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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : When Do We Quit Listening to / Following The Brethren? » When Do We Quit Listening to / Following The Brethren?

When Do We Quit Listening to / Following The Brethren?

Don - July 2, 2008

What critieria do we use to decide who and when we will follow?

Ok, the commandments are easy…we’ll follow them, or try to. But then again, some us might try to bend them a bit too. This post isn’t for defining what constitutes keeping the Sabbath holy, or what’s an honest fast offer, or whether cooking with wine is ok etc. etc.

Where do we draw the line, or define when counsel from the brethren applies to us and or when counsel does not? Maybe some would have to define “brethren” first. What about the Bishop? or the Stake President? What if they counsel us (either in a general meeting or privately) or extend a calling to us? Do we accept, no questions asked? If we like it then do we accept, if we don’t then do we have to “pray about it”?

What about counsel from the apostles? Do we consider their counsel just general counsel so it doesn’t necessarily apply to us. Do we have to pray about it and see if it applies. Do we follow the counsel we like and “feels” good to us and reject the rest using our agency as our reason?

What about counsel from the prophet or first presidency? Is that general counsel? Do we need to pray about it? And for those who feel we should pray and get a confirmation about any counsel – why should we – and what happens if we don’t get an answer, or the answer is yes – or the answer is no?

What about letters read over the pulpit from the first presidency? What about proclaimations like the one on families, or the one given in the early 1900s about creation. Or what about the proclaimation on blacks not holding the priesthood (that was never a “commandment”).

Where do we draw the line? And if WE draw the line, then whose church is it?

When do you quit listening to / following the brethren.

49 Comments »

  1. I feel obligated as a member of the Church to listen (“hearken”, which means listen closely) to the counsel of Church officers, general and local. I also feel obliged to cooperate to the extent my circumstances permit, treating my leaders the same way I would wish to be treated were our positions exchanged. But I do not think that just because a Church officer makes a truth claim that I am required to believe it, nor do I believe I am required to follow counsel just because of the person who gives it. I think that is the way God intended it, at least under the principles of section 121, which provide that “no power or influence can or ought to be exercised by virtue of the priesthood”, or leadership position, but “only by persuasion” etc…. Many of my brothers and sisters may be “persuaded” that a directive from a Church officer acting within his or her stewardship should be followed, almost without exception (or perhaps without any exception whatever). It may be one of my defects in character, but I have yet to be persuaded of that principle.

    I would also note that in President Eyring’s recent message of safety in counsel, he included an important caveat in describing his experience in following counsel: “Every time that I have listened to the counsel of prophets, felt it confirmed in prayer, and then followed it, I have found that I moved toward safety.”

    I also accept his suggestion regarding counsel that does not appear correct or applicable: “Sometimes we will receive counsel that we cannot understand or that seems not to apply to us, even after careful prayer and thought. Don’t discard the counsel, but hold it close. If someone you trusted handed you what appeared to be nothing more than sand with the promise that it contained gold, you might wisely hold it in your hand awhile, shaking it gently. Every time I have done that with counsel from a prophet, after a time the gold flakes have begun to appear, and I have been grateful.” Note he does not claim that all of the counsel was “golden”, but there have always been “gold flakes” within the sand.

    Comment by DavidH — July 2, 2008 @ 4:35 pm

  2. Since we don’t have an infallibility doctrine, I think it’s safe to question everything and ignore things that don’t make sense, seem nutty, etc. In other words a good LDS can sustain the apostles as prophets and ignore silliness like masturphobia, white shirts, G’s 24/7, conflicts between the modern WofW and section 89, etc. Our leaders do tend to be out of touch with the root cause of most problems in the church, IMHO, being the lack of a retirement tradition for apostles.

    Lately I’ve being staying active just to keep peace at home and have been debating whether to continue tithing. I decided to continue when someone recently quoted W. F. Buckley, something to the effect of: if you ever find a perfect church, you must accept you will have rendered it imperfect by having joined. Our apostles are people like us, imperfect and in need of redemption, entitled to make mistakes as are we all. But we need organization like the church to spread the good word, so I will continue to tithe. The sprit confirmed that was the correct choice. But I will also continue to ignore silliness.

    Comment by Steve EM — July 2, 2008 @ 5:02 pm

  3. On what principle hangs all the law and the prophets?

    If any ‘advice’ decreases my love for God or neighbor am I not OBLIGATED to ignore it?

    Comment by ed42 — July 2, 2008 @ 6:00 pm

  4. In the early 80′s president Kimball said “Plant your gardens.”

    I lived in an apartment and thought it didn’t apply to me.

    But one of the members in the ward offered part of his farm for members to garden on, and I turned down that offer, because it wasn’t “conveeeeenient” for me to go there.

    I regret not following the prophet’s counsel.

    Has the “plant your gardens” injunction been rescinded? I haven’t heard it repeated lately.

    Comment by Bookslinger — July 2, 2008 @ 6:37 pm

  5. Follow the Spirit, most of the time that also means following the brethren. In the rare event of conflict, I simply keep quiet and follow the Spirit.

    Comment by Howard — July 2, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

  6. I try never to compromise my own conscience simply to follow the living prophet. In my opinion, my conscience is a sacred right that flows from the principle of agency. Like Steve EM, I don’t believe in prophetic infallibility- I will leave that to the Catholics. In legal terms, I would say that the counsel of the prophets and apostles is entitled to a rebuttable presumption. I will assume that it is correct, and the burden of proof is on me to discern whether the Spirit is telling me something different. I am currently studying, praying, and pondering over what to do with the California SSM situation.

    Comment by AHLDuke — July 2, 2008 @ 8:23 pm

  7. Be fair: Papal infallibility is so tightly constrained and qualified that it applies to almost nothing the Pope ever actually says or does.

    Comment by Kullervo — July 3, 2008 @ 8:32 am

  8. I believe strongly in personal moral responsibility. I don’t believe that a person should question every piece of counsel or direction.

    With that said, I think that each adult has their own responsibility to know where their boundaries are. What they would be willing to do, and what they would not. I’m not talking about callings or speaking assignments here.

    I’m talking about clear lines – physically harming or threatening another person. Placing a child in a potentially harmful situation. Listening to verbal abuse. Keeping something a secret (like abuse) that should not be a secret.

    I think back to some psychological experiments (in the 60s by Milgram wikipedia link) where they showed a person taking direction to harm another human being. I saw the movie about this experiment (that Milgram filmed) and it was very powerful (I saw it in my psych 101 course).

    I’m not suggesting that anyone would be put in a morally compromising position. Just that I believe each person has the responsibility to know where those personal lines are.

    It may seem understood that one would never find this situation in the LDS church, even locally, but these types of situations are everywhere in every society. So – I guess what I’m saying is, not only should a person know where those personal lines are, they should enforce them. Whether or not the lines are crossed at work, at home or within a church meeting from a person with authority.

    Comment by aerin — July 3, 2008 @ 9:17 am

  9. I don’t think anyone should ever abdicate their morals or ethics to a human being or human organization, no matter how divinely inspired it may seem.

    Comment by Kullervo — July 3, 2008 @ 9:54 am

  10. Our leaders do tend to be out of touch with the root cause of most problems in the church, IMHO, being the lack of a retirement tradition for apostles.

    Yowza!

    I would venture to guess that between reading hundreds of letters from malcontented members, talking with their own children and grandchildren, meeting with innumerable local leadership, watching television, reading the newspapers, and keeping up with academic literature in a variety of fields–the GAs, speaking generally, are not as clueless as some might suspect them to be.

    Comment by JimD — July 3, 2008 @ 1:16 pm

  11. It seems like ever since …what? the Baby Boomer generation?…that people generally look for a way for them to be the exception to the rule rather than find a way to follow the counsel and/or commandments. We should be trying to find a way to fit in with the rest of church, to become of one heart and one mind, a Zion people. Are there exceptions? Of course! Will we be an exception? Rarely, if ever, if we can help it, though if we are then no big deal.

    JimD,

    Amen! I remember having some minor misgivings about this very subject until Elder Holland very powerfully testified to the fact in conference that the Brethren are more in touch than anyone. It was a wonderful spiritual confirmation when I heard it:)

    Comment by Bret — July 3, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

  12. Jim D,

    If they’re not out of touch why do we continue to send out bike riding missionaries wasting time going around in early twentieth century period clothing? Why do they look and speak like corporate America circa 1950-60 rather than 2008? Why doesn’t the Qof12 look like the church at large? I can’t be the only one embarrassed to introduce people to a church lead by 15 white guys. The hymn book and boring music program says it all. We’ve lost most of a generation and they just seem asleep at the switch. One could go on and on.

    And I don’t think it’s their fault. Being an apostle is a young to middle age man’s job and, being Pres of the church is a middle age man’s job. The older ones should retire, draw the pension they deserve and volunteer for suitable assignments as they see fit and have the energy for.

    Comment by Steve EM — July 3, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  13. Being a teenager, I probably don’t listen to the Brethren a thousands times a day.

    The times when I’m deliberately disobeying are the times when it doesn’t make sense to me to be obedient.

    Example: Do I go to Church on mother’s day and listen to people fawn over how wonderful their mothers are, or do I stay home with my non-member mother when I know we’re going out to lunch that day?

    And not too long ago, I was thinking about obedience and why it’s so important. I thought about the different stories in the Bible and the Book of Mormon where Heavenly Father leads His people to break His own rules.

    Example: Jael, the woman in Judges that put a nail through the head of a sleeping man because he was an enemy of the Lord… not exactly lovely, merciful, or praiseworthy on the surface.

    And I also got to thinking about a great post that I read somewhere (either T&S or BCC) that talked about local bishopric during the Holocaust; how there were brethren that supported the efforts of the Nazi party. Whether we like it or whether we don’t, just because people have the ability to be inspired doesn’t mean they always are.

    Obedience to the Holy Ghost, in my mind, is the most important kind to have because it’s more specific to situations that Heavenly Father provides just for you, and me, and the millions of others who don’t live the same life, or face the same challenges as the people around them. We are taught to be obedient so we’ll be able to recognize the still small voice when it speaks to us during times in our lives when it isn’t so easily distinguished.

    Comment by Paradox — July 3, 2008 @ 5:07 pm

  14. The unquestioning obedience doctrine promoted here is the death of the Church and the rise of a Cult. It is well known that Brigham Young preached against it on multiple occasions.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 3, 2008 @ 9:35 pm

  15. Steve EM:


    If they’re not out of touch why do we continue to send out bike riding missionaries wasting time going around in early twentieth century period clothing?

    If you mean the shirt and tie of the men, or the simple attire of the sister missionaries, it’s because of the professional distinction it provides–especially for young people choosing to serve. The missionaries are placed into a situation absolutely crucial to their spiritual development: the realization that vanity and prideful attention to their clothing is a waste of valuable time. And there are plenty of young people in the Church who would benefit from that kind of wake-up call, but will never serve a mission because they don’t have the discipline to make that kind of sacrifice. The Church should be praised for its efforts to overcome our society’s attachment to superficial label-mongering, not ridiculed.


    Why do they look and speak like corporate America circa 1950-60 rather than 2008?

    Because they respect themselves enough to be articulate, intelligent representatives of humanity at its best–which is exactly what the missionaries are supposed to share with people. Even if the people the missionaries approach lose their Books of Mormon, forget all about Joseph Smith, or ultimately decide not to be baptized, they will remember our missionaries for the example that they set. What you criticize as anachronistic speaking, simply because it doesn’t sound like the slang-ridden dialect of everyone else, is actually something we should continue to encourage in our missionaries.


    Why doesn’t the Qof12 look like the church at large? I can’t be the only one embarrassed to introduce people to a church lead by 15 white guys. The hymn book and boring music program says it all. We’ve lost most of a generation and they just seem asleep at the switch.

    OK, so I researched the lives of the Quorum of the Twelve. I took notes on all of them. Here are the fruits of my labor. I actually learned a lot of really cool things about the leaders of our Church:

    Packer – born in Brigham City as tenth of eleven children. Received his degree in education and worked as an assistant supervisor of the church’s Native American seminary program before he was called as a general authority. He ordained the first African American to ever have the priesthood.

    Perry – WWII veteran that went into retail. Served as an area president of central Europe in Frankfurt, Germany. Developed the institute program to better serve YSA members in the Church.

    Nelson – an MD from SLC who performed the first open-heart surgery in Utah. Has a long list of medical firsts in the state of Utah and is a well-respected heart surgeon.

    Oaks – Attorney. Was almost a nominee for the Supreme Court under the Reagan administration. Sent personally to preside over the church in the Philippines.

    Ballard – Businessman that has had several successful and failed business endeavors, including a franchise with Ford. Served in the military, and was president over a theatre in Bountiful, Utah that allowed him work with many different celebrities.

    Wirthlin – was a star football quarterback in college, but chose instead to serve a mission in Europe. Was a prominent business leader in SLC before escalating quickly through the offices of the church before finally being called as a GA. Is an excellent example of what it is to have leadership literally thrust upon you.

    Scott – Grew up in Washington DC. Became a nuclear engineer that has worked for the US Department of Energy. Served his mission in Uruguay and returned later in life to South America as a mission president.

    Hales – was a pilot in the Air Force and attended Harvard Business School. Has served in executive positions of four major national companies, including Gillette, Papermate, Max Factor, and Hughes Television Network.

    Holland – received a BA in English and an MA of Religious Education from BYU before attending Yale to receive a PhD in American Studies. He went on to become the President of BYU and founded the BYU Jerusalem Center. Received the “Torch of Light” award from the Anti-defamation League, an organization that works to stop anti-Semitism and advocates equality and fairness. Has also served as an Area President in Chile.

    Bednar – Was born in California to a mixed-member family, as his father did not join the Church until Bednar was in his twenties. Got his BA in Communications and his MA in Organizational Communications from BYU. Received his Doctorate from Purdue. Taught in several universities where he was distinguished as a teacher. Then became the president of BYU Idaho

    Cook – Studied political science at the University of Utah, then attended Stanford Law School. Has worked as a corporate attorney, was the executive and president of California Health Systems, and volunteered as a city attorney for 14 years.

    Christofferson – Got his JD (teacher of law) degree from Duke after receiving a BA from BYU. Served his mission in Argentina. He has practiced law all over the United States, and worked as a clerk to Judge Sirica during the Watergate hearings. He has also worked as a volunteer chairman of Affordable Housing in Nashville.

    So I have to respectfully disagree with the notion that our leaders are out of touch with reality, or that they don’t represent the members of our Church. The exact opposite is true on both counts. These are some of the most capable and diverse men in the country. They have attended some of the best universities in the United States in a variety of professions. They have served all over the world, and I find it especially interesting that their service would be so heavily centered in South America over 20 years ago, considering the shifts in our population today. Just because our leaders are white doesn’t mean they haven’t served among enough of their brothers and sisters to know their needs. To base such a claim on the fact that they’re white, and not on their experiences, is bigoted and unacceptable.

    And as for the comment about the church music, I gotta say that members of the Church are alienated by so much more than just the hymn book–like people that make blatant assumptions. And our hymn book is a great tool for reaching out to people of different religious traditions because we share hymns with other faiths. Because after having been in the services of other churches, and singing along with contemporary Christian music on CD’s, I’ve seen for myself that it’s not the same. Our Church music has something very special to it that you can’t just find anywhere. Why would we ever want to get rid of something so special?

    One could go on and on.

    But perhaps it’s better that one just doesn’t.


    And I don’t think it’s their fault. Being an apostle is a young to middle age man’s job and, being Pres of the church is a middle age man’s job. The older ones should retire, draw the pension they deserve and volunteer for suitable assignments as they see fit and have the energy for.

    Fortunately, Gordon B Hinckley’s life is a direct contradiction to that statement. The man was 97 years old and still traveling more than people even a third of his age. He didn’t use his age as an excuse not to do the work the Lord prepared for him to do, and neither should the apostles of our Church. Personally, I wouldn’t want younger men doing their job. It wouldn’t be fair to ask them and their families to make that kind of sacrifice. And chances are excellent that they wouldn’t have the necessary experience or spiritual development to do the job anyway! Our Quorum contains the Lord’s chosen. It doesn’t hurt to ponder that fact, but I have to wonder at how productive it is to question it.

    Great comment though Steve! It gave me plenty to think about, many points to research, and a chance to increase my testimony of the Church and the way it has been constructed. Gold star for you! :)

    Comment by Paradox — July 3, 2008 @ 9:48 pm

  16. Paradox,

    Happy Independence Day!

    To clarify, pre 1920 it was common for a man riding a bike to wear a tie or even a jacket and tie in cool weather. For a few generations now, that was/is period clothing. In 2008, it screams geekish dork! There’s an old saying “you only have one chance to make a good first impression”. If our missionaries don’t make a good first impression, which they don’t, few will ever hear our message. Are the GAs out of touch? Yes, most definitely, and have been so for decades.

    Regarding the circa 1950-60 corporate America look and sound, I was referring our apostles. They do not look and sound like contemporary professionals. They are hard to relate to, and I’m 50!

    Sorry, but our hymn book is sad and the music program is sadder. We don’t even have Amazing Grace! And thirty years after the priesthood band, shouldn’t we have a gospel choir just as prominent as the Tabernacle Choir? And then there’s BKP not allowing the Choir to be a choir at conference (they just sign the hymn book melody like the congregation).

    I never said our apostles don’t serve as well as they can until disability or death. What I did say is the church would be better lead by younger people and our tradition of service to death is unfortunate. Beyond the benefit of a young person’s mental energy, a retirement tradition would prevent recurrence of disabled presidents of the church. As well as GBH served, we will never know how handicapped he was by age.

    And yes, thirty years after lifting the priesthood ban, it is embarrassing we don’t have at least a couple of apostles of color. We’re a very diverse church in 2008, but an outsider wouldn’t know it by looking at our public leadership.

    BTW, BKP couldn’t have ordained the first Africa American, since JS ordained blacks. And why did it take until 1978 to lift BY’s curse on the church? Again, old, out of touch apostles.

    Comment by Steve EM — July 4, 2008 @ 9:41 am

  17. If they’re not out of touch why do we continue to send out bike riding missionaries wasting time going around in early twentieth century period clothing? Why do they look and speak like corporate America circa 1950-60 rather than 2008? Why doesn’t the Qof12 look like the church at large? I can’t be the only one embarrassed to introduce people to a church lead by 15 white guys. The hymn book and boring music program says it all. We’ve lost most of a generation and they just seem asleep at the switch. One could go on and on.

    Wow. So, because they don’t look the way I think an apostle should look, I don’t have to listen to them?

    Like I said before–Yowza!!!

    Comment by JimD — July 4, 2008 @ 5:18 pm

  18. I just re-read my #17, and it strikes me that my tone is a lot more snide than I meant for it to be. My apologies.

    Comment by JimD — July 4, 2008 @ 7:10 pm

  19. People in America today generally dress like slobs. So I doubt that mainstreaming on that score is really a useful thing to be doing.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 4, 2008 @ 10:32 pm

  20. Yeah! I just got back from Japan a week ago and EVERYONE over there wears a white shirt, suit, and conservative tie to work. Barely anyone ever wears shorts either and it’s blazing hot there with the humidity!

    Comment by Bret — July 4, 2008 @ 11:13 pm

  21. Kudos to Paradox! Steve’s counter remarks had me laughing that he didn’t state any new argument or even further detail into his distain for the subject, and only repeated verbatim what was already stated.

    It will be a sad day when the church gets a corporate make-over.

    The church organization is run similarly to a corporation, yes, but dear lord they are in no way a like. You want a 25 year old ASPIRING to be a prophet? That he needs to clime the church corporate ladder so he can become a GA? Take 12 seconds to look at corporate America and think if you realllly want that in the church. Seventies who are in their what, late 30′s, pining for one of the few 12′s spots so they can move on and possibly get early retirement? /shudder
    Did you ever think that they might not WANT to retire if they had the option? Think about two choices, one between a man half way through his life who has a family to take care of, watch grow up etc, and who wants to finish working so he can spend time with the ones he loves and sip lemonade on a beach as he gets old. Then take the other one, who has seen his family come and go and start their own, who has alllll the years of experience working, and allll the years of family life already BEHIND him, who has no more ambitions and has met his life’s goals and is accomplished. Which would you want to lead our church?

    I’m sure there’s a few nice things about corporations that could be said, but after being on the receiving end of a $1.37 check profit share program where the C.E.O.s of my airline received upwards of a 80 million dollar bonus, they just seem to escape me at the moment.

    Comment by Bryce — July 5, 2008 @ 2:57 am

  22. Do you have any idea how childish you sound when you refer to “white guys” or “white men” in this way. Not only is it racist, but it sounds like it is coming straight from the mouth of a college sophomore who took one to many humanities or anthropology classes while a freshman and now thinks he has all the lingo he needs to hold his own in an “intellectual” debate about world issues.

    I once had a student in one of the classes I teach that said, “But the Founding Fathers, they were just a bunch of white men.” That was it, that was his comment on the topic under discussion.

    The Founding Fathers of our nation were just “white men.”
    Well, I believe that he was technically correct. But the fact that this student, himself, was a “white man” was just too funny.

    Get over it. Next time you watch a basketball game with friends, after it is over and everyone is talking about it, say, “Yea, but they were just a bunch of black men.” I think even you’ll be surprised at how ignorant you sound.

    Comment by sam — July 5, 2008 @ 7:16 am

  23. And yes, thirty years after lifting the priesthood ban, it is embarrassing we don’t have at least a couple of apostles of color. We’re a very diverse church in 2008, but an outsider wouldn’t know it by looking at our public leadership.

    I didn’t know that diversity could be measured based upon skin color. It is conceivable that two white men sitting in a room could, between themselves,possess a broader range of experience than a white man and a black man sitting together in a different room. One may think diversity can be easily distilled into issues of race, but that is a gross oversimplification.

    Comment by sam — July 5, 2008 @ 7:26 am

  24. Ya know, steveEM, you listed all the commandments, customs, or guidelines that you don’t like, (“silliness like masturphobia, white shirts, G’s 24/7, conflicts between the modern WofW and section 89,”) you raised concern about the apostles early 20th Century style, you are upset that the hymnbook doesn’t have Amazing Grace, you even gripe about missionaries being on bikes.

    You are revealing more about yourself than you are about the Church.

    Comment by sam — July 5, 2008 @ 7:31 am

  25. Steve EM, Sorry about that last comment. I was out of line and I apologize.

    Comment by sam — July 5, 2008 @ 7:35 am

  26. if you ever find a perfect church, you must accept you will have rendered it imperfect by having joined.

    BTW Oaks – Attorney. Was almost a nominee for the Supreme Court under the Reagan administration. Sent personally to preside over the church in the Philippines.

    Also acting dean of Chicago’s law school …

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — July 5, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

  27. Sam,

    No problem and no offense taken. I’m a native New Yorker (now in Houston) with much tougher skin than your typical LDS.

    To clarify (acknowledging that I clarified to someone else in an earlier comment that another commenter erroneously criticized as rehash), I never protested missionaries on bikes. I protested missionaries on bikes wearing a tie. Sorry, but it’s dorky and doesn’t make a good impression. Unlike the common LDS fashion geek wearing a short sleeve shirt with tie, a missionary on a bike wearing a tie in 2008 is screaming cult and wasting his time as a missionary (not that it’s the missionary’s fault). The issue Don raised is when does one follow our leaders, and in this case a young person following church counsel is flushing their time down a toilet and making bad PR for us at the same time, all thanks to out of touch GAs.

    Oh, the day white shirts becomes a commandment is the day we have become a cult and my request for name removal goes in. I was mocking the white shirt GA uniform, a circa 1950 corporate uniform, again, they’re out of touch.

    BTW, except for some rouge Bishops/SPs, the church has largely moved on from masturphobia, thank G-d! So reform to a saner church is possible. I brought it up because in my youth the church was big on masturphobia and the prostate gods are now having their revenge on those who followed that nonsense rather than keep their plumbing healthy. That’s not even to start on the life long sexual dysfunction in both sexes that masturphobia can cause. Again, bad advice not to be followed (at least it’s advice from the past).

    Regarding race, if we’re supposed to avoid the appearance of evil, shouldn’t we also avoid the appearance of bigotry by having a few apostles of color? Sorry again, but I find 15 white guys at the top embarrassing in 2008.

    In short, I rely on decades of experience that it’s prudent to questioning leaders’ counsel and only follow what makes sense because much of it is utter nuts!

    Comment by Steve EM — July 5, 2008 @ 2:53 pm

  28. I know this will sound like a very naive statement, but I still believe that Apostles are called by God. He didn’t call 15 “white guys,” he called 15 men who were foreordained to help lead this church.

    Comment by Tammy — July 5, 2008 @ 3:50 pm

  29. He didn’t call 15 “white guys,” he called 15 men who were foreordained to help lead this church.

    God works in mysterious ways!

    Comment by Steven B — July 5, 2008 @ 4:23 pm

  30. Although Steve EM’s comments have caused an interesting diversion, I don’t feel like the initial question has been adequately answered. Of course there really is no good answer.

    With all the bloggernacle talk of rejecting the FP letter concerning SSM legislation, all I can think is, “I understand people’s issue and motivation, but where will it end?” What special criteria does the letter meet that one is free to reject of accept it, but not other pieces of doctrine? As Don brings up, can you accept or reject a calling? A visiting teaching assignment? The Word of Wisdom? The prophets and apostles surely prayed to the Lord to know if they should issue this letter and they received the answer to move forward with it. So what does that mean for your faith if you reject it or believe they are out of touch? It logically follows that the prophet cannot correctly discern God’s will. Which then leads you to doubt everything else they have to say.

    I feel this issue acutely because I have yet to make peace with the temple’s endowment session. The only way I can stay active is by not going and believing that some of the ceremony is simply wrong. But once you admit that, you wonder why then the prophet cannot discern that it is so, and everything else falls a part. You wonder what other revelations have been incorrectly put into action. It’s a slippery slope and indeed and easily puts you where I find myself now, in a very hazy gray area of faith.

    Comment by Katie — July 5, 2008 @ 4:35 pm

  31. Katie,

    If it helps, I separate the endowment from the presentation of the endowment (which needs a major overhaul and a half). I beleive the latter is supposed to bring you to the former. In that regard I believe the Kirkland endowment was a free form version of our endowment and may have accomplished the objective better for those who had the patience. I sure wish we dropped more symbols whose meaning has been lost to modern LDS. An endowment based on The Matrix trilogy would be great. My guess is this is a topic that bothers young LDS and by the time someone becomes Pres of the Church (who’s the only person who can change it), they’ve foggoten what bothered them and are overwhelmed with the daily affairs of the church.

    I have a testemmony of the WofW preached as a good practice, not as a requirement. Until we canonized HJG’s four don’ts, what is the WofW anyway? It’s certainly not Section 89.

    Regarding the legal definition of marriage letter, I’m not in California so there’s nothing for me to immediately consider. I will say I think the church’s stance has far more to do with polygamy than gay marriage, as I can’t imagine there ever being enough gays to warrent this level of concern.

    Don’t sweat things so much. Doubt is healthy.

    Comment by Steve EM — July 5, 2008 @ 6:17 pm

  32. Nicely said Katie.

    A couple of people have mentioned the idea of ‘prophetic infallibility’ a doctrine we supposedly don’t subscribe to in this religion – but in reality many LDS do. Like for example everyone in the ward I grew up in. Or my entire extended family. Or everyone in my YSA Relief Society. For them, when the prophet (or bishop/stake president/mission president/seminary teacher) has spoken, the thinking really is done. We are a culture of obedience. (Remember primary? Seminary? The MTC?) I will admit that until a few years ago, I was of this same mindset, happy to let church leadership be my “time and troublesaver,” willing to do whatever was asked of me.

    Over the past few years however, I have come up against some major life issues that I just can’t seem to reconcile to the teachings of the brethren. There are things that come from the pulpit that I just can’t accept as being from God. So I’ve reconciled myself to the notion that sometimes they speak as men, and sometimes they speak as prophets, but as Katie said, it’s difficult to know where to draw the line and once you start, it really is a slippery slope. So I guess all I can say is that you follow the brethren until their words are drowned out by the voice of your own God-given conscience.

    Blind obedience is a bad habit that the church has fallen into. I think there is such a thing as healthy dissent. We’re allowed to ask questions. The whole church is based on a simple question. I think it’s when we as a church start to question more that we will move forward.

    Comment by JaneW — July 5, 2008 @ 6:18 pm

  33. Thanks for your comments Steve and Jane.

    Steve-I basically feel the same way about the endowment-I try to separate the truths of the endowment from the actual presentation. I actually love the idea of the temple, but I am crushed by the form it currently comes in. I just wonder why the prophet does not feel inspired to change it. Which makes me wonder about the big scheme as well.

    I’m interested in what your interpretation of the WOW means practically in your life. Do you break the current standard of it? Are you then still active, but without a calling?

    Comment by Katie — July 5, 2008 @ 6:40 pm

  34. Katie,

    I’m active but mainly to keep peace at home. I tithe because I beleive we need the church organization although it needs much improvement. I follow the four don’ts for now, but have no testimony they are a requirement, although certainly a good idea.

    BTW, there are many calling in the church for people w/ WofW problems.

    Comment by Steve EM — July 5, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

  35. For them, when the prophet (or bishop/stake president/mission president/seminary teacher) has spoken, the thinking really is done.

    Jane, please don’t confuse a subjectively different thought process with the objective absence of thought.

    The fact that people don’t think like you do doesn’t mean they don’t think at all.

    Comment by JimD — July 6, 2008 @ 4:26 pm

  36. This is certainly an interesting discussion. May I back track to the original question. It is always all right to pray about whatever advice is given by anyone. If it is all right to say I don’t want so and so to visit then it is all right to say I can’t visit so and so. It is all right to say I am too busy to be a visiting teacher. In fact it would be preferable to saying yes and then not doing it. It is all right to turn down a calling. You know your circumstances better than anybody else. Everyone is entitled to confirmation from the spirit that that calling is indeed what the Lord wants them to do.

    There is a difference between living by the spirit and finding fault. It is not a fine line and each of us knows which side of the line we are on most of the time.

    Comment by stepheany — July 6, 2008 @ 7:31 pm

  37. It’s not my post, but I thought this was quite relevant to a part of the topic discussed here. I think the key to following the Spirit is humility. If you are not humbly seeking, then you are not able to hear the Spirit of God. There are other spirits, however, which are ready and willing to “inspire” you to follow your own will. I have found when I am truly seeking Spiritual confirmation, it comes in the form of obedience far more often than it suggests that I should go my own way.

    There is nothing blind about obeying because the Spirit has prompted you to do so, even though your own understanding would lead you another way.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 7, 2008 @ 4:10 am

  38. I do think our obligation to “follow the Brethren” when it comes to exercising our governmental duties–e.g., voting on candidates and in referenda–is different from our duty in how we otherwise live our lives. As I noted at another blog, the Church’s statement on political neutrality expressly provides that LDS governmental officials are not expected to follow Church positions, but to exercise their own judgment:

    “Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent.”

    I would note that the same principle is true for LDS judges and other nonelected officials, and I think should be true for LDS voters exercising their governmental responsibilities by voting.

    Comment by DavidH — July 7, 2008 @ 7:59 pm

  39. I agree with a fair amount of Steve EM’s comments about some of our Church policies seeming to be in a time warp, but I do not think it is entirely a consequence of the age of our leadership.

    Some of the extraordinary conservatism in implementing change, in my view, comes from our teaching that the “doctrines of the gospel” never change, and our cultural view that the church organization is largely “perfect”, although we members are not.

    Some of the reluctance to change is, in my view, a healthy recognition that it is hard to effect lasting change in an organization as large as ours, with members of all ages. I once heard a saying (which I cannot find even with google) to the effect, “If there is no need to change, there is need not to change.”

    It was tough to largely eliminate polygamy, and it was tough to enforce the Word of Wisdom. Each time a ward or stake is split or combined or dissolved, feelings may be hurt, connections and church activity may be lost.

    For example, in my opinion, there is no reason to continue to encourage use of “thee” and “thou” in public prayers, to avoid all crosses in Church facilities, or for BYU to ban facial hair on men. But I think those practices have become so ingrained in our lives and culture that a lot of members might say–”Gosh, what next?”

    Comment by DavidH — July 7, 2008 @ 8:20 pm

  40. Quick observation.

    Doubt is healthy? Didn’t Jesus often command us not to doubt, only believe.

    Comment by jer — July 8, 2008 @ 3:55 pm

  41. OK, in God, Jesus and HG I trust. All others pay cash.

    Comment by Steve EM — July 8, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

  42. Whether by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

    Of course, if you don’t believe in Modern Revelation, than this scripture is moot. So here’s another one.

    And then there’s this.

    One more.

    But Steve, I’m confused. It’s as if you truly want to believe, but you just can’t bring yourself to. Or perhaps it’s the other way around?

    Comment by cheryl — July 8, 2008 @ 6:13 pm

  43. Cheryl,

    I have faith in Jesus that he will be there for me at the judgment and the judgment will pass over me. So it’s not that I want to believe, I am a believer, hence my handle, EM (Evangelical Mormon). But as far as his servants always speaking for Him, I have to rely on decades of experience that those servants sometimes are speaking for themselves, not Jesus. I’ll add there’s a reason Jesus warned us about false prophets. Blind obedience has never been part of the Gospel of JC. Think of me as an LDS Martin Luther nailing needed reforms on the temple door.

    Comment by Steve EM — July 8, 2008 @ 8:49 pm

  44. Except in Martin Luther’s case, he was moved by the Spirit of Christ to do what he did, thus creating a way for the return of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Earth, because without him, there would not have been religious persecution and a movement West (give or take a few different cases, and a couple hundred of years, but you get the idea).

    Are you saying that the Holy Ghost has told you to call the Mormon people to repentance? Or that their (and your) religion is unfounded and corrupt?

    I mean this sincerely. I hold no malice towards you.

    P.S. AH! I always wondered what the EM stood for.

    Comment by cheryl — July 8, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

  45. Cheryl,

    It’s not a matter for me to call fellow Mormons to repentance (I am imperfect and in need of redemption as much as the rest of us). Like Luther, I have no desire to start a new church but to reform the one I’m in. So I just point out obviuos needed reforms.

    My thesis is orthodoxy dooms us to apostasy because in any organization mistakes are inevitable and under orthodoxy those errors become entrenched with no corrective reform mechanisms to get the church back on track. I think DavidH hit the nail on the head.

    How do you think we got to the sorry state where for most LDS it is on the LofC and the WofW that hangs all the law and all the prophets? Just because someone is called of the Lord doesn’t mean they can’t fail in the calling. In sustaining our leaders, we’re supposed to help them succeed in their callings. If we remain silent when things are as screwed up as they are, our sustaining support is meaningless.

    Comment by Steve EM — July 8, 2008 @ 9:41 pm

  46. Steve-
    You sound like my MIL. In a way, it’s a compliment. She’s honest, hard-working, and very compassionate. But she feels she knows better than the Prophets/Apostles/Leaders of the LDS church, and that they are ignorant and old fashioned.
    You also remind me of the Captain Moroni when he assumed Pahoran wasn’t doing his duty.

    I guess this is where we differ. I see imperfect people trying to navigate through a perfect church. And frankly, I would much rather rely on Men and Women who have been ordained and set apart by the Priesthood of God to lead and guide us, rather than my own personal knee-jerk reactions because I might not immediately agree with what has been taught. I mean, if we didn’t need them (i.e. Prophets), why would God be so adament about giving them to us for our benefit, and then command us to obey?

    But thank you for giving me something to ponder. You’ve only strengthened my resolve to follow their counsel.

    Comment by cheryl — July 9, 2008 @ 9:54 am

  47. This discussion reminds me of a conversation I had with my brother about polygamy. Being from New England, I grew up as the only latter-day saint in my high school (not counting my brother and sisters), and I was frequently asked questions about it. Being so outnumbered, I found myself using defensive tactics to respond to their, “How many moms do you have?” types of comments. I would argue that some marriages were custodial, that there was a severe depletion of men in that area, that polygamy has been renounced as a practice since 1890…but it never sat very well with my insides.

    It wasn’t until talking about it with my brother that I realized I had been wrong in my approach towards this subject. I had always tried to rationalize the doctrine on my own, however my brother described his experience (just for context, realize that I had never previously described my frustration about understanding this doctrine. Polygamy happened to come up, and he volunteered his testimony without knowing my feelings about it) – of praying for a testimony of the doctrine of polygamy. He described receiving a strong testimony that it is a true principle, and of God when practiced correctly.

    I agree with lots of people who have posted comments, so I’m afraid I’m not offering much “new” here, but I want to restate the idea in my own words: I believe that when we receive counsel from leaders (anywhere – seminary, General Conference, the temple endowment, sacrament meeting, personal interviews, etc.) we should not try to rationalize the counsel, but rather humble ourselves and pray with faith to know if the counsel is true.

    Yes, we should ask questions – but to whom? Certainly not another mortal. We should ask our Heavenly Father; he knows us and our needs.

    I am convinced that oftentimes we can receive revelation that includes a rational explanation for doing something. A personal example: dressing modestly. I’ve always felt like it was a good idea, because I feel more comfortable with the way men look at me, because of the way I act differently, etc. however, more important than searching for a rational reason for following counsel from prophets and leaders is gaining a personal testimony of the truth of their counsel. I think this means that there WON’T always be a rational explanation behind every principle. This is the time for using faith; not faith in our prophets, but faith in Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father’s perfect understanding and love for us. This makes sense to me; I don’t go to the GA’s when I have issues with the lace on my G’s or sustaining Priesthood in Priesthood meetings only. I go to Heavenly Father, and he answers my prayers with feelings of comfort and assurance that what I am doing is right, even though I don’t understand why.

    It should be noted that Heavenly Father answers prayers in his own way, in his own time, and that he does this out of the deepest, most perfect love for us, his children. So the answer doesn’t come right away; that means I need to continue praying, and obeying.

    I think there will be times that we must seek for personal revelation about a specific matter, like spending time with your non-member mother on mother’s day, or whether or not it actually is right for you to take the calling that has been extended to you. Or what about the decision of when to get married? I certainly would have to get on my knees and ask Heavenly Father if it’s right if a Prophet told me who I am supposed to marry!

    I know this is a long comment, so I hope you’ll read. I just want to say that although I don’t understand everything about the temple, I do understand the feelings I have inside the temple, and I know it’s very good. If you get on your knees and sincerely, humbly ask Heavenly Father to help you gain faith that it is good, He will answer your prayers, and you will know that it’s good, too. I specifically worded this as an if-then statement, and not a for-all-of-you-who-struggle statement, because it’s something that EVERYONE should do. Continually, faithfully, fervently. Isn’t that the definition of religion?

    Comment by kalzbeta — July 9, 2008 @ 10:55 am

  48. *sorry I meant to write “who to marry” not “when to get married”

    Comment by kalzbeta — July 9, 2008 @ 11:01 am

  49. Where do we draw the line, or define when counsel from the brethren applies to us and or when counsel does not? Maybe some would have to define “brethren” first. What about the Bishop? or the Stake President? What if they counsel us (either in a general meeting or privately) or extend a calling to us? Do we accept, no questions asked? If we like it then do we accept, if we don’t then do we have to “pray about it”?

    So, Don, a direct answer to your questions:
    When people who have stewardship over us give us counsel, direction, advice, extending of callings, revelation, prophecy, new programs/doctrine/scripture, commandments, etc. we must always ask Heavenly Father to help us know that it is true.

    However, the principle of D&C 58:26 also suggests we must also sustain our leaders through our ACTIONS.

    This is how I feel comfortable going about the process: first, praying to Heavenly Father to help me know that what I am about to do is true, good, of God, etc.
    second, do what I am counseled to do.

    Note that I never included where I need the answer to my prayer to be. It could be before, it could be while I’m praying, maybe right after, maybe weeks later. But actively sustaining my priesthood holders DOES mean actively following their counsel, WHILE ALSO actively asking my Heavenly Father to help me know it’s right.

    Note also that I specifically did not say to ask Heavenly Father why in the heck I’m doing something that I don’t understand, but instead to gain faith of it’s truthfulness. He will answer in his way.

    Sometimes, though, I am not “a wise servant”, and my mortality requires LOTS AND LOTS of prayer before doing whatever it is. These are times when I will pray more fervently, and trust more closely in my feelings, praying not just for faith in the principle, but faith in my faith.

    I think that often you do not gain a testimony of a principle until you actually DO it. So, instead of being unwise, I think we should try our hardest to continually ask Heavenly Father for help while actively doing our best to sustain counsel from His prophets on earth by obeying their counsel.

    Comment by kalzbeta — July 9, 2008 @ 11:18 am

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