Heresy and Prophesy

denys-nevozhai-191635-unsplash

Humans are really bad at accurately identifying heretics and prophets.  Christ preached as much (“no prophet is accepted in his own country”) — and was executed for it (“by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God”).  Christ himself is both the world’s most renowned heretic and its greatest prophet.

It’s easy to confuse the two concepts because the definitions of heresy and prophesy mirror each other.  They both hinge on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Bible teaches that those who testify of Christ have the gift of prophesy.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces this testifying definition of prophets.

St. Thomas Aquinas defines heresy as professing faith in Christ, while corrupting His Gospel.  William Tyndale similarly explains that heresy springs “out of the blind hearts of hypocrites” who “cannot comprehend the light of scripture.”

Prophets and heretics read the same scriptures, and espouse the same faith in Christ, yet preach different messages.  In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, who is right?  Who is the prophet, and who is the heretic?  Tyndale offered one answer:  heretics have not “the profession of their baptisms written in their hearts.”

We know what the profession of baptism is.  The Book of Mormon teaches that it is to be “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they be light; and [to be] willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.”

This baptismal covenant is the core of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If we are not succoring each other amidst their pain, we cannot call ourselves Christians.

The Gospel is that simple, and that impossibly hard.  We, as humans, as Christians, and as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have shown time and time again that we do not truly fathom Christ’s call to love one another.  We construct walls of worthiness standards and invent exclusionary rules all the time.  How many parables about Samaritans and prodigals and debtors and lepers and adulterers and prisoners did Christ teach us — and still we refuse to comprehend the radical depths of his infinite love?

I’m grateful the Church announced yesterday it would stop labeling LGBTQ+ members, alongside their children, as “apostates.”  (Apostates are defined as those who outright reject the teachings of Christ.)  But removing the apostate label is not enough.  We need to also remove their designation as “heretics.”  The surest way to do that is to acknowledge that “heretic” is an inaccurate reflection of who our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers truly are:  prophets.

Heresy places institutions above the Gospel of Christ.  Many of those who left the Church in the last four years did so precisely because their faith in Christ compelled it.  Our siblings and our friends have sought hope and healing in a Christ who is bigger than the exclusionary policies of institutions.  Our sons and our daughters have been prophesying, and we have not had the ears to hear them.

Today I offer an invitation to listen and to repent, by turning our hearts to Christ.  Our baptism into the body of Christ means that if “one member suffer[s], all the members suffer.”  Listen to the LGBTQ+ community’s powerful witness of Christ.  No one’s worth in the eyes of God is dependent upon changes to LDS policies.  Over the last three and a half years (and long before that), our brothers and sisters have modeled how to sit with one another’s brokenness amidst immense heartbreak, suffering, and death.   Even when we cast them out of our churches, they testified of Christ

As Rachel Held Evans wrote in Searching for Sunday after attending an LGBT Christian conference: “here they were, when they had every right in the world to run as far away from the church as their legs would carry them, worshiping together, praying together, healing together.  Here they were, being the church that had rejected them. …  I’m convinced that LGBT Christians have a special role to play in teaching the church how to be Christian.


*Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Comments

  1. Thanks for your post. I regularly enjoy hearing your thoughts. The new announcement was simply a policy reversal on something that never should have been policy, let alone declared to be the result of a revelation. Yet in the grand scheme of things, the LDS Church has a long, long way to go in fully accepting LGBTQ+s.

  2. Thank you, Carolyn.
    In my neck of the woods, I have sometimes (generally?) failed to persuade of some of the same points. I finally realized that at least part of my problem was my not dealing with certain aspects of at least local Mormon-speak. I have found the claim that “The Gospel is that simple…” rejected because of a Mormon-speak usage here that lines up with lds.org/topics/gospel: “In its fulness, the gospel includes all the doctrines, principles, laws, ordinances, and covenants necessary for us to be exalted in the celestial kingdom.” (There are also some here who regularly confuse “gospel” and “Church” [1] in their speech even though they recognize a difference when pressed.) Secondly, I have found some who reject the idea that “Apostates are defined as those who outright reject the teachings of Christ.” For that idea you linked to lds.org/topics/apostasy where one reads: “When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel, they are in a state of apostasy.” Given the breadth of the at-least-local Mormon-speak meaning of “gospel” that seems to some to align with Handbook 1’s special purpose [2] definition of “apostasy” which, even with the deletion of the November 2015 addition to that definition, seems to include too much for it to mean “outright reject[ion] of the teachings of Christ”. Have you any suggestions for how to deal with these Mormon-speak problems if/when I find myself in such a discussion again? I didn’t do very well here the last couple times around these subjects.

    [1] One of the phrases that brought me up short the first time I heard it was a reference to a person being not “active in the gospel” meaning not coming to church meetings regularly and not holding a calling.
    [2] Handbook 1 6.7.3 lists a number of things included in “apostasy”, specifically only “as used here,” i.e. for purposes of a policy on when a disciplinary council is “mandatory” rather than “may be necessary.”

  3. I suggest we give as much support, concern, and sympathy to our church leaders as the LGBTQ+. Church leaders have a foundation of scripture and precedent to adhere to as they move the church forward. Revelation come line up on line…

    Can anyone direct me to a piece explaining how homosexual church members managed and coped in the 19th and 20th century?

  4. Well, JFK, there is D. Michael Quinn’s “Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A MORMON EXAMPLE”. Quinn’s research on other matters seems to have been rather thorough, but I’m far from being a historian should be evaluating it. In “Same-Sex Dynamics” he sometimes seems to impose late 20th century meanings on words that had a different meaning in the 19th century. But, Quinn is at least one historian who attempted to deal with the subject.

  5. Mark Brown says:

    “How many parables about Samaritans and prodigals and debtors and lepers and adulterers and prisoners did Christ teach us — and still we refuse to comprehend the radical depths of his infinite love.”

    I’ve been thinking about this, too. If we’ve had all these scriptural teachings since childhood and STILL wind up marginalizing an entire category of people, it’s a good sign we’re doing something wrong. Pleasant-sounding words about getting along and being nice are fine, but compare that to the money (22 million dollars) and organizational muscle we put into Proposition 8. We still have a lot of work to do.

  6. I’ve always admired the open-minded attitude of Gamaliel in the new testament, recognizing that today’s heretic may be tomorrow’s prophet.

  7. “The surest way to do that is to acknowledge that “heretic” is an inaccurate reflection of who our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers truly are: prophets.”

    I’m not quite sure I understand what this means. Surely, some LGBT people are prophets, and some aren’t

    Also, I think we need to keep in mind that Christ preached love, but He also preached obedience (“If ye love me, keep my commandments”), personal discipline (“whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery…And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out”), condemnation of sexual immorality (placing adultery and fornication along with thefts and murders). Jesus even directed his apostles to originally exclude groups of people (Gentiles and Samaritans, only to change the command a year later to preach to all nations) and to “let them be unto [his disciples] as an heathen man and a publican” those who “neglect to hear the church” (a statement that seems to implicitly place at least some confidence in an institution).

    In our efforts to heed the gospel, we should be careful about risking opening our ears to only a part of the gospel message.

  8. GEOFF -AUS says:

    Dsc, there are some messages for others about only seeing the part of the gospel message. I believe we all do this. For example you quote John 14:15 If ye love me keep my commandments, but fail to continue reading the sermon to 15 15:12 where he says And this is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.
    Your talk of morality infers that there is a scripture that says gay marriage is immoral. That is what the bretheren seem to have a problem with. What Pres Oaks has spent the last 25 years opposing, and totally failed. There is no such scripture, or revelation.
    I am waiting for the senior bretheren to overcome their cultural problem and bring the church in line with the gospel. All are alike unto God, black and white, bond and free, male and female, gay and straight. It doesnt say gay and straight, but is is listing the powerful, and oppressed of the time, and would now include gay and straight, as people who God sees as alike.
    Next we can deal with male and female being alike unto God, and we will be getting pretty close to not discriminating as a church.

  9. Geoff,

    I’m puzzled as to why you would assume that what I am saying is contrary to the commandment to “love one another”. In fact, by arguing that, you appear to be deliberately ignoring the crux of my argument. “Love one another” does not mean “ignore everything else I’ve said.” That command is most accurately characterized as a summary. If anything, it is additive. It is certainly not substitutive.

    I suppose that taken literally, “there is no scripture that says gay marriage is immoral” is an accurate statement. But that’s a bit like saying there’s no scripture condemning insurance fraud. There are a few very clear scriptures condemning gay acts. 1Cor. 6:9 and 1Timothy 1:10 use a word derived from Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. Leviticus is about as direct as you can get.

    There’s a lot of room to discuss what all of that means for us today, but to say there is not a single scripture condemning gay marriage is not a very serious argument.

  10. GEOFF -AUS says:

    Part of the culture I was referring to is one that whenever love is brought up, insists but what about obedience. The Saviour said that love was first, and anything else should be seen in the context of love. The culture wants to have obedience overrule love.
    You can find some scriptures, and most can be understood differently. Nothing in the BOM that contains the fullness for our day.
    The brethern and this statement are talking about gay marriage, but because they have invested so much in their failed opposition to gay marriage they are struggling to follow the gospel of Christ on this issue. They seem to have realised they have gone too far, and in the interviening years it is clear that the old story of straight marriage being under threat from gay marriage, is no longer credible, so going back to the old position is no longer credible either. I expect the bretheren will have to accept gay marriage as part of treating gay and straight equally, morally, pretty soon. The excitement at the new position ends pretty quickly without that.

  11. “The Saviour said that love was first, and anything else should be seen in the context of love.” Where did He say that? Jesus ranked commandments by noting that the first and great commandment is to love the Lord our God. How do we love Him? Keep His commandments.

  12. GEOFF -AUS says:

    First you ask where Christ says all other laws should be seen in the context of love. And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

    So in the context of this post, we have commandments to love our fellow man, we have statements that all are alike unto God. Where is the commandment saying gay marriage is to be treated as less than straight marriage, that is more powerful than the commandments Christ himself gave?
    Or is it like racism just the culture of the leaders. Those who followed love came out on Gods side then. Those who follow love will come out on Gods side this time again.

    The position the leaders are trying to go back to isn’t there anymore. Who believes straight marriage is under threat from gay marriage anymore? So why are we still opposing gay marriage?

  13. Bob Powelson says:

    The woman taken in adultery is a good example of infinite love. He accepted and forgave her. Then he said “go and sin no more”. If she “sins no more” she may qualify for the infinite gift of life eternal.

  14. Here is a powerful LGBTQ testimony of Christ from the 2019 North Star Conference last month in SLC.

  15. Bob Powelson says:

    After many years as a trial lawyer I went on to something different. My wife had died early and change was needed. I spent 9 years on Korea teaching English speech and composition at the University level. While there I became friends with a fellow Mormon at church. The first time I had dinner after a church meeting he informed me that he was gay.

    My response was gentle and I asked a few questions. He had been a teen convert to the church many years before. He had several long term gay relationships and had nearly totally fallen away from the church. The last of these relationships had ended badly and he sought out the church again. He sang in the ward choir (his Korean was much better than mine) and took the sacrament etc. He had a temple recommend, as did I. In short he had become celibate.

    Hard times hit him and he lost a long time teaching position at a Korean University. I encouraged him to dress and groom better, drove him all over Korea and aided him in getting a new teaching position. A became ill (type II diabetes) after a couple of years and after missing work a bit his teaching contract was not renewed, We did the job search again and found him another position.

    A bit over a year later he became very ill and returned to the US to be with some family. One day I got an eMail message from his brother who said, that “Gil” had died and that he had found messages Gil and I had exchanged. He thanked me for being “the only true friend that Gil had”.

    My first reaction was horror at the thought of the loneliness Gil must have suffered. Then on reflection I considered the sacrifice and difficulty of dealing with his gay character. I am of the firm belief that he was met be the Savior with a “Well done, though good and faithful servant, enter into thy rest.”

    Gay sexual exchange is wrong. So is heterosexual exchange outside of marriage. But I add this: For it is by Grace ye are saved, after all you can do. Gil did all he could. Helping what little I did was a privilege.