Conference quotes: “Fourteen Fundamentals,” Part 2

Behold, the continuing review of the “Fourteen Fundamentals” (see here for part 1). Don’t worry; I didn’t switch “Church President” for “Prophet” this time.

Fifth: 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.
One of my favorite accounts of Joseph Smith was written by the itinerant preacher Nancy Towle. She was disturbed by early Mormon practice:

And I turned to Smith, and said, “Are you not ashamed, of such pretentions? You, who are no more than any plough-boy of our land! Oh! blush at such abominations! and let shame, forever cover your face!”

He only replied, by saying, “The gift, has returned back again, as in former times, to illiterate fishermen.”

Of course the Church President can talk about whatever he feels like talking about. There has never been a proscription against that. Benson’s concluding remarks on the matter are as follows: “We encourage earthly knowledge in many areas, but remember, if there is ever a conflict between earthly knowledge and the words of the prophet, you stand with the prophet, and you’ll be blessed and time will vindicate you.” It has been a while since a Church President has said something that conflicted with secular knowledge of his day. So let’s move to hypotheticals – what if the Church President were to say that the sky was red. I probably would not change my mind on the matter. Would the Church President ever say anything that time would not vindicate? Because I don’t believe in infallibility, I think it is possible and I think there is historical precedent. Here is the trick: Jesus promised the Holy Ghost.

Sixth: The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.
Well, this all depends on what scripture means now doesn’t it? It certainly doesn’t mean canonized instruction. Among his descriptions, Benson states:

“Even in the Church,” said President Kimball, “many are prone to garnish the sepulchers of yesterday’s prophets and mentally stone the living ones” (Instructor, 95:257).

Why? Because the living prophet gets at what we need to know now, and the world prefers that prophets either be dead or mind their own business. Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on

Again, I believe that the Church President has every right to talk about whatever he wants to. Moreover, according to canon and tradition, whatever he says is law for the Church, generally speaking. If the Church President wants to talk about evolution, more power to him. My perspective is that in doing so he should be careful, though, because it is easy to take positions that time might not vindicate (see previous post about the car metaphor). That being said, these complaints about political scientists and would-be evolution experts seems a bit stale today. I’m unaware of people that think the Church President should not talk on certain topics. I am aware of plenty of people that think he would be wrong if he made any number of claims, however.

Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.
I would hope not. Many of my most poignant experiences in the Church have resulted from ideas and actions that appear to have occurred outside human reasoning. Benson quotes Joseph Smith as saying that whatever God requires is right, regardless of the situation. This was from a letter from Smith to Nancy Rigdon and the context of the original letter was regarding polygamy and deception to cover it up. [1] I have to admit, that if you want to take things to their logical conclusion that is not a bad test case. He follows up with how irrational the Saviors’ healing methods would be to a physician. I think the key here is that if Jesus failed to heal then the physician would have been right.

Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter–temporal or spiritual.
All things are spiritual to the Lord. No problem there. Benson points to Brigham Young discussing criticism of Joseph Smith in Kirtland. And this gets a little bit tricky. I have no doubts that Joseph received revelations regarding temporal matters; I also tend to believe that he handled the Kirtland Safety Society to the best of his ability, which was significantly lacking. Smith’s temporal revelations are still inspiring; the bank, not so much.

Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.
Benson cites Joseph Smith as Mayor of Nauvoo and Brigham Young as Governor. He also states: “Those who would remove prophets from politics would take God out of government.” I’m not sure that I see the logic of that statement, but I agree that the Church President has the right to make comments on political matters. I also think that the Church’s Statement on Political Neutrality trumps everything. Elder Oaks has also discussed that the Church President is and should be limited by civil law. I’m not sure if this has been fully worked out yet.

Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
See, e.g., the Book of Mormon. It is nice to have such good examples in Church leaders who are both learned and rich. We have been repeatedly instructed to get as much education as possible. Amen. If we are going to single out categories, I would also say fundamentalists, too.

Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
No question there. He can have great hair, though (viz., David O. McKay).

Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency–the highest quorum in the Church.
Yep. On Succession and the evolution of quorum dynamics, see here.

Fourteenth: The prophet and the presidency–the living prophet and the First Presidency–follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.
Just ask Isaiah!

_____________________
Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City Deseret Book Company, 1984), 507-8.

Comments

  1. mormonmen says:

    I think the fifth one is key for what happened at conference last weekend. Many are accusing Packer of being scientifically ignorant in his comments about homosexuality. It’s good to be reminded that his words have more authority than the general consensus of the world.

  2. Don’t make me regret not switching out “Prophet” for “Church President”!

  3. Steve Evans says:

    Point no. 6 is just crying out for J. Reuben Clark’s famous article.

  4. Nicely done, J. Appreciate your comments, though I don’t quite get what you’ve said at the tail end of the eighth (if the Savior’s healing hadn’t worked then the physician would be right). I suppose the physician can still be right about his healing methods (based on the best his art and science have to offer) and the Savior can still heal someone.

    Regarding the tenth one, of course there had been the ERA issue, but hadn’t President Kimball also spoken publicly against the MX missle in the timeframe of the orginal address? Of course we know that the FP will reiterate its neutraily position regularly, and will also speak out on a specific matters when it suits them.

    As for eleven, the key word seems to be “proud”, which of course also found voice in another well-quoted address of President Bensons last weekend.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    And re: No. 10, this is an interesting point. The obvious/banal point to make is to point to President Benson’s own transition away from strident politics as he became President. Actually, I’m not aware of any 20th century President of the Church actively involved in politics/civic matters. Indeed I think 501(c)(3) has taken care of a lot of this concern.

  6. I believe, Benson’s “Beware of Pride” will be remembered among the finest sermons in the history of the Restoration.

  7. mormonmen says:

    No worries J. I’m not saying conference talks or the Quorum are infallible. I just think it’s a bit foolish and knee jerk to say that Elder Packer was ignorant in his statements. He may have a much better understanding than any of us as a result of his unique position.

  8. “I believe, Benson’s “Beware of Pride” will be remembered among the finest sermons in the history of the Restoration.”

    Agree!

  9. Kirtland Anti-Banking Society. Promoted by many as a prophetic institution. Failed. Many or most people who believed (in accordance with not yet revealed 14 points) that the prophet is always right about anything and everything and that there is safety in always doing what he says were wiped out. Many or most concluded that Joseph was wrong about it, and that therefore he must not be a prophet. Those who did not fall away must have (1) either believed that the bank really did succeed as Joseph was said to have predicted and that there reward must be spiritual money, or (2) decided that a prophet didn’t always have to be right about everything [or (3) had not invested in the bank]

  10. Fifteenth – The fact that a prophet has at some point assisted you in falling asleep while delivering a narrative does not take away from his prophetic calling.

  11. mormonmen,

    I take it that you’ve figured out conclusively what it was that President Packer meant? Because I haven’t, and believe me, I’ve been trying.

  12. J, again thanks for a reasoned discussion of this talk. ETB has often been used as a bogeyman because of his earlier political activities as an apostle, yet upon assuming the office of Church President, he proved to be a gentle and loving figure. I went from being seriously concerned to being a fan. Not only his talk about Pride, which I agree is a masterwork, but his love and advocacy of the Book of Mormon should be remembered as significant points in our 20th century history.

    Item 10 about participation in civic matters is a pretty broad topic, and as you indicate, one that perhaps has not been fully explored. Certainly no president of the church in my lifetime has had time for anything other than official church duties, let alone assuming a political office. Looking at this from a standpoint of pure self interest for the church, such items as the City Creek development in downtown SLC would seem to be justifiable “involvement in civic affairs,” without overt political overtones.

  13. I always found Oak’s comment on civil law a bit problematic. I think as a practical matter of course the prophet will be so limited. Look at what happened even with polygamy. There’s also of course precedence for Elder Oaks here with Jesus’ “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” All that said, considering that we do have history of civil disobedience I think assuming God would never direct a prophet to break a law seems problematic. So I favor Benson over Oaks here even if Oaks probably is correctly giving the general case.

    Your point about scripture is a good one. Often by scripture we merely mean canon which of course (as BY notes) includes a lot that is uninspired. I suspect Benson was more loosely saying that a formal revelation doesn’t require an OT styled “thus saith the Lord.” Which seems undoubtedly true.

    I have no trouble with a prophet speaking on evolution of course. Indeed I rather hope we get an explicit revelation on evolution rather than the dancing around the issue that has been the case the past decades. My problem is that I think most speaking on evolution don’t really understand what evolution actually claims. But that’s an other topic. (And no R. Gary I’m not looking for a threadjack) Just that I think there’s a lot of equivocation of terms that goes on.

  14. mormonmen says:

    @ a random John

    I was only referring to his statement that God wouldn’t create his children with homosexual tendencies. Popular thought would have us believe otherwise, but a belief in the eternal nature of gender and Elder Packer’s talk state homosexuality is not a part of who people are.

  15. mormonmen (14),
    I think a random John might dispute the infallibility of your interpretation of what President Packer said. See mormonmentality.org for more.

  16. mormonmen, it’s also worth noting that in agreeing with Elder Packer (as you’re interpreting him), you’re essentially disagreeing with Elder Oaks.

  17. I’m looking forward to Pres. Packer’s comments being put up. My recollection was not that he was saying there weren’t homosexual tendencies but rather than there weren’t overcomable homosexual tendencies. Given the number of monastic orders in both western religions and eastern religions, most of which have celibacy practiced within, I think this is a safe thing to assert. (Which isn’t to say everyone who tries will be celibate – just that it seems doable within the range of human behaviors)

    I didn’t see him claiming there there weren’t real homosexual inclinations as some have taken it to mean. (Which I take to be undeniable myself) Now I think anyone who says a homosexual can easily will themselves to be heterosexual is deluding themselves. But that’s not what I took Pres. Packer to be claiming.

  18. “I’m unaware of people that think the Church President should not talk on certain topics. I am aware of plenty of people that think he would be wrong if he made any number of claims, however.”

    J., I understand you to be saying that there are no formal limits on the scope or types of topics upon which the Prophet might comment. He’s never “beyond his jurisdiction,” so to speak. I don’t understand you to be saying that the Prophet should speak on any and all topics, that it would necessarily be desirable if he did so. Given the possibility (likelihood?) that he would make erroneous claims, it’s best that he not comment about a lot of things of which he is likely ignorant (though, as Clark says, it would be nice if he did comment, provided he got things right). Let me know if you don’t agree with my rewording of your statement.

    AB

  19. Clark,

    I’ve got my own transcript of the key sections up at Mormon Mentality. It will be interesting to see if they differ from the official text which comes out tomorrow. I’m sure that at least the punctuation will be different.

    There are several possible ways to parse the controversial section, but I think a lot of people have come to a conclusion about what President Packer is saying without looking carefully at his words.

  20. Aaron, I think President Monson thinks that it is not a good idea to be speaking on any and all topics (or else he would, right?). I would tend to agree. As you say, I don’t think that the Church President has limited jurisdiction. I also agree that there are many topics, where the Church President is not likely well informed, and in such cases, commenting on those topics might not be the wisest thing ever. E.g., M-theory.

  21. Kirtland Anti-Banking Society — which failed because of embezzlement and land speculation, something not exactly obvious before the scholarship of the last ten years or so.

  22. Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

    Caveat: if the prophet advances a point using men’s reasoning, it is fair game to inspect his argument and the soundness of the reasoning.

  23. RE: points 5 & 14
    It seemed to me that there was a definite theme in conference of not only “follow the prophet” but also “it’s a scary world out there”. Lots of warnings.

    Isn’t there anything to be said for– maybe not blind obedience to the prophet/president, but for obedience to him– as it’s own reward? Weren’t those who followed Joseph Smith right through the bank failure better off in the end even though they lost their money than the ones who left? And didn’t he sometimes ask people to do things to prove their loyalty to him- right or wrong?

  24. John Mansfield says:

    The points on the scope of what the prophet might address brings to mind this description of Spencer Kimball’s teaching:

    As an Apostle, Spencer W. Kimball had been Known for the unusual literary quality of his sermons. When he became President, his sermons changed character and took on a machine-gun rapidity, as if he did not have enough time to give all the advice that was necessary. “Lengthen your stride.” “Do it.” “Plant gardens.” “Clean up your yards.” “Live clean, moral lives.” “Fight pornography.” “Strengthen your families.” [. . .] Often President Kimball would present ten or twelve topics one after another in a single general conference address, like a loving father giving advice to his children.

    Dennis L. Lythgoe, “Lengthening Our Stride: The Remarkable Administration of Spencer W. Kimball,” BYU Studies, v. 25, no. 4.

  25. “I believe, Benson’s “Beware of Pride” will be remembered among the finest sermons in the history of the Restoration.”

    Yes, and thankfully President Uchtdorf gave us permission to be proud of our kids and our work again. I’ve seen people engage in the kind of interpretive overreach President Uchtdorf discussed.

  26. C Jones, I have to admit that I don’t often like to consider what I might have done in key periods of Church history. When I was 19, I remember thinking that it would have been a no-brainer to weather the storm. Now as a father and husband, I have less confidence in my relative faith. I typically thank God for the Saints that persevered. That being said, in the case of Kirtland that you mentioned. what if instead of investing your funds in the bank, you held them in reserve until after the failure; then used your wealth to support the impoverished saints who lacked specie. It is all historical what if, and isn’t much real use, I don’t think. But I’m not sure it is necessarily a binary thing.

    Mansfield, I love me some pragmatic Kimball. Those Kimball gardens were a key feature of my childhood.

  27. Re: No.11–

    Give ear O ‘nacle.

  28. I was (and still am) very impressed by the depth and quality of President Benson’s talks given after he became president of the Church. He had only a relatively brief period of physical vigor after becoming the prophet, but he made the most of it with very carefully crafted talks addressed to specific audiences. I was more than a little disappointed (at least at first) to not be getting a Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson for Priesthood and RS lessons.

    Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet of my youth, but I grew to love President Benson more. I know that he was a prophet of God!

  29. Caveat: if the prophet advances a point using men’s reasoning, it is fair game to inspect his argument and the soundness of the reasoning.

    To a point. All we have is words to convey ideas at the outset, and our leaders use them to the best of their ability. It may appear as though they are using reason alone, but I think it’s essential to acknowledge that truth transcends the limitations of language. To me, that is one way I come to know that what they say is scripture — because over time, the layers of truth distill and I look back on their words with understanding that can’t simply be captured with words alone. And/or something that I hear connects with patterns of teaching that build and connect in amazing ways.

    And what I find time and time again is what I heard in the words is nowhere near the depth of what I can feel through the Spirit, even with the best of reasoning and the sharpest of minds sharing the ideas.

    “Study it out in the mind” is a great thing as long as we don’t stop at the mind. I think it’s too easy to do that, though, to our detriment.

  30. re # 14, mormonmen said:

    I was only referring to his statement that God wouldn’t create his children with homosexual tendencies.

    I think this is the problem with Elder Packer’s talk — apparently a number of people on all sides of the political and belief spectrum have interpreted Elder Packer’s talk this way.

    But I am not convinced this is what he said or meant. Given that the Church has pretty consistently maintained an orientation/action distinction with regard to homosexuality, it would seem unusual for Elder Packer to explicitly ignore that distinction to make a statement as you have formulated it in your comment # 14.

    I think it is more reasonable and fits better within the overall context of the Church’s approach to homosexuality, expressed by Elder Holland, Elder Oaks, Elder Jensen and others, to understand Elder Packer as respecting the orientation/action distinction in his talk.

    Thus, he was saying that God would not create people who do not have the ability to resist the temptation to act contrary to God’s will (for example by engaging in homosexual sex or engaging in heterosexual sex outside of marriage). He was not saying that people should think they can overcome homosexuality as an innate characteristic but rather that they can overcome the temptation to engage in homosexual sexual activity through the Atonement.

  31. john f., I expect that your reading is correct. The problem is the proliferation of proof-texted quotations that will continue to reinforce the hurt and those other interpretations which continue to conflat orientation and action. Moreover, the ambiguity in his statements (as you rightly point out there is varied interpretations from all sides) exacerbates this problem.

    In a now infamous talk to ‘All-Church Co-ordinating Council’ he recognised that he needed the hand of correlation to help him in producing his work (help he was glad to receive and saw as important). I wish that whoever ‘correlated’ this talk was more sensitive to the potential readings that have resulted.

  32. John Mansfield says:

    A lot is said about the shift in preaching when the senior apostle becomes president of the church. (That quotation above about President Kimball in one example.) With Ezra Taft Benson and with Howard W. Hunter, it seemed to me, though, that the tone of their presidencies started to be heard a year or so before their predecessors died. With Benson, his famous call to give attention to the Book of Mormon began in the Fall 1984 conference, a little over a year before he became president of the church. Elder Hunter gave a couple of exquisite calls to Christian discipleship that seem a prelude to his call to make the temple the symbol of our faith. Perhaps the incapacity of their predecessors was a factor in their being given the piercing voice that the saints could be led by. I don’t remember anything similar with Gordon Hinckley or Thomas Monson.

  33. Older Mormon says:

    It’s nice that Pres. Benson is now remembered for his fine talk on pride and his strong advocacy of the Book of Mormon, but those of us who were adults during his presidency also remember how divisive and troubling some of his other teachings were. For example, in his 1987 address “To the Mothers in Zion” (which was published as a pamphlet and distributed throughout the Church), Pres. Benson said: “I stand this evening as a second witness to the truthfulness of what President Spencer W. Kimball said. He spoke as a true prophet of God. . . . Remember the counsel of President Kimball to John and Mary: “Mary, you are to become a career woman in the greatest career on earth—that of homemaker, wife, and mother. It was never intended by the Lord that married women should compete with men in employment.”

    Note that the last sentence does not say that mothers shouldn’t work outside the home (though he certainly repeated that again and again). In this case, we have a prophet of God affirming the words of another prophet that married women should not work outside the home, period, regardless of whether or not they have children at home. This was a common sentiment during the Great Depression, when it was thought that employment opportunities should be reserved for men who had families to support. (Pres. Benson, still citing Pres. Kimball, did go on to make allowances for “emergency” situations, but he also decried as a major cause of divorce the above-normal standard of living brought on by two incomes).

    Those who wish to live strictly by Pres. Benson’s Fourteen Fundamentals (as well as those who are currently suggesting that anyone not completely on board with Pres. Packer’s remarks is either unworthy or unfaithful) might consider whether they themselves or their spouses are flouting the words of the prophets through their employment. They might suggest to their bishops and stake presidents that married women with jobs probably ought not to hold major leadership callings. They might even write to President Samuelson at BYU and demand that any women working at the Lord’s University be let go unless they are single or can demonstrate that their husband’s income alone puts them under the poverty level. Or they might think about how many things that prophets have said over the years are best understood in cultural context and are subject to slow, quiet, revision (often aided by selective memories).

  34. /stands, applauds/

    Thank you, Older Mormon.

  35. John Mansfield says:

    Stapley, cheers on the chemistry Nobel coming out of Purdue.

  36. As I understand it, it remains very, very difficult to be hired as a married woman at BYU (actually, it is difficult to be hired there as a woman, period, but especially as a married woman). Let’s just say that BYU is happy/lucky that the EEO doesn’t take too close a look at its hiring practices regarding women.

  37. John C, as a married, pregnant Mormon woman with two children at home who received a job offer from BYU, I am curious about what you are talking about. If anything, I felt like people discussed family and work balance carefully with me, and the dean and provost went to great lengths to make it clear that there was not an ecclesiastical issue and that they wanted to see more women hired in that department.

    Now, if what you mean is that it is uncomfortable to be a married woman teaching at BYU because of the attitudes of your colleagues–well, that wouldn’t surprise me over much.

    But I didn’t take that job, so maybe I am unaware of some secret policies you know about.

  38. I do not think (and I cannot speak for his great mind) John C is talking about some secret policy or conspiracy. The faculty at BYU, and even more so at BYU-Idaho, is very heavily male.

    While this is the case at many Universities and in many discipline, it is to an even great degree at BYU schools.

  39. Less “secret policy” than unwritten order of things. Your mileage may vary depending on which department we’re talking about, but generally speaking, and with very few exceptions (law, business, accounting), what John C. is saying is not wrong.

  40. Older Mormon says:

    John C., you must be thinking of women faculty (which is indeed problematic), but most of the administrative support staff (i. e. secretaries) at BYU are female, and I would would guess that the majority of them are married. They are integral to the functioning of the university, but Presidents Kimball and Benson would have preferred that they all quit (with the exception of the unmarried and widowed) in order to provide more employment opportunities for male heads of households in Utah Valley. “It was never intended by the Lord for married women to compete with men in employment” makes no distinctions for different types of jobs.

  41. Go Boilermakers.

    Older Mormon, times change.

  42. Older Mormon,

    Patriarchy has never been threatened by women is support roles like secretary or nurse. This is “best understood in cultural context.”

  43. Steve Evans says:

    Michelle: “it’s essential to acknowledge that truth transcends the limitations of language”

    It can’t be that essential, because I have no idea what you mean. Must be the limitations of language.

  44. John (32), with those figures the President was already pretty well incapacitated. I wonder if that affected the responsibility they felt. Yes during those periods Pres. Hinkley was effectively running the Church but I suspect the person next in seniority and acting as President of the Twelve felt their duties rather acutely not to mention the recognition of what could be mere days away.

    Old Mormon (33) I think the necessary implication of Pres. Benson’s 14 Fundamentals talks is that many prophetic directives are context dependent. Pres. Benson even brings up the example of Noah paraphrasing I suspect a statement by Brigham Young. (Sorry – too lazy to look up the original) He’s used that example many times such as this one which is more explicit.

    “The most important prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one who is living in our day and age. This is the prophet who has today’s instructions from God to us today. God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the ark. Every generation has need of the ancient scripture plus the current scripture from the living prophet. Therefore, the most crucial reading and pondering which you should do is of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece. That is why it is essential that you have access to and carefully read his words in current Church publications.” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Seoul Korea Area Conference 1975, p. 52.)

    So this context-sensitivity of prophecy seems a major issue for Pres. Benson’s conception.

    That said I do think we as Americans tend to seek after money quite a bit and often at the expense of the important things in our family. I don’t think that entails the wife never working at home (especially after the toddlers are out of the house). However I think we ought be careful balancing the needs of children with our materialistic wants. That has been a pretty constant theme amongst many prophets and I think goes well beyond mere cultural relativism.

  45. What John C. is saying is definitely wrong. Our department was thrilled to hire a woman, and she was the best applicant. Not nearly as many women apply in our department, simply because the ratio of women:men with PhDs is far less in Mormondom than in the rest of society. I know of one department (history) where the faculty voted to hire one candidate (a man) almost unanimously but were blind-sided by one of the faculty who threatened a law suit if they didn’t hire the female candidate. The Dean caved. Bad feelings all around.

  46. “it’s essential to acknowledge that truth transcends the limitations of language”

    Unless truth, as we know it, is little more than a construction of our language.

  47. Steve Evans says:

    See, now THAT I understood.

  48. I am pretty sure that I did not. Sounds good, though.

  49. Older Mormon says:

    J. Stapley,
    “Times change” – my point exactly, which is why it is a bit distressing to see the comeback of “The Fourteen Fundamentals.” Thanks for your analysis and sorry about the threadjack.

    Chris H.,
    You really should go back and read the address, which is still rather breathtaking. The very next lines are another quotation from Pres. Kimball, saying “Wives, come home from the typewriter, the laundry, the nursing . . . ” In his own cultural context, Pres. Kimball found these support roles very threatening to the ideal of home and family he was trying to protect.

  50. Older Mormon,

    I have read it. I am disturbed by it. However, I read most things as being historically contingent and not really a matter of “truth.”

    Of course, I find most working offensive. It destroys the soul…but this is not gender exclusive.

  51. #50 ChrisH

    I actually think there is much to be said for working. I just think that working in pointless jobs or demeaning conditions is offensive. I enjoy my job (most days). I help people directly. It doesn’t destroy my soul.

    I do think that there are many jobs in the US society, however, that do fit your criteria. There are many jobs that don’t actually help people, that don’t actually create a product, that don’t really exist except as a means to make more money. This is what lead to our financial crisis – people whose entire existence was to trade financial products that were so far removed from anything actually productive that they were pointless. Their entire point was merely to make money. They didn’t help anyone. They didn’t provide any service. They hurt us. I do think that is offensive and destroys the soul – when the pursuit of money is the primary goal.

  52. Mike, not to go off on a threadjack, but whatever the excesses and problems of the financial industry in the naughts, the industry itself (rather than its excesses) is a kind of middlemen. Middlemen actually fulfill a very important economic role but one that is constantly looked askance at by people. You might enjoy this Econtalk podcast on them. It’ll really change your POV.

    Chris H, maybe you just need to find a job you like?

  53. Old Mormon, it’s rather interesting looking at various leaders and the role of women in the economy. My favorite is still Brigham Young who wanted women to do the white collar work and have all the men working in the fields. These views are definitely tied to particular moments in time. I suspect there is often a bit of a generational gap for some when they think in terms of their youth occasionally forgetting that the contemporary economy for the era they are speaking is different. I’d have to imagine that especially in the 20th century that could be shocking for people who grew up before the modern era really hit and dominated the Utah economy. Imagine growing up in a home that might not have even had electricity and then speaking to a community that grew up with computers. What’s always amazing is how often their warnings actually are spot on. (Think Kimball’s The False Gods We Worship)

  54. I do think that there are many jobs in the US society, however, that do fit your criteria. There are many jobs that don’t actually help people, that don’t actually create a product, that don’t really exist except as a means to make more money. This is what lead to our financial crisis – people whose entire existence was to trade financial products that were so far removed from anything actually productive that they were pointless.

    I think you and I would quantify “many” very differently. I imagine the many to which you are referring would amount to less than 1/10 of a percent of the population.

    I also believe you don’t understand the importance of liquidity in the traiding markets with regards to creating an overall higher level of wealth for ALL people if you insist that “people whose entire existence was to trade financial products that were so far removed from anything actually productive that they were pointless.” The problem was the usage of the financial products, not necessarily their existance.

    And while I concede that these traders making irresponsible bets, leveraged beyond logic, were partly responsible for this economic fallout. To place the blame solely on them would be to ignore 5 or 6 other factors that are equally, if not moreso, to blame for the current crisis. Not the least of which is the average American spending more than he/she earns.

    That being said, there probably is a significant portion of the population which toils in unneccessary jobs just in order to earn a paycheck. But that is a separate problem from the so-called evils of Wall Street.

  55. @ John F #30

    I need to clarify my point a little better.

    When I interpret Elder Packer’s talk to say that God wouldn’t create his children with homosexual tendencies, I mean that he wouldn’t do so with who they are as spirits. Do I believe that some people have homosexual tendencies biologically a part of their “natural man” that they need to overcome upon receiving a body? Absolutely. But being gay is not an inherent part of spirit like gender is.

  56. Stapley: Sorry, didn’t mean to start this.

  57. I am speaking based on the experiences of one close friend and another acquaintance. I am not speaking from personal experience as my being married never really came up in my interviews.

    That said, if may well be that this differs from department to department and from administration to administration.

    Older Mormon,
    You are correct. Both positions were faculty level.

  58. it's a series of tubes says:

    When I interpret Elder Packer’s talk to say that God wouldn’t create his children with homosexual tendencies, I mean that he wouldn’t do so with who they are as spirits. Do I believe that some people have homosexual tendencies biologically a part of their “natural man” that they need to overcome upon receiving a body? Absolutely. But being gay is not an inherent part of spirit like gender is.

    This was generally my takeaway as well. It seems clear that many of the challenges in mortality are due to the fallen conditions and mortal bodies we find ourselves in.

    It wouldn’t surprise me, either, if some of the relative spiritual weaknesses and strengths we each possess here in mortality result from our personal use of our agency we made beforehand. We certainly know this principle applies as to the afterlife. (c.f. D&C 130:18-19).

  59. Asking mothers to stay home didn’t stop with Kimball and Benson.

    Henry B. Eyring has said: “In our own time, we have been warned with counsel of where to find safety from sin and from sorrow. One of the keys to recognizing those warnings is that they are repeated. For instance, more than once in these general conferences, you have heard our prophet say that he would quote a preceding prophet and would therefore be a second witness and sometimes even a third. Each of us who has listened has heard President Kimball give counsel on the importance of a mother in the home and then heard President Benson quote him, and we have heard President Hinckley quote them both. The Apostle Paul wrote that ‘in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established’ (2 Cor. 13:1). One of the ways we may know that the warning is from the Lord is that the law of witnesses, authorized witnesses, has been invoked. When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention and fill our hearts with gratitude to live in such a blessed time.”

  60. R. Gary,
    Where would we be without your utterly absent sense of irony?

  61. J–Go Boilermakers!

    Thanks for the write-up. I was at a wedding and so missed all of conference, so I’m not sure I’m following all of the conversation. From what I read in the OP and subsequent comments, if I know something, like, say, I have some intimate understanding of the topic thanks to some experience or research, but the prophet claims something at odds with my knowledge, it’s apparently pride for me to think I’m right. Why is it not acceptable for the prophet to be wrong when he leans upon his own understanding? Do we suppose, then, that the prophet has perfect understanding of every word that he utters?

  62. Boiler-up, kristine. I think I was getting at your concern in number 5. If the Church President came out and said, “the sky is red,” I would do a quick check to gauge my current sanity, ask people if there was something crazy going on, and then likely conclude that the Church President was mistaken. Now, for someone that had never seen the sky or had not heard about it, there wouldn’t be a similar concern, but that person would not be me. Fortunately, I don’t think I will have to worry about that particular scenario coming to fruition, I don’t think.

  63. Even if the prophet should have perfect understanding of every word that he utters, how can he have perfect understanding of every word that other prophets have uttered. Personal testimony is new information, quotations are borrowed.

    R. Gary, in a burst of self-referential irony, suggests that the Law of Witnesses pertains, but quoting St. Paul (2 Cor. 13:1) quoting Jewish law (Deut 19:15) is hearsay squared. This specifically does NOT satisfy Jewish law (though it might LDS law?) Only independent original personal observation/revelation suffices.

  64. if I know something, like, say, I have some intimate understanding of the topic thanks to some experience or research, but the prophet claims something at odds with my knowledge, it’s apparently pride for me to think I’m right. Why is it not acceptable for the prophet to be wrong when he leans upon his own understanding?

    I think the general idea here is that the prophet wouldn’t do that. Maybe it is just naivete, but I don’t see the leaders of the church, particularly those called and sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators. Their responsibility is to preach the Gospel, to invite others to come unto Christ, and to serve as a voice of warning. I don’t think that issues of, say, genetic transcription, is going to come up, except as an analogous example meant to bolster ones faith in Christ. (And no, I personally have no idea how such an analogy would work. I am but a humble elementary school teacher and my knowledge of genetics is generally limited to Aa Bb matrices.)

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