Sunday, December 9, 2007

"..neither are your ways my ways"

Over the past couple years, I have heard many complaints and criticisms of the LDS church and it’s leaders from people I interact with. My thoughts and experiences from these past couple of years have led me to write this post on Carson’s blog as a guest editor.

I have recently been accused of being intolerant and insensitive for my comments regarding the response to Sister Beck’s talk. I apologize for using the word retarded, but felt that it was in fact an accurate portrayal of the spiritual state of those who signed the rebuttal. I should have used the word “hindered” instead. I hope my poor selection of words hasn’t turned anyway away from my point. But the actions taken by those who signed the letter have in fact hindered their spiritual growth, and I would like to explain, if I can, how they have done so.

In Isaiah 55:8 it says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”

The world often tries to discount the LDS church because of their “logic” and “wisdom”. They say things like, “It is not logical that God would call a 14 year old boy to restore His work” or, “It’s not reasonable for God to expect 10% of my income when I am so poor.” But as the ancient prophet Isaiah taught, our ways are not the Lord’s ways. Using the world’s logic and reasoning, it is impossible for us to come to an understanding of God’s methods and works.

I am not saying that we should blindly follow God or his prophets. God wants us to think things through, but there is a big difference between thinking things through with a temporal mindset and thinking things through with a spiritual mindset. As a doctor (officially in 5 months) I have been trained to look at the evidence and base my decisions off of that. For any critics to say that I don’t think things through or that I am blindly following my leaders is ignorant and silly. After many years of school, questioning the evidence has been trained to be a part of my nature. I contest that I have done more research regarding church topics than the church’s critics give me credit. I am not an ignorant defender of the church. The critics are often of the opinion that if I haven’t arrived at the same conclusion as them, then I am clearly wrong. I claim that many people can follow the prophet in all that he says, and they do so having thought things through carefully, praying about it and contemplating about it.

2 Nephi 9:28-29 “O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”

The Lord wants us to be learned. He wants us to understand his commandments and the mysteries of heaven. These mysteries of heaven that are referenced often in the scriptures refer to the spiritual truths of God that are hidden from the world. When we refuse to follow the pattern the Lord has given us to obtain spiritual truths, we will not understand His mysteries. This is why many of the Lord’s counsels (and those of His prophets) go unheeded by people. They don’t understand why they need to do such things.

I suggest that we follow Adam’s example of obedience if after much thought and prayer we still don’t understand. In Moses 5:6 it says, “And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord: And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.”

Any Christian would have to agree that Adam is an example to be followed and because of his obedience he was given exaltation. Will we be so critical of him and claim that he is wrong in his attitude? It is important to note that after he exercised the faith to follow God’s commandment, he was instructed as to why it was commanded of him. The angel then explained that it was in similitude of the only begotten of the Father. Adam had faith that what God had instructed him had to be good for him, and was allowed to understand why, but not until after the trial of his faith. If we exercise faith, the Lord will afterwards reveal the mysteries of heaven.

Often people feel the need to counsel the Lord or his prophets. We have been warned against doing so. It is unproductive.

Jacob 4:10 “Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.”

Those that argue with the Lord and his chosen leaders remind me of the scripture in Acts 9:5 when the Lord was speaking to Saul “…it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” President Kimball mentioned this attitude in a February 1976 New Era article by saying, “In our own day there are many people who form their own conclusions, and do their own rationalizing, and calculate and evaluate and develop their own opinions, and “kick against the pricks,” and close the door to their own opportunities.” The illustration of pricks that the Lord and president Kimball spoke of are in reference to the farming traditions of the Savior’s era. A large percentage of people in the first century were tillers of the soil. Oxen were used to work the soil. The prick or goad was a necessary devise. The prick was usually a wooden shaft with a pointed spike (prick) at one end. The man working the ox would position the goad in such a way as to exert influence and control over the ox. You see, if the ox refused the command indicated by the farmer, the goad would be used to jab or prick the ox. Sometimes the ox would refuse this incentive by kicking out at the prick. As result, the prick would be driven deeper into the flesh of the rebellious animal. The more the animal rebelled, the more the animal suffered. Hence, the statement to Saul: "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."

I have heard some critics claim that the prophet, President Hinckley, is mistaken in his approach to certain moral issues simply because they are not in the Book of Mormon. This attitude is erroneous. Yes, the Book of Mormon was written for our times. But that does not mean that if a topic was not mentioned in it that the Lord didn’t intend for us to take caution. Just because the Book of Mormon doesn’t mention homosexuality as a sin does not lessen the severity of the sin. The Book of Mormon doesn’t mention anything about temple ordinances. The temple is only occasionally mentioned, and even then only as a gathering place for the people when they needed to hear the word. Does that mean that the Lord didn’t intend for us to attend the temple and renew our covenants? Of course not! There are myriad other moral and social issues that we are forced to deal with today that are not mentioned in the Book of Mormon. As the prophet Mormon said in Words of Mormon 1:5 “…and I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people.” The Lord didn’t include in the Book of Mormon every single problem that we will face in our lives, but we can still use it as a guide for the issues that we face today. We can follow the pattern the Lord taught his people and we can learn from their mistakes. Anyone that attended high school seminary should be very aware of the Pride Cycle that has been demonstrated in the book of Mormon as a source for the downfall of the Nephites. We should learn from that, humble ourselves, and turn to the Lord. We know that regardless of the challenges that the people of the Book of Mormon faced, whether it were wars, pestilences or unbelief of the children, the people always had spiritual peace and happiness when they followed the prophets.

Acts 5:38-39 “And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught:
But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; be careful, therefore, lest ye be found even to fight against God.”

The Church continues to roll forth as prophesied by Daniel and Joseph Smith. As the scripture in Acts just said, if this work be of men, it will come of naught. In the 177 years since the restoration of the gospel, the church has grown tremendously. Just like Daniel said in Daniel 2:35, the church (stone) has “...become a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” This is God’s work, and he has called righteous men and women to lead us today. If we follow their counsel, we will be guided back to our Heavenly Father’s presence. If we are confused, all we need to do is read the scriptures, pray to the Father for understanding, and look to the prophets that God has called to lead us. They will not lead us astray. This pattern is what will allow us to understand the mysteries of God. Humbly following the Lord’s prophets will help us to understand His ways, and see that the ways of the world are not the same as His ways.

16 comments:

Carson Calderwood said...

I changed the margins to justified...sorry, I'm a justified Nazi.

Now that you are a poster, I'll throw some questions at you as a reader.

So, if your stake president suggests that we start teaching the Adam-God theory in Sunday school, and supposing that you don't believe that it is doctrine (I assume you don't) what would you do? A-teach it anyway or B-find a way to see if you can help him see the error of his ways. If B, how would you start to do that?

You mention that, "[The prophets] will not lead us astray." Is it possible for a prophet to teach a doctrine that is not true? Is it possible for an apostle?

Just to clarify that I am playing devil's advocate here to prod some answers out of you, I'll give you my answers after you post yours.

Cody said...

I concur with the official church statement that the Adam-God theory as presented by many critics is false doctrine.
But, we still really don't know what Brigham was trying to say in his puzzling "Adam-God" quotes. Some of his quotes seem to contradict his own clear and plain teachings about the Godhead and about Adam. Many of these can be taken care of by an appeal to confusing grammar and to the concept of Adam being a title (First Father).
Whatever Brigham had in mind, he did not require others to teach it as official LDS doctrine (as canonized doctrine) nor put it into official Church materials nor ever present it for consideration as canonized doctrine.
When Brigham Young expressed his opinions on this matter, he may have been misunderstood or he may simply have been wrong. Since he never attempted to canonize his theories, however strongly he may have felt about them, we don't need to defend them.
But, back to your question Carson, I for one think we should learn from the experiences of Orson Pratt (my and your ancestor). He strongly disagreed with Brigham on the Adam-God topic, and was even threatened disfellowship if he didn't cease from publicly criticizing President Young. So, he refrained from publicly criticizing, but continued to speak with him in private about his problems. As a result he retained membership in the church and continued a very fruitful, productive life. I learn from this that we can have a difference of opinion from our leaders, but to openly and publicly criticize them is wrong. It drives the spirit from our lives when we do so.
In respect to your stake president question, I would personally refrain from teaching it, speak to him in private about it and share my thoughts and research with him, and then leave the decision to him. He can't force me to teach it, I just can't speak out against it publicly. The church will never force me to testify of that which I don't have a testimony of. If I still don't have a testimony of, lets say temple marriage for example, I don't have to teach it.
I still stand by my statement that they (apostles and prophets) cannot lead us astray. It seems to me that the church and its members are still going strong, and that what Brigham taught didn't affect the obedience to the commandments of God and didn't make them love their neighbors any less.
Another example of this is President Smith's statements on Evolution. I disagree with him, but will not make a big deal out of it because 1-whether or not evolution occured will not affect my salvation 2-he never taught it as doctrine, and 3-if I began to publicly criticize him for his statements (however wrong they may be) I will open myself up to the influence of the adversary and lose the spirit.
I have learned this lesson before in my life about supporting my leaders, and the spirit that comes with it.
My main point of my post is, again, that our thoughts and ways are not the same as the Lord's. At times things may seem to contradict and fly in the face of logic, but that still doesn't make it wrong. That is when we need to appeal to a higher source for understanding. And this is all, of course, based on the assumption that you have received a spiritual witness of the truthfulness of the restored gospel.
Granted, much of what I just said didn't receive a ton of thought, and I'm positive that I will receive alot of criticism for it. In regards to that, I ask that we try not to deviate too much from the main points (i.e., get caught up on minor details and refuse to move on after they have been addressed). So, after all that, what is your opinion Carson?

Carson Calderwood said...

I chose the AG theory question w/ Brigham specifically because of Orson Pratt. I think this was the perfect example of disagreeing with the prophet and Orson eventually got around to doing it the right way. I'm proud to be a descendant of him.

I asked the question concerning the possibility of being lead astray more for others that disagree with some standard teachings of the church. The only issue I have along those lines is polygamy, which I "put up on the shelf" for resolution in the next life. For others though, there are more issues making it not so simple. So, when it comes to this question you can show that Brigham taught AG theory, but never required it to be official doctrine. Also, Joseph Fielding taught anti-evolution strongly until becoming the prophet at which time he never made another anti-evolution statement again. Those are the two best examples I can think of to help someone dial in the line between a leader putting forth incorrect personal opinion and potentially leading the church astray. In other words, I don't feel that there is an example of the prophet leading the church astray (despite the big statement by the Lord himself saying it would never happen) and don't think you will find one. President Hinckley said some things about going war in Iraq that he later seems to have rescinded, but again, I don't think that is leading the church astray. If he started to teach that we should be a war faring people, then that would obviously be wrong and the Lord would remove him.

So, in summary, my personal opinion is that the prophet will never lead the church astray, but the leaders will at times do things imperfectly. If we disagree, we need to see if we can help 1-correct the errant situation 2-correct our errant view through personal, non-public methods.

Carson Calderwood said...

Here is a good talk by Elder Oaks (A man who always seems to get it right). He basically talks about how we have to be critical, but not criticize.

http://library.lds.org/nxt/
gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/
1987.htm/ensign%20february%201987.
htm/criticism.htm?fn=document-frame.
htm&f=templates&2.0

Or just look up feb 1987 Ensign.

The Baldwin Brigade said...

I wish I had the time and energy to write out my thoughts on all this, but I just wanted to say I've enjoyed reading the last couple posts. It's taken me several days to get through reading it all. I know I'm not family, as most of the other posters appeared to be, so I hope you don't mind me peeking in from time to time.

Natalie

Cody said...

Feel free to post anytime Natalie. In fact, most of the posters on here are not family. I would love to hear your thoughts, no matter how long the comment may be.

Carson Calderwood said...

ditto

Angela Hill said...

Here's my two cents for what it's worth. I by no means listened to the talk by sister beck or even read it, I only heard about it after the big controversy when my mother-in-law emailed me an article. Honestly I don't feel that she said anything that isn't said every week in relief society or young womens so I'm a little confused by the out rage, but here is why I think maybe women are so mad. It is the first time (as far as I'm aware) that it was said so blantantly at a conference and by someone with so much authority and I wonder if it has allowed a platform for mormon women to say "I'm sick of being told what I'm going to do and be." Women in the church don't get the choice of if they want to have children they are commanded to do it and it is a requirement for them (as long as they are able) to get into heaven. Maybe some mormon women just want the right to say I don't want kids and I don't want a family, or even I want to post-pone a family until after I have a career and some personal accomplishments. Maybe they want something better for their daughters than marrying a man they barely know just 'cause he's a priesthood holder and seems great and popping out kids asap.

Here's a personal story that I think kind of shows my case in point. In seminary in high school I made the comment that I wanted to be a lawyer, the seminary teacher told me that I wouldn't be able to be a good mom and a lawyer and God wanted me to be a mother. So in other words don't bother going to law school you're just going to raise kids anyways. Well I did what "God wanted me to do", I got married I had a kid and ya know what, it isn't all that. I love my children, and I'm a dang good mom, but I would have loved to have accomplished a few more things before I settled into this life, and I think it would have made me a happier and therefore better mom. I know there are mormon women out there who accomplish their other goals too and it's not like it's not done or completely against the rules, but I think they are pushing against the grain in order to do it and maybe they shouldn't have to.

Carson Calderwood said...

Thanks for the comments Angela. I agree that what she said is pretty common. I would like to clarify 2 things.."It is the first time (as far as I'm aware) that it was said so blatantly at a conference and by someone with so much authority"

It has been said many times, by people with more authority, and even more blatantly. (I don't want to take the time to detail them all out, but can find a couple quickly if you think I'm loco.) It just hasn't been the focus of President Hinckley and now that it is being said again, in the same manner that prophets like Kimball and Benson said it, people are chaffing.

Also, a commandment from God is different than a commandment from a slave driver. The only thing bad that happens to you when you don't do what the Lord asks is that you lose out on blessings and lasting personal satisfaction. Sister Beck, me, my wife, the prophets, etc don't say that a woman should be a mom and nothing else. I see my wife as perfect example...she is a great mother, focuses on raising our children as the prophets have counseled and she does many things that give her personal satisfaction outside of the home (see my comment on other thread).

Angela said...

Carson, I will believe you and even agree that others have said those things, just not lately, (and I think there's a reason for it). I think you miss understood me when I said they want us to be mothers and nothing else. I know they view women as other things besides a mom and they even say that women should go to school and develop more skills,etc... but it is still not a question of IF you WANT to have kids its you SHOULD have kids (it's Gods plan that you do). and I think "losing out on blessings and lasting personal satisfaction" is a pretty heavy consequence for choosing not to have kids. That's basically telling people they're going to be miserable for the rest of their life and they're car will break down more and they wont make as much money, or they'll be sick (I'm just trying to come up with some random blessings that would be taken away by the way) and that can cause some anxiety. It's especially damagaing when so many women don't achieve lasting personal satisfaction from having children (maybe they're the ones that are so angry at sis. beck). I think the choice should be the womans as to what will provide her with lasting satisfaction.

But again, I don't really know that much about the sis. beck subject, I just had a theory as to why the women may be so angry about it.

Cody said...

Angela, I also appreciate your comments and agree with the confusion over the outrage. It's nice to hear someone with a different perspective agree so I know that I'm not just being a biased observer.
As far as your comment to have kids ASAP, I personally feel like people should wait until they are ready. It is essential to build a strong foundation for a marriage and establish common ground before a couple brings a child into the mix. Some people are mistaken and think that a child will bring the couple closer or that it will make their marriage stronger. I believe that if they have a child before they are ready, it will actually do damage to the relationship and put added strain on them.
The official church policy on this is that we all should have the desire to have kids, but as for a time table, it's between the couple and the Lord. Some people are mature enough and ready to have kids right away, but as for Lisa and I, we needed to wait a little bit before we were ready. It was between us and the Lord, nobody else could or should influence that decision.
In reference to the blessings that they talk about from having children, it's not so much a temporal blessing, i.e. the Lord will help you overcome financial difficulty or physical ailments. The blessings that they refer to are eternal perspective, spiritual peace, and happiness that lasts longer than some of the worldy pursuits that compete for our time. Even though we have been promised to be blessed, we still may be subjected to poverty, physical challenges, and social strains.
I also personally believe that women should get as much education as possible. There are innumerable studies that show the quickest way to advance a society and raise them up out of poverty and oppression is to educate the women. It is a much more dramatic impact on a society than even educating the men.
For this reason, I feel it is a tragedy when some LDS young women only go to college to find a spouse and have no intention on getting an education. Getting married in college isn't bad, but not paying attention to ones studies along the way and not trying to obtain a degree is sad.
I feel bad that some in the culture take the approach that your seminary teacher did. That is wrong and definitely not in harmony with the church mission. I know many women in the church who had pursued education and careers that were wonderful mothers. A great example of that is Jayne Clayson, a co-anchor of the CBS early morning show. She is a very active LDS mother who is also very succesful in her career.

the narrator said...

my response...

I apologize for using the word retarded, but felt that it was in fact an accurate portrayal of the spiritual state of those who signed the rebuttal. I should have used the word “hindered” instead.

Cody, we all know what you meant when you used "retarded." Just admit to it and don't try to spin it.

Here is what you said...

"That rebuttal letter is one of the stupidest things I have ever read. The people that signed it are retarded for a few reasons:..." You then list three reasons as to why you believed they were "retarded," none of which had anything to do with a hindered spiritual state, but were rather claims that their letter lacked logic and intelligence.

I hope my poor selection of words hasn’t turned anyway away from my point.

Don't feign an empty apology. You know exactly what you meant. "Hindered" my foot.

Using the world’s logic and reasoning, it is impossible for us to come to an understanding of God’s methods and works.

So then what value is scripture and revelation? If we cannot understand God's ways, what are we reading? Is God a glorified bizarro whose ways cannot make sense? How is God's logic different? Can he successfully violate the law of non-contradiction? What does it even mean to have a different logic? In my experience, people who pull the 'God has a different logic' card don't have any clue about what they are saying, but merely use it as a holier-than-thou conversation stopper.

“It is not logical that God would call a 14 year old boy to restore His work” or, “It’s not reasonable for God to expect 10% of my income when I am so poor.”

I have never heard anybody ever make these claims. And whoever made them seems to have a rather odd sense of logic or reason, as neither of these defy logic or reason - common sense maybe... but common sense is hardly equivalent to logic and reason.

Of course this all begs the question... because nobody is claiming that God is wrong, but rather that certain propositions attributed do God have been wrongly done so.

I have heard some critics claim that the prophet, President Hinckley, is mistaken in his approach to certain moral issues simply because they are not in the Book of Mormon. This attitude is erroneous. Yes, the Book of Mormon was written for our times. But that does not mean that if a topic was not mentioned in it that the Lord didn’t intend for us to take caution.

I never said that the absence of an issue in the Book of Mormon meant that it was a non-issue, but rather was pointing out the gross disproportionality between the Book of Mormon and current Mormon discourse. If the Church is going to constantly tout that BofM was written for our day, it'd be nice if actual discourse reflected that.

The Book of Mormon doesn’t mention anything about temple ordinances. The temple is only occasionally mentioned, and even then only as a gathering place for the people when they needed to hear the word. Does that mean that the Lord didn’t intend for us to attend the temple and renew our covenants?

No, but maybe it's a divine clue that we ought to be spending more time focusing on the most (quantity) condemned sin in the Book of Mormon - the disparity between the rich and the poor.

The Lord didn’t include in the Book of Mormon every single problem that we will face in our lives...

So shouldn't we pay extra extra extra attention to those things in the BofM. I know this is my own "logic" and "reason," but doesn't it seem like that if God only had a limited space to record things in the Book of Mormon (which was written for our time), that He would put the things he saw would be most important for us in our time?

I mean think about it. Cody. Let's say that you had you were about to die and only had twenty typed pages with which you could leave the lessons of life that you wanted your children to have. These words of yours were going to be the teaching guide for your kids in the future. Let's pretend that you could see the future and knew what struggles your kids would face. Wouldn't you put the most important things in there?

Or maybe God's logic is just plain whack.

If we are confused, all we need to do is read the scriptures, pray to the Father for understanding, and look to the prophets that God has called to lead us. They will not lead us astray.

What if what my personal inspiration is contrary to that of the church leaders? Why can't they lead us astray? What if Wilford Woodruff was leading us astray when he said he wouldn't be able to lead us astray? What does it even mean to be led astray? How would God prevent a leader from leading us astray? Does God kill them? Silence them?

How do you reconcile this with the teaching of President George Q. Cannon...

"Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone;"

Or Brigham Young...

""What a pity it would be, if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken the influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually."

I put the emphasis on "weaken the influence they could give to their leaders." Brigham saw that the lack of dissent and contrary opinion was detrimental to his divine leadership.

I think Carson started the questions on the right path. There is a well documented historical record of church leaders being wrong or contradictory about things. Brigham Young did teach the Adam-God doctrine. He said it was revealed to him from God. He said it was very important for our salvation. (and no, I'm not going to dig up sources). Joseph F. Smith and Bruce R. McConkie (who admitted that Brigham taught it) said the opposite. If Brigham was wrong, then his claims about it being important for our salvation were wrong, and then he was wrong about our salvation, so then he was leading us astray on matter important for our salvation. Joseph Fielding Smith argued that anyone who believed in evolution (or an old earth, or in death before the Fall) did not believe in the atonement. He and his son-in-law taught this boldly as a doctrine. His "logic" was that accepting evolution (or an old earth older than 13,000 years, or in death before the Fall) was a denial of the Fall. And that anyone who denied the Fall also denied the atonement. It seems like whether or not someone denies the atonement would be important for their salvation. Did a prophet of God lead us astray here?

The list could go on and on and on, from the trivial to the 'unchanging and absolute moral standards' (such as birth control, modesty, nature of rape victims, word of wisdom, sexual intimacy in marriage, being a homosexual, polygamy, women's roles, etc) that have all changed over the years. At what point is any being led astray going on?

What would count as leading the church astray? If nothing can count against it, what meaning does it have?

Cody, what if President Hinckley came to your home and asked to eat your brain? You can't say that's a stupid or retarded... I mean 'hindered'... question, because God's ways are not your ways and God doesn't use your simple human logic. Would you let GBH eat your brain? Why not?

You can't appeal to the unreasonableness of it because you already claim that your reason cannot be used to measure God's actions. You can't question the inspiration of it, cuz God wouldn't let GBH lead you astray. You can't appeal to a contradiction to previous scripture (thou shall not kill) because modern revelation trumps, amends, and modernizes old scripture.

Shelley & Jake said...

Sorry to post so late, but I didn't find the blog till recently. My two disclaimers are that I realize a lot has already been said in the comments and I honestly didn't make it through all of them, and I also never read Cody's original post where he used the word "retarded."

There are quite a few things I could discuss. However, I'd really like to hear a response from the Calderwood brothers regarding other Mormon's various views on what it means to be a prophet. Do you think it is acceptable to view the prophet differently than you do? Personally, when I was a Molly Mormon, I didn't realize there was such a discrepancy in Mormons (sunstone Mormons, new order mormons, apostate Mormons) with their own perspectives.

There are people who view a prophet as someone God has called to lead his people, but who still make a lot of mistakes, even leadership mistakes. After all, we humans are a flawed bunch yet God chooses to work with us anyway. Perhaps Joseph Smith did have some serious tragic flaws - that doesn't necessarily mean that God couldn't use him for His purposes. What is your perspective?

Take Brigham Young's serious racism, for example. He made some really definitive statements, even calling these views "the law of the Lord." If we felt that he could not speak for the Lord yet still be mistaken, it seems to me we would have to agree with his views. Some Mormons view Brigham Young as a man God was able to use to accomplish his purposes, but they also believe that attributing BY's racial attitudes to God is an insult to diety.


Church members may feel an inner moral conflict when something a leader has said or is saying contradicts what they firmly believe is good and right. In such cases, going along with the leadership may clash with their integrity and moral honesty more than puplicly voicing their concerns will. I realize you disagree with their decision, but I think it helps to realize that it IS a moral dilemma. Even in Eden Adam and Eve had to make a decision based on competing values - obedience or wisdom, ultimately, obedience or the shot at exaltation. I feel that I am better able to love and understand others when I realize that most of our toughest decisions require us to choose which value we value MORE. It is often said in Mormonism that obedience is the first law of heaven (although I can't remember where this originated - feel free to refresh my memory), but Jesus did say that the most important commandment was love.

I think the petition signers' value hierarchy differs from yours. It is also quite possible that they view the prophet's role differently than you do. You may believe this qualifies them as "hindered," but many of them would probably view you in the same way.

Also, I have to say that using Isaiah 55:8 to preach to others seems quite silly to me. I really feel that the verse is a reminder to all of us. I feel it was an acknowledgement of the universal human tendency to create an idol of God in our own image. I don't think that it works to justify going along with another person's version of God when it seems wrong to you.

Carson Calderwood said...

Thanks for posting Shelly. I enjoy your thoughts and its never too late (see blog rule #2).

I think there are basically three views of a prophet, and as usual I tend to fall in the middle of the spectrum. (Any of the three positions can be knowledgeable about church history or not since that isn't totally relevant to this discussion):
1-"Molly Mormon" "TBM" (I don't agree with these stereotypifications, but that might be another post all in itself)
2-Fully committed, but rational
3-Separation to one extent or another from church and its position as the only true church

Personally, I see it similar to Jacob 4: 14 and either looking beyond the mark (1) or falling short of the mark (3).

So, as a #2 believer I have no problem with a prophet being imperfect. I don't expect everything that a prophet says to be scripture. At times a person may disagree with what a prophet says/said, and sometimes that may even be when the prophet has said it is the word of the Lord. (see previous post in October of 2007 "Support your leaders.")

Do you think it is acceptable to view the prophet differently than you do? Yep, I'm not sure I have it 100% correct so I'm always open to correction.

What is your perspective? My perspective is best described as the slightly cliche "Bushman perspective." I don't white wash things as some CES do and make him better than he was. I accept him as a human with imperfections (ie-temper) but he was definitely called of God to re-establish his church/priesthood. Did Joseph understand that 100% at the time? No. Did he live the role we expect a prophet like President Hinckley to do now? No. But, as I stated above, I usually tend towards the middle of the spectrum. I will not negatively speculate about unknown issues for which we have no concrete evidence and vilify the prophet on such grounds as Brodie does. The only issue I have to put on the shelf is Polygamy, all else (yes, I know most if not all else) is a non-issue for me. So, I'll take the 99% of good over the 1% of unknown.

I think the petition signers' value hierarchy differs from yours.
Very true. For me Mormonism is one of two things. The only true church or another good organization/culture to help people become more Christlike. In my opinion, if someone believes in the former they can't have that difference in value. If someone believes in the latter, I can understand the value difference.

I think what Cody meant with that Isaiah reference was that if someone falls into group 1 and still wants to try to publicly correct the brethren then they are akin to "steadying the ark" and that would be assuming that their ways and thoughts are more correct than the thoughts of the Lord (thoughts via his chosen leaders). The Lord wants us to align ourselves with him not the other way around as we see in the verse that precedes it.

The problem with this whole issue is that the Church is not perfect and things do need to be corrected at times (ie-priesthood ban, change in stance on homosexual tendency origins, etc). That being said, and as I stated my views in the "Support your Leaders" post, I do not think that the sharing of opinion on these matters is best done publicly in a manner that doesn't show respect for the sacred position that the Brethren hold.

Shelley & Jake said...

Carson, thanks for your response and for addressing my questions. It was interesting to get your perspective.

"In my opinion, if someone believes in the former (the only true church perspective) they can't have that difference in value. "

These types of believers may still feel that when a flawed prophet promotes racism or polygamy or something else they feel is morally wrong, God expects them to NOT value obedience over love, fairness, morality, etc. In other words, when your religious leader sends you on a crusade or asks for your 14-year-old daughter as his polygamist wife, which value reigns supreme? The value struggles become much more difficult when they are in conflict, as they often are in real life. A "one true church" believer may still value obedience less than other virtues. So I think there still can be differences in the value hierarchy.

"I will not negatively speculate about unknown issues for which we have no concrete evidence and vilify the prophet on such grounds as Brodie does."

I have never read Brodie's book - I avoided it because that is the reputation it has. But as far as negatively speculating where there is not concrete evidence to vilify someone, I'm glad to hear that you avoid that. It would certainly be unkind.

"I think what Cody meant with that Isaiah reference was that if someone falls into group 1 and still wants to try to publicly correct the brethren then they are akin to 'steadying the ark' and that would be assuming that their ways and thoughts are more correct than the thoughts of the Lord (thoughts via his chosen leaders). The Lord wants us to align ourselves with him not the other way around as we see in the verse that precedes it."

I don't think anyone is arguing that they are more correct than God, or that God needs to align Himself with them. But as you said the church and its leaders are not perfect and sometimes do speak wrongly on behalf of God, and sometimes adjustments do need to be made. So, when we align ourselves with something like racism when that is what the prophet is preaching, are we aligning ourselves with the Lord? Of course not. If we differ from BY are we trying to adjust God to our more egalitarian views? No - of course we think God already agrees with us! I just don't think Isaiah was saying, "you can't truly understand God so when your religious leaders promote something that seems bad, go right along with it." I don't mean to be unfair to Mormonism, I can't think of a faith that doesn't have similar dark moments in its history.

If you think we ought to address local leaders all the way up to the 1st Pres and then quietly wait for a future GA to come around, I understand that perspective. It's not an easy job to lead the church. It's not a job I'd want. We can certainly have patience with them and history shows that in many cases the church does adjust itself with time.

There are obviously others who may feel that going public is the only way to be heard, and who may also feel that God expects something else of them, particularly when the error victimizes somebody. I don't really take issue with this group either because I think that often these people are the ones who bring issues to the leaders' attention (such as the blacks and the priesthood issue) and cause them to take a closer look at things. I think there is room in Mormonism for both types. I do think that bringing up issues ought to be done respectfully.

Carson Calderwood said...

I think I would just add two things:
1-the obedience issue is a hard one for which I don't have an answer. On one hand you could give the quintessential example of Adam, "I know not save the Lord has commanded me." But then there is a difference between the Lord and a church leader. One is always right and the other can be wrong. At the same time we don't have to do anything without getting a personal manifestation of its truthfulness. This came up many (if not every) time(s) with early polygamy. Joseph would ask someone (woman or father or brother) and they would emotionally crumble, then they would pray about it and when they got a (usually very strong) witness of the divinity of the request they would agree to it. I think that is how one should deal with it. The problem is when you either don't get an answer or you feel that your answer is that it is wrong. That is as far as I have been able to hypothetically go when one considers the issue being between themselves and the prophet. All others could theoretically be overturned by the prophet, but what do you do when your disagreement is with him and you feel like you are right??? For me it has never happened and my faith is that it never will. If it did I would be very open to the error being mine, but if I still felt right....no idea.

2-people assume that the public encouragement to correct the ban was the major force, but how can one know how much private encouragement there was when it was private? Prince's book "Rise of Modern Mormonism" indicates that there was a lot of private discussion on this for a long time.