Pride: How the motivation for most sins has (thusfar) kept me from apostasy

I was recently listening to the Mormon Stories podcast with Ralph Hancock.  I haven’t really been enjoying it, because I don’t really enjoy listening to either Brother Hancock or Brother Dehlin (for varied reasons) and my irritation with both frequently spikes into fantasies about throwing my mp3 player across the room.  I’m sure that if I sat down with either in a room alone I would get along with them just fine (in fact, I did meet Dehlin in a social setting once and he was nice and soft-spoken).  But their public personas frequently get under my skin and, whenever I do listen, I frequently wonder why I’m listening, when I could obviously do it all much better.

This is, of course, it’s own sort of fantasy.  Frankly, if I could do it much better, I’d probably already be doing it.  I’ve thought about making my own podcasts and getting that elusive PhD in the past, but have I actually done it? Nope.  Brothers Dehlin and Hancock will forever have the advantage of actual achievement to lord over me in internet personality competitions.  All that, while true and remaining true for the foreseeable future, does nothing to prevent me from thinking that my (untested, uncriticized, half-formed) approach to the Gospel is superior to theirs.  Pride is, amongst other things, the irrational certitude of one’s own position.  It is one of the chief things that has kept me in the church.

By this, I do not mean that I think myself superior to most folks who leave the church.  I no doubt think myself superior to some, but that is for other reasons.  I believe that the right set of circumstances and life events could be engineered to get me to lose faith.  I find myself vulnerable to crises regarding early death and pointless suffering.  Sometimes, when I hear about someone’s terrible experience in church, I think “There but for the grace of God…” I don’t know why God hasn’t given me really hard stuff to deal with (probably because I’m a big wuss), but I’m grateful for it.  When I look at many of the terrible things that people often discuss as catalysts for developing real faith, I think I prefer my rather paltry version.  Enlightenment through pain sounds like an awful lot of work.

No, the reason that I cite pride as a source of my testimony is this: I have never really assumed that my leaders (going all the way to the top) are all that much more special than me.  As a teen, I think that I likely aspired to high callings in the church, but even then I recall church leaders watching R-rated movies with us on temple trips. Not that I thought less of them for that, but I realized that we were all just people.  I had a habit of cussing as a teen (denial is probably another key ingredient of my testimony).  Once, on a temple trip, I dropped the F-bomb in front of the Young Men’s President.  I was suddenly mortified, sure that they wouldn’t let me into the temple the next day.  I don’t remember the immediate aftermath of the event, but I do know that there were no repercussions.  Looking back, I’m surprised and grateful that my leader didn’t just laugh out loud at me.  Instead, I’m guessing he gave me a quick talking to about propriety and we all moved on.

For better or worse, church leadership for me has always just been people.  And people are always as capable of fraud, abuse, misconceptions, irritating habits, irreverent senses of humor, and wrongheadedness as…well, people. So to learn or think that church leadership may have been wrong in the past or may be wrong about something now doesn’t really affect my testimony in church leadership or in the church as a whole.  The church is a human institution, guided by revelation, that on average leads its members to the divine.  That is remarkable in itself, even if the success rate is below 100%.

So, having always thought of myself as being as good as (or as bad as) general church leadership, I never really had a crisis of faith when I realized that the Curriculum model of history was flawed (or possibly misleading) or that Nauvoo-era polygamy was even weirder and creepier than Utah-era polygamy.  Heck, the more I learn about the Council of Fifty, the less I personally like Joseph. But that’s all kinda irrelevant for me.  Because I also know that God works through me and, while I’m not the worst person on earth, I’m still all kinds of broken and messed up.  If he can work through me, if he will talk to me, if he loves me, then why not someone (anyone) else?

I don’t need our leaders to be perfect.  If they generally avoid harming the helpless, taking advantage of the downtrodden, and abusing those low in spirit, I’m okay.  There will always be bad apples, even in the higher echelons.  But, I believe, the good outweighs the bad and I do try to side with the good.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the excellent post. I feared the worst when it started out with a certain sense of arrogance but appreciated the internal consistency and the clever way in which the introduction laid the groundwork for the remainder of the article.

    Literary criticism aside, I think you are on to something as I found me in the article quite clearly. While I have, on occasion, struggled with some of the practical if not doctrinal reversals found in the Church, I have come to understand that our leaders are people who are given latitude to learn and to grow just as are we. It is normal that they make mistakes and that those mistakes can even get reflected in Church practice. Those who sit on the sidelines and highlight the imperfections largely miss the point. Faith is a decision that most of us make to believe in God and move forward with hope and belief that, in the end, he manages his Church and our experiences in a way that will help us become what we are meant to be.

    The pride must, however, be of a certain type. If it is pride to not being fooled by others rather than a pride in our own competencies it may result in a very different outcome. I know those who are struggling with the Church’s approach to gay issues as they feel they have been fooled by Church leaders and now assume that such leaders cannot be men of God if they did not support gay issues and gay members from the beginning. It may well be that each type of pride or personality will have its unique challenges. For us and others like us, leadership/doctrinal/practical inconsistencies may not the provide a back breaking straw. Rather, it may be a leader who cannot see our worth or provide us with voice venues when we feel our voice must be heard. I guess that is why the Church as the body of Christ concept is so important – at times we all support each other by bringing our personal perspective to bear accompanied by deep charity that allows the struggling other to accept our help.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Norman. This seems spot on to me; ‘our leaders are people who are given latitude to learn and to grow just as are we. It is normal that they make mistakes and that those mistakes can even get reflected in Church practice.’

  3. John c whoever you are I think this piece of writing is inspired simply because it reflects my own thoughts. How’s that for pride.

  4. Thanks for this great post. I have never really considered this attitude to be “pride” — more like realistic.

  5. Whenever I am tempted to criticize someone in a church leadership position, a voice inside me asks, “What if you were in that position? Could you do any better?” Most of the time I doubt I would.

    Part of the challenge of having a big leadership position is that your mistakes can be proportionally bigger and more consequential. All of us make mistakes. That is humbling and something to keep in mind when making judgments on leaders.

  6. Nicely done, JC.

  7. I am in a SE PA ward and some of our most entertaining priesthood meetings happen when we get High Priest visitors from Utah/Arizona/Idaho, though what I am about to describe is by no means limited to High Priests from that part of the country. These visitors are typically in town to visit their children in various Philadelphia area graduate programs. But, they seem to feel the need to lecture us rubes “out here” on various points of doctrine and culture. (As if the East Coast is some far away strange land.) One huge buggaboo for these visitors is prophetic infallibility followed closely by the unchanging nature of Mormon doctrine and practice. Rather than engage in a discusiion of a topic, they often fall back on bromides or launch into pedantic lectures. (To be fair, they may behave in the same manner “way out there” in the West.) Often they don’t cotton too well to gentle pushback or counterfactuals to their absolute declarations of prophetic, to include all GAs from time immemorial, infallibility and their notion things in the Church have remained constant since Joseph Smith (see prophetic infallibility).

    How do you politely respond to these kinds of objectively false- though sincere for all the right, understandable reasons- statements when made in a priesthood meeting? Any tips? For me, when I hear the lesson or a sacrament meeting talk going in that direction I view it as invitation to fire up my ipad to check ESPN and DrudgeReport, er, I mean the bloggernacle.

  8. This really resonated with me, John – especially the following:

    “I also know that God works through me and, while I’m not the worst person on earth, I’m still all kinds of broken and messed up. If he can work through me, if he will talk to me, if he loves me, then why not someone (anyone) else?”

    I only would add, as you do in other words, that if he can “fail” through me, he can “fail” through others – even others I admire, respect and love deeply.

  9. rb – we do have get the same kind of comments in HP groups here in Utah so I am not sure it is a desire to lecture anyone as much as it is a deeply engrained behavior that comes out in multiple settings. I remember experiencing such “lecturing” from some local members in Philadelphia when I lived there but it occurred less frequently. I have also experienced such behavior in Hawaii (greater extent) and in the Middle East (greater extent) where we have also lived. I think that the heavier convert base of the Church in areas in places like Philadelphia tends to dilute the effect. The Church in Hawaii and in the Middle East had a greater percentage of lifelong members which may account for the behavior there.

    Having said that, I do think that there is among some a desire to spread the intermountain west gospel culture to the far reaches of the earth, even to such gospel frontiers as Pennsylvania. I remember when I was a missionary in Portugal, we were holding sacrament meeting in very tight quarters yet the deacons felt they could not let go of the sacrament trays but had to walk them down very narrow rows stepping on feet as they went. I am afraid I was guilty of taking the tray from the deacon and saying “It’s ok, in Utah we pass it like this.”

    As to how to deal with those who who provide lectures, I have not yet discovered how to handle them in Utah. Outside of Utah, as an “experienced” member of the Church, I felt like I had enough voice that I could help steer the conversation in different directions. Having returned to Utah just over two years ago and being new to a ward and a younger member of the HP group, I have yet to find that voice. It is particularly hard when you have BYU religion professors in your group!

  10. Or said another way, in a September 8, 2008 post by J. Stapley

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2008/09/08/a-letter-to-a-friend-joseph-smith-polygamy/

    “I recently read an excerpt from the George Q. Cannon diary that I quite liked, though. He was apparently taking notes of a meeting with the First Presidency and recorded President Lorenzo Snow:

    I saw Joseph Smith the Prophet do things which I did not approve of; and yet…I thanked God that He would put upon a man who had these imperfections the power and authority which He placed upon him…for I knew I myself had weaknesses and I thought there was a chance for me. These same weaknesses…I knew were in Heber C. Kimball, but my knowing this did not impair them in my estimation. I thanked God I saw these imperfection. (GQC, Dairy, January 7, 1898, in Arrington, Adventures of a Church Historian, 4)

    I thank God too.”

  11. First of all, I can’t possibly imagine what makes people think about blowhards from Utah in a post that starts with a brief discussion of Ralph Hancock and John Dehlin. However that came up, its a bit off topic, methinks.

    Part of what prompted this post was listening to Dehlin talk about people who put all their trust in church leadership’s infallibility and Hancock say basically that he never really did that. I’m definitely in the Hancock boat there, but it is an interesting paradox, how people pick and choose what to be skeptical of and why.

  12. In the last few years as I’ve worked as the Branch President it’s become more and more clear to me how (I think) the Lord works with the members of his church. Most of us are deeply flawed but from all of us there are also beautiful acts of kindness, charity, and love in serving each other.

    As a leader I’ve learned there are “no win” situations. I ran into a former member at the sandwich shop and struck up a quick conversation. .simple and polite. I saw that she did not want to be there anymore and that somehow my being nice to her was offensive. . . if I had said nothing I would have also been in the wrong in her eyes. There was nothing I could have done right in that situation. If nothing else I’ve learned to cut EVERYBODY a little more slack . . hopefully myself included.

    I think our efforts count more than our results, and that there is simple wisdom in being quick to forgive others.

  13. Thank you for this. Having recently had a brusing brush with someone in the blogernacle, you have said very clearly what I was trying to say and did not. The is a story in Pres. Kimball’s biography about him throwing a book at a daughter who was mouthing off at her mother. I love that story for the very humaness of it, and I see hope for me ( I threw a spoon, not very effective, but it got my point across.) Most of us are doing our best, and that is all God asks, be we GA or nursery leader.

  14. My husband and I were just talking about this a couple of days ago. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, the way youth are taught about modesty or something, and he said that it is a lot harder for him than for me to be able to accept that sometimes the leaders of the church can just do things wrong. While he can see that something is not ideal, and even damaging, he has a hard time understanding why God would allow the leaders of the church to do that. If they are inspired, they are inspired. If they aren’t, they aren’t. And while he intellectually understands that the leaders are fallible, he can’t see how that is compatible with their positions, especially since what they teach is presented as the word of God simply passing through them. So if we can reject any of it as being wrong, we have to dismiss all of it as being wrong.

    I, on the other hand, have always been able to dismiss things I don’t agree with, often a little too easily when maybe I shouldn’t, and still believe them to have been divinely called. I can appreciate the good and recognize that there are reasons they are our leaders, but also be aware that they are capable of causing harm to the church and its members. And of course, I’ve been accused of pride in thinking that I know better than the prophet. But it seems like that has to be some room for that. Have those who believe in infallibility just never fundamentally disagreed about something? Or do they just assume that they must be wrong and call it human frailty on their part?

    My husband has really struggled with trying to change his framework of understanding Church leadership, especially since there are so many people who say, “You’re allowing yourself to be deceived.” I wonder how our church would function if we all came from this “prideful” perspective. Would there be too much chaos?

  15. Bethany,
    Cats and dogs living together.

  16. Realizing that Christ loves and embraces us in spite of our sins and shortcomings is a wonderful beginning as is forgiving others for being the same. But we hold ourselves back when we continue to identify with our natural man on an ongoing basis. Our natural man is to be thrown off, to be transcended not perfected! This is not accomplished through rote discipline, will power or obedience to a list of rules or laws. That is just the beginning and while it teaches useful skills transcending the natural man is accomplished through introspection, acceptance, personal connection with the divine and the enlightened knowledge that results. Buddha explained suffering long ago but Mormons refuse to listen, they love to hate their suffering so. Non-physical suffering is caused by clinging to the way we want things to be instead of accepting them as the are. As soon as we accept them the suffering ends! Humankind’s inhumanity to humankind will decline as we become more enlightened. The craving that causes our suffering and our materialism and our need to turn our eyes away from body skin exists because at our natural man core we are immature, selfish, possessive and jealous and we haven’t worked through these issues. Was our exemplar Jesus immature, selfish, possessive and jealous? Of course not! Was he just more just disciplined, much better at following a list of Pharisaical rules than we? No, he was enlightened! He craved not! He is our example and he communed with the father. Imagine a mighty change of heart that eradicates one’s desire to sin! What a revolutionary idea! The church is stuck, marching in place to the beat of these elementary (and often Mosaic) lessons, mired firmly in mortality while surrounded by an abundance of profound and uniquely immortal doctrine that is watered down, redefined or ignored by the drum beat of correlation while busy work, Pharisaical rules and the status quo take the place of being still and knowing that he is God. Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink!

  17. Howard,
    God teaches people according to their language and understanding. Spending time whining about everyone else being less enlightened than ourselves does little to convince me that he should be teaching us anything other than the very basics.

  18. John C.,
    You must be right! I guess everything is right where it should be. How many more years in the wilderness do you estimate?

  19. I agree 100%, only I wouldn’t term it pride so much as good doctrine. After all, “These commandments were given unto my servants in their weakness.” I don’t think anyone who knew their stuff has ever claimed prophetic or apostolic infallibility…notice how it’s mostly people spouting off in SS/RS/PH who say these things, not the prophets and apostles themselves.

    On an unrelated topic, I thought I might be the only person who can’t stand John Dehlin, or at least, as you say, his public persona. I really wish someone else were getting those interviews.

  20. Fantastic post. You’ve put in words the way I’ve felt for most of my life. Thank you!

  21. ” Enlightenment through pain sounds like an awful lot of work.” Ziff alert!
    Sometimes I wonder if pride that has passed its expiration date is cynicism. At least, I wonder about the relationship between fossilized pride and cynicism. Mostly I wonder if mine shows too much. Gotta keep that worldliness hidden, I suppose. Anyway, thank you for stirring my brain cells so gently.

  22. Completely off topic–hi, Norman!!! Nice to see you around these parts!

  23. Norman, #9:
    “I am afraid I was guilty of taking the tray from the deacon and saying “It’s ok, in Utah we pass it like this.”

    IMO that was a fine thing to correct, as passing the tray down the row is presently the only opportunity women in the church have of passing the sacrament.

  24. The problem is clear, but dismissed here: the men who stand up in SLC two times a year say and testify that they are prophets, apostles, seer and revelators. Each time one, at least one, says: “listen to the prophets.” (Saying, listen to them, saying, listen to me).

    With respect to the comment 12 of Aaron, I have been in various bishopbrics and no one there ever claimed to be “prophets, apostles, seer and revelators.” Yes, we do the best we can, with the grace of which we pray.

    But, the gulf between that and a “prophet” must be great, or we are in deception.

    I think rb, in comment 7, is suggesting that North Temple is saying that itself is “objectively false.”

    The difference between an apostate and a believer is that the apostate takes the words of the “prophets, apostles, seers and revelators” simply and the believer throws doubt on the lot.

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m with you, John. I’ve never looked at church leaders at any level as appreciably different from or better than me. So I don’t hold them to some impossible standard of perfection, just as I don’t hold myself to such a standard.

  26. Terrific post. On a related note, I am convinced that the reason I didn’t get into all of the trouble I could have as a teenager was because I was just too lazy. Strange the things that protect us from grave error.

  27. #24 – richard, almost every word imaginable has multiple, valid meanings. Part of why I like this post is that it appears to recognize and value that fact – in both words said and those who say them.

  28. FWIW, I hate my public persona too. Hoping to change it someday. Trying.

  29. It’s one thing to be ok with disagreement among parties, but an entirely different thing to cease to obey said party.

  30. I enjoyed the podcast. The only one I’ve ever made it through(over a couple days).

    I disagree with the general notion that many (most, all?) church leaders are not “better” than us. Surely, not innately better, but I’d assume “doing better”. Surely sanctification comes from a life solely focused on service, study, building up the kingdom, receiving and acting on revelation, blessing others, etc. I would assume their day to day activities more closely resembles Christs in principle than my own. I don’t find it a stretch to assume that,so taking it as a given, yes, they would maturely be closer to the Lord than I.

    I a deifying them or claiming I am incapable of such oneness or closeness with the Lord. Indeed, I’ve felt that at many instances in my life. But given the longevity and full time nature of their call, surely they receive more frequent, if not greater insight than the rest of us.

    The almost tragic aspect of this is given our covenants and promises for keeping them, this need not be so.

  31. KerBearRN says:

    #28– wate…… whut??

  32. I often hear mistakes explained by “they mean well.” The thing is, doing well and meaning well are two different things and only one of them is doing well. I don’t necessarily believe GAs are “better” people than me, but I expect them to be. Fair? I don’t know.

  33. JennyP1969 says:

    I don’t care if our leaders make mistakes, like throwing the book or swearing — as others have said, it gives me hope for myself.

    But I have to say I have grown increasingly confused as to what, exactly, a prophet, seer, and revelator is. Growing up it was much more clear and concise. Now it feels like a slippery slope I can’t find my footing on.

    They always say, “follow the prophet,” and “obey the GA’s teachings.” But then, we hear that they may or may not be doctrines, or may or may not be from God, or may or may not even be correct.

    I mean, in all sincerity, how can 15 wonderful brethren unitedly feel directed by God to build a mall for urban renewal in SL, but not be united (maybe not even care) that the daughters of God do not have equality in the church? How is there no revelation to repair this? How can urban renewal for a very few be so much more important than equality for women? How is it that Julie Beck isn’t an Apostle? Or Sheri Dew a wonderful Mission President? How much longer must the beautiful nuances of progress be lost, with the accompanying loss of members and converts, because women are not equal? How many meetings and councils were there for how many years leading up to the mall? How many such were spent discussing our unequally yoked roles? It’s just unfathomable to me that the Savior cares about the mall more than the daughters of God.

    So again, what is a prophet? What is a seer? What is a revelator?

    BTW, I love John Dehlin — love his voice and interview style. I can’t stand Joe Theisman and Chris Collingsworth though. I’m more of a John Madden and Al Michaels type fan. Hey, maybe John Dehlin could take Theisman’s or Collingsworth’s place. But I digress…….

  34. @ rb: you got it right. Try living in one of those states. I currently live in Arizona; I lived in Utah a couple of years. I was raised in Texas with vey few LDS. I will never live in Utah again and can’t wait to leave AZ. I have a friend in Denver, CO who says when any one from Utah or Idaho moves into their Ward, that person from UT or ID comments on how different it is in CO among the members AND they don’t want to go back to UT/ID. UT/ID/AZ culture/attitude in members is very different compared to other places.

  35. Ironically, JennyP1969, I recently had a similar conversation with a friend, but she determined that women getting the priesthood would irreparably shake her faith in prophets, because why was error allowed for so long??

    For me, that’s the paradox and the promise of prophets. I expect the prophets to direct us in constant progress as we work to build zion, but progress means change, and change means we weren’t doing everything right to begin with.

  36. JennyP1969 says:

    Good point, Kyle, about the paradox. But when the Savior said “line upon line and precept upon precept,” do people think He meant building a mall or lowering the age for missions to 18 and 19? I guess I dream bigger dreams for the missionary program, and envision bigger changes of progress than this. Change is hard, it’s true. Kevin Barney wrote a terrific post at fMh regarding change and how alliances need to be forged over time to win over hearts to be able to create “one small miracle at a time.” Like on the show “Survivor.” But I don’t see change as faith-shaking when we have prayer to go to the Lord for confirmation of a change, if needs be. So we should easily handle some medium and large miracles concurrently! Is your friend old enough to have lived before the priesthood ban for blacks was lifted? So much was said to “explain” the ban that later was deemed “mistaken.” The church is still here, and I don’t think they lost very many members because of lifting the ban. In fact, I think they stopped losing members and gained converts.

    Imagine that…..

    Also, JR #34: I’ve lived all over the US in many wards and stakes. I hear you. Every area has it’s own church culture which is very distinct, as you said. And each area fully believes their cultural views of the church are doctrine and the One True Way, and any other way is wrong. “We don’t do things that way here,” I’ve heard countless times. It seemed that by the time our family got over the discomfort of adjustment it was time to move again and start over. It was truly difficult. But, it taught us great things, too. We are very adaptable, flexible, and hopefully more tolerant of different strokes……. It’s no wonder Pres. Hinckley addressed us many times about judging each other. I hope you find your way home.

  37. I have grown increasingly confused as to what, exactly, a prophet, seer, and revelator is. Today it is simply the name of a group of callings like General Authority and falls well short of a job description. Ordaining and sustaining confers authority not power, power comes directly from God and is acquired through one’s personal relationship with and personal tutoring by God. Malls are easier to settle on because the church is managed more like a corporation than it is lead by disciples of Christ and because building and maintaining buildings is the main use of tithing funds and in an LDS version of prosperity gospel often conflating with building the kingdom of God. So again, what is a prophet? What is a seer? What is a revelator? Unfortunately true Prophets, Seers, and Revelators exist but they are not allowed to flourish within the official structure of the church. Clearly the church is adrift, nothing else explains the saga of the ban against blacks.

  38. Howard,
    Consider this your first and second strike. Go start your own church in Southern Utah or some such if you think the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 don’t qualify at Prophets, Seers, and Revelators. In the meantime, take what you are selling and go elsewhere to sell it.

  39. John C.,
    Sorry, I’m not interested in starting my own church or in irritating you. I’m interested in consciousness raising with the goal of encouraging the church to become more vital and alive than calling a change in missionary age a miracle. Is blind allegiance to the unlimited divine powers of 1P and 12Q required to participate in this forum or can these issues be openly discussed?

  40. Howard, they can be (and have been) openly discussed here, but only by those who can do so civilly. Your 37 is an attack.

  41. JennyP, I don’t think there’s a saint in the history of saints who hasn’t wished for our victory and knowledge and zion to be bigger and faster.

    Change isn’t just hard, it’s also slow, and I think we need to consider whether that’s a bug in the system or a designed feature. The refining process is very slow in our individual lives (at least mine)…why would it be any faster for the church?

  42. I tend to agree with Kyle M regarding post 37 and even 34 with its less than subtle bashing of Utah members (I have lived in three different states and four different countries and always felt comfortable despite the cultural differences). When I read posts like those I began to wonder whether BCC is a place for me. Thankfully, the moderators do a good job of reining in such posts so as to provide a forum where honest yet faith-based exploration can occur.

    Enough process, back to the topic. Since the issue of the blacks and the priesthood, I have wondered how much of revelation is dictated by the readiness of the membership for change. As an academic administrator, I am constantly balancing what I would like to see my organization do (that which is “right”) compared with that which is feasible at any given moment. I find myself rolling out large visions with tempered steps toward the vision in recognition of the readiness of my team to move. Please don’t take this as me comparing myself with prophets or thinking that I am in the right somehow but just as a statement of how organizations move. It seems to me that, in many ways, the kingdom is an earthly organization with all of the driving and restraining forces that accompany change in any large organization. It is also run by leaders who, themselves, are given the latitude to grow and struggle and develop by a God who knows that they will make mistakes in the process.

    The challenge is when some of these leaders declare themselves to be infallible by word or action. Being taught to follow the Prophet is appropriate and good as I understand the doctrine of the gospel. What do we do, however, when we disagree with the Prophet or feel that he is moving more slowly than we think is right (President Kimball apparently asked God for years about the priesthood issue before being given the green light). In the non-social media days, the leadership of the church had an easier time with this particular question as discussion around the issues were more localized. Today, an issue like the treatment/standing of gays in the Church spreads globally through multiple media making it more difficult for Church leaders to shape the discourse. On the one hand, this makes it more difficult to lead the organization of the Church. On the other hand, it may not allow the more conservative restraining forces of the Church to maintain a position of preeminence in a way that slowed the rolling out of revelation in the past.

    By the way, nice to be here with you Kristine. It has been a few years.

  43. Well Kyle M I don’t see 37 as an attack, nor did I mean it to be. So what am I missing? What was uncivil or untrue or unkind or attacking about it? Clearly the aura of the 15’s image is sacred to many and I suppose they can be easily offended but I think we should be able to view and discuss them here with open eyes at least that was my impression of what the concept of this blog tile By Common Consent meant.

  44. As to the question John C put in # 11, I am not sure I would describe it as being skeptical about what Church leaders say. For me, it is a question of whether or not it is dispositive. On purely doctrinal matters which the Brethren have worked to explain, their pronouncements are or should be dispositive. I readily admit there are no clear lines to separate pure doctrine from non-doctrine, and that is part of the joy and work of being a Mormon. Where their pronouncement are not dispositive on an issue, the pronouncements, to me, are entitled to some weight, but they compete with other advice I may hear and my own thought process.

    As to cultural or secular matters, the Brethren become, in my head at least, one voice among many offering advice or counsel (insert joke about voices in one’s head.). The Brethren’s advice, as expressed through them individually in GC or a Stake Conference or some other setting is hardly dispositive. I cannot think of any bad advice I’ve ever heard, but I don’t think I’m in any spiritual danger if I politely consider other advice and even disagree on non-doctrinal matters with the Brethren. And, I don’t think I’m on the road to apostasy. If I want to vote to keep stores open in my community on Sunday and the Brethren feel different, so what? No spritual harm. If the Church opposes tax law changes b/c of potential impact on tithing receipts and I see the tax policy differently, so what? No spiritual harm to me.

    I will confess that where to draw the line is a moving target and there is occasionally overlap between the non-doctrinal pronouncements and spiritual health. Those are, however, individual assessments. Again, while I may not always agree with some of the cultural or family practices we hear over the pulpit from time to time (no sleepovers for kids; formal parent-child interviews) I can’t say they won’t work for some people or are bad advice.

    I would not describe myself as skeptical when I hear Church leaders, at whatever level, offer advice outside of their eccelestiastical role, I just don’t automatically give the non-doctrinal advice/counsel as much weight. And, I am not at all troubled if/when they dispense bad advice or make bad/wrong decisions. I can’t think of any-beyond City Creek-at the moment and I don’t spend my time on the topic. They are human and try their level best, but nobody’s perfect.

  45. Howard, if you can’t recognize the fighting tone in comment 37, then you definitely belong in the mod queue.

  46. rb,
    I’m not lawyer enough to know what dispositive means. Could you give me another word?

    As to skepticism, I’m happy to soften that word. What you describe sounds roughly like what I meant.

  47. I find that I disagree with the positions of church leaders now and again. I never tune in to General Conference expecting the president Monson to reveal something impactful on my salvation. Between my covenants, personal revelation, and the scriptures, if I haven’t figured out what to do to be saved already, then there ain’t nothing president Monson is going to do for me (unless I’ve neglected an important principle I already knew, like forgiveness, which is pretty much the only reason why I bother to listen to General Conference or attend Sunday School).

    In saying that, I sustain my leaders because, after all, someone has to run the Church, and the Spirit told me God chose them. Someone has to oversee the administration of covenants, organize the missionary work, adapt the Church to changing world circumstances, and even, on occasion, receive revelation that may change things a little. Any other organization and I’d think fowl thoughts of their HR department on their choices, but what can you do when you have a spiritual witness that this is God’s church?

  48. JennyP1969 says:

    Thanks for responses to my comment. I hear the change is slow view all the time. I guess I feel discouraged that everyone assumes that’s the best way. I’m not for runaway upheaval, but 6 thousand years of women not being given an equal role is soooooooooo s-l-o-w, and so many less slow changes have been accomplished already that I just can’t help crying out for a considerable amount of time addressed to this. We are hemorrhaging good members. We are almost stagnant in converts. Retention is a crisis. I would think the prophets would not ask so much, What can we do, Lord? — but why are we losing people? What needs aren’t being met? What concerns do they have that we need to care about, rather than dismiss? What are the people’s cries to thee, Lord? It seems like we spend most council time on getting people to get with the program, even though we have a lovely couplet that proclaims programs are for the people, not people for the programs. The Lord has inspired so many women to seek the changes for their rightful places in society. But the ugly labels become more important in discussions and councils than hearing the spirit of what we’ve been inspired to seek. A little more speed and a little less dismissal would be forever cherished. Truly……. Respectfully……..

  49. JennyP1969 — Check out Bonnie’s latest post, “Why I Think we are Having the Wrong Conversation” over at Real Intent, it is one explaination of why things move so slowly.

  50. JennyP1969 says:

    Thanks, AnnE: I’ll do that. And I’d like to add that I love, love our leaders! I do not think they have run the church adrift at all. I think we’ve been on an ecclesiastical journey that has still waters, as well as turbulent ones. I believe the FP and Q12, and the Q’s70 deeply desire to do the Lord’s will. I also think the journey has clear skies at times, but dark clouds at others. I also think there can be fog. I think women’s issues are very real, worthy, and seen perfectly by our Savior. But I think our perceptions are shrouded in cultural fog. Traditionally, it’s proven wise to proceed with caution on a fog-laden sea. However, with increased technology — or wisdom and light — fog is no navigational problem at all. I just wish our truly amazing leaders would consider these things very earnestly. But if they don’t, I still love and honor them just the same. They confuse me. But I do love them. And I think the Savior let’s the church take this journey pretty much autonomously so we have experience and learn every needful thing.

    Blasted fog….

  51. JennyP1969 says:

    Oh my goodness…..Bonnie’s points are partly why there is still so much fog. Mothers can be mothers and still move forward to much greater equality. Mothers may stamp the first impression of love on a child, but dad is right there too. In fact, my husband stamped the first caress in mortality of pure, deep love on two of our three children. Women hold back the progress toward equality as much, if not more than men. Women can be mothers and hold priesthood power as beautifully as men can be fathers and hold priesthood power beautifully. Women can be wives and mothers and give wonderful counsel in any quorum, just as men can be fathers and do so. Women’s voices and unique wisdom must be heard and considered and included. They must! Mothers are mothers. Fathers are fathers. Priesthood is a power — not to be coveted, demanded, or fought over — but to be bestowed to all who are worthy to act in God’s name. What glorious blessings to women–what growth–what blessings to marriages, to families, to quorums, to the church? Bonnie writes beautifully what I earnestly believed for so very long. It’s not that it’s wrong. It’s not complete. There is so much more the Lord has prepared us to endow and receive. In the past 10 years the spirit has moved great patches of fog from my eyes and brought greater understanding for me to encourage and champion. I didn’t ask for it. I’ve even shirked it, I’m ashamed to admit. I’m a lowly member of no account, but to my family, friends and wards. But still, He guides and directs me to learn, ponder, seek, see, and realize that His daughters deserve and are worthy of so much more than those two fireside talks encompass. Equality is not confined to motherhood. It is far, far more and will bless the world beyond comprehension! Just as their scales of prejudice had to fall off the leaders’ and some members’ eyes in 1978, so they likewise must fall off in our perception (or misperception) of divine equality. Oh, how I pray the Brethren are fearless in seeking such and do not shirk from asking for the greatest revelation for the whole church and kingdom — to consecrate true equality to ALL. Our divine roles as spouses and parents will be further consecrated, enlarged, and the Kingdom will grow in light and numbers. Nothing, will be lost, but only gained. Double or more the numbers who hold such sacred power! But exponentially, who can measure the effect on this fallen world? And the faithful will rejoice! The heavens shout for joy!! Women will add nuances to the governing body of the church, and still be righteous, faithful, valiant, holy mothers. Seeing women go forth as such will inspire sons and daughters, it will lift the self-esteem of countess women on both sides of the veil, it will renew the beauty of all that the priesthood is because all will see it with refreshed eyes. It will lessen taking this gift and power for granted. It will give pause to it’s meaningfulness. Fewer will view it’s duties as drudgeries pressed upon them. There will be more holiness. It will open eyes, minds, and hearts to a great many of our Heavenly Parent’s children. Oh…..my whole soul trembles with the Spirit who bears record of these truths. We ARE ready! We must believe we are! The rising generation will run, not creep, forward with great and equal empowerment to perfect the Saints, proclaim the glorious gospel, redeem the dead, and seek the welfare of those in need. That……is a people ready to receive their King!

  52. JennyP1969 says:

    Apologies for highjacking. But I had to.

  53. I like the idea presented but when I have tried to really embrace it I run into two things that ruin it for me:
    1) Acknowledging that leaders are not perfect is difficult because I expect better if they are going to lead and preach to us. But, this could also just be a personal failing within myself.
    2) Acknowledging that leaders are not perfect doesn’t work because they claim better for themselves, both directly and conceptually. As much as the official position is that leaders are not infallible, the assumed position is that there is no way a church leader (especially a GA) could possibly say or do anything that is contrary to the will of God.

  54. Heatherby says:

    Nothing to add to the doctrine, just thank you, John C.
    Acknowledgement of mutual fallibility might also be a little bit of charity, or humility.

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