Variable fallibilities and church leadership

It is well known, at least among Mormons, that Mormons don’t worship their prophets. We don’t pray to Joseph Smith. We are not expected to blindly follow every dictum that comes from President Thomas S. Monson. We test the commandments (in prayer or by trial) and choose the ones whose fruits are most godly. And yet, we frequently hear the refrain that God would never allow the church to be led astray by a false prophet. Whether it is God’s word or the word of his servants, it is the same. The path of safety is to treat the Brethren like they are infallible, even though we know they aren’t, because maybe they are, even when we think they aren’t.

Perhaps it would be helpful to take a step back and to consider what we actually mean by fallible or infallible. One way of understanding fallibility is simply to acknowledge that everyone is human. We all get tired and are grouchy. We all sometimes yell at our kids or embarrass ourselves when some fact, of which we are certain, turns out to be wrong. None of us are without sin and, therefore, we are all capable of making mistakes. Let’s call this form of fallibility “human frailty.”

Another way of talking about fallibility is to consider the possibility that an expert might make a mistake. This notion of fallibility is meant to protect people from the logical fallacy of argument from authority. Just because someone is considered an expert, it can be a mistake to assume that what they say is accurate without independent verification, even about the area of their expertise. This form of fallibility is important; understanding it is necessary to get rid of old bad ideas and find new good ideas (or find out that even older ideas were right all along). The tyranny of expertise is that it can prevent amateurs and younger researchers from even getting their ideas out into the wider discussion, much less having their ideas debated on merits. Understanding that authority figures can make mistakes mitigates against the tyranny of expertise. Let’s call this form of fallibility “expert error.”

It seems to me that Mormons frequently want to believe that their leaders are subject to human frailty, but not to expert error. This makes sense in that we have been told that the prophet will not lead the church astray. People argue that the prophet will not lead the church astray or even that, should our leadership somehow lead us astray, we will be blessed for following them down the wrong path. So, according to this theory, a prophet, by virtue of his position, is functionally immune to expert error when it comes to expressing religious authority.

Let’s take a look then at what scripture has to say about the matter. Well, scripture says a lot of frequently contradictory things, so let’s take a look at what one scripture has to say. Turn with me to 1st Kings, chapter 13, a chapter deeply concerned with religious authority. In the chapter, you have four competing sources of authority: Jeroboam, the Israelite king (and heretic!); the prophet from Judah (and heretic?); the old prophet from Beth-el (and heretic?); and God (just God, really). A simple historical and contextual reading might lead you to believe that this is a story propogated by the Judahite priesthood in order to delegitimize the Israelite alternative temple rites at Beth-el (the translation is “House of God”). After all, Jeroboam, who instigated and participates in the rites at Beth-el is smitten and the old prophet leads the Judahite prophet astray such that he is eaten by a lion. And you’d probably be right. But let’s consider what this story is also saying about prophetic fallibility.

The Judahite prophet is given a strict commandment to not eat or drink while at Beth-el, presumably because animals sacrificed there are not considered legitimate offerings to the Lord. But when the old prophet of Beth-el intervenes and insists that the Judahite prophet get some food, lying to convince him, the Judahite agrees. He appears to believe in the old prophet’s religious authority, in spite of his own revelatory experience. So, because he listens to the nasty, lying prophet, he is eaten by a lion.

Except we then encounter the old prophet’s reaction to the death of the Judahite prophet.

29 And the prophet took up the carcase of the man of God, and laid it upon the ass, and brought it back: and the old prophet came to the city, to mourn and to bury him.

30 And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother!

31 And it came to pass, after he had buried him, that he spake to his sons, saying, When I am dead, then bury me in the sepulchre wherein the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones:

This is not the reaction of the evil villain, who deliberately led a man to disobedience, in spite of the narrator’s insistence otherwise. This is the reaction of a man who made a mistake and is shocked, saddened, and guilty regarding it. This is reaction of a person who is guilty of expert error. But, of course, the Judahite prophet is guilty of the same, otherwise he wouldn’t have been persuaded by the old prophet and wouldn’t have been eaten by a lion. There is no reason to assume that the Judahite prophet is unauthorized. Hands wither and lions dine as a result of his religious authority. But he still was too trusting of religious authority when the old prophet came calling. And the old prophet was too believing in his own authority, in spite of being in Beth-el, to think that what he wanted went against God’s will. Both men appear to be experts in their fields and, possible editorial assertions aside, operating in the best interest of their religion as they understand it. The lesson of this story, aside from how you just can’t trust anything coming out of Beth-el these days, is that even religious authorities (and political authorities, if you throw Jeroboam in there) are prone to expert error.

So, while Mormons have a tendency to embrace the notion of “human frailty” when they discuss prophetic fallibility, there is scriptural precedent for adding the notion of “expert error” as well. Which is something worth considering when you ponder how to accommodate the well-intentioned directives coming from our religious authorities today.

Comments

  1. Poor misguided Jereboam.
    Poor misguided Judahite prophet.
    Poor capricious and vindictive God… oh, wait.

    At least things worked out for the lion.

    But seriously, good post, good write-up, and good points.

  2. I’m reading something different in this story, so it seems that your conclusions are not so strongly supported, either by the biblical text itself, much less by my personal experience (for what it’s worth).

    To me, besides the late repentant reaction of the lying ‘prophet in Beth-el’ (the text does not explain why he lied to the ‘man of God’ when trying to convince him to eat bread), the lesson is simply that disobedience to the voice of the Lord, to His revelation given to ourselves (whether we’re prophets or not) leads to potentially fatal consequences, by means of real or figurative lions (or crocodiles, to quote President Packer)…

    The man of God had been given a commandment, a clear and detailed revelation (whatever the reason); he twice repeated his determination to keep it (vv. 8-6; 16-17), but then he let his guard down and was convinced to compromise his stance and disobey the revelation/commandment he had received from God when the lying ‘prophet’ convinced him to eat bread. He did not resist the temptation presented with convincing kindness in verse 18 (and with a subtle, dangerous psychological trick, a captatio benevolentiae of some sort in order to get his trust: ‘I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord…’). Commandament/revelation/warning disobeyed. Inevitable (and forewarned) consequences followed. A great lesson for us today. When acting as prophets, true prophets are true prophets, whether we agree/understand/accept their prophetic words or not. And there are also false prophets roaming around, by the way. Different fruits.

  3. Andrea,
    Nothing you note contradicts my reading. Arguably it supports it.

  4. Actually, your point deserves more of an answer than I gave it. The contour of the story is this. The false prophet thought he was a true prophet. The true prophet thought the false prophet was a true prophet. So both men, considered experts in their field, turned out to be mistaken. And both men feel suffering as a result (albeit the true prophet more than the false prophet). Certainly this does support the notion that we should listen to true prophets. And it definitely argues that there are false prophets out there (again, its most likely original use is to influence a dispute among different factions of priests regarding whose rites were legitimate). But the fact that two supposed experts failed to understand God’s purpose isn’t nothing.

  5. Glenn Thigpen says:

    How do we know about the fallibility of the prophets of the past? I will answer that. We have the reports. Moses made several errors, that were reported. Jonah made a couple. They were reported. David, a prophet king’s errors were reported. One would have to assume that God made the course corrections for Jonah, Moses, and David, also was the one who issued the reports, that they be recorded.
    So, how do we determine that a prophet has erred? Is it the “firestorm of protest” on social media the way? A (un)popular vote of enough internet minions, some active, some less active, some maybe normally critical?
    This type of post is pretty much par for the course on the bloggernacle. It does not seem to be a problem for many to point out the fallibility of prophets and to not so subtly criticize those who do believe that God will never allow a prophet to lead the Church astray. But we must also understand our own frailty/fallibility when when pointing out the fallibility of prophets.
    They spend a lot of time on their knees. meditating, and in the temple seeking guidance. Doing that type of “homework” is a requisite to obtaining revelation.

    Glenn

  6. Mike Harris says:

    It does seem like a contradiction to say that we know that prophets are fallible but yet say whether by God’s voice or the voice of His prophets, it is the same (D&C 1:38). My favorite explanation so far comes from President Eyring’s Biography. When a bishop in CA. Eyring wrote in his journal about a testimony meeting he was speaking in. He recorded,
    “I felt strongly to urge us all to use the instructions, in detail, we already have from the Lord through the prophets. I suggested we could have great success if we just obtained and followed all the instructions, even apparently trivial, from the Brethren. I said, ‘I’m sure some instructions must be in error. But in more than three years, I can’t remember trying anything I was told that wasn’t a source of great blessings’” (p.152). To many that may sound like blind obedience, but I don’t see that. President Eyring is one of the most intellectual and rational men on earth. He readily admits that there “must be errors”. However, what’s the principle that guides him? What causes him to obey in spite the obvious errors? Is it his loyalty to the brethren? Is it his covenants? I welcome your insights.

  7. John, thanks for the reply. An interesting note from your sentence: “The fact that two supposed experts failed to understand God’s purpose isn’t nothing”. I do not think it was a matter of failing to understand God’s purpose:

    In the first instance (true prophet), the ‘man of God’ disobeyed what he knew to be a true command, what he knew the Lord told him not to do; in the second instance (false prophet), the ‘prophet at Beth-el’ deliberately (for whatever reason) lied to his ‘brother’ in convincing him to disregard God’s injunction and made him to eat bread; then he repented and cried when he saw the fatal consequences of his lie. I do not see any problem of understanding God’s purpose.

  8. Glenn,
    What are you saying, exactly?

    Mike,
    Same question.

  9. Mike, a very fascinating insight. If I may turn your questions inside: what’s the principle that guides us when deciding whether we will follow our prophets and apostles (or Stake President and bishops) or not? What causes us to obey in spite the obvious (or less obvious, or supposed) errors? Is it our loyalty to the brethren? Is it our covenants? Our respect for authority? Experience (we’ve seen the fruits of following them in the past)? The testimony of the Spirit? Something else? Blind (or informed) trust? Humility? Knowledge?

  10. Andrea,
    If the prophet who lied didn’t think he was doing God’s will, why get upset? If he thought it was someone else’s will, the temptation would have been malicious. His reaction is not the reaction of the malicious. At least, that’s how I read it. You are, of course, welcome to your interpretation.

  11. I believe your opening can be summarized that LDS members teach that prophets are fallible but act as if they aren’t. I think that viewpoint is easy for white, heterosexual, cisgender Americans.
    I don’t think many black members would say that prophets have never led the church astray, the priesthood ban and teachings about keeping the purity of the white race serving as prime examples.
    Likewise, lgbt members who know God loves them and that they didn’t choose these orientations have felt that the Church leadership had it wrong and have been cheering on the changes that have been occurring over the past two decades even while lamenting how slowly it is happening.
    It’s easy to feel they’re infallible if they support your viewpoint and likewise, it’s easy to feel they’re fallible if they teach counter to your viewpoint and life experience.

  12. Great point David.

  13. “‘I’m sure some instructions must be in error. But in more than three years, I can’t remember trying anything I was told that wasn’t a source of great blessings’”

    I imagine that many people find this quote from President Eyring very helpful. Unfortunately, there are those of us who have tried things they were told by prophets and it wasn’t a great source of blessings (in fact it may have been a great source of harm). I agree with David that if you’ve never been harmed by a church policy, it’s much easier to believe in infallibility.

  14. I agree with David that if you’ve never been harmed by a church policy, it’s much easier to believe in infallibility.

    Bingo.

  15. Ryan Mullen says:

    I love this story. I usually frame it as a Prophet’s Duel (“less visually stunning than a wizard’s duel, but just as deadly”) when telling people how awesome the Old Testament is. In that light, I see the old prophet’s grief not as repentance, but respect for a worthy foe.

    That being said, I find your interpretation, John, to be much more reflective. Thanks for this.

  16. Correction: President Eyring “hagiography,” not “biography.” If there were any part of President Eyring’s diary that expresses genuine doubt or misgivings, you can be sure it would not see the light of day in a church written hagiography of a prominent leader. As much as I love President Eyring, I suspect he wrote that comment without really thinking about how some of the prophetic counsel that he found so helpful impacted others less fortunate than himself – e.g., policies regarding Blacks, women, intellectuals, and gays to name a few. In sustaining his leaders in all things–and in running CES, for heaven’s sake–President Eyring helped create the mess we find ourselves in right now: a correlated curriculum devoid of much nourishment, a church struggling to be inclusive, and a church that struggles to articulate how it has been the “one true Church” even while being wrong on so many important issues that other churches, and society as a whole, got right.

    You won’t find many sentiments of blacks, women, intellectuals, or gays in the hagiographies of the church, just as you won’t find them in the highest leadership of the church.

  17. One intriguing (though not truly canonical) aspect of this story is seen in the JST for verse 18 (see footnote b on the word “drink”). The JST suggests that the Beth-el prophet was not lying when he said that God had commanded him to invite the Judahite prophet to dinner. The JST suggests that this was done as a test for the Judahite prophet, and he failed this test.

    I do not know if this is actually true, as noted the JST is not canon, and I cannot say how much Joseph Smith thought through this edit. It suggests to me that Joseph Smith was not entirely uncomfortable with the idea that God might inspire one prophet to issue a “false” command to another prophet. Moses wished that we could all be prophets.

    I don’t really know what it all means. But it might add some interesting suggestions to our thoughts of prophetic fallibility/infallibility.

  18. And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase. 1 Kings 13:24

    The lion killed but apparently did not eat the “the man of God” from Judah. And no mention of scavengers.

    This underscores that the lion’s act was the judgment of God, rather than hunger.

    – Tom Irvine

  19. It’s interesting that Elder Eyring’s quote makes clear that it was not that he did not find errors or prophetic instruction that would have harmed if followed, but instead that, over a three-year period, he personally did not find reason to look to or follow any of the bad prophetic instruction that he concedes exists.

    My experience has been similar to his: If I’m thoughtful and careful, I can generally keep my interaction with prophetic counsel limited to those circumstances where I agree with the counsel given. But there are some circumstances where the facts of our lives cause us to run head-on against some of the bad prophetic counsel, whether we like it or not. Elder Eyring had a three-year period where he was fortunate enough (I’d even say blessed) not to find himself in such a situation.

    For some people in some moments in church history, such situations have been more pervasive than others. For example, I have a hard time imagining how blessings would flow from following the prophetic instruction to prevent black people from using the front entrance of the Hotel Utah, and both Elder Eyring and I have been fortunate enough, apparently, to never have to test that particular bit of horrifyingly and undisputably erroneous prophetic instruction.

    I suspect that a significant amount of Elder Eyring’s perspective lands in what I think of as a sort of Zen Mormonism that very orthodox Mormons ironically employ fairly often: That whatever happens is meant to happen; that even if something is terrible; it’s a blessing; that there are no “mistakes” made by church leaders because if they make a mistake it was God’s will that they make the mistake so they can learn from it and we can learn obedience, or whatever. Sometimes I personally find that Zen Mormon approach appealing. It helps me in some tough times. But most of the time, it’s poppycock.

    Where the old prophet and the Judahite prophet run into trouble is that the old prophet does not consider it possible that someone who lacks his administrative authority might have received correct revelation from God that contradicts his own, and the Judahite prophet chooses to follow that administrative authority, rather than divine dictate. The old prophet didn’t need to gain a personal testimony that the Judahite’s personal revelation was correct. He just needed to recognize that the fact he had authority didn’t mean he was supposed to be insistent about imposing it. If you’re a church leader, don’t get bent out of shape when someone disagrees with you in good faith and conscience.

  20. I don’t know about lions, but when I was a kid I used to watch our family’s cat maim and kill small animals in the backyard without ever eating them. It never occurred to me that I was witnessing the judgment of God. ;-)

  21. I always think that posts like these greatly exaggerate the connect that is supposed to exist between a prophet not being in error and our obligation to follow him – a connection which find very little support in revelation. The problem, however, is that without this connect, the (in)falliblity of a prophet becomes largely irrelevant to our obedience to him.

    Put differently, we don’t have to “treat them like they are infallible” in order to obey them – and this last part is all that really matters.

  22. To elaborate,

    There is a world of difference between disobeying a priesthood leader because a higher priesthood leader (like God) tells you to, and disobeying a priesthood leader because they are “wrong”. The former is a great reason for disobedience! The latter is not.

  23. Jeff G, do we have an obligation to obey them? How far does that obligation extend, both in terms of the extent to which we must obey instruction with which we disagree and also how far down the chain of command the obligation stretches?

  24. I think one of the sins of this generation is the consistent disregard of traditional bastions of expertise.

    Think about it: “yeah, I know that medical experts say that you should vaccine your kids, but my own personal experience shows me otherwise. Plus, we all know that medical experts have gotten things wrong before.”

    “I know you have these liberal ‘scientists’ who say the earth is warming, but we all know those guys have been wrong before.”

    “I know economists say his budget doesn’t add up, and military and foreign affairs experts laugh at him, but I am voting for [insert your preferred political candidate] because it feels right.”

    It’s this prevalent attitude, that because experts have been wrong in specific instances, we can disregard them generally. Or we can at least disregard them as to our particular pet issue. Whether it’s the accessibility of information, or just general hubris, I don’t know.

    I think these are the attitudes that future generations will be shocked by as they talk about the ice caps melting, the return of old diseases, and find themselves in a state of constant war.

    The LDS version of this attitude seems to be: “Brigham Young was wrong about race, so I can disregard President Monson about [insert your pet issue.] ”

    I suppose it is possible that history will vindicate us as to our particular issue. Certainly there are instances where general authorities or prophets have erred. But it seems to me that is a far cry from this general assumption that our own personal religious wisdom/inspiration trumps the prophet. It seems to be a dangerous place to be.

    I get that the “the prophet will not lead you astray” modern-day teaching is always cited, but there is plenty of precedent in the scriptures regarding the fallbacks of thinking our wisdom is superior to the prophet (see Noah and ark, Moses and staff, Naaman and river, etc.)

    My personal assumption tends to be that prophets are more in tune than I am. That’s not to say I follow blindly….I seek confirmation and comfort when troubled by a teaching that I don’t understand. But, if I am disagreeing with the prophet, chances are that I am wrong. Or at least I try not to assume expert error.

  25. Must I receive an explicit revelation from God in order to justifiably disobey a priesthood leader’s instruction, or can I rely on my individual analysis, prayerfully confirmed by the holy ghost? Are there degrees of wrongness that might result in varying answers to that question, or, if there’s an obligation to obey absent an explicit instruction by higher authority, does that obligation exist regardless of the severity of the priesthood leader’s error?

    For example: What if my HPGL leaves a voicemail instructing me to meet to help someone in the ward load up a moving truck at 11:00 a.m., but I independently know that the moving truck is going to depart from the house at 10:30, such that I’ll need to arrive earlier in order to help? If I show up at 9:00 a.m., thereby disobeying a priesthood leader based on my own intellect and analysis, have I breached my obligation?

    On the extreme opposite end of the continuum, what if my Bishop calls me in the middle of the night and asks me to meet him at the church. I meet him there, where he shows me the recently murdered body of his wife. He hands me a shovel and orders me, with his arm raised to the square, in his official capacity as Bishop, to start digging so we can hide the body. Am I breaching my obligation to obey priesthood leaders if I disobey his order and call the police? Let’s slide up the chain of command – same hypothetical, but it’s Elder Oaks. Different outcome? What if it’s President Monson?

  26. sgnm,

    I’m not sure if you read my 11:48 comment, but I think it partially addresses your question. I can, however, go further, but I don’t want to get too far afield…

    The whole point of religion is to trump our wayward individualism. The reason why disobeying because a higher authority tells us to is good is because it is still obedience. Appealing to some abstract notion (which really amounts to our own opinion) of “right-ness” is pretty much ruled out entirely.

    In summary, I find little, if any scriptural support for the claim that “pure disobedience” (disobedience that is not a case of obedience to a higher authority figure) is ever justified.

    And with that, I will pretty much ignore any other questions or objections directed at me since, while my comment is relevant, it should not take away from John’s post.

  27. it's a series of tubes says:

    I’ve found Jacob 5:65-66 to be useful perspective, when my expectations of perfection are not met :)

  28. I get the point here, and I can live with the idea in general. But to the extent that the subtext of posts like this is “the prophets are wrong about same-sex marriage”, I don’t think the fallibility of prophets is super relevant. All the examples we can bring up of prophets being wrong, including the story in this post, involve some kind of conflict of teachings from within our religious tradition. In the case of the black priesthood ban, we had Joseph Smith ordaining black men in the early days, and statements from church leaders that the ban would someday be lifted alongside statements supporting the ban. In the case of same-sex marriage, however, there is a remarkable unity of teaching on the subject in scripture and in the words of modern prophets. There’s nothing I can think of in our corpus of revelation that would suggest that God would at some point gender-neutralize marriage. It’s more likely, in my opinion, that polygamy or animal sacrifice would come back.

  29. Thanks for the thoughtful explanation of your opinion, Jeff G. I appreciate that there are so many varied and even contradictory approaches among those of us who are faithful, loyal LDS church members.

  30. Jeff G: is a burrito a sandwich? Testing the limits of whether you really will ignore subsequent questions.

  31. I like ml’s analogy comparing church leaders to parents of teenagers. Where it seems to disconnect in this conversation, though, is that some people in the church (including some church leaders and some present in this conversation) apparently believe that there is a moral obligation to obey church leaders no matter how wrong you may personally know them to be, unless and until some higher church authority expressly directs you otherwise. I am confident that those same people would not also insist that a teenager is morally obligated to obey all parental instruction, no matter what it is, unless otherwise directed by a higher authority.

  32. “some people in the church (including some church leaders and some present in this conversation) apparently believe that there is a moral obligation to obey church leaders no matter how wrong you may personally know them to be, unless and until some higher church authority expressly directs you otherwise.”

    Why be vague?

    What are the instances in which we personally know the church leaders are wrong? Who is advocating that people be obedient to church leaders despite this personal knowledge?

  33. Even setting aside the number of times that prophets have been wrong (and spectacularly wrong, in the Old Testament), what is the point of agency if one follows a prophet blindly?

  34. Ryan Mullen says:

    Tom, there are also ideas with no precedence in our religious history that were initially resisted by Church presidents but are now currently accepted (e.g. interracial marriage, birth control, women wearing jeans).

  35. In April of 1982, 15 prophets, seers and revelators decided the length of service for male missionaries would change from 24 months to 18 months. Several years later, it was changed back to 24 months. Did those leaders “fail” with respect to their original revelation? It seems to me that many are applying their own standard of hindsight being 20/20, judging revelation or counsel to be “wrong” as opposed to appropriate to the time and place when given.

  36. Marc, I wasn’t being vague. I was simply not singling anyone out, but instead leaving the category open to all to whom it may apply. Those in this discussion who believe that way have said so openly and directly, for all to see. Where church leaders are concerned, I’m not sure what the full list would be, but we could probably start with Elder Oaks, I think. But I suspect that, if pressed, he’d give more allowance to one’s conscience than, say, the commenter above who asserts that disobedience is never justified unless it is at the direction of a higher authority. On the other hand, maybe he’d argue that every instance where one’s conscience correctly disagrees with a church leader is an example of the intervention of a higher authority. Let’s call that the Hebrew National Rule.

    There are myriad instances when all of us as church members know that various leaders are wrong on various matters, ranging from fairly mundane matters to larger matters. It happens all the time, and everyone in the church knows it does, whether it’s a Bishop making a particularly boneheaded decision about a meeting or a mission president using his position of authority to coerce sexual favors (not thinking of any specific instance, but such things do happen). If you tell me you’ve never personally observed a church leader at any level give an instruction they knew was a mistake, a bad idea, etc., I will not believe you. Then the question is just how high up the line of authority we can agree that fallibility extends and whether it’s conceivable for an error to be of sufficient magnitude that it would justify disobedience even in the absence of divine intervention to stop you from obeying the bad call. Is there some line above which a church leader makes no mistakes? Of course not. Is there some line above which a person need not insist on divine mandate to disobey an order? Of course there is.

    If God tells Abraham “kill me a son” and Abe says “man, you must be putting’ me on,” then reasonable people can discuss whether Abraham is morally obligated to head out to Highway 61. But when the order to kill comes from the mouth of a mortal, you can count me in the camp who thinks it’s fine to say ‘no’ even if an angel hasn’t stayed my hand yet.

  37. Ryan, on interracial marriage, there was no equivalent to our modern concept of race prior to this dispensation and no comparable ban on interracial marriage; the ban was a new thing. There was also no commentary on artificial birth control in the scriptures because it wasn’t a thing. Same with women wearing jeans. Gender-neutralizing marriage would be not just novel (although it would be novel), but it would be in conflict with sexual teachings throughout the dispensations.

  38. Ryan Mullen says:

    Tom, “There was also no commentary on…” That’s exactly my point, and yet they were resisted by Church presidents when they were developed, but are now accepted. Hence, they contradict your earlier claim “All the examples we can bring up of prophets being wrong, including the story in this post, involve some kind of conflict of teachings from within our religious tradition.”

  39. I should have said something more along the lines of “involve some kind of conflict with previous teachings, or else occurred in the absence of existing revelation”. In the case of same-sex marriage, which would license homosexual sex, there exists consistent revelation. It may be that there exists some counterexample, but in any case I think the idea that the prophets are wrong about same-sex marriage is difficult to defend in light of the fact that there’s nothing in our history to support it, and that there’s plenty that leans heavily against it.

  40. Ryan Mullen says:

    To beat a dead horse, “there’s nothing in our history to support it, and that there’s plenty that leans heavily against it” also strikes me as true of interracial marriage and birth control.

  41. Tom, there has been nothing spoken of same-sex marriage in scripture – not in the OT, not in the NT, not in the BofM, not in the D&C. It is a recent teaching/interpretation by church leaders in response to recent societal change.

  42. sgnm,

    Thanks, that helps.

    If we are talking about mission presidents using their authority for sex, or mortals telling us to kill other people, then I agree we do not have be obedient. Conflict resolved.

    As to bishops and boneheaded decisions about a meeting, I still try to show up. Not because of blind obedience, but I did agree to sustain them. And I don’t really want the job, so I will help them out as best I can.

  43. We are told in 1 Corinthians 13:8; “…Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail…
    We are also told in Moroni 7 :46; “…Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—”
    Are we as members of the church practicing idolatry when we fixate on our leaders? We are told to build our house upon “the rock.” The rock, is Christ. Indeed all else will fail, as history has shown. “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” Moroni 7:47
    Using this scripture as my guide, I plan to ere on the side of “charity” over “follow the prophet.”
    This gives me peace.

  44. Homosexual sex is explicitly spoken of as sinful in the OT and NT, which would make any kind of same-sex union sinful as well. The same can’t be said about interracial marriage and artificial birth control.

  45. Ryan Mullen says:

    I’m not sure the Church leadership equates gay marriage and gay sex as strongly as you are implying Tom, since the November policy change penalizes families in a gay marriage regardless of whether they are having intercourse, but doesn’t penalize unmarried gay couples (again regardless of their sexual lives).

  46. Marc, I think you and I see the issue similarly. Somewhere between being obedient by going to a poorly-conceived meeting, on the one extreme, and refusing to engage in sexual conduct with a mission president, on the other extreme, there is a line between obeying an erroneous instruction and disobeying it in spite of a lack of divine intervention. Even though I strongly disagree with those in the church who insist that there is no line and that divine intervention is the only rationale to morally disobey a church leader’s direction, I do appreciate that they and I can exist together in the church and strive together to serve one another and become more like Christ, according to the dictates of our respective consciences (or, in the case of some people, in spite of the dictates of conscience).

    That said, I personally have refused on occasion (even recently) to attend extremely early meetings that local leaders characterized as a test of obedience and loyalty. I’m more than happy to show them through my actions that I am unwilling to obey an unrighteous directive.

  47. “That said, I personally have refused on occasion (even recently) to attend extremely early meetings that local leaders characterized as a test of obedience and loyalty. I’m more than happy to show them through my actions that I am unwilling to obey an unrighteous directive.”

    Ha! That’s a strong stance on an early meeting. While I think “unrighteous directive” is a bit strong…..you have my support.

    Fight the good fight brother.

  48. eponymous says:

    I’m not taking a side here but all of you claiming there was no precedent for banning interracial marriage are ignoring the Book of Mormon as well as the Old Testament. Plenty of clear directive in that space for not mixing the races. Whether that was a right or wrong approach depends on how you read the authors and what God was trying to teach. It’s fairly straightforward to connect the prophetic statements concerning marriage to how those prophets were interpreting the scriptures. Now we’ve since come to our senses and declared those were myths and wresting the scriptures but that just proves John’s point. Rather inconvenient.

    As for birth control? Might want to do a little research on the history of methods for preventing conception. Even the Egyptians were practicing it.

  49. Tom Stringham, the Book of Mormon, which we believe was specifically written for our day, does not mention homosexuality a single time, even though the Old Testament arguably prohibits homosexual sexual intercourse. This invites the question: since Church leaders are teaching that homosexual sexual intercourse is morally wrong, even in the context of a legal same-sex marriage, are they basing this teaching on the Old Testament and New Testament alone, or have they received a revelation that teaches them independently, as the leaders for this dispensation/generation, that homosexual sexual intercourse is wrong even in a legal same-sex marriage? If they have, why have they not said so clearly: “God appeared to me/us and said [X]” or “we heard a voice that said [x]” — I anticipate your response is that we are out of line to expect our Church leaders to clearly delineate a revelation from God with a “thus saith the Lord” identifier. And yet, this is the only way that they can clearly signal that such a teaching is God’s will for us today instead of merely their own best efforts to discern God’s will for today’s world based on inferences they can draw from verses in the Old Testament and New Testament, as informed by their own cultural priors, i.e. perhaps they have not even sincerely prayed about it because their background and upbringing leads them to conclude that even the idea of it (approved same-sex relationships) is simply absurd.

  50. wreddyornot says:

    I don’t worship prophets and I do not defer to them when the Spirit tells me not to, let alone those on down the patriarchy. I do question, seek, and knock. I plant seeds and wait for good fruit. Or not. Similarly, I even question God. In Abraham’s shoes re sacrificing a son, I’d like to think I’d have said, “Are You crazy? Why should I do that?” Why, I even questioned my wife at times. Furthermore, I suggest that some of you later commenters might want to go read the Wikipedia entry on the Bible and homosexuality and think and pray about it (You know how authoritative it is, right?). Also, there’s that 8th Article of Faith loophole thingy. And you might want to visit affirmation.org and do some studying. I am fallible and I don’t think others are any better than I am.

  51. Ryan Mullen says:

    eponymous, “Even the Egyptians were practicing it.” Was it controversial at the time? Genuine question.

    The OT and BoM certainly endorse intra-tribal marriage, but I’m not sure that’s the same as condemning interracial marriage. As I recall, the Law of Moses bans a faithful Israelite man from marrying women from several (seven?) tribes. Some of those were ethnically very similar to the Israelites and can’t properly be classified as separate races. Other tribes (that clearly are of a different race) or not explicitly banned.

  52. Trond,

    You seem to be saying that on certain controversial issues, the leadership of the church could be mistaken because of their upbringing and cultural priors; that maybe they are in error because they are clinging to a mistaken and/or ignorant past and not really praying and seeking an answer.

    But could something similar be said for those on the other side of these issues? That maybe they are mistaken because they enthusiastically embrace their own more recent upbringing and culture? That perhaps any other conclusion is so absurd to them that they can’t believe that church leadership could be in the right?

  53. ABM, both of those are certainly true. Indeed, the leadership of the church has explicitly stated that it is susceptible to doctrinal error because church leaders at the highest levels are prone to mistakenly believe that their cultural biases are doctrinal truths.

  54. Folks, the argument over who could be or couldn’t be right on a particular topic is missing the point. There is the possibility that anyone of us, all being expert Mormons to one degree or another, are mistaken in our field of discussion. So sure, I might be wrong. But I might not. What does that prove exactly?

    The point of the OP was not to call out the church leadership for any perceived deficiencies in liberalism. The point was to note that when Mormons state that our leaders are fallible, we often don’t actually mean that. Or rather, we mean we can imagine them being grouchy while driving, but not saying something was a revelation, when it wasn’t actually a revelation. The post notes that the scriptures have at least one example of that sort of thing happening and that our definitions of fallibility should perhaps be broadened to include this possibility. I get why that is worrisome (“If the prophets could be wrong about something prophetic, why couldn’t they be wrong about everything prophetic?”), but I tend to think that slope don’t slip. We all are (or should be) worried about confusing our own heartfelt desires with the promptings of the Holy Ghost; why should they be any different? That doesn’t mean that I never act on a prompting; it means I try to interrogate my promptings and, after that, I do my best. Again, I don’t imagine the Brethren’s process is all that different. So, perhaps we should be willing to give them more room to make mistakes, especially when we are tempted to outsource responsibility for potential bad behavior to the Gospel. The scripture cited above seems to support that point, although I can think of a few off the top of my head that might mitigate against it as well. Interpretation is always complicated.

  55. “It is well known, at least among Mormons, that Mormons don’t worship their prophets”

    That’s news to me.

  56. What’s less known among Mormons is what the word “worship” means.

  57. orangganjil says:

    It is one thing for me to consider this question, but the calculus changes substantially for me when I know my children are taught, consistently and often, that they should always follow the prophet and that to hesitate to do so is to put their eternal salvation at risk. This concept is consistently taught (explicitly and implicitly) in Primary (singing “Follow the Prophet” again and again, for example), YM/YW curricula and classroom discussions, Sunday School manuals, seminary, face-to-face meetings, etc. I cannot recall a time when there has been a serious discussion in these environments about when it might not be proper to obey the leaders; how to deal with disparities between one’s personal revelation and the counsel of the leaders; or specific examples of when (and how) leaders have made doctrinal errors. The message is very one-sided, which I consider to be spiritually harmful to my children.

    As a parent, it is up to me to teach this critical thinking to my children, but in doing so I am going against an onslaught of messages to the contrary from people who my children are supposed to trust (and several who claim they speak directly for God). It is like trying to fend off a tsunami with a stick.

    I basically boil it down to the idea that our leaders are always acting with their best understanding – using their experience, understanding of the scriptures, spiritual promptings, etc. – and their counsel should be lovingly considered and weighed against our spiritual promptings, critical thinking, experience, etc. Unless they actually say specifically that they have a specific message from God which they have been entrusted to deliver, and then clearly deliver that specific message to the best of their understanding, with no freelancing (adding or subtracting from the received message), they aren’t functioning as a prophet and are merely doing their best as the leaders/caretakers of the church organization. I shouldn’t have to parse their words in search of vague clues in order to determine when they are delivering a message from God. If I had a message to deliver from God, I would clearly deliver the content of that message, and specify when God’s voice ends and mine begins. To do otherwise seems reckless.

    I apologize for the length of this post, but it is a very personal and painful topic for me. I am at a point where this has become a reason to hold the church at arm’s length. I am skeptical of our leaders’ claims to authority and demands for obedience, so in the current environment there really is no place for me in church. Until there is some humility about when we may or may not be speaking for God (which is no trivial thing to claim), I have to take precautions to protect my family from what I consider to be spiritually harmful messages. Our spiritual reliance should be upon Christ, not men, even well-intentioned men. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the message of today’s church.

  58. I accept that Church Leaders make mistakes, and believe that most of those mistakes were well-intended and not made with evil intent. The bigger question for me is what am I going to do about what I perceive as a mistake by the Brethren? Am I going to publish my belief? Agitate for change? Am I under a requirement based on a stewardship to point out the perceived error to others? I guess that’s what bothers me about some Mormon progressives, who seem to feel as if they have the stewardship or mandate to tell the Brethren how to run the Church, even if the Brethren are “wrong.”

  59. orangganjil, beautifully expressed. My experience as a child growing up in the church in the 80s and 90s was that the leaders were to be obeyed and followed and to question them was taking a risky road to apostasy. It was common for a people in my community to use the words of church leaders to silence opinions with which they disagreed. The many LDS people with whom I have conversed over this topic tell a similar story. The rank and file members treat the leaders as nearly infallible in their words. They repeatedly emphasize what is written in D&C 135 that Joseph Smith has done more for the salvation of humankind except Jesus and thus place him on a near godlike pedestal. They may say that questions can be asked, but they really believe that there is only one answer to those questions.

    Occasionally I’ll hear from a seemingly freethinking member that the leaders make mistakes. What these mistakes are, they mostly do not mention. The vibe that I get from both the rank and file membership and the leadership is that you shouldn’t ask too many questions and just fall in line. That whatever mistakes were made are minor, not worthy of attention, and not important for salvation. This is a church of hero-worship and near prophetic infallibility. I don’t see how it could be convincingly explained any other way.

  60. clark, you’re confirming what I just wrote. You acknowledge that the leaders make mistakes but then say, “move along, don’t dwell on these mistakes, don’t mention what they are, and treat them as infallibles.” Why should we give anyone that sort of treatment? The greatest of minds in human history should be both praised and questioned. Isaac Newton was a phenomenal thinker who contributed more to human understanding of math and physics than almost anyone before him. We should revere him for his contributions. However, he was reported to have a rather wretched personality, and his many of his ideas have since been refuted. Why can’t LDS leaders be dealt similar treatment. Why can’t we say something like, “I admire Thomas S. Monson for what he has to say about charity and service, but disagree with his stance on gays and gay marriage”? Can you imagine someone saying that in class at church or in a sacrament meeting talk (and sometimes there are brave souls who do)? What is the general response of the rank and file and the leaders? “You’re a cafeteria Mormon, you are unworthy, you are on the road to apostasy, etc.” There appears to be no acceptable opinion of the prophets except treating them as mostly right about everything.

  61. “What am I going to do about what I perceive as a mistake by the Brethren? Am I going to publish my belief? Agitate for change?”

    I wasn’t around during the 1970’s, but I sure as hell hope I would’ve had the moral character to do just that regarding the priesthood and temple ban.

  62. Brad, Tim, – I guess this is where I take a different road. I certainly think it would be appropriate to speak to local authorities and even write to the Brethren. I just don’t agree that open, public questioning of decisions or policies is the way to go. (Loyal Opposition) I WAS around in the 1970’s and as I tell my children about that era, I remind them that hindsight is 20-20. In my opinion–based on what I see from the millennials-the moral character of the LDS membership at large was likely at a higher level then than it is today, and certainly wasn’t deserving of retroactive shaming, no matter how popular that activity is.

  63. We don’t need to look all the way back at the Old Testament to confirm “expert error”–just look at our more recent history:

    “When The Mormon Church Was Dead Wrong And Too Stubborn to See It”

    http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2015/11/when-mormon-church-was-dead-wrong-and_11.html

  64. wreddyornot says:

    I was around in the 1970s too. June 8, 1978 was my thirtieth birthday. I was in a stake priesthood meeting when I heard and celebrated the news and thought it was well past time. So what? I was against the policy then and had been before the change as I’m against so much lack of caring and sensitivity that I see in members and leaders, generally, but I put more of a responsibility where more of the power resides. I don’t think that shaming is involved in the least now (What OW has done/does is shaming? Same with the allies of/and LGBTs?) and I doubt that it was then anymore than it is now. That wasn’t my experience. I don’t see any more “retroactive shaming” that you seem to be talking about than I ever have, but a sincere seeking, asking and knocking and hopefully learning and progressing. If anything, we LDS men individually ought to look at the record and be so ashamed of the way we’ve treated and continue to treat others (women, minorities, LGBTs, etc.)

  65. When I look at the deepest heartache in people’s lives associated with the church, invariably if those involved had held more tightly to counsel from “the brethren” (in my mind I include RS/YW/primary leadership) they would have kept themselves from the pain in their own lives and the terrible cost they have inflicted on their families. This is not guaranteed, but most likely found.

    Please note that I recognize that there is true heartache from those who have felt excluded, who have not felt the warmth of the Spirit, who have had leaders betray them. My experience has been that that pain is less than those who are impacted by infidelity, drug addiction, unrighteous dominion, financial mismanagement, putting God and family first and general lack of charity. My family can share deeply hurtful activities from local leaders, but everyone would gladly take a 2nd helping of that rather than suffer as we have due to not following prophetic counsel.

    Because of that, in our home we focus 90% on understanding and gaining testimony of that guidance. The other 10% is filling in the gray and personalizing it. “For the Strength of Youth” has several annotations and family specific chapters added for us. I don’t believe we have redacted anything as of yet ;-)

  66. I would also add that contrary to the “mess” described above, engagement with the church has brought greater happiness, greater comfort, more charity, more seeking out people to serve, more introspection – and most of all, a closeness to the Savior and His love than we deserve. Though not perfect, it seems to work quite well. And as we have told our kids as they have gotten older, if they find a path that makes them better people and brings them joy, we bless them on their way – we just haven’t found it.

  67. pconnor,
    I’m happy for the peace and joy the Gospel brings to your life. Genuinely happy. And I understand the temptation to lay the blame for other people’s suffering on their sinfulness. Sinful decisions often bring suffering and keeping the commandments often leads to avoiding those problems. Not always, though. And, of course, we’re all sinners anyway.

    In any case, I appreciate your testimony.

  68. @ PConnor

    You are fortunate to be having a great experience in the church. In contrast, a strong majority of members (two-thirds? Three-fourths?) do not have a sufficiently positive experience at Church to actually come anymore. We call them “inactive,” but the reality is that they’re finding more fullfillment outside the Church than inside.

    The Church seems largely concerned with making the smaller group of active members happy, rather than addressing the needs of the larger group of inactives–let alone the 99.85% of humanity that is entirely outside mormonism.

  69. President Wilford Woodruff declared that we can have full confidence in the direction the prophet is leading the Church: “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty” (Official Declaration 1, “Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto”).

    In contrast, John C. argues: “So, while Mormons have a tendency to embrace the notion of ‘human frailty’ when they discuss prophetic fallibility, there is scriptural precedent for adding the notion of “expert error” as well. Which is something worth considering when you ponder how to accommodate the well-intentioned directives coming from our religious authorities today.”

    My comments:

    So which is which? Pres. Woodruff says that Lord will not allow the Church to be led astray. But you say, “consider expert error”. Well, if the Lord will not allow the Church to be led astray, does it really matter if there is such a thing as expert error? Why would it matter unless the Prophet can mislead the Church? Our duty is primarily to trust God in His promises. Therefore, if God promises not to allow His Church to go astray, then we must hold on to His word. The Prophet cannot not mislead the Church. Expert error or no expert error.

    Right?

  70. LVSB,
    First of all, I’m not a prophet, at least not in any sort of key-bearing manner, so consider that in contrasting me with Pres. Woodruff. One of these things is not like the other.

    That said, God’s definition of astray seems to vary widely from reasonable human definitions. Which is fine because he ain’t exactly like us. The Book of Mormon, for instance, argues that it is all a part of God’s plan when the Nephites bring their own destruction upon themselves. Sure, He tries to stop them, but their downfall doesn’t derail his plan. Consider that the next time you think that “avoiding going astray” equates to “doing something I find morally questionable because someone with religious authority told me to.”

  71. Clark Goble says:

    LVSB I think we have to distinguish a few things here. For one God has plans and has contingencies for when people screw up so he ensures things get done that he ultimately wants done. I’m not sure that means God is leading people astray. I think that, especially in the context of the turmoil over polygamy, that astray for Woodruff meant the prophet leading the church into apostasy. I don’t think it means there’s no mistakes in the details. I think the Church has nothing like “this is the best of all possible worlds” in terms of actions. Rather it is that God directs the prophets so that things are good enough even though they almost certainly good be better. If things get too bad then God takes his prophets away and leaves people to their own devices and false prophets.

    A good way of looking at the problem is simply to read Moroni’s comments in Ether 12. There we have Moroni acutely aware of his weaknesses and limits yet still testifying that God does his work through him.

    FGH, depending upon what you mean by inactive the number varies. Of course lots of people baptized don’t stay in the church long. Whether that means it’s more fulfilling elsewhere for them I wouldn’t begin to speculate on. Of those who consider themselves Mormon according to polls most remain very active. Of those raised in Mormonism about 30 – 35% eventually leave. (Although an unknown number come back – we don’t have good statistics on that for the recent era)

    Brad, I think the issue is ultimately over when the brethren are wrong. (And in some cases even if they are wrong it doesn’t mean we don’t still sustain them in their actions) My sense is that people who bring up the whole “the brethren are sometimes wrong” usually do it to support themselves in contemporary disagreements with the brethren on some controversial issue.

  72. “I’m not a prophet, at least not in any sort of key-bearing manner,”

    I’ve gotta say…..this qualifier is very intriguing.

  73. John,

    So… does that mean that because there is such a thing as “expert error” afflicting all human experts, including prophets, that the Church will be led astray? If not, then…

    Why will a prophet tell the Church to do something morally questionable when God assured us no prophet will ever mislead the Church?

    Take note: I don’t put your opinions on the same level as Pres. Woodruff’s dogma. Feel free to mislead me…:-)

  74. Steve,

    “Burrito” is a modern, ideological construct foisted upon us by multi-cultural academics with the explicit aim of undermining our true faith in sandwiches. Those who conflate the two are very dangerous since they reinforce the illusion that we can eat and enjoy burritos without thereby undermining the truth of sandwiches…. Duh!

  75. Clark,

    Your argument “If things get too bad then God takes his prophets away and leaves people to their own devices and false prophets” does not sit well with Pres. Woodruff’s statement. Rather than letting things go bad, God will remove any leader causing the Church to stumble because he cannot allow it to go astray. Perhaps the idea you are defending may be true in the OT and in Book of Mormon times, but does that still hold true for Pres. Woodruff’s era and thereafter?

  76. LVSB,
    In the grand scheme, I don’t think the church can be led astray because I don’t think the LDS church is “the church” in any but a temporal way (we are the current manifestation of “the church”). Now I know we’ve had prophets and such say that this is the final dispensation, but since folks have been saying that since Jesus was on the ground I don’t know that this is the final dispensation. So I do think our church could disappear and that wouldn’t mean that the overall church is led astray. History seems to indicate that however strait and narrow the gate may be at our end, the path leading to it gives us a lot of room to wander. Which is a good thing (at least for me).

    Or you could go with what Clark said.

    As to your second question, I think a prophet could tell church members to do something morally questionable because being in “the church” isn’t dependent on our reaction to or enforcement of individual commandments by themselves. We can be baptized (a necessary commandment) and never really be in the church (or “the church”). We are told that there are people who were never baptized who will, nonetheless, be celestial exemplars in the next life. I’m not comfortable with equating the bounds of what the church currently knows and practices with the bounds of what can or should be known or done. But if that works for you, go for it.

  77. Clark Goble says:

    LVSB (10:18) if the people haven’t rejected the prophets, then yes I believe the Lord would directly or indirectly remove a prophet who would lead the church as a whole into apostasy. I don’t see how what I said is at odds with that.

  78. Has anyone considered the idea that God “indirectly” removed Joseph Smith for some reason?

    Just a thought, if one believes God would “remove” someone who is “leading the church astray.”

  79. If god removed LDS prophets from their office, how exactly would we know? Who would make that declaration? Should we expect the prophet to come forth and say, “god made it known to me that I’m removed and no longer hold the metaphorical prophethood keys, so I no longer represent god”? Seems silly, right? Bearing in mind that there have some who have made that declaration, such as Denver Snuffer and Christopher Nemelka.

  80. Clark, my point was that the LDS rank and file treat the prophets as infallibles and that the correlated material and many of the conference talks strongly imply that members are to treat them as infallibles. So anytime I hear someone say, “give Joseph Smith a break” or “we shouldn’t expect the leaders to be perfect” or “the LDS leaders are just humans who sometimes err,” I don’t tend to believe them unless they mention some specific points on which they disagree. And if they take issue with another member because they support women holding the priesthood or gay marriage, or something or other, then I really don’t believe them.

  81. John,

    Honestly, I am more sympathetic with your OP than with Pres. Woodruff’s dogma. You are closer to the truth than he is. Here’s why:

    If prophets are only prophets when they speak as prophets, then that dogma should be first investigated, and only after prayerful study, should it be established as dogma by those in authority to declare doctrine. If it hasn’t, then it should not be presented as dogma, the way it is currently presented in correlated church literature.

    That dogma is problematic because “X” and “not X” cannot be both true at the same time. No one, not even a prophet (especially when he is not speaking as a prophet), in the church may claim that the Lord will not allow it to be led astray (“not X”) while at the same time claim that God allowed it to be led astray in the first century, after the death of the apostles, thus precipitating a Great Apostasy (“X”). Here, X is held as the basis for the subsequent restoration of the church achieved through the calling of Joseph Smith. Can the church then abandon “X” so that “not X” can be upheld and sustained? I don’t think so. Not without inviting questions and doubts on the Restoration itself. Therefore, “not X” has to be reexamined.

    Then, and only then, will the idea of fallible and infallible teachings begin to take shape in the church. Who knows, since you started this thread, they might actually invite you to help them sort things out… :-)

  82. pconnornc says:

    @FGH – I think you’re playing w/ statistics. Possibly with the thinnest of threads (though most less actives I minister to still profess their love of the church) you could attribute overall inactivity to people missing something, but when we’re talking about flaws in the church and its leaders to try to make that connection is misleading.

    Even the Savior dealt w/ less actives – and it wasn’t because His doctrine, His authority or His organization was lacking.

    As far as what the church is focused on, my overwhelming experience is that they are extremely focused on those not attending. Even our discussions on activities usually dismiss or assume what “actives” might want and focus on how to make it relevant and meaningful for others.

  83. Clark Goble says:

    Brad, I just don’t buy the “infallible” line. I think most members (myself included) think there’s a presumption they are right. But that’s far, far from thinking them infallible even on practical terms.

  84. Lois “Has anyone considered the idea that God ‘indirectly’ removed Joseph Smith for some reason?”

    So God removes prophets sort of like Tony Soprano removed Phil Leotardo.

  85. I have long been concerned that after all is said about the church leadership and the obvious fact that they can err just like the rest of us, that IF a member determined that they should NOT sustain the church President, and claim a legitimate controversy over him that they want fairly settled, (based on D&C 107:81-84) that that person would be marginalized and eventually cast out without any real effort to consider the controversy the person has. It is presumed –above all else– by many in the church that God would never allow a real failure by the church President. I find this attitude unscriptural and idolatrous. Is it not the exact fulfillment of the pacifying, carnally secure, “all is wellish” spirit that leads one to hell as warned of in 2 Nephi 28:21?