And in His name all oppression shall cease


This post started as a reaction to President Dallin H. Oaks’s commentary on religious freedom published Tuesday in the Deseret News.  It morphed into a Christmastime commentary on social justice.  It still dissects Oaks’s words, but that’s relegated to the very end. 

Born into humble circumstances.  Trained as a carpenter.  Rejected as a prophet.  Crucified as a rabble-rouser because he dared speak truth to both secular and religious oppressive power.  Jesus Christ is my model of an activist.

Christ embraced the poor, the sick, and the “unclean.”  He offered compassion and healing to all who suffered pain.  He embraced Jews and Romans, Samaritans and strangers. He chose women to witness his birth, death, and resurrection.  He preached unyielding lessons of love, peace, inclusion, and grace.

Christ proclaims that all are alike unto God.  God’s love rejects anger, hatred, division, and control.  It combats discrimination in all its forms:  Sexism.  Racism.  Nationalism.  Christ’s recognition of our divine equality obliterates hierarchical power structures.  It demands a birth of empathy and a death of intolerance.

In the 1847 words of “O Holy Night,” my favorite Christmas hymn:

Truly He taught us to love one another;

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;

And in His name all oppression shall cease.

This doctrine is why Christ’s love is radical – and this is why he was crucified.

In societies built upon authoritarianism and oppression, love is a threat.

Embracing Christ means embracing the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned.  It means welcoming the immigrant, the refugee, and the stranger.  It means empowering all women, races, and religions, alongside our LGBT neighbors.

In Christ’s name all oppression shall cease. 

Entrenched political powers, corporate interests, and religious institutions (correctly!) perceive such radical inclusion as an existential threat.

We need look no further than current Fox-News-fueled-Trumpian rhetoric surrounding welfare, Obamacare, law and order, Muslims, Hispanic caravans, borders, #MeToo, police brutality, and “religious freedom” to see how often “Christian” individuals daily reject the core teachings of Christ.   Plenty of “Christians” on the Left commit the same sin.

Radical love and divine equality is still a threat.

* * * * *

This is not a new dynamic.  The history of America is the history of Christians manipulating the Bible to support their political positions.

Our history books dub America’s seminal events as the “Civil War” and the “Civil Rights Movement.”  But make no mistake about it: the Civil War was a Christian War.  The battleground was the worst of Old Testament literalism versus the best of New Testament liberty.  The weapons were Bible verses demanding silence, separation and submission to authority, clashing against Bible verses proclaiming equality, unity and freedom.

Churches split over this rhetoric, with dividing lines that reverberate to this day.

Why are they called the Southern Baptist Convention?  Because in 1845 a bunch of southern slaveowners couldn’t abide the progressive anti-slavery stances of northern Baptists.

Why do we have the Wesleyan Methodists?  Because after the Methodist church excommunicated ministers in New York in 1843 for preaching against slavery, the spurned preachers broke away.  They chose John Wesley’s name because of his 1778 tirade against slavery.  The Wesleyans quickly became vocal advocates for abolitionism and champions of women’s rights; they hosted the Seneca Falls Convention and ordained Antoinette Brown Blackwell, the first Protestant clergywoman in the United States.

In Christ’s name all oppression shall cease. 

This was the rallying cry of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights Movement.    The Civil Rights Movement, like the Civil War, was steeped in religiosity.  Black churches, black ministers, black activists led the nonviolent protests, their orations teeming with praise to God.

It is impossible to read primary source Civil War or Civil Rights Movement sermons and letters and speeches without the sheer religiosity of the rhetorical war smacking you in the face.

Listen to anything by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.  Here’s just the ending lines of my favorite, 1965’s “Our God is Marching On!”

Meanwhile, in 1960 the Rev. Dr. Bob Jones sermonized on “Is Segregation Scriptural.” He defended segregation as God’s Biblical way, who had commanded the separation of races and nations.  Jones decried progressive religious liberals to be “the worst infidels” in the country, deluded by Satanic lies of divine equality.

In 1987, Bob Jones University lost its tax-exempt status due to continuing segregation.  In 2008, the president of Bob Jones University finally issued an apology.

For almost two centuries American Christianity, including Bob Jones University in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures…In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry.

* * * * *

Where was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during the civil rights movement?

You, the reader, know the answer.  You’ve read the “Race and the Priesthood” essay.  You’ve read BCC and Sistas in Zion.  You’re aware of Apostle Mark E. Petersen’s 1954 endorsement of segregation. You know throughout the 1960s Apostle Ezra Taft Benson condemned the civil rights movement.  Our leaders’ words resoundingly echoed Bob Jones.

The “curse of Cain” doctrine the Church endorsed until 1978?  Early Mormons appropriated that idea from southerners.  It’s not original to Mormonism.  We stole a false, racist doctrine, then mingled it with our scripture as a weapon we used to bar blacks from our schools, our temples, our priesthood ordinances, and interracial marriage.  We made up theological justifications for discrimination, then bristled at the resulting boycotts on our athletics.  We were wrong.

Hugh B. Brown aside, we were overwhelmingly on the wrong side of history.

But unlike Bob Jones University, we’ve never fully owned up to it.  As Apostle Dallin H. Oaks said regarding LGBT policies in 2015, “I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them.”

As a direct result?  In 2018 a majority of our members still think the Temple and Priesthood Ban was God’s will.  Our current teachings of Be One unity, equality, and love are wonderful, but I wish they were coupled with an acknowledgement of the past, an apology, and a humble commitment to eradicating all prejudice for the future.

As I recently told the Salt Lake Tribune, my top hope with the Church’s renewed emphasis on the name of Christ is that we will take the Book of Mormon’s injunction seriously.  We should “talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, preach of Christ, prophesy of Christ” — and love like Christ.

Because in Christ’s name all oppression shall cease.

* * * * *

Given Christ’s radical message of love, and America’s fraught religious and racial history, President Dallin H. Oaks’s “religious freedom” commentary Tuesday in the Deseret News upset me.

As I’ve written before, religious freedom is a serious issue in need of defending, particularly abroad and for minorities. But here in the United States?  Protections for religious practice are at an all-time high, and only growing stronger now that Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are on the Supreme Court.  I am extremely skeptical whenever the Church demands greater protections in the United States, particularly because the Church historically does not tolerate even minimal theological disagreements by its own students and employees.

President Oaks’s Deseret News remarks make just such an ask for greater protections — while framing political attacks on faith as a new phenomenon.

Today’s religious freedom debates are different than in the past.  They’ve increased in breadth and intensity. Religious freedom has gotten political. It’s dividing people along lines different than before…. In the 1950s and 1960s, religious freedom debates were about issues like whether or not the federal government should give aid to Catholic parochial schools.

This is absurd.  Religion has always been political — go reread the above discussion of religious rhetoric during the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement.  It is frankly irresponsible to characterize the 1950s and 1960s as a time when religious freedom debates centered around “mild” issues like the state bussing students to private religious schools (1947), the state funding textbooks to private religious schools (1971), and the Supreme Court ordering the state to stop mandating daily Protestant prayers in public schools (1962).  At the very least, President Oaks’s minimization of that era contradicts his own doomsday assessment in 1990 that the Supreme Court’s 1962 decision on school prayer paved the way to Babylonian atheism, and should be overruled.

But more importantly, President Oaks’s minimization of that era ignores the everyday realities of the Civil Rights Movement — with which he should be intimately familiar.

In 1957, Oaks clerked on the United States Supreme Court for Chief Justice Earl Warren.  (A Court that still refused to hire women; it rejected Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the basis of sex two years later.)  NAACP v. Alabama was before the Supreme Court his year.  Underlying this and like cases are the stories of black churches mobilizing against injustice, only to have their NAACP memberships lists subpoenaed by the white segregationist state so white politicians could pass copies out at white church brunches to their KKK lynching buddies.

The greatest threat to religious freedom in the 1960s wasn’t the state refusing to buy Bibles for white private schools, it was violence against black churches.  How many black churches and homes were bombed in the city of Birmingham alone in the 1960s?  (A: 50).  Thousands of white preachers turned blind eyes to this violence while preaching that biblically, the black race was inferior and segregation was of God.

President Oaks should know this.  He was an adult lawyer in Chicago and Washington D.C. during the 1960s.  He related earlier this year that civil rights, and the Church’s own doctrine surrounding the Temple and Priesthood Ban, was a hot topic in his circles.  He confessed that despite hoping and praying for the restrictions to be lifted, at the time he was nonetheless “determined to be loyal to our prophetic leaders.”

This is why his next quote made me bristle:

People who make light of religious freedom forget the history of the things that made this country great.  The abolition of slavery was brought about by religious preachers.  The civil rights movement was brought about by religious preachers. Other great moral advances in Western civilization came about through public preaching changing people’s hearts, not through secular arguments.

This is all true.  But so is the converse.  Slavery was perpetuated by white religious preachers.  The civil rights movement was opposed by white religious preachers.  These religious rhetorical wars splintered churches, destabilized governments, and wrought lynchings, bombings, and murders.  Yes, religious freedom and free speech helped spread the message of peace and the divine dignity of every soul — but that work was born by the bodies of our black brothers and sisters in Christ, not by us or by our Church.  Historically black churches lifted America up, even while whites bombed their sanctuaries.

All the while, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was too busy religiously discriminating against them to take their side.  To me, it is the height of hypocrisy to use the inspired words of black preachers — from a movement we opposed! — as a tool in support of the Church’s religious right to condemn and exclude LGBT individuals.

* * * * *

President Oaks ends with a true sentiment I wholeheartedly support:

The First Amendment is, in the long run, what’s going to help us solve serious problems like racism and discrimination in our society.

But here too lies a problem.  Let’s accept that combatting racism and discrimination is the purpose of religious freedom. Instead of engaging in meta-arguments about religious freedom, we should be using our current legal privilege to combat racism and discrimination.  We, like Pope Francis, should be full-throatily invoking the peaceable doctrines of Christ in order to advocate for equality, justice, human dignity, and the end of oppression in all its forms.  We’re not.  Mormon Women for Ethical Government is.  But as far as I can see, the Church itself is not.

The Good News is, though, that we can start.  We can repent.  We can change.  We can stop babbling about religious freedom and start taking action.

Start with humble examination of our own implicit and explicit biases.  (I personally am embarrassed by how many I’m continuing to root out of myself.)  Start with apologies.

Start with examining the Church as an institution.  Conduct a comprehensive survey of every single way the Church, its office buildings, its missions, its stakes, and its schools can work to eliminate structures and teachings that perpetuate pain and injustice.

Start with standing over the pulpit and teaching the radical gospel of Christ.  Start with using the enormous power of General Conference to call for concrete efforts (like we have with refugees) to obliterate racism and sexism and hatred in all of its forms.  Nothing stops us from tomorrow joining the progressive religious preachers who declare Christian liberty and decry injustice.

That’s what taking upon us the name of Christ calls us to do.

Because in His name all oppression shall cease.





  1. Thanks for this stark reminder. They say that history is a foreign country, but in this case, it would seem that it’s the same arguments wearing new clothes. When I hear “religious freedom,” I can’t help but think it’s just a cover for the same old bad behavior. It’s freedom from being called a bigot while behaving like one.

  2. Cynthia L. says:

    “But here too lies a problem. If combatting racism and discrimination is the purpose of religious freedom — then instead of engaging in meta-arguments about religious freedom, we should be using our current legal privilege to combat racism and discrimination. We, like Pope Francis, should be full-throatily invoking the peaceable doctrines of Christ in order to advocate for equality, justice, human dignity, and the end of oppression in all it forms. We’re not. Mormon Women for Ethical Government is. But as far as I can see, the Church itself is not.”


  3. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    DHO is Florence Foster Jenkins levels of tone-deaf on this stuff. Always has been.

  4. “The greatest threat to religious freedom in the 1960s wasn’t the state refusing to buy Bibles for white private schools, it was violence against black churches. How many black churches and homes were bombed in the city of Birmingham alone in the 1960s? (A: 50). Thousands of white preachers turned blind eyes to this violence while preaching that biblically, the black race was inferior and segregation was of God.”

    Amen! Thank you for this! Very good response.

  5. “Yes, religious freedom and free speech helped spread the message of peace and the divine dignity of every soul — but that work was born by the bodies of our black brothers and sisters in Christ, not by us or by our Church. Historically black churches lifted America up, even while whites bombed their sanctuaries.”

    Triple Amen! I love this post so much. This is Truth.

  6. Carolyn, I have read your posts enough to note how critical you are. Do you have any uplifting thoughts in you? May peace, not anger and pessimism be written in your words someday.

  7. Roy: explain to me how calling for a commitment to Christ and the end of oppression is critical and pessimistic?

    Also if you click on my name you will find posts praising ministering, testimony meeting, the Book of Mormon, our work on immigration, our work on refugees, our work on disaster relief, and President Monson.

  8. Some (many?) Latter-day Saints think anger and pessimism pervade these lines:

    Truly He taught us to love one another;
    His law is love and His gospel is peace.
    Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
    And in His name all oppression shall cease.

    And they believe a call to stop oppressing isn’t an “uplifting message”. This attitude held by so many Latter-day Saints is a stumbling block. The Restored Gospel will be inhibited in its growth and influence in the United States and among all nations as long as Roy’s attitude continues to persist among so many.

  9. Carolyn, I don’t recommend engaging Roy with a response that actually treats his accusation that you don’t write uplifting material as meritworthy. He’s never read anything you’ve written if he can make that accusation against you without being willfully dishonest.

  10. Rhetorically powerful, Carolyn. But I’m troubled by the approach. The way I see it, religion is political, and President Oaks argues for even more religion in politics. His argument can be framed as a serious constitutional law argument about where to draw the boundaries. I strongly disagree with the position he argues, based on my belief that the power structures in the United States (at least) mean that more religion in politics inevitably means more of a certain kind of religion to the exclusion of others—an entanglement and establishment problem that it seems can only be answered by pushing religion out of politics so far as possible.

    It is ALSO true that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a trustworthy player in the process. That the Church has proven too many times to take the wrong side on issues that (in my opinion) true religion, true Christianity, should be taking. It doesn’t help that the Church’s current interests in political matters seems to highlight both Mormon exceptionalism and alignment with the most conservative and reactionary positions of 21st century white evangelicals and Roman Catholics (not to include Pope Francis, fwiw).

    But I am very uncomfortable with the implication that if only the Church would right itself, we would then invite the Church into political discourse. I want the Church to right itself, but have no place in that discussion because individual Church members are effectively disenfranchised from Church policy decisions. I don’t want the Church to have any larger role in politics, no matter what positions it takes. I do have a place in that discussion, as a U.S. citizen with a vote.

  11. Christian, I think my implication is that religion is politics and politics is religion no matter what. Free speech and free religion protects and enshrines that in all directions. Thats settled. So let’s as individuals and as a church use that freedom and power for good.

  12. Carolyn, this is powerful and important and good. I’m not the First Amendment fan that you are (and thus I actually take almost as much exception to the final quote from Oaks you include as I do the others you mention), but as exploration and condemnation of the structures of power which the radical message of Christian liberation, I can endorse what you say here more. Bravo!

    Heptaparaparshinokh, I don’t think Oaks is tone-deaf at all, at least not in the sense of being unresponsive to the implications of his own beliefs of the beliefs of his audience. Oaks’s approach to religious liberty is, I think, profoundly communitarian, rather than liberal: the point of religious liberty, under that understanding, is to enable communities to act upon their collective religious identity without interference or disruption. I strongly suspect that the great majority of Oaks Mormon American audience is, on one level of another, in agreement with him there; obviously they think that non-Mormons and non-Christians over there need their freedom defended, but to allow majoritarian preferences regarding school prayers and high school proms and routine police work right in Zion to be disrupted by non-believers and LGBTQ persons and racial minorities? No, we need religious liberty, right here and right now! (Note: I’m actually very sympathetic to the communitarian argument here; thinking about religious liberty, or any liberty, solely in terms of individual rights is, I think, philosophically wrong-headed. But to think about the rights of communities without also thinking of the power they wield, ignoring the dignity of non-conformers on the edges of the community or the effects which the articulation of a community’s majority identity can have on bad and violent actors deep within it, which is what Oaks’s words in his speech did (or, strictly speaking, didn’t do)? That’s not just unChristian, it’s bad philosophy.)

  13. Informative. I’m not sure I fully agree with all that was said, but it is very educational.

  14. And…somehow, probably because I came here from Facebook, I thought this was a post by Cynthia, not Carolyn. My deepest apologies Carolyn, and if some perma wants to fix that and eliminate this distracting apology, I’d be in your debt.

  15. No worries. Cynthia did help comment on some initial thoughts :-)

  16. The just released Fall Issue of Dialogue is full of amazing articles and calls to re-oriente ourselves against racism. It’s a must read.

  17. I do think that there is a progressive push against the religious liberties of Christian conservatives. This effort is rank bigotry. Oaks is correct

  18. I’ve always loved the second verse of O Holy Night and the third verse of the Battle Hymn of the Republic for the reasons you outlined. This was wonderful. Many Thanks.

  19. Carolyn, powerful words. I have been considering this statement from your post:

    Let’s accept that combatting racism and discrimination is the purpose of religious freedom.

    I can see that might (and probably should) be one message to be gained from religious freedom. I can also see from the perspective of a religious community, as RAF has pointed out, that they might perceive religious freedom primarily involves freedom from intrusions by the outside world, including government, in pursuing their religious practices. It would seem that this is President Oaks’ view. And therein is the issue. Personally, having grown up in the 50s and 60s with racist ideology coexisting with the Gospel of Christ, I still struggle with my own issues, even though my heart and mind want me to do exactly what you are saying. I aspire to decrying racism, sexism, injustice, and the continuing problem of income inequality, but I still have much to overcome personally. And I am also, as Christian Kimball pointed out, left with few tools for providing feedback in a church that still values respect for authority, obedience, and unanimity, none of which are negative principles at face value, but over time have created a situation where it too often feels like just taking what comes down publicly, and trying to figure out how to respond personally. We are in for a rough few years. Maybe us baby boomers do need to fade out and make way for those with less baggage from our conflicted pasts.

  20. Thank you so much for that Kevin. I probably should have said that combatting discrimination is “A” purpose, not “THE” purpose.

  21. The current backlash from conservatives against anti-discrimination laws being expanded to explicitly prohibit discrimination against LGBT folks is taking the form of a newfound devotion to religious freedom, and specifically to the version of religious freedom that would subject to strict scrutiny any law that put a substantial burden on religious exercise. The irony is that that was the version of religious freedom that we used to have, and it was conservatives, not liberals, who killed it in favor of the current version, which only protects against laws that deliberately target a particular religion. Conservatives are only reaping what they sowed in the 1990s.

    I mean, I’d love to see Smith overruled, but I think that ship has basically sailed. Still, state levl RFRA-like statutes can accomplish something similar. But it’s hard for us to speak with moral authority for the idea that that version of religious liberty should prevail, now that it would protect people who don’t want to bake wedding cakes for a gay wedding, when we did comparatively little to advocate for it when it would have protected folks who wanted to be able to use peyote in their sacraments.

  22. JKC: AMEN. I have deep-seated problems with Smith. The first time I read it in full in undergrad, I remember being livid at Scalia’s slight of hand, denying all minority faiths the protections of the Free Exercise Clause based on citing the denial of protections to Mormons in the 1880s. He essentially said that constitutional religious freedom depended on having enough political power to lobby the legislature to protect you. At the time, this position was happily endorsed by evangelical Christians. 30 years is a long time in both religion and politics, and a smidgen more self-reflection all around would be nice.

  23. “The first time I read it in full in undergrad, I remember being livid at Scalia’s slight of hand, denying all minority faiths the protections of the Free Exercise Clause based on citing the denial of protections to Mormons in the 1880s.”

    Oh, gosh, same here. I think it was my junior year at BYU that I first read the decision.

  24. Mr. Schmidt says:

    john f., I was curious about your last commentary about the “uplifting message” thing. Do you really believe that “many” members of the church think anger and pessimism pervade those lines? Doesn’t it always seem to come back to how one is interpreting and viewing the varying approaches to controversial issues, for example with what Carolyn asserts is occurring with LGBT individuals?

    What to one party appears to be a call to stop oppressing may appear to another party to be a criticism of one or more individuals. I would not be surprised if most members would agree to some form of the statement, “we are all brothers and sisters as children of God”, or the logical extension from that, “we should not persecute or discriminate against our brothers and sisters.” The rub comes when different people – different personalities – attempt to define just what “persecute” or “discriminate” means.

    As an example, perhaps one person views the current policy about the children of same-sex couples to be blatant discrimination and an expression of (hate seems a strong word here – meanness?), and therefore the call to end oppression motivates them, in their view, to be critical of church leaders’ approach to this. But another person may view the current policy and think, “is this asking me to tell any brother or sister to not come to church?” or “is this asking me to not associate with a person?” or specifically, “is this asking me to not love a person?” and they might conclude that it does not. Which is right? Is it possible for both to be wrong, but perhaps not in ways that either can discern yet?

    In fear of turning this into a threadjack, let me get back to Carolyn’s OP – I think there is some assumption about what constitutes oppression in the post, most of which is left unspoken (in this particular post). But that seems to be a pretty important thing to understand if we are to examine our biases. For example, if engaging in sexual acts with someone who is not your spouse is revealed by God to be a sin, would requiring repentance from that before baptism, or before taking the sacrament again (depending on your circumstance already) be an act of oppression? Or, to just it the thing on the head, assuming just for sake of argument that engaging in sexual acts with someone who is of the same gender as you is revealed by God to be sin (note I say just assuming for sake of argument – no need to agree in reality), would requiring repentance from that sin before baptism, etc., be an act of oppression?

    If the answer to those questions is yes, then how can we reconcile that with the parts of Christ’s radical message that also emphasized how narrow the way is, and denounced sin?

  25. @bbell:

    “I do think that there is a progressive push against the religious liberties of Christian conservatives. This effort is rank bigotry. Oaks is correct.”

    Can you give any examples? Are citizens of other countries that are predominantly Christian being selectively targeted for restrictive visa/travel bans? Are Christian churches in the US the sites of gun massacres the synagogues have? (No, the Charleston Christian church that was the site of a gun massacre by a conservative extremist doesn’t count.) Are Christian churches in the US the site of assassinations of people for their beliefs about abortion, as they peacefully serve as ushers and hand out programs? Oh wait, my bad, that one HAS happened! But it was by a conservative against a man who was pro-abortion.

  26. Thank you, Carolyn. I’m grateful for your strong voice on this subject. Just today I was teaching James Cone’s critique of Reinhold Niebuhr in his book The Cross and the Lynching Tree, and it resonates with much of what you say. I think you’d find the book uplifting :)

  27. That Ezra Taft Benson talk was a truly dizzying read in 2018. (I’d never read it before.)

  28. It’s interesting to take note of the perception non-LDS Americans have of the Church’s political involvement. Most prominently they might see Prop 8 (gay marriage) in California or Prop 2 (medical marijuana) in Utah.

    I’d much love for them to instead see our most prominent political involvements be of the sort you list out, Carolyn.

  29. This post goes right into the bloggernacle pantheon of all time greats. Tremendous writing and and marshaling of facts. Claims of religious persecution by those who have held coats while Christians have been stoned should go unchallenged.

  30. ^should NOT go unchallenged.

  31. Christ is the way to social justice.

    The ways humanity tries to bring about justice, peace, and unity do not and cannot work. History and current events are proof that competing against, controlling, or manipulating others always results in disunity, conflict, injustice, and inequality. Yet competition, force, and manipulation are how humanity has chosen to govern itself. Jesus offers us the sole alternative to humanity’s self-destructive ways: love.

    The law of God is this: every last thing you wish others would do to you, do those exact same things to them. This law defines the behavior of perfect love, which is called “charity.” God’s law is the true moral and ethical standard of all humankind, being written into every conscience, and it is the definition of “good.” Behavior that falls short of this law is not good and produces both guilt and conflict with others.

    The purpose of the law of God is to end conflict between people. Those who willingly keep His law may joyfully and peacefully live together as equals, both here and now, and forever in the eternal world. The commandments that Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount are how we are to obey the law of God through our works and end our conflicts with others.

    Love, the feeling which makes us want to do what the law of God commands, is given to us by God. Charity is Jesus’s nature, meaning He feels perfect love towards everyone. Charity is the nature of all those who inherit God’s kingdom with Jesus. Jesus’s commandments in the Sermon on the Mount are the actions which those who have charity do by nature.

    “Sin” is intent or action which falls short of the law of God, such as giving in to lust and doing to others what we do not wish others would do to us. “Repent” means to change one’s mind, to reconsider, or to relent, all of which implies a willing change in one’s behavior.

    Any who will believe Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount as literally as small children believe their parents’ words, and repent of all their sins, and be baptized by one of His sent servants, shall be visited by God with fire and with the Holy Ghost and shall receive a remission of their sins.

    The visitation of the Holy Ghost changes our feelings so that we understand Jesus’s love and want to only do good. Then we are to do what Jesus commands until the end of our lives. We trust in Jesus to guide and comfort us in our trials and afflictions as we learn who and what He is by the things we suffer in obedience to His teachings. Just as one does not learn a new skill without practice, nobody can understand nor master the discipline of perfect love without doing its works. Doing the works Jesus commanded until we fully understand Him and freely agree to become what He is and to receive His nature from Him permanently as a gift by His grace so that we love everyone perfectly just like He does is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

    If you keep the commandments of Jesus Christ, you are His church (Matthew 7:24-25, 16:18; Luke 6:47-48), you are His disciple (John 8:31-32), you are His friend (John 15:14), and you are His family (Luke 8:19-21).

  32. Carolyn, some excellent thoughts here. I deeply appreciate your writing.

  33. Excellent

  34. Thanks, Carolyn.
    Laura B., Enjoyed your comment. Some of us were kept dizzy in the 60s between ETB and Hugh B. Brown! I missed the 1967 general conference while in missionary service, but that particular ETB speech was nothing new. Later I was pleased to think I recognized in an HBB devotional a point by point contradiction of ETB’s earlier devotional speech. On the other hand, ETB was very helpful in a personal response to my questioning what another GA had told us about mission rules. One of the things the historical (and maybe current) Brethren teach us collectively, though possibly by accident, is not to take everything any one of them says as the gospel truth!

  35. Deseret Defender says:

    I am eternally grateful that God has revealed to me, in ways both miraculous and mundane, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Lord and Savior of humanity. I am grateful that He has restored His church. I am grateful to be a member of it. It is the only church authorized by Christ to speak on His behalf. I am grateful that He has called men to be prophets, seers, and revelators. I am grateful that he has given them priesthood keys to lead His church and His people. I am grateful for their counsel. It has greatly benefited my quest for Christian discipleship.

    Sadly, I do not sense the same gratitude and testimony in your post.

  36. Another Roy says:

    “In 2018 a majority of our members still think the Temple and Priesthood Ban was God’s will.”
    In reading closely the Essay on Race and the Priesthood and in witnessing the “Be One” event I am convinced that the church still teaches that the Temple ban was God’s will. It was a major victory that the justifications and doctrinal theories that defended the ban have been officially discredited. Now the general LDS position on the matter seems to be that God commanded it and then rescinded it without explanation and flawed humans (including church leaders) filled in the gaps with speculation. This has been the same position that DHO has been repeating (almost without change) for the last 30 years. The following link is representative of current teaching on the topic including a DHO quote from 1988.

  37. “As I’ve written before, religious freedom is a serious issue in need of defending, particularly abroad and for minorities. But here in the United States?  Protections for religious practice are at an all-time high…”

    Can I get a list of which groups can complain even though their situation is as good as it’s ever been and which can’t?

  38. Deseret Defender, It is lucky you aren’t in a position of church authority over Carolyn so that you can only attempt unrighteous dominion from afar. Good day, sir.

  39. @RobL: Anyone can complain when concrete action is taken against them by a government entity or an employer on the basis of religion. My point is that the legal remedies to such adverse or discriminatory actions are at an all-time high — even though they do, of course, still happen. (I litigate them on behalf of Muslims every day.)

    But broadly saying “we need religious freedom!” without citing specific harms you’re experiencing or proposing specific policy solutions makes me skeptical. In the United States, no one has taken away the LDS church’s ability to lobby the government. No one has taken away the LDS church’s ability to publicly preach or sermonize on issues of importance. No one has taken away the LDS church’s ability to choose how it performs its own ordinances. The worst that’s happened is that people have publicly criticized the Church as an institution. But that’s pursuant to the same free speech that protects the LDS’s church ability to advocate for its beliefs. So … what is the problem Elder Oaks is trying to solve?

  40. Deseret Defender, do you have anything to add to the conversation beyond a tone critique?

  41. Deseret Defender says:

    John C, I have no desire to exercise dominion over Carolyn, righteous or unrighteous, in close proximity or from afar. I am merely reminding her that we are richly blessed to be led by prophets and apostles of God, as it seems she has forgotten it.

  42. Deseret Defender, I am richly blessed to have been inspired by the words of Apostle Hugh B. Brown. Including:

    “When our Father declared that we, His children, were brothers and sisters, He did not limit this relationship on the basis of race. Strive to develop that true love of country that realizes that real patriotism must include within it a regard for the people, for the inhabitants of the rest of the globe. Patriots have never demanded of good men the hatred of another country as proof of one’s love for his own. Acquire tolerance and compassion for others and for those of a different political persuasion or race or religion. This is something demanded by the heavenly parentage that we all have in common.”


    “Preserve, then, the freedom of your mind in education and in religion, and be unafraid to express your thoughts and to insist upon your right to examine every proposition. We are not so much concerned with whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts. … Dissatisfaction with what is around us is not a bad thing if it prompts us to seek betterment.”

  43. Carolyn, thank you for this post.

    10 years after Prop 8 I’m still trying to figure out if DHO believes his own rhetoric.

  44. Deseret Defender says:

    Kyle M, I take issue with much of the post’s content, but what stood out most is how angry she seems to be that men called by God to lead His church are not leading it in the direction she wants them to. It is as if she believes her knowledge of God’s will for His church is greater than that of the men endowed with priesthood keys to lead God’s church. This makes no sense to me.

  45. Deseret Defender: I wasn’t aware that publishing op-eds in the Deseret News involves an exercise of Priesthood keys?

  46. Deseret Defender says:

    Carolyn, those are beautiful quotes. Thank you for sharing them.

  47. DD,
    I said Good Day to you, sir!

  48. You’re welcome! Those quotes were also directly linked in my post when I praise Hugh B. Brown, but if I had block-quoted everything I loved and hated from every one of my hyperlinks this already too-long blog post would have been 3x longer!

  49. Aussie Mormon says:

    “In the United States, no one has taken away the LDS church’s ability to lobby the government”
    There are plenty who want the church’s tax exemptions removed if they want to continue lobbying though (to the extent that they openly encourage others to write complaint letters to the IRS). They haven’t taken it away, but they want to.

    “No one has taken away the LDS church’s ability to publicly preach or sermonize on issues of importance.”
    Maybe not, but there are people who are trying to say what are and aren’t issues of importance, and which things they should and shouldn’t speak out publicly on.

    The government may not be actively restricting the freedoms, but there are plenty of people who would be perfectly happy to.
    For proof of the above claims, just read through the comments section of any of the Prop2 related articles that the Salt Lake Tribune have published.

    And for a local example to Australia of the second bit above:
    In 2015 a booklet containing statements from the Catholic Church about Catholic beliefs on marriage[1] was handed out at all Catholic schools in Australia.
    A state-level Catholic Arch-Bishop was taken to the anti-discrimination tribunal over the distribution of this booklet[2]. The complaint was eventually dropped[3] rather than reaching a stage where a ruling could be made.
    No it’s not The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not it’s not in the USA. But it’s a clear example of people attempting to discount the views of Christian leaders.


  50. The underground man says:

    Dont pretend if like who don’t know what oaks was talking about in that article he was talking about things like the Obama administration redefining the free exercise clause as freedom of worship during the hhs contraceptive mandate controversy and the fact that if something like the lgbt equality act ( which I would support with the religious liberty caveats) is signed into law it among other things will take the BYU’s tax exmept status away disagree with the churches stance on lgbt issues all you want but don’t beat around the bush

  51. The underground man says:

    Forgive the grammatical errors I am doing this from my iPhone while busy with other things

  52. David W Fletcher says:

    He doesn’t mean freedom of religion. He means freedom to discriminate with impunity.

    P.S. Excellent! by the way.

  53. it's a series of tubes says:

    That Ezra Taft Benson talk was a truly dizzying read in 2018.

    Ain’t that the truth!

  54. Deseret Defender, does it sit well with you that DHO invoked religious opposition to slavery and religious advocacy for the Civil Rights movement as evidence in favor of religious freedom, when the Church DHO represents resisted abolition and loudly opposed the Civil Rights movement? Does it fall within your acceptable parameters of orthodoxy to at least recognize the strangeness or irony, if not dishonesty, of that move?

  55. Exactly, OTC. Carolyn isn’t rejecting the direction of the prophets and apostles. She’s pointing that the President Oaks of today seems to be rejecting the direction of the prophets and apostles of the 1960s. Those in the 1960s said the Civil Rights movement was a communist plot that destroyed faith and should be avoided by good members (Ezra Taft Benson, Delbert Stapley). President Oaks this week said that the Civil Rights movement was religiously inspired and good and the reason we should have religious freedom today is so that new iterations of movements like that can flourish. They can’t both be right–so which is it?

  56. If it had been 4 girls of our Church killed by a bomb at church in 1963, I think we would still be making a big deal about it. I’m ashamed that no GA’s condemned that Birmingham bombing. And, the “Glorious” US Government waited a long time to pursue prosecution for that.

  57. The underground man says:

    The first presidency and the quorum of the twelve never issued a statement condemning the civil rights movement in fact the two statements they did issue in 1965 and 1969 expressed support for its goals if not methods and leaders ( yes I know the story behind the first statement I read David o McKay and the rise of modern Mormonism) they were divided about how to respond to it does anyone here think that the brethren are similary divded now

  58. We haven’t had a good digital foot dusting in a very long time. I sense that will soon change.

  59. @the underground man: I am 99.1% positive the brethren are similarly divided now. Even my Catholic husband has remarked, when he watches General Conference with me, on their undertones of subtweet sniping.

  60. The underground man says:

    Also the idea that the church would have supported the civil rights movement if it wasn’t for the priesthood ban is an unwarranted assumption to say the least considering that a lot of the opposition to the civil rights movement from conservatives was because they believed that what they were proposing was unconstitutional and would open the doorway to social engineering and who around that time were mostly conservative Republicans dedicated to the divine constitution and opposed to government social engineering the first presidency and the q12 in the 1950s and 60s that’s who

  61. The underground man says:

    @carolyn do you really think the q15 just sit around waiting for six months to snipe at each in conference do you have any evidence for that beyond just well it happened in the 60s so it must be happened now call me Naivie if you want but I don’t think it’s the same now as it was then I guess we will just have to let history judge

  62. Yeah, it’s interesting how some people’s social and economic engineering is a satanic communist conspiracy and others’ like, e.g., Brigham Young’s (economic assignments, authorization of marriages and divorces , and political party affiliation) or ETB’s (farm subsidies) is not. :)

    BTW, affirmative action did have some individual negative results in the larger metro area of my 50s-60s hometown (dubbed the “Birmingham of the north” by the NAACP, but overall it facilitated vast improvements for a previously segregated black community across the river, and also, in my view, led to a much improved community for for all. Its been decades now since my high school classmates (nowhere near the South) burned down the home of the first black family to move into our town in violation of the city ordinance prohibiting their presence in town after 6:00PM. I think it’s not been quite so long since that ordinance came off the books. I count it as a significant improvement that it generally wouldn’t occur to that town’s current crop of highschoolers to do that simply because of the color of a young family’s skin. A part of teaching them better was some sorely needed governmental social engineering – parents and churches were apparently not getting the job done. The worst of the individual negative result that I encountered was teaching a black employee that he didn’t need to do his job because he couldn’t be fired. Otherwise, the black employees in our large clerical/accounting group were among the more diligent. I’m sure others’ experiences may vary widely.

    It was also clear enough that President McKay did not approve of ETB’s politics even if DOM was so conflict averse that he didn’t publicly tell ETB to shut up. It is significantly inaccurate to suppose that the First Presidency and the Q12 were in agreement on politics or social engineering in the 50s and 60s. In this conversation I think I’ve seen, but maybe imagined, hints of that supposition from both Cynthia L, on one side, and the undground man, on the other. But in my book Cynthia and Carolyn have the better grasp of the history I observed as it happened (though I can’t claim my observation was all that it could have been).

  63. Naivie,
    If you believe that, then you weren’t paying attention to the comings and goings of Elder Packer’s talks during the early ’10s. I’m skeptical that things have died down.

  64. The underground man says:

    @jr look I am probably much more left wing than anyone on this blog I would describe myself as a Christian democrat with strong sympathy for libertarian socialism I think reparations for slavery are 150 years too late you are right that social engineering was needed and probably did not go far enough I base my observation on the fact that the q15 in the 50s and 60s were mostly conservative Republicans with a strong belief in the divine origins of the constitution so they would have been hesitant to throw there support behind even if the priesthood ban was lifted in let’s say 1957 @john c whatever I know they disagree about stuff but they are not at each other’s throats all the time people see what they want to see Mormon kremlinlogy is not good for the soul

  65. Maybe “Mormon kremlinology” is not good for some souls. For others it may a necessary part of keeping their balance in the face of inconsistent messages from the Q15 both over time and concurrently. While the Brethren do seem generally more reluctant to contradict each other directly and publicly than they were in the 60s, there are enough more recent insider reports and stray comments from the Q15 to provide a basis for such “kremlinology.” I was particularly amused, e.g., at “you can’t stage manage a grizzly bear” and at L. Tom Perry’s suppressed Idaho speech in which he chatted about Q12 meetings and it being his job to kick BKP in the shins when he was going too far. The humanizing elements and disagreements, however rarely reported, are, for some, more supportive of a mature faith and of commitment than the images placed on pedestals for those who can’t handle realizing that not all is always well in Zion or that doctrine (whatever that is) does not change, or for those of the Q15 (or other GAs) who thrive on adulation.

    I suspect more disagreement here with rhetorically exaggerated generalities than with specific underlying concerns. I think I’ll keep my kremlinology — for me a better alternative than ceasing to pay any attention to the Q15 at all — and again applaud Carolyn’s post..

  66. One of the ironies of this article is how unveiled the contempt, posturing, and hostility is toward one of the Lord’s Anointed, while simultaneously calling for love.

    You can use the word love, but indulgent self-aggrandizement is not love. Consider some of the words you are using – “absurd”, “irresponsible”, “hypocrisy”.

    I have watched this truth that Joseph Smith taught come to fruition over and over on the bloggernacle over the years.

    “I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.” (Joseph Smith, HC, ch 26, p. 385.)

    For that reason my heart is truly broken for you Carolyn. I have liked several other things you have written. I think you are so steeped in a particular worldview, and surrounded by an apparent echo chamber here, that I don’t think you even recognize your own blindness that is so painfully obvious in your writing. I sincerely hope I am wrong.

  67. The underground man says:

    My specific concern is that having been raised Catholic and seeing how ideological factionalism has torn that church apart I don’t like seeing people promote that in this church and wishing for it to be true by costantly looking for disagreements real or imagined I don’t worship the church leaders or put them on pedestals but Having come from a church Torn apart by turf wars I think I know the difference between that and flawed leaders running a flawed institution plus I take my temple covenants seriously particularly the one about not speaking evil of the lords anointed maybe if I was raised lds I would have similar opinions to yours but I wasn’t and thank god for that everyday this will be my last comment here I don’t think becoming involved internet comments debates are good for me psychologically but something in me felt like pushing back over and out

  68. underground, “constantly looking for disagreements” is not what many of those who sometimes see them and sometimes comment on them are doing. Some may be. I don’t know how many. But as a description of what is going on here generally, I think you may be talking more about what you choose to imagine than what is actually in others’ heads and hearts. Thanks for making me think about it. Sorry about the wrong negative in my last comment. Sayonara.

  69. Steve, I don’t necessarily agree with all Carolyn’s criticism of President Oaks’ op-ed here, but come on, there’s a big difference between disagreeing with a church leader’s opinion on a political issue, presented as opinion, not as revelation and not as an exercise of priesthood keys, and rising up to condemn him, saying that he is out of the way and that she alone is righteous. You can disagree with her without the over-the-top accusations of apostasy. Give me a break.

  70. Bro. Jones says:

    To follow up on what JKC said: how exactly are we expected to behave as church members in situations like this? If the prophet announces in General Conference that chocolate pudding is now included in the list of substances prohibited by the Word of Wisdom, we may scratch our heads but the teaching is out there. If a senior church leader writes a newspaper editorial about how much he dislikes chocolate pudding, is a person an apostate or bitter if they disagree publicly?

    And how much more significant is it when the issue is something with actual political tension? I don’t know how I would’ve responded to President (then Elder) Benson’s talk in the 60s, but pretending it hasn’t aged well is disingenuous. Talks like that and others such as Elder Petersen’s should absolutely lead us to weigh our leaders’ words carefully–the suggestion that we should have sustained and supported the views that Elder Petersen espoused is troubling at best.

  71. The underground man says:

    @brojones the way you should respond is by trying to understand where oaks is coming from and actually engaging with the substance of what they are saying not ranting about how the church doesn’t support my political views and look how racist the church leaders where 50 60 70 years ago so therefore they don’t know what they are talking about now

  72. Steve LJH – ” I sincerely hope I am wrong.”

    You can rest easy – you’re very much wrong.

    Was Jesus showing “contempt, posturing, and hostility” when he quoted scripture to the “Lord’s anointed” of His day? No, it was very much a “you know what you should be doing, get better at practicing what you preach”.

    As members of the Church, of our Country, of our planet, we need to get better at actually doing what Christ taught and we proport to believe.

  73. I don’t know how you could read my post and not think it was about engaging with the legal and historical substance of what President Oaks wrote in an op ed.

  74. The underground man says:

    @Frank pellet the author of this piece is not Christ big difference also as someone who when he joined the church was pretty sympathetic to the alt right and was in many ways a racist if the church was to embrace the political left it would not have been able to reach people like me this church is supposed to be for everyone right left center

  75. Come on, underground, you owe the same consideration to Carolyn that you say she should give to Pres. Oaks. Her post is a deeply substantive and intelligent critique of the Church’s approach to the politics of religion, both historically and in the present time. Her post is not a rant, either. If some people clutch their pearls over her passion and commitment, that’s not her fault.

    If I take issue with anything in Carolyn’s post, it is about how much she reads into Pres. Oaks’s Deseret News commentary, which I think he mostly intended to be a bland and general endorsement of religious freedom under the law. Carolyn is not wrong to read between the lines, though. When general authorities talk about politics, they try to be as indirect as they can. To really respond to what they’re saying, you have to make explicit some of the things they try to avoid saying. Carolyn has done this, and I think she’s mostly correct in her assessment of the issues that motivate Pres. Oaks in this matter.

  76. The underground man says:

    @carolyn oaks brought up the civil rights and abolitionist movements to try and make a point that religion is more often than not a force for good in society and we can’t get rid of it without conjuring demons ( alt right cough cough) if I were him I probably would have mentioned Bart d erhmans obsevation that Christianity is responsible for the whole idea of human equality and dignity But mea coupa you did try to engage what he said

  77. I’d even go a little further than Carolyn: the fact that many white religious preachers supported slavery and opposed civil rights doesn’t mean that that was the inevitable result of (white) religion: the Quakers both opposed slavery and supported civil rights. That is, white religion could (and did) get it right, which is that much more damning toward white religion that got it wrong. (N.b.: that’s not an attempt to credit white religion for the hard work of black religion; it’s to say white religion has no excuse for taking the oppressive theological side it took.)

    As a factual matter, moreover, Pres. Oaks is straight-up wrong in asserting that moral progress has only come through changing people’s hearts through religious preaching. That certainly has historically been an important source of moral movement (though in our more religiously diverse world, query whether it has the same unifying effect it did in previous eras), but even historically it hasn’t been the only one. His hat-tip to the civil rights movement is one example: yes, Dr. King and the black church were critical to the civil rights movement. But so was organized labor, a secular movement.

    (Also, a side pedantic comment from a pedantic tax guy: BJU lost its exemption in 1975; in 1987, the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the revocation.)

    Thanks, Carolyn, for an important and thought-provoking post!

  78. Frank
    When God has given you or someone else direct authority to overthrow a corrupted Kingdom, then it might make sense to make such an equivalence.

    That you would compare the Lord’s chosen Apostles today to the corrupted Jewish hierarchy, and then furthermore frame yourself in the position of Jesus says a lot in my mind. I hope it was just a lazy comparison, but maybe you do see our leaders as that corrupt and believe that the Church and leaders ought to be overthrown and given to another people, perhaps you do see yourself in a position of authority to make such a condemnation. If not either of these, then why make such a comparison?

    If it was a respectful disagreement and stated as opinion, I would have no issue with that. I find that healthy actually. That’s not what I see here. And to be clear I have not accused Carolyn of apostasy, I do not believe that she is in such a state, nor am I in a position to make any sort of final judgement like that. I am saying that when I have witnessed this type of contemptuous attitude displayed toward the leaders of the Church over many years now, it has inevitably led in that direction and to several excommunications which in my mind seems to be the fulfillment of the very thing Joseph Smith taught. Again, I could be wrong in what I’m seeing, but if someone were my friend I would hope they would point out if they thought I had crossed such a line, so I could step back and re-evaluate. I share what I think I’m seeing in that spirit, in hope that it might be helpful.

  79. Thanks Loursat. One thing I’ll say, too — I know I’m reading between the lines a bit on President Oaks’ particular op-ed here. That’s fair. But I also have been following President Oaks’ major speeches on religious freedom and LGBT issues, at universities and conferences and in General Conference, for a decade. (There are dozens of them; run a Google search.) I could go back and interweave how his statements in the Deseret News echo a comprehensive list of all lengthy speeches he has given on the same topics — but that would be a completely separate post. In short, I have reason to believe any inferences I interpolated are and can be substantiated.

  80. Steve, I know Carolyn and I think you’re wrong to read this as contempt toward Elder Oaks. That’s not who she is.

  81. Deseret Defender says:

    “Embracing Christ means embracing the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned. It means welcoming the immigrant, the refugee, and the stranger. It means empowering all women, races, and religions, alongside our LGBT neighbors.”

    Carolyn, can you please comment on what we should empower such individuals to do? When I hear requests for empowerment in the name of social justice, what I often hear are requests for empowerment to violate God’s laws. LGBT requests for empowerment are frequently requests to violate the law of chastity, feminist requests for empowerment are frequently requests to shirk familial duties, etc. Does discipleship require empowering our brothers and sisters to sin? Of course not! We should/must empower our brothers and sisters to embrace and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  82. nor am I in a position to make any sort of final judgement like that.

    Speaking of President Oaks…

    Anyway, allow me to reassure you, Steve, that your assessment of the author is coming from a place of ignorance and can be safely disregarded.

  83. “We should use Jesus as our exemplar, just not in the way I disagree with” – should be a bingo space.

  84. The underground man says:

    Jesus would have not been a leftist socialist or social justice warrior as my little brother who is a socialist joked he would have been a Francoist we have an idea of the kind of government that the early church would have liked and it wasn’t a social democracy that’s the central problem with this post assuming Jesus would have shared your political views and the church should follow suit would I like the church to be more outspoken politically yes but they are not going to because that would damage there main mission bringing souls to christ the church will not side with the left or right ( in a generic sense not talking about specific issues) get over it

  85. I thought this was a beautiful write-up. However, saying that opposing Obamacare is opposing the core teachings of Christ is little more than political pandering.

    I also don’t see what makes DHO’s statement so problematic. He is saying that the light of religious freedom made this country great by “changing people’s hearts, not through secular arguments.” I’m sure Oak’s is well-aware of religious leaders fighting against the social change in his lifetime, but they were using secular arguments not changing people hearts. I don’t see how your clarification opposes his statement.

    You also bring up Pope Francis, who is not without controversy, and Mormon Women for Ethical Government who are opposed to Donald Trump (a figure fairly popular within the Church).

    There is nothing wrong with stating your beliefs, but as I read your article I couldn’t help but feel that it does a good job expressing how I feel, but has alienating aspects to those that aren’t already convinced of what you are saying. If you are intending to change hearts and not preach to the choir you may want to be more careful with what you lump into your argument and I mean that constructively.

  86. @JakeJ: It’s perfectly possible to oppose Obamacare in a Christian manner. What I was trying to get at is that the rhetoric surrounding opposition to Obamacare is often deeply unChristian — it’s laden with a subtext — sometimes an explicit text — of “well if you’re poor or sick or don’t have a job or health insurance that’s just your own fault and you deserve to die.”

    I wrote about that in more depth last year:

  87. I appreciate the pushback. I decided to reread the post in full and I don’t think I gave enough credit to Carolyn for the depth of thought that went into this post. Furthermore I have to concede that I do now think that I over-read the level of contempt in the post, far more than was warranted. Probably not to the degree that the Joseph Smith quote made sense, that was probably too reactive and the degree of criticism found here is not as serious as others I have come across over the years. At the same time I don’t think I pulled it from nowhere, I believe the underpinnings of contempt are still here and at times I still think it crossed the line of respect that puts a person in dangerous territory. I wish I could go back and offer a toned down version of what I wrote.

    I do think that there is a lot of dangerous thinking in the worldview lens being used here, viewing society primarily in terms of group identities and narratives of victims and oppressors in an endless game of power grabbing. While there is some truth to such a lens, viewing the world primarily in these terms is a cheap way to feel virtuous by merely siding with whoever you wish to view as a victim with the added benefit of feeling justified in your contempt of the ‘privileged’ group of your choice. I think that is the root of the contempt I see seeping through in this post. I think this type of thinking can lead to the hostility I was describing, although I have to step back and say I was wrong, and don’t think it is to the degree I was first imagining.

  88. LOL I was skimming to catch up on these comments and at first I thought that SteveLHG was using that quote to indict the absurd judgmentalism of DeseretDefender. It’s always amusing to see people who, in defense of the Kingdom, think of themselves as solid when really what they are is brittle. It’s often the brittle ones who break in the face of complexity because they don’t know how to bend. (Sometimes they end up starting the wackiest offshoot sects, or dream mine cults, or MLMs.)

    Also, as an aside: wow, that Delbert Stapley letter to George Romney is an absolute GEM. “I had a friend once who was into civil rights. GOD SMOTE HIM AND NOW HE’S DEAD, SO.”

  89. “Start with apologies.”

    I wish we could start with apologies. But as far as I can tell, we are a church where the majority of active members and quite possibly most of the highest councils believe at some level that an apology is an admission of less than absolute moral authority. And many of those can’t really abide less than that. You can even see the tendency pop up a place or two in this thread.

    Sure, this tendency is contrary to certain gospel teachings. But it’s deeply embedded and if it’s ever going to change — and it may not, we may have already worked too hard to make sure the church can never truly repent of some things — it might take decades just to sufficiently establish the idea that individuals and authorities might need to undertake to uncover and repent of church-wide sins, and/or that moral authority doesn’t need to be perfect in order to be well-regarded.

  90. Exactly. To say we’re above repentance is unforgivable.

  91. I am unaware of any Supreme Court cases in the 60’s dealing with whether or not it was legal to blow up black churches. It was illegal. That wasn’t debatable. What was debated in the Supreme Court during that time period was whether government dollars could flow into private schools. I don’t think that DHO’s statement in that regard was wrong. I agree, however, that every statement against the civil rights movement and our failure to get behind it was reprehensible. Your conclusions are right on–I only quarrel with using his statement about the religious freedom debate of the 60’s centering on federal aid to private schools as your launching point to make otherwise outstanding arguments.

  92. I want to nominate the underground man’s comment of 10:47am for some kind of award. That’s an impressive run-on sentence!

    Also, I love this post, Carolyn!

  93. I suspect that Oaks fears a situation where religion will be made illegal, and so he’s taking a simple view to stage against that scenario. I don’t know if he was given a word limit or not. When I read his snippet I was reminded of the description of the First Amendment in the More Perfect podcast. They describe it as the Genesis of Democratic ideas with the Freedom of Religion being the inner space in your head. The state isn’t allowed in there. If you haven’t listened to More Perfect, you won’t regret doing so.
    I suspect that if asked for examples of religion being used as a tool of oppression in the US that Oaks can think of examples of those too.
    While I really like your post Carolyn, I don’t bristle at reading Elder Oaks statements in the article either.

  94. Geoff - Aus says:

    I think the ones causing the general public to question the need for freedom or even respect for religion, are those religionists who demand it so they can discriminate.
    Last year in Australia the issue of gay marriage had to be dealt with by our conservative government with a hard right group. It could have been approved by parliament, but the hard right religious group insisted on a non binding vote by the public, and an enquiry into religious freedom.
    The result of the vote were 62% for and the enquiry into religious freedom has not been released 6 months after it was handed to the government, but part of it was leaked during a by election. The leaked part recommended that publicly funded religious schools retain the right to exclude gay children and teachers. There was such an uproar that the Prime Minister promised to remove discrimination against gays in schools. Most people were not aware there was such a right, and soon there won’t be. The freedom of religion people bought it to public attention, who insisted it be removed. Poetic?
    What is it Pres Oaks wants to do or say that he is prevented from doing. He already preaches his homophobia, and sexism. Without them we might have to start following Christs teachings about all being alike unto God, and that we should learn to love as God does.

  95. Aussie Mormon says:

    You need to stop bleating in about how the extreme conservatives in Australia are holding back gays Geoff. Our non-conservative party was in power for years and had plenty of opportunities to legislate same-sex marriage but voted against it (even the atheist prime minister voted against it). It’s not just the extreme right religionists acting this way.

  96. Aussie Mormon says:

    Sorry. That first sentence was too harsh, and I withdraw it.

  97. Geoff - Aus says:

    Aussie, Do you contest my description of events, And that the events were counterproductive for those who required them?

  98. Aussie Mormon says:

    No I don’t contest those events. But you seem to keep referring to the religious right being the only ones doing this. It clearly isn’t. When an atheist long-term relationship but never married, and a lesbian in a relationship both vote against same-sex marriage law, it clearly shows it isn’t a right-wing religious only thing.

  99. Two men enter, one man leaves!

  100. “Because in His name all oppression shall cease.”

    Except for those sent to Outer Darkness, the Telestial, Terrestrial and the lower 2/3 of the Celestial Kingdoms, supposedly. But other than that, we’re good.

  101. If the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints only adopted previous Protestant racism, then the Book is Abraham is just invented fiction. If you believe that, I can surmise your also believe the Book of Mormon is fiction, that “pious” fiction self-proclaimed Social Justice Warrior Progressives seem to believe is the case. Whether or not there was any possible good intent inventing a fictional narrative, including visitation from God and Jesus, followed by a resurrected ancient American prophet, if it’s fiction, it’s fraud; if it’s fraud, it should be shunned, not corrected. If you really believe there was never Priesthood exclusion mandated from God, which means you must reject Ezra as well, then you should condemn the Church as a fraud, our General Authorities as fraudulent deceivers, and should encourage everyone to abandon the Church, not shame its leaders into submission to get with the times.

  102. @Stephen Douglas,
    If you are suggesting that the justification for the Priesthood/Temple exclusion on the African race has something to do with the Book of Abraham (or the Pearl of Great Price in whole) – presumably you are speaking of the stories of Ham, the people of Canaan, and/or Cain.

    If so you have a big problem in your logic – because the Church today has disavowed those theories as justifications for the ban (to say nothing of the scientific impossibility that these could somehow be origin stories for the African race).

    You have therefore conjured up a situation where either the scriptures must be entirely made up and false or the modern Church must be teaching falsehoods. I see no reason to force such a narrow framework and predetermine that the truth must be found within it; my inkling is that the truth exists somewhere outside of those self-imposed bounds you describe – and I can see many possible scenarios where the Church adopting Protestant racism may very well be large part of the true reality. There are ways for example to believe the origin was not of God, but as it became an ingrained reality in the Church, it therefore became necessary that it could only be removed through revelation in order to root it out correctly in the proper time and season.

  103. The greatest sermons are those which make us uncomfortable and call us to be better because they are true. Thanks for the discomfort.

  104. From a Christian perspective, this article strongly expresses a hope for a more rigorous and assertive use of the Gospel of Christ to change lives, change society, with the hope to change the world for the better. While provocative, it deftly outlines the historical role of religion, specifically Christianity, in the ongoing American Experiment supporting individual freedoms and equal rights and moral justice, while at the same time calling out the role of religion in resisting individual freedoms and equal rights and moral justice. It also confronts people who use Christianity to justify opposing Constitutional limits on using state power to establish and support some religions over others, which just makes some religious groups mere factions or interest groups in the ongoing competition for political power in our system.

    Next, it critiques the current trend among some leaders, political and religious, making the case of a decline in religious freedom or even an “attack” on religion. The author specifically uses the recent words of Dallin Oaks, leader of the LDS Church to respond to this larger issue. Given religion’s complicated role in American society and politics since the beginning this is certainly an interesting topic that deserves consideration, even debate. I don’t have a problem with her critique and neither should Elder Oaks. He penned the opinion and put it out there after all and he is certainly used to a forum where people are free to pick apart ideas and opinions freely. Some people see any forum of debate, intellectual, political, or moral as a tense place and shy away from that process. It doesn’t mean it is wrong, it doesn’t mean it is contention, and it doesn’t mean that people are contemptuous or angry.

    This country has always held religious freedom as an ideal– the freedom to worship and the freedom from the state involvement/meddling/establishing in my religious faith and practice. Through our nation’s history it is clear that we have cycled for good and bad between fulfilling our ideals and the aspirations of our better, more hopeful natures and succumbing to the fears and ignorance of our darker sides. I believe that our Constitutional protections and Rule of Law have worked over the centuries to bend our society towards Justice.

    I may be naïve or sheltered in an environment where my religion is overrepresented in political bodies and other areas of power, but for my religious practices and ability to worship as I please, I feel pretty good in comparison, relative to the issue of religious freedom and practice in the past. From my own perspective there is nothing in my personal experience that prevents me from going to church and exercising my faith as personal journey of truth-seeking. I don’t know why then, we hear cries of warning and reports of an “attack” on religious rights and freedom in our country these days. I understand that some people see things differently, like that evil began to take over when teachers couldn’t force students to pray to Jesus, even if they weren’t Christian—as a professional educator I would be horrified if I were forced to conduct prayers for my students in class, both as a violation of my individual rights and theirs. And, I don’t have much respect for the hysterical rantings of some like FOX news that there is a war on Christmas, for example. Of course, we can do better as a society, but I don’t see that things are getting worse or that freedom of religion is declining at all. In contrast, I see increased tolerance and support for various faiths, practices, and religions that frankly, wasn’t around in the past in many instances. Maybe Pres. Oaks is referring in a larger sense to recent examples of challenges to our ideals of freedom of religion like the recent administration ban on Muslims, stepped up attacks on Jewish synagogues and mosques. That is concerning, but I think our system can respond to that and other issues in the ongoing tension between political power and faith. That said, some places in the world outside the United States don’t have the same ideals or aspire to freedom of worship and separation of church and state as we do. That just means that as we come closer to our ideals, we can better lead with the example for others as a light on a hill.

  105. Sarah Hatfield says:

    Thank you for your wonderful bold words.

    This embodies a lot of the issues I have with Oaks’ rhetoric in general. Yes, religious freedom is very important. My issue is when we Christians are the majority in a society, and continue to push “religious freedom” even though we have plenty of religious freedom and privileges already. In my mind, white American Christians have no place to be fighting for our own religious freedom. Especially not when “religious freedom” starts to include bigotry and preferential treatment as it already does. In so many people’s eyes, buzzwords such as “religious freedom”, “free speech”, even “the family” have turned into cudgels against the oppressed. This really grieves me and I wish this weren’t the case. Meanwhile, many other people around the world are being intimidated, discriminated against, beaten, raped, and killed for their religious beliefs. This isn’t even getting into other forms of belief.

    As you have eloquently stated, we have much bigger fish to fry. For those of us (including President Oaks) who come from a place of privilege and relative wealth, we have a sacred obligation to use our privilege and resources for good. We should be fighting for the freedom of others, not ourselves. The best thing we privileged people can do is to apologize for our blindness and hurtful words and actions, then follow Christ’s example of radical love.

    Luke 4:18 (see Isaiah 61:1-3) is just as radical and true as it was when Jesus read those words from the pulpit at his local synagogue 2000 years ago. This is the cross we must take up.

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