God and Public Policy

We who are LDS believe that the President of the Church is God’s official spokesman on the Earth. It is widely assumed that the Prophet may, at least on occasion, speak directly with God, face-to-face. There are, of course, 1001 arguments as to what the prophetic mantle really entails. We could spend countless hours debating de facto prophetic “infallibility” whether and in what ways the prophet could ever “lead us astray,” the parameters for prophets having their own “opinions,” in what contexts prophets are or are not “acting as such,” etc. etc. etc. We could discuss the Proclamation and debate its “doctrinal” status with respect to gender and marriage, or Pres. Hinckley’s apparent endorsement of the Iraq War, and debate whether he was speaking only for himself, or for God Almighty. But wherever you all come down on these specific issues, one thing seems undeniable: There is a presumption in Mormonism that, at least some of the time, the Prophet is giving us insight into how God Himself feels about certain pressing issues. And I see no reason to reject the presumption just because the issue being addressed is arguably “political.”

Assuming this is correct, here is my question:
“To what extent does the Prophet’s involvement or LACK of involvement in a public policy dispute tell us something about GOD’s interest in the outcome of that dispute?”

One possible answer is: It doesn’t. To the extent that the Church opposes legalizing same-sex marriage (for example), we need not conclude that God doesn’t want gays and lesbians to have the legal right to marry. The Church’s involvement is nothing more than an instantiation of the Prophet implementing his public policy “opinions” through the vehicle of the Church.

However appealing to certain “Liberal Mormons”this answer might be, my guess is that most members of the Church won’t find it satisfactory. Rather, most believe that we DO learn something about God’s will concerning the outcome of public policy disputes when the Prophet and/or Church get involved. We learn that God DOESN’T want gays to have the legal right to marry (once again, for example) and he probably wants us Saints to stand up and be counted among those who would defend the sanctity of traditional marriage.

If anything like this is correct, then it seems to me that we can infer quite a bit about God’s political preferences by studying Mormon history. One of the first things we could note is that the Church doesn’t get directly involved in public policy disputes very often. Thus, we can conclude that an issue must meet some really high standard to merit God’s active involvement (via the Church). By looking at instances when the Church and/or Prophet have attempted to influence political outcomes (and taking note of instances where it/he has not) we can draw some pretty firm conclusions about God’s priorities in the political arena.

Some conclusions:

1. God doesn’t want the State to sanction gay and lesbian marriages.

2. God has a real problem with gambling casinos.

3. God didn’t want the Equal Rights Amendment enacted into law.

4. God didn’t particularly care one way or the other whether or not the slaves were freed in the 19th Century–at least not according to what he was saying (or not saying) to Brigham Young.

5. God certainly didn’t think the Civil Rights movement in this country was important enough to lend any moral support to.

Other conclusions could probably be listed.

The Bottom Line: When I see the Church get involved in a public policy dispute, whether it be same-sex marriage or any other, I always ask the question: “Gee, why is this issue important enough to merit God’s interest and involvement, while these other issues were not.” And though I concede that my own political interests and priorities may not be the same as God’s, I find it difficult to see how an issue like state recognition of same-sex marriage has such important “Gospel” implications, while the abolition of slavery or the support for equal treatment of all God’s children under the law did not.

Anyone care to enlighten me?

Aaron B

Comments

  1. This post is a modified version of something I posted at LDS-Law several years ago. If anyone reading this experiences deja-vu, that’s why.

    Aaron B

  2. Wow, great post. The problem I see, as an initial reaction to your post, is that you could have the same issues by looking at God’s direct involvement (or non-involvement) in the affairs of men throughout history. Would you conclude that God wanted the Holocaust to happen, for example?

    I’m just not sure what the added layer of a prophet/leader does to the already perplexing question of why God lets bad things happen to good people… except perhaps that the prophet is always there, doing stuff, while God’s hand is not always visible to the public eye.

  3. Yes, fine topic that seems to be a continuation of the earlier discussion from Chain of Command. I’ll have to think of something new to say before commenting at length.

    The problem with positing a tight fit between God and conservative politics is it makes God look like a conservative Republican. Most Christians want God to be rather above politics, however much they assume He would approve of their policy preferences.

    The solution is to leave God out of public politics, whatever one’s private view of God’s political preferences. I think that’s the best approach. Political debates are contentious enough without dragging God into the discussion.

    [Note--that's comment on public policy debates, not about topics or discussion here. This is a great place to dialogue on such issues and I quite enjoy the variety of views people share.]

  4. “The solution is to leave God out of public politics”
    DAVE: Big Amen!
    And great post Aaron B.
    I, for one, will not go door to door or make financial contributions to defeat or promote any political agenda I don’t agree with. And certainly not one the church mistakenly gets involved in. Our friends in Laguna Beach opted out of knocking on their gay neighbors’ doors to hand out the Anti-gay marriage legislation propaganda! Sorry bishop, just couldnt’ do it!
    Instead of framing the Proclamation, let’s frame the statement of political neutrality. I liked the Manifesto suggestion too. Hilarious.

  5. While I certainly beleive in revelation, I also feel that personal opinions and bias make their way into statements and even (gasp!) General Conference addresses of the general authorities, GBH included. What I find interesting is how conservative LDS pick and choose what prophets statements they consider “the word of the Lord”. How many of them hunt, for example, or why did the Utah congressional delegation and many Utah Mormons support the MX missle system despite repeated remarks against it by Spencer W. Kimball? At least Pres Hinkley had the sense to state that he was giving his personal opinion during his War and Peace address from April 2003 general conference.

  6. Welcome Scott!

    Well, Lynne’s position is clear enough. But not having lived through the California experience, I can only wonder what my reaction would’ve been.

    I guess what remains unanswered for me is what I would do if the church asked me to act in favor of a political stance that I would personally disagree with. I guess I would do what the church asked.

  7. Kristine says:

    Steve, what if you didn’t just disagree with the church’s stance, but felt that it was morally wrong? Is that even a possibility? Or are you certain enough about the prophets’ connection to deity that you would be willing to abandon your personal moral intuition and/or personal revelation to support the church’s stance?

  8. when you covenant to consecrate everything to the church, is your personal sense of morality included?

  9. Kristine & Wendy,

    Such big questions! Both of you seem to be asking whether I’d abandon personal morality to adopt the church’s stance wholesale. I don’t think I was framing my comment in such general terms, and so I shall deftly sidestep your challenges! Ha ha! (but the questions do trouble me… let me think about it, and in the meantime let me know your thinking).

    I’m more concerned with how I would react if the church a) took a political stance on an issue, and b) asked me to do something (like put a sign on my lawn, etc.) to support their stance.

    First, that’s an unlikely and rare scenario. California is the old situation I’ve heard of in recent years.

    Second, we’re not talking about diametrically opposed stances here (yet). I can’t recall a scenario where the church takes a position that I can safely say is absolutely wrong. More often, the church just takes a slightly different tack, one that I wouldn’t necessarily take but within the realm of reasonableness.

    Finally, I’ve already noted elsewhere that I am politically disinterested, so the idea of putting someone’s sign on my lawn isn’t morally repugnant — it’s just bizarre. I guess I’d do it just because I am so personally apathetic on political issues.

    This is probably the least satisfying answer in the world to your questions. I apologize, and I’ll work harder in the future. But on the positive side, check out the new functionality to Bcc: “at-a-glance”! It lets you skim the 1st ~250 words of all the posts. Neato!

  10. Scott said:
    “What I find interesting is how conservative LDS pick and choose what prophets statements they consider “the word of the Lord”.”

    What I find interesting is how ALL LDS, both conservative and liberal, do this. I suppose if I wanted to express this insight at conservatives’ expense, I would say:

    “Everybody picks and chooses what they want to accept. Liberals do it openly and provide rationalizations for the practice. Conservatives do it and strive mightily to convince themselves (and others) that they’re not really doing it.”

    Of course, the interesting question is how individual members attempt to provide justifications for their picking and choosing. (We’ve seen some “liberal” examples in this thread.) The LDS preoccupation with defining what is and what is not “doctrine,” for example, is part of this project. If we can just dismiss something a prophet has said as “not doctrine,” than we can feel more comfortable in our rejection of his views.

    Personally, I’m open to anyone’s doctrinal line-drawing or rationalizations, whether conservative or liberal, provided people are honest about what they’re doing, and willing to confront examples from the historical record that may problematize their claims.

    Aaron B

  11. Steve,

    I suppose there is something to your claim that the dilemma I’ve posed is not unlike the traditional problem of evil that theodicies are designed to address. “How can I believe God would cure Sister Smith’s headache through my priesthood blessing, when he wouldn’t stop the slaughter of Jewish children during the Holocaust?” Perhaps not unlike “How can I believe God is so opposed to legally recognized same-sex marriage that he needs to enroll His Prophet in an effort to stop it, when he didn’t feel similarly predisposed to enroll His Prophet in an effort to secure legal equality for ALL his children?” The scriptural warrant for caring about the latter issue seems stronger than caring about the former. In fact, I can’t think of any public policy issue that would seem to warrant more divine input than the latter. Thus, you see the source of my concern.

    I am actually not intending to take a position on same-sex marriage here, per se. What I am interested in doing is problematizing the facile assumption that the Prophet’s political involvement necessarily tells us much about God’s ultimate political priorities.

    Aaron B

  12. You would put a sign on your lawn that says “I support a law banning same-sex marriages” even if you do not personally support a law banning same-sex marriages? Weird. If you are saying that in this particular case you don’t feel strongly enough to say you do NOT support such a law, that is something else. And anyway, my brother was asked by his bishop to go door to door collecting signatures to put the issue on the ballot in CA. So would you Steve would approach doors for a couple of hours asking people to “please sign this petition to put on the ballot a proposition that same-sex marriages be banned.” Response: “Why do you want me to do that?” “Because my prophet wants me to. Personally, I can go either way on it, don’t know that I would really care if not for this prophet thing.” What is ironic is that my brother is quite straight arrow, follow-the-prophet guy, but when you have to spend a couple of hours looking real people in the eye and telling them that you want to prohibit them from ever being able to get married, you start to have some second thoughts about the whole enterprise.

  13. Wendy, I think you’re right — it’s easy to discuss hypotheticals but a little more tricky in practice.

    Would I have gone door-to-door in california? I dunno. I think before doing it, I would’ve discussed with the Bishop the likely outcome scenario like you’ve pointed out. Perhaps sandbagging like that would have kept me out of being an active participant.

    Aaron, I like the fact that you’ve brought up theodicies, because I do see the problem of a prophet’s political involvement to be linked — after all, the prophet is, in LDS view, God’s spokesperson. So, I agree with you — we shouldn’t draw any conclusions about God’s intentions, based on what politics the Prophet takes (at least in the current scenario). But that’s also in part because we can’t draw general conclusions about God’s intentions based on anything He does or doesn’t do.

    Now, if a prophet takes a political stand and justifies that stance by saying, “this is what God wants,” then the stakes become greater and the dilemma of LDS believers deepens. I believe California came close to that situation.

  14. Steve,

    I think your comments might raise more questions than they answer. Are you suggesting there should be no presumption that when the Prophet gives instruction, he is articulating God’s will, unless he specifically says “this is what God wants”? We can’t draw conclusions about God’s intentions based upon anything he does or doesn’t do? How do you draw conclusions about what God wants then? And what good is a prophet if we don’t think his words serve as a conduit for conveying God’s will (at least some of the time)?

    I have a hard time seeing why anyone would bother to “follow the prophet” if they saw no connection between what the prophet teaches us to do, and what God wants us to do. What’s a prophet for?

    Aaron B

  15. If an anonymous faithful and sincere Mormon, and Gordon Hinckley, each kneel down to pray tonight and ask “God, is it your will that I work to enact laws prohibiting same-sex marriage?”, will God give to Hinckley a clearer answer than that he gives to the rank and file member? Will he give clear answers to both? Will he give no answer at all to the rank and file member — is giving the answer to the prophet, and then the prophet relaying the message to the membership, how God wants the process to work? Has anyone on this blog asked that question and gotten an answer that they are willing to share? If you haven’t asked, why not?

  16. Aaron,

    I imagine that the brethern can pick and choose which policy disputes to get involved in by asking about some things and not about others. It seems clear that God will allow things to happen that are repugnant to him–waiting for one of his children to show a little initiative.

    This is actually a new thought for me and I need to think it through more, but it explains why certain issues that may be personally important to a prophet also get a lot of God’s attention. It also seems clear to me that God can take clearer control of his agenda when it suits him, but that most of the time he waits for the question. Reminds me of a Tolstoy short story–God Sees the Truth and Waits.

  17. My response is posted over at T&S. The bottom line is that I think that most of these discussions are circular. We use our pre-existing beliefs as a criteria for determining what is “inspired,” which we then use as further evidence for the correctness of our beliefs. The trick — and it is some trick — is to find a criteria that doesn’t fall into this cicularity.

  18. Nate,

    I don’t believe the discussions are circular at all, because of two sources of inspiration in the church — personal and (for want of a better term) authoritarian.

    Aren’t you really talking about circularity in the personal revelation context? It seems to me that we’re supposed to be in the process of receiving personal confirmations of what the powers-that-be are saying.

    plus, I just saw that Kristine said pretty much the same thing at T&S. Out of the mouth of two liberals…

  19. Wow, Steve, that simultaneity was a little scary!

  20. I would also agree with Dave’s comment over at T&S to the effect that this is only going to become more and more of an issue in the church.

    Dave’s suggestion that the Church stay out of the political arena altogether is I feel unrealistic. Sooner or later, government is bound to entertain notions that would border our religious practices, and then the kid gloves will come off. We’ve already seen that it doesn’t take much for our Church to become involved in political situations, most notably CA and the main square situation in SLC. It’s been awhile since the last national church crisis (ERA? Any others?), but in my mind it’s just a matter of time until we have another one.

  21. Mat said:
    “I imagine that the brethern can pick and choose which policy disputes to get involved in by asking about some things and not about others. It seems clear that God will allow things to happen that are repugnant to him–waiting for one of his children to show a little initiative.”

    This is a really interesting thought. If true, does it suggest that Mormons who want to see a change in certain Church policies may not be hoping in vain? Does it further suggest that they could theoretically have an impact on a Church leader by their advocacy, causing the leader to rethink his position on this or that matter, thereby prompting him to take a question to the Lord that he wouldn’t have taken otherwise?

    And for those who find the above objectionable, is it objectionable because (1) such a process just couldn’t possibly happen in the Church; or (2) although it theoretically could happen, it is presumptuous in any given case for a common member to think they might know more than their leaders about a specific issue?

    (For what it’s worth, in a Journal of Mormon History article back in 1999, Lester Bush makes mention of certain Apostolic feedback he received concerning his 1973 Dialogue article on “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine.” The feedback suggested that his original article may have had an impact on General Authority thinking regarding the priesthood ban prior to the 1978 revelation.)

    Aaron B

  22. I want to address Aaron’s original question about the Lord’s priorities. But first let me mention that I, for one, do believe that when the Prophet speaks on an issue like same-sex marriage he is speaking for the Lord. What I can’t understand is how someone can believe that the Lord might possibley give contrary “revelation” to an individual member. Someone asked above about whether anyone has received an answer on the same-sex marriage issue different from the prophet. I have not. In fact, I believe wholeheartedly that the Lord has inspired President Hinckley and the other apostles to take the direction they have on this. I have a friend, however, who is convinced that the Lord has revealed to him that the Prophet is in error. I do not doubt he has received some kind of answer, but it is not of God. What purpose or meaning is there in having a prophet if each person can get their own different answer to important questions? Why study or believe in dead or living prophets if I can just get “God” to tell me the answers I want to hear?

  23. Now to Aaron’s question. Anyone who has been sealed and who has studied gospel doctrine learns something of the importance of eternal marriage in the plan of salvation. Eternal marriage is the crowning ordinance in this life and qualifies one for exaltation (assuming righteous living and obeying covenants). Those things which undermine marriage, thus strike at the heart of our Father in Heaven’s plan. Even if same-sex marriage is a civil ordinance, it promotes something that will never lead to the correct principle. Indeed the entire homosexual rights agenda runs counter to God’s plan for men and women, as does the liberal “free love” movement which has led us to where we are. The central role that marriage plays in the Plan, whether in or out of the Church context, makes it a higher priority. Children need a mother and father to be born and to be raised properly.

  24. Furthermore, state recognition of SSM legitimizes immoral behavior, behavior which I believe to be a sexual dysfunction with certain addictive qualities. It also will present practical challenges to teaching and raising our children in a moral environment. I would write more, but my four month old is not cooperating.

  25. Brent, I’m not sure how you addressed Aaron’s question.

    I could be wrong — but to me, it looks like you’ve provided a summary of a religious argument against SSM (in other words, the doctrinal inferences of a political position), without addressing the larger issue of how philosophically you make the leap from what leaders say to what God intends. For you, it seems to be a given that the Church’s political stance translates to God’s will concerning politics. I think what Aaron is getting at here (and Aaron can correct me if I’m off), is to examine the underpinnings of your assumption.

  26. Steve,

    Do you have any reasonable arguments to support a contention that President Hinckley’s (and others’) statements and position on same sex marriage is anything other than a pronouncement of the Lord’s will? The arguments I make, while religious are the underpinnings of why the Lord would want His church to take a stand on this. Taking the Prophet and Apostles at their word, it is clear why their position is what it is. Also, the role of the Prophet and Apostles is that of special witnesses of Christ to the world. Their jurisdiction, if you will, is the entire world. Those who have a problem with the Church’s stance seem to think there is a limit on what the Church can be involved in, that the Lord’s work should be limited to only the Church. This is inconistent with all of history.

    I would again ask anyone, what is the point of having a prophet if we believe he cannot or does not speak for the Lord in situations we do not like, or if he appears to prioritize issues in ways we disagree with?

  27. Brent:

    Do you have any reasonable arguments to support a contention that President Hinckley’s choice of what to have for breakfast this morning is anything other than a pronouncement of the Lord’s will?

    Obviously I’m being facetious, but there is a real question is how do we know which actions of church leaders are the Lord’s will and which are just their own best judgements. For example, which of the following would you just assume represent the Lord’s will:

    1. The choice of the color of carpet at a new temple.
    2. The overall architectural design of a new temple.
    3. The choice of which church president to focus on in next year’s PH/RS manual.
    4. The decision to not let women pray in sacrament, but then later to let them.
    5. The format of the new missionary discussions.
    6. Adopting the 3-hour consolidated meeting schedule.
    7. The decision to issue the Proclamation on the Family.
    8. The exact wording of the Proclamation on the Family.

    I’m interested to know where you’d draw the line.

  28. Brent,

    I have several problems with your argument.

    First, is that you’re not getting to the theory behind the belief; you’re bearing strong testimony as to the inspiration of our leaders (which I share, BTW), but you’re not examining the framework in which a Church leader’s pronouncements may or may not have the weight of speaking for the Lord. Your comments pretend that prophets are always prophets, in other words, and that’s just not so.

    Second, is that your total reliance on pronouncements from leaders suggests a converse that is troubling; that where the Church doesn’t see fit to intervene, the Lord has somehow granted tacit approval. That’s an untenable position.

    Finally, you’re not really pursuing this as a discussion on logical or philosophical grounds; your posts are more testimony-bearing, it seems to me, and justification for current positions than examination. For example, your assertion that “this is inconistent [sic] with all of history” is not provable nor disprovable by appeal to logic or reason, but by scriptures alone. This is why it may seem that we are all talking around each other.

    To be clear, I share the same faith you do in our leaders; I believe in the same set of scriptures. Your testimony to the board doesn’t change that. But we want to examine it a little more carefully.

    A side note: I’m curious about your question, “why study or believe in dead or living prophets if I can just get “God” to tell me the answers I want to hear?” — this seems to negate the role of personal revelation. Do you believe in personal revelation? If so, to what extent?

  29. Ed,
    It all depends. The Lord might care and might reveal his will as to each one of the examples you give, although 1 and 2 seem the least “important” (if that’s the right word) while the others begin taking on greater importance the more tied to doctrine and the greater potential they have to impact more people. The decision to issue the Proclamation and its wording, in my opinion, and based on testimony of those involved, is that clearly the Lord’s hand was fully involved. I also assume the Lord’s will in the decision regarding the missionary discussions and RS/priesthood lesson materials. Again, as to each example, I imagine the Prophet seeks to do what is the Lord’s will or at least what is consistent with it. Even where the Prophet is exercising his best judgment, I don’t see the harm in accepting his judgment.

  30. Steve, I think personal revelation is crucial for all of us in this life. In fact, one of my favorite scriptures is 2 Nephi 32:5 which tells us that the Holy Ghost will show us all things which we should do. Of course, this follows verse 3 which says the words of Christ will “tell” us all things which we should do. However, as I argued over at Times and Seasons, personal and other revelation reveals truth. Thus, personal revelation will not contradict revelation to the prophet. I take it your concern (and the concern of others here) is how to identify revelation from the prophet. I was trying to address Aaron’s statement that he didn’t see how same-sex marriage raised important “Gospel” implications.

    Maybe I don’t understand your question, but are you suggesting that my so-called reliance on “scriptures alone” is illogical?

  31. reliance on “scriptures alone” is illogical?

    Yes. Yes, it is. At least, in this context.

  32. Also, perhaps I have not fully explained myself, because my posts are an appeal to reason and logic, based on certain principles.

    1. God exists.
    2. He placed us here to learn truth.
    3. His truth is revealed through prophets.
    4. Truth is also confirmed and taught to us personally through the Holy Ghost.
    (See Moroni 7 for how the Lord allows us to lay hold of every good thing for a discussion of this pattern.)

    What I see from many of the comments is that they reject these principles when certain truths go against personal beliefs. What is the source of such beliefs? The philosophies of men? Personal issues? Who determines what is the right answer. Ultimately it has to be God. What is the source for knowing God’s will? Scriptures, prophetic statements, personal revelation. Where personal revelation is inconsistent with either of the other two, then I believe, because of our mortal weakness, we ought to defer to the pattern the Lord has set and follow the pronouncement of prophets, both ancient and modern.

  33. What exactly are you talking about? Whether the prophet can speak against same-sex marriage, or the arguments that we should make in the public debate about same-sex marriage.

    I was only addressing whether Latter-day Saints should support opposition because it is the Lord’s will as expressed by His prophet. I was not arguing that such arguments are appropriate in, say, the Ohio legislature.

  34. Brent:

    I don’t think you answered my question. Of course the Lord might choose to reveal his will on any small matter. But, as far as I know, the bretheren have not announced that they’ve received any new revelations lately, even regarding things as importatnt as the Proclamation. On what basis do you “assume” that such revelation was received? (I’m not sure what you mean by “the testimony of those involved.”)

  35. Brent,

    Steve is right to point out that your argument does not engage my question. Not that there’s anything wrong with making the types of arguments that you made, mind you, but they simply don’t interact with the issues I’m trying to explore. Believe it or not, I did not intend my post as a defense of same-sex marriage. I have not provided, nor have I attempted to provide, arguments as to whether SSM is desirable. I am simply using the issue as a springboard to explore a larger question that I find troubling.

    You say:
    “Their [the Prophet's and Apostles'] jurisdiction, if you will, is the entire world. Those who have a problem with the Church’s stance seem to think there is a limit on what the Church can be involved in, that the Lord’s work should be limited to only the Church.”

    I think you’re absolutely right as to their “universal jurisdiction.” But this insight only highlights the problems IÂ’m raising. My concerns arise precisely because I DO accept their limitless jurisdiction! If the Church’s role is to provide divine guidance for the whole world, and not just to parochially administer to the Mormon flock, then my concerns about the Church’s LACK of political involvement assume center stage. LetÂ’s assume your argument against SSM is entirely persuasive — I think one could make at least as strong an argument, scripturally and morally, that God disapproves of slavery, institutionalized racial injustice, etcÂ…. and yet His Church has a rather sparse record with respect to involvement in these issues. (Notice how I am coming at this from the opposite angle of, say, Dave, who argues that it would be better for the Prophet to stay out of “political issues” altogether.) What I am saying is that if the LordÂ’s Prophet is in the business of involving himself in the issues of the world, then itÂ’s fair to notice which issues apparently rise to the level requiring divine involvement, and which do not. I have suggested that the historical record, in this regard, yields a pattern (or perhaps a lack of a pattern) that is somewhat disturbing, or at least hard to explain.

    Finally, let me make explicit my basic underlying assumption: A God that chooses to intervene in the world, through His vocal human intermediary, will necessarily have something to say about the social issues I’ve raised. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I overstate the importance of racial equality and dignity, and understate the relative importance of opposing state recognition of non-traditional marriage practices, in the grand scheme of things. I freely admit that if one rejects my intuition (one that I believe is widely shared, though, even by conservative LDS members) that there are clear “Gospel” implications on these racial equality issues, then my whole argument may come crashing down.

    Aaron B

  36. Quick follow-up…

    Brent — I did not mean to argue that I couldn’t see any “Gospel” implications to SSM. I was trying to say that RELATIVELY SPEAKING, the gospel implications are less clear with respect to state recognition of SSM than they are with respect to the dignity and equality of all God’s children.

    Aaron B

  37. … and by “dignity and equality,” I refer to “racial” dignity and equality, not “gay” dignity and equality (in other words, that wasn’t a snide gay rights jab). :)

    No more clarifications, I swear …

    Aaron B

  38. Well, hell, I’ll make the gay rights jab, then: ALL of God’s children, including those who are gay, deserve to be treated with dignity and to have equal rights under the law. The trick is figuring out what that means.

  39. It is difficult to adequately discuss some of these issues in this medium. I feel like Moroni at times who lamented the ability to write effectively. I think I understood what your point was, and I was trying to argue why, in my opinion, SSM might be a higher priority than some of the other political/moral issues you identified. The problem you identified with respect to the church’s lack of involvement historically in other areas may be, and I am only speculating, the result of apparent improvements in such other areas over time. As the civil rights movement moved forward it was apparent that things would be successful, thus the righteous principle of equality and dignity was moving forward, even if only incrementally. What you have in the SSM issue (and related issues) is the steady progress of evil and immorality. Thus, only intervention can stay or slow such progress.

    I think when it comes down to it, a prophet, just like all of us, is mortal and subject to his own views and judgments. To the extent he seeks the mind and will of the Lord, then he will receive guidance on particular issues and not on others, not because such issues are not important, but rather because the prophet is limited in his mortal capacity to deal with all of the issues the Lord might have him deal with. Now, clearly, if the Lord wanted a particular issue to be dealt with, then He would specifically move the prophet in that direction.

    My comments mainly were to address what appears to be an argument that we can’t necessarily ascribe any significance to the issues on which the prophet has spoken, if such issues don’t fit what we view as more appropriate gospel priorities. Some of the discussion also involved whether or not the prophet and apostles are in fact wrong in taking certain positions or pursuing certain courses of action. I think regardless of what we view as the appropriate priority ranking of issues, if the prophet is who we believe he is, and if he has the role we claim he has, we ought to exercise a little more faith and humility before we begin claiming (a) that the priorities are in fact out of sync with God or (b) the prophet is wrong.

  40. Kristine, you seem perturbed, as if I do have suggested that homosexuals are not worthy of dignity and equality. As you note, everyone deserves dignity and equality before the law. That does not mean, however, that the law must overlook immoral behavior. Nor must important social institutions like marriage and family bow down to distorted notions of dignity and equality. Equal rights under the law, and dignity do not require that we accept homosexual lifestyles, or any sexual activity outside of marriage, as on par with traditional marriage and family. Perhaps that is not the point you are making, although from prior discussions, I imagine I am not too far off.

  41. Kristine says:

    Imagine away, Brent. Don’t let anything I actually say bother you.

  42. Ah, the freedom that comes with apostasy. I have no compunction whatsoever with stating that the public policy priorities as stated by members of the QoT and the First Presidency are out of whack with what God wants, and that they are flat wrong, and that furthermore, they are ALLOWED to be. Having a prophet does not negate the need for us to exercise our own free will, and to use our own brains, and to follow the dictates of our own consciences.

    Prophetic infallibility is not a tenet of Church doctrine.

  43. guess who says:

    ah, the slavery that comes from obedience to Christ! To know that I am less than dust and that his atonement is open to us all…regardless of politics…and conditioned only on humility.

  44. guess who,

    I’m guessing, but I still don’t know who.

    ???

    Aaron B

  45. I think it’s my mother.

    Either that, or Jeremy’s mother has finally chosen us over OT.

  46. 1. Brent, go away. Go back and ruin the spirit on T&S like you usually do.

    2. I like Aaron’s original question asking why God tends to remain silent on so many issues of moral concern. I don’t have the slightest doubt that prophets make mistakes in all areas, not just in the political arena. But why the mistakes of omission? This is not really a prophet issue. It is interesting that Jesus made not a single comment about slavery, despite the fact that it would have been a very visible social institution.

  47. Steve, I hope you are joking.

  48. From the tagline: “A liberal-minded, yet grossly intolerant Mormon blog”

  49. But I thought dissent was tolerated. Clearly I dissent from the views of many here. Of course, the tagline does say that you do not tolerate stupidity, and one man’s dissent is another man’s stupidity.

  50. Some people have decided to take the high road with respect to your rigid view of authority and your intolerance for the exercise of other’s freedoms. That certainly is admirable of them, but I think that ultimately that attitude allows the destruction of open discussion and removes the spirit. The T&S discussion of the Massachusetts SSM is an example of scarily bigoted and hateful rants.

    So I choose not to take the high road. From your posts you don’t seem to believe in the value of open discussion so why are you here? Is it to tell us the same thing over and over, and to continue your obsession with the particular transgressions of a certain group of people?

    Don’t take it personally. For all I know you are a perfectly wonderful person in real life, but your online persona is one note. How can that note, repeated over and over, add to our own understanding of God?

  51. I’m not sure if it’s something of a heresy to disagree with my fellow blogger (Hi Steve!), but I must say I don’t share Steve Cannon’s sentiment here.

    I can certainly imagine a commenter coming on so strong, and exuding such intolerance, that their presence would hinder, rather than help, a spirited and useful discussion. But I do not believe Brent quite fits the profile.

    I find Brent’s comments to be, for the most part, articulate, passionate, and yes, very conservative. Clearly he is irritated with advocacy of viewpoints that are beyond the bounds of propriety, as he sees them. (I doubt he is any more irritated then I become at my ideological opponents, whether left or right). We all will have varying opinions as to where the appropriate boundaries are. But I don’t think BCC should have an orthodoxy (or unorthodoxy) test to qualify one for participation. To have one would transform this site into the mirror image of the type of constrained, LDS discussion setting that I, for one, have always despised.

    Perhaps I should revisit Brent’s posts at T&S to reassess for myself whether his comments qualify as “scarily bigoted and hateful rants.” I am doubtful that I would concur with this description. But maybe the whole problem here is that there is no objective way to guarantee two people’s coming to the same conclusion about these things. So I’d rather err on the side of openness and not exclusion.

    The nature of running an internet site (rather than, say, a private email list) is that it is open to the whole wide world. I, for one, think that the discussions are bound to be more unpredictable and interesting as a result.

    Aaron B

  52. I concur with Aaron above.

  53. Hey, if I want to read what conservative Mormons think, I can go to Meridian. There’s a lot to be said for safe spaces.

  54. When a group of like-minded people get together to share ideas their discussion runs the risk of become shrill in a short period. Matt Evans once pointed out on T&S that you can get rid of an entire area of thought and discussion will continue to bloom–I think this is the case, but we run the risk of being poorer for it.

    In any case, I personally don’t view Brent’s posts as an area that ought to be beyond the pale of the spirit of this blog.

  55. It might be clear to most now, but I really ought to make it explicit. I was not speaking officially for the blog. I am personally even more grossly intolerant than the blog is.

  56. To the extent that this conversation began or has evolved into the question of “how do we know when the prophet is saying something the Lord told him to say versus speaking for himself,” I must say I find that question irrelevant.

    Presumably, the Lord has placed the prophet at the head of his Church because He feels that he would be the best person to administrate it — thus, whether God tells the prophet every word to say or simply relies on the prophet to come up with it himself is of little consequence — the prophet is authorized to speak as the head of the church.

    Repeat, authorized by God. That’s good enough for me, whether he is repeating God’s instructions, or whether God relied upon his good judgment. If the Lord himself places his trust and can rely on the prophet with the care of his church on earth, I believe I can place my trust in and rely on the prophet (and his personal judgment), too. Even if the Lord doesn’t tell him exactly what to say every time he opens his mouth.

    I think the prophet will tell us when he is speaking only for himself.

  57. Interesting theory Mark. Thanks for your insightful comments

  58. I think the exact opposite. I think the whole lot are only ever speaking for themselves unless they explicitly say otherwise. They’ve said so many whack things in their official capacities (GC talks) that I know of know other way to interpret them.

    That doesn’t mean that when they are speaking for themselves (which is most if not all the time) that their opinions are irrelevent and to be discarded.

  59. Warning: slight sarcasm follows ;) Read for humor only.

    Yeah! While I had initially voted in the poll to watch all of GC, now I have been liberated only to record it, and run a computer program to scan for the words “Thus saith the Lorde” and then only read/listen to those parts. Only…rats, I guess that will probably scrap the capacity to listen to talks from the RS & Primary presidencies? Of course, since they only talk in mousy little ‘sister’ voices & only on irrelevant topics that don’t have to do with doctrine…no great loss, eh?

    !!!J/K!!!

  60. Your attempt to disguise your misogyny as humor works as neither disguise nor humor.

  61. Ok Steve C…so which would you suggest? Do I leave off the warning marks…and be Steve E.’s troll? or put it in…so it’s clear to all, and be your misogynist (sp?). frankly, or sarahly,
    i’m still laughing…why not join rather than condem? you don’t have to agree…just laugh. it feels goode. honest. :)

  62. Steve,

    btw, I’ll forgive your misandry. no hard feelings, ok?

    lyle

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