they only have a relationship with God through people who claim to be God’s emissaries who hold exclusive access to God’s words? If it is the former, then shouldn’t one turn to God first for guidance regarding a question before they turn to an LDS church leader? If church leaders aren’t infallible, as you claim, then that means that they are liable to make errors in both word and deed. How do you know if they have made an error in word or not? Should you not ask God about the specific words that they say? What if you ask God about something and receive a confirmation that it is not right? Should you just continue to follow the leader anyway? You come as saying that when the prophet speaks the thinking is done/debate is over.

  79. Fletch on May 13, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Jonathan I respect your position. I was once very similar. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. It’s also borderline lazy. that’s not a jab at you as you seem very sincere in your stance and belief. I just know far to many members who intellectually have stopped searching because of the sort of “safety net” mentality that we are led by a prophet. If there’s anything we really need to know, Salt Lake will get the word to us.

    From there, members fall in to this complacency ,almost like I said laziness in regards to pushing themselves intellectually in a religious context (not so much the case with their secular aspirations)

    In other words……..My church is true. We have prophets. they’ll never lead us astray. Game over. Keep the worthiness checklist clean and it’s game, set, match.

    Meanwhile there is this embarrassing level of ignorance about their own religion. they have at best a basic level of knowledge of the origins and subsequent story from there.

    My own a father served as a bishop in the heart of Zion. He is such a wonderful man. He was a good and loved leader. He has no idea what polyandry is. He has no idea who Helen Mar Kimball is. He’s never heard of William Law or Fannie Alger. I don’t even think he knows of the MMM.

    In my opinion this is because of the mentality that you advocate of unflinching faith in the General Authority’s. If they don’t bring it up in conference or the Ensign it must not be for us to know.

    the older I get the creepier that type of allegiance without accountability gets. I don’t even really think most of the bretheren expect that type of allegiance. It’s an old school mentality to NEVER question a prophet. It’s dangerous.

    I say all of this respectfully. I do not intend a spirit of contention. I think this type of dialogue is healthy and useful. I wish more were willing to engage. Most, unlike you, simply shut down and disregard any thought process that is not in line with theirs.

    So thanks for being a good sport

  80. SteveF on May 13, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Fletch & Steve Smith. Your thoughts are close enough that I’ll just put this in one place. While I get that there are those who think they live by the principles close to what Jonathan is espousing, and you can find some of those individuals who fall into the trap of laziness Fletch described well (and I think this is more aptly termed “blind obedience” than what Jonathan has outlined), I think this is a separate vice and actually contradicts living in the way Jonathan proposes. For, the prophets do not tell us to be lazy, they do not tell us that we have no personal responsibility in obtaining knowledge, or that we are to expect no personal accountability to our actions. Rather, we are admonished to follow the prophets and leaders so that by exercising faith and experimenting upon the word, we can come to find the truth of the things commanded or spoken for ourselves. The grand object is obtaining spiritual knowledge, and the best way to obtain that is by hearing and following the words of the anointed and appointed living oracles, even as if from the mouth of God. In this way you can even discover for yourself where things may not be in perfect order on the rocky road to Zion, where bad branches exist that will one day be pruned in due time according to and in balance with the growing strength of the roots of the Church. (And that is a key, just because an error exists, doesn’t mean that the tares should be rooted out while the wheat is still young, while we might privately share our views with our leaders when we have concerns, and have personal beliefs differ from the mainstream view, the Lord will reveal to those who have steward when the proper time is to prune those bad branches. And if they don’t hear that revelation, and you have privately shared all you feel you can share, accountability is then upon them and not you. Ultimately the Lord will do His work, and Zion will be redeemed as prophesied, with all bad branches pruned, and all tares separated from the wheat. Therefore, in our public action and discourse we ought to continue in obedience, ever progressing, and ever looking for the more perfect day when Zion will finally be redeemed. Exceptions to these general rules include when serious harm or accident may come others disobedience may be requisite, or if you feel a leader is abusing their position to the extent that it seems appropriate to report the concern to a leader of superior stewardship then such a path in surely justified and even ought to be taken.)

    Those who follow the commands, but do so without the purpose of eventually learning the principles for themselves through lived experience – for the purpose of obtaining spiritual knowledge, are not truly following the prophets. It is a vice indeed, one contrary to the gospel, and is in no way necessitated by the living in the way Jonathan espouses. But living contrary to the way he espouses opens up the likelihood of another major vice, relying on the arm of flesh aka the wisdom of man of one’s own time and culture, which is universally condemned in the scriptures as the way to spiritual destruction.

  81. Fletch on May 13, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Fair points Steve F. We’ve beat this one pretty thoroughly. I like your idea of having some individual discovery while staying safely within the walls of “‘Zion”. I think a lot of people do that. I probably admittedly take that concept to far but in doing so I’ve had powerful spiritual experiences that could only be condemned by the Church/bretheren. How do I make sense of that? Deep experiences where I believe the spirit is testifying truth to me that is in direct conflict to Mormon orthodoxy. It creates quite the quandry. So I have a call to make. My powerful experiences (gained through the popular Mormon formula of read/ponder/pray) or the dismissal of such experiences in the name of staying on the Mormon straight and narrow.

    I don’t view the bretheren like I once did. Who knows? It will probably land me in hell :) (at least that’s what several family and ward members think). I have great respect for them. they do an important work. I also have a great deal of general frustration that ultimately lands at their feet (I won’t itemize out of respect to those of you who view them as literal prophets who deliver God’s will for the world).

    I have a pretty firm belief that God honors everyone of His children’s way of connecting with him. I just believe less and less literally that only one organization has the golden ticket. There’s just so many of his children, in fact, nearly all of his children, that are seeking Him by some path other than Mormonism.

    Quite a riddle. No one gets to solve it completely in this life. I think He’s pleased when we are sincerely trying though

  82. Jonathan Cavender on May 13, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Jonathan Green:

    “I’m not the “Jonathan” posting on this thread.”

    I wouldn’t claim to be me, either. :) I have added my last name, to clarify any confusion.

    Steve Smith:

    “Do you accept that according to LDS doctrine, people can have a personal relationship with God and receive personal revelation?”

    Absolutely. Not only is it a possibility, it is at worst recommended and at best necessary.

    “If it is the former, then shouldn’t one turn to God first for guidance regarding a question before they turn to an LDS church leader?”

    No. Why else would we need mortal leadership? Why did the Lord establish a Church in Old Testament, New Testament, and Latter Days? We turn first to our leaders, and we supplement that with our own relationship with the Lord.

    “If church leaders aren’t infallible, as you claim, then that means that they are liable to make errors in both word and deed. How do you know if they have made an error in word or not? Should you not ask God about the specific words that they say?”

    No, because a prior question has been answered for me. Is this the leader I am to follow? Is the Priesthood and the Church the Lord’s Kingdom on Earth? If so, then President Monson’s mistakes are President Monson’s to bear, and I will be accountable to the Lord for how I followed my fallible, mortal leader that he put in a position of stewardship over me. Many people want to be leaders and believe they can be good leaders. Fewer people are prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to be good followers.

    “Should you just continue to follow the leader anyway? You come as saying that when the prophet speaks the thinking is done/debate is over.”

    Yes, aside from a dramatic intervention from the Lord, you follow the leader anyway. When the Prophet speaks, the thinking is just beginning. But the action (the doing) must also be beginning.

    Fletch:

    “It’s also borderline lazy. that’s not a jab at you as you seem very sincere in your stance and belief. I just know far to many members who intellectually have stopped searching because of the sort of “safety net” mentality that we are led by a prophet. If there’s anything we really need to know, Salt Lake will get the word to us.”

    I understand this approach, but I think it is misguided. We must focus on those things that will lead us to salvation. Understanding the Gospel of repentance and obedience can help us to do that. Added knowledge about the Mountain Meadows Massacre will not. Do not conflate prioritizing with laziness.

    “My church is true. We have prophets. they’ll never lead us astray. Game over. Keep the worthiness checklist clean and it’s game, set, match.”

    Anyone who has genuinely tried to change their very nature through the Atonement of Christ understands that this pattern is nowhere near as easy as you describe. Perhaps there are some that are lazy, and if they follow this pattern I would allege that you would be right. My guess is this pattern is the surface pattern that you can see while the war underneath rages on unabated.

    “My own a father served as a bishop in the heart of Zion. He is such a wonderful man. He was a good and loved leader. He has no idea what polyandry is. He has no idea who Helen Mar Kimball is. He’s never heard of William Law or Fannie Alger. I don’t even think he knows of the MMM.”

    I am familiar with all of these, and while I appreciate knowing about them so as to know they will never be a problem with my testimony, I don’t fault any disciple of Christ for not knowing about them.

    “In my opinion this is because of the mentality that you advocate of unflinching faith in the General Authority’s.”

    We teach faith before food storage. There is an order of things. What history is necessary to know? How does learning a particular thing help you to be a better disciple of Christ? The knowledge is not a self-justified end — it must have an end unto itself. Why is it creepy that someone could be a member of the Church, serve the Lord all of their lives, and not know these details of history because they were too busy attending to the more important matters that demanded their attention?

    “It’s an old school mentality to NEVER question a prophet. It’s dangerous.”

    It is a old school mentality to put culturally acquired wisdom above counsel of the prophet (it has been happening since the very beginning). It’s dangerous. There are more examples of that danger than the one you describe.

    “I say all of this respectfully. I do not intend a spirit of contention.”

    And I likewise.

    SteveF:

    Thank you — you have expressed ideas that I agree with more eloquently than I could.

    Fletch (take two):

    “How do I make sense of that? Deep experiences where I believe the spirit is testifying truth to me that is in direct conflict to Mormon orthodoxy.”

    Of course, I don’t know your life or the purpose the Lord has established for you. Nephi, after all, was called upon to kill Laban in contradiction to the Mosaic Law. There are exceptions, but they are rare…oh so rare. And it is always a danger to feel you are the exception, because everyone wants to be the exception. If you are departing from the orthodoxy because you feel compelled to do so, make certain that the spiritual pull to depart is solid and true. Make certain you know your marching orders — if there is anything amiss in your life, however small, get it right so that you are not open to false spirits (it is not uncommon that spiritual experiences to depart from the faith occur after deviating from the teachings rather than before). Take the appropriate steps of fasting and prayer, temple attendance, and all the other ways you know to open yourself up to the Spirit. I make no accusations here, but rather try to answer your question of how to make sense of things. If you can say that you are right before the Lord, you have done everything within your power to be worthy of inspiration, and yet He has told you to do something else, then you follow Him. But might I also recommend that you deviate only so far as you have been directly instructed to do so.

    My experience with these matters, however, is that most of the time the conclusion is reached intellectually (or, even worse, socially) before the matter is taken to prayer. The “answer” is a foregone conclusion, if the matter is even taken before the Lord. Deviations from the Lord’s pattern are very rare, and I hope not to encounter one in my lifetime.

    “I also have a great deal of general frustration that ultimately lands at their feet.”

    We are often blessed even by and through our trials. Even when they may get things wrong, the Lord will consecrate it to our gain if we are faithful to Him.

    “I have a pretty firm belief that God honors everyone of His children’s way of connecting with him. I just believe less and less literally that only one organization has the golden ticket. There’s just so many of his children, in fact, nearly all of his children, that are seeking Him by some path other than Mormonism.”

    That is true, but Christ Himself stated that strait is the gate and narrow is the way, and few there be that find it. I don’t know why that is — C. S. Lewis claims that it was a historical accident, while others claim purpose for it — but it is the truth. That should be a call for increased missionary work rather than a reason to fall away.

    “No one gets to solve it completely in this life. I think He’s pleased when we are sincerely trying though.”

    On this, you and I fully agree. I encourage you to keep trying in faith, and I will do the same.

  83. Steve on May 13, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    Fletch #81. I don’t think you’re going to hell, fwiw.

  84. SteveF on May 13, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    (That was me, lost the ‘F’ for some reason)

  85. Fletch on May 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

    Jonathan Cavender,

    thanks for your thoughts. You tow the party line very eloquently and I hope that’s received as a compliment. It is not my objective to sway you from that. I am ever so familiar with every line of your post. It is nearly verbatim what any number of bishops, sp’s, mp’s etc. have shared with me since I was a youngster. I have great respect for the strong faith you exercise in the bretheren. I even envy it a little bit. I sometimes miss the ace in the hole I always had of “whatever the bretheren say”……..that’s my opinion or position.

    I just don’t have that any more. I ventured outside the Mormon thought bubble, very reluctantly at first, due to life circumstances and learned a very neat lesson. The Spirit works strongly outside of “Zion” just like it does inside of it.

    I appreciate your well intended warning to be sure my life is in order so that I’m not mislead by false spirits. That’s one of the worlds problems with the saints. this supposed monopoly on the spirit because of their worthiness to receive it. Here’s what I believe qualifies someone for the spirit. It’s pretty simple. Are you sincere in your request for understanding (i.e. the “real intent spoken of in Moroni’s promise). that’s it. Is your heart sincere in its desire for help from above.

    Mormonism inadvertently ties more brains in knots by constantly teaching people what inspiration feels like and what has to be in place for it to really be inspiration and if it doesn’t align with our description than it’s probably a false impression etc. I remember a poor elder on my mission who had become suicidal with the mind tease of trying to sort out what was inspiration and what was his own mind and what was the adversary. He was literally in a fetal position in agony with guilt that he couldn’t sort out the revelation he thought he should be having. When I chatted with him as his zone leader it came down to the incredible guilt he felt for not being worthy of the spirit. when I probed further, wondering if he was guilty of something serious I learned quite the opposite. sleeping in 5 minutes past 6:30 would devastate this kid. staying at a members house for longer than the hour that was the rule would disqualify him for the spirit. He was the son of a Stake President. Super nice kid, just tied in a knot with this concept.

    Another lesson from my mission came when a faithful member shared with me that his testimony of the Book of Mormon came to him while he was drunk. He recognized how silly it sounded but testified powerfully that it happened that way.

    My point is I think revelation is less about how worthy you are to receive it than how sincerely you desire God’s guidance.

    The Church drives people away in droves and loses its converts at discouraging and embarrassing rates because of the constant labeling of worthy vs. unworthy. Many just become exhausted with hoops to jump through that they finally determine aren’t God’s hoops at all (i.e. does a cup of coffee really disqualify me from my family in the eternities?). Then when they seek a path outside of the checklist they find He’s still there, still blessing, them, still loving them.

    I just wonder if sometimes the Lord cringes a bit at how we have turned His Gospel in to a list of do’s and do not’s that He doesn’t care near as much about as we do.

    So who knows. By your warning and my lack of “checklist worthiness” I’m probably being deceived by my own thoughts and made up feelings. Then again maybe I’m more in tune with God than I’ve ever been in my life because I’m not testing every piece of inspiration or revelation against whether the bretheren would approve of it or not.

    Like I said. Quite the riddle. Quite the ride. I wish everyone only peace as they try to solve it as they best see fit. That’s all we can do, while respecting everyone’s attempt to do the same.

  86. Steve Smith on May 14, 2014 at 2:57 am

    Jonathan, you’re simply confirming everything I was saying about your comments: you encourage blind obedience. You are in essence saying that the leaders come before God, and that doesn’t seem to square with church doctrine.

    “We turn first to our leaders, and we supplement that with our own relationship with the Lord.”

    How is one to accept a church leader as a legitimate leader/divine emissary in the first place? Through another human leader? It wouldn’t make any sense to ask an investigator to turn first to the leader and then to God, would it? God always comes first. That’s just fundamental LDS doctrine.

    “No, because a prior question has been answered for me.”

    Aren’t followers encouraged to take questions about policies and doctrines before God in personal prayer?

    “When the Prophet speaks, the thinking is just beginning”

    This is inconsistent with what you said before, that we shouldn’t challenge the church leadership. By saying that the thinking is just beginning, you are suggesting that there is room for personal critical thinking in regard to the prophet’s speech. At any rate, I think the logical inconsistency of your thinking has been well exposed.

    Obedience is blind when it is rendered unquestioningly to humans. And this is the type of obedience that you clearly encourage. Obedience is divine when it is rendered through critical thinking to principles.

  87. Steve Smith on May 14, 2014 at 3:21 am

    SteveF,

    “The grand object is obtaining spiritual knowledge, and the best way to obtain that is by hearing and following the words of the anointed and appointed living oracles, even as if from the mouth of God. In this way you can even discover for yourself where things may not be in perfect order on the rocky road to Zion, where bad branches exist that will one day be pruned in due time according to and in balance with the growing strength of the roots of the Church.”

    Two points on this: 1) The first sentence smacks of infalliblism. Wouldn’t the best way to obtain spiritual knowledge be through the spirit? The leaders aren’t God or gods. They are liable to err in transmitting God’s message. 2) The second sentence contradicts your first sentence. How can you “discover for yourself” if you are only “following the words” of the leaders and treating them as if they are all God’s words? Wouldn’t you have to subject the leaders’ words to questioning and critical thinking to actually discover things for yourself?

    “But living contrary to the way he espouses opens up the likelihood of another major vice, relying on the arm of flesh aka the wisdom of man of one’s own time and culture, which is universally condemned in the scriptures as the way to spiritual destruction.”

    Aren’t the mortal church leaders also the arm of flesh? Or are they physically different from you and me? Also, aren’t many of the leaders’ words simply a product of their time and culture (i.e. George Albert Smith on interracial marriage, Brigham Young on the curse of Cain, etc.)?

  88. SilverRain on May 14, 2014 at 6:43 am

    Reading this discussion, I find it stunning how the simple principle of the prophet-God-us relationship is so tragically misunderstood. It was the very first thing we taught investigators.

    Essentially, Steve et al. claims “personal revelation!” Jonathan says “follow the prophet.” Then Steve says “you deny personal revelation,” Jonathan “personal revelation on which leader to follow.”

    Steve, personal revelation does not “trump” prophetic revelation. Personal revelation, among other things, reveals the truth of prophecy. They are not mutually exclusive, they work in tandem.

    Like with all righteous principles, personal revelation and prophetic revelation can each be taken to the extreme and turned from righteousness. Pushing righteousness to the extreme is one of the Adversary’s favorite tools.Extreme belief in prophetic revelation, when interpreted by personal revelation, leads to blind obedience. But personal revelation, when unguided by prophetic revelation, leads away from divine interdependence and is more easily prey to error and hubris because it is unchallenged.

    While the prophets are certainly fallible, even if you do not believe they are any less fallible than you, they are certainly fallible differently than you and it is thus valuable to take their words seriously. More to the point, God has selected THEIR fallibilities (not yours) to be watchmen on the tower. He has given then certain spiritual gifts attached to their calling and stewardship, which stewardship includes you.

    You can choose to simply ignore them, but given that God has placed you in their stewardship that would be a bit foolish. You can choose to verbally and publicly denounce them, which given there are others in their stewardship who may need different guidance than you, would be prideful. Or you could privately counsel with them regarding your concerns, which has the potential, should you be humble and in tune enough, to “strengthen and edify” you both.

    If you don’t believe they are placed as watchmen in the tower to begin with, then it would be wise to find yourself another community in which to participate. If there is a part of you that doesn’t believe, but part of you that wants to, don’t sabotage the efforts of others to defend the kingdom while you struggle. If you try to change things from within by spiraling to those without, your actions may distract at a key time, and you will end up being part of the destruction of the very community in which you claim some belief.

    Believing that your personal revelation not only “trumps” prophetic revelation for you, but is more correct and in tune with God’s will than those He has chosen Himself to work through is sheer pride.

    God works through the imperfect: small, simple, and weak. He always has. My interactions with and observations of Apostles demonstrate that they totally get that. Do you?

  89. SilverRain on May 14, 2014 at 6:46 am

    Spiraling = appealing.

  90. SteveF on May 14, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Steve Smith #87. “How can you “discover for yourself” if you are only ‘following the words’ of the leaders and treating them as if they are all God’s words? Wouldn’t you have to subject the leaders’ words to questioning and critical thinking to actually discover things for yourself?”

    See Alma 32. To discover if the seed is good or bad, to learn gain a spiritual knowledge as opposed to intellectual alone, it requires doing/following, or having enough faith to actually experiment upon the word and nourish it over time, to see if it takes root and swells within you, or not.

    = no apparent contradiction between the first and second sentences in my original comment.

    And when I suggest the teachings and doctrine of the Kingdom are a growth process, with bad branches sometimes mixed within the good (alluding to the end of Jacob 5, the tree at the last time, whose bad branches are removed in balance with the growing strength of the roots), and likewise in this process that tares will be found among the wheat, in which it is wisdom that they not be uprooted immediately while the wheat is still young, how did you possibly come up with infallible-ism out of that?

    And absolutely not, the body of Christ, and particularly those ordained by heavenly authority to teach God’s children as watchmen over the Kingdom are never referred to scripturally as the “arm of flesh”. Rather their teachings, whether living or found in the scriptures, are always in direct contrast to the “arm of the flesh” which are the philosophies of man and the wisdom of the world.

    I think where you might be erring in your paradigm, is not understanding the importance and necessity of unity and order in the Church and Kingdom of God in the progression process and overall salvation of all mankind. It seems you would promote that all branches would be a tree unto themselves, instead of a community with individual beliefs but a revealed and accepted public doctrine knitting them together as one tree (with some bad branches of belief found among the good to begin with). In your scenario concerned almost exclusively with individualism, the roots of the mother tree could never be nourished, and without a welding together, at that great and dreadful day we would all be left without root or branch and left to be burned, the earth would be smitten with a curse, and the work of Lord of the vineyard would come to naught and the salvation of mankind would come to naught, for we without them cannot be made perfect and neither they without us.

    Zion is necessary for the salvation of mankind, for heaven does not build itself, if it is not built it will not be there, and achieving that great end is not possible by individual effort alone, there must be a Kingdom and collective/community progression to make it possible. And called and ordained prophets possessing the keys of the Kingdom are of necessity there to lead that effort, that unity and order might exist to make collective progression possible. Our individual progression, spiritual knowledge, and strength is also important, it is the end goal, joy and rejoicing for each person, for a tree with dead branches would be of no use after all, but this individual progression must work within the bounds of community progression of the appointed Kingdom of God (for those who wish to be a part of that community and Kingdom) that overall salvation might be possible for each individual in the first place.

  91. SteveF on May 14, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Looks like the comment was deleted? Sorry if this somehow ends up being a repeat:

    Steve Smith #87. “How can you “discover for yourself” if you are only ‘following the words’ of the leaders and treating them as if they are all God’s words? Wouldn’t you have to subject the leaders’ words to questioning and critical thinking to actually discover things for yourself?”

    See Alma 32. To discover if the seed is good or bad, to learn gain a spiritual knowledge as opposed to intellectual alone, it requires doing/following, or having enough faith to actually experiment upon the word and nourish it over time, to see if it takes root and swells within you, or not.

    = no apparent contradiction between the first and second sentences in my original comment.

    And when I suggest the teachings and doctrine of the Kingdom are a growth process, with bad branches sometimes mixed within the good (alluding to the end of Jacob 5, the tree at the last time, whose bad branches are removed in balance with the growing strength of the roots), and likewise in this process that tares will be found among the wheat, in which it is wisdom that they not be uprooted immediately while the wheat is still young, how did you possibly come up with infallible-ism out of that?

    And absolutely not, the body of Christ, and particularly those ordained by heavenly authority to teach God’s children as watchmen over the Kingdom are never referred to scripturally as the “arm of flesh”. Rather their teachings, whether living or found in the scriptures, are always in direct contrast to the “arm of the flesh” which are the philosophies of man and the wisdom of the world.

    I think where you might be erring in your paradigm, is not understanding the importance and necessity of unity and order in the Church and Kingdom of God in the progression process and overall salvation of all mankind. It seems you would promote that all branches would be a tree unto themselves, instead of a community with individual beliefs but a revealed and accepted public doctrine knitting them together as one tree (with some bad branches of belief found among the good to begin with). In your scenario concerned almost exclusively with individualism, the roots of the mother tree could never be nourished, and without a welding together, at that great and dreadful day we would all be left without root or branch and left to be burned, the earth would be smitten with a curse, and the work of Lord of the vineyard would come to naught and the salvation of mankind would come to naught, for we without them cannot be made perfect and neither they without us.

    Zion is necessary for the salvation of mankind, for heaven does not build itself, if it is not built it will not be there, and achieving that great end is not possible by individual effort alone, there must be a Kingdom and collective/community progression to make it possible. And called and ordained prophets possessing the keys of the Kingdom are of necessity there to lead that effort, that unity and order might exist to make collective progression possible. Our individual progression, spiritual knowledge, and strength is also important, it is the end goal, joy and rejoicing for each person, for a tree with dead branches would be of no use after all, but this individual progression must work within the bounds of community progression of the appointed Kingdom of God (for those who wish to be a part of that community and Kingdom) that overall salvation might be possible for each individual in the first place.

  92. SteveF on May 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Is there a reason my comment doesn’t go through?

  93. Jonathan Cavender on May 14, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    I think SteveF and SilverRain have done most of the heavy lifting here better than I could have, so I will add just a few responses.

    Fletch:

    “That’s one of the worlds problems with the saints. this supposed monopoly on the spirit because of their worthiness to receive it”

    I understand both that those outside of the Church can be inspired and those inside the Church can be uninspired. I understand the righteous can have Heaven’s doors closed to them and the unrighteous can have them thrown wide open. But, if I may equate revelation to cancer, if you are looking for lung cancer you are far more likely to see it in a smoker than in a non-smoker. The Gift of the Holy Ghost means something. It doesn’t mean everything, but it means something.

    Steve Smith

    “You are in essence saying that the leaders come before God, and that doesn’t seem to square with church doctrine.”

    That is absolutely not what I am saying. You do not see the difference between what I say and what you read, you believe that you have given me enough rope and I have hung myself, and you have never yet engaged with the substance of my argument but have instead responded to a caricature of it.

    “How is one to accept a church leader as a legitimate leader/divine emissary in the first place? Through another human leader? It wouldn’t make any sense to ask an investigator to turn first to the leader and then to God, would it? God always comes first. That’s just fundamental LDS doctrine.”

    If God tells me to follow President Monson, imperfect though he is, I follow President Monson. Why is that difficult to reconcile with the idea of God coming first? If you came to me and said to follow you, I would not do it. I follow my Priesthood leaders because of my relationship with God, and not in place of it.

    “Obedience is divine when it is rendered through critical thinking to principles.”

    Obedience is divine when it is rendered to God. Why did Adam sacrifice? He didn’t know, except that God commanded it. If he had waited, would it have been accounted to him for righteousness? No, of course not. Obedience is not blind when we walk by the light that we have within ourselves. You declare that the primary light (only light?) which should guide our obedience is your own intellect and moral intuition, or personal revelation on a subject. I respond that when the light is a testimony of the Priesthood organization and the Lord’s establishment of this Church, then I do not walk blindly but rather with my eyes wide open. I can see the mistakes in my local and general leaders, I can raise these issues privately, and I can recognize that the Lord placed them in their stewardships rather than me and I can follow them.

    “1) The first sentence smacks of infalliblism. Wouldn’t the best way to obtain spiritual knowledge be through the spirit? The leaders aren’t God or gods. They are liable to err in transmitting God’s message.”

    I feel to quote Indigo Montoya — infallibilism, you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Infallibilism means that you believe your leaders make no mistakes. The Gospel teaches us to, instead, follow fallible leaders as if it were Christ Himself leading us. There is a substantial difference that you have failed to recognize.

  94. Martin James on May 14, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Jared responded to my post that “its all words” that “Yet words have meaning.”

    But words only have man-made meaning. Our understanding is man-made understanding.
    They don’t have fixed meanings that don’t change through time.

    Words like divine, Zion, God, obedience, spiritual, sin, error, truth, salvation, are all subject to shifting meaning. Its all building a house on sand.

  95. Wilfried on May 14, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    In the post by Walter on Boko Haram, just published, there is a historical perspective showing how people in a religious group can ultimately become horrible extremists once they start criticizing those whom they consider “slack in their religious observance”.

  96. Jonathan Cavender on May 14, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Wilfried:

    In this book translated in 1830, there is a historical perspective showing how people in a religious group can ultimately become horrible extremists once they start criticizing those whom they consider overzealous in their religious observance.

    I use that as a rhetorical device to ask a simple question. Which is more likely in the next 20 years: A person overzealously practicing Mormonism attacking an African school to capture sex slaves to sell on the open market, or a person losing connection with the Priesthood organization of the Church because of declining obedience and falling away?

    Drawing a false equivalence between strict obedience and Boko Haram is silly. If anything, I would say that it is the type of excess that you can see historically when religious zealots become unmoored from any external constraints on their religious practices. If Islam has an organized, worldwide Church structure with established Priesthood leadership do you believe that the poor girls in Nigeria would have been taken as sex slaves? No, neither do I.

  97. Jonathan Cavender on May 14, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    And, just to preclude willful misunderstanding of my previous post, I am not conflating a non-historical perspective on the Book of Abraham with sex slavery in Africa. Just illustrating that the lesson drawn from Boko Haram, when taken to the absurd conclusion that it is applicable to the current issue discussed here, cuts a different way than Wilfried presents it. That doesn’t make it any less of an absurd conclusion when it benefits my argument, however.

  98. Steve Smith on May 14, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    SteveF, my main point is that the leaders are best understood as guides whose words can generally be useful in pointing us to the Moral (with a capital M), a concept that does exist in fullness but that no one, no matter how wise, can fully understand. Their words are approximations of the Moral, but do not and simply cannot grasp the Moral in its entirety. Sometimes their words aren’t right, but that’s OK, because no one gets everything right 100% of the time. There are times when open disagreement with their positions is just and right. Consider the case of Lowry Nelson, a Mormon sociologist who was opposed to racial distinctions, and his correspondence in 1947 with church leaders, including the first presidency, here: http://mormonbookshelf.com/wiki/Lowry_Nelson_Communications_on_Race. Lowry Nelson advocated the more moral position that “ethnocentrism, and the smugness and intolerance which accompany it, is one of the first evils to be attacked if we are to achieve the goal of peace.” The First Presidency took the lesser moral position by advocating that black people were inferior based on the idea, which they believed to be doctrinal, that the blacks did something wrong in the preexistence and therefore deserved to not enjoy the full blessings of the gospel: “some of God’s children were assigned to superior positions before the world was formed…. the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.” The First Presidency went on to chastise those who supported interracial marriage, calling it a “repugnant” concept and saying that “it does not have the sanction of the Church and is contrary to Church doctrine.” Current church leaders came to reject George Albert Smith’s position on race and interracial marriage and accept Lowry Nelson’s position. Nelson was right to chastise the leadership over racism. The leadership was in the wrong. There has never been a time or place when regarding people to be inferiors simply because of their skin color has been right.

    Jonathan, I don’t have much to say about your reply other than to point out the glaring fact that you keep promoting leaders to be infallible: “The Gospel teaches us to, instead, follow fallible leaders as if it were Christ Himself leading us.” So we’re to follow the leaders as if they were Jesus Christ? Doesn’t LDS doctrine consider Christ to be God and infallible? No, we sustain leaders only as guides on the side, knowing full well that they are humans and are liable to be wrong. There is never any excuse to not critically think about any pronouncement and any doctrine. We use critical thinking to evaluate whether their words are true and morally right. We should do this on a claim by claim basis. The leaders do not encourage people to accept their words just because they say that they are true and right. They encourage people to follow them only after they have studied their words in their minds and have come to accept their words and true and moral after critically thinking about them, but not without critical thinking, for that would be blind obedience. This discussion has run its course, and is getting rather repetitive. You simply won’t acknowledge the obvious fact that you encourage a cult-like blind obedience to the leaders’ words and that you essentially think that to sustain them means to regard all of their pronouncements to be equivalent with what God would say. That is utter hogwash. You condemn members for actually using their minds, which is what the leaders encourage members to do, and using their powers of critical thinking to determine what is true and untrue and right and wrong. So I’ll give you the last word and part by invoking D&C 50:10-12:

    10 And now come, saith the Lord, by the Spirit, unto the elders of his church, and let us reason together, that ye may understand;

    11 Let us reason even as a man reasoneth one with another face to face.

    12 Now, when a man reasoneth he is understood of man, because he reasoneth as a man; even so will I, the Lord, reason with you that you may understand.

  99. Jonathan Cavender on May 14, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Steve Smith

    “I don’t have much to say about your reply other than to point out the glaring fact that you keep promoting leaders to be infallible”

    Repeat it as much as you like, it is still an untrue restatement of my position and a failure to engage my arguments on the merits. If you won’t believe it coming from me, perhaps you will listen to Paul:

    “5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

    6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

    7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:”
    -Ephesians 6:5-7

    While not directly on point, it illustrates the same concept. Paul does not say that the masters according to the flesh are infallible, but the servants are to serve them as if they were serving Christ Himself.

    “You simply won’t acknowledge the obvious fact that you encourage a cult-like blind obedience to the leaders’ words and that you essentially think that to sustain them means to regard all of their pronouncements to be equivalent with what God would say.”

    and

    “You condemn members for actually using their minds, which is what the leaders encourage members to do, and using their powers of critical thinking to determine what is true and untrue and right and wrong.”

    This is a complete misstatement of my position. I have tried several times to show you the difference between what I am saying and what you claim I am saying. Others have shown they understand it (on both sides of the issue) — they may not agree, but they understand. You do not, cannot, or will not understand what I am saying. Further discussion on this issue is pointless.

    “This discussion has run its course, and is getting rather repetitive.”

    On this, you and I are in agreement.

  100. Fletch on May 14, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Lol. This stayed civil for longer than expected. It ended where it always does though. Two very divided camps. The type “A” group boldly testifying of their righteousness and everyone else’s errors. The type “B” group BEGGING the type “A”‘s to exercise ONE independent thought and see what it feels like.

    The funny part is, every ward I’ve ever been in is made up of these two camps and a third camps of “I’m here cuz my wife will divorce me if I don’t come”.

    I love all three groups. I have close personal friends and family members in all three camps. In fact I’ve had numerous bishops, stake presidents and even my two mission presidents who represented each of the two camps (A and B).

    It’s pretty cool to express ourselves like this in this kind of forum. Hopefully everyone can step back, consider each others points, and then …………………………….go back to patting ourselves on the back because we know we’re right :) (easy type A group. That was a joke)

    Cheers everyone.

  101. Steve Smith on May 14, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Jonathan, I wasn’t going to comment, but your misuse of Paul’s words is just so egregious that I can just not let it slide. In Ephesians, Paul does NOT mean masters in the sense of church leaders, but in the sense of slave owners. Paul is telling the servants/bondsmen/slaves to continue to render service unto their masters as they would unto Jesus. He is essentially telling them that an uprising against their masters would be unbecoming. This may be council of convenience for the Christian movement was still in its infancy and encouraging any sort of social revolt on the part of converts to Christianity may have prompted political elites to completely crush it.

    Furthermore you are omitting what Paul says to the masters in verses 8 and 9:

    8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

    9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.

    In verse 9 he essentially regards masters and bondsmen to be equals before God. God is our master and we are His servants. God does not regard masters to be morally superior to slaves. However, the master-servant relationship should not be challenged, at least not at that time.

    Actually slave owners in the pre-emancipation US used Ephesians 6:5 to justify slave ownership. Paul’s words of advice to slaves and masters are now obsolete since it is the overwhelming majority opinion of political leaders and citizens of the developed world, and also the opinion of the LDS leaders, that slavery, in spite of its continued prevalence throughout the world, is wrong and evil.

  102. Jonathan Cavender on May 14, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Fletch:

    I hope I haven’t led you to believe that I am testifying of my own righteousness. I don’t dispute this is hard doctrine, and I don’t argue for a moment that I am in full compliance with it. What is right and what I live are often so very different…sadly enough for me.

    As for the civil tone deteriorating, I take full responsibility for that and I respectfully bow out of this thread.

  103. Martin James on May 14, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    Steve Smith,

    You seem to want “blind obedience” to the moral. You and Jonathan C. both seem a little bit too invested in getting right and wrong, right or wrong.

  104. forgetting on May 14, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    #96 “Drawing a false equivalence between strict obedience and Boko Haram is silly. If anything, I would say that it is the type of excess that you can see historically when religious zealots become unmoored from any external constraints on their religious practices.”

    As illustrated by this example from a little closer to home: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnQWXDs4kq8&sns=em

    I understand it is not exactly the same situation, but it is only a little step from this to that. So, maybe it is good he has made that connection and we are talking about it. These brothers would say they are being strictly obedient and righteous, in fact they have.

  105. Fletch on May 14, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Cavender. No apology necessary brother. we all beat the horse pretty dead. I really respect where you are coming from eve though we’re a ways apart. Best wishes. You sound like a good guy

  106. Steve Smith on May 14, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    Martin, I’m advocating critical thinking, which is the exact opposite of blind obedience. Blind obedience typically relies on the logical fallacy of argument by authority: “so and so said so, therefore it is right.” Critical thinking minimizes the invocation of authority to determine what is true and right. Instead, it is reliant upon reasoning, evidence, and logical consistency: “there is evidence that x contributes to general human well-being more than y, therefore x is right, or at least more right than y.”

  107. Martin James on May 14, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    You still seem to be wanting to call a “moral foul” on Jonathan for preferring authority to morality. (he, of course, wouldn’t see it that way), but I think he should be free to interpret his religion authoritarianly just as you should be free to interpret it morally.

    His obedience is not so blind; it seems much more of an informed preference.

  108. Wilfried on May 14, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Of course, Jonathan Cavender (96), any direct comparison between Boko Haram and “overzealously practicing Mormons” would be silly. The point I made was to remind us to what extremes the condemning of others as “slackers” could ultimately lead. “Ultimately” means decades or even centuries, like in the case of the Boko Haram, in order to reach such level of terror. And the political circumstances must allow it to move to that level.

    But even on our local level, overzealous and condemning attitudes can lead to an extremism that exerts some psychological “terror” toward other members. I’ve seen it more than once in the immature mission field when teachers and leaders get some “authority” and start to misuse it by constantly pounding on commandments (often beyond the actual commandment) and threatening with fire and brimstone, while “preaching to the choir”—members who already sacrifice so much.

    And then the mavericks: thanks for that link, forgetting (104). Revealing! Mormonism does count such mavericks and, combined with instable behavior, it can lead some individuals to dangerous actions. Sometimes the well-meant talks of zealous members can trigger crazy reactions among others.

    That’s why I appreciated all the voices in this thread that pleaded for moderation, understanding, and critical thinking. Which does not mean we want to exclude the “zealous” who, rightfully, stress the value of obedience. As long as they don’t give the others unjustified guilt feelings…

  109. EFF on May 14, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Nice post, Dave. But as to your warning—”Last chance for inoculation before the epidemic hits if it’s not too late already”—it is already too late for the millennials. Inoculation only works for those not already infected.

    The millennials feel—with considerable justification—betrayed by an institution that spoon fed them misinformation and a homiletic, dumbed-down, and fundamentally inaccurate account of church history and the evolution of church doctrine. Regaining their trust is nigh impossible, especially when many of them feel that the only reason the church is changing its tune today is because it was exposed by the Internet.

    “Keeping the Faith” is a positive, albeit long overdue, course correction. But it will not retrieve very many of those who have come to doubt the veracity of what they were originally taught in church and mistrust those who now profess a willingness to tell them the whole story.

  110. SilverRain on May 15, 2014 at 5:36 am

    I am perhaps alone in noting this thread as an example of how egregious logical fallacies are not the sole prerogative of the “faithful.”

    It feels like arguing with a funhouse mirror.

    All I have left to say on this subject is that if one is more interested in justifying one’s own viewpoint than in listening, the only real casualty is one’s own understanding.

  111. Dave Banack on May 15, 2014 at 7:56 am

    Thanks for the many comments, everyone. I’m going to close comments now.