Sustaining Our Leaders, Sustaining One Another

The Friday firestorm took place elsewhere in the bloggernacle this week. I have no desire to rehash the main issues, but instead want to explore a question that occurred to me as that thread developed. Is it possible to be excessively deferential to our church leaders?

Suppose that Monday morning Norm Al Mormon, a well-known figure in the Blogga Nostra community, announces that he is launching a business that will be open on Sundays and will sell alcohol and pornography, among other things. He also intends to provide partnership benefits to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals as part of the standard company benefit package for employees. How would you react? How do you imagine the bloggernacle would react? Here are some possible responses:

  • Since I am not his ecclesiastical leader, his actions are none of my business.
  • Since he is a public figure, his actions are detrimental to the church. He needs to be publicly challenged.
  • I disagree with his business model but recognize the competitive nature of his industry and appreciate the need to maximize revenue in any possible way.
  • I would assume he isn’t familiar with the Proclamation and talks by the brethren. I would insist that he hear and heed the words of the prophets.
  • I would boycott his enterprise and encourage others to do so as well.
  • I would assume that I don’t have the full story and withhold judgment until more facts are known.
  • I would be sympathetic to his obligations to his lenders and investors. He must provide ROI, and even if he wanted to follow his conscience, his fiduciary responsibilities must take precedence.
  • I would think less of him. He needs to shape up.
  • I would call him to repentance. If that didn’t work, I would contact his bishop or stake president. They need to make him accountable for his transgressions.

I can think of scenarios where any one of those reactions would be appropriate. But what happens if Norm Al Mormon is sustained as G. A. Mormon in the next general conference? Do your reactions remain the same, or do you judge him less or more harshly? If you think G.A. is still in the wrong, are you guilty of unwarranted ark-steadying?

A good case can be made that a general authority is more deserving of the benefit of the doubt than the man sitting next to me in priesthood meeting. We assume that callings are inspired, and that the formal vetting process that precedes the calling weeds out the bad apples and pretenders. Although that process isn’t foolproof, anyone who is called is entitled to the presumption of worthiness.

However….a case can also be made that we are entitled to expect a greater level of righteousness from the general authorities that we do from the members of our ward. Norm can watch questionable movies and guzzle Coke by the gallon while gawking at the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated, but we would be shocked if G.A. did the same things. Leaders must set the example, and they cannot ask others to meet a standard of behavior they themselves are unable to meet.

I have decided that Norm and G.A. both deserve more or less the same treatment. Leaders deserve our loyalty, but so do the people who share the pews with us on Sunday. As my friend and co-blogger J. Nelson-Seawright has observed, the group of people who fit the description of the Lord’s anointed includes not only apostles and stake presidents, but also the rank and file members, even the back row sitters. How can we prevent the respect we rightfully show to the offices our church leaders occupy from becoming a sickening, fawning obsequiousness that the brethren themselves probably heartily despise?

Comments

  1. A principle is followed in disciplinary councils of imposing more restrictive consequences on those whose transgressions might reflect on the church due to their positions or the public nature of the transgressions. That creates a single standard, but it might apply differently to two people guilty of the same transgression.

    That doesn’t give me license to judge people with respect to their persons, however, unless I’m on that council.

  2. Good questions Mark. I guess my answers to them are probably well known by now, but I would like to say that I truly agree with the principle of loyalty. But there are a lot of things that demand our loyalty aren’t there? The Church needs our loyalty, as well as its leaders, other members, the priciples of the gospel, God, the Savior, and ourselves. To whom and to what are we being loyal if we keep silent when we perceive a serious problem?

    When the national news media are excoriating a prominent member for behavior that, to many, appears to be a grave violation of express principles of the gospel, does loyaly require that we defend that member even if we don’t agree with his/her actions? Does loyalty demand our silence? I would say that our highest obligations of loyalty require that we answer an emphatic “no” to those questions.

  3. A good case can be made that a general authority is more deserving of the benefit of the doubt than the man sitting next to me in priesthood meeting. We assume that callings are inspired, and that the formal vetting process that precedes the calling weeds out the bad apples and pretenders. Although that process isn’t foolproof, anyone who is called is entitled to the presumption of worthiness.

    Yes and no. Yes, we assume that callings are inspired. But that just means that the Lord wanted them called. We don’t know any more than that. We cannot take the next step and assume that a person in a particular calling is incapable of making even the most serious mistakes. Our Church’s history is replete with examples of people in every sort of calling making every kind of grave error in judgment. I don’t think we can make any assumptions about anyone based simply on the calling they have.

    Such assumptions have led many to give or loan their hard-earned money to someone just because they happen to be a bishop or stake president. Sometimes to their lasting regret.

  4. Good questions, friend.

    I can’t claim to know the right answers to them. I do think that before we take it upon ourselves to stand in judgment of our fellow saints for what we perceive as their shortcomings, we ought to go read Wilfried’s post, “Coffee.” More than once.

  5. I’m more concerned about the witch-hunt responses to such scenarios, even from well educated people. One thing that has impressed me about our church leadership is that they do not rush to judgment over much at all.

    Perhaps we shouldn’t also.

  6. To respond to the original options:

    * Since I am not his ecclesiastical leader, his actions are none of my business.

    I don’t think this is fair to the ecclesiastical leaders. We’re talking a large, public company. It’s a public concern and it’s not fair to abdicate our social awareness and activism and dump it all on the shoulders of some poor bishop or stake president.

    * Since he is a public figure, his actions are detrimental to the church. He needs to be publicly challenged.

    Yes.

    * I disagree with his business model but recognize the competitive nature of his industry and appreciate the need to maximize revenue in any possible way.

    This is a co=out. Mormons need to stop assuming that the free market justifies any sin. It sounds very much like the old excuse “the devil made me do it.”

    * I would assume he isn’t familiar with the Proclamation and talks by the brethren. I would insist that he hear and heed the words of the prophets.

    Here I just think Mark’s getting snitty. One too many self-righteous calls to repentance Mark?

    * I would boycott his enterprise and encourage others to do so as well.

    Sure. Doesn’t often work, but why not? It’s a start anyway.

    * I would assume that I don’t have the full story and withhold judgment until more facts are known.

    This is a public company. It isn’t my obligation to get the full story. If I don’t have the full story, its the public corporation’s fault for doing such a crappy job at P.R. A public corporation that can’t even manage to get its message out doesn’t deserve to succeed.

    * I would be sympathetic to his obligations to his lenders and investors. He must provide ROI, and even if he wanted to follow his conscience, his fiduciary responsibilities must take precedence.

    No. I think there are ways for a influential corporate officer to work for moral changes. And certain businesses, a Mormon simply has an obligation to resign. It’s that simple.

    * I would think less of him. He needs to shape up.

    I’d think less of him. But saying “he needs to shape up” implies that I know how he ought to do it. I don’t.

    * I would call him to repentance. If that didn’t work, I would contact his bishop or stake president. They need to make him accountable for his transgressions.

    I’ve got the same problem with this as with number 1 – it dumps a really big and complex problem on local leaders who are ill-equipped to deal with it.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    You ask: “Is it possible to be excessively deferential to our church leaders?”

    To which I answer, not only is it possible, it is a regular occurrence. The cult of GA rock star-like status is pretty well entrenched among us.

    GAs are just men. Generally good and decent men, but fallible men all the same. Every stake in this Church has men who could be a GA.

    Accordingly, I think it is dangerous to put them on too high of a pedestal or to tie our own relationship to the Church to actions or inactions GAs may make. One should never allow one’s faith to be adversely affected by the failings of another human being.

  8. All people, regardless of calling, deserve the same level of respect. When acting within the scope of their responsability, they should be supported. This does not mean that we abdicate our own responsibility for the morality of our own conduct. We are answerable to God, and not to our leaders, for our own actions. Leaders sometimes get it wrong, both in their own lives and in their teachings. Just like the rest of us. I agree with Kevin regarding the danger of putting our leaders on pedestals.

    Having said that, it is the height of arrogance to assume that you should take it upon yourself to “protect the reputation of the church” against people such as Norm Al Mormon. He has leaders whose duty it is to protect the church. Let them do their job and assume that they are in fact doing it properly. If you believe that his business is immoral, then don’t patronize it. You may even encourage others not to patronize it if you feel that strongly about it. By all means, if you believe that a moral evil is being committed, you are free to protest it. (Although I don’t think it is a good thing to spend one’s time publicly protesting every moral evil being committed in our society.)

    But it is self righteous hubris to apppoint yourself the defender of the faith and to then take it upon yourself to publicly excoriate and slander him all in the name of protecting the church. This is particularly true when you do not have knowledge of all relevant facts. Let those whose job it is to protect the church make whatever investigations they think are apppropriate as to his actions and then decide whether the church needs protection from him. If you think his business should be criticized, go ahead and criticize it. Just leave his church membership and church calling out of the discussion. That is not your responsibility and it is irrelevant to the moral issue at hand.

  9. Was this Norman Mormon modeled on any well-known Mormon hoteliers?

  10. lamonte says:

    We are responsible for our own salvation and for none other. If you see a fellow church member engaged in an activity or a business that you feel is detrimental to the church you have options – speak to the supposed offender about the situation; speak to a local authority of the church about the situation; do whatever your conscience dictates. When and if it comes time to raise your hand to sustain or not to sustain for any church calling, you have the right to do what you think is best. Ultimately all we can do is live according to the commandments.

    I have to admit that I have often thought “Well, no one should criticize me if I do something not in accordance with church doctrine when so and so is blatantly doing the same thing and he’s a church leader!” That just won’t cut it on judgement day. There may be circumstances we don’t know about or don’t understand or that person’s church leaders just don’t want to deal with it. Shame on them, but we shouldn’t lose sleep over it. Do the best you can.

  11. Julie M. Smith says:

    I object to the idea that the fact that G.A. Mormon was called to be a G.A.[1] means that all of his behavior has the Church’s stamp of approval. [And I'm not just speaking in oblique tones about Marriott, I mean this in general.]

    And this doesn’t mean the call was uninspired either. I’ve been reading the OT lately, and I don’t think it at all impossible that the person who received the inspiration to call him thought, “You want me to call WHO to WHAT when he is known for selling WHAT?” but was obedient to that inspiration a la Abraham or Nephi. I don’t yet know what God’s purpose is in all this. Maybe part of it is to see if we will be too struck by the GA-cult-of-personality to call evil evil and good good. Maybe part is to see if we respond charitably in our voicing our concerns and not otherwise. Maybe it *is* to see if we will be obedient to decisions made above our pay grade. Maybe God doesn’t want Romney elected and plans on using this to derail his campaign (hey, we can hope, can’t we?).

    [1] Except he isn’t. He’s an AA 70, right? (I’ve been trying to google this and can’t confirm.)

  12. Mark, I appreciate your thoughts and totally agree with your conclusion. It is not our place (unless called to do so!) to judge anyone. We owe loyalty and respect to the ward nursery leaders as well as GAs, since we have agreed to sustain them. The flip side of being too deferential is being hypercritical, searching for offenses that we can condemn, always, of course, for very righteous-feeling reasons. No one is perfect. Either way, we set ourselves up for a fall. When ought to give each other the benefit of the doubt.

  13. # I disagree with his business model but recognize the competitive nature of his industry and appreciate the need to maximize revenue in any possible way.
    # I would be sympathetic to his obligations to his lenders and investors. He must provide ROI, and even if he wanted to follow his conscience, his fiduciary responsibilities must take precedence.

    These arguments seem to boil down to the idea that it’s OK to participate in “vice” as long as one is making money from it. I find the idea that money justifies such participation rather than makes it even worse to be quite bizarre.

  14. My usual response to questions like Mark poses is to tell personal stories rather than provide ultimate answers.

    So here’s my story: My former stake president was also the mayor of my city. His integrity was called into question by many people, and I heard him bashed a number of times. My husband (who is his polar opposite politically) was one of his counselors. Apparently (and of course I know few details), questions about my stake president came up every now and again in temple recommend interviews–where people didn’t feel they could support him in his calling. At one political event, a member of our stake approached him and said, “You disgust me.” And of course, we had a family who would always vote in opposition to every member of our stake presidency and to everyone who had anything to do with calling them. It all became rather personal to me, since the family was also voting against my husband. (I won’t tell that whole story right now.)

    For me personally, I had a very hard time listening to people badmoouth my stake president. I love him. I do not meet him on political grounds, and perhaps I would be upset about some of the issues others know better than I do, but I am willing to accept him as a servant of God who, for the time of his calling, was given stewardship over me.

    My daughter, who has a degree in music, was recently troubled by something Boyd K. Packer had said about music. She asked me, “What if he became the prophet? Could you sustain him?” I answered instantly, “Absolutely. I honor the mantle.”

    And that’s it. I will often disagree with others, but in a church setting, I will never allow my disagreements to darken the lessons I need to learn about charity.

    Btw, the post Mark refers to has been nuked. But yes, it was a firestorm. And T&S almost lost Ardis over it. That would’ve been a royal shame.

  15. One simple question to ask: What would Jesus do?

  16. Leaders must set the example, and they cannot ask others to meet a standard of behavior they themselves are unable to meet.

    I don’t think that’s true. Obviously leaders should be striving to live at least the standard they ask others to meet, but if they are failing to meet a standard (say 100% hometeaching) that does not mean that they cannot ask others to meet that standard.

    How can we prevent the respect we rightfully show to the offices our church leaders occupy from becoming a sickening, fawning obsequiousness that the brethren themselves probably heartily despise?

    I agree that respect for our leaders should not become “sickening, fawning obsequiousness” but the odds are pretty good that we are more likely to err on the side of not respecting them enough.

  17. Julie M. Smith says:

    Margaret, please know that I am asking these questions very _gently_ and _genuinely_ and in the abstract (not as a cover for the Marriott Corp. issue).

    Are there any limits to your public loyalty? What if the SP/mayor had suggested the clubbing of baby seals for warm-up entertainment at the next Concert in the Park? What if he were caught in a sexual indiscretion? Would you have still sustained him? Would you not have voiced opposition?

    Is there any point at which we need to publically take a stand (in some way) or without our sustaining vote?

    (Again: this isn’t veiled reference to the porn issue. I’m genuinely curious–in the abstract.)

  18. Over ten years ago, I lived in a stake where the presidency was reorganized by a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He made it clear within during the meeting that he had personally selected ALL of the members of the presidency; not just the president.

    One of the counselors was a wealthy businessman and a controversial figure. Within six months, he was excommunicated. He stole from people. He didn’t care whether you were rich or poor, he would take your money and lie about it. It had been going on for years. It had happened before, so he moved to our stake. After he was excommunicated, the family moved again, and he apparently did not mend his ways. Last I heard (and this was several years ago), he was enjoying Huntsville, Texas in the spring.

    I think he was called into his position as a counselor in the stake presidency so that could be found out. People in the stake had complained about being ripped off to their local leaders, but nothing was ever done. It wasn’t until the stake president heard the same story over and over and over again that Wealthy Businessman was held accountable for what he had done.

    I’m a huge fan of the “pants one leg at a time” view of church leaders. A friend once said that his ability to sustain church leaders is probably more a result of dumbing down the concept than any significant change in attitude. That is probably the way it is with me, too. I’m allowed to disagree with them, and I’m allowed to say I think they are mistaken. But calling somebody a sinner? Urging them to repent? Pot.Kettle.Black.

  19. Latter-day Guy says:

    “How can we prevent the respect we rightfully show to the offices our church leaders occupy from becoming a sickening, fawning obsequiousness that the brethren themselves probably heartily despise?”

    Interesting anecdote that bears on this: In my sister’s mission, they were visited by a member of the 70 (a higher-up). The missionaries were not properly prepped with all the LDS etiquette about how low to curtsy and whose ring to kiss first, so they forgot to stand up when he entered the room. He proceeded to castigate them for most of his talk about not having stood up; then, during Q&A, after saying “Oh, I can answer pretty much anything you want to ask,” he told most people, in essence, “Why are you wasting my time with that? You shouldn’t be thinking about that right now.”

    A few months later Elder Nelson came to visit. They all stood and he immediately said, “Oh no, please sit, please sit.” Then he gave an incredibly humble talk.

    Moral: those that want the obsequiousness don’t deserve it; those that do deserve some pretty formal deference don’t want it.

  20. Latter-day Guy says:

    BTW, Kaimi,

    Thanks for that link. I had never read it before. Incredibly powerful stuff.

  21. veritas says:

    announces that he is launching a business that will be open on Sundays and will sell alcohol and pornography, among other things. He also intends to provide partnership benefits to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals as part of the standard company benefit package for employees

    .

    I don’t really understand. I don’t see how owning a business that does these things is wrong. Just because he doesn’t drink or shop on Sundays doesn’t mean people using his establishment, or working at it, don’t. And these things are not evil in their own right. Maybe selling porn is a shady, but, still – we are all financially supporting the Porn industry when we use the internet, cable television, super markets and book stores. I worked at a book store and had to sell porn to creepy old men all the time. And as for providing benefits to gay couples, well, for that I would give him a pat on the back. I would doubt anyone’s company is a model of LDS values. You may excuse yourself because ‘hey, I just work here’ but, thats pretty much a cop-out.

    All this just makes it seem like the church has an even bigger problem than I thought with busybodies and judging. What if your GA doesn’t sell porn or -gasp- have a business thats open on Sundays but is a hypocritical bigot who watches porn while on business trips. We get so hung up on the things of the surface, but you cannot ‘see’ most sins. This is why you should just ‘react’ by worrying about yourself.

  22. Mark IV says:

    Everyone,

    Thank you for the thoughtful comments so far.

    I’m mostly interested in the way we appear to be willing to excuse behavior in a church leader that we wouldn’t tolerate in a regular member. We are highly motivated to think the best of our leaders, so we will equivocate and rationalize and look for ways to excuse a leader whose actions are clearly out of order.

    This approach presents significant dangers. I personally know two women who were seduced into a polygamous marriage by a man who was serving as their stake president at the time. I believe the authority of his office was decisive. Also, as MCQ and Ann have observed, there are thousands of people who have lost millions of dollars to con-men dressed in suits and occupying high church office. (Ann, did the incident you mention take place in a certain capitol city of a certain Buckeye state? If so, I was there at the time too, and the problem was not limited to just the SP counselor. Changes had to be made in the HC and in some bishoprics, and, ten years later, I don’t think the church has fully recovered.)

  23. Kristine says:

    Julie’s thoughts on the OT are spot-on. If there’s anything the story of King David ought to tell us, it’s that we don’t fully understand what the Lord means when he anoints a fallible human being to a position of leadership, or even to the lofty calling of back row Saint. In David’s case, it’s clear that his weaknesses were closely related to his strengths; since God made him that way, He presumably knew what he was getting when David was chosen as king.

    Most of us have strengths that are all bound up with our flaws, as well, and part of how church service redeems us is by taking us whole and involving us in God’s work–when it goes well, we proceed from grace to grace, with our weaknesses slowly becoming strengths as they are offered as a living sacrifice to God. However, the redemptive power of this process, it seems to me, absolutely requires that there also be risk of failure, of our weaknesses overcoming our strengths momentarily and requiring more earnest repentance. The alternative, in which sin and failure would never have impeded the success of individuals (and by extension, the Church) is a plan that was considered and rejected a very long time ago.

  24. All this just makes it seem like the church has an even bigger problem than I thought with busybodies and judging.

    What made me very uncomfortable with that other thread was the degree to which it focused on “Brother Norm Al Mormon” rather than “Norm Al Mormon Corporation.” I’m all for holding a corporation’s feet to the fire if it does something you don’t like — picket it, boycott it, rant about it on the internet and in letters to the editor, write your Congressperson, and whatever, and more power to you (maybe I’ll even join you) — but when it comes down to publicly calling any Latter-day Saint but myself to repentance, you can count me out. I have beams enough of my own to deal with.

  25. I respect those of any religion who act with integrity despite the consequences. I have known Mormons who trusted the Lord and their leaders enough to pay tithing, leave a lover, or quit a job. We often use true stories to teach values. Its sad when leaders become untouchable because of their money, power or status.

  26. Hey! What happened to that firestorm of a post at that other blog? It’s gone! Censorship!

  27. It’s a shame the post got nuked. Or is it? I can’t decide.

    I’ve learned some things from reading the post and comments here. Very interesting to hear about some of the personal experiences and observations that have been written down here.

  28. Mark IV says:

    Veritas,

    I only used those examples in order to push some buttons. Feel free to add other examples, such as racial discrimination, exploitative labor practices, destructive environmental policies, etc. – whatever gores your ox. The idea is to examine to what extent we allow our respect for church leaders to prevent us from calling a spade a spade. I think it is very likely that if someone were to express reservations about a stake president’s business practices, that person would very quickly be accused of steadying the ark. Then, after the person had lost his house in a swindle perpetuated by the SP, people would be quick to say that he should have listened to the spirit. Either way, it is the ordinary member’s fault.

    We need to also recognize that our excessive deference to leaders is a disservice to them. Deseret Book has published a book written by a former stake president and mission president who lost his membership because of his adultery. He explains how he was able to rationalize his behavior for so long by saying it must not be so bad after all, since people kept telling him how spiritual he was. I have a friend who is a SP, and he hates (that’s the word he uses) all the phony kowtowing the members of his stake do around him.

    And duh, how could I have forgotten this?

    “Adulation is poison,” he said, emphasizing each word. “Adulation has ruined many a good man and woman, and I don’t want this book to portray me as something I’m not.” I finally replied: “President, I can see that we have just one small problem here. You want me to write a book that says you are just a common, ordinary man.” “Well, I am,” he interrupted.

    Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1996), pp. ix­xvi.

  29. Joshua Madson says:

    What exactly can I allow my business to do before I have some culpability?

    The great secret Cain mastered, “Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain” should surely be a starting point for behavior that is over the line.

    Would this include a business manufacturing weapons? biological weapons? conventional weapons? nuclear?

    As a business owner are the means by which I acquire capital irrelevant? At what point am I accountable?

    I understand that we sustain our leaders in their calling, but are we to sustain them in all of their affairs? They are not divine after all and have failings just like all of us. I know many individuals who could have profited greatly from things incompatible with the gospel and chose not to.

    I know this is a sensitive topic when dealing with real individuals but at the end of the day our allegiance is to truth and not authority, or is it?

  30. Yes, it is a shame that post got nuked. I will not be commenting at T&S again. Why waste the time, when it will just be deleted? And truly, there was no reason to delete that post. Especially after the apparently offensive word was already redacted. That post was linked to in emails sent to the corporation in question (no, I will not name it again) in order to let them know that there were people who felt that there was a problem with its business practices. Now, those links are dead. What message does that send? We didn’t really mean it. Never mind. Go back to your porn biz. Have at it. Pathetic.

  31. Veritas:

    we are all financially supporting the Porn industry when we use the internet, cable television, super markets and book stores

    I disagree in the strongest terms. Can you explain why you believe this? Just because Business A sells Product Z, does not mean you are supporting the Z industry just because you patronize Business A to buy toothpaste.

  32. Let’s put it another way: No matter how many bananas you buy, the supermarket will stop selling pineapples if no one buys them.

  33. Norbert says:

    I have decided that Norm and G.A. both deserve more or less the same treatment. Leaders deserve our loyalty, but so do the people who share the pews with us on Sunday.

    If I read this correctly, you are saying that all members deserve the same treatment, which involves being as charitable as possible (without overlooking harmful or illegal behavior). I agree with that.

    In the interest of equality, I would like to see us elevate our attitudes and limit our judgement of all members, rather than treat church leaders as shabbily as some feel justified in treating their ward members.

    FWIW, I would not even question anything in your hypothetical example except the selling of pornography.

  34. There are some lessons from the other discussion that apply here, I think.

    1) We have to be VERY careful when we are discussing or acting with regard to “sensitive” or emotional issues. We need to check and double check our comments and actions to make sure they are not being said or done in haste – and that, as much as possible, people will not misunderstand them. I tried hard to be a voice of caution and moderation, because I really did understand the frustration of the central issue, but I got accused in a different thread of attacking Church leaders and dishonoring their callings. I know we can never avoid misunderstanding completely, but we have to take extra care when dealing with this type of issue.

    2) We need to keep things from getting personal. As was stated earlier here, I have no problem whatsoever addressing business practices I find abominable by focusing attention on them and requesting they be changed, but directing our ire at an individual (even if that individual is a sole proprietor) is wrong.

    3) Calls to repentance should be issued only by someone who has the authority and responsibility to issue them. I can do so for my children and in certain situations in my calling, but they are not valid outside those parameters.

    4) We need to separate our sustaining of someone in their calling from supporting or even accepting what they do outside their calling. I dress differently when performing the duties of my current calling than I do when I am not performing them. In a very real sense, I am a different person in each situation. I hope those with whom I serve and those I serve will accept my service in my calling, but I would not expect them to translate that acceptance into a mindless acceptance of what I say or do outside that service. I know a Bishop who refuses to advertise his business to other members, specifically because he does not want anyone to feel pressured in any way to purchase his services based on his church title. I respect that man immensely.

    5) I love the example of my own SP. Except for situations that require him to go by Pres. _____, he goes by his first name. He often signs his e-mails with just his first initial. When he is not officiating in his calling, he is just another Joe Member who sustains his own Bishop and HP Group Leader and HT. When he IS officiating in his calling, and when that leads him to give a directive, he does so with both authority and humility. It truly is inspiring to see.

    6) A while ago, during the Blacks and the Priesthood week, someone started a thread by highlighting Hugh B. Brown’s BYU address encouraging independent thought and the courage to dissent. I LOVE the way he qualified that admonition, by urging dissent be informed and expressed modestly. Whatever I choose to do to express a dissenting view, I hope it meets that standard.

    Long enough for now, even for me.

  35. MCQ,
    Actually, Veritas’s example was spot-on. The bookstore sells porn. If you patronize the bookstore, either you’re supporting an endevour that helps porn or you’re not. It’s a judgment call you have to make, just like it’s a judgment call whether you want to patronize certain hotel chains or not. But the fact remains that the bookstore profits from, and sends some of those profits to, a bad industry.

    Your banana/pineapple comparison is apt, as well. If you buy bananas, but nobody buys pineapples, it’ll stop selling pineapples. Similarly, if everyone stays at certain hotels, but nobody buys porn, it’ll stop.

  36. Just to add to the “I know of a bad Stake President” vein: some close friends had a father who was called as a counselor in a stake presidency with a stake president that was generally reviled by the rest of the stake. He rubbed people the wrong way, didn’t seem like he was particularly spiritual, caring or any of the things you might expect from a good priesthood leader.

    In the end, he was released and excommunicated for some transgression that was relatively serious, and had been ongoing. However, that notwithstanding, the father that was a counselor swears up and down that this particular stake president’s calling was divine, because even notwithstanding all of the excommunicable offenses, he had a certain sense about aspects of the stake and put certain affairs of the stake in order in a way that no one else would have been able to do.

    So, I guess my point is that, while we shouldn’t judge others, and while sometimes people are called unworthily to a position to flush them out, sometimes I think people are called unworthily to a position because Heavenly Father has a legitimate reason for them to be there, their personal (un-)worthiness notwithstanding. This point was probably already made, but I thought another real life example might help.

  37. One more thing:

    I am concerned that we sometimes take our sustaining “by common consent” a little too lightly – that it becomes almost a mindless physical reaction to too many. I have seen those on the stand ask if there are any who oppose and then move on without hesitating or even looking up to check and see if there are any who oppose. I always pause, look around and even look behind me on the stand – specifically to force myself to see every member in attendance and give them the respect of my attention to such an important question.

    I think we all realize that one of the difficulties of infallibility and lack of omniscience on the part of our leaders is that a skilled liar can get a temple recommend, break commandments in secret, hide behind a carefully crafted facade and even be placed in a position of authority. It can happen. While we must be careful to separate the person from the calling (my point #4 above), we also must apply the same standard when supporting and sustaining anyone in any calling, IMHO.

    “Given what I know of this person, can I sustain him/her in this calling?” If so, raise your hand in support. If not, there are two options: keep your hand down in response to BOTH questions (can’t support but don’t oppose) or (if you feel strongly enough about the reason for not sustaining him/her) actually raise your hand in opposition. Each of us has to make that decision on our own, and I believe we have to fight the tendency to cheapen the action by not really paying attention and simply raising our hands in support simply because it’s what we always do.

  38. John Mansfield says:

    An important difference for me between Bro. Norm Al Mormon and Elder G.A. Mormon is that the church formally and frequently asks me whether or not I am opposed to sustaining Elder G.A. Mormon as a leader of the church.

  39. Julie, re #17, Marriott is listed as an AA 70 on the DesNews web site.

  40. “How can we prevent the respect we rightfully show to the offices our church leaders occupy from becoming a sickening, fawning obsequiousness that the brethren themselves probably heartily despise?”

    We can start off by not nuking posts that discuss valid and relavent issues. Yeah, it got a little raw – and I can partly understand why some wanted it to go away, but it’s complete disappearance, to me, hinted of obsequious flattery.

  41. Ardis Parshall says:

    Firestorms may have little to do with whether the subject is Norm Al Mormon or G.A. Mormon. There is a world of difference between saying “Norm sells tobacco and therefore deals death to the unwary and therefore is a murderer! Get Norm!” and saying “Tobacco kills and Norm has the power to put a dent in the local market; come, let us reason with Norm as a brother.” The one we likely all can endorse; the other is something Saints should want no part in.

    Good ends don’t justify all means.

  42. Norbert says:

    Amen to Ardis (and all her good works).

  43. As an early (and from what I could tell, mostly ignored) poster to that other thread, I find a few things to say in this one.

    First, I believe that the responsibility for judging the worthiness of a member of the Church is held by the Judges in Israel, of which I am not one. So that first position sounds pretty close to where I’ll stand.

    Second, if I have information that I believe might not be known by the Judges in Israel relevant to a given member, that might bring the worthiness of that member into question, I have the responsibility to pass that information on to them. I don’t think this is terribly complicated.

    Third, as it turns out, I do have information about someone who is likely to be called to be a GA in the next decade that makes it impossible for me to sustain him should that happen. I know of no way in which my vote to not sustain this individual will make a difference, but I will discuss the matter with my bishop to find out. Perhaps he will do fine in that position, but he will do so without my sustaining vote until I see a public apology for what he’s done.

    I find this matter of loyalty to be a difficult one, because, to me, loyalty is a matter of showing love and support to an individual, not necessarily his behavior. I may love someone deeply, but I will not support their bad behavior. Others seem to think that loyalty would require me to do so.

    So that’s my somewhat ambivalent response to the question. I don’t think I got more than one response in the other thread — if there was, I didn’t see it before the thread was deleted.

  44. CS Eric says:

    It seems that when I don’t blog on weekends that I miss a lot of fun. I have two stories that illustrate my thoughts on the topic.

    First, several years ago I was serving as the clerk in a small branch. When the branch was reorganized, I was called to be the first counselor. During the interview, my wife told the District President of several reasons why it would not be in our best interest for me to accept the calling. I agreed with her that I should probably decline, but I also believe that the DP was inspired to offer it. Why? Other than that interview, there was no real avenue for some of my wife’s concerns to be addressed. By meeting with the DP, he was better able to understand our situation and to deal with it. The next week I was called as a counselor in the Melchezidek Priesthood group (the branch was too small for separate HP and Elders Quorum). That was where I really needed to be.

    The second story is more tangential. In my freshman dorms at BYU there were several boys who acted like they were something special because their daddys were well off. There were also two who were roomates who were from Chevy Chase, MD. I knew Chevy Chase was fairly upscale, so I was impressed that they seemed down to earth. I didn’t really know how impressive that was until one of them complained about having to go to the Marriott Center for some shindig about his grandfather. When I read about this shindig in the paper the next day, I finally realized that my dorm mate Steve Marriott was part of the Marriott family. I was even more impressed with how he was raised when I saw him again after our missions, as we were leaving the building named after his grandfather after a basketball game. My tickets were down in the bowl, and his were in the upper deck–my seats were better than his.

  45. I’m having much more difficulty with this month’s HT lesson than worrying about Marriott Hotels selling liquor and porn in great quantities (according to brother Nibley, the Hotel Utah also used to serve liquor to help pay off some church debts).

    What do we do with “prophetic” words that ring of hypocrisy? It was just a few years ago that Pres. Hinckley (in GC no less), while Pres. Bush was beating the war drum on the eve of his idiotic invasion of Iraq, was actually using scripture to justify that crazy war! Now here he is a few years later, lamenting that same war he seemed all in favor of earlier. I guess that’s not so strange, since it’s likely most of you who voted that moron into the white house are likely to have similar feelings about this great folly. But then again, he’s the

    prophet

    for goodness sake.

    Meanwhile I’m going to have to find something else to talk about with my HT families…

  46. Sorry, prophet was supposed to be in italics, not a quote.

  47. I don’t want to turn this into a discussion of war (Please!), but war itself is not a black & white issue. It is terrible in all instances, but it certainly is justifiable in some. Also, there are MANY people who approve of the overall “war on terror”, approved of this particular war initially and disapprove of the way it has been handled. Everything I have read of what Pres. Hinckley has said fits this basic description – so please don’t oversimplify an issue like prophetic authority by calling something hypocritical when it is SO, SO easy to see it as anything but hypocritical. Frankly, that’s my own feeling on the entire situation, and I try hard to avoid hypocrisy.

  48. Concerns should be taken to your Bishop or Stake President. You are also free to boycott a business that you feel violates moral principles (I boycott WalMart for a variety of reasons). Public actions are more problematic, putting you in the position of being the judge that you are not.

    Church discipline sometimes moves very slowly, for many reasons. I have been aware of some cases like this, and have watched ecclesiastical leaders wrestles with these issues, sometimes for months or years. And I support some of the options of either not voting to sustain someone, or actually voting to the contrary where you feel you have information that should be considered. I have withheld sustaining votes on one or two occasions where my concerns had already been discussed with my bishop.

    However, one of the issues that I have seen little attention paid to so far regards the partnership benefits to unmarrieds, gays, and lesbians. I guess I don’t have any issues with a business extending those benefits. To do otherwise smacks of discrimination, and is actually illegal in some areas. I certainly recognize that they are not living the same standards as I do. I don’t see that a business that extends those sorts of benefits as violating a moral issue, nor do I believe that the owner of a business that does that is acting immorally. Choosing to go into a business where porn is offered is a major problem. A grocer selling tobacco or alcohol may not have as much leeway as a franchisee, or as a local manager. Choosing to quit is an option.

    I had a short dilemma about selling to Starbucks a few years back. They needed a software product I was selling, and my wife and I often frequent Starbucks for hot chocolate and pastries, or a quick lunch on a busy work day. I thought about it for a day or two, and decided that I had made an agreement with my employer to represent the product, and Starbucks had a need. I decided that even though they sold items that were not to my standards (double tall nonfat, anyone?), that was not a moral issue for me. On the other hand, I would not go to work for them as a full time employee. I don’t believe I was acting hypocritically in that case.

  49. Thomas Parkin says:

    Rich,

    I don’t beleive it was a crazy war. It may have been wrong, even terrbily wrong. But many bright, well-informed and well-intentioned people believed it was the right thing to do, and some still do.

    IIRC, Pres Hinckley’s comments in conference were directed at making sure that we don’t inadvertantly find ourselves supporting oppresive entities – as Orwell might have said, being “obejectively pro-” dictator or terrorist. He followed that comment with something like ‘at least that is my feeling on the matter,’ which is something considerably less than saying ‘as a Prophet I say Let’s ROLL!!’

    Sorry, Ray.

    {\threadjack}

    ~

  50. Interesting perspective, kevinf. I have sometimes thought that if was to open a little shop, I would sell gourmet stuff – spices, cookware, chocolates. Oh, and coffee beans and tea leaves. Grind the coffee in the store. Tea balls/spoons and ceramic pots.

    The problem is what do when people ask for a recommendation. “I have no idea” doesn’t really cut it.

  51. FWIW, kevinf, I think your decision was correct. After all, there is nothing inherently immoral or evil about coffee (or tea). We don’t use those products, but that’s only because the Lord has seen fit to prohibit them. This is similar to businesses that are open on Sunday. I don’t protest or boycott them because it is not an evil practice in itself, and it may even be a necesary evil in some types of businesses (my wife’s, for example, and even mine on occasion).

    I think it was Kaimi who said elsewhere that such things are malum prohibitum (bad because they are prohibited) as opposed to malum in se (bad by their very nature). I would put porn in the latter category, along with certain illegal drugs. That’s why I think it is so important that we speak out against the sale and distribution of such things where possible, and where we might have some influence or obligation to speak.

    I would put alcohol and tobacco in the first category, but just barely.

  52. I said this in the other now forbidden thread.

    But I don’t see a slippery slope at all. Like I said I worked for a Satellite TV company that made most of its money off of adult material. So I know what it takes to do it. And it’s a very explicit decision to do it.

    The difference lies here. I didn’t have the power to stop the Satellite company’s decision to sell such stuff. Now if I did, let’s say I owned said company, and I did nothing then I have a problem. Likewise with the jars. You don’t decide what people do with them. It’s up to the person that does ill with them.

    Now I definetly wouldn’t call anyone to repentance, I live in a very fragile glass house. However, just because I don’t want to call him to the tarmac doesn’t mean that I support him. And it doesn’t mean that I’m not troubled by the fact that if I were to open up a video rental shop that had an adult section I probably wouldn’t get my temple recommend renewed, yet others that do so at a much larger scale are fine. I guess I’m egalitarian in everything.

  53. The T&S firestorm mark linked to at the beginning of this post has been removed, and T&S has issued an apology (similar to when Greenwood and Evans started an inquisition against Margaret Young when she offended them by referring to people like Ghandi and MLK Jr. as “prophets.”).

    Was anyone reading T&S, what was this recent deleted T&S firestorm about, and whose behaviour got it pulled?

  54. CheWo, Look at “Repentance and Revisionist History” on this blog. It is being addressed there.

  55. Che, it’s looking like the best place to get a partial scoop on the deleted T&S post is at this bycc post:

    http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2007/07/repentance-and-revisionist-history/#more-2900

  56. patrick says:

    Yep, complete with commentary by said Greenwood.

  57. Antonio Parr says:

    The problem with deciding how to deal with the sins of our leaders is that such decision making takes into the world of judging others, a process fraught with spiritual peril. Christ deplored hypocrisy, and the second we begin to pass judgment on anyone — from the peculiar new investigator to the President of our Church — we run the risk of the great sins of hypocrisy; judgmentalism; and an absence of love and forgiveness.

    To be sure, in today’s information age we are bombarded with information about others that makes it difficult to be silent about moral issues that bleed into the public. But to the fullest extent of our mortal powers, we would be wise to place our hands over our mouths before condemning another, no matter how lofty his/her position.

  58. Antonio:

    Is there a way to speak out against a practice we would like to see change without judging or condemning someone?

  59. Antonio Parr says:

    MCQ — probably by first speaking graciously and lovingly about the person whose implemented practice we find troubling, and then addressing the practice at issue without once resorting to ad hominem attacks.

    Of course, this is very simple and easy thing to do . . . All it takes is perfection!

  60. 58 — It is absolutely possible to speak against a practice without pointing the finger of judgment at those we perceive violating it. Loving the person you’re speaking about is a good place to start with that balance, and being humble helps as well.

    Just remember that people are not behaviors, and, if you can keep those two things separate, you can speak to the behaviors more easily.

  61. veritas

    your comments were spot on. DAMN!!!!

    unless you live in a shack in the U.P, YOU, contribute to the everything that is bad in the world.

    Drive your car to work? create pollution
    Shop at Wal-Mart? support child and unfair labor practices.
    Buy milk? support Monsato
    Eat chocolate? responsible for the mass killings in the Ivory Coast.
    Buy a Big Gulp from 7-11? support the tobacco industries
    Use Electricity? use coal, the dirtiest of fossil fuels

    Get it? You can take it to any extreme you want.

    I am sure the guy who owns the local Joe’s Market is a faithful Christian and he he may close his doors on Sunday and cover up the latest issue of Cosmo. but he sells cigarettes, beer and coffee (gasp). does this make him responsible for the choices of those who choose to use those products? Does it make him any less faithful?

    Give the guy a break. Have you considered that he has already dealt with the moral aspects of running a business? It’s likely He’s talked it out with his spouse, partners, friends–maybe even prayed about it? Who knows?

    maybe it is a mistake.(I am not saying it is) but that’s one of those things that HE has to work out on his own.

    We all make mistakes, things that we later regret. But that’s how we grow.

  62. Antonio and Blain:

    I think you two are exactly right. I agree that it’s not an easy balance to strike, especially when some will castigate you as judgmental and an evil-speaker just for bringing it up. I may not be particularly good at it, but I think we must try to find a way to speak properly about such things because, sometimes, remaining silent is not acceptable either. Thanks for your thoughtful answers.

  63. I agree with your comment # 62, MCQ, and with Antonio and Blain as well. While acknowledging that we live on slippery slopes, we nonetheless need to find ways to make moral distinctions and still retain working relationships with those around us. I think that was what Margaret was getting at in comment # 14.

  64. Adam Greenwood says:

    Greenwood and Evans started an inquisition against Margaret Young when she offended them by referring to people like Ghandi and MLK, Jr. as “prophets.”

    Not even close, hoss.

  65. 62 & 63 — I think the heart of the solution is where your heart is. If you’re approaching the issue because you’re concerned about the issue, but you show care toward the person you’re talking about, you’ve done a very different thing than using the person as a whipping-boy over that issue. To the undiscerning, or the seriously pissed-off, they can look the same, so you may get the response as if what you did was the latter when you’ve done the former.

    I think discussing concerns about things like porn, drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc. is a fair thing and a good idea even. Doing them when you know someone in proximity to you has them as part of their lives can be tricky — it takes some guts — but the standard of D&C 121 of showing forth an increase of love helps reduce the chances of being seen as an enemy. Over time, you develop a reputation as a straight-shooter (or a jerk), and that can help reduce the duration of the arguments.

    And, I’m going to come back to this again, because I think it’s so key to the problem — we need to entirely and irrevocably stop the looking-down-the-nose thing. Those who use these issues as a way to distract attention from their own issues have a much greater issue to repent of, and I’m not talking about the greater issue that comes from failing to forgive. Those who want to pretend that their crap doesn’t stink, and that they really are perfect bring wreckage into many lives beyond their own and will have a great deal to answer for in the next life. Jesus was the most righteous person to set foot on this planet, and he was not a smug, self-righteous prig about it.

    We are not on this planet to figure out everything that’s wrong with everybody else. Some few of us will take a temporary turn as a Judge in Israel where we will get more than our fill of these kinds of things. The rest of us need to spend almost no time figuring out what someone else needs to repent of, because we have plenty enough of our own sins to repent of and to spare. “Every member a mission president” isn’t nearly as damaging as “Every member a bishop.”

    When we’re not on our high-horses, and we’ve shown people that we love them, and we take some care in how we say the things we have to say that might be hurtful, we can say what the Spirit moves us to say. It might not be what we want to say from our own personal soap boxes, but we can do that in our own space, where it only impact us. The Spirit is a better guide for behavior than any set of rules anybody on this blog could lay down.

  66. 63 part 2 — I think Margaret makes an excellent point in #14. But I’m a hopeless fan-boy where Margaret is concerned, so I tend to think most all of her points are excellent (even the scant few I disagree with).

  67. The Spirit is a better guide for behavior than any set of rules anybody on this blog could lay down.

    Amen. And I agree with most everything else you say as well, except this:

    Over time, you develop a reputation as a straight-shooter (or a jerk), and that can help reduce the duration of the arguments.

    My reputation as a jerk has never reduced the duration of an argument. What am I doing wrong?

  68. MCQ, I was going to take your last question as an opportunity to slap Steve, but then I remembered his threat and decided I better not risk it. I don’t want him to know, so please don’t tell him.

    Blain, wonderful insights. Thank you. I also have an intellectual crush on Margaret. (Wait; does that make me intellectually polygamous? Do I need m&m’s permission?)

  69. Q,

    Alcohol and tobacco just barely in the malum prohibitum category?

    Um, you have read Mormonism in Transition, no? (And if not, keep quiet about it — or else Kristine will hit you upside the head with a volume from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism).

  70. 68 — You’re probably not yet noticing the moments when you’re saying things that you’ve already said, and deciding to leave it at that. Lots of people have that problem. People don’t have to vocally agree with you to know when you’re right. That’s the beauty of Truth — it tends to resonate in the heart via the Light of Christ — so it doesn’t really need to be defended. Simply speaking Truth invokes power, although it’s not usually a bad thing to try to explain your understanding of it a bit.

    69 — Thanks and you’re welcome. And intellectual crushes are of insufficient intimacy to require permission and can be as promiscuous as you wish.

    70 — I wouldn’t argue with the “just barely” analysis, although, culturally, there are few markers of Mormon identity stronger than avoidance of alcohol and tobacco. In real terms, though, moderate drinking of alcohol is safe, and use of tobacco is dirty and disgusting, but it takes it quite a while to be dangerous. Social drinkers and social smokers (they do exist) aren’t much of a danger to anybody.

    Drinking to intoxication and alcoholism are serious problems, and the Church’s blanket prohibition on recreational use of alcohol will protect one from these problems if followed closely. But having a glass of wine with dinner and a couple of beers while watching foot ball are no serious threat for anybody of median body mass and tolerance.

    However, smoking one cigarette or drinking a wine cooler in public is a clear statement of rebellion against Mormonism in a way that wearing revealing clothing is not. A key part of the story of someone’s descent into sin will include “they started drinking and smoking….” It means that they are really gone, and won’t be back until they get really, really repentant.

  71. I hereby invite some constructive criticism from my fellow bloggers about a new post at OLMIP.blogspot.com before I send it to Marriott via the company’s online comment form and blog.  I’ve always benefitted in one way or another from all of your comments.

    p.s. OLMIP stands for “Open Letter to Marriott International about Pornography.”

  72. R.Gary:

    Bravo.

    My first thought was that the level of detail and the length of the legal history involved in it would be off-putting and, frankly, irrelevant, to some, but in the end I thought it that it may provide some interesting context.

    I don’t know if Marriott Corp will care about this open letter or if they will find it at all persuasive, but they should. I especially thought your last paragraph was just dynamite.

    If all members of the bloggernacle would post their feelings about this issue, we might just accomplish something meaningful. Can you imagine if the ‘nacle could actually cause a change in thinking on this issue at Marriott Corp?

    We should stand together on this issue. There cannot really be any legitimate debate about what the right course is.

    Thank you Gary, for taking this important and courageous public stand.

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  1. [...] by Robert C. on July 10th, 2007 Bloggernacle posts here, here and here got me thinking about the scriptural difference between forgetting and rember[ing] no [...]

  2. [...] to the episode airing.  But this episode clinched it.  The ‘nacle recently buzzed with a  dustup over the Marriot Hotel chain (controlled by prominent Mormons) and its practice of renting [...]

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