As promised in Part I, Steve gets reamed in this one.
Steve: Indeed, no evil-speaking of Matt allowed! I agree with his point that when we are talking about the Lord’s Anointed, there is a sense in which the Word and the speakers of the Word are rightfully conflated and we cannot evil-speak about the messenger without tarnishing the message. I guess the difficulty emerges as we all become speakers of the word in our faith. Clearly we should avoid gossiping and backbiting with regards to ANY person — but the injunction isn’t a general one, it’s a specific one, so we are tasked with figuring out who these Anointed are. Buck’s view is interesting — I would think Joseph’s view of honor and his defense of his friends would operate similarly, but I don’t know.
Roasted Tomatoes: Steve, you either have to address the arguments offered by Stapley and I or this conversation just lost its wheels.
Steve: I didn’t mean to sound dismissive — I am digesting what you all are advancing. I can get behind a relatively broad, inclusive notion of who the Lord’s Anointed are, but I guess I am determined not to take instructions in the Endowment as mere rhetorical flourish. Maybe that’s my extremely conservative side poking through! But because Joseph used the phrase “thine anointed ones” at one point to refer to all saints, we are to use that as our guideline? That threatens to gut the phrase of meaning in my opinion. Grammatically, it is most definitely not a general injunction, or else it would just read, “avoid evil-speaking.” On the other hand, that doesn’t necessarily require us to identify the Lord’s Anointed as just Jesus or as only people in leadership positions — those are two ways of drawing the circle, albeit more restrictively.
Look at it this way — there is a substantial argument, which you all have advanced, for saying that the Lord’s Anointed meant historically the Quorum of the Anointed, a term synonymous with the inner circle of Church hierarchy. As the Endowment was made more available to all, more people received anointings as part of the Temple ceremonies, until today when any worthy, temple-going Saint has received an anointing. This tells me that there are really two competing lines of thought for who the Lord’s Anointed are, if we choose to look at early Church history as our guide: either we can look at the modern equivalent of the QofA, which would be (I believe) the General Authorities, or we can deem any endowed member as part of the category.
The latter is a nice, friendly, inclusive way of talking about the injunction, as Jay points out. The former, however, is I think more in line with current usage — if you ask the average member of the Church what this phrase is talking about, I bet they’d link it to leadership or hierarchical status with it (maybe we should host a poll to settle the issue?). To me that says that we have merely carried forward the Quorum of the Anointed to mean the General Authorities. That’s not contra scripture, or even inconsistent with our own history, but it does strike me as odd that Mormons would choose for a more restricted view of the injunction. I guess no matter what we do with this temple language, we need to acknowledge that there’s some interpreting and choosing going on by the person making the covenant.
Stapley: I disagree. In Kirtland, “thine anointed ones” referred to only those who participated in the rituals of the Kirtland Temple, i.e., the priesthood. While the Anointed Quorum was the inner circle, and could be paralleled to General Authorities today; I think that parallel mostly fails. Notably the Anointed Quorum had female members in full standing with full voting rights. Further significant amounts of Church authorities in Nauvoo were not Anointed Quorum members (see the Venn diagram in this post).
Still, I think that it is quite important that Joseph was the president of the Quorum and, as Matt points out, he had very sensitive nerves when it came to public criticism. I imagine that much of any proscription on evil speaking would be focused on him and his teachings. Practically, however, the Quorum had to function as a community and like the School of the Prophets, members were to rely on each other in mutual trust.
With the completion of the Temple and the mass participation in the Nauvoo rituals, the Quorum structure became unwieldy and was never reformed. In its place, Prayer Circle groups formed (with presidents, minutes, etc.). Wards, stakes, quorums and extended families had Prayer Circle groups into the 20th century (the last vestiges of these groups ended in 1978 when the FP directed that all extra-temple altars be removed). That is a long way of saying that inasmuch as our current temple liturgy descends from the Anointed Quorum, so does the proscription on evil speaking.
Roasted Tomatoes: Let me add to Stapley’s thoughts that a wide range of competing definitions for “anointed” are available. In D&C 132, for example, the “anointed” seems to be the person who has the sealing power. This usage is incommensurate with the usage in the Kirtland dedicatory prayer, the title Messiah, Old Testament usage, and in fact contemporary folk Mormon usage. That such a broad collection of legitimate meanings clearly exists should suggest that no definitive conclusions can be drawn about the meaning of the term; we are clearly unlikely to be able to talk our way to a consensus.
One of the few usages for which little if any support can be found in scripture or ordinance is the common contemporary usage in which the category of the “anointed” includes all LDS leaders and none of the followers. When people are accused of evil-speaking of the Lord’s anointed for saying something negative against their bishops, such accusations may be correct — but the kinds of definitions that support such accusations would generally also support accusations against bishops when they say negative things about ward members.
Stapley: To add to that, JNS, there is a strong tradition of use, as Matt shows us with HC Kimball, that associates the “Lord’s anointed” with Church leaders. There are lots of reasons for this, notably the Old Testament usage of anointing leaders (which is manifest in the Utah attempts at reviving the Council of Fifty). Colloquially, the “Lord’s anointed” frequently refers to a leader, perhaps a king and a priest; it is just that in its revolutionary revelation, the temple is designed to make us all, as John Taylor once said, “Kings and Priests to the Lord, and Queens and Priestesses to Him” (JD 1:37). So there is some tension there.
I would also argue that the use in D&C 132 should be taken as someone who has participated in the rituals of the Temple. I realize that this wasn’t always the case in extant polygamist marriages; however, neither were some of the other details as outlined in that revelation.
Roasted Tomatoes: J., let me quickly point out that there are two clearly contradictory usages in D&C 132. One usage claims that sealings must be done “by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred),” which identifies “mine anointed” as the holder of the sealing power. Another part of the text says, “if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery and shall be destroyed. ” Here, anointing seems to refer to ordinance and not to a single person. Neither of these usages is consistent with the HC Kimball usage or with most of the other scriptural usages. What we have here is a word used in a profusion of senses without any authoritative definition. In this light, it is perhaps wise to interpret the phrase in the most inclusive sense possible; at least that way we cover all the possibly included people.