When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done

In the Imporovement Era, June 1945 contains the following quote as part of a Ward Teachers’ message:

When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.

Recent posts justifying the Priesthood ban as being sancitioned by God or that views held by GA’s about evolution consitute a formal revalation from God would seem to be based upon feelings such as this quote expresses. But there is more to this story. In response to this quote, a Unatarian minster sent the following letter to the then president of the Church, President George Albert Smith:

Dear President Smith:

It has been one of the great privilege[s] of my life to have lived for the past four years in Salt Lake City, and to have become personally acquainted with many of the leaders of the L.D.S. Church. From them I have learned many things, and the spirit of friendliness which is found in our relationships is a source of unending delight to me. It is because I have found you and the other leaders so very charitable and sympathetic that I make so bold as to write you this letter.

May I first assure you of my good will; that there is not one note of hostility in attitude. I am confident that you will understand why I write, and that we have a common interest in the problem.

Last June there was delivered to my door a short religious editorial, prepared by one of your leaders, entitled “Sustaining the General Authorities of the Church.” Its message amazed me a great deal, and with the passing of weeks my distur[b]ance became very acute. It might have passed, except that several members of your Church have come to me to discuss the subject. The most recent was a prominent doctor, who, because of this tract, he affirms, is losting [sic] his religious faith. He is a large man, and I became impressed with his deep sincerity as he broke down and wept like a boy. I am convinced that he is undergoing a very dangerous experience.

Permit me to quote the passages which seem to be brought most in question:
“He (Lucifer) wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to ‘do their own thinking[.]”

“When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy….”

I do not know who is responsible for this statement, but I am sure it is doing inestimable harm to many who have no other reason to question the integrity of the Church leaders. Many people are suffering because of this. My reply to each of those who have spoken to me is “please do not become distrubed [sic], for this cannot be the position of the true leaders. And, from my knowledge of the early writings of your leaders, I must assume this to be non-representitive [sic].

Several years ago, when I first became acquainted with the L.D.S. Church, I read extensively in the texts, and there are many passages which may be used to give a better expression to the vision and genius of your Faith. I cite but one, although there are many others which are familiar to you.

Quoting from the Discourses of Brigham Young, as Selected and Arranged by John A. Widtsoe, in the Chapter on “The Priesthood”:

“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful that they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwa[r]t the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give their leaders did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whisperings of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.”

This quotation from Brigham Young is a wonderful passage, and it has been on the basis of such freedom that persons like myself have grown to have a deep feeling of kinship with the L.D.S. Church. It is in keeping with the high traditions of my Unitarian background that the gains made by my fellow workers are seen as gains for us all. It is a source of regret to all of us when one stone is discovered to bar the way to deeper faith within any soul.

With an assurance of my continued good-will and friendliness,
Most cordially yours,

J. Raymond Cope.

Presdent George Albert Smith responded,

My dear Dr. Cope:

I have read with interest and deep concern your letter of November 16, 1945, in which you make special comment on “a short religious editorial prepared by one of our leaders entitled “Sustaining the General Authorities of the Church'”. You say that you read the message with amazement, and that you have since been disturbed because of its effect upon members of the Church.

I am gratified with the spirit of friendliness that pervades your letter, and thank you for having taken the time to write to me.

The leaflet to which you refer, and from which you quote in your letter, was not “prepared” by “one of our leaders.” However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.

I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts. The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings. This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow.

The Prophet Joseph Smith once said: “I want liberty of thinking and believing as I please.” This liberty he and his successors in the leadership of the Church have granted to every other member thereof.

On one occasion in answer to the question by a prominent visitor how he governed his people, the Prophet answered: “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”

Again, as recorded in the History of the Church (Volume 5, page 498) Joseph Smith said further: “If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.”

I cite these few quotations, from many that might be given, merely to confirm your good and true opinion that the Church gives to every man his free agency, and admonishes him always to use the reason and good judgment with which God has blessed him.

In the advocacy of this principle leaders of the Church not only join congregations in singing but quote frequently the following:

“Know this, that every soul is free
To choose his life and what he’ll be,
For this eternal truth is given
That God will force no man to heaven.”

Again I thank you for your manifest friendliness and for your expressed willingness to cooperate in every way to establish good will and harmony among the people with whom we are jointly laboring to bring brotherhood and tolerance.

Faithfully yours,
Geo. Albert Smith

I especially like this: “The Church gives to every man his free agency, and admonishes him always to use the reason and good judgment with which God has blessed him.”

How often, as an evolutionary biologist, I see well meaning people provide endless strings of quotes from general authorities, which are clearly meant to only reflect those authorities’ best judgment on a matter. The person compiling these quotes and opinions, however, claim them to be directives from God. They set aside ‘reason and good judgement’ completely and claim they have faith that these opinions must be true, and in the same stroke, ignore great swaths of data and careful scientific understanding and which represents, quite literally, loads of humanity’s best reasoning and good judgment. It is a pity that so many remember the quote that titles this post, but ignore the beautiful reponse from President Smith.

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Comments

  1. Good old Unitarians. (And good old Pres. Smith.)

    You’ve done a great service by posting these letters here.

  2. These are the letters I want framed in my living room.

  3. On NPR the other day, in a discussion on Iran, someone made a comment that it has been traditionally held that when the Ayatollah speaks the debate is over. Gave me a shiver.

  4. No link to the Dialogue article where these were republished, or the FAIR article which has had them as well?

    http://www.fairlds.org/Misc/When_the_Prophet_Speaks_is_the_Thinking_Done.html

  5. Sorry, Ben, I’d not seen them there, thanks for the link. They deserve broad distribution.

  6. Recent posts justifying the Priesthood ban as being sancitioned by God … would seem to be based upon feelings such as this quote expresses.

    Not always. The reason and good judgment with which God has blessed me allow me to analyze the arguments of those who say “the ban was due solely to Brigham Young’s rampant racism, and God had nothing to do with it” and judge them inadequate and unpersuasive.

    A conclusion reached through limited knowledge and imperfect reason is no guarantee of correctness. Be careful about mistaking your logic for omniscience.

  7. What about “The Debate Is Over,” the First Presidency Message in the Ensign in August 1979? The last paragraph is “We must turn all this about. We cannot serve God and mammon. Whose side are we on? When the prophet speaks the debate is over. “

  8. Hm, well, if the church leadership is still debating the matter after the matter has been decided, then it is apparently still open for debate. Just sayin’s all.

    Sigh. We speak so confidently of things we know so little of.

    Mogs

  9. One of my recent hobbies has been to trace the lineage of an idea. For example, I can trace the idea that our placement on earth correlates to our performance in the pre-mortal world to statements made in 1845. It fascinates me how one speculation provides the basis for further speculation, until we are proclaiming that the sum total of all specullation (provided the speculators were church leaders) equals doctrine.
    Because the things Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and George A. Smith (great letter!) said are so contrary to “the thinking has been done” idea, I wonder where that idea started. What’s it’s lineage? Who said it first? And who’s the author of that Ward Teachers’ message?
    We had a discussion here awhile back on “The Lord will not permit his prophet to lead the Church astray.” Could someone provide the link to that? There were some great insights.

  10. OMGOSH!! I have a misplaced apostrophe in “its.” I don’t mind spelling badly on occasion, but I lower grades for misusing apostrophes in “its.” So I don’t care that I used “specullation” (that was a slip of the finger) or that my last post misspelled “repentance” (which should be misspelled on occasion just to remind us of what it means), but up with misplaced apostrophes I will not put.

  11. Ardis, I haven’t seen your reasoning, just the quoted post’s. But I have little doubt that you are indeed thinking, reasoning, and using your best judgement. I suspect yours is not a ‘they said it, I believe it’ approach. I’ve always appreciated your reasoning powers. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, but I do mind them turning their brains off. Which I’ve not seen you do.

    Margaret, I can’t seem to find the origional author, of the opening quote. It will take powers beyond mine (Ardis?).

    Steve, I apply GAS’s letter to that as well.

  12. Margaret, I thought you did it just to make me feel good :) .

  13. Thank you very much for bringing these letter to light. I think we all need a reminder of this. My wife has a great saying that is appropriate here:

    The Catholics say that the Pope is infallible and always speaks for God, but no one believes it.

    The Mormons say that the Prophet is a fallible man and does not always speak for God, but no one believes it.

    The first line is according to some of our Catholic friends so I don’t know how fully that it true worldwide. But the point is that far too many members don’t ponder the scriptures and think for themselves when it comes to Gospel matters and how it affects their own salvation.

  14. SteveP, I think you and I need to continue to misspell things periodically just to offer evidence that alternatives are possible. That’s certainly why I do it.

  15. Thank you very much for bringing these letters to light. I think we all need a reminder of this.

    My wife has a great saying that is appropriate here:

    The Catholics say that the Pope is infallible and always speaks for God, but no one believes it.

    The Mormons say that the Prophet is a fallible man and does not always speak for God, but no one believes it.

    The first line is according to some of our Catholic friends so I don’t know how fully that it true worldwide. But the point is that far too many members don’t ponder the scriptures and think for themselves when it comes to Gospel matters and how it affects their own salvation.

  16. Sorry for the double post.

  17. Tis a pity that the July 1945 IE failed to run a retraction.

  18. #5 SteveP ~ I agree with you that the correction deserves broad distribution. That’s why I’ve always been a little puzzled that, given George Albert Smith’s stated explanation of the matter, the church never published a correction or retraction in the Improvement Era itself.

    The 1986 Dialogue article lists the George A. Smith and J. Raymond Cope collections as its sources for the correspondence. Am I correct in understanding that this correction sat around in someone’s private correspondence, unpublished, from 1945 until 1986? Did this quote really go publicly unchallenged and uncorrected for forty-one years? Or did Cope or the LDS church publish the correspondence in some other venue before then?

    And since Dialogue isn’t exactly widely read by LDS church membership, I’m guessing this correction didn’t see broad distribution until FAIR did their article on it in the late 90s.

    I’m not suggesting that the church publish a retraction in one of its magazines now, 64 years after the fact; that would only bring the wrong kind of attention to the matter, and FAIR and Dialogue have taken care of it pretty well. But I think the church would have saved itself some trouble had it published an official correction back in 1945 when it happened.

    If anyone knows of an earlier publication of the correction, I’d love to hear about it.

  19. The Catholics say that the Pope is infallible and always speaks for God, but no one believes it.

    Infallibility in Roman Catholic thought is the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church whereby the pope, and the bishops in union with him, can proclaim a doctrine regarding faith and morals for the faithful. This can only take place when the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, in discharge of this office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians.

    This was officially promulgated at the First Vatican Council in 1870. It has been used once since 1870, by Pius XII to declare the Assumption of Mary to be an article of faith.

    Mogs

  20. The GA Smith letter (like the various letters from the FP denying that there is an official position on evolution or on whether there is progression from kingdom to kingdom) have been publicly available for some time, but have not been published by the Church or readily available through official Church channels.

    Ordinary members can find, President Woodruff’s statement on near infallibility in the footnotes of the standard works and the “thinking has been done” and “the debate is over” in official Church publications. While some qualifications on the near infallibility message are found in official publications (see President Faust’s message James E. Faust, “‘The Truth Shall Make You Free’,” Ensign, Sep 1998) they are certainly not emphasized.

  21. So Steve, you’ve cited two subjects you and I tend to agree on: priesthood ban and evolution. I simply can’t accept the idea that God authored the restriction. To me, it violates fundamental scriptures. I don’t blame it on Brigham Young–that would be far too easy. But I don’t ever say it was God’s idea. I read your link which quotes the big one used for so many years–the idea that only the Tribe of Levi held the priesthood, etc. (And I know it’s still being used in official sites.) My problem isn’t just that I disagree but that I lose respect for people who maintain such thought. I find it a real problem. It is far too easy to patronize people who disagree with me and quietly assure myself that I know a lot more than they do. That, obviously, gets into pride. So on the one hand, we have the “The thinking has been done” paradigm, and on the other we have the “It feels good not to be trammeled” (JS) idea. It’s Iron Rod vs. Liahona–but that particular essay (“What the Church means to People like Me”) by Richard Poll was so self-serving and condescending. I wonder how we escape such attitudes. I think we must. On both sides.

  22. George Albert Smith’s letter is a good one and written for a specific purpose. But we all know there are times when true faith involves following the prophet even if your mind tells you to disagree. I think a lot about the Word of Wisdom as a personal example: I follow it for reasons of faith, not science. To tell you the truth, there are times when I would love a cup of coffee like I had before I was baptized, but I say no because of faith. Clearly our faith includes the admonition that we should sometimes “blindly” follow the prophet even if we don’t know why. Note I say “sometimes.”

  23. thanks for sharing those.

  24. Its so cool when Margaret make’s a misspelling. :)

  25. Great letters.

    I’ve wondered if the power of the Nephi-Laban experience being at the beginning of the Book of Mormon is a good reminder that even the most basic commandments requires personal revelation in it’s application.

  26. President Smith’s reply does not address the fallibility of the General Authorities. It only clarifies whether members of the Church are expected to think for ourselves or not. He never suggests that there are times that the General Authorities are wrong and that through thought we may come to a different, correct conclusion.

    Note this quote from George Albert Smith and the following that he quoted from Joseph Smith:

    “The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings. This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow.”

    “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”

    He doesn’t suggest that the General Authorities can be wrong. Did he believe that General Authorities can be wrong? What does everyone think?

  27. Margaret, that is a real challenge. For me I think the most important thing is the space for discussion being open so people can explore these issues with as much information as possible. That’s what I take from President Smith’s letter. We cannot be afraid to think and rethink when new information warrants it. I think the internet has created a space for healthy discussion and I find my faith increase when I can deal with issues with others who are thinking about it. Of course, people love drawing lines and pushing each other in and out of categories of what they think is faithful or un. But I find in myself greater faith by bringing together all of my facilities both spiritual and intellectual. I try to stay humble and open to new information and change my mind when I need to. My highest epistemic value is truth. I follow it as best I can given what resources have. And these include the prophets, scriptures and prayer. Still, no easy answers on the hard things I suppose.

    David, infallibility of leaders seems a particular temptation for the Saints who sometimes seem to be wanting a Pope rather than a Prophet. Thus abdicating their responsibility to gain a testimony from the Spirit for themselves of their words.

  28. Kaimi, please put an apostrophe in “its” when it contracts “it is.” No apostrophe in “makes.” (And yes, I know you did that on purpose.) Can we really trust anyone who doesn’t use apostrophes right? What does that say about our culture? Note, for example, that George Albert Smith’s letter does not have an apostrophe in “its”–which is correct usage.
    Now, more seriously–that phrase “to work out our own salvation” through the redemption of Jesus Christ–what does that mean? Clearly, we CAN’T work out our own salvation without Christ, so what do those words mean? Will we be guided step by step to correct what needs correction? Light into greater light? An understanding, even a becoming, which affects body and soul and leads us to the sort of virtue so deep and real that we can FEEL the touch of faith on the hem of our garment? Such a miracle can’t happen on Promethian (man-conveyed) light, but only as we directly interact with the source of light.

  29. I’m one who truly can’t go against strong personal beliefs to follow the prophet. That’s not how my mind works.

    On stuff like the Word of Wisdom, it doesn’t matter that much, so even if I’m not positive tea is bad, I’m not going to drink tea regardless. Anything where it doesn’t really matter that much, including things like wearing more than one earring, I will follow because I give the prophet and the authorities of the church the benefit of the doubt.

    When it’s something like the priesthood ban, though, or the idea that gays living in committed monogamous relationships are living in sin, those things I have to ponder and pray about a lot. And sometimes my heartfelt prayerful answer differs from that of church authorities. In that case, I follow my own light.

    The purpose of the authorities statement in these cases is to cause me to revisit the question over and over. To ask myself if I’ve somehow made a mistake. To take it to Heavenly Father in sincere and sustained prayer. To think it through again and again. I think something is gained from that process regardless of the answer that emerges.

    I’m one who really, honestly, deeply, does not believe in the infallibility of church authority. However, the collective inspiration, wisdom, and insight of the Apostles and the First Presidency is such that when I do disagree with them, I make very sure it isn’t me who’s making the mistake. And always there’s that crack in the door that I must leave to be teachable. I know that I may find out something different later that causes me to see things from the other side. But I think in order for our moral muscles to grow, we have to exercise them. Giving all the thinking over to someone else, even someone really wonderful, causes them to atrophy.

  30. @James … I’ve said something similar to your wife, from time to time. So true.

  31. Elouise says:

    Margaret–

    Misspelling “it’s–its” is a burr under my saddle too. On the other hand, Mark Twain wrote and said quite a lot about spelling, one way and the other, including this:

    “I don’t see any use in having a uniform and arbitrary way of spelling words. We might as well make all clothes alike and cook all dishes alike. Sameness is tiresome; variety is pleasing. I have a correspondent whose letters are always a refreshment to me, there is such a breezy unfettered originality about his orthography. He always spells Kow with a large K. Now that is just as good as to spell it with a small one. It is better. It gives the imagination a broader field, a wider scope. It suggests to the mind a grand, vague, impressive new kind of a cow.”
    – speech at a spelling match, Hartford, Connecticut, May 12, 1875. Reported in the Hartford Courant, May 13, 1875

    For example, your spelling of the word as “Promethian”
    suggests an admirable man-conveyed determination to regularize and anglicize adjective forms in English. Way to go!

  32. belledame2 says:

    It’s stuff like this that makes me really careful to think over anything a GA says before believing it, especially ETB’s 14 things about following the prophet.

  33. High praise for my very “creative” writing from my first creative writing teacher! COOL! Thanks, Elouise. (I used to spell the philosopher Horace’s name HORUS, because I was studying Egyptian things. Bruce found that amusing. But I can think of worse spellings of that name.)

  34. I was given copies of these letters in 1971 by my bishop, when I, as a young adult, was trying to sort out how much obedience I owed my domineering father. That Bishop told me the original quote was unattributed in a Church News editorial, and there was a correction later, which included JFS’s letter. I still keep the purple mimeographed yellowed papers in with the original of my Patriarchal Blessing. These letters were widely passed around before Dialogue or FARMS. One of my BYU roommates got them from a high school counselor in Salt Lake.
    I like Tatiana’s take on, and discomfort with cognitive dissonance. Boyd K Packer, not really known for encouraging independent thought, taught that we can all do an “end run” around the Church’s hierarchical structure with personal prayer, but he cautions that when our prayers lead to answers that are different than ALL the leadership, we need to reexamine them, and pray some more.

  35. Lucienne Jeanne says:

    We should think of one episode of the New Testament that we can read in Galatians 2 when Paul tells how he had to oppose Peter’ s attitude towards Gentiles.
    Ga 2.11″ But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.”
    Surprisingly enough this controversy refers to what could be called racism.
    Paul also said:
    Ga 2.12″ For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
    Ga 2.13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
    Ga 2.14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before [them] all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews ?”

    At that time, Peter was the Chief apostle, the President of the Church and he was wrong.
    So, I do not think we can say :”When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done.”
    It is probably true most of the time but as in the example I just quoted it does happen that even prophets may make mistakes.

  36. Tatiana you always say wise things so well. Like you, there are things that I follow because they are asked of us (e.g., grow a garden) and don’t carry the weight of other things that I think do require personal testimony to embrace.

    Karen, my source for this was a copy of a mimeograph that has been passed around at BYU for years, long before Farms and Dialogue (which I was glad to be made aware of) republished it. Maybe it was the same thing?

    Margaret, that was that Elouise? It’s like watching two Olympians chat.

  37. They set aside ‘reason and good judgement’ completely and claim they have faith that these opinions must be true, and in the same stroke, ignore great swaths of data and careful scientific understanding and which represents, quite literally, loads of humanity’s best reasoning and good judgment.

    And rightfully so, in some instances.

    We must be careful to remember that even the best that mankind has to offer in the way of thought is nothing compared to the infinite understanding of our Heavenly Father and His Son. One verse comes to mind in particular:

    “Their land is also full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.” 2 Nephi 12: 8

    I may be taking some liberties by suggesting that science can be idolatry, but I do maintain that it can be. As much as we feel like we understand about what our scientific instruments can tell us, we must remember to seek HIS understanding in all things. Any time that science and research does not do that, there’s a problem. And you’ll see if you read this WHOLE statement that this is what it says.

    “Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts.”

    We all have a responsibility to gain a sincere testimony of Our Heavenly Father, our Savior Jesus Christ and His Atonement, and the mission and presence of the Holy Ghost. Part of gaining a testimony of the Spirit includes recognizing it in the words and countenances of others, including the prophets. We cannot do this if we suggest that science could ever take their place, because to do so would be to suggest that we and our instruments could take their place. We would do well to remember that there will be council given by their mouths that is vital to our safety in the last days that will come from nowhere else.

  38. Kristine says:

    SteveP–There is only one Elouise.

  39. Paradox, I really have no problem with what you said. Some will take it further and claim that science can be ignored.

  40. Interestingly, the sentiment that leaders of the church are entitled to dictate orders with no explanations whatsoever is directly contrary to our scriptures:

    41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
    42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
    (D&C 121: 41-42)

  41. Steven Montgomery says:

    I find it interesting that J. Raymond Cope’s Ph. D. thesis was entitled, “Religion and the Dialectical Materialism of Karl Marx.” I’m just saying.

    http://philosophy.osu.edu/studentInfo/grad/pastPhDs.cfm

  42. You don’t need Church leaders to opine about evolution, they are wise enough to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. You don’t need a religious authority to come to the conclusion that evolutionary theory is historically inaccurate, that can be deduced from the pathetic evidence proffered in its favor.

  43. I’m so glad you’ve cleared that up once and for all, Mike.

  44. Love it, love it, love it! Thanks for reprinting this here! I will keep for my file.

  45. Thank you so much for another great post. Your care and research are immensely appreciated.

  46. If I heard that original quote I would not be bothered too much by it anyway.

    I would give the author a charitable interpretation and assumed he used a poor choice of words — which everyone is guilty of. I’d assume he meant to say something along the lines of, When the Lord commands (through is appointed servants), Do It.

    I’d take his quote to mean, if the bishop and his councilors propose a ward fast, the time to talk about if we should fast is over, we should do it. Or if you’re asked to go Home Teach (or Ward Teach or whatever it was called then) faithfully carry out your assignment.

    I certainly see how others would interpret more out of that statement as it is all too easy to do so. And it’s nice that President didn’t attempt to defend the remarks, which would just cause more issues.

    Rather I’d not be offended by it, I’d take that remark in stride, I wouldn’t cause it to throw out my existing testimony and personal agency, etc. I don’t see why people get so worked up and seize on one or two lines from any particular leader or text and insist that it takes priority instead of being a part of the whole.

    You could take virtually any quote given in conference these days and view it under a different light and get offended or defensive about it.

    I guess what really gets people upset is someone using a quote from a general authority to beat someone else over the head with it — and that is naturally wrong. I can’t convince you to have a testimony of something using words from church leaders, the best I can do is give you the reason why I believe what I do using their quotes. Our church leaders speak to us, they do not speak to us so we can use their words against our neighbors. Sometimes we need to be careful thinking, “this talk is just what brother or sister X needs to hear” because there might be a lot of judgment loaded in that sentiment.

    All that said, the history/letters presented here is great. I love to read these kind of historical interactions.

  47. Very interesting post. But I am afraid President GA Smith smoothly chose to focus on the “freedom of thinking” of the members rather than on room for Genral Authorities to make mistakes. Not that the inquiry specifically asked for that answer, but the response does not allude at all at any possible fallibility on their part.

    It’s (note the correct use of the apostrophe) a very interesting dichotomy. By making our leaders infallible, we are left to follow blindly, but we remain in the “safety” of the total control of the leadership. But by encouraging free thinking, we risk the disruption of unity, for there will always be those with radical thinking. Which one is the most comfortable from the point of view of the leadership? But which one is the one that reflects the plan we chose for our progression from the beginning?

    Infallibility sounds safe, but reality is tough. Leaders are not infallible, and free thinking is required. We are not left alone in our free thinking though. When we are confirmed members of the church, we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. A baptism of fire, that purifies us and helps us gain a change in our hearts. We now have both, the disposition to do good, to follow Christ and the Comforter he promised us, to guide us and help us choose between right and wrong.

    To my surprise (or not), few people here mentioned the companionship of the Spirit to be juxtaposed against the direction of the leaders. (Perhaps under the wishful assumption that there will never be such a need).

    The Holy Ghost is God, the leaders are not. And although, subjectively risky, for there may be many who claim a fruit of the Holy Spirit, when that fruit had a different source, I believe this is the ultimate key for following Christ, being a true Christian, and giving validity to the calling of our leaders.

    We have both elements for true divine guidance: our leaders chosen by God, and God himself in the companionship of the Holy Ghost. In my philosophy, these two guides work together and compliment each other.

    Leaders: anointed men, chosen by God to guide us; nevertheless, human, imperfect, with specific backgrounds, and prejudices. These men are not gods, but they don’t need to be either, for we are also entitled to God’s guidance and companionship.

    The day is here where we cannot borrow oil for our lamps; the day is here when we cannot be lazy servants, needing to be told every specific thing we need to do. It is the time for us to become worthy of the divine guidance, the light that help us truly discern between right and wrong.

    It may be possible to write volumes on the many times leaders have been wrong. Leaders being wrong is not the problem. The problem is when we make of them our gods, and put them before our divine guide. If a prophet speaks from God, why wouldn’t the Holy Ghost testify of it in our hearts?

    Moroni wisely compells us to do this when he said “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”

    If the guidance of a leader becomes questionable in our hearts, if it seems contrary to Christ’s teachings, if it divdes us, if it tells us to judge the children of God by their appearance, if it encourages discrimination, if it represses the agency of others, if it persecutes, if it causes heartache, if it doesn’t uplift, if it destroys, if it is based on prejudice and traditions, if it is ungodly, if it cannot be praiseworthy, if it mocks God by making him a respecter of men, if our heart sinks, if our stomach turns, if we dare not repeat it for it violates our sense of humanity, if it doesn’t compells us to influence others by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned, then why not pour our hearts out in prayer and ask of God and have the Holy Ghost to shed light on such issues?

    Perhaps if only one member would have done so, the Mountain Meadows Massacre could have been avoided. Instead, they choose to make of their leaders their God. And I guess by following their fallibility, they will have to respond in the last day: “our leaders told us to do so.” When the outcome could have been far superior, and when God replies “did I not send a Comforter to guide you?”

    Margaret Young wrote:
    It fascinates me how one speculation provides the basis for further speculation, until we are proclaiming that the sum total of all specullation (provided the speculators were church leaders) equals doctrine.

    Bridget Jack Meyers:
    I agree with you that the correction deserves broad distribution.

    These comments represent to me the room for improvement that rests on the shoulders of future leaders. To stop speculation, not in secret, but with clarity, simplicity and with “broad distribution.” Having faith in our standard of truth. And making truth a light over a table.

    Geoff B says:
    But we all know there are times when true faith involves
    following the prophet even if your mind tells you to disagree.

    Depending on where the disagreement is rooted. I know by the context of your statement that you refer to our natural human nature and our tendencies to give into temptation. And I couldn’t agree more. But if the disagreement comes from the right source, nothing should take precedence to God.

    My favorite statement so far is by SteveP:
    David, infallibility of leaders seems a particular temptation for the Saints who sometimes seem to be wanting a Pope rather than a Prophet. Thus abdicating their responsibility to gain a testimony from the Spirit for themselves of their words.

    SteveP, thank you.

    Tatiana said:
    I’m one who truly can’t go against strong personal beliefs to follow the prophet. That’s not how my mind works.

    Hopefully it is not just your mind but also your heart. And hopefully those strong personal beliefs are strong because they come from your communion with God.

    Lucienne Jeanne,
    I was thinking about that scripture all along. Thanks for posting. A good example of two backgrounds facing each other. It is not the fault of men to have different backgrounds. The problem begins when they love their
    backgrounds more than they are willing to receive true revelation from God. They hold on to the traditions of their fathers, and in turn they must find a justification for doing so. That’s where the speculations and false doctrines are born. Repentance is possible, and leaders do repent.
    What I fear some fail to understand is the influence
    they have on their followers, and their duty to make sure to bring the fold back after they have misled it and feed the sheep with true nourishment, purging the poison they may still have in their systems.

    Paradox said:
    I may be taking some liberties by suggesting that science can be idolatry, but I do maintain that it can be.

    Indeed you are, yet your comparisson is appropriate when the Holy Ghost is left out. Since in the Church we also believe that “The source of all knowledge comes from God to man for man’s benefit, guidance, and blessing.” (Elder DL Stapley)

    I believe the ultimate key to take the most advantage out of our leaders, and not overwhelm their accountability with our blind following, is to be worthy of the Holy Ghost at all times. Our leaders are instruments in the hands of God in our guidance, but they are not gods themselves. If we can understand that, we can more effectively understand their role, and love them whether they make mistakes or not.

    Let us overcome the fear that our leaders are human and that they can and do make mistakes.

    If we learn to understand, accept and teach this openly, we will be able to overcome the fear that their reputation will be tarnished because they said something wrong, that our critics will point at us, that the members will lose their testimony, that investigators will lose interest, that we have to hide the truth of their mistakes, that we have to sanitize our history, that there are things that “must never be said,” that we must rely on apologia to justify our past, etc, etc, etc. These fears only make things worse. The truth will make us free, and when we are truthful, and we are open about our infallibility, then these fears fade.

    “…no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; … the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent…”

  48. Last Lemming says:

    There are three different concepts being conflated in these comments: constraints on thinking, constraints on debating, and constraints on behavior. The Improvement Era article wanted to impose constraints on thinking and President Smith effectively removed those constraints. The more recent statements about the debate being over place no constraints on thinking, just on the manner in which those thoughts are expressed. President Smith did not address that issue in his letter, and I think it is a stretch to assume that his endorsement of seeking independent confirmation of leaders’ statements constitutes permission to publicly disagree with those leaders.

    Geoff B’s example of coffee drinking betrayed a fear that if members feel free to disagree, then they might also feel free to disobey. Indeed, some might. But by no stretch of the imagination could they invoke President Smith’s letter as justification.

  49. SteveP: A piety, indeed.

  50. Whoops, Kathryn. Thanks. I fixed it. Pity the lack of my spelling piety.

  51. no no, Steve, it was perfect! I’m not mocking; I’m congratulating.

  52. Some commentors here have pointed out that Pres. Smith didn’t speak to the fallibility of General Authorities, but instead focused on freedom to think for ourselves.

    But notice that he was unambiguous in his condemnation of the entire statement:

    “I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church.”

  53. In the spam filter…

  54. John Mansfield says:

    From the BCC sidebar, June 19: “What do BYU, Iran, Pakistan, and China have in common?”

    Scott B., could you confer with your fellow writers and let us know which the Church’s institutions this website allows to be compared with the government of Iran? Obviously Physical Facilities is fair game, but what about stake Sunday school presidencies?

  55. John Mansfield says:

    Well, not much of a context for that anymore. Could these two comments of mine be deleted with the rest?

  56. John,

    I understand that certain institutions (including Physical Facilities, as you mention) are fair game. Others would include: Junior Primary, Ward Pancake Breakfasts, and any phrase containing the words “Munch” and “Mingle.”

  57. John, there is a difference between BYU and the Church, despite oft conflation. If not, we’ll have no more complaints during football season about what the coach should of or should not have done in the final seconds of the game. He was from BYU so no complaints allowed.

    By the by it was Wikipedia pairing BYU with those governments. BCC made no comment in support, it was just showing others how we are perceived.

  58. Matt Jacobsen says:

    With all the deleting of comments, I think you missed the precedent set by J in #3.

  59. Did the discussion really get that heated or offensive? Maybe I missed something. It’s not for me to say, of course, but taking offense too easily closes off discussion pretty fast.

  60. President Kimball once said orange juice was too expensive to buy. I don’t think God wanted us to all stop drinking orange juice. Just because the prophet and others state a personal opinion doesn’t make it doctrine. Another big problem with this unlimited type of statement is once a person becomes prophet everything he ever said becomes instant doctrine to some members.

    The first presidency has frequently asked people to cut back on big summer youth activities but that didn’t stop my Stake from spending 60K to send our youth on a pioneer hand cart trek.

  61. Tommy Nomer says:

    The Prophets are good men who do the best they can to lead us. We have the right and responsibility to inquire for ourselves about certain matters and how we should follow.
    I for one believe that the church is trying to lead us to Christ and that is the most important issue in the end. However, I do not feel that complete, perfect obedience to all the minutia is going to save us- we all need Christ’s daily offering of mercy and grace to be perfect in Him each day. Obedience to love, service, following Christ and loving God with all our heart, mind, might and strength are the important commandments- where is our heart?.
    If someone has a cup of coffee, eats too much red meat, has a coke, a beer, or doesn’t brush their teeth is not going to keep them out of the Kingdom.
    If some of you think this sounds a bit heretical then I would suggest you recall Christ and his opinion of those SO focused on the minutia in His day. We have become a bit to pharisee-like in the church today in my opinion. Love your neighbor- even your Mormon neighbor- even if he has facial hair or washes his car on Sunday.

  62. Tommy Nomer says:

    I point to Gordon Hinkley’s comments in an interview with Larry King about how he does not believe that God was once a man. He said, “I don’t believe we teach that, we don’t emphasize it…” The teaching is actually found in this years priesthood manual that we are using each Sunday. He was being politically correct in front of a world audience. Do I agree with his approach? No. But knowing that information about God does not save us- we can learn about how all that works later. Let’s follow Christ first and foremost and take what our leaders give us that leads us in that direction as it is revealed to us. That is our right and responsibility.
    I believe that men will lead us astray- no matter who they are. Follow and focus on Christ FIRST- and take what inspired men say and use it to follow Christ. If we approach following Christ the other way around and follow what men say first, we are in danger of putting our trust in the arm of the flesh and are offending God.

  63. TaterTot says:

    My husband and I have been thinking about this subject lately. I enjoyed this thought from Henry B. Eyring:

    “If someone you trusted handed you what appeared to be nothing more than sand with the promise that it contained gold, you might wisely hold it in your hand awhile, shaking it gently. Every time I have done that with counsel from a prophet, after a time the gold flakes have begun to appear, and I have been grateful.”

    I love the image of sifting through the prophet’s words to find the gold.

  64. Nice, TaterTot.

  65. I also like the prefatory language Pres. Eyring used:

    Sometimes we will receive counsel that we cannot understand or that seems not to apply to us, even after careful prayer and thought. Don’t discard the counsel, but hold it close. If someone you trusted handed you what appeared to be nothing more than sand with the promise that it contained gold, you might wisely hold it in your hand awhile, shaking it gently. Every time I have done that with counsel from a prophet, after a time the gold flakes have begun to appear, and I have been grateful.

    Henry B. Eyring, “Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, Jun 2008, 4–9

    By implication, it suggests that sometimes there is sand, as well as gold.

  66. jeff Spector says:

    In addition to being impressed by President Smith’s letter, I was taken by the fact that a Ward (Home) Teacher actually made a visit!

  67. loneshark says:

    Manuel,

    “If the guidance of a leader becomes questionable in our hearts, if it seems contrary to Christ’s teachings, if it divdes us, if it tells us to judge the children of God by their appearance, if it encourages discrimination, if it represses the agency of others, if it persecutes, if it causes heartache, if it doesn’t uplift, if it destroys, if it is based on prejudice and traditions, if it is ungodly, if it cannot be praiseworthy, if it mocks God by making him a respecter of men, if our heart sinks, if our stomach turns, if we dare not repeat it for it violates our sense of humanity, if it doesn’t compells us to influence others by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned, then why not pour our hearts out in prayer and ask of God and have the Holy Ghost to shed light on such issues?”

    Amen to the last part, about honestly praying for understanding. However, I detect a little too much confidence in your ability to objectively determine (prior to offering said prayer) which teachings are “based on prejudice,” “destroy,” “cannot be praiseworthy,” etc. These all sound like conclusions rather than honest questions, and I know that, for myself anyway, the Spirit has to pull double duty to change my stubborn mind if I’ve already made it up.

    When I was first meeting with the missionaries prior to my baptism they presented me with a teaching that–at first–I felt I could not accept: that God the Father has a body of flesh and bones. This doctrine simply clashed with my understanding of God. My heart sank; my stomach turned. Why?

    Because I had been steeped in a millenia-old manmade European tradition, dating back to at least the third or fourth century BC, which holds that God is an amorphous everything/nothing spirit essence and that corporality is a crude, debased condition. Basically, my deep rooted PREJUDICE conflicted with revealed truth.

    So how did I get past this conflict? By recognizing and abandoning my prejudice! The elders showed me D&C 130:22, which pretty clearly spells it out. I had already received a profound testimony of Joseph Smith’s calling. Still having a somewhat malleable worldview, young lad that I was, I was able to drop my prejudices and–marvelling–contemplate the idea of someday shaking God’s hand.

    Some folks can’t get past their prejudices. Polygamy, degrees of salvation, exaltation, the distinct individuality of the Father and Son…these are all principles revealed in the latter-day canon, and have their place in the “official” doctrines of the Church. They are also utterly abhorrent to the cultural prejudices of the Western mind. Surprise surprise, man’s values are out of harmony with God’s revelations. That doesn’t make God any less right.

    So, what about those “unofficial” teachings, directions, and policies given to us by (through?) latter-day prophets that similarly clash with our culturally-molded prejudices? Should we conclude that they all originate in the minds of a bunch of elderly Utahns?

    Let’s take the “priesthood ban” for example. Modern, mainstream American values tell us that disparate treatment of people based on race is wrong. This value is deeply rooted in me, and I strive to live accordingly. Should we, therefore, superimpose this value over that body of eternal laws that we associate with the righteousness of God? Is the notion that God would ever sanction, let alone command, the disparate treatment of people according to ancestry so patently wrong that we must assume it to be manmade?

    A lot of folks seem to think so. I hear and read a lot about what so-and-so “could never believe.” I personally have less confidence on the ultimate correctness of the cultural values of my society, and defer judgement on the matter. I leave room, however, for the ample possibility that our leaders were directed by God in implementing the policy.

  68. Tommy Nomer says:

    loneshark,

    I appreciate your faith and willingness to suspend judgment and disbelief in favor of patience and openness. I agree with some of what you say but not completely- surprise!

    It is given for us to judge certain things and make decisions based on revealed truth. If someone claims to be speaking in God’s name then we have the right to evaluate, decide and pray about it. If the people back in Brigham Youngs’ day would have prayed about polygamy and blood atonement, “the flat nose” etc- they would have come up with different conclusions than he did. They also would have been excommunicated- a scare tactic that most would submit to.
    Most of us feel that if we “bow our head and say yes” then we are being faithful. I believe that we should use our cultural, intellectual and spiritual backgrounds and compare it to Christ’s teachings and then make a decision. Leaving the door open for any possibility sounds righteous and faithful but I don’t believe it is.

    By the way- the priesthood ban did not just go against “mainstream american values”- it goes against Christ’s teachings. Joseph Smith actually gave the priesthood to various black members in his day- Brigham Young initiated the ban years later.

    My point is that this whole notion that the brethren can never lead us astray is contrary to scripture and Christ’s teachings. Follow Him first and we cannot falter- follow any man or men and we could be headed for trouble.

  69. Neal Kramer says:

    A fascinating thread, to say the least.

    Whether the President of the Church is infallible or not is a question I run into, though inadvertently, from time to time. It often comes in a submerged implication from a frustrated student who is being asked to think harder than he wants. My students seem to me to have a profound longing for certainty.

    Their greatest hope for that certainty lies with the Church. They want to trust their leaders. They want to be obedient. They want unequivocal promises that their obedience will trigger automatic blessings that will pour down upon them as the dews from heaven. It is very hard for me to gainsay their dreams.

    When such students find versions of the ward teaching message, they cling to it. Many of their teachers do, too. The burden of doing the kind of thinking suggested by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young is hard to bear.

    We are much more comfortable with other teachings by the same men about opposing our leaders, rebelling, and falling into apostasy.

    I try to be patient with people who need more certainty than I sometimes can find. I also try to be patient with myself when I ask too many questions. I also want to be as supportive of the leaders of the church as I can.

    On the few occasions when disagreement may arise, I have learned to be patient. I have learned that a single revelation can undo generations of tragedy and completely bring us back to all the blessings of the covenant. I also know that people who believe in prophets find this to be tremendously edifying and spiritually vitalizing.

    May I just say that we ought to study the teaching of George Albert Smith a little more. He was true follower of Christ and a true prophet.

  70. Converting from Catholicism to Mormonism was very easy for me in part because I was raised that there has to be correct priesthood authority on the earth and a prophet who speaks
    with God and for Him to us and all the world whether they listen or not. But I have never expected a prophet to be infallible because he’s not as perfect as God is. However, when I compare myself to the GA’s, I believe they are closer to Him than I am–in part because of their callings and also because of their consecration and devotion of their lives to Him and His work is their work. I don’t see them getting “distracted” by the world the way most of us can get sidetracked and have to pull ourselves back on track sometimes. I don’t expect them to be perfect but I
    think they as special witnesses of Him earned that because
    their eye is more single to His glory than is mine. I don’t profess to know His will in all matters but I do expect that on major issues IF our prophet asks Him what His will is, God will tell him and he will relay that to us. I said “IF”. If we don’t ask, we aren’t always told anyway. The prophet gets to learn just like the rest of us humans. We all are where we are until we move forward after having a “ah-ha…now I understand” type of moment. All I’m saying is that when I compare myself to Pres. Hinckley, I can see that he’s way ahead of me spiritually and why the Lord picked him over me– and if people are intelligent they’d follow him, not me. I don’t know that any of us are way ahead of the twelve spiritually–some of us certainly are neck n’ neck but ahead–I don’t think so.

  71. Loneshark,

    “I detect a little too much confidence in your ability to objectively determine (prior to offering said prayer) which teachings are “based on prejudice,” “destroy,” “cannot be praiseworthy,” etc. These all sound like conclusions rather than honest questions, and I know that, for myself anyway, the Spirit has to pull double duty to change my stubborn mind if I’ve already made it up.”

    This statement tells me you didn’t understand what I meant by “pouring our heart in prayer,” and that you seem to have chosen to ingnore that I repeatedly said that WE must be worthy of the Holy Ghost. That we had to have had a baptism of fire, and a change in our heart to have a disposition to do good and to follow Christ. And in turn the implication that I believe all humans are, of course, fallible (including the person feeling the things I described).

    It takes faith and courage to face these personal dilemmas with the help God himself has provided for us; help that we are constantly encouraged to make use of, for it is written repeatedly and in many places, “seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.”

    The fact that someone is humble enough to have this courage to obey God and ask of him what we need to know is a sign to me that we are not relying in our own confidence to decide such things.

    The fact that some people rely blindly on what any human has to say (including leaders) is a misfortune and the neglect of one of the most precious gifts we are given when we covenant with God to take upon ourselves the name of Christ and to follow him enduring to the end.

    You seem to assume that because we have doubts that are manifested in the feelings I described, that the answer will necessarily be that “we are right.” I never said that. I said that we need to be worthy of the Spirit and that we need to have a disposition to do good, and to pour our hearts in prayer.

    I myself have experienced this many times. I struggled a lot with certain world views of Joseph Smith. Through honest and humble prayer, I have been able to receive more understanding on the issues that I have ever dreamed of. I have been able to overcome my struggles and know in my heart that I need not struggle with them anymore, for God provided the best context to understand them.

    If what you fear is that people often times cannot overcome themselves and decide to reject God’s answer, I understand that. It is a very real outcome, and it happens often, yet, that is precisely the plan we chose to follow before we came to this world. That is what we are here for, to be able to overcome ourselves and follow Christ, learning to open our hearts to God’s divine guidance. Prophets, apostles, general authorities, stake presidents, bishops, and every other member of the Church are along with us following that same process.

    msg,

    I also converted from Catholicism. I understand your view that you think leaders are “closer to God” than are members. Their callings do give them special stewardship over the rest of us, and this stewardship comes from God. This calling nonetheless, more than a privilege, is actually a duty. It comes with great responsibility and the keys to exercise it. The men that are called to serve in this manner are indeed special, yet their duty is to remain worthy of that calling that they may use their keys.

    They are not necessarily “ahead” of everyone else. I don’t think God looks at us with a perspective of how we are ahead of each other in this journey.

    You may not see them getting “distracted by the world,” but history teaches us differently. They can and have gotten distracted by their own world view. They are humans. They are here with the rest of us in this same journey.

    A good example of leaders that were “distracted” by their own world view resulting in real heartake and other negative feelings is Elder McConkie’s and others’ speculation to justify the priesthood ban. Elder Oaks has said regarding those speculations that “they were spectacularly wrong,” and Elder Holland has said that we must “make sure that that’s not perpetuated in the present. That’s the least, I think, of our current responsibilities on that topic.” It’s ok to be wrong. It is ok if our leaders are wrong. It is innefective to follow them blindly.

    Following them blindly becomes burdensome for them, becomes risky for us, and it may become an obstacle for the close relationship we are expected to develop with God. It is in their best interst and in our best interest that we get acquainted with the Holy Ghost and receive a testimony of all things, as Moroni exhorts us near the end of the Book of Mormon.

    There may be the case that our current leaders are “never” wrong. And it may be the case that you will be completely safe by following them without gaining a testimony of their words by the power of the Holy Ghost. There may be the case that you do not have any special circumstance in your life that you need more specific and taylored guidance for you, besides the counsel of your leaders (which may be general in many cases). But neglecting to obtain a testimony of their words by the Spirit is neglecting vital nourishment that your own spirit needs, and neglecting an opportunity to experience the companionship of God.

    I am concerned that you believe you must follow someone because you deem them “ahead” of you. They don’t need to be ahead, or in better words, you don’t need to feel you are “behind.” You are a child of God, just as special and valuable as any prophet or any apostle present or past. You are entitled to the divine guide of the Holy Ghost.

    Because we are not perfect, times will come when inevitably we will find ourselves not worthy to receive the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Thus, we must trust other’s discernment for the descisions we make in our journey. This however is not ideal, and the church teaches that this isn’t how God wants us to do things. We must be worthy of the Holy Ghost and keep our lamps filled with oil that we may not need to borrow from someone else.

    I believe this is the key to a person’s testimony.

  72. belledame2 says:

    It’s quotes like that one of “when the prophet says it the thinking’s been done” that make me reacall Joseph Smith who summed it up real well: “I teach them correct principals and they govern themselves.” I also like B. H. Roberts who didn’t accept blind faith and believed thought sweat was important, and to find out the truth for yourself.

  73. sam: “Rather I’d not be offended by it, I’d take that remark in stride, I wouldn’t cause it to throw out my existing testimony and personal agency, etc. I don’t see why people get so worked up…”

    When a good friend of mine finally got the courage up to tell one of her church leaders (stake president) that her husband was beating her (the first time he hit her was on their honeymoon) that leader’s advice was that her duty was to obey her husband. Because she believed that he, as stake president, was inspired of God to counsel her, she abandoned her own reason (and this is easy to do when you are in a situation of abuse, because you are constantly being told that you are stupid and wrong about everything) and stayed in the marriage. She suffered a lot more physical and mental abuse before she finally left. It was only seeing the pattern of abuse starting to be mirrored in the behaviour of her children that gave her the understanding that her stake president HAD to have been wrong and that she had to leave.

    A similar situation occurred a few years ago when a friend’s bishop tried to counsel her to return to live with her husband and to try to reconcile with him, in spite of the fact that the husband at the time had not even admitted that he was beating his wife, let alone repented of the behaviour or done anything to reverse it. In addition, he had raped her oldest child (not his, though he had been her step-father since she was six) and returning/reconciling would have meant taking that child back to live in a house with the man who raped her. It was appalling counsel that had a number of us wondering how he continued to be a bishop after this came to light.

    Perhaps you can take such a quote in stride because you have never experienced the deep and abiding harm that can come from ‘not doing your own thinking’ and obeying the counsel of a leader who your reason is telling you is grossly mistaken. Sometimes they ARE grossly mistaken.

    I don’t want to turn this topic to the matter of Proposition 8, but of all the many disturbing aspects of that whole debacle, the one that scared me the most was the number of LDS who reliquished their right to think for themselves and voted as they were instructed to by the prophet – people who clearly stated that their reason and feeling was telling them that Proposition 8 was wrong, but that they would vote ‘yes’ anyway, because they were following the prophet. By extension I was shocked and disappointed by the number of people who praised this behaviour, saying that it was wise to blindly follow the prophet’s counsel, even if we could not understand their reasoning. Their attitudes perfectly correlate with the erronous 1945 quote – the leaders had said it (to give time and means to supporting a yes vote) and their thinking was done. At least in part, the voting result was not a true reflection of the will of the people of CA as it should have been, but instead was also a reflection of the will of a few Utah residents who happen to also be leaders of a church. The fact that this was a civil/political matter makes people’s blind obedience even more disturbing.

    But this extends to all decisions, even those as small as when to hold a ward fast or whether to wear an extra earring – two examples given above. In fact, it is obeying the small illogical and reasonless decisions that eventually convinces people they they should follow when their reason is screaming no at them in a big decision. It’s important to ask questions like why church policy dictates that men (particularly in certain roles) should be clean-shaven, when Jesus Christ himself wore a beard (and what possible reason for him not to, as it grows there naturally?) Then people are less likely to follow like sheep in a matter that really matters.

  74. chosha,
    What happened to your friend is very disturbing. I hope the criminal whom you talk about is behind bars or in the process of getting there. God bless your friend and her daughter.

  75. Tommy Nomer says:

    Manuel,

    You stated the following: “Because we are not perfect, times will come when inevitably we will find ourselves not worthy to receive the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Thus, we must trust other’s discernment for the descisions we make in our journey. This however is not ideal, and the church teaches that this isn’t how God wants us to do things. We must be worthy of the Holy Ghost and keep our lamps filled with oil that we may not need to borrow from someone else.”

    I admire your commitment to living a Christlike life and I sense your strong desire to do right. We could all use more of that.

    I don’t believe that we can make ourselves worthy of the Spirit. No amount of doing good or serving can make us a clean receptacle. Only He can do that- and I don’t mean just at Sacrament meeting. I find that the church puts far too much emphasis on attaining something that is impossible to attain. Christ is willing to meet us each day where we are and it is crucial that we believe that we need Him every day! Not just until we are worthy enough on our own. He will meet the drug addict, the adulterer, and a prophet right where they are and make up for their imperfection if their has is broken and their spirit contrite.

    I know that people’s response will be, “well, the fact that we need Christ in just understood.” In my opinion that fact should be at the forefront of our speech and not an undercurrent. To suggest that we are ever worthy of the Spirit is blasphemy in my opinion.

    Come unto Christ and be perfected in Him. Being perfect in Him is being committed to the 2 great commandements and pledging our discipleship to Him on a daily basis. It is also acknowledging our need for His perfection and worthiness to make up for our lack. We will never “arrive” at the point of worthiness in this life to not need His. We should pray for his mercy & grace daily as we go about His work and have the faith that we are good enough each and every day with Him as our partner.
    This should be emphasized more in the Church and be at the forefront of our minds each day.

  76. Manual: thanks for that. In fact both women are now safe and married to men who have proven to be very fair husbands and good fathers, which is wonderful. (The second women I mentioned never did return to her husband and he was later jailed for a crime not related to her. It still shocks me how well he had us all fooled during their marriage.)

  77. Many years ago I read a statement by John Taylor (the statement was made when he was Elder Taylor not President Taylor) that has served me well in my life. He said the Church can not be judged by the statement of any elder. It can only be judged by the scriptures. That statement was quoted in a discussion of a difference of opinion between Brigham H. Roberts and Joseph Fielding Smith.

    I’m sorry that I don’t remember where I read that statement (its been 52 years since I read it) or the source that was used for the statement. When I read a controversial statement by a General Authority, I ask myself, “What do the scriptures say on that matter.” With almost all statements, the scriptures don’t say anything (if the scriptures did address the point in question, the statement wouldn’t be controversial), and I attribute the controversial statement to the personal belief of the GA.

  78. I have a good friend who was well connected with one particular GA, a deeply reflective person. She reported that he had stated that many general authorities were made GA’s because they were good administrators, not for any other reason.

    It is my opinion that there are many regular members who have a deeper understanding and a deeper well of spirituality than many who are called as good administrators. (This is, after all, the “do it” church.)

    Even those of us who think we are good at receiving spiritual gifts can be mistaken. Cases in point…

    Many years ago a good friend of my wife’s had ovarian cancer in one ovary. They had one child and wanted more, but if both ovaries were removed she would be sterile. So, on the advice (based on their revelations) of several church leaders she only had the cancerous ovary removed even though there was a substantial risk of occurrence in the second ovary. You can guess the rest of the story.

    This cautionary tale served me well a few years ago. My daughter had serious complications with her pregnancies. She had beautiful children. I thought, personally, that it was a shame to not have more. But, remembering the above cautionary tale, I mumbled a little and said little. She is alive and happy.

    We can all, from highest to the lowest, mistake feelings for revelations. I mentioned the most interesting conversation with a schizophrenic woman about how to tell the feelings of the spirit. She was extremely distrustful of her own feelings because they were often wrong. It put my own trust in feelings on the probe, as it were. At the present time I need to pass all feelings through the filter of reason before they become revelation. I wish everyone did this. Reason is the guardian at the gate and, if revelation is true, will not shut out truth.

  79. Evolutionists have the same thing going on. I hear this from Mormons quite a bit: “BYU teaches evolution, therefore, it must be true.”
    And I’ve also heard this argument: “Professors of science have stated the evidence for evolution is overwhelming.” Actually, the evidence IS overwhelming. But the interpretation of that evidence depends upon your philosophy. No one has seen evolution occur. No one has reproduced it in a test tube. We have no eyewitnesses, just the reasoning of men. As to the historical evidence, we can’t even get 19th century history right on the personal level, what makes anyone think we can microbiological detail correct from millions and billions of years ago without making any errors?

  80. Steve Evans says:

    Mike, this thread has little to nothing to do with evolution. Move along.

  81. I am at a huge loss as to why any faithful Mormon not directly related to Joseph Fielding Smith would be threatened by the idea of Evolution. The creation story can easily be taken as an artistic expression of a process that was undoubtedly more complicated than the prose suggests.

    I feel that the gymnastics one must perform in order to solve the cog-dis of evolution/creation actually makes much worse the issue of suffering. (I know, can of worms.)

  82. Steve, I think there is a tie-in. e.g. If I am “stuck” in the position that I have to reconcile all statements by past and present church leaders as the word of God, it creates all sorts of problems. Resolving how evolution could be a legitimate explanation within the framework of a divine creator is really only possible when you take seriously the idea of fallibility, or in softer terms, that leaders are humans and sprinkle their own opinions in amongst the inspiration. (Of course, that leaves us with an entirely new problem, how the heck do you figure out which is which?)

  83. I’ve even had evolutionist quote Henry Eyring at me, who quotes James Talmage and John Widtsoe. I suppose when its in favor of the scientific slant, its acceptable behavior. Only religious authoritarians are wrong, not scientific ones.

  84. #82:

    In regards to your statement: “how the heck do you figure out…”

    Re: evolution, blacks and the priesthood, or just about any other you can find Church leaders on both sides of the discussion. You can have either opinion and have a Church leader “in your court”. Our leaders are just men. They can be inspired in much of what they do, but even our prophets can state opinions that are subsequently shown to be wrong.

    In my opinion, things where it’s not resolved like this basically aren’t important. They are very interesting, but aren’t important to our salvation. It all comes back to Christ – love God, love your neighbor. Be a good person. Everything else is extra.

  85. What’s the difference between
    “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done.”
    and
    “The data is overwhelming that evolution is a fact.”

  86. Well, data, for one.

  87. Steve Evans says:

    Thinking, for another.

    Mike, strike two.

  88. This was a great post, thanks :)

  89. #88 — Steve, which one had thinking and which one didn’t?

  90. Steve Evans says:

    Martin, I am definitely not going there!

  91. Oh, I see – evolutionists are infallible scientists, while religious leaders are only fallible men. Yes this topic is SO irrelevant its a shame to bring it up.

  92. Steve Evans says:

    Bye, Mike.

  93. The thread is: proposed that Mormon leadership is open to disagreement. The statement about the “thinking is done” is rejected.

    In science, it is a consensus opinion by virtually everyone involved. Sometimes the crowd makes an error. In the Church it is a dogmatic opinion, by maybe only one person, which carries a lot of weight, true or false, good or bad, because of people who are ready to not think.

    Pons and Fleishmann set off a fire storm and set the teeth of the establishment against them because of the unexpected nature of their data. But as data (real data taken by other people) trickles out, it turns out that they might be right. Data and reason win, always, in the long run.

    Unsubstantiated opinion by leadership just makes life difficult for us sheep because it ultimately might be wrong. Some of us try to support the unsupportable.

    We should struggle to be on the side of data and reason. This does not preclude the mystical. As our knowledge and understanding have increased, the mysticism of the universe has only deepened. The majesty of God has only become more impressive.

    Compare God as he addresses Job, and the God who ignited the Big Bang. Orders of magnitude difference in power and mystery.

  94. Wonderful post, Steve. Thanks for providing the quotes. This late in the thread, all I will say is:

    Fwiw, the D&C 1:38 says that the “voice” (singular) of the “servents” (plural) is the same. I’d submit that there still is wiggle room for personal revelation even when all the prophets and apostles since the Restoration say the exact same thing, but I know I’m going to be extremely careful and prayerful in cases where I choose to disregard such a united voice – and you better believe it will be a rare exception and not the rule.

    When one Prophet speaks, I give it serious consideration and accept and follow it the majority of the time; when one apostle speaks, I compare it to what others have said and grant it no more weight on its own than I would a Bishop or Stake President or Primary teacher or Relief Society sister I trust and respect.

  95. Margaret mentioned a previous discussion on the concept/quote, “The Lord will not permit his prophet to lead the Church astray.” I wasn’t part of that discussion, but I’m surprised the quote hasn’t popped up in this one. In any discussion I have had previously on this topic – whether the prophet’s words should be taken as canon, whether or not prophets are fallible, etc and how unquestioningly members of the Church should accept a prophet’s teaching, in the end the discussion always comes back to this quote, the argument being that even if the prophet is fallible, God will not allow him to lead the members astray. Many people accept that statement to the point where they really seem to imagine that if the prophet attempted to speak untruth to the membership he would be struck down (or dumb).

    This leads to a belief in the infallibility of the prophet’s words, if not of the man himself – if the Lord did not prevent him from saying this thing, then the thing must be true – and like it or not, for some that is where their thinking stops. The problem with that is that at no point have they actually considered the issue at hand. The only decision they are making is whether or not to accept the prophet’s words as truth, based on criteria that have nothing to do with the actual words he spoke. To me this is a fallacy of wishing thinking. It would be nice to be able to trust that every word out of the prophet’s mouth is indisputable truth; it sounds like something that should be true, so it has been taught as truth.

    And is still being taught as truth. The chapters on these links to the current LDS Institute manual ‘Teachings of the Living Prophets’ absolutely teach that the prophet is to be wholly believed, and obeyed:

    http://institute.lds.org/manuals/teachings-of-the-livings-prophets/tlp-3-7.asp

    Several quotes asserting that the prophet will not be permitted to lead the Church astray, the earliest source being Wilfred Woodruff as far as I can tell.

    http://institute.lds.org/manuals/teachings-of-the-livings-prophets/tlp-3-8.asp

    This chapter lists 14 statements about prophets, including such gems as:
    * The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
    * The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
    * The prophet and the presidency…follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.
    In the introduction to these fourteen principles, Ezra Taft Benson states that ‘our salvation hangs’ on these ‘fundamentals’ of following the living prophet.

    Follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer – does that sound anything like, ‘use your own reason and thinking and prayer to discern the truth’ or does that sound a lot like, ‘if you don’t want to suffer, what’s there to think about? Just do what the prophet says.’

    Certainly I feel that those teachings in that manual, all quoted from presidents of the Church (mostly) or members of the Twelve support the original quote and are contrary to George Albert Smith’s reponse. However, I’d temper that by saying that his response does not, as someone pointed out above, ever really acknowledge that a prophet can be wrong. Instead he says that the members should ‘gain their own testimony’. I definitely know people for whom this is the crux of the argument that ‘when our leaders speak, the thinking has been done’. They argue that the responsibility of the member is to gain a testimony of the prophet’s calling. Once that testimony exists, there is no reason to question what they say. Again, this relies on the belief that God will not allow the prophet to lead the Church astray.

  96. I believe the Lord will not allow his servants to lead the church astray, because this is the last dispensation. But, in doing so, He will not prevent his servants from doing things, saying things that are wrong; the scriptures are clear that God allows his servants to exercise their agency. Unless one argues that the GA are infallible, one must conclude that at times the GA will error.

    A good example of this is the teaching of Adam-God by Brigham Young, who was “the” prophet, the only one who can speak for all the church. There is pretty good historical evidence that BY did teach Adam was our God, even having that put into the Temple ceremony in the St. George Temple. That teaching, however, did not remain in the church. This is a good example that God did not allow His church to be led astray, but He didn’t do that by preventing His prophet from exercising his agency. He didn’t do that by insuring that every thing said and done by His prophet was the truth. He did it by respecting the agency of his prophet and then by having subsequent prophets provide correction that kept the church on the right track, so to speak.

  97. I like what Neal A Maxwell said:

    “Maxwell claimed there are four levels of fundamental Church doctrine:
    (1) those doctrines revealed by the prophet speaking alone;
    (2) those doctrines revealed by the prophet in conjunction with his First Presidency counselors;
    (3) those doctrines revealed in First Presidency statements, with the words of the First Presidency assuming “a special status;” and
    (4) those doctrines revealed by official declaration.”

    I think this can help us sort out “opinions” vs doctrine. I would also put canonized scripture in level 4

  98. So long and thanks for all the fish.

  99. Allen: “He did it by respecting the agency of his prophet and then by having subsequent prophets provide correction that kept the church on the right track, so to speak.”

    Interested to know though, did those subsequent prophets ever acknowledge outright that Brigham Young was wrong to expound that doctrine? Have you ever read anywhere of one prophet directly acknowledging that a previous prophet was in error and that their words on a particular subject should be disregarded? Every example I know of where something I personally regard as false doctrine later corrected (I won’t list them because it’s a different discussion) was instead corrected with an announcement that ‘that WAS true, but NOW the Lord has revealed this’, which really is not at all the same. And why would someone avoid saying that a previous prophet was in error, if not to preserve the illusion that they are never wrong?

  100. I was never taught that prophets were NEVER wrong. I was taught that when they spoke as a prophet, they spoke the mind and will of the Lord. That is a significant difference.

  101. Chosha (#73) was “shocked and disappointed” by the number of people who “reliquished their right to think for themselves and voted as they were instructed to by the prophet – people who clearly stated that their reason and feeling was telling them that Proposition 8 was wrong, but that they would vote ‘yes’ anyway, because they were following the prophet.”

    I am neither shocked nor disappointed. That we may be granted personal wiggle room shouldn’t change the strong default presumption that we should fall in line with the Church’s stated position. By all means, if you think God wants you personally to vote for ERA, against Prop 8, for the MX missile, or whatever, contra the counsel of the church, go ahead. But a lot of us are willing to be guided in these matters. And that’s fine. Even good. Verily.

  102. Mark D. says:

    J. Reuben Clark’s 1954 talk on the subject is probably the most formal acknowledgement of the fallibility issue:

    “When Are the Writings and Sermons of Church Leaders. Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?”, By President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., of the First Presidency, Address to Seminary and Institute Personnel, BYU, 7 July 1954.

    http://emp.byui.edu/MARROTTR/ClarkWhenAreWritings.pdf

  103. #101 gst
    I would suggest that ‘people who clearly stated that their reason and feeling was telling them that Proposition 8 was wrong, but that they would vote ‘yes’ anyway, because they were following the prophet’ have gone far beyond ‘being guided in these matters’, as has anyone who follows the opinion of another so unquestioningly that they feel no need or responsibility to think about an issue for themselves before acting.

  104. In fact, questioning ‘the strong default presumption that we should fall in line with the Church’s stated position’ is exactly what this post is about.

  105. chosha,

    You’ve brought out an important point that directly relates to this post: Not only GA but, probably, most LDS seem to accept the premise of those who appose the church, that a true prophet can do no wrong; in their mind all those who oppose the church have to do is show that a LDS prophet did one thing that was wrong and the whole LDS church is false. With the exception of Orson Pratt and maybe a few others, the GA denounce the A-G teaching of BY but do not say BY made a mistake. If, as you pointed out, LDS believe the GA never make mistakes, then we are obligated to accept, without question, every declaration made by the GA.

  106. 103-104:
    (Yawn)

  107. Scott B: My input at #103-104 was on topic and a direct response to a comment directed to me. Your rudeness to me (provided in lieu of an actual response to my comments) was uncalled for.

  108. Peter LLC says:

    Welcome to the wild and woolly ways of the BCC, chosha.

    Now if we could just get a perma or two to wag a finger for going pee-pee in the sandbox, the spectacle would be complete.

  109. Steve Evans says:

    Peter, I’m waiting for people to finish before I wag.

  110. Don’t we make them stand in the corner of a dark basement?

  111. Peter LLC says:

    If by “dark basement” you mean a subterranean soundproof chamber equipped with a half-ton door requiring a code, then yes.

  112. Peter :) I can take the hurricane. Just irks me when it’s blowing at the person, not the argument.

  113. chosha, I’m not saying our prophets are never wrong about anything. But if there’s not at least a presumption that they are right about matters of faith, then what are they for?

  114. 107, 112–
    (Yawn)

    :)

  115. Hey Scott B,

    You seem to be yawning a lot. Maybe you need to get more sleep? :)

  116. Would it help at all if the GA/Prophet and/or evolutionist claimed they had ‘thinking’ and ‘data’ behind their pronouncements?

  117. Steve Evans says:

    dude, didn’t we ban you?

  118. Chosha,

    You address something really important when you ask: “And why would someone avoid saying that a previous prophet was in error, if not to preserve the illusion that they are never wrong?”

    I believe this is the ultimate opportunity for future leaders to help establish the kingdom of God on earth and truly help the church move forward globally. Honesty is perhaps one of the ultimate virtues that we lack when we present ourselves in a historical context. I don’t think this lack of honesty is ill intended, but I do think it reflects a lack of courage, faith and integrity on our part (speaking as a Church in general, but the obvious focus is the leadership).

    Inevitably, I have to echo the Adam-God doctrine. This teaching was originated by Brigham Young per the accounts available. He promoted it strongly, even when some apostles rejected the idea. He made sure it was taught during the lecture at the veil, at the culprit of the temple endowment. He considered a basic pillar of knowledge revealed to the saints of the last dispensation. For a long time, the Church made efforts to make people believe Brigham was “misquoted” or “misinterpreted,” or that the doctrine was a transcript error, etc, etc, etc. As more scholars studied the matter, it became evident by numerous accounts of faithful members (including a poem by Eliza R. Snow) and journals like that of William Clayton, that the doctrine was a legitimate teaching of Brigham. Today the doctrine is undeniable and I don’t think the Church would be able to claim today that it is a simple “misunderstanding.”

    The church has declared the doctrine to be wrong. McConkie stated it is a “heresy.” Of course, this was during the period the church denied Brigham actually taught it. Yet, later McConkie accepted in a more private setting that indeed Brigham taught the doctrine.

    We say the Lord won’t let the prophet lead the church astray, yet, the Adam-God doctrine, along with the anxiety created by Brigham Young that only those living in a polygamous relationship would be able to receive exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom led large groups of people to split from the Church.

    These bizarre and extreme doctrines were in part contributors to the Mormon alienation from the US government, and were also central factors for the RLDS movement.

    Later, when polygamy was ceased, the anxiety that the church was falling from the truth was at the center of the FLDS movement. Therefore, I think Brigham’s teachings are responsible, if only in part but responsible nonetheless, for a great number of good members and good families and generations of people to have lost the truth.

    I agree with you that this has indeed been how the Church has handled information previously. They seem to want to create an illusion that the prophets were never wrong, and that everything somehow, “sometimes beyond our understanding,” had its rightful place. But I think it is slowly changing. It will change only to the extent that our current leaders let it change. And that is where I see a major opportunity for future leaders to help the church go forth successfully.

    Publications such as Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling, have, if in small proportions, helped cross that bridge the current generation of leaders seem to fear so much: historic honesty. I have heard he (Bushman) is also involved in helping the CES (or whatever it is called today) teach without having to resort to speculative apologetics, which is often the source for the perpetuation of many of the speculations that are no longer supported by church leaders.

    I always advocate honesty. And when trying to understand our leaders, I advocate exercising our gift of receiving the divine guidance of the Holy Ghost. But I think humility is possibly the key to truly receiving guidance. Not only humility to accept that we are wrong, but also humility to love our leaders and remain steadfast even when we discover our leaders were wrong. God can give us the strength we need, and we must not need to feel let down.

    There are several problems in hand and I think this is in part why the leaders act the way they do. While it is clear to me that our leaders fear criticism; they fear the reputation of the church offices will be tarnished; they probably also fear members are not strong enough spiritually to accept fallible leaders on one hand, and on the other hand, they fear some members may find easy justifications for their sins by simply making light of anything the leaders say.

    This combination of fears seems to be in my opinion the root cause of the current way they handle information. “If we are not actively teaching it, it is not doctrine.” Which again IMO is extremely problematic. Some people don’t let go of things that the Church has apparently (though not clearly) let go. To the average member, it is very hard to be clearly aware of every single thing that the church is still teaching, and those things that seem to be slipping into the past. This also allows for the Church to be historically unrepentant of things done, and hopeful that wrong doctrines will simply fade with time and not be remembered: a concept I consider contrary to what we teach regarding repentance. It doesn’t compel the Church leaders to do “everything they can” to correct the heartache and spiritual damage that the false doctrines caused. Not to mention it doesn’t provide a real solution for the perpetuation of false doctrines among circles in the church, which is probably the most evident problem today.

    Contrary to what someone stated here, I do believe we can be worthy of Holy Ghost more often than not, and that His help is especially available and reassuring when we are struggling with something that the leaders have commanded. I think this divine guidance is the key to this discussion.

    Another thing that is fair to mention, and has been mentioned by some here, is that these things are the exception and not the rule. Our leaders teach us specific ways in which we can be like Christ, and of course, we don’t need to make a spiritual struggle out of everything that they say.

    For the most part, they encourage us to live like Christ, to keep the commandments, to pray and diligently study the scriptures, to extend our selfish vision, to provide service and be charitable and to make Christ the center of our lives. Things that most of us still fail at doing with consistency, and thus we need to be constantly reminded. In this context, I fully support the stance that Church leaders are there to be obeyed. I have come across so many people who make all sorts of rationalized excuses for holding on to some form of sin, or to hold on to a habit that trumps their progress.

    There is still room for improvement on everyone’s part. I believe we are the ones who make things happen. I believe we need to let our leaders know that we are worthy and capable of handling truth, and that the hurtful things that past leaders have said must be acknowledged and specifically clarified, corrected, or repudiated if necessary, through the right venues (PBS documentaries not being one of the right venues). Hopefully future leaders are taking note.

  119. Ban me? Is that similar to excommunication?

  120. To #119 regarding whether “banning” is similar to “excommunication”.

    In many ways, yes.

    Excommunicated members basically don’t follow the “rules”. They are, however, still welcome to come to church, etc. but are prohibited from participating in certain ways.

    In any public internet forum, there are also certain “rules”, largely unwritten. Generally, posts should be on topic and pertinent. While differences of opinion are actually encouraged for the sake of enlightening each other, personal attacks or snide comments are generally discouraged.

    It would be nice to be able to “excommunicate” people who don’t follow the “rules”. They could still attend (“lurking”) but would have restrictions. That way, they couldn’t make comments until they learned to make constructive comments and not be so annoying.

    Or perhaps they may find the excommunication process so bothersome that they find another faith (or website). There are hundreds and thousands out there.

  121. Aw, that hurts my feelings. And doesn’t really describe me.

  122. “The Lord will not allow the prophet to lead the church astray…”
    We had a great Stake President who explained that if he had a disagreement with a Bishop, and if they could not come to a mutual understanding, that he could either live with it, or release the Bishop. So far he had not found a disagreement that he could not live with.

    Apparently God has not found a prophet in our day that he couldn’t live with. He zealously allows free agency in others when we might wish otherwise.

    Charles Rogers

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