This is what it looks like when the prophet speaks as a prophet

It is a mistake to apply the heuristics of edge cases to central and paradigmatic examples.

When the prophet, speaking over the pulpit in General Conference, says,

Today I feel compelled to discuss with you a matter of great importance…. The Lord impressed upon my mind the importance…. It is the command of the Lord

following his statement that

All members of the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are united in endorsing this message

and one apostle afterward states

I testify to you that in the deliberations of the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the temple, and after our beloved prophet petitioned the Lord for revelation to move forward with these adjustments, a powerful confirmation was received by all

and another states

I add my witness to the messages of President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Quentin L. Cook given moments ago of the harmony and unanimity of the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I know these revelatory announcements are the mind and the will of the Lord

then long deliberation about whether the prophet is speaking as a prophet, or endless dithering about infallibility, are an unnecessary distraction, and there are limited options on what to make of these statements.

You might decide that Russell M. Nelson is a false prophet who receives revelation from a false god or no god at all, like the priests of Baal who contended with Elijah.

You might decide that Russell M. Nelson is someone who doesn’t actually receive revelation, but instead merely dresses up his preferences with prophetic rhetoric—also known as a false prophet, like Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah who contended with Micaiah.

You might decide that Russell M. Nelson is sincere but mistaken, a pious fraud aided by a conspiracy of all the apostles to ratify his whims. Also known as a false prophet.

Or you might decide that the best explanation is that Russell M. Nelson is speaking as a prophet, with the unanimous support of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. This is what I think is going on, not just because I sustain him as a prophet, but also because how he speaks accords with my experience. On the few occasions when I’ve been entrusted with some minor part of the local branch of the Lord’s Kingdom and I’ve managed not to make a complete hash of something important, it was because “the Lord impressed upon my mind” some way to avoid that outcome. In my experience, this is how the church is led by revelation.

* * *

I’m not telling you this to change your mind. Your changing your mind is actually what worries me. If you think Russell M. Nelson is a prophet, except for this one thing, and that’s the best you can do, then go on like that.

It’s just that thinking Russell M. Nelson is mistaken in this one thing, or puffing up his personal whims this one time, or a pious fraud in this one case, is not likely to be a sustainable position over the long term, any more than it would be to believe that Joseph Smith restored the Aaronic priesthood, but was fibbing about the Melchizedek priesthood; or that Jesus turned water into wine and rose from the dead, but could not possibly have walked on water. Whether our Sunday meetings last two hours or three may not be a core component of the church’s system of belief, but direction by a living prophet who receives revelation is. Chip away at that plank long enough and everything else collapses in on itself. No one is going to go on a mission, change their lives to be baptized, serve in the church, or teach their children to believe in a scoundrel or a charlatan or a pious fraud. Not in the long term, and probably not far into the short term, either.

You may sincerely believe that just this once, over such a small issue, won’t matter. But more than a decade of hanging around this blog has taught me that irreconcilable views are not reconcilable, and untenable positions are not tenable. At various times, people have promoted ideas I didn’t think were reconcilable with the church’s doctrine, even as they insisted that their views were so compatible, and loudly protested any questioning of their faithfulness. It’s even become an article of faith in Mormon blogging that people’s faithfulness is not to be questioned. And yet today, many of those people are no longer members of the church, and I am more likely to trust my instincts about what is and is not compatible with church doctrine. I do not want you to wander down their path.

This does not mean that when the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done. It’s when the thinking starts: but an unavoidable part of the thought process must involve wrestling with the uncomfortable fact that the prophet has spoken or acted under the guidance of the Lord’s inspiration. The site of contemplation and productive struggle needs to shift away from wondering if the prophet is speaking as a prophet, and toward deciding what to do about the prophet speaking as a prophet.

69 comments for “This is what it looks like when the prophet speaks as a prophet

  1. November 19, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    Thanks for this post, Jonathan. It’s excellent.

  2. November 19, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    I second what Nathaniel said- this is important clarity. Well said.

  3. MK
    November 19, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    This sort of “all or nothing” attitude tends to produce two kinds of believers: zealots and ex-believers.

  4. Hunter
    November 19, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    I understand your concern here. It’s true that many bloggers have since left the fold. And it’s true that we need to engage in serious deliberation before questioning utterances by the prophet.

    However, need the problem be framed this way? It’s true that personal revelation works by impressions, thoughts, feelings, promptings. But haven’t we all gotten the impressions wrong at some point? Did every prompting you’ve gotten as a church leader come to pass? In my own life, I have gotten personal revelation wrong many times, despite my sincerest efforts and beliefs. (I once gave my cancer-ridden father a priesthood blessing, that he would be healed! But just last week, we remembered the 20th anniversary of his death.) When it comes to making sense of the pronouncements of our leaders, can we not also use the spirit of discernment? our own God-given intellect? And the bulwark of the scriptures?

    I worry that, by your definition, you just made Brigham Young a false prophet because he endorsed, under his prophetic mantle, the exclusion of blacks from the temple and the priesthood. Need things be so binary?

  5. David Evans
    November 19, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    In my experience, this is uncommon. The prophet says it’s inspired and two apostles testify. But most things that the prophet says do not come in just that form. I see your point as applying in a very narrow set of cases. Am I mistaken?

  6. John W
    November 19, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    And yet you write “Mormon bloggers.” By President Nelson’ recent injunction, isn’t that a victory for Satan? Didn’t you just violate what you are encouraging people to do?

    Maybe you aren’t saying that when the prophet speaks the thinking is done (for yes you can continue to think, albeit with increasing obstacles), but you most certainly are saying that when the prophet speaks, and when it can be derived that the prophet is most certainly speaking as a prophet, the debate is over. That is fine. After all, such a statement has been said over the pulpit at conference. But you shouldn’t try to say that you aren’t saying that. It is almost as if you are criticizing bloggers for having one foot on a departing boat and one foot on the dock, but to some extent you seem to be guilty of the same.

  7. Jks
    November 19, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    I’m trying to think of why you wrote this. Are there people who object to the new 2 hour schedule?
    The thing is you can know he is making the right call for the church as a whole and still know there are some downsides for you personally or for others. You can still believe in a prophet and move west and still believe even if your family member died along the way.

  8. Nathan G
    November 19, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    Three of the quotes above are from Saturday and, when read in context, refer explicitly to the adjustments in schedule and curriculum that were announced on Saturday morning, not to the command to use the full name of the Church that comes on Sunday. Elder Cook testifies of “these adjustments,” Elder Rasband’s refers to “these revelatory announcements,” and President Nelson bears witness to unity “in endorsing this message.” All of these quotes come from talks on Saturday about the schedule change. None of them refer to the name injunction.

  9. November 19, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    Thanks for the comments. Here are some responses.

    Hunter, we’re counting on the prophet to be better at this than you or me. Even when there is an item of prophetic counsel that we can’t accept for some reason, we can still recognize that the prophet is telling us that some topic is important. As for discernment, intellect, and scripture, I support using them to guide how we respond to a prophetic statement. I’m more skeptical of their use to distinguish true from false prophetic statements for the reasons outlined in my post. It’s too easy to deceive ourselves, to decide something we don’t like is just a stray flight of fancy, so we get stuck in a continuous cycle of is-he-or-isn’t-he-a-prophet deliberations instead of figuring out how we’re going to follow the prophet. Think of it like accept a job offer: You scrutinize the contract before you’re hired, and maybe one day you move on to another job. But the point is to do something useful with your time there, not to spend every day at your desk scrutinizing your contract over and over again.

    David E: Offhand, I wouldn’t say that these cases are that uncommon. General Conference comes around twice a year, after all.

    John W: No, there is still plenty of debate to be had, even if we recognize that God has spoken through his prophet. I might, for example, recognize that I’m too flawed and set in my ways to get things right every time, and that my list of flaws is lengthy, and that I have to give some of those flaws my full attention while others get put on hold. We can debate the ordering of priorities, or the best way to implement some item of counsel in a world filled with competing priorities. I will be lucky if referring to Mormon bloggers is the greatest victory I’ve handed Satan today.

    JKS: I very much agree. Change has different costs for different people. I strongly identify with the word “Mormon,” for example, and I really liked the three-hour block, not to mention the meetings with my High Priest group. And yet I can also recognize prophetic counsel as inspired guidance for the church as a whole.

    Nathan G: Yes, that is correct.

    MK: I don’t think it’s black-and-white thinking to recognize that systems of belief will exclude propositions that are starkly incompatible with them. There are countless things that we can investigate and debate within the system of belief, even if we recognize that some things can’t be incorporated into the system.

  10. Hjisha
    November 20, 2018 at 12:30 am

    The elephant in the room remains President Nelson declaring the November 5 revelation. Was he speaking as a prophet? I trust my spiritual intuition and personal faith that recoils at the policy. Administrative prophecies that we have heard since he has become prophet may take some adjusting. The November policy causes many of us to wrestle and disagree.

  11. Nathan G
    November 20, 2018 at 12:43 am

    I guess I’m confused. All of the online commentary that I’ve seen, and to which you seem to be responding, has been to the naming directive. I’ve not seen anyone question the inspiration of the schedule/curriculum change.

    So I am left to assume that this is a response to that criticism of the naming directive. If that’s the case, I don’t understand why you’re supporting that revelation with statements of unity about about a different issue.

    In fact, your post makes me wonder why none of the other Apostles took up the banner. Why were there no statements of unity and support for the naming issue?

  12. GEOFF -AUS
    November 20, 2018 at 3:50 am

    Pres Nelson holds the position of Prophet. Does that mean that like Elijah, he can call down fire from heaven? Can he like Deborah tell leaders what to do to win a battle? Can he like JS see the Lord, and say thus sayeth the Lord. He says the Lord has impressed it upon my mind. I get ideas and impressions, and they have about 50% chance of working.
    So with different levels of prophet, there are different levels of credibility, and different responsibility to follow.
    In my church lifetime I am aware of quite a number of things that were claimed to be revelation from God that have not held up over time. I am unable to think of anything that is an example of revelation from the prophet. Can anyone?
    I believe that JS restored the gospel, but I see no evidence there has been any revelation from God since. If there were a person capable of revelation like old testament prophets, we would reject them in preference to someone who holds the position but has to redefine revelation to include something he can do.
    Our succession system is a big problem. JS at 14 was exhausted by recieving revelation, it would kill any Prophet in the past 100 years.

  13. OG
    November 20, 2018 at 5:41 am

    GOEFF-AUS

    What are you trying to do? Bring light to me and other traditional members in what you see as our platonic caves? It’s not your job. The only people who will listen to you are the disaffected or those whose faith is wavering — in which case you’re truly doing more harm that good from my perspective.

    Your last sentence is clearly refuted if you take the time to understand the oath and covenant of the Priesthood. Indeed, the entire thrust of your comment is refuted if you understood it.

    I don’t believe the traditional members and bishops, etc. are always right in every decisions they make. I quite often shake my head and wish that more of us would get it. I once heard a comment about Hugh Nibley that the reasons his various criticisms of the church, speaking broadly, not specifically about leaders, were so poignant was because he came to his perspective from his personal zeal toward Christlike discipleship. – at least from a latter-day saint perspective.

    Anyone that does that wouldn’t post what you posted. This isn’t a personal attack on your faith. But pushing back against your direct attack on mine.

    The church is not in your image. It’s certainly made of imperfect people who don’t always handle every situation best or put the appropriate gravity into everything they do and say. But that’s part of this learning process. I’m comfortable with the uncomfortable tension of dealing with my own imperfections and being acutely aware of those of others.

    We often reduce the church down to being formulaic, and to the extent that it is, we also know it’s not that easy. Because sincere intent and a pure heart and our true desires are always plain before the Lord. We can’t short circuit those important foundations to our faith by doing the basics — but equally the Lord recognizes the heart and intent and desires we have and little bit little expands our purview when we do the basics.

  14. JR
    November 20, 2018 at 8:23 am

    Not sure what’s going on here — I’m a bit confused — like Nathan G.

    I did wonder idly whether OG had any connection to Gog and Magog, but with a little thought I concluded there was no connection. :)

    In the meantime, I “listen” to many including Geoff-Aus because I want to be aware of a variety of voices and concerns, and certainly not because my faith in Christ is wavering. Maybe OG meant “listen” in a different sense. Maybe the wavering “faith” concern is about faith/trust in President Nelson or the Church and not about faith in Christ. Of course, faith in the Church can mean a number of different things as well.

    I appreciate and applaud Jonathan’s focus on deciding what to do in response to the prophet’s words. As he knows, the fallibility issue is not a “Mormon blogger” issue, but goes back at least to the beginning of the restoration, and, for me, notably to President J. Reuben Clark’s speech on the subject and, in personal memory, to Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s instruction to ignore what he had previously testified to because he, and others, had spoken without the light and knowledge that came to the Q15 in 1978 — even if it had come, in some form, to a number of others, without authority, rather earlier.

    A friend once remarked to me that if we have erroneous ideas that matter, they can be corrected readily in the hereafter, but what we do in response to erroneous ideas (whether ours or another’s) cannot be changed, though it may be forgiven. In the end, I suspect we must all trust our own instincts and impressions and revelations, if any, about what is and is not compatible with the gospel. Perhaps it is best not to wander down someone else’s path. But it is at least interesting to try to grasp something of various blind men’s views (an oxymoron, if taken literally) on the elephants in the room. Sometimes I find it helpful in expanding or revising my own views (or instincts or impressions).

    Anyway, that’s what occurred to me in the night and now I’ve written it down.

  15. Cam N
    November 20, 2018 at 9:47 am

    Quentin L Cook – Prepare to meet God- April 2018 – “In conclusion, please be assured that senior Church leaders who preside over the divinely appointed purposes of the Church receive divine assistance. This guidance comes from the Spirit and sometimes directly from the Savior. Both kinds of spiritual guidance are given. I am grateful to have received such assistance. But guidance is given in the Lord’s time, line upon line and precept upon precept, when “an omniscient Lord deliberately chooses to school us.” Guidance for the Church as a whole comes only to His prophet.”

    Sometimes even believers have to pay attention with open ears and hearts to catch things like this.

  16. J
    November 20, 2018 at 9:51 am

    Where does “he was speaking as a man” fit in? Is it really all or nothing like this?

  17. Ted
    November 20, 2018 at 10:38 am

    Only a Sith deals in absolutes, don’t you know.

    But really, this discussion would have more meat if it weren’t revolving around something of so little importance to the world and, I would argue, to the membership of the church. Here we are quibbling about whether the prophet is speaking as a prophet or a man when his main messages are irrelevant to salvation. Honestly, if you were forced to rank-order revelations by importance, where would these fall? Somewhere close to the changing of the missionary ages?

    One further example: recall that the church drastically changed the structure of its meetings in the 80s. Has anyone every heard of this change referred to as revelation? The church itself refers to this change in these simple, non-descript terms: “Church members in the United States and Canada began meeting on Sundays in a consolidated meeting schedule.”

    I see this show of revelatory force as a sign that the leaders are feeling more and more their lack of clout with the general membership. This diminishing power is likely related to the decidedly non-scriptural way they have gone about introducing binding revelations without the consent of the members (i.e. the proclamation on the family, the proscription on the baptism of some children), and with the reduced trust in leadership stemming from their lack of transparency with church history.

    Posts like this are not going to convince anyone. But then again, that’s not the author’s goal. After all, “your changing your mind is actually what worries [him].” What he really feels bad about is that you would be so faithless as to doubt in the first place.

    He wants you to feel condemned.

  18. November 20, 2018 at 10:48 am

    What if I believe that the things were impressed upon the mind of the President of the church, and confirmed to the apostles, but that he may be missing the mark on some implementation details?

  19. MK
    November 20, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Jonathan, it sure seems like black and white thinking when you say that believing Nelson is wrong about one thing is unsustainable in the long run, as if it were the first step down an inevitable slippery slope towards complete apostasy. Do some people leave the Church because they come to see more and more to doubt, question, or reject about the Church’s history and beliefs? Absolutely. There’s risk in that, for sure. But there’s also risk in blind acceptance. (Which of those risks was more manifest throughout the 125+ years of institutionalized racism of the Church’s priesthood ban?) The Church has plenty of problems to contend with these days. But a shortage of conspicuous loyalty signaling doesn’t rank highly among them.

  20. John W
    November 20, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    Jonathan, it seems like you’re committing a motte and bailey fallacy and are switching back and forth between two positions.

    Position A) We can still think and debate while regarding the prophet to be an authority who receives revelation

    Position B) To disagree with the prophet on just one matter is to regard him to be a false prophet and pious fraud, which is another way of saying that the debate is over when the prophet speaks as a prophet, because you can disagree with the opponent not on the merits of their argument but because their argument is not in line with what the prophet says

    The position you desire your viewers to hold is the more controversial position B, but when asked to defend it, you retreat to the motte (so to speak) and defend the less controversial position A, acting as if it is equivalent to the harder-to-defend bailey position B. You assert position B and then when commenters critique position B you assert that you were defending the more common-sense position A. The commenter finds that they can’t critique position A and you declare victory and go back to supporting position B.

    For instance, it doesn’t appear that you would defend the controversial November policy on its merits, but instead revert to the idea that the First Presidency declared this on the basis of revelation, so you’d best be careful challenging it or else you’re on a slippery slope out of the church, for you would in essence be regarding the prophet to be a pious fraud and/or false prophet. You could continue to disagree with the November policy and according to your line of reasoning, you would have to accept that you are flawed in your reasoning and that the prophet’s is the correct one. Your argumentation in almost the entirety of the post strongly suggests that you are positing that indeed the debate is over when the prophet speaks as a prophet. But you are not willing to take full ownership of that and want to have your cake and eat it too and then claim that you are defending a more easily defensible position that few would disagree with. I am really bristling at your tactics here.

  21. Seeker
    November 20, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    President Nelson is currently on a “follow the prophet” tour where he “sells out” the largest sporting venues in a given area. I don’t even know what to do with that.

    I waited a long time for the prophets to prophesy. I had a profound wrestle to bring myself to obedience over Prop 8, but the personal revelation was to disobey. That began the wrestle with why disobedience would be the answer. It’s ten years on and I am amazed at where God’s taken me.

    The original post is too stark and binary for the way my mind and my relationship with deity works, but it takes all kinds of people to be in the church, and all shall have their reward, it is said.

  22. Nathan G
    November 20, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    For that matter, where does a prophet talking God into doing something that God doesn’t want fit in? It happened with the 116 pages and could conceivably happen again.

  23. November 20, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    John W, I think JG’s thinking is far more nuanced (and uniform) than the bait and switch tactics you accuse him of. Recognize that and perhaps you will not be so inclined to bristle.

  24. November 20, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Nathan G: I decided that conflating the responses to the two was acceptable for my purposes here because the alternative – that the apostles were vocal in their unanimous support of one statement as revelatory, while engaged in a conspiracy of silence to cover up for the whims of a pseudo-prophet on the other – was too ridiculous to consider. As for the 116 pages, I don’t think they’re directly relevant, as Russell M. Nelson, didn’t say, “The Lord told me to keep it a 3 hour block, so I petitioned him again until he consented.”

    Geoff-Aus: It’s clear from your comment, and many others like it that you have made, that you don’t accept the leaders of the church as prophets. If all you see in the church since 1844 is administrative tinkering, is there any substance to your church membership? I don’t detect any. It may be rude to point that out, but clarity is more important.

    JR: I don’t think “We, like the apostles, are all just blind men fumbling in the dark” is a viable position, for the reasons stated in my post. Again, getting hung up on prophetic fallibility is a distraction. I also don’t believe in infallible bus drivers. I still choose to board buses, even as I recognize that the bus driver might take a wrong turn, get emergency directions from dispatch, run into an obstacle and need to take a detour, or have a head-on collision with a drunk driver. None of that means that I have the same knowledge or training or insight as the bus driver, or that I should try to seize the wheel every time he takes a sudden turn.

    Ted: I don’t think dismissing the issues of the day as of little importance gets us anywhere. The prophets of the Old Testament seemed to have a lot to say about the right form of worship, for example, or what to eat and drink. Little things can have surprisingly large symbolic value (and relevance to salvation, too). You mention the earlier schedule changes as something that was enacted without revelation, but I suspect you’re wrong about that. General Authorities tell us, repeatedly, how the church is led by inspiration and revelation. My own meager experience is that sometimes I parcel things out one way because that’s the best I can come up with, and other times I parcel them out in a particular way because I’ve had some sense of inspiration on the subject, but I don’t describe the reshuffling any differently. Sometimes you’re called as hymnbook distributor because the bishopric had a revelatory moment, and sometimes you’re called because hymnbooks need to be distributed and you’re available. Usually you just don’t know.

    I don’t think the prophet is lacking clout among the general membership. That’s not at all what I see in my ward. What I see online is much different, but that’s long been the case. And not to our credit.

    Jader3d: I assume that kind of thing happens all the time. I think a lot of revelation takes the form of saying, in effect, “Something must be done – now you go figure it out!” Think of it like boarding a bus where the driver has a compass but not a map. Everyone wants to head north, and the bus driver is taking what seems to be the best route. Sometimes what looked like a straight shot will turn out to be a cul-de-sac and require backtracking. Sometimes there will be no straight path north and a detour is required. Am I going to hop off the bus and strike out on my own? Not when the driver is the one guy with the compass and the keys to the bus.

    MK: I don’t think that’s a good example of the risks of blind acceptance. Did the people who rejected Brigham Young as a prophet for the priesthood ban, or who rejected the church for its institutionalized racism, suddenly return or join the church in 1978? Perhaps a few, but I don’t know of any. Meanwhile, those who blindly accepted what Brigham Young taught were here all along. If you see no value in church membership, perhaps that looks like a risk. But if you see value in baptism and sealing and the restored gospel, blind acceptance starts to look like a winning strategy. To be clear, I think there are risks associated with blind acceptance, but it’s worth comparing the size of risks involved.

    John W: It really depends on what you mean by “disagree” in describing position B. If disagreeing means rejecting the prophet’s claims to inspiration, then yes, that kind of disagreement is equivalent to saying he’s a false prophet. But disagreeing can also mean recognizing the prophet’s inspiration to do something, and acknowledging his authority to do something, while differing in the chosen implementation. That’s just a fact of life of being part of an organization. Every boss we’ll ever have will make decisions we disagree with, just like every time we’re forced to make decisions that impact other people, some or all of those people will disagree with the decisions we make.

    Another reason I think you’re detecting a logical fallacy that’s not there is that you assume I wouldn’t defend the church’s policy on baptism of same-sex couples on the merits. I would, but I’d prefer to stick closer to the topic of the post. See, however, this post.

    Hijisha: As you see, it’s the elephant in your room, but my parlor is currently unoccupied. I sympathize with your struggle, but the cases I’m aware of in my extended family have worked out okay; first presidency approval has been sought and granted for children to be baptized.

  25. gomez
    November 20, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    “Nathan G: I decided that conflating the responses to the two was acceptable for my purposes here because the alternative – that the apostles were vocal in their unanimous support of one statement as revelatory, while engaged in a conspiracy of silence to cover up for the whims of a pseudo-prophet on the other – was too ridiculous to consider.”

    That you think that’s the only alternative actually explains a lot.

  26. November 20, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    I appreciate your attempt to explain your faithful perspective. I like the idea of not centering my identity on being “a Mormon.” I love the idea of continuing to focus our ourselves and our communities on the Savior.

    I’ll provide two bits of feedback for the sake of honest questioning/thinking:

    Article Quote 1:

    “thinking Russell M. Nelson is mistaken in [unequivocally proclaiming the importance of discontinuing the use of the terms “Mormon” and “LDS” in his position as prophet]… is not likely to be a sustainable position over the long term”

    I wish your article started here and provided more support for this assertion. I guess the vague reference to anecdotal evidence isn’t really doing it for me. I’m thinking of so many questions: What does it mean to believe that a prophet is not infallible, in the context of our history, in the present, and as we move into the future? Like John W, I also feel like you are moving between two positions. Other questions: What are the costs/benefits of adopting different paradigms for non-believers, various types of believers, the leadership, and institution? How do the costs compare to the benefits of the other proposed paradigms (again, for non-believers, various types of believers, the leadership, and institution)? For example, if everyone in the church presumed that the prophet was speaking as a prophet 95% of the time, what effect would that have on non-believers, various types of believers, the leadership, and institution?

    Article Quote 2: “It’s even become an article of faith in Mormon blogging that people’s faithfulness is not to be questioned.”

    Is special emphasis on this principle limited to Mormon blogging (although it very well may get an extra dose of emphasis there–and even be applied inconsistently in an anti-traditional manner)? Maybe I’m being too picky, and you just don’t like the obvious inconsistency of application by anti-traditionalists. If that’s it, then feel free to skip the next three paragraphs.

    On my mind is the general authorities’ statements on viewing people less judgmentally. For example, Elder Gong recently saying: “[the best type of pioneer] crosses school playgrounds, parking lots, and cultural halls. This kind of pioneer crosses any fence or wall of separation to build bridges of understanding, compassion, friendliness, and good neighborliness.” Elder Echohawk came to our stake conference and wept as he invited us to be less judgmental of others. As a third example, review the 2017 Facebook post, where Elder Ballard wrote:

    >>“There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking questions or investigating our history, doctrine, and practices. The Restoration began when Joseph Smith sought an answer to a sincere question…. And to those of you offering answers I say, please do not simply brush the question off. Do not tell him or her to not worry about the question. [***] Please do not doubt the person’s dedication to the Lord or His work. [***] Instead, help the person find answers to their questions. We need to do better in responding to honest questions. Although we may not be able to answer every question about the cosmos or about our history, practices, or doctrine, we can provide many answers to those who are sincere. When we don’t know the answer, we can search to find answers together—a shared search that may bring us closer to each other and closer to God.”
    <<

    Online communication makes me want to cry. There is so much potential, and it can sometimes work so well to bring about good. But often it is clearly driven by the worst tribal instincts. Writing tone and stance adopted, when addressing tribal conflict, goes a long long long way toward helping us do the Lord's work in build bridges. Clearly there is a time to correct and proclaim boldly, and it's not true that simply disagreeing drives a wedge between tribes (from the perspective of a disinterested observer). The current level of online sociality is unprecedented, and I am trying to be guided by the Lord's anointed in this new territory. It's a wrestle we should have. I love what Elder Gay declared: "I believe God was asking me, 'Can’t you see that everyone around you is a sacred being?'" In every venue, I can do better at manifesting my growing realization and implementation of this eternal reality. Sometimes I get glimpses of seeing people as they really are, and it's amazing; but most of the time I'm kind of just a grunting hunter/gatherer.

  27. Brian
    November 20, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    Let’s just state the obvious. Almost no one is arguing what Jonathan suggests they are arguing. They seem to almost all be arguing about the ‘dressing,’ the ‘victory for Satan’ stuff. The ‘God is offended’ stuff. The throwing the past prophets under the bridge stuff. Not the emphasis of what we call ourselves.

    Because of this, the entire OP is largely (almost wholly) a straw man attack on other bloggers–and therefore not worth much salt. Predictably, those who feel inclined to draw lines in the sand agree with him and those who see the absurdity of the attempt in this straw man situation don’t. Nothing much here.

  28. Eric
    November 20, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    When the questions were raised about what prophecies have been fulfilled by our prophets since Joseph Smith, a couple immediately came to mind. President Monson (back when he was in the Twelve) once promised the Saints in East Germany that they would have the full program of the restored gospel if they continued faithful. He knew that promise sounded impossible the moment he said it. Later, President Benson said the Iron Curtain would fall. It sounded incredible when he said that, too. The whole world was taken by surprise when the Iron Curtain fell, and the Church already had a temple in East Germany when that happened.

    Looking for prophecies yet to be fulfilled skirts into sign-seeking territory, but if we’re paying attention, we’ll see them. Most of them aren’t as dramatic as the ones I pointed out above, but I’ve seen revelation in the Church in cases as simple as when I was a Sunday School president asking my bishop for advice in calling a teacher for a particular class, and feeling the Spirit confirm to me the inspiration behind the suggestion he gave me. A simple moment that nobody saw but the two of us, but those are the kind of moments that keep the Church moving forward under revelation.

  29. John W
    November 20, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    Category A quotes

    “You might decide that Russell M. Nelson is sincere but mistaken, a pious fraud”

    “You may sincerely believe that just this once, over such a small issue, won’t matter. But more than a decade of hanging around this blog has taught me that irreconcilable views are not reconcilable, and untenable positions are not tenable.”

    “It’s even become an article of faith in Mormon blogging that people’s faithfulness is not to be questioned. And yet today, many of those people are no longer members of the church”

    Category B quotes

    “This does not mean that when the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done.”

    Category A and B do not match. They are irreconcilable. You’re disagreeing with bloggers who may not fully support everything Nelson has said not on the merits of their arguments, but because they’re disagreeing with Nelson while acting as a prophet. How is this not “debate is over” “thinking is done” type of thinking? Again, I wouldn’t criticize you for holding these points. My experience is that most chapel-goers find this thinking very popular. When teaching classes, I have asked attendees many points what they think of the idea that when the prophet speaks the debate is over and the thinking is done and there tends to be resounding agreement. I take issue that you say things like in Category A that suggest this attitude but for some reason keep insisting that you don’t agree with such a sentiment. Yes you do. I have every reason to believe as much.

  30. MK
    November 20, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    Jonathan, you continue to ignore the obvious fact that rejecting the priesthood ban as racist did not require that one leave the Church. Believing (and saying) that Nelson’s pronouncements about the name of the Church reflect a peevishness that betrays our history and makes us look, well, *silly,* does not require that one leave the Church. On the contrary, most of the people that say these things are believing, active members. Many believing, active members of the Church feel that the current priesthood ban is a sexist tradition with no real foundation in scripture or reason, and that it should–and eventually will–go by the wayside. Many feel that the Church’s position with respect to LGBTQ members needs to move towards greater reason and humanity. Does that bother you? Should members of this Church not have the right granted to all under the 11th Article of Faith to worship according to the dictates of their own consciences? Would you like those of us who disagree with this or that pronouncement of prophets, living or dead, to just pack it up and go elsewhere? Sorry. We’re not going anywhere. This Church is as much ours as it is yours or Russell M. Nelson’s. Which is to say, it belongs to *none* of us. It’s God’s and God’s alone. And I have a hunch that He hasn’t asked you to police the Bloggernacle or purify the Church for Him.

  31. Heber Frank
    November 20, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    I always thought the “Second Book of Commandments” was the actual version of a prophet speaking as a prophet. Has the gift restored with Joseph to receive “Word of the Lord” oracles been taken from the earth after having been restored as part of the “restoration of all things”? We have record of such oracles to the Prophets Joseph, Brigham, John, Wilford and Lorenzo. There are other spiritual gifts, but does anyone have that particular spiritual gift in our day — or is long gone?

  32. Truckers Atlas
    November 20, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    Jonathan, I too have pondered over a formula that distinguishes revelation from mere hot air, and while our first four steps are virtually the same, my formula holds that in addition to steps 1 through 4:

    5) The prophet must be standing on one foot while asserting any prophetic guidance from the pulpit.

    and, crucially:

    6) The prophet’s necktie must be tied in a full-windsor in order for his words to be considered revelation. This final step is key as neither a half-windsor nor a four-in-hand will do.

  33. Chet
    November 20, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    A rhetorical question for the prophet’s 2nd wife – what is the difference between revelation and finally being unleashed to follow through with things one is concerned about?

  34. Miles
    November 20, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    The priesthood ban is the prime example of the risks of blind obedience. For decades church leaders were primarily concerned with what Joseph might have believed and they got it tragically wrong. If you see value in baptism and sealing and the restored gospel then maybe you would devote more thought towards figuring out what can be learned from the priesthood ban. I served my mission in a predominantly black area. Based on that experience I feel pretty confident that there would be far more members today if the church hadn’t sought to specifically exclude people based on race. Had the church membership demonstrated greater independent thought and moral integrity then maybe the leadership would have been inspired to fix an obvious wrong much sooner.

    The priesthood and temple ban was a big deal. Shaving an hour off of Sunday meetings is not. Your binary thinking puzzles me. It might appeal to people who grew up chanting follow the prophet but it won’t to most everyone else. I assure you, there is room for people who think different that you.

  35. queuno
    November 20, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    “I assure you, there is room for people who think different that you.”

    Sure, but only if they magnify their calling, help show up to the move that the EQ president has said we’ll help with, do the stake assignments at the temple, and bring the dinner to the sick family.

  36. hjisha
    November 20, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    Jonathan, I a happy to hear that in your family the outcome of the November Policy was so positive. Unfortunately, in my parlor, the elephant crushed the children and not exception was made. Hence, my struggle with the policy. If one child gets and exception why are not all children exceptional in the eyes of our leaders. The policy has been cruelly implemented. I am glad the elephant no longer lives in your home. I can rejoice in your good luck and still mourn and question my experience.

  37. GEOFF -AUS
    November 21, 2018 at 4:30 am

    Jonathon,
    There are so many areas within the church where revelation is needed. There is an article on the exponent about the objectification of women, the treatment of gays, broadening the understanding of what a member needs to believe etc etc.
    Should we expect that God would point the above out to a prophet, rather than him doing things he wanted to do for 30 years and now is claiming are revelation.
    Should a prophet not be ahead of the wave in seeing not only problems but solutions?
    I have been active and held a recommend since 1968 and I have been on missions for rhe church for10 years, but the prophets over that time when they were not suffering from dementia just did not perform as prophets, and did not claim to.
    Now we have Pres Nelson redefining revelation to the 15 agreeing.
    It was obvious for years that racism was wrong, but the leadership persisted in defending it.
    When I was married there were conference talks about how birth control was satans way of attacking the family. After 3 children in 4 years and the liklihood that my wife would die if there was not a gap, we had to ignore that teaching. Now it is gone.
    There have been various other revelations that have now been discarded.
    The equivalent to racism, is now sexism and homophobia, and we are defending those, and claiming the Lord is upset when we say mormon. The damage to gays and women and the church are continuing.
    What is a Prophet supposed to do?
    We obviously have different life experiences, and different understandings of what a prophet should do.
    On my mission I told people we were ahead of the wave because we have a prophet who can tell us how God wants difficult matters dealt with. I have been disapointed.
    I would love to have a prophet say I have discussed this with the Lord and this what he wants. I don’t see the 15, who act like sycophants in conference even when the prophet is demented, agreeing, as having much input from the Lord. You obviously do so good luck to you.

  38. og
    November 21, 2018 at 8:46 am

    ” how birth control was satans way of attacking the family. ”

    Ironically, one issue where they were ahead of the wave and saw the issues, you reject them and would attack anyone who would dare pick up that mantel.

    The fertility rate in the developed world has created several generations that look as if they were gutted by nuclear war. Vastly more people have not been born through birth control and abortion than died in both world wars put together.

    If God’s plan is to bring to pass immortality and eternal life of the spirtual children he created, by providing a mortal probation, it would seem Satan’s plan is to thwart that. And yet you beat the dead prophets over the head for their clear far seeing vision on this issue.

    Maybe its you who yet again fails to grasp some important aspects about the plan of salvation.

    To the kind hearted missionary above who sees error in lack of African baptisms, the church has struggled when we grow in areas that can’t support that growth. Indeed, a huge component of the 2-hr block and more importantly home-church curriculum is linked to church growth in areas where multiple buildings is not practical. (obviously the goal is not building management, but spiritual growth — so the church is reshaping the way we traditionally experience spiritual growth)

  39. JR
    November 21, 2018 at 9:26 am

    Jonathan, Your response to me is a reasonable inference from what I wrote, but not a necessary implication. I said nothing about presuming the apostles were all blind men groping in the dark like some of the rest of us. But I do find it impossible to believe that they have so overcome the limitations of human existence that they never, unlike the Apostle Paul, no longer see through a glass darkly.

  40. Roger Hansen
    November 21, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    The current trend toward calling name adjustments and minor procedural changes the result of revelation is disturbing. It trivializes the meaning of the word and our relationship with God. Prez Monson’s adding a 4th mission for the Church comes a lot closer to something that I would call inspired.

  41. November 21, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    There are a bunch of revelations that I consider problematic: polygamy, black priesthood and temple ban, LGBTQ+ discrimination, and female priesthood exclusion.

    I’m 73 and lived during the priesthood ban. It was ugly. On on my mission, a Canadian man married a Czech woman with a partially black baby. The couple wanted to have the baby sealed to them. They were refused.

    Hotel Utah was segregated. Rez McKay had to give permission for Ambassador Ralph Bunch to stay in the hotel. But Bunch was told he could not eat in the restaurant. A GA sent a letter to George Romney decrying his participation in the Civil Rights movemen. And the list of horrors goes on. Has the Church apologized. Hell no. And we are now making the same mistake with the LGBTQ+ community. And Prez Nelson gets revelation on meeting hrs?

  42. Missing Joseph
    November 21, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    I miss when we had Joseph Smith receiving actual revelation.

  43. Robert
    November 21, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    I have no issues with the revelations given under President Nelson’s tenure. He has mentioned many times that more is coming. And personal revelation is no small thing. My wife and I have had a lot of that this year.

    I have no idea if the policy in regards to practicing homosexuals is going to change. I do not know if it’s ultimately doctrine or if it is a “left over” from the “Law of Moses” that we are still a lot closer to than the true Higher Law of Christ. Not up to me to decide. Nor is it yours. We can do “damage control” in the meantime. Letting our family and friends know that we love them and will support them as much as we’re able to.

  44. November 21, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    I think most of my responses would involve repeating myself at this point, but there may be a few things worth mentioning.

    Hjisha, that’s a fair point. I can only explain what’s worked for me, but I hope you find what works for you.

    JR: Also a fair point. I’d only say that sustaining the prophet sometimes includes acknowledging that they’re the ones who have been asked to squint through the glass.

    Roger: One of the most meaningful revelatory experiences of my life involved what to any outsider would seem like a minor procedural change. Please don’t minimize that experience.

    John W: You understand “the thinking has been done” to mean “the prophet has done the thinking, and therefore church members no longer need to think.” As I have mentioned a few times, that’s not what I’m saying, or any reasonable equivalent of it. Think of it like a mathematical proof. Members of the church have, hopefully, done the thinking that arrives at finding the statement “(5) Russell M. Nelson is a prophet” to be true. Somewhere later in the syllogism – maybe on the next line, but maybe not – is the statement “(17) Russell M. Nelson says he has received revelation.” There is plenty of thinking to be done at that point. A mathematical proof can take many directions.

    But it makes little sense to circle back endlessly from (17) to (5), because we’ve already accepted (5). That thinking has indeed already been done, and it’s a pointless waste of effort to repeat the proof of (5) when you should be trying to figure out what (18), (19), and (20) are. For the same reasons, we don’t split definitional hairs about the Word of Wisdom each time someone offers us a shot of vodka: at best it’s wasted effort, at worst we talk ourselves into doing something clearly wrong. It is a mistake to apply the heuristics of edge cases to central and paradigmatic examples, as I wrote at the outset.

    Missing: So if I understand you correctly, if you had only lived in the days of your fathers, you would have swallowed a camel instead of straining at gnats like you do now? Got it.

    To all concerned: I am not impervious to insult, but I have a high tolerance for it. Disrespectful language about the prophet and apostles, however, is about as welcome here as insulting my family would be in my living room, and will be dealt with accordingly.

  45. Clark Goble
    November 21, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    Missing Joseph, seems odd to say that since there have been pretty major revelations since Joseph. The doctrine of adoption that Brigham received and the vision of missionary work in the spirit world that Joseph F Smith received are both pretty significant doctrines received during visionary experiences. The assumption that revelation should primarily be textual seems deeply problematic. Certainly there have been prophets like that – Joseph, Isaiah, Ezekiel, John, Nephi. However the majority don’t appear to be like that. That doesn’t make their revelations any less revelations. We have third hand accounts of Elijah rather than the Book of Elijah and no writings by John the Baptist, but both are considered among the greatest prophets of all time.

    Roger, I don’t understand why what you’d consider minor changes are problematically called revelation. Like Johnathan, I’d say some of the more spiritual experiences I’ve had were probably to outsiders minor. The idea that even callings in church should come by way of revelation has a long history in our rhetoric.

  46. John W
    November 21, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    “But it makes little sense to circle back endlessly from (17) to (5), because we’ve already accepted (5).”

    You couldn’t have stated a more perfect example of the debate being over. You’ve accept him as a prophet, and therefore you accept what he says as a prophet not on the merits of what he says, but because he is speaking as a prophet.

    When the prophet speaks the thinking has been done/debate is over clearly means that we should back a position because of an appeal to authority (the prophet said so speaking as a prophet), not an appeal to reason (meaning, I accept/reject, maybe partially, x position because it makes or doesn’t make sense to me). To you, when the prophet speaks as a prophet, a faithful blogger shouldn’t arrive at a position on what he said through independent thought (unless such independent thought leads to 100% agreement with the prophet), but because they have accepted him as a prophet. Such a sentiment stands out in about everything you wrote in the OP.

    The main issue here is that you regard the prophet as someone who occasionally directly transmits the will of god and that this is clearly recognized when the prophet says so. Yet many believing members see the prophet as an inspirational figure who plays an important role in keeping the church organized but whose words and actions may not always be perfect revelation from god even when he claims them to be. Such an attitude does not mean that they reject the prophet as a false prophet or a pious fraud. It is just that they think that there is more room for independent thought and that if some thoughts don’t fully coincide with the prophet’s while speaking as a prophet then it does not mean that they are inherently flawed or wrong, just that they are different (why the need to declare one side in a difference of opinion to be inherently right or wrong). Discourse like yours only seems to polarize the LDS church and push people away. It is very black-and-white.

  47. Hjisha
    November 21, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    Jonathan what would work for me is to have the children in my family deemed exceptions to to policy. I have no control over finding a resolution. For some reason a petition was made on behalf of children you love to allow a prophetic revelation to be bent or ignored. In my case my family members did not have the kind of priesthood leaders or connections that allowed a petition to the first presidency to move forward. If we accept President Nelson’s assertion that the policy was revelation from God for the church to protect children why do some children fall outside the protection of the policy. This is when faithful members in my family wrestle with what it means when a prophet speaks. Insisting on using the full name of the church, shortening the block to two hours, and a focus on ministry restrict no person’s access to saving ordinances. Codifying the policy as revelation challenges the core principles of Christ’s teachings about turning children away and that all are alike unto God. I appreciate you can live with the policy because your family was spared. So many of the rest of us are faithfully mourning and hoping for change.

  48. Clark Goble
    November 21, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    It seems to me that the “when the prophet speaks thinking is done” tends to espouse a false dichotomy. After all we still accept fallibilism. I think though there’s a fair burden of proof to meet before believing he’s wrong. My sense from many discussions is that if the prophet says something different from what you already believe strongly that people just assume he’s wrong. That seems wrong to do. Rather I think we have to take seriously what the prophet says – especially when it goes against our deeply held assumptions. So for a certain class of conservatives that might mean looking carefully at Pres. Kimball’s talk The False Gods We Worship. For a certain class of liberals that might mean taking seriously the family proclamation or some of Pres. Nelson’s recent comments. I think often what happens is people brush aside teachings they don’t like without seriously inquiring about them both by study but also prayer.

  49. at
    November 21, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Is it correct of me, in interpreting the writings of some commenters, to conclude that there are individuals that believe that a hypothetical 17 y/o that dies without baptism because Church policy prevents the baptism solely due to his/her same sex parents would face negative consequences at the judgment bar of God for failure to receive the ordinance of baptism? Or that a hypothetical couple that did not receive the sealing ordinance solely because church policy regarding race prevented it would face negative consequences at the judgment bar of God for failure to receive the sealing ordinance?

  50. Hjisha
    November 21, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    At. I think you are wrong to assume that those who question the policy or the priesthood ban also question the depth and power of our Heavenly Parent’s love. We question the need for mortal children to inflict exclusion in our communities here on earth in the name of prophecy.

  51. at
    November 21, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    Hjisha, thanks for the respons. However, I assumed nothing and my questions contains no assumptions. Nor are my questions rhetorical or argumentative. If your answer to my questions is no, then it is no. I am not really seeking an answer to a question other than the ones I asked.

  52. John W
    November 22, 2018 at 11:51 am

    Clark, Jonathan is talking about the prophet words when he is clearly speaking as a prophet. Yes, believers do allow for fallibilism and accept that a prophet can misspeak when speaking as a man, but what about when speaking as a prophet? Then the general attitude is that the thinking is done and the debate is over. Take coffee for instance. Why are we not supposed to drink that? Because the prophets have said as much. You can talk about it and debate it all you want. But when you show up for a temple recommend interview and tell the bishop that you drink coffee and think that he should allow an exception, that’s not going to fly. There are many other examples where we are supposed to accept something as true simply because the prophet said so and further debate and thought are considered moot.

    My argument has been twofold:

    1) Accept that when the prophet speaks the thinking is done does apply to many instances and that that is what Jonathan and other conservative bloggers really mean.

    2) Make arguments based on the merits of ideas, not because that is what the prophet said. Jonathan says that liberal bloggers should accept many things because that is what the prophet said (as do you). In the bloggernacle the rules should be different. We should be able to argue ideas on their merits, not by argument from authority.

  53. jpv
    November 22, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    Clark:

    For sure JFS’s 100 year old vision of the Spirit World is an excellent example.

    Has there been any doctrinal/theological revelation since JS and his contemporaries (i.e. JFS).

    OD2 doesn’t really count it’s administrative, JS ordained blacks, so it wasn’t something “unrevealed.”

    ImI aware of a plethora of administrative revelation, but unaware of any doctrinal/theological since then.

    Any examples?

  54. November 22, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    John W., you may not be the best person to explain what I’m really saying, since the point of my responses to you so far has been that you don’t quite get my point, but we’ll set that aside.

    I do think it’s worth coming back to your point 2), since I vigorously disagree that online Mormon discussion should follow different rules. I would say that any discussion that claims to take place inside the context of Mormon thought needs to incorporate all the central planks of Mormon belief, and that includes the potential for inspired counsel through living prophets. Otherwise you quickly arrive at positions that contradict church teachings even as you claim to be having a Mormon discussion. This isn’t a hypothetical concern. It happens all the time, actually.

    You say you just want to debate ideas on their merits, but if you eliminate any reference to the authority of modern prophets, what’s usually left is either a purely secular framework for evaluating the merits or some kind kind of mainstream Protestantism. To come back to your coffee example, if someone raised the question, Should Mormons drink coffee? I would say no, don’t be silly, we’ve been counseled for a century not to drink coffee by our prophets as authoritative interpreters of scripture. An interlocutor who just wanted to argue the idea of drinking coffee on its merits could note that other Christians drink coffee and scientists find it benign or even beneficial, so why do I hate science and the Bible? And I would reply that in supposedly Mormon discussions, I see no reason to privilege perspectives that specifically reject central tenets of church doctrine.

  55. Roger Hansen
    November 23, 2018 at 10:11 am

    Jonathan and Clark, i’m not downplaying your personal revelations. I’m downplaying Prez Nelson’s assertion that name emphasis, meeting lengths, etc are revelations. They are very minor procedurals.

    My personal revelation told me the black ban was not doctrine. My personal revelation tells me the LGBTQ+ discrimination is not doctrine. Prophets are sometimes wrong. I’m frequently wrong, but I know what works for me.

  56. John W
    November 23, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    Jonathan, here is the problem. A part of you clearly wants to debate and think about Mormonism within a partially secular framework, but only when the conclusions drawn from these discussions, especially on hot-button issues such as the November policy, fall within a rather limited spectrum of agreement and affirmation with what the LDS leaders are saying. Understandably faithful discussions cannot be had when there is a large spectrum of accepted opinion, such as when someone says that coffee and alcohol should be legit or that we should consider the Book of Mormon fictional. But the spectrum of accepted faithful thought should be larger than what you are proposing. Some disagreement with prophets when claiming to speak as prophets on some issues, such as the November policy and whether or not to say “Mormon” and “LDS,” should be able to be expressed without calling into question the faithfulness or legitimacy of the person’s claim to being LDS. And that is what appears that you want to do in this post. If someone expresses a disagreement over a number of matters, instead of debating the idea on its merits you point out that they are on a slippery slope. This is divisive.

  57. November 23, 2018 at 11:37 pm

    Roger H: There’s no reason procedural changes can’t also be revelatory. As I mentioned, some of my clearest revelatory moments have involved what could easily seem like minor procedural matters. On this one, I’m afraid you can’t have it both ways. You can accept the possibility that my procedural fiddling was as much based on inspiration as Pres. Nelson’s recent announcements, or you can scoff at both of us for claiming inspiration for such minor things. Also, the experiences of Abraham, Jacob, and Paul suggest that names and name changes are not quite as insignificant as you suggest.

    John W: I think the better way to allow a broad spectrum of faithful thought is to take the approach of, “This is the best I can do with what I have,” rather than, “I am right and the prophet is wrong.” I think people underestimate the caustic effect of that second approach. After enough time considering the angle and the smoothness of the surface and the tangle of bodies at the bottom, I have concluded that the slope is indeed slippery, and there are plenty of people inviting us to try on a pair of skis.

    P: You’re not as smart as you think you are. Please go away.

  58. Roger Hansen
    November 24, 2018 at 3:41 am

    Jonathan, if you throw around the word revelation too frequently, particularly involving fairly trivial procedural matters, you devalue the word. Then when you have a significant change and use revelation it does not have the same impact. It’s like crying “wolf” too often.

    And when you use the word revelation regarding activities that appear very un-Christlike, then things become particularly dicey. Following leaders is not an all or nothing proposition. Was I wrong for believing that the priesthood ban was wrong? Was I wrong for believing Prez Kimball extreme attitude toward female sexuality was wrong? Was I wrong for knowing that Prez Joseph Fielding Smith’s distain for evolution was wrong? Was I wrong for not believing in the paranoid delusions of ETB?

  59. JR
    November 24, 2018 at 8:03 am

    Jonathan: “I’d only say that sustaining the prophet sometimes includes acknowledging that they’re the ones who have been asked to squint through the glass.”

    I rather think we have all be asked to do so, but for ourselves and our stewardships, and not for the entire church. If so, then it should not be surprising if there are sometimes matters of such concern to some that they are able to discern “through the glass” an error of teaching or understanding or rhetoric on the part of some prophets or apostles earlier than the entire Q15 squint it out in unison. I have been more concerned with what to do with such individual discernment — accurate or not — than with its existence. Taking the approach, at least in the context of public persuasiveness, that “This is the best I can do with what I have,” rather than, “I am right and the prophet is wrong” may indeed be the best way to handle such insights.

    That would be so much easier for some if there were more apparent humility and sometimes less reckless rhetoric from church authorities as well as from those who think, rightly or wrongly, that they have discerned something contrary to their understanding of contemporary church authorities’ rhetoric. On the other hand, “if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” I suppose that some things are worth going to “battle” on — some others may not be.

  60. November 24, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    JR: All fair points again. Thank you.

    Roger H: Indeed, you are wrong.

    For starters, we’re talking here about paradigmatic prophetic utterances, and not everything you’ve listed is relevant. But setting that aside…

    You’re wrong to frame what transpired as right vs. wrong when we have a perfectly usable, perfectly faithful framework of revelation line upon line. We used to have a certain amount of light and knowledge, and now we have more, and we are grateful for that increase. Was Lehi wrong to offer burnt offerings, when burnt offerings were later done away with?

    It’s a mistake to simply reject what a prophet has said, because you missed an opportunity to try to figure out why the prophet was so concerned, or what principles drove the prophet’s statements. You don’t have to look far to find approaches to evolution, for example, that deny any possibility of God in the universe.

    And it’s a mistake to leap directly from detecting a contradiction to accepting one proposition and rejecting the other. That short-circuits the hard work of trying to resolve the contradiction and eliminates the possibility of finding a solution that transcends it. Look at the comments on Clark’s recent thread about evolution; people are developing some really interesting approaches that fully embrace both evolution and traditional beliefs about God and creation. You miss out on all that by simply rejecting one side.

  61. Clark Goble
    November 24, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    jpv, I see OD2 as much more significant since it wasn’t merely administrative but also shot down a lot of false teachings that had arisen in the Church. I’d say many of Pres. Benson’s talks are pretty prophetic, although you could quibble that in terms of doctrine there’s not a lot new there. To which I’d turn around and challenge your premise that to be a prophetic utterance it has to be new. I’d point to the OT for examples of that. Heck, much of the New Testament. The idea that to be prophetic it has to be novel seems to me to be fundamentally mistaken. Further the idea that to be significant it must be doctrinal also seems fundamentally wrong, especially given the major prophecies in the OT.

  62. Roger Hansen
    November 24, 2018 at 11:21 pm

    ETB was anti civil rights, saw a communist under every rock, believed in the John Birch Society, wanted to run for VEEP under George Wallace. You don’t see any problems here? And referencing the OT. Really?

  63. jpv
    November 25, 2018 at 5:33 am

    Never said anything about it having to be something newly revealed (like from the JS era) to be prophetic or important.

    Just curious about anything revealed doctrinally since that time which I may have missed.

    Appreciate the response though.

  64. Mark N.
    November 25, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    P: it’s unfortunate that the claim has been made that you’re not very smart, since I can not find any evidence that you’ve said anything on this topic at all. At the very least, it would be nice if I were able to judge for myself.

  65. November 25, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    Mark, I asked P to move along because I was not interested in hosting his previous comment under my byline, and I will enforce that decision with ruthless disregard to the merit of anything else he might have to say. You can find more of his oeuvre on other threads and other sites and reach your own conclusions.

  66. Russell
    November 25, 2018 at 11:57 pm

    Miles wrote:

    “Had the church membership demonstrated greater independent thought and moral integrity then maybe the leadership would have been inspired to fix an obvious wrong much sooner.”

    The Church membership – the informed Church membership, anyhow, know that the Prophet is the only person on earth with authority to exercise all Priesthood keys. They know that any ordination not sanctioned by him cannot be valid. Therefore, the only option available to them, having moral integrity, was to sustain his position, regardless of what they themselves thought of it.

    The Church is not merely a social club, and the Priesthood is not merely a shorthand way of referring to its leadership cohort.

  67. Clark Goble
    November 26, 2018 at 1:06 am

    Roger, are you saying that if someone has some false beliefs that all their beliefs must be false? Do you not see the inherent problem there? I’d just say that I think there was a very noticeable shift in Benson after the mantle of the prophet fell upon him and he was more than an apostle. Whether you think his earlier actions mean you can dismiss that mantle I’ll leave for you to decide for yourself. For me, God takes very imperfect people often with very flawed beliefs and elevates them to something that transcends their beliefs. It’s not hard to find such flaws in the greatest of prophets. Peter? Didn’t he deny Christ? Why should we listen to him? Paul? Didn’t he persecute and violently accost saints? Why should we listen to him?

    JPV, I’d say that like Joseph Smith in the post-Missouri period most of the key revelations haven’t come in “thus saith the Lord” dictated texts nor publicly described visions. If anything OD2 is somewhat unique as the spiritual outpouring was shared by all the apostles and actually described. Rather most of the 20th century has followed a pattern more in keeping with the sermon phase of Joseph’s prophethood. Many of the key doctrines of the restoration aren’t found in scripture but in sermons we often have in only fragmentary notes. Some of these were later added to the D&C and “fleshed out.” (Say D&C 131 for example) But they were sermons and not revelations in the sense many want.

    Examples of that are rather common if you want to look for them. Again I’d point to Benson and in particular his statement that we’re still not taking the Book of Mormon seriously, which arguably led to a radical shift in how the Church dealt with the Book of Mormon. I’d say the Proclamation on the Family is a pretty strong example of this that exists in a quasi-scriptural form. More than likely it’ll get added to scripture eventually. While one could say there’s nothing new in it, the way it’s presented is quite important. Further the “not new” is again due to a slew of sermons over the prior 60-80 years by various prophets.

    While I know it’s popular to disparage Oaks, I think his writings on homosexuality which took seriously it as a physical character not changeable by a choice of will was extremely significant and changed a lot of views within the Church. I think his recent talk on women and authority also including a lot of important doctrinal points, some somewhat novel as Jonathan Stapley has noted. I could go on. We can debate what place all these have and how they relate to say the King Follet Discourse or the Sermon in the Grove. But they are doctrinally significant in the Church and have great influence. Nelson hasn’t even been President for a year but has made a lot of changes and has been emphasizing the continuing revelation aspect of the Church. I suspect over the next few years we’ll see some pretty significant doctrinal pronouncements. If he outlives Nelson, I suspect we’ll see the same from Oaks who is extremely informed and thoughtful even if some more liberal Mormons dislike his views.

  68. SRSLY
    November 26, 2018 at 2:34 pm

    Nathan G writes:
    “All of these quotes come from talks on Saturday about the schedule change. None of them refer to the name injunction.”
    Jonathon Green writes:
    “Nathan G: Yes, that is correct.”
    Nathan G writes:
    “So I am left to assume that this is a response to that criticism of the naming directive. If that’s the case, I don’t understand why you’re supporting that revelation with statements of unity about about a different issue.
    In fact, your post makes me wonder why none of the other Apostles took up the banner. Why were there no statements of unity and support for the naming issue?”
    Jonathon Green writes:
    “Nathan G: I decided that conflating the responses to the two was acceptable for my purposes here because the alternative – that the apostles were vocal in their unanimous support of one statement as revelatory, while engaged in a conspiracy of silence to cover up for the whims of a pseudo-prophet on the other – was too ridiculous to consider…

    All I can say is whoa…
    Committing plagiarism by removing and distorting context is dangerous, dishonest, and certainly anti-truth.
    The only question I have Jonathon, is if you really think that just because you cannot conceive of a way to combine competing facts if that’s REALLY a good reason to “lie for the Lord.”
    I can think of some possibilities why no one else supported the statement in this conference.
    a) No one else had received an impression on their mind to talk about it.
    b) President Nelson had not consulted with anyone else (either in the First Presidency or the Q12) about the strong (and possibly ill-advised) wording he chose to us.
    There are probably others. But it is certainly dishonest to conflate two statements that have different contexts, just because “ you couldn’t conceive of alternative” that wasn’t conspiratorial in nature.
    FTR, I’m more apt to agree with you about President Nelson’s claims of revelation regarding the “Proclamation on Doctrinal Purity excluding SSM members from church membership.” But I’m going to do so honestly, pointing out context even if I can’t understand it.

    Please don’t “help the faithful” by being dishonest. It really is no help at all.

  69. Troy Cline
    December 5, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    Ted!! Yes, to Ted!! I am practically standing in my office right now applauding you Ted. This revelatory force (to use Ted’s phrase) is, in fact, stemming from the lack of clout that leaders are feeling. People are leaving the church at numbers that SLC hasn’t seen in quite a while. The moral and spiritual authority of LDS leadership is being questioned more than ever before and these guys are not used to having their spiritual authority questioned. They have lived for decades with the popularity and deference that comes from being held up as the most righteous and wisest religious men on earth. They don’t like being questioned and things are beginning to come unraveled. By presenting himself (or being presented by others) as one who is caught up in a “rush of revelation,” Nelson is trying to shore up the Mormon base, the very core of believers. It will probably work. The core of the believers of Mormonism are probably loving this stuff. However, as said in an earlier comment, this kind of speaking produces zealots and ex-believers. That’s a very bad thing for the future of the religion.

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