Farther along than the church

Farther ahead than I am, at any rate.

Clayton Christensen is cited in a recent article, and his thoughts (as always) are interesting and provocative. First, though, it is important to note that he has publicly clarified the purported citation in the piece, as found on his Facebook wall and elsewhere:

Regarding the post in the Nautilus

Dear Friends:

I am writing about an article by Michael Fitzgerald, titled “How the Mormons Conquered America: The success of the Mormon religion is a study in social adaptation.” It appeared a couple of days ago in a journal, Nautilus. I am misquoted in the piece. Fitzgerald interviewed me several months ago relative this article. He wrote notes as we talked; he did not record our conversation.

In the article, Fitzgerald reviews the history of how the church has changed several practices, such as polygamy and ordaining blacks to the priesthood. He then refers to same-sex marriage; and in that same paragraph quoted me as saying, “… I think I’m farther along than the church is on this one.” It implies that I support same-sex marriage, and that I expect that the leaders of the church in the future will agree with that position.

This is not true. I did not say this. I support wholeheartedly every phrase in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” And I sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who penned that document.

I am grateful that I belong to a church in which we do not attempt to convince God or our leaders that certain opinions in our society are correct, and God’s are not. Society changes its mind quite frequently. I do not believe that God changes his mind, however. When society is telling me something new, even when it has assembled powerful reasons and powerful people on its side, I do not ask society whether it is correct. I ask God.

I understand that this mis-representation of my beliefs by Mr. Fitzgerald is being widely circulated through the church. I would be very grateful if you could forward this letter to anyone who you believe ought to see this – and by the fastest and most effective ways possible. Thanks for your help!

Clayton Christensen
Belmont, MA

Here is the original article:

Christensen tells a story from the Book of Mormon about the brother of Jared, an ancient prophet, who talked to God in the clouds. God instructed the brother of Jared to build a boat and when he did, the brother asked God to imbue a host of white stones with light so the brother could place them in the dark hull of the boat to see. God agreed and the brother was “blown out of his socks with fear,” says Christensen, when he saw the actual finger of God, who later appeared to him as a man. The story, Christensen says, shows that while God doesn’t change, what people on earth can know about God can.

Christensen says this process is similar to what the church is going through on some social issues. “Our understanding of God, and our relation to him, and questions like same-sex attraction and marriage, we’re somewhere between here and there.” Christensen says he realizes that same-sex attraction and marriage can be seen as a disorder and a sin. (The church states “sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”) But even if his position were that church leaders were wrong,1 Christensen says, “I can’t announce to mankind that I’m right and the church is wrong. The best I can do is to say, ‘well, just like the brother of Jared, where the truth is on the other side of this boulder, I’m on this side, I’m learning and I can say to myself and to my friends, I think I’m farther along than the church is on this one.’”


For purposes of this post, I mean to engage the citation. I recognize that these are not Clayton Christensen’s words but the ideas behind them are intriguing. The last sentence is particularly challenging: what does it mean to say that you believe you’re “farther along than the church” on a given topic? [2]

First, some may bristle at the mere notion that someone could be farther long than the church. This is God’s kingdom on the earth; isn’t it the embodiment of arrogance to suggest that an individual would be farther along than the collection of the prophets, apostles, and saints? And yet this church is an organization, a system with a hierarchy and principles, policies and bureaucracy. No one would suggest that everything the church does is perfect; accordingly, it is entirely possible for an individual to be better than the church in one thing or another. I believe, for example, that Kevin Barney could teach Old Testament courses with more detail and accuracy than our manuals. I believe that Jonathan Stapley or Sam Brown could teach temple prep with greater success than the course that is given out. I believe that Kristine Haglund and D Fletcher could put together a hymnbook that is altogether superior to the green monster. It is not hard to think of examples where individual talent surpasses the common denominator presented by the church or where better results could be obtained.

Is this the case in doctrinal matters, and not just with respect to pragmatic issues like teaching classes or organization? That’s a little more tricky, isn’t it – and yet there, too, we see repeatedly that individuals are not only ahead of the church, but that by design they must be for the church to progress. Joseph Smith was consistently ahead of the church, and such was his purpose. Spencer W. Kimball was ahead of the church. In fact, I believe that it is the precise role of our prophets and apostles to be ahead of the church. But how about outside of the prophetic mantle — should we consider lay members who publicly opposed the priesthood ban on blacks prior to 1978 as having been “farther along than the church”? I believe the answer is yes and no; yes, because on that issue they have been proven correct, and yet no, because they also publicly showed a reluctance to be led by the authorities of the church. So it may be possible to be doctrinally farther along than the church – but if you’re not the prophet, you are taking some real risks and you are inherently taking a step backwards in other respects. Orson Pratt considered himself farther along than the church; specifically, farther along than Brigham Young. Brigham Young disagreed. Guess who won.

So, if being farther along than the church is possible but perilous, what to make of the remarks that Fitzgerald attributes to Clayton Christensen? I don’t believe that the real topic is same-sex marriage: it is how the church changes and evolves in relation to individual members. He is describing the feeling and experience of being farther along, and the peril and fear that accompany that position. Same-sex marriage is just the example. [3] As such, I think his approach is right, which seems to be that it’s ok to think differently than the church currently thinks, but there are inherent limitations: you cannot announce to mankind that you are right and that the church is wrong. This is more than just a structural reality, i.e. that if you make such an announcement you’ll wind up in a disciplinary council; it is also an expression of the humility and fear that accompany personal revelation. [4] You have looked on the other side of the boulder and seen something special. Your response is not to cheapen that experience, or to use it to gain clout or authority that is not yours. If you are farther along — and it’s possible you are — than acknowledge to yourself the simple fact that you and everyone else are learning, and rejoice in that. What people on earth can know about God is growing. Our response should conserve humility and recognition that we are each entitled to learn independently, while also recognizing and respecting the revealed pattern for how the church is to be governed. That last part is particularly tough to swallow when you have happened upon something really important where you think — you know — that the church is just wrong. That ark is tipping over! And yet this is precisely the burden and responsibility that accompanies personal revelation.

This might be all well and good for personal revelation on matters of esoteric doctrine, but keeping things to yourself is an immensely dissatisfying injunction in the face of social injustice. If you are farther ahead than the church and you know that it is wrong to withhold the priesthood from worthy black members, isn’t it wrong to hold your peace about it? It is enlightening to consider Darius Gray’s history, where he dealt with precisely this conundrum. [5] Again, there is peril in forging ahead to places where the church has not yet gone. You risk arriving at your destination alone, having left the community of saints. But your conscience may demand action. In that case, consider the public trumpeting of personal revelation as possibly leading you to a pyrrhic victory. And yet there are ways to work within the church for change, frustrating and incremental and sisyphean change as the mammoth organization lumbers towards perfection. This frustration and burden may be the consequence of going farther ahead.


[1] Farther or further? http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/words/farther-or-further — I am following the usage of the original article, for good or ill. I would have used ‘further’. Angela would have, too.

[2] The article now features the following correction, which I think confirms my views here: “An earlier version of the article misconstrued a comment by Clayton M. Christensen. The story has been clarified to reflect that he was commenting on a theoretical Mormon disagreement with church doctrine, not his personal one.”

[3] But yeah, I am sure that Clayton Christensen’s views on SSM would be interesting, if/when he chooses to discuss them.

[4] Nate Oman has an interesting piece on a tangential topic – what is the line between discussing things with friends and announcing things to the world, or in other words, the line between discussion and advocacy? Worth a read as it may inform the mechanisms here.

[5] But consider also Douglas Wallace, Byron Merchant and many others as well.


  1. Brother of Jared says:

    If you are farther ahead than [God] and you know that it is wrong to withhold the priesthood from worthy black members, isn’t it wrong to hold your peace about it?

    Steve-I changed two words in a quote from your post. Does it help you see things more clearly.

  2. Steve Evans says:

    Yes, I can definitely see more clearly that you are a troll.

  3. I wonder what he thinks of the corrected and now tremendously awkward generalized passage. It seems that he must have made some remark containing this notion of being out ahead of the Church. If the sentence were in isolation you could argue that the journalist fabricated it somehow, but in the context of the story of the Brother of Jared it seems to me likely that something very much like either the original version or the corrected version was expressed. I am guessing that he revealed more than he cared to and regrets it.

  4. ArJ, possibly. But that’s besides the point for the present discussion, I think. The overall dynamic of personal revelation and growth vs the progressing Church is a very interesting thing to study, regardless.

  5. matthewscottkern says:

    Very good post. I think this is timely to say the least. Now the hard part is where is the line of overcorrecting vs actively promoting a teaching, doctrine, or practice. How close was Darius Gray to the line vs how far was Kate Kelly over the line?

  6. Matthew, I’ll refer you to Nate’s post for that particular question. My post is not about Kate Kelly.

  7. Brother of Jared says:

    Steve asked what someone should do if they are farther ahead of the church. The following bit of history may be helpful.

    “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.”

    The above couplet was revealed to Lorenzo Snow. He asked Brigham Young about it. Brigham Young replied:

    “Brother Snow, that is a new doctrine; if true, it has been revealed to you for your own private information, and will be taught in due time by the Prophet to the Church; till then I advise you to lay it upon the shelf and say no more about it” (in Orson F. Whitney, “Lives of Our Leaders—The Apostles—Lorenzo Snow,”Juvenile Instructor, Jan. 1, 1900, 4).

  8. Yes, that is the first example that came to my mind, although the actual history around the couplet is somewhat more complex.

  9. JohnnyS says:

    I think this is a fascinating topic. The church has almost put itself in a double bind here. It’s simply an established historical fact that external/social forces have led to doctrinal change. On the other hand, it’s not in the church’s best interest to admit that because such an admission would imply that pressure can be brought to bear in order to change doctrine, thus, according to some folks high up in the church I imagine, de-valuing the whole concept of doctrine as God’s unchanging (or very difficult to change) will. So if one is “farther along” than the church, it’s apparently in one’s best interest to keep that to one’s self. The church is, in fact, progressive; it just happens to progress very slowly. One phenomenon this leads to which has the potential to slow down progress even more is that when a relatively minor policy change is made (like, say, lowering the missionary age or changing a manual), you’d think the church just announced a revelation about how to easily convert sea water to fresh water. In other words, the slowness of the church to change/respond to needs/concerns ironically makes certain any small change they do make are met with hallelujahs. It would be a bit easier for all concerned if the church perhaps emphasized the continuing revelation aspect of things a bit more and de-emphasized the whole “God’s word (doctrine) is the same now and forever” aspect.

  10. JohnnyS, you don’t think the church emphasizes the continuing revelation part enough? It is sort of the mainstay.

  11. JohnnyS says:

    Hey Steve,

    I suppose I hear it being emphasized, but I don’t really see lots of new revelations coming out. I see what I would call minor policy/manual changes, but other than that, not much. I instead see more of what I think is a general resistance to change, but that’s quite likely a result of my political and religious leanings. I also think it’s probably a good idea to consider not just what continuing revelation means, but also who’s entitled to it. If an individual receives what they believe to be a revelation that contradicts current church practice, does that automatically make the individual’s revelation wrong/incorrect/inspired by Lucifer/Charles Manson/the ghost of Elvis rather than God the Father? I think that’s one question the post (and recent events that shall go unmentioned) raises for me. What do you think?

  12. If by “continuing revelation” you mean additions to the scriptural canon, then yes I think we are not going to see a lot of those (though I’d argue that the Proclamation on the Family comes close enough to be canon-lite).

    The issue of personal revelation contrary to current church practice is at the heart of the post, I think, and it’s something worth considering. First, someone who believes they have received revelation — and this revelation is against what the Prophet and the apostles teach — this person needs to be very careful. Not just careful because of discipline or whatever, but careful because odds are good that this person is just wrong. I don’t think, though, that the person’s revelation can be automatically wrong, as history tells us that sometimes people are ahead of the curve in terms of church policy changes. Our church has been very clear, however, to teach that keys/jurisdiction are required in order to receive revelation for someone other than yourself. So you could be right about a given doctrinal principle, but you have no standing to assert that principle outside of your own soul.

  13. melodynew says:

    I personally believe that many individual people are “farther along than the church” and that this is precisely how God prepares the church at large to become farther along than it was previously. Personal revelation or enlightenment has always been necessary to move us along. That’s the point, isn’t it? In fact, I think it is often the “tugging” on the “whole” by enlightened individuals that disrupts the natural inertia of such a large body as this church. All those Farther Along folks are like little spiritual tug-boats moving the barge out into the next channel that leads to the next grand horizon that God has prepared for us. That’s how I see it anyway.

  14. DeepThink says:

    We always seem to lose sight of our condition. We are living on the Telestial planet. Not even the Terrestrial planet. Telestial. If that’s true, then by rights this must be the Telestial church. In our condition, we could not abide the Celestial Church (if there will be one). So it stands to reason that we have been given the Telestial doctrines, the Telestial manifestation of the Priesthood, the Telestial ordinances, and so on. If that is so, it makes sense to me that through the gifts of the Spirit, some of us may have access (albeit through a glass darkly) to the way things are in the Celestial Realm. We know more than we think we do, in Spirit. Those things which the Church either “does not know” or which the Church does know but cannot implement in the Telestial church can resonate in spirit to our very souls.

    I believe this is from where some of the pain felt by the followers of OW is sourced. They “know” more than they know. They sense a higher law. Because it is through a glass darkly, they conflate Then and Now. Nothing wrong here. Just a “Knowing” outside of context. Brigham Young said: “Should you receive a vision or revelation from the Almighty, one that the Lord gave you concerning yourselves, *or this people*, but which you are not to reveal on account of your not being the proper person, or because it ought not to be known by the people at present, you should shut it up and seal it as close, and lock it as tight as heaven is to you, and make it as secret as the grave. The Lord has no confidence in those who reveal secrets, for
    he cannot safely reveal himself to such persons (DBY, 40–41)

    So certainly individuals can be farther along than the Church. The Brethren can be farther along than the Church. We have a long journey ahead of us before all is revealed and made plain.

  15. Fascinating post, Steve.

    I think of the allegory of the olive vineyard in Jacob 5 and the idea that there will be bitter fruit that will need to be pruned right up to the very end – and I see that bitter fruit as corruptions or lack of pure knowledge that causes beliefs in the Church that don’t match what God would grow if he micromanaged everything solely to preserve pure, eternal doctrine. In other words, I see corrupted understanding existing naturally as a result of the human nature of the membership (including myself) – and the need to prune imperfect understanding according to the strength of the root, even if that means experiencing long-suffering as a result of recognizing some bitter fruit and not being able to remove it completely through radical surgery.

    The issue for me, personally, is trying to make sure I am attempting to prune along with the Master of the Vineyard as he works incrementally and cautiously – even if I personally think a more vigorous pruning wouldn’t kill the tree. If I’m going to make a mistake, I think it ought to be on the side of the type of patience Jacob 5 describes as being the Master’s focus.

  16. Mark B. says:

    Whether “further” or “farther” is correct (and I’m with Clayton on this one–sorry), it most certainly is “beside the point”–not “besides the point” which is clearly ungrammatical.

    The question you raise is addressed in two scriptural concepts: first the injunction in D&C 21 that we are to receive the words of the prophet “in all patience and faith.” Be patient when you think you’re ahead. Only in part because you may be wrong. And second, giving up on those things that are “ahead of the church” is part of the losing of self that Jesus commanded. If you’re coming to die, let that be one of the first parts to go.

  17. There is a question about what it means to be “farther along than the church.” It could be that a person is farther along than the general membership. Or, a person could be farther along than the authorities. It is also possible that a person could be farther along than a single leader (general or local). Then again, one should figure out whether the person is “farther along” than anyone or simply off the trail. Given the size and structure of the Church, it may be difficult or impossible to tell the difference. It is would be helpful to know the exact situation when deciding what to do.

  18. rameumptom says:

    I think of Lorenzo Snow receiving personal revelation on the nature of God and man. He shared it with Brigham Young, who told him it sounded right, but to keep it private until Joseph Smith taught it openly. Perhaps in this we see that people can be personally ahead of the Church, but that the Lord gives revelation to the entire Church when the Church is ready to receive it.
    The awesome thing about the Genesis Group is that they were ahead of the Church, but patiently worked within the boundaries set by the Church until everything and everyone else were ready to receive the 1978 revelation. They showed us a pattern to follow on these things of great patience and perseverance.

  19. Mark B., interesting view.

  20. JohnnyS says:

    Hey Steve. I think you’re right that it’s important to be careful about things in terms of receiving revelation, making sure of its source, etc. And I think rameumptom’s example of Lorenzo Snow is a good one. One wonders, though, about the point a few have made above that perhaps individual members receiving revelation/inspiration is meant to be the catalyst for change. If it is, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to squash dissenting voices. Also, I think that Brigham Young’s advice to Lorenzo Snow is sometimes twisted into things like: “Don’t share your testimony/advanced wisdom/different perspective with other folks who aren’t further/farther along because it will damage their testimony.” That’s nothing more than passive aggressive bull***t designed to keep people quiet. If I share an opinion in sunday school and it causes someone else to lose their testimony, they probably didn’t have one in the first place. As a community of believers who often don’t believe exactly the same thing, you’d think we could handle some dialogue.

    Also, to the mods: Is there a way to have the comments section set up like at FMH? It’s really kind of annoying to not even have these posts numbered, much less not being able to reply to a specific post right underneath said post. Anyone? Bueller?

  21. No, sorry. This particular WordPress template doesn’t permit numbered comments. You’ll just have to be extra diligent.

  22. Further, not farther. Grammar matters!

  23. JohnnyS says:

    Ha! Okay. Thanks, Steve.

  24. Reading the footnotes matters, too!

  25. I agree with AM’s point above. When we talk about the church’s position, do we mean general conference addresses, PR statements, updates to websites, Deseret News articles, generally accepted discourse among members? The difficulty for me is figuring out where the church is at on some of these issues when old ideas are never repudiated and progress is incremental. SSA is an issue very personal to me. If you look at official church discourse over the last 50 years, you can find many contradictory and evolving opinions on fundamental questions such as the causes and mutability of SSA, whether or not people with SSA should pursue marriage with opposite-sex partners, how open we should be about SSA, and how to best deal with it. While there has been important progress, it feels a lot of times like two steps forward and one step back. I don’t see any moments of clear revelation on the topic. I would love to have a moment where church leaders make a statement like BRM made about Blacks and the Priesthood: “Forget everything that I have said.” Instead, where the church used to talk with dogmatic certainty about the issue, it has slowly moved to a position where leaders say “we don’t know” and “in some cases.” That is progress, but for someone like me who absolutely knows my own experience (that I did not choose to experience SSA and quite certain that I cannot change to be straight), it is frustrating to see the church–meaning members and leaders continue to stumble on this issue between the old school ideas that are obviously wrong and dangerous and the new uncertainty while it feels to me that we could make a huge leap of understanding on the issue if we would just talk about it face on for like an hour.

  26. Christian J says:

    Mark B., yes patience and faith and yes, letting ourselves die in Christ. But there’s a common assumption that being ahead of the Church personally and wanting to share that with others is fraught with pride. Not always the case in my experience. Often, it stems from a desire to relieve suffering. (think, Darius Gray wanting to receive temple blessing for him and his family. Think, a gay Mormon 10 + years ago who’s told that they can be “fixed” if they get married – which is no longer taught.)

    Also, I don’t really buy “when the church is ready” as a reasonable explanation. We’re told repeatedly that “God sets the standard”. We can’t have it both ways.

  27. Thanks for this, Steve. It’s a very thought-provoking idea. I’ve been mulling over issues like this quite a bit lately. I think it is possible for individuals to be further along than the church as a body. In fact, I think many examples cited here and in other posts point to that having happened at times. I like the idea of lots of little tug boats gradually helping a huge ark maneuver around a tricky point in the water.

    And while it can be tough to not come off as prideful or heretical if you are further ahead, I think there also may be a humble way to share such views – not to start a rebellion, but more to be true to your own beliefs and possibly get people thinking more about complex issues.

    I don’t know exactly what that would look like. And it may be different depending on the person, the issue, and the circumstances. But maybe it starts with something like “Based on [such-and-such experience], I feel [this way] about [whatever issue]. I recognize that this may not work for everyone, but based on my prayers and personal revelation and experiences, I feel I need to do/believe [such-and-such] at this time.”

    Obviously, you have to be careful who you share this with and how public your actions are, but I think it could be possible. Anyway, I hope it is. I’m grateful for people who’ve been further along than me at times and have shared ideas that opened my eyes and broadened my mind to certain things. I hope we could all do that for each other.

  28. Christian J – Also, I don’t really buy “when the church is ready” as a reasonable explanation. We’re told repeatedly that “God sets the standard”. We can’t have it both ways.”

    Sure we can. God sets the standard for where the Church is when the Church is ready in His eyes. Doesn’t mean the standard can never change, or that it’s the ultimate standard. Just means God is in control of everything but our own agency over our own hearts and minds.

    Like the post. Anytime someone tries to work out the farther/further mess, I’m reminded of the Marx Brothers –

    Zeppo – “Anything further father?”
    Groucho – “That can’t be right. Shouldn’t it be , ‘Anything farther further’?”

  29. wreddyornot says:

    Some musings on this.

    There’s no question that our Heavenly Parents (HPs) set us up in an environment of evolution, which is messy. As a consequence, the nature of our existences here features those ahead of the game, in the game, and dwelling on a finished game, etc., whatever that game is. That seems to even be true of the Gospel and the Church. The Church itself operates within that kind of an environment. In the Church, we believe that our HPs told us to love both Them and each other, and that each other isn’t exclusive to just members. It’s everyone.

    Such surroundings, however, consist of constant modification for good and bad of our characteristics. It yields diversities at every level. Good eventually wins over bad, and we thereby progress. Change comes in many different ways, including from those within and without our community, The Church, or from people who others sometimes see as different and odd and worrisome, who some assign labels to: jackass, trouble maker, apostate, ally of the devil, etc. This violates the basic commandment to love our HPs and each other. We can embrace the environment of diversity and change that our HPs put us in for the good and move forward with it in concert with each other, or we can fight futilely to the detriment. Changes for the good will win out and the best way to cope is to love one another and have patience for those who are different and operate outside acceptable norms.

  30. it's a series of tubes says:

    I think of the allegory of the olive vineyard in Jacob 5 and the idea that there will be bitter fruit that will need to be pruned right up to the very end…

    The issue for me, personally, is trying to make sure I am attempting to prune along with the Master of the Vineyard as he works incrementally and cautiously…

    This is the best comment in existence regarding the current controversies. Hit the nail directly on the head. Bravo.

  31. Observer says:

    I can only paraphrase what I think is attributable to Boyd K. Packer, but he compared the church to a train that has to make frequent stops to make sure everyone who wants to get on can get on. Some people get frustrated with slow speed of the train and get off to get farther ahead. The risk in doing that is they may never get back on and the train will eventually pass them by.

  32. I’m a longtime lurker here but just wanted to say that it is posts like this, along with the insightful, inspired, and respectful comments, that make BCC the Dialogue of the bloggernaccle. Thanks to all.

  33. This post is excellent. I’ve also enjoyed your insightful comments Steve, as well as Ray’s comment on Jacob 5.

    Some additional scriptures I think may be relevant:

    Alma 12:9 “And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.”

    D&C 28 “2 But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses.
    3 And thou shalt be obedient unto the things which I shall give unto him, even as Aaron, to declare faithfully the commandments and the revelations, with power and authority unto the church.
    4 And if thou art led at any time by the Comforter to speak or teach, or at all times by the way of commandment unto the church, thou mayest do it.
    5 But thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom;
    6 And thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church;”

  34. Cody, it’s more like Dialogue is the BCC of journals of Mormon thought amirite???

  35. A propos: “The reason we do not have the secrets of the Lord revealed unto us, is because we do not keep them but reveal them; we do not keep our own secrets, but reveal our difficulties to the world, even to our enemies, then how would we keep the secrets of the Lord? I can keep a secret till Doomsday.” [1]

    [1] I only know the TPJS reference for the quote but I dare not list it.

  36. Rubbishy source, Steve. No point in listing it. ;)

  37. a ha! Thanks to those who have given. http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1841/19Dec41.html

  38. This morning I was determined to prune my tomato plant I’d been neglecting. I googled instructions, and five minutes later my plant was half its former size. I continued and read another article that warned against late pruning and pruning large shoots off and the danger to the whole plant. Whoops. Today I especially appreciated Ray’s comment about the pruning allegory in Jacob 5. I love this place.

  39. In a twist appropriate to this whole brouhaha, saying that “BCC is the Dialogue of the Bloggernacle” is only a compliment in certain LDS circles; in others, it’s a condemnation worthy of sandal dusting.

  40. Yes, Doug; perhaps BCC is the BYU Studies of the Bloggernacle.

  41. JohnnyS says:

    Re the references to Jacob 5 and Kristine A’s comment above. I think it would be helpful if all members could perhaps work harder to tell the difference between a helpful pruning and cutting off of valuable branches/shoots that could aid growth. And to Steve from about 18 comments ago:

    I think that the notion of canon is an interesting one apropos of continuing revelation. Since the Proclamation hasn’t been canonized, and since it does contradict itself and diminishes the role of the father in the home (just IMHO), I wouldn’t refer to it as canon-lite or even inspired, necessarily. It is interesting, though, that when it comes to revelation as far as the church is concerned, we really haven’t had many, as far as I can see, for a long while. Just by way of comparison, the Catholic Church has issued 8 papal bulls since 1890 and we’ve had only 2 official declarations since then. One wonders if this slowdown in revelation actually substantiates the idea that we’re all more on our own in terms of revelations, etc. than some of us may think. I’d be curious to know your thoughts. Thanks again for a really great post. Rather timely, I’d say.

  42. mountaingirl says:

    I have been thinking a whole lot about the topic of this post lately. I can see the danger in being so very sure of myself and what I “know”. After all, if there is one thing I know, it is that I don’t know much. Certainty eludes me most of the time. I can see that obedience and patience can be meaningful.

    But this is where I get hung up. What if I believe that I see ways in which the Church is actually hurting people? I feel too comfortable in my privilege and too cowardly when I simply say, “Be patient. I believe that all are alike unto God. But all in God’s time”. How is it ok to say that to people who are hurting here and now? What if, as others have said, we need to be tugging the Church in a different direction because God is waiting? How do I balance not getting too far ahead of myself, or the Church, remaining humble and patient, but also not waving off the hurt and pain I see in my friends? When is it OK, even incredibly necessary, to care for our brothers and sisters – to be the Lord’s hands – in a louder, more firm and urgent voice?

  43. JohnnyS, there is a HUGE difference between lessening one thing and adding to another thing. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive, especially when a new framing moves a relationship from a traditional 50/50 or 65/35 (or any other ratio, depending on one’s perspective) to something closer to 100/100. It also highlights the issue of the post, I think, that someone would dismiss inspiration by asserting (or, at least, implying) that it is not the person who is father along through movement forward but rather through institutional movement backward.

    The issue is the nature and vigor of the pruning, and that is a difficult issue upon which reasonable people can and do disagree. Fwiw, I see the proclamation wording as non-contradictory but rather a reframing / redefinition – and I FAR prefer the description of marriage it presents (shared, equal partnership with specific allocation of responsibilities decided / adapted by each couple) than that with which I was raised (one ultimate boss / decider). I see Elder Oaks’ recent General Conference talk the same way – not as a lessening of husbands and men in any way but actually as an elevation of both husbands and wives, men and women.

  44. Mountaingirl, YES. Clearly each person must navigate that issue for themselves. But I don’t think anything in the Gospel requires us to be complacent when we see others hurting around us. We live under the injunction in D&C 81:5.

    “Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”

  45. Btw, fwiw, Elder Oaks’ talk is a major move forward – although it stops short of what many people would like. It took me four weeks in the youth Sunday School class I teach to go through it this month (since the topic this month is the Priesthood), averaging only six paragraphs per lesson. I am MUCH more concerned about so many members not understanding and accepting what is said in that talk than about any perceived lessening of fathers and husbands.

    I also see intense irony in not accepting what Elder Oaks said in that talk (or what is said in the Proclamation) and clinging to former understanding and then criticizing someone else for wanting more than what Elder Oaks and/or the Proclamation was able to give. One wants less; one wants more. Both are natural and unavoidable for anyone who does not give up all agency and will and thoughtful consideration and personal accountability. When one side says, “You are rejecting the words of the prophets and apostles,” while simultaneously dismissing, diminishing or not accepting different words of those same prophets and apostles . . .

    Perhaps, in some ways, relative to some issues, all of us are both behind and ahead of “the church”. Perhaps, part of the pruning is allowing ourselves to be pruned and not insisting on being only a pruner – and performing the pruning we feel we must do with the same approach we hope is used in pruning us.

  46. mountaingirl says:

    Yes, thanks Steve. These thoughts leave me, at times, in a place where I ask myself, is the frustration and burden of going farther ahead worthy of bearing while working for incremental, sisyphean (great word – had to look that up) change? Or will I choose to arrive at my destination alone (but not really alone, because many have gone before) and relinquish some of the blessings of the Church? A Church that my belief in is eroding as I bear the burden and try to find peace and patience. Or perhaps, I am just so far off the narrow path that I cannot trust myself? (That last one I check in on constantly, and keep coming to the conclusion that if I don’t trust my heart and soul, I might lose all direction). I am sad.

  47. Lew Scannon says:

    Ahem, further vs. farther isn’t grammar. It’s usage. Precision matters.

  48. Bwahh hah! Thanks Lew. And the difference between grammar and usage is…

  49. Grammar is the set of explicit rules while usage is the habits of native speakers and how they use words. One, like the Church, evolves slowly against a set of well defined structures. The other, like the members, especially with the advent of the internet, evolves dynamically.

  50. As usage is, grammar once was.

  51. Angela C says:

    As grammar now is, usage may become.

    I agree that there is peril in overconfidence in our own rightness. But I also think there’s a difference between personal revelation and prophetic revelation for the church, and between personal values / integrity and civil rights.

    In RS last year, someone was saying something about the role of women (I don’t really remember what prompted this). One sister raised her hand and said she remembered when Pres. Benson told the mothers to come home, and that she had felt very conflicted and unhappy about that. She shared that she had wrestled with that personally and prayed to know what she should do, and that she had a clear personal revelation about her own life choices that differed from that counsel to the church. She followed the path that she felt was confirmed for her. I raised my hand and shared a similar experience as did one other sister. There was another sister who said she didn’t really realize she could do that, and then people started talking about how we are supposed to do that, and it’s why we have personal revelation. I have my doubts about the Proclamation because it differs from my own experience with revelation, but I’m not the boss of it. Nobody cares what I think, so I’m going to do what I feel is right and let others do likewise, even if I think they are stupid.

    My feelings about gay rights are that I’m for full equality and eliminating discrimination, including marriage rights, but that’s not due to personal revelation. To me it’s a question of my personal values and how I view civil rights. But it’s not a matter I’ve requested or received personal revelation about. My gay friends are mostly not LDS. I wouldn’t want to infringe on their rights nor would I want them to infringe on mine. So it’s a matter of conscience for me. I don’t know whether that puts me ahead or behind the church, but I have to act in accordance with my conscience, which I do.

  52. Ryan Mullen says:

    @Steve Evans, June 24, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    “you could be right about a given doctrinal principle, but you have no standing to assert that principle outside of your own soul.”

    Is it obvious to say that any such principle can be freely shared as long as its support is logic and external evidence, not my own claim to authority? I would be sad if the take-away from this is that personal revelation cannot be discussed at all with others.

  53. I think those are great points, Angela, and pretty much sum up how I feel, but you articulate it much better than I feel able to.

  54. “Is it obvious to say that any such principle can be freely shared as long as its support is logic and external evidence, not my own claim to authority?”

    No, it’s not obvious.

  55. Mountain girl, my experience echoes yours. Everyone (almost) in my life basically has told me to just “let it go.” But I feel prompted to share my story and have found multiple people I have helped lift and strengthen …. It’s frustrating to continually assert my ability and right to follow my own path back to God as I strive to be an instrument in His hands and follow the promptings of the Spirit….and that it may look different than others’ path.

  56. Thought provoking post. I do think that, at least in my case, having children can tempt one into crossing that line from discussion to advocacy. I used to feel quite satisfied with merely chatting with my husband about my liberal leanings, hoping that someday the church might follow, but not particularly concerned about it. Then my children came home singing sexist primary songs, judging other 8 year old children by their “immodest” clothing and making bizarre comments about “traditional marriage”. I am starting to wonder if private discussion is enough. So okay, so far the most radical thing I have done is to share my thoughts under a pseudonym on a liberal leaning blog. But who knows, I could be marching on temple square by next month!

    Oh and I vote further.

  57. Fantastic article, and I agree entirely. Lorenzo Snow and Joseph Smith Sr. were ahead of the prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph Sr. gave Snow a blessing that told him he would become as great as God was. Lorenzo was troubled, so he went and prayed about it and received that famous couplet.

    When he told Brigham Young about it, he said, “That is a new doctrine” and that it was best to keep it to himself until the prophet revealed more. Soon afterwards, Joseph delivered the King Follett discourse.

    I think God did this so Lorenzo could 1) Learn humility 2) Learn how to receive personal revelation 3) Learn that Joseph truly was a prophet communing with God and revealing his truths and 4) Eventually stand in the place of the prophet himself with both doctrinal understanding and respect for a complex infrastructure trying to accomplish a near impossible job – saving everyone in the history of ever from death and hell.

  58. Just noticed that the Lorenzo/Brigham story had already been shared in the comments. Oh well. Two or three witnesses or what have you.

    Also, this quote may be beneficial for some. “The wheels of the Church turn slowly, but they turn right.” – Boyd K. Packer.

    Also for those of you who wonder where the new revelations are, Spencer W. Kimball says the vaults of the Church are full of them. One of them is published in “Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor” in the introduction. It’s president Taylor’s revelation that sets in order Stake Presidencies and calls Heber J. Grant to the apostleship, among other things. It’s beautiful, and one of my favorite revelations next to the Olive Leaf.

    I have itching ears as much as the next guy, and I wish I had greater access to modern revelation. However, I ask this question by way of self-condemnation: when was the last time I seriously pondered Habakkuk? That would be never. I know it’s there, but I haven’t read it. I have read D&C several times, the BOM nine times, the New Testament 3 times, Preach my Gospel 3 times, and the Old Testament .25 times. haha I’m missing out on thousands of years of revelation and history. I haven’t even touched it.

    Not to mention all the monumentally important works of this day and age. I’m a big proponent of Pratt’s “Science of Theology,” a work deemed important enough by his contemporaries to cement it into the capstone of the Salt Lake Temple (see B.H. Roberts’ History of the Church). How many of us have read Lectures on Faith (asking that on a blog like this is probably stupid haha!). But you get the point?

    A lot of people take the works the authorities put out lightly. Or First Presidency statements. What were the epistles of Peter, John, and Paul but personal insights, instruction, and official Church business?

    Same goes for the Book of Mormon. Not everything is straight from the mouth of God. Sometimes he is quoted word for word. But the majority of the time, it’s Nephi’s insights, or more likely Mormon’s opinions and drawing morals from Nephite history. We have very little of God’s actual words, which is why the D&C is such a rare gem. 99% of it is straight God or Christ talking. Or John the Baptist. That’s pretty neat.

    So I think it would do us well to read a lot more than we currently are instead of asking for the Book of Lehi or something. The Brethren may have been specifically commanded by The Lord to not publish the revelations for a time. We know that he is still speaking very personally and intimately with the Brethren. Just read carefully Packer’s words in “The Witness,” his last talk. Or the June 2013 talk where Elder Holland declared that he had received something by the “more sure word of prophecy.” That’s heavy stuff, yet the majority of people understand the weight of those words, let alone catch it or care.

  59. *don’t understand the weight of those words.

  60. I know I am further along than the Church on women’s rights. Not that that’s saying much.

  61. Steve Smith says:

    Ah, damage control. Gotta love it. I wish more active members could just come out and publicly voice their support for gay marriage and not fear reprisal from the LDS leaders themselves or from the Mormon mob. We know they’re out there. According to a poll conducted back in January, 32% of Mormons are in favor of legalizing same sex marriage: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57391605-78/marriage-sex-percent-state.html.csp

  62. Steve Smith says:

    Whoops, I mean 32% of Mormons in Utah are in favor of gay marriage.

  63. Steve Smith says:

    Oh, beautiful, when you don’t like someone’s comment, just toss it out. Real mature, guys.

  64. When I don’t think someone’s comment is on-topic, and if I think someone is not getting the hint, yup I’ll toss it out. It’s not mature but it is dictatorial and symbolic of my evil ways. Enjoy!

  65. Scott B. says:

    Steve Smith, sorry about our immaturity. You’re just farther along than we are on that one.

  66. Steve Smith says:

    Oh, my comment about how Clayton Christensen was essentially engaging in damage control to fend off criticism from LDS leaders and members wasn’t relevant to the OP? And then you have the nerve to gloat like little children about your arbitrary censorship policies? This just speaks volumes of the cowards that you are. I’m done with BCC. I refuse to read or refer anymore of your posts.

  67. Angela C says:

    Boys, boys. I can turn this blog around right now if you don’t stop fighting!

  68. “I’m done with BCC. I refuse to read or refer anymore of your posts.”

    Oh, no!!

  69. Scott B. says:

    I refuse to read or refer anymore of your posts.

    See, now I’m farther along than you. I stopped reading them eons ago.

  70. It sounds like he is overreacting a bit. Is the Nautilus article being “widely circulated through the church?” I doubt it. I don’t think as many people are hanging on his every word as he imagines. His letter probably reached more mormon readers than the actual article. I imagine his real concern is that church leadership will see it.

  71. Matt: “I imagine his real concern is that church leadership will see it.”

    There’s no basis for that conclusion, Matt. Clayton Christensen has been speaking his mind for years now without needlessly kowtowing to Salt Lake. It’s not really his style.

  72. Stargazer says:

    I mostly don’t post, just read in the Bloggernacle. Gives me a lot to think about. I would like to point out that I was fascinated, after having read carefully about the structure of the organization of the church, and then over the last 20 years having the quorums of 70 filled in completely, I felt like I was seeing prophecies being fulfilled. It was described a long time ago, and no one bothered to organize it until quite recently. It could be considered an “administrative” type of thing, and I am going to remind about President Hinckley referring to putting our houses in order (metaphorically, spiritually, actually)… and specifically saying, “I am not specifically giving a prophecy of 7 lean years or anything like that.” Just more general, like, put your houses in order.