PR Primacy?

Some people were a bit surprised with the Church’s reaction to the recent PBS documentary on the Mormons. The Church was quite positive. I have heard some accusations that good public relations required that they respond positively, but that the actual leadership of the Church likely thought it was horrible. Some people are disturbed at what they believe is the primacy of Public Relations in the modern Church and that in some ways the tail is wagging the dog. I don’t think that is accurate.

I think throughout Mormon history, public relations statements have had the effect of raising the proverbial bar. Just as when I was a missionary, there was a focus on setting goals and becoming publicly accountable, PR binds the Church. An interesting example of this is reflected in the diaries of Apostle Reed Smoot:

Wednesday, September 29, 1908
Meeting at the Temple at 9 oclock. One hour was spent by F. M. Lyman talking and giving his views on many of the questions spoken of yesterday. The Presidency came in at 10.15. I [led] prayer in the circle and Pres Smith in opening. We had the sacrament administered. It was agreed a week ago that Ben E. Rich should be appointed one of the 1st Presidents of Seventy and last evening was spoken of by Pres Lyman. I called the quorums attention to the danger there was in appointing him if as was reported he had taken another wife since the Woodruff Manifesto. I called attention to the testimony of President Smith, John Henry and myself in my own case at Washington and if Ben was guilty it would bring trouble on the church. John Henry and I called this to President Smith’s attention and he agreed it was unwise to make the appointment. It was agreed to appoint Levi Young the son of S B Young to fill the vacancy caused by the death of George Reynolds. (Harvard Heath, ed., In the World: The Diaries of Reed Smoot, pg. 34)

Had not the Church leaders made Public statements that held them to a high public standard, a very good man, but also one who had engaged in practices that were no longer considered laudable, would likely have joined a general presiding quorum. While this transition was painful for many Saints, I think the Church is currently much better for it.

Another recent example was a May 16, 2006 press release:

The belief that Christ was married has never been official Church doctrine. It is neither sanctioned nor taught by the Church. While it is true that a few Church leaders in the mid-1800s expressed their opinions on the matter, it was not then, and is not now, Church doctrine.

Now, while some will point to late authorities such as Bruce McConkie to show that the leaders of the Church actually believe otherwise, this PR notice actually reflects First Presidency letters dating back to the 19th century. So, no matter what some rogue seminary teacher says with a wink and a nod, the PR notice raises the public awareness and increases our accountability and hopefully increases the likelihood of everyone ignoring the aforementioned teacher.

We are part of a living and growing Church. Likely, the Church of my grandchildren will be much different than mine, just as my church is different from my grandparent’s. I have the faith that it will be better and public statements that outline an ideal that isn’t, perhaps, universally accepted, is in many cases a step in the right direction.


  1. Matt W. says:

    The concept that the leadership secretly doesn’t like the PBS episode and is pretending to for PR reminds me of the fundamentalist Mormon idea that ending Polygamy was just a PR sham and we ought to keep practicing it.

  2. Mark IV says:

    Interesting, Stapley. I also think that the responsibility to speak in public for the entire church often brings a certain moderation. People say and think all kinds of things as private citizens when the stakes are low, but they become more circumspect when they realize their statements will be evaluated.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Good point, J. Overall I think Public Affairs does a bang-up job.

    There is always a concern that we will care too much what the world thinks of us and so downplay important distinctives (King Follett Discourse, for example). That is a legitimate concern. But on the other hand, caring what the world thinks of us is often a positive thing with salutary effects. If we were still an isolated people limited to the Great Basin without today’s communications, people would be propounding all sorts of crazy stuff with impunity. The moderating influence of having to answer in a responsible way to the society at large can be a good thing, I think.

  4. Gilgamesh says:


    I agree – though I don’t think it is just concern about what the world thinks as much as a watchdog to make sure we are not procaticing things we don’t preach. The Jesus is married issue is a good example of enforcing that the church members stop creating doctrine when that is the responsibility of the prophet and the 12.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Good point, Gilgamesh. PR acts in part as a brake on the unfortunate tendency for the Saints to accept any tidbit offered up by a stray GA or seminary teacher as foundational doctrine.

  6. Interesting thoughts. As members of the Church, we probably tend to overemphasize its relationship with us, even though we know it exists to bless the whole world. Relating to the public, public relations, is pretty central to the Church’s purpose, and it makes sense that that would contribute to the shape of the Church.

  7. I should have noted that Ben Rich was a long time friend of Reed Smoot, which makes the excerpt above even more meaningful.

    Kevin, you make a good point about the KFD, but I will take a deemphasis on the KFD if we can similarly not lay essential claim to some of the wackiness that it generated.

  8. Outside of church-related examples, there is a transcendent example of a PR statement that led to significant social change. “All men are created equal” was an ideal that did not fit the society in which it was promulgated. Given the inequality of the system at that time, it might be seen as nothing more than a PR statement – a way to attack the sovereignty of the King. The 3/5’s designation of slaves reinforces this interpretation. However, it was that phrase – that ideal – that was quoted most heavily within the abolitionist movement. The PR statement established the ideal that later changed the society.

    I see the same type of potential in the “Approaching Mormon Doctrine” statement. It probably won’t alter millions of opinions immediately, but I think the simple fact that it was published can go a long way toward changing the way members and leaders talk about the issues it addresses.

  9. Wow. All these positive comments about PR. It’s almost enough to warm a flack’s heart — if I had one.

  10. “It is neither sanctioned nor taught by the Church. While it is true that a few Church leaders in the mid-1800s expressed their opinions on the matter, it was not then, and is not now, Church doctrine.”

    Does ‘the Church’ ever teach anything? Is ‘the Church’ capable of teaching anything? Where is this ‘the Church’?

    Or is it members and leaders that are a part of ‘the Church’ that do the teaching?

  11. Nick Literski says:

    First of all, the idea that taking a wife after the 1880 Manifesto was “no longer considered laudable” ignores the fact that Wilford Woodruff’s own counselors were authorizing plural marriages during that time. Camron Hardy’s book, *Solemn Covenant* gives an outstanding history of post-Manifesto polygamy. The fact that Ben E. Rich had taken a post-Manifesto plural wife was *entirely* laudable to the church leadership. The problem was that if it became public, it would put the lie to the public relations image that plural marriage had been ended, hence “it would bring trouble upon the church.”

    Second, to suggest that the marital status of Jesus was a “tiny tidbit offered up by a stray GA” is either blatantly ignorant of church history, or outright dishonest.

  12. First of all, Nick, by 1908, it wasn’t laudible.

    Second, to suggest that it was a widely held belief (remember there is a 1899 First Presidency letter denouncing the doctrine) has no documentary evidence.

    Loyd, I guess you would say that there isn’t “Church doctrine” either, only leader’s and member’s doctrine.

  13. You beat me to every point, J., so I simply will say, “What he said!”

  14. There is an axiom in rhetoric that the audience determines the quality of the argument. Not only will the audience accept or reject arguments but anticipating feedback authors will craft their argument more carefully if the audience is better qualified or more critical.

    In the worst case, public relations statements are merely pandering but there is also the possibility that the quality of the argument has to increase when LDS leaders have to explain themselves to non-believers.

    Throughout LDS history, there are probably examples of both cases.

  15. Well said, Hellmut.

  16. Nick Literski says:

    If Ben E. Rich took said wife after the third Manifesto of 1906, then I agree–it would not be seen as “laudable.” The quote you provided does not, of course, identify when the marriage took place, other than that it was after the original 1890 Manifesto.

  17. Nick, I hate to be obvious, but “Wednesday, September 29, 1908” is clearly labeled as the diary date for the quote. Sorry.

  18. The date on the diary quote appears to be the date of the meeting, not the date that Ben Rich took the post-Manifesto wife–the diary quote does not say when he did so (other than it was post-Manifesto). Or am I misreading the date?

  19. Good point, David. I took the conversation to have meant the extra wife timing had been recent when that wasn’t stated explicitly. I stand corrected. Sorry, Nick. So, what Nick said!

  20. I hope the positive comments about PR on this thread are not implying that it’s OK for the Church to be disingenuous in its public statements. No matter how salutory the effect of that on its public image, the Church should not risk its long-term credibility for short-term PR points.

    I don’t think it has, however. I disagree strongly with those who believe that the church was engaging in a mere PR ploy in its public statement on the PBS Docs. I believe that its statement reflects the honest majority view of its leadership, but I confess I have no way of verifying this.

    Does anyone know how such statements are crafted? Is there a formal process? Is it like a supreme court opinion? Or is it just written by some flack in the public affairs dept.?

  21. Lloyd: I think the answer to your series of questions is that it is the first presidency and the 12 that speak for the church, if anyone. No other “members” have that authority. That is where I understand “the Church” to be.

  22. J. Stapley,

    this PR notice actually reflects First Presidency letters dating back to the 19th century

    Do you have a reference for these letters, or better yet some excerpts?

  23. Jesus wasn’t married? How does one become exalted without being married? Is marriage not a requirement for exaltation?

  24. So a laudable doctrine is one that we uphold in todays church? I refuse to see where the Lord has upheld the change we espouse in todays plural marriage doctrine.

  25. Keller, the earliest letter I have is a March 11, 1899, letter to B. Rich stating that the idea that Jesus was married is only speculation, despite what anyone might have read from Orson Hyde (see the transcript of the First Presidency Letterpress in the Scott Kenney Research Collection at either UU or BYU).

    Amanda, I imagine that it is the same way Jesus was the God of the Old Testament before coming to earth. Still, I don’t think that it is any particular heresy to believe that Jesus was married (for any number of reasons), but it is important to remember that it is not doctrine of the Church. Lot’s of people believe in things that aren’t particularly “doctrinal.”

    I think that it is demonstrable that in 1908 it was not laudable to have had a post-1890 manifesto plural marriage, regardless of how authorized or performed it. Having a post 1904-manifesto wasn’t only not laudable, but excommunicable (at least by the 1910’s).

  26. Steve Evans says:

    jrs, what do you mean by “today’s plural marriage doctrine”? I didn’t know we had one.

  27. Don’t ask me Steve, check with the stake pres.

  28. Nice one. But seriously, if you make a statement like “I refuse to see where the Lord has upheld the change we espouse in todays plural marriage doctrine,” there are a couple of things that statement requires:

    First, you “refuse” to see what the Lord has done? Maybe you meant that you “fail” to see.

    Second, when you use the phrase, “todays plural marriage doctrine,” you clearly have something in mind. I’m just asking you to explain yourself. Re-routing me to my SP only makes me believe that you’re not quite sure of what you were talking about…

  29. I see nothing in the string of events since 1890 that convinces me the Lord is behind LDS changes in marriage doctrine; therefore I refuse to agree that the Lord has made those changes, or that I should stand by current “doctrine” as the ideal the Lord set out for this dispensation.

  30. Got it.

  31. Steve Evans says:

    Okey-doke, you’re a fundie. Why didn’t you just say so?

  32. D. Allen says:

    #23: As far as i can tell, the Bible is almost completely silent as to whether Jesus married or not. Would Jesus have had opportunity to marry being busy with his earthly mission? In that same vein, what about the missionaries who are killed in the field? Will they not be exalted? That’s what the millennium is for, to straighten all that out.

  33. Steve–my very non-fundie brother would agree with jrs since it’s possible for a man to be sealed to a second (or third) woman as long as the first wife dies, while the converse is not true for women. Not sure that’s an argument to have here, but you don’t have to be a fundamentalist to think plural marriage is still practiced in some sense by the church.

  34. jothegrill says:

    Of course Jesus is married! He’s married to all those sweet little catholic nuns. =)

  35. “Fundie” has nothing to do with it, just be honest instead of trying to make sure the PR is right.

  36. Steve Evans says:

    Kristine, would your brother say “I see nothing in the string of events since 1890 that convinces me the Lord is behind LDS changes in marriage doctrine; therefore I refuse to agree that the Lord has made those changes, or that I should stand by current “doctrine” as the ideal the Lord set out for this dispensation”? I doubt it.

    jrs, honesty is not the issue. The Manifesto was not PR. If you think it was just PR, then I’d say “fundie” has a lot to do with it, because you’re clearly not in keeping with the teachings of the current leadership of the LDS Church.

  37. While I do not like the use of a pejorative like “fundie”, I agree with Steve on this one. Honesty only applies if you are convinced the leadership under Wilford Woodruff lied about receiving the Manifesto from God – and that the other members of the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles knew about the lie and promulgated it regardless. Even if you think the Manifesto was a hallucination or merely a dream, honesty is not an issue. If you are willing to make the claim that it was dishonest, and also add what jrs said about refusing to accept the changes made by subsequent leaders, then the term “fundamentalist” fits perfectly.

  38. No kidding, then we just sit back and put up with all the fundies the Lord throws at us at every PR event that comes along until we get it through our thick heads that we are’t able to throw out His laws with impunity.

  39. I’m going to sleep in a few minutes, but I must say again, with all due respect, “Huh?”

  40. The Lord throws fundies? Wow. I’m so glad I check in here! Now I know what to teach in my EQ on Sunday.

  41. Steve Evans says:

    MCQ, that’s why I don’t go to church PR events. Look out! It’s Warren Jeffs flyin’ at cha!

  42. It’s all fun and games till someone gets an eye poked out by a flyin’ Rulon Allred.

  43. Mark IV says:

    Then it’s hilarious.

  44. D. Allen says:

    I’ve grappled with the idea of how the Manifesto conflicts with the “Principle”, but then it occurred to me what they were for. The “Principle” and the Manifesto were both there to fill immediate needs. The Church needed more people in it to build up. By the time of the Manifesto, there was enough people to start tracting the rest of the world. Besides that, the Church needed to be on the right side of the law of the land to get Uncle Sam off their back so they could go about their business.

    In order to fulfill the missionary purpose of bringing people in, PR is a need. Not just a need, but a must. Now, I’m not so sure about the way that the PR is being handled, so I just pray that the GA’s know what they are doing. I can agree with how they spoke positively about the PBS broadcast, in which they actually bothered to ask church members for the first time that I’ve ever seen.

    Of course, what’s just PR and what’s filling other needs? Consider the deal with abbreviating temple ordinances to get more people’s work done, consolidating church services to save gasoline, splitting congregations to allow more people to worship in the same chapel, etc. The fulfilling of immediate needs is, for the most part, the purpose of continuing revelation.

  45. D. I hesitate to quibble with such sound common sense, but a lot of the stuff you mentioned has never been claimed to be the subject of revelation. Just administrative decision-making at its best.

  46. Oh come on guys. Seriously. I’m sure there are those that could argue the inclusion of blacks into the priesthood was just PR. Or perhaps tithing is just PR to help the church pay off debt. Really, if you had any rule you didn’t want to keep you could just chalk it up to PR. (I wonder if I could use that PR/tithing stunt on my next temple recommend interview, “Nah. See, I think tithing’s just a PR move really. The church needs money and POP suddenly tithing’s required? A bit convenient if you ask me. PR all the way.” I’d love to see the Stake President’s face.)

    We’re mormons for crying out loud. The strength of our religion is that (despite how very very few of us do) we can be like Levar Burton and not have to take anyone’s word for it. We can find out for ourselves. I, for one, am vehemently against the whole plural marriage thing. JRS obviously not so much. As long as we keep the rules of church I don’t really care if we agree or not. I’ll be the first to admit, there’s tons I don’t agree with, with tons of people in the church. But unlike other churches we’re not so much told as we are councilled.

    (Note: the above might not have made any sense as I am very tired)

  47. Lavar Burton?

  48. J. #25,

    Much thanks for providing that source. I will have to check it out next time I am in Happy Valley.

  49. J.Stapley,

    Marriage being necessary for exaltation is a doctrine. Christ, in order to become an exalted being, would have to be married. How can you accept one without accepting the other? Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, Orson Hyde, and others all taught that Christ was married.

    “Yet the whole fraternity throughout Christendom will cry out against this order. `Oh dear, Oh dear, Oh dear,’ they all cry out;I am in pain…I am suffering at witnessing the wickedness there is in the land. Here is one of the `relics’ of barbarism.’ Yes, one of the relics of Adam, of Enoch, of Noah, of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, of Moses, David, Solomon, the Prophets, and Jesus and his apostles.” (Brigham Young, Des. News, Feb. 10, 1867)

    I don’t think Brigham Young was very big on PR. Maybe Brigham learned his PR skills from Nephi. “Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write…” (1 Nephi 6:5) We also know from the book of Nephi that a church built up to become popular in the eyes of the world will be consumed as stubble. (1 Nephi 22:23)

    I just don’t see much of scriptural basis for PR. If we are doing are job, the world will hate us. Christ promised us that much. The only ways I can think of to get the world not to hate us is by sacrificing the parts of the gospel that put us at odds with the world, or by lying.

  50. Steve Evans says:

    “If we are doing are job, the world will hate us.”

    Think globally, act locally, I say. Start first, Amanda, by antagonizing those people you are in contact with every day.

  51. Rich married Laura Bowring and Alice McLachlan in the late 1890s.

  52. Steve,

    By antagonizing, you mean sharing the fulness of the gospel, right? No problem!

  53. The strength of our religion is that (despite how very very few of us do) we can be like Levar Burton and not have to take anyone’s word for it.

    Levar Burton? Should we try to be more like him as host of Reading Rainbow or perhaps be like his Star Trek NG character Geordi La Forge? (That visor was pretty awesome…)

    Of course he has other admirable skills too. His wiki also tell us this about him:

    He is an avid poker player, and participant in the World Poker Tour.

  54. Steve Evans says:

    Geoff, that’s because he CHEATS! That stinkin’ visor was like x-ray vision.

  55. For what it’s worth:

    A close friend of mine who is Catholic once complained to me that our church’s commercials were too polished – that a church shouldn’t be run like a business. (Yeah, I know, ironic coming from a Catholic, but …) My response was, “I absolutely LOVE the fact that we have savvy businessmen in our leadership. If we truly believe that we are doing the work of the Lord, and we truly believe that he wants us to use our talents to the fullest, isn’t it better to understand how to package the message to have the maximum impact than to be amateurish in our approach?” Good PR doesn’t negate the core Gospel; it just means the organization is better at getting its message to the outside world than it used to be. (and if that means streamlining the teachings to refocus on Gospel principles and leave behind the speculation of the past, I’m even happier.)

  56. Amanda, we have two competing commandments – or at least it appears that way on the surface. The greatest one is, “Love God and love thy neighbor as thyself,” “Love one another,” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or any number of ways to phrase it. The other one is, “Preach the Gospel.” Christ said that the world would hate those who represent him, but he didn’t say that meant we should preach in such a way as to antagonize by our own actions. He didn’t do that, and neither should we.

    There are many reasons why the early Saints were persecuted as harshly as they were, but one of them is how arrogantly they proclaimed their chosen status. I have read most of the published anti-Mormon stuff from the pre-Utah years, and that is a central theme. That arrogance and attendant pride is the central reason given for the demise of the United Order, as well.

    We can fulfill the command to preach the Gospel as well as the command to love others, but we can’t do it with an antagonistic spirit. That’s all I read into the comments.

  57. Nick Literski says:

    J. Stapley wrote:
    “I think that it is demonstrable that in 1908 it was not laudable to have had a post-1890 Manifesto plural marriage, regardless of how [sic] authorized or performed it.”

    Great! Then demonstrate it from the historical evidence. While you’re doing so, remember that it was Wilford Woodruff’s two counselors who were authorizing those post-Manifesto plural marriages, and that one of those counselors, Joseph F. Smith, was president of the church at the time you cite. So, I’d really like to see you show, from historical evidence, that the man who had the keys in 1908 to determine what was “laudable” in the church found it “not laudable” for men to have entered into marriages that he, himself authorized.

    Otherwise, what you “think” is demonstrable on the topic isn’t worth much.

  58. Nick Literski says:

    Oh…and just to clarify, there’s a big difference between what might be “laudable,” vs. what might be inconvenient or embarassing if brought out in public.

  59. Nick, doesn’t that fact that they were unwilling to put a man who had post-1890 marriages in a governing quorum in fact demonstrate that it was not laudable? I don’t see this as question begging.

  60. Amanda (#49): Christ, in order to become an exalted being, would have to be married.

    Plenty of people believe that Jesus got married here so I don’t begrudge you that opinion. But saying Jesus had to get married here in order to “become exalted” doesn’t really work. Jesus was already exalted before he showed up here. He was already God who condescended to be the savior of the world. He may have been married (we have no records to tell us he was of course) but it really won’t do to insist he had to or he couldn’t “become exalted”.

    (sorry all for tainting a wonderfully amusing thread with a serious comment…)

  61. Ray,

    The guilty always take the truth to be hard. If you preach truth then you are going to be viewed as antagonistic by the guilty. That’s why Christ was hung on the cross and Joseph was killed by the mob. Maybe Jesus and Joseph just needed a better PR department.

  62. Steve Evans says:

    Beat it, Geoff.

  63. Steve Evans says:

    Amanda, preaching the Gospel isn’t a license to be a jerkwad. I think that’s in Thessalonians somewhere.

  64. Geoff,

    If Christ is our fileleader and the great example for us to follow, what does it imply if he didn’t get married? Does that mean that marriage isn’t a requirement?

  65. Steve,

    Where did I say that one should be a jerkwad? What I said is that the guilty will always view those that preach truth to be jerkwads. :)

  66. Amanda: Yes, the guilty take the truth to be hard, but so do the innocent if it is packaged in a hurtful way. Think about that one for a while. Seriously.

    An example: In college I was part of the classic house system, and my particular house was for the off-campus students. Those students consisted of people who intentionally chose to eschew the on-campus house system. I was the only one who was married; the others primarily were anarchists, liberal socialists, communists, basic non-comformists or homosexual. Since much of the social activity was centered in the house system, that meant that I had MANY friends in college – good friends – who believed philosophies and lived lifestyles of which I did not approve.

    We didn’t avoid the issue. I was the only married freshman in institutional memory, so the topic of sexual morality and practice came up regularly. My friends knew my personal beliefs, and I shared many aspects of the Gospel with as many who would listen, but I didn’t condemn them and tell them they were going to Hell. That’s not my judgment to make. I didn’t shout at them or ridicule them in any way. I was direct but not antagonistic. Some were offended and reacted badly, but most did not.

    So, in summary, what Steve said!

  67. Drop it, Amanda, about Christ and marriage. We’re going in circles and this isn’t going to change anyone’s mind on either side of the question.

  68. Ardis Parshall says:

    If we are doing [our] job, the world will hate us. … If you preach truth then you are going to be viewed as antagonistic by the guilty.

    What’s always bothered me about this and related statements is the apparent belief that if people hate us it proves we are doing our job exactly right. If I find Nick’s comments to be antagonistic, does that prove he is preaching truth?

    The wicked will hate the message no matter how prettily it’s packaged. The honest in heart, though, may turn away from the ugly because it IS ugly, while a gentle presentation may hold their gaze long enough for them to respond on a deeper level. PR has its place.

  69. Steve Evans says:

    Amanda, Christ also didn’t go to college or hold a steady job. There are millions of things that Christ didn’t do. Being our example doesn’t mean that we are to start wearing robes and sandals. It’s tenuous logic to suggest that because marriage is a requirement for us, it was a requirement for Him…. although it’s a tenuous logic that has been repeated many times, by many authorities.

  70. Just to be fair: Drop it, Steve, about Christ and marriage. We’re going in circles and this isn’t going to change anyone’s mind on either side of the question. (Although I must put the “your the moderator” disclaimer on this message, since I can’t afford to antagonize Steve.)

  71. And once they’ve responded on this deeper level, if they were to then later respond to the ugly by rejecting both it and the pretty package it came in, would they remain, in your view, honest in heart?

  72. In my view the hoops and rules that we mortals have to follow for exhaltation do not always apply to a member of the godhead. Jesus has different circumstances then the rest of us mortals. He also did not have to obey the WOW or repent either

    I take the First Pres statement as face value about Jesus being married is not official Church doctrine. He may have been but neither scripture or Revelation clearly state that he was.

    Amanda if you are as orthodox as you seem to be then the FP statement should be sufficient for you.

  73. Steve Evans says:

    Ray, if you are preaching the gospel, then it’s no wonder I hate you.

  74. Steve,

    If you can show me that going to college, having a steady job, wearing sandals, or any of the other silly things you’re comparing to eternal marriage have ever been a requirement for exaltation, then you may have a point.

  75. Steve Evans says:

    Amanda, where do we learn of Christ receiving the endowment? Or the priesthood, for that matter? Getting sealed? There are no scriptural accounts for these things, plain and simple. If you want to arrive at your own conclusions by transplanting latter-day ordinances onto the Savior, be my guest — but don’t teach that in my Sunday School, or I’ll report you to my Stake President. You have nothing but suppositions and anecdotal evidence by early church leaders (none canonical) to support your claims.

    In any event, Geoff is right — Christ did not need marriage to be exalted. He is the definition of exaltation in all respects.

  76. To all,

    I’ve rather enjoyed this discussion. I only wish these kinds of discussions were more common in the Church. Now I must get back to my crying baby and sick husband. I hope you all have a blessed day!

  77. Jacob explicitly apologized to the innocent for having to address the guilty in front of them. He called it wounding their souls – even though he was teaching truth. I believe it’s not JUST what you say, but it’s also the spirit in which you way it – and that spirit is not understood best by what you think it is, but often by how it comes across to the innocent who hear it. If it sounds hateful to all of them, it probably is. If they all think you are being a jerkwad, you probably are. (generalization, I know, but accurate, I believe)

    I repeat the rule I use: Even when confronting evil or vice or just plain stupidity, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Don’t call someone something you wouldn’t want to be called. Don’t condemn anyone, just as you would not want to be condemned. (Unless, of course, they understand that their hateful jerkwadiness deserves it, Steve.)

  78. Steve Evans says:

    :) Ray, I hope you’re not taking me seriously! I don’t hate you.

    I too believe in the Law of Jerkwads as you express it.

  79. I have a very warped sense of humor, Steve. You’ve seen about 0.2% of it thus far – or maybe 0.23%. I haven’t had a math class in over 20 years.

    One of the problems with internet communication is that you can’t see me laughing so hard I cry as I type.

  80. I just realized how many times my name in in the “New Comments” list. Ouch! I’ll refrain for a while.

  81. 63 Steve,

    I understand clearly what Amanda is saying, and it is part of the New Testament message of the gospel. Summed up: We are to love our neighbor, and we are to preach the gospel to them. And, as Amanda says, the fullness of the gospel (who’d want a partialness of the gospel, anyway, if they knew better?). But, because natural man is at enmity with God, and because man’s ways are not God’s ways, and because man is prideful in the flesh, the preaching of the full gospel often oftens man’s (unspiritual, natural) sensibilities. When man humbles himself, and accepts that God’s ways are higher than man’s, and God’s wisdom greater than ours, and that our view of the “little picture” is far inferior to God’s “big picture plan”, then the spirit allows us to hear and make sense of the gospel, and if we are humble and truly interested in taking up our cross and following Christ, then we accept it.

    Amanda is not saying that we should not be kind and loving, but that even in doing so, the gospel is sharp and a two-edged sword, and it cuts right to the heart of us and forces us to choose a master: God and His greater Laws, or ourselves and man’s laws.

    That in mind, JS, BY, JT, and WW all preached God’s laws, and man’s laws be damned. They did not give a fig for man’s laws or what the world thought of the Saints practicing God’s laws. WW’s manifesto of 1890 was a “trick to beat the devil at his own game.” WW himself took another wife post-manifesto. The Church’s present posturing of “we discontinued that quaint little practice in 1890” is a flatout lie. WW merely offered his “advice” in the manifesto, but Church members were free to ignore his advice, and in fact, we encouraged to colonize northern Mexico and southern Alberta where they could continue to free practice plural marriage with full church sanction.

    Like Amanda, and like JRS, I simply do not see any revelation behind the manifesto. I do know that church archives include a hand-written revelation received by John Taylor, in which God said he would never revoke the practice of plural marriage. The difference is that the Manifesto was a PR masterpiece (largely because of the mythology it has supported being built around and on top of it) and the John Taylor revelation would not gain us much acclaim in the world.

  82. I really am leaving as soon as I post this comment: and around and around and around we go.

  83. Steve Evans says:

    Ben, I too understand what Amanda was saying, but I was trying instead to have her articulate her meaning rather than doing it for her.

    I reject your depiction of there being no revelation behind the manifesto. By your depiction you are explicitly placing yourself outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That’s your choice, but BCC is not a forum for apostasy, believe it or not.

  84. Ardis Parshall says:

    Chino Blanco (71), I’m using “honest in heart” in the sense used in scripture (Luke 8:15) which by definition means those who don’t reject the truth.

  85. Nick Literski says:

    No, the unwillingness to call a man with a post-Manifesto polygamous wife to a governing council does *not* indicate that it was unlaudable. It has no reflection at all on whether the authorities *approved* of Elder Rich taking that wife. Look at your source. They didn’t condemn him in any way. Rather, they worried that if it got out, Elder Rich’s post-Manifesto marriage might “bring trouble on the church.” This was during a time when the federal government distrusted the LDS, and frankly suspected that the LDS had *not* discontinued plural marriage. Public discovery of Elder Rich’s post-Manifesto plural marriage would have added fuel to that fire.

    I don’t see how the situation could be much clearer.

  86. Nick Literski says:

    Ardis Parshall wrote:
    “If I find Nick’s comments to be antagonistic, does that prove he is preaching truth?”

    Wow…are there two people named Ardis Parshall now? There must be, because the Ardis Parshall I know (and think the world of) knows full well that what I’m saying in this thread is correct. She’s too good of an historian to pretend otherwise. She would never think it was “antagonistic” to insist on the historical truth.

  87. Steve, Just because I do not believe there was a “thus saith the Lord” revelation does not place me outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am in fact a temple-attending member and until recently served in a bishopric. My stake president is aware of my feelings, and thankfully he does not think that intelligent people cannot disagree and still be church members in good standing. Would I stand up in sacrament or in sunday school and discuss this feeling of mine? No. I don’t see the sense or the need to do that. But, neither would probably 80% of BCC comments be appropriate for a church setting.

    Thankfully, blogs are not the same as church attendance and the same rules do not apply. Or do you blog in a white shirt and tie?

    On the other hand, some church leaders (including several bishops I have had, one with whom I served as a counselor, and one stake president I had years ago)–as well as many members–would see anything that questions the leadership as being “apostasy” or very near unto it, and by that definition, probably half the comments on BCC and a good percentage of posts could qualify as apostate.

  88. Nick Literski says:

    #75 Steve Evans,
    “You have nothing but suppositions and anecdotal evidence by early church leaders (none canonical) to support your claims.”

    Yet, Steve, if Gordon B. Hinckley happened to stand up in General Conference and say that Jesus had seven wives, most active LDS would take that as absolute doctrine–even if it was merely his supposition.

  89. 88 Nick:

    Seeing as how most active LDS accepted “one pair of earings” as absolute true doctrine without giving it a second thought, given nothing more than a statement by Pres. Hinckley, I do believe you are absolutely correct.

    And what, I might ask, has more theologicial significance, what might help us better understand the gospel and our role in life: the understanding of Jesus and his possibly being married, or an acceptance of “one and only true pair of earings” as a guiding gospel principle?

  90. I don’t think we are operating from different definitions of “honest in heart.” It’s more about whether your assessment of someone as being “honest in heart” is too easily operative/inoperative based on the outcome of their inquiry rather than their intent in making the inquiry.

    In any case, I second Ben.

    To continue on with that passage from Luke:

    For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.

  91. Nick (88),
    That’s an awfully broad brush. I’m sure you’re right that, at least some portion of active LDS would take it as a historical–though probably not doctrinal–statement. But what is your evidence for asserting that most active LDS would accept the statement absolutely?

  92. And Ben (89),
    In my experience (which, granted, is as anecdotal as yours), most LDS didn’t take his statement as a doctrinal pronouncement on the telestial quality of multiple piercing; rather, they took it as highly weighted advice about how to live their lives. That’s fundamentally different; at one point, I assume, church authorities taught against pants for women (because everybody did at one point; my MIL’s Catholic high school wouldn’t let her wear pants). It was likely even preached over a pulpit somewhere. But nobody (well, I assume nobody–no significant contingent of people, anyway) claimed doctrine had been changed when women could wear pants.

  93. Steve Evans says:

    Ben, saying that there is no revelation behind the manifesto is essentially a denial of the account given by the prophet in general conference surrounding the Manifesto. I don’t know how you can read OD 1 and come to the conclusion that there is no revelation behind the manifesto:

    I should have gone to prison myself, and let every other man go there, had not the God of heaven commanded me to do what I did do; and when the hour came that I was commanded to do that, it was all clear to me. I went before the Lord, and I wrote what the Lord told me to write. . . .
    I leave this with you, for you to contemplate and consider. The Lord is at work with us.

    Therefore, the Son of God felt disposed to have that thing presented to the Church and to the world for purposes in his own mind. The Lord had decreed the establishment of Zion. He had decreed the finishing of this temple. He had decreed that the salvation of the living and the dead should be given in these valleys of the mountains. And Almighty God decreed that the Devil should not thwart it. If you can understand that, that is a key to it.

    As you know, obtaining a temple recommend is largely based on practice, not on adherence to particular beliefs (absent a few fundamental ones). So really the fact that you think the Manifesto is just a PR scheme isn’t grounds to take away your recommend. It is, however, grounds to deem you firmly outside the accepted teachings of the Church. Ironic! Teaching your view in Church would be grounds for a disciplinary council, IMHO.

    Nick, interesting point… but BY said lots of crazy stuff, didn’t he? I don’t think we can strictly analogize between him and Pres. Hinckley.

  94. Ardis Parshall says:

    Nick (86), you pretty much make my point, thanks. Most of this discussion has been about distinctions between PR packaging and “truth” (doctrinal, historical, whatever). Amanda repeatedly stated that the guilty are offended by truth, as if the offensiveness were evidence of the truth. I challenged that, using your antagonistic as an example. The truth or falsity of your historical claim is entirely independent of the manner in which you presented your claim. The antagonism does not prove (or disprove, for that matter) the truth of your claim.

    And Chino Blanco (90), I’m not making individual assessments of who is honest in heart, but speaking only in principles. By definition, the honest in heart do not reject the truth (even secret or hidden truth that comes abruptly to light). My point is that if truth is initially presented in an ugly package — with antagonism, let’s say, to unify the two parts of this comment — good people may not stick around long enough to recognize truth. Diplomacy, courtesy, tact, PR packaging if you insist on putting it that way, allow the honest in heart to respond to truth without being repulsed by a first impression of deliberately ugly packaging.

  95. Ardis Parshall says:

    94, “… using your antagonistic TONE as an example …”

  96. Nick Literski says:

    #89 Ben:
    You and I don’t disagree at all. I was pointing out to Steve that he was dismissing the general conference teachings of presidents and apostles regarding Jesus being married, as “suppositions and anecdotal evidence.” This sort of dismissal is sort of humorous, given how much confidence current LDS place in anything that the current president happens to say, even in media interviews.

  97. Steve,

    The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Wilford Woodruff’s advice, contained in the Manifesto, is to avoid contracting any marriage that is against the law of the land. This was not a blanket rejection of plural marriage. And besides that, it was his “advice”. Advice that he himself did not heed, marrying again himself after he gave said advice. And approving new marriages in Mexico and Canada.

    I think he may have been inspired to discontinue the practice of new marriages within the U.S., and that seems to be the extent of how he felt it applied. Else, there is no explanation for his own behavior.

    As to my beliefs, recall that the first several questions of the TR interview deal with our beliefs and our sustaining the leadership. If those fundamental beliefs are enough to get me into God’s house, they ought to be enough to post on BCC.

    WRT to your reply to Nick, do you suppose 140 years from now, our descendents might be saying “GBH sure said a lot of wacky stuff, didn’t he?” Do you suppose that our own little foibles, as well as the very minor things that we make a big deal about (R rated movies, wearing white shirts, one and only true pair of earrings) might someday be dismissed as “quaint and outdated” or perhaps even “crazy” by our own grand children or great grandchildren. I suspect so. Just as we easily dismiss BY as the eccentric old grandfather who you try to avoid at barbecues because you never knew what crazy theory he’d be pitching this week, I suspect our descendants will think GBH must have been a nice old grandfatherly man, witty, but perhaps a bit off his rocker.

  98. Nick Literski says:

    Sam #91:
    I can only go on my personal experience and observation, which suggests that daring to question literally anything a current president of the church says—including historical claims—generally brings a vigorous, hostile response from those who consider themselves “faithful LDS.”

    I’ll grant you, I’m talking more about the “iron rodders” than the “liahonas” here. I suppose my brush was unduly broad, but the point remains. If Hinckley said Jesus had seven wives, such a statement would be quoted in many LDS classes and literature as unquestioned truth.

  99. But I’m good, and I hate packaging, almost as much as I hate Mother’s Day ;-)

    Maybe it’s ‘cuz I’m not a Serious Person, but I do resent the suggestion that because I dislike being spoonfed the truth, that somehow I’m suspect.

    fwiw, I’d just as soon have someone come along and antagonize me. I suspect that most genuine truth-seekers might agree.

  100. 96 Nick, Sorry if I gave the impression I was disagreeing with you. I was not, and am not now. Thanks much.

    Current LDS culture regards anything in the Ensign or in General Conference as being modern day revelation. We place more weight on these things than we do the scriptures, almost.

    And wasn’t it Elder Bednar who spoke in GC about a young man who had dumped his fiancee because she disagreed with Pres. Hinckley’s counsel on the earrings? Clearly the message is that such a young man is to be honored for his faithfulness to whatever Pres. Hinckley may say. Which comes back to not questioning anything, even if it disagrees with past pronouncements of “fact” that were understood or claimed by revelation to prior prophets in this dispensation.

    Boyd K. Packer gave a legendary talk some years ago about this: never questioning anything, even the minutia. BKP preached in this talk about how all of those things were just as important to our souls as the meat of the gospel, as they were in fact part of the gospel.

    And lately, it has gotten to the point where some stake presidents are forbidding boys from passing the sacrament if their shirt is colored off-white or something other than white; it manifests itself in the dictates on earings; it manifests itself in our dependence on a worldy-devised (and highly inconsistent) movie rating system to tell us what movies we can and cannot watch. Some people I have heard suggest that if GBH drives a certain kind of car or eats a certain kind of cereal that they would do the same thing, just because GBH does.

    I far prefer Joseph Smith’s belief that he wanted to teach men righteous principles and let them govern themselves.

  101. Steve Evans says:

    Ben, ask me in 140 years. Our current duties are pretty clear.

    As for you teaching that the manifesto was not a revelation, you’re not on sure footing. They let you into the temple because you don’t get to talk to anyone there! Try teaching a lesson in your ward labelling the Manifesto as nothing but “advice.” You’d kiss that recommend goodbye pretty darned quick.

    Besides, as you might surmise, the qualifications to be a commenter at BCC are fairly lax.

  102. kristine N says:

    Sorry, but I don’t think GBH is ever going to be seen as “off his rocker.”

  103. To make Ardis’ point in a different way: If a missionary teaches truth to an investigator but does not do so with and through the spirit, and/or if that missionary does so in an insulting, demeaning and derogatory way, is the investigator punished eternally for rejecting the core truth so hidden by the ugly packaging that it is invisible to the investigator?

    Another way: I have options in how to “discipline” my children. Two of those are: 1) externally – to beat them senseless until they obey me or 2) internally – to teach them the principle behind the rule so that they can develop the internal discipline they will need to follow the rule without any external compulsion. How I “package” my approach to them almost always will influence how they react – regardless of the validity of the rule and my need to “discipline them”.

    One final way: I was a teacher. I could lecture to my students without any regard for their differing learning modalities and blame them if they didn’t get it, or I could try to figure out what type of packaging lit their educational light and package my teaching in multiple ways that helped them get it.

    I can’t just say, in any setting, “Here is the truth, moron. If you can’t understand it you are stupid and will go to Hell.” (I don’t think that is what anyone is saying, but it is the logical outcome of the “just state truth” argument.) Just as faith without works is dead, truth without understanding often is dead, as well.

  104. 98 Nick, sorry for posting twice, but I can back that up with personal experience myself. I have always felt badly for someone else who does what you say, and then gets attacked on all sides from the Iron Rodders. Frequently those people don’t come back to SS for months or longer because of this treatment. I know, for in my present ward, my wife is one of those persons who refuses to go to GD class because of how she is treated when she participates and doesn’t 100% agree with the correlated lesson materials. And I have seen it with other people, in every ward I have ever been a member of.

  105. I have to agree with Nick, at least in the point that a large majority of active LDS members do not question enough and take a prophets words as doctrine. I have to say my own ward probably thinks I’m some crazy guy simply because I don’t take anyone’s word for it. (Reading Rainbow really made an impact on me)

    Need proof of blind acceptance? Look at the whole earring thing. That was just silly. I know women that look down on girls with two earrings. Look at any LDS discussion on evolution. Those against it will bring up quote after quote after quote from various church leaders to say it’s false. But any proof outside of that? Anything that states their own feelings? Very few will have anything else.

    Perhaps I too am painting with large brush, but since we’re all painting I’ll take a turn. It seems to me that a lot of LDS are taken to hero worship. Which I think is completely unhealthy. And as I said before I think we lose something precious when we stop looking for our own answers.

    (butterfly in the sky…I can go twice a high)

  106. 102 Kristine: he proclaimed on national television that he doesn’t think the church teaches or has ever taught that man may become like God. How do you explain this, a momentary lapse of memory? He can’t seem to remember a fundamental doctrine of the restoration, but he can talk about the soul-damaging effects of two pairs of earrings?

  107. Ardis Parshall says:

    Chino Blanco (99), do you see anything, ANYTHING, in what I’ve written in this thread that endorses “spoon-feeding” as a permanent condition? No. I’ve mentioned introductions, first impressions, giving people a chance to approach the truth without being turned off at their first exposure, allowing them space to respond to something other than surface packaging. If you allow yourself to suck at the spoon after it’s time for you to take charge of your own feeding, there’s something backward, lazy, stupid, stunted, foolish, creepy, and just plain wrong with you.

    (See how I neatly illustrated my point that pretty wrapping doesn’t last forever, by abandoning my initial PR stance and exposing the ugliness underneath? Purely for rhetorical purposes, of course. No offense intended.)

  108. I agree with the points being made about blind acceptance and intolerance. One of the best quotes ever is: “The Catholic Church teaches that the Pope is infallible, but Catholics don’t believe it. The Mormon Church teaches that the Prophet is fallible, but Mormons don’t believe it.”

    I know things get cloudy when you try to balance fallibility with the need to have basic unity of core belief, as well as the need for almost absolute uniformity in the face of intense persecution and the real threat of actual death and imprisonment that lessens over time as that threat recedes, but if more members believed the actual creeds of our church we wouldn’t have as many heated discussions about topics like this. That would be wonderful.

    (How’s that for a sentence that would make Dickens proud?)

  109. 106, Ben, first, give me the exact quote, so I can give you my exact answer. Second, do you really think Pres. Hinckley equates wearing two pair of earrings with damage to the soul? Don’t over-simplify something to the point where it is a caricature.

    Do I agree that the number of earrings you wear is outside the Gospel and seems ridiculous to many people? Of course. On the other hand, have I worked for years in an environment where I see the progression from two earrings to multiple body piercings to all kinds of other “non-conformist / rebellious” actions? Yes. Would I reject a temple recommend seeker if she had multiple earrings? No. Do I teach my children the counsel of the Prophet in this matter? Yes.

    I try VERY hard when I hear something I don’t understand to figure out how it might be correct. That is true in every arena in which I operate. I try NEVER to dismiss it out of hand and ridicule it – unless I simply can’t figure out any way to understand it. Frankly, there are very few things I can’t understand if I really try. I still don’t accept them all, but at least I understand them – which keeps me from ridiculing them – which helps blunt my natural pride. In the case of multiple earrings, while I think it is trivial and unnecessary for many, I understand completely that it is not trivial for many others.

    I meant that last phrase sincerely. I am proud of my intellect by nature. I need to fight that pride continually, since I need an open mind and a caring heart in everything I do. I don’t succeed all of the time, but I try.

  110. kristine N says:

    Ben–would you mind producing that quote?

  111. 109 Ray. I think you and I are mostly in agreement. My issue is with blind acceptance and blind faith. While wearing two pairs of earrings IN ITSELF may or may not destroy the soul, we are repeatedly told that not following the prophet’s advice in every area of life will destroy our testimonies and lead us to apostasy, thus in effect, damning our souls. So yes, if one continues to wear two pairs of earrings after GBh said not to, the logical conclusion is that such a person is in rebellion and has set themselves on the highway to hell by ignoring the prophet’s counsel.

    Anyhow, since you asked for the exact quotes:

    Reporter: Don’t Mormons believe that God was once a man?
    Hinckley: I wouldn’t say that. There was a little couplet coined, “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.” Now that’s more of a couplet than anything else. That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about.”
    – Interviewing Gordon B. Hinckley, San Francisco Chronicle, April 13, 1997, p 3/Z1

    “On whether his church still holds that God the Father was once a man, he sounded uncertain, “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it… I understand the philosophical background behind it, but I don’t know a lot about it, and I don’t think others know a lot about it.”
    – “KINGDOM COME: SALT LAKE CITY WAS JUST FOR STARTERS, The Mormons’ True Great Trek Has Been To Social Acceptance And A $30 Billion Church Empire,” DAVID VAN BIEMA, TIME MAGAZINE, AUGUST 4, 1997

  112. 110 Kristine: My apologies that I can’t find the Larry King quote I was looking for, but I found two other similar quotes from published interviews with Pres. Hinckley. See my comment above.

  113. Did my comment get eaten? Shucks.

    Anyway, the first part was about how much I’ve enjoyed reading about 1857 in Utah. Danke, Ardis.

    The second part was just an attempt to turn this sentence on its head, by suggesting that, if the rank-and-file have a responsibility to ultimately forsake the spoon, doesn’t that imply a concomitant duty on the part of the leadership to provide easier access to the fork and knife?

    If you allow yourself to suck at the spoon after it’s time for you to take charge of your own feeding, there’s something backward, lazy, stupid, stunted, foolish, creepy, and just plain wrong with you.

  114. First, I will agree that the PR statement in the original thread about the marriage statement isn’t what I would consider accurate. I think what is “doctrinal” is quite malleable and changes over time. I would say that there may have been a point that it was probably doctrinal, though not for very long (as indicated by the 1899 letter).

    Regarding whether or not post manifesto marriage was considered “laudable” in 1908, I stand by my categorization. I am familiar with the definition of laudable and don’t see how it fits the definition. It may not have been excoriated, but I don’t see it being praised or commended. I have a tremendous amount of empathy to the challenges of the participants of the practice. It was tremendously painful.

    For those questioning the revelatory nature of the 1890 manifesto, see Willford’s account in the November 7, 1891 Deseret Weekly, pg. 626-627. Whether or not is was an actual revelation is besides the point, Wilford seemed to think it was one. I’m not particularly interested in debating fundies, so if you have some coherent scholarship, pony up.

  115. 110 Krsitine: Seems Steve here at BCC posted the exact quote from the Larry King show a mere 15 days ago. See:

  116. Ben, President Hinckley was taking the same position that many prophets in the 20th century have taken. Look up Joseph Fielding’s comments in Answers to Gospel Questions vol. 2 pg. 127. This is actually a pretty important distinction, one which I tend to agree with (as I see the post-Joseph doctrinal expansions in the area as not being particularly valid). It is a complex situation, though, and a thread-jack.

  117. Ardis Parshall says:

    doesn’t that imply a concomitant duty on the part of the leadership to provide easier access to the fork and knife?

    I can’t imagine how they could provide easier access without a charge of spoonfeeding.

    From at least 6 April 1830, church leaders have encouraged the keeping of records of all kinds.

    Church leaders have committed vast resources to preserving those records.

    With very narrow exceptions, the church archives are wide open … and neglected by all but a tiny handful of researchers.

    Church leadership encourages study, and except for cautioning against wolves that lie in wait to deceive, does not discourage the kind of study you’re advocating.

    Within the narrow limits of advocacy of apostasy, the church does not hinder, punish, or penalize investigation of any subject.

    The only thing I can think of that church leadership doesn’t do to promote easy access is to themselves write the kind of books you are looking for. You’d probably call it spoon feeding if they did.

  118. I got nuthin. I’m just here ‘cuz I’m sore about getting reeled in by a post at T&S and having the cacophony shut down by a lecture on irony before the thread was allowed to flame out in all its glory. Hope that’s not what’s happening here. When the big fish start biting is no time to stop baiting the hook, my daddy used to say.

  119. Joseph Fielding Smith hated double earrings?!

  120. Ben, thanks for the quote. I knew what he said, but I wanted it in print here.

    I have a personal slant on this, as a high school teacher, that influences why I am bothered by how it is addressed. It deals with understanding and accepting linguistic nuances, especially generational one.

    My father and my father-in-law speak exactly like Pres. Hinckley did in this interview. It is a generational thing that I would not understand if I hadn’t grown up hearing it.

    “He sounded uncertain” is the writer’s perspective. That little detail is critical in this instance. It is not my perspective; he didn’t sound uncertain at all to me. I have heard my father say countless times, “I don’t know that …” – meaning nothing more than “No” but in a “polite” way. If I hit him with, “You told me last week …”, he would never say, “No, I didn’t.” Rather, he would say, “I don’t know that I said that.” It was a way to say, “No,” without being blunt and “impolite”.

    So, if I can take the liberty of interjecting my father into the conversation and translating what he would have meant by those exact words, it would be:

    “No, we don’t teach it. No, we don’t emphasize it… I understand the philosophical background behind it, but I don’t know a lot about it, and I don’t think others know a lot about it.”

    In that translation, he is 100% correct. That God was once a man like us is not taught actively at this time by the Church. It certainly is not emphasized by the Church. Pres. Hinckley understands the philosophical background behind it, but nobody knows a lot about it.

    What he said in this interview might have been a bit of a dodge, but he told the exact truth – in the exact same way my father would have said it if he had been asked.

  121. kristine N says:

    Sorry Ben, but I see GBH as more cautious than anything else, especially in those quotes. It sounds to me like he’s not saying explicitly that God wasn’t a man at one time, just that he doesn’t understand that particular doctrine and we as a church don’t emphasize it. I don’t think that qualifies for off-your-rocker status. I’d have to say expanding the doctrine to, say, “God as a man once had brine shrimp as pets, so to gain salvation we must all grow brine shrimp” would qualify one much more for off-your-rocker status.

  122. Actually, I got sumthin.

    I wouldn’t call it “spoon feeding” if it’s all about making sure our youth aren’t getting broadsided when they reach whatever age it is that folks reach and start wondering why they never heard about something that apparently everybody else has known about forever.

  123. Which is why I teach my children those things in my home. I want their limited time in church to be focused on the Gospel. The biggest issue is what happens when parents don’t teach their children and instead rely on the Church to do it for them. I agree with you in theory, Chino, I just don’t want Church time to get bogged down in this type of discussion.

  124. Nick Literski says:

    I agree with Ray, that Hinckley was effectively *denying* the doctrine when he said “Oh, I don’t know that…” Of course, this is just one example among many, wherein the teachings of Joseph Smith are gradually being jetissoned by the LDS church. When I was an active member, I found myself frustrated that more and more, I was hearing nothing at church that I wouldn’t hear in any of the Protestant churches down the street. I don’t believe this is accidental, and it relates directly to the topic of this thread.

  125. Get real, Nick. I hate to be so blunt, but if you can’t tell the difference between what is preached every Sunday in a Mormon church and a Protestant church, you have a serious theological understanding deficiency. They don’t call us a cult because our teachings are identical. I have studied the doctrinal differences at one of the most prestigious Divinity Schools in the country, and they are many and obvious.

    (Write that down in your journals, people. Hopefully, it will be the only time you hear me approach conceit.)

  126. Forgot to add my most important response to Nick. DON’T PUT FALSE WORDS IN MY MOUTH. I didn’t say he was “denying the doctrine”. I said he was saying the Church doesn’t teach it and doesn’t emphasize it and nobody understands a lot about it. I said he was 100% correct in that statement. Reversed, we don’t understand it well, so we don’t teach or emphasize it.

    That God was once a man has NEVER been official doctrine. Yes, former prophets believed and taught it, but you will find it NOWHERE in our canon. Pres. Hinckley’s response is not a denial of doctrine; it is, at most, an acknowledgment that we no longer teach and emphasize what some former leaders taught. Those are two VERY different things.

  127. Steve Evans says:

    Ray we stopped giving awards for Most Frequent Commenter a looooonnnnnnggggggg time ago.

  128. Ray,

    I applaud that. Why I never got that is maybe something I need to find out in some other forum, say, the next Thanksgiving back home.

    At the same time, the part of me that likes to think I’m some kind of PR guru, wants to tell the Church leadership it’s time for some real counter-intuitive initiatives. I’ve got a whole presentation ready based on my experience helping corporate clients deal with the ramifications of Peak Oil, but I’m not sure SLC would appreciate the parallels I’d be drawing …

  129. Yeah, Chino, that might be a tough sell. I’m laughing as I try to picture that meeting and your introduction.

  130. Nick Literski says:

    Ray, you didn’t attend my ward, where the bishop actively “encouraged” (read “nearly insisted”) that ward members carry the lion’s share of producing and acting in a local Protestant “passion play,” which contradicted LDS doctrine at every turn.

    As for putting false words in your mouth, such was not my intent. I understood your post differently than you obviously intended it, and I apologize.

    There’s not much to “understand” about the clear teaching of Joseph Smith, Lorenzo Snow, et al, that God the Father was once a man like us. Hinckley may be many things, but he’s no simpleton. Rather, he is a man who’s lifelong career has consisted of public relations for the LDS church, and it’s quite evident, for both good and ill. As he subsequently said in general conference, he certainly “understands” the doctrine. He chose to give a media response which would be more palatable to a public who, unfortunately, find the doctrine to be blasphemous.

    It’s the new game. If a doctrine might ruffle the feathers of “mainstream christians,” the first line of defense is now to claim it’s never BEEN the doctrine, so long as there isn’t an unequivocal statement in the Standard Works on the subject that can’t be reinterpreted otherwise.

  131. Steve Evans says:

    Nick, I appreciate your comments and your position as a former member of the Church, but I’d ask you to please watch the level to which you criticize the Church or its leaders. There are other places on the internet where such comments are more welcome.

  132. Nick Literski says:

    Steve, thanks for the gentle warning. I knew that my last post might be somewhat unwelcome, but at the same time, I felt rather driven to say it (and it was topical, besides). I appreciate you giving me a bit of rope. ;-)

  133. Also, Nick, why should we insist that the restoration was a “big bang” occurrence – that everything Joseph Smith taught has to be correct, when the D&C itself is full of rebukes and corrections and additions and clarifications? Who is chastised the most in the D&C? Joseph! Does that make him a false prophet? Not if you accept and believe the Bible and its flawed but sincere prophets. That’s the beauty of the restoration – on-going revelation and the ability to move forward without having to adhere to every belief of the past. Why is it a bad thing that we now understand things the early saints didn’t – and probably misunderstand just as many things, but differently?

    Finally, have you stopped and thought about how many things the Protestant churches are teaching now that we have been teaching for years? If you listen to James Dobson and Focus on the Family, it is sounding more and more like a propaganda program for the Mormon Church in the early 20th Century – right down to the encouragement for its listeners to create time for their families on a regular basis each week. The “only those who accept Christ in this life will be saved” message has been modified greatly in the past few years in many denominations. There is far more acceptance of our view of the Godhead among recent movements than the tradition, orthodox view allows. I could go on, but I see many churches moving in our direction – I believe as a direct result of the ancillary effects of the restoration. Of course, there is spiraling apostasy, but there also are amazing sociological shifts happening all around us.

  134. 127 – No reward? You wrecked my motivation, Steve. I would fade away into oblivion, but the applause would crush my fragile ego. Well, OK, that was a wee bit of an overstatement.

  135. Nick Literski says:

    Ray, I appreciate your position regarding continuing revelation. By nature, I think Mormonism carries a certain tension regarding change. The very idea of continuing revelation invites members to accept that any change that takes place in the church is improvement and progress. On the other hand, Mormonism teaches of a great apostacy, which resulted from changes which evidently went without divine approval. One response to that challenge is to believe that leaders are infalliable until replaced by new infalliable leaders. I have to admit, the amount of change I saw, and the nature of that change, was very difficult to accept.

  136. Re: Manifesto as “advice” versus “revelation” (or perhaps both)

    I do not think Ben was heretical in saying the Manifesto is “advice” to avoid violating laws of the land against multiple wives–not a ban on all plural marriage.

    The last sentence of the Manifesto is “I now publicly declare my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.” (Emphasis added.)

    The Manifesto itself does not purport to be a revelation; it is written in the form of a press release. It was sustained the Church members at the next conference as a “declaration.”

    Footnotes added in the last edition of the D&C do include excerpts from WW implying or stating that the issuance of the Manifesto was prompted by visions or revelation or inspiration. I do not doubt that he counseled with God (but not all of the members of the FP and 12) as part of the decision to issue the Manifesto, and he felt God’s approval.

    I do not think it is a secret that the 1890 Manifesto did not end the entering into of new plural marriages approved at the highest levels. In that sense, I agree that it is disingenuous, or at a minimum, a less than complete explanation, to report that the Manifesto ended the approval by the Church of new plural marriages. I think it is fair to assert that the Second Manifesto had this effect.