Obey one wayIn the Saturday afternoon session of this weekend’s General Conference, Elder Hales contrasted “the Savior’s obedience” with outright disobedience and a middling third path of “selective obedience,” a division I found interesting. Here is a summary from The Deseret News:

“At times members may participate in ‘selective obedience,’ claiming to love God and honor God while picking and choosing which of His commandments and teachings— and the teachings and counsel of His prophets — we will fully follow,” he said.

In Elder Hales’s telling, selective obedience is undesirable because we should instead be “using our agency to obey.”

The problem with this assessment is that selective obedience is where most of us live. Of course we pick and choose. Of course we have to pray and make decisions.

And these decisions, as often as not, are between competing goods (or the lesser of two evils) rather than the clear-cut “good vs. evil” scenarios I present to Primary kids on Sundays.

It has been thus ever since Eve disobeyed a lesser commandment in order to be faithful to a greater one. Without Eve’s “selective obedience,” we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, because we wouldn’t be here. (Thank you, Eve.)

With the intense debates in the past few weeks about hot-button issues in Mormonism – women’s ordination and marriage equality being the two most prominent – considerable attention has been focused on obedience.

For some, the question seems easy. As one person commented on this blog over the weekend, “Just ignore OW and follow the Prophet and all will be well, The Lord speaks to the Prophet not to OW full stop.”

Full stop, indeed. This is an all-or-nothing posture on prophetic authority: every statement that proceeds from a church leader’s mouth is gospel. Those who hold this view would accuse me of the crime of “selective obedience,” and they would be correct.

Some Mormons on the right express certainty that anything said in General Conference is an eternal truth, even if this means ignoring historical evidence that prior church leaders were wrong about some things: that God denounced interracial marriage, for example, or that African-Americans would never be worthy to hold the priesthood by divine decree. Brigham Young taught that polygamy was an essential practice to prepare a person for life in the Celestial Kingdom (though some of his other statements qualified this). He also believed that there might be a Loch Ness-style monster living in the Bear Lake, which traveled via an underground tunnel to its other home in the Great Salt Lake.

Clearly, none of this is current LDS teaching.

So I’m not on board with the idea that I should simply accept anything proposed in General Conference, even if it is reiterated at different times by different general authorities, as was the case with this weekend’s repeated statements opposing gay marriage.

But neither am I ready to dismiss the many beautiful, true, and thought-provoking things that were said at General Conference, which puts me at odds with those on the extreme left.

Some of those Mormons and ex-Mormons witness the overwhelming evidence of historical change in the Mormon tradition and conclude that little or nothing in the religion can be inspired. If our leaders have made terrible and obvious mistakes in the past, how can anyone trust their statements in the present? If Brigham Young and other prophets were so clearly limited by the times in which they lived, who is to say that current prophets and apostles are not equally blinded by the biases of our own day?

The problem with any all-or-nothing view of prophetic authority is that it removes our greatest gift, agency. In the Mormon cosmogony, our God cared so deeply about human freedom that a full third of the host of heaven was sacrificed in order to preserve it. How tragic that those on the far right are so anxious to surrender that agency and allow someone else to do their thinking for them. It is equally tragic, however, when those on the far left conclude that there is no such thing as prophetic or inspired leadership, or that God has long since stopped speaking through human mouths.

The vast majority of Mormons, I believe, are somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, weighing the statements of general authorities in their own minds through prayerful discernment.

Such middle ground is the ideal, if least comfortable, place for us to be – even if it means we regularly practice selective obedience.

 


[Part of this post was published earlier on Flunking Sainthood and is reproduced here.
]

 

95 Comments

    • Best article ever. Once we get apostles and prophets from OW I can pick and choose commandments. The stuff in the temple recommend will be optional–selective. I like it. The worthiness things is really annoying. And for the highest order in the CK, who needs marriage at all? God will probably change his mind and decide that we don’t need it. Or the apostles were mistaken about the thing–a product of their times. Who needs kids and procreation–any relationship will do–or none. Better yet, I can get up in sacrament meeting and tell the congregation that I disagree with the talk the OW bishop just gave and they should, too. Cool. In fact, I can demand equality so that there are two bishops in the ward, or ten, or everyone is bishop. I like it. I can be a co-prophet and get a revelation to just do whatever I selectively decide. Sweet!

      I bet you love it when the primary children you teach stand up in class and refuse to listen to you and one of them tells the others don’t listen to the teacher, throw gum at her if you want. Half the time she doesn’t know what she is talking about. Just be selectively obedient. Let’s all go outside and play and use rocks to draw on her car. She’s a product of her anti-car-art cultural past.”

      Over the top? Or just true?

      D&C 84 (Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood) says “And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life. For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.” (vs. 43-44). There is that whole thing about whether God says it or the prophets say it, it is the same. And also the thing in the Bible about scriptures are not for private interpretation. And holding to the iron rod which is the word of God.

      Apostles and prophets have been selected by God as His agents to represent Him and teach us His will. God is not the author of confusion. It is dangerous ground to tell people to be selectively obedient and disregard what an authorized agent of God has just taught. As a lawyer I would not tell my clients to disregard what the judge (the authorized agent of the law) has just directed even if I think he is wrong. That is called contempt of court and tends to end badly with things like jail time and fines and malpractice claims. I might advise an appeal. But when the supreme court (the First Presidency and Twelve) by a 15 – 0 vote tell us what the law means (Family Proclamation, for example) then who am I, even as an officer of the court, to tell people to disregard what the judges have determined? We must beware concerning ourselves and live by the law as explained by those whom God has authorized and appointed as his judges and agents. It is spiritual malpractice to tell people it is okay to selectively obey the laws of God and ignore the decisions of the supreme judges he has appointed if you disagree with them. I have done many contempt of court cases in my career. Some free legal advice: Don’t be selectively obedient. It rarely ends well. If you have been selectively obedient to the prophets and apostles then change now. Change to just plain obedient to the law as set forth by God’s authorized judges and agents. You will have safety and peace. Otherwise, you better hope that God’s lets you at least plea the charge to a lower degree of eternal glory. But it won’t be the CK. Justice will not be robbed. Obey the law as explained by the judges. Really.

        • Please forgive me my grammar trespasses even as I forgive your (not “you’re”) grammar trespasses. We must both be writing with too much haste, and I forgot to review and edit my comment to ThomasT.

      • ThomasT, best comment ever. I totally felt your persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness and meekness, and love unfeigned; kindness, and pure knowledge, without hypocrisy, and without guile.

        Or maybe not. Perhap I should try not to be so snarky as I allow you grab your iron rod and I grab my liahona and we both follow the dictates of our OWN consciences.

        http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2014/03/what-church-means-to-people-like-me-aka.html

      • ThomasT – It’s one thing to offer a counter opinion. It’s another to do it so brilliantly with such creativity and wit. I sit before my keyboard in awe.

  1. Jack Stickney

    Until a revelation is received and sanctioned by the twelve, the safe path is ALWAYS to follow the prophet. And safe ground is to never cross those lines drawn for worthiness of temple attendance (some of which in my opinion OW it’s beginning to step over).

  2. “Selective obedience”, aka “Cafeteria Mormonism” is something every member is guilty of. We all pick and choose what commandments and teachings that will work within our life experiences and then we adjust accordingly. Even a member who pays more than a 10% tithe is “selectively obeying”, what is being taught or the family that does not drink caffeinated soda or… or… or…

    It is rhetoric like this that is divisive. It causes people to look at one another and judge just how many footsteps are being taken on Sunday by their neighbor, their family members, and their friends. They feel justified in doing so when the all-male leadership says all or nothing statements like this. Where is the gray area Christ once taught?

    • As the apostle Paul taught, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”

      The question, then, is what do we do about it? Do we strive to continually improve ourselves, or do we resign ourselves to our personal preferences and live forever in our sins?

      The entire point of repentance is to work toward overcoming. If we have no objective to do so, even if we struggle imperfectly, then what is our ultimate goal?

  3. “But neither am I ready to dismiss the many beautiful, true, and thought-provoking things that were said at General Conference, which puts me at odds with those on the extreme left.”

    This is, in my opinion, both a strawman and false dichotomy. Of course almost no one, Mormon or not, will dismiss beautiful, true and thought-provoking statements out of hand. The opposite of blind obedience to a church leader is not complete dismissal of the universal truths that most non-Mormons and non-Apostles feel intuitively. The opposite of blind obedience is conscious consideration – what you’ve defined as your center. Perhaps it would help if you provide an example of a beautiful truth that is rejected out of hand by the extreme left for no reason other than its source.

    Further, do we really want to say that people who don’t believe that Mormon prophets have any special or distinct link to God are “extreme left”? Wouldn’t that group include almost all of humanity?

    It seems that wherever anyone comes out on the theological perspective they always find those on either side to be the extreme ones.

  4. I think there’s a certain value in not rejecting something simply because it’s hard or inconvenient. Maybe that’s even what the church leaders are getting at when they preach against selective obedience, I don’t know. For instance, they ask us to forgive, which is often a difficult thing to do when we’ve been deeply hurt. It’s usually not the wisest course of action to decide that we’ll only obey when it’s easy. In that case, obedience is a better choice than personal comfort.
    But I think what Jana is getting at is not so much the choice of doing what’s right but difficult as unconditional, unquestioning, unswerving obedience. She’s right that every one of us practices selective obedience to some degree. Isn’t that what the LDS church teaches the Holy Ghost is for? To help us discern right and wrong for ourselves, to help us determine the best option between two good alternatives, to show us the right path to follow when it’s not immediately apparent? Is it not also what repentance is for? In a recent conference, we learned that we’re all hypocrites, so none of us will obey perfectly, even when we try.
    So it comes down to intent, whether or not we intend to obey every aspect of the gospel, recognizing that our attempts will fall short. Some might say that, yes, they intend to obey everything and just repent for the mistakes. But I also think we’re limited not just by human frailties and weakness, but by limitations. Time, for instance, comes to mind. If we all tried really hard to follow every single thing we were told to do, we wouldn’t sleep much, and isn’t inadequate rest something we’re supposed to guard against, anyway? It has to come down to prioritizing, which again, is something we’re told we need to do. But isn’t prioritizing picking and choosing?
    Jana mentioned more than one example of leaders who have taught things we no longer believe or expect from members. When members talk about obeying the prophets, they seem quite confident that they can do so. But they’re leaving out so many things that leaders used to teach that we don’t teach anymore. They often don’t even know about these teachings because they don’t appear in our manuals, and that’s because of the Curriculum Committee, who appear to have done plenty of picking and choosing. It seems like there’s plenty of selectivity going on there. I’m not complaining. I’m glad we aren’t expected to follow everything. I’m just pointing out that not every word from every church leader is inspired or necessary for everyone today, and that our church recognizes that.
    We’re not just supposed to use agency to obey. We’re supposed to use it to make choices, to think for ourselves. If God really wanted a bunch of unfailingly obedient robots, he could have chosen another plan. Sometimes there is conflict. Sometimes church leaders contradict each other, or even themselves (As an example, in the last conference one speaker said the gospel isn’t a checklist and the very next speaker talked about a family ordinance checklist). There are lots of choices to be made, and being selective is not a sign that you’re following Satan or being rebellious. It just means you’re using the holy spirit, which is a gift given for that very purpose.

    • Susan Humphreys

      In regards to your first example “obedience”, simply obeying because you are told to do so makes a sham out of the concept of forgiveness! One fundamentalist in this area spit out at me, “I will love you but only because God says I have to”. There was no love in her, she knew it and I knew it and she made a sham of the “truth” of the message and a sham of herself AND a sham of her God. Obedience for obedience sake can be seen as trying to bribe God into thinking you are behaving, being good when you aren’t in your heart! It implies you think you can trick God! Some teachings may be hard to carryout, whether they are Christian, or Buddhist, or Humanist, BUT we do them because we KNOW there is “truth” to them and it is the right thing to do NOT because we are blindly obeying some authority.

  5. Jack Stickney said: “Until a revelation is received and sanctioned by the twelve, the safe path is ALWAYS to follow the prophet.” What an interesting conundrum is encapsulated in that short sentence, we should follow the prophet until he gets a revelation. But if the prophet’s words are not given to us via revelation from God why should we follow them/him?

    The problem, Jack, is that there hasn’t been any revelation “received and sanctioned by the 12″ since 1978, and it was even longer before that. Doesn’t that strike you as problematic?

    How long are we supposed to wait for our “prophets, seers and revelators” to actually DO any of those things before we can safely conclude that they are not what we call them?

    • We sing, “We thank thee O God for a prophet to GUIDE us in these latter days,” not “We thank thee O God for a prophet who constantly adds new sections to the Doctrine & Covenants so that we can take him seriously.”

      Latter-day Saints regularly raise their hands to the square to sustain and acknowledge the Lord’s chosen servants as being His anointed mouthpieces. As such, I’m sure the Lord knows when and where something needs to be formally enshrined in the canon versus sufficiently taught by His servants the prophets.

      • TomW, that’s all fine and dandy BUT you must recognize that Latter-day Saints’ expectations of prophets are all over the map:

        http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2011/09/prophetic-expectations.html

        • I also recognize that the only valid expectations of prophets are what the Lord’s expectations are. If the rank-and-file members of the church could shed their individual expectations (some of which I’ve found to be utterly insane) and go with “what has been revealed,” we’d all be better off.

  6. You are mistaken.

    1. Your paragraph about choosing between two goods is a little strange. I don’t think there are conflicts of obedience like this very often. Even if there were, we have access to the holy ghost. We can know exactly, for every situation, what is right and what is wrong. So it’s always black and white…. or it could be. I am not saying that there often aren’t two good options. I can put either rice or noodles in my soup… There are of course innumerable examples like that. But examples where keeping one commandment *requires* that you break another? I am a latter day saint and I am trying every day to be better and more obedient and I don’t think that these circumstances are common. In fact, I am having trouble thinking of any. You set this up as a premise, using Eve as an example to make the rest of your argument easier to swallow. But your premise is false. You seem to think that obedience will create some either-or situations. In my experience it creates only AND situations. I can be a great father AND serve in the church or whatever other examples you might have.

    2. Eve did not know that she was choosing between one good and another good. She was deceived into disobedience. She knew only afterward that the consequences of her choice were part of God’s plan. At the time of the choice it was straight up disobedience. She could not have had foresight; she had no knowledge. Lots of scriptural and prophetic support for this. (Talmage, Articles of faith, lecture 3 paragraph 30. Plus several new testament and Book of Mormon scriptures.) This is not to say that I don’t think Eve was among the most noble of women, she was. And we should definitely be grateful to her for everything that she did.

    3. It may be true that prophets may say things that are not the gospel or that are not 100% correct. All of us have our opinions and speculations. But this is slippery slope. Where do you draw the line? You saying you will take the good but leave the bad is saying you are better than the prophets and apostles at drawing that line. Either they are apostles and prophets or they are not. Are you greater than they? Closer to God and the Spirit? And yet you remain a member of this church? The only safe path is to follow the prophet(s). If they change their counsel in future months or years then I will STILL follow the prophet. That doesn’t make me a lemming. This is the only logical course of action. I know they are prophets seers and revelators. If I know it, then I must follow their counsel.

    4. You made a comment about how following the prophet completely with 100% obedience is somehow in conflict with agency? I almost laughed out loud. As if there aren’t other choices. Obedience, even blind obedience is not in conflict with agency and faith but rather the opposite. It is the most pure example of it. Abraham blindly obeyed God when he took Isaac up the mountain. I am pretty sure that was the ultimate test and example of the correct exercise of agency. Choosing to follow God’s counsel and the counsel of his servants is is the ultimate expression of our agency, especially when we do not fully understand or agree. Can you imagine if Abraham had decided if, this time, God was wrong?

    I found it incredibly offensive and misinformed for you to say that by choosing to follow the prophet I am not thinking for myself. I never stop thinking. Are there commandments that i don’t understand or agree with? Yes. Does that mean I should not follow them? I haven’t given up my agency or my ability to think for myself by choosing to follow the prophets and apostles. I have demonstrated it. As you have demonstrated your agency and free will by choosing not to support them. Like I said earlier, either they are prophets of god or they are not. If they are we should strive to follow their counsel. If they are not then we can take or leave their counsel based on whether we like or agree with it. If there is middle ground I don’t know where to find it.

    JP

    • I said something I shouldn’t have. I inferred that if someone doesn’t share my faith in the prophets and apostles perhaps they shouldn’t be a member of the church. That was wrong. I think that there is room in the church for a wide variety of people with differing levels of belief / differing beliefs.

      What i meant is that without my testimony of the prophets and apostles *I* would probably not be a member.

      All in all I probably wasn’t very Christlike in my reply above and i apologize.

      JP

    • JP, your comments remind me of something taught by Elder Boyd K. Packer in the April 1983 General Conference: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1983/04/agency-and-control?lang=eng

      “Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God.

      “We are the sons and daughters of God, willing followers, disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ‘under this head are [we] made free.’ (Mosiah 5:8.)

      “Those who talk of blind obedience may appear to know many things, but they do not understand the doctrines of the gospel. There is an obedience that comes from a knowledge of the truth that transcends any external form of control. We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see.”

  7. I think it is useful to consider that Church leaders are in many ways products of their cultures. At the same time, I think it’s useful to consider that we are all products of our culture. The truth is that none of us knows how things such as gay marriage and female ordination will play out in the future–and in the eternities. I think we need to be prepared to have our ideas challenged. It’s at least possible that certain ideas modern Western culture champions are not part of God’s plan. Which is why one of the variables I factor into the equation when I’m considering how to heed prophetic/apostolic counsel is that while I have access to the gift of the Holy Ghost, I do not personally have access to the gift of Seership. But there is someone who does–and I’m at least hesitant to contradict the vision of someone who has been called of God to be less shortsighted than the rest of us.

    • Susan Humphreys

      In your mind anyone can claim that they have been called by God and you believe them? What about the Pope? He claims HE is the only true representative of God on earth. Then there are many Evangelicals and Fundamentalists that also claim they are in communion with God and hear his voice and his instructions. Do you just believe ONE of these because HE tells you to believe him and ignore all the rest becsuse the One you believe says they are the Charlatans?

      • Susan: I should have been clear that the target audience for my comment was the Mormon community (of which Jana is a part), who accept as one of their tenants that we have a prophet at the head of our church. Feel free to ignore the comment if this isn’t a personal belief of yours.

    • schwa-lady writes: “while I have access to the gift of the Holy Ghost, I do not personally have access to the gift of Seership. But there is someone who does–and I’m at least hesitant to contradict the vision of someone who has been called of God to be less shortsighted than the rest of us.”

      Exactly.

  8. It seems to me that the question then becomes the criterion of selection. The danger is that our preexisting beliefs become our standard of determining what is inspired and we lose the ability for the prophets to teach us anything other than what we already believe. What worries me about so much of liberal Mormon thinking is not that it denies prophetic infalability — I don’t believe in infalability — but that it implicitly takes pretty standard models of liberal justice (generally some version of luck egalitarianism) as the criterion for determining what counts as truly inspired with the result that the gospel gets reduced to a set of standard left-of-center political convictions and all the rest is historicized. The result is a gospel that has little to offer other than an idiosyncratic idiom for expressing beliefs reached on other grounds. Not quite sure how to deal with the criterion problem short of an entirely subjective appeal to personal revelation. History in thus context however often feels like a rhetorical tool being gleefully wielded in a way that begs the most important questions.

    • Jana Riess

      Yes, this is a good point. I share your concern that some of us might water down the gospel to the point where it is merely comfortable rather than prophetic. As someone else pointed out, we are *all* culturally conditioned, and it’s important to recognize our own biases as well as pointing them out in others. This can be a difficult task.

      Rather than an either/or, our discernment needs to inhabit a spectrum, with the full-on infallibility proponents on the one hand (they are certainly legion, though I believe your comment that you are not in that group yourself) and the throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater folks at the other extreme.

      For myself — and I expect this is going to be different for each person — the single most useful tool I have discovered in spiritual discernment is the Wesleyan quadrilateral. (Its four corners might be worth a post in themselves, come to think of it.) And even within those four areas, it’s possible to still come up without a firm decision if you have two on one side and two on the other. That has happened to me, and when it does I have generally privileged the two parts that felt closest to my heart (reason and personal experience) rather than the two that emphasize dogma (scripture and tradition). I imagine that this might look very different for other people.

  9. Moroni 10: Verse 4, And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    The Holy Ghost informs you about the Truth or the Falsehood of any situation. The Spirit trumps all human opinions.

  10. Of course we all follow some form of selective obedience, but I found that the purpose of the sermon is that we must seek to be as obedient as possible, which is always more than where we’re currently at.

  11. HarryStamper

    Sometimes when I read your stuff, I wonder if you have any grasp of understanding let alone a basic understanding of church principles.

    You supply several issues spoken of in conference yet not followed today, to undermine what was taught at conference. Your a willing accomplice of Lucifer and a wicked person.

    God denounced interracial marriage, of course…at the time priesthood was restricted, this is consistent with Old Testament times and Book of Mormon times. Since 1978 it is not an issue.

    African-Americans would never be worthy to hold the priesthood by divine decree…simply not true….Brigham Young himself when the restriction was announced in 1852 said the day would come when the restriction would be lifted by revelation. That day came in 1978.

    Brigham Young taught that polygamy was an essential practice to prepare a person for life in the Celestial Kingdom……….at the time Polygamy was practiced and commanded for many priesthood leaders. Brigham Young’s comments have more to do with obedience not polygamy…obedience is fundamental to the celestial kingdom.

    Loch Ness-style monster living in the Bear Lake…..stupid…common story taught by many history classes..Joseph Rich was a satirist who originated this idea….no Mormon teacher or historian believes BY believed in this……it was a running joke.

    Your very skilled at teaching the half-truth and slanting things

    • Well said, HarryStamper! Of course the idea of selective obedience is absurd and would only be advocated by willing accomplices of Lucifer.

      Except for that beam-mote thing, obviously. That’s just one of those… stupid… common story deals. Keep fighting the good fight! The mote field here online is white and ready to harvest!

    • Harry, surely you have it within you to disagree with the content of the author without resorting to judging her “a willing accomplice of Lucifer and a wicked person.” A bit much? Not only should we largely concern ourselves with the beams in our own eyes, but I am personally ever so mindful of the words of the Lord as recorded by Matthew: “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” In that I personally seek an optimal measure of the Lord’s saving grace on my behalf, I truly strive to be as compassionate and understanding of others I disagree with as I can. I’ll need it someday.

  12. I really do believe all of what the general authorities said in conference. I may not live all of the teaching to the best of my ability, but I know what they say is right and what God wants for me and my family. I’m trying to improve myself most days. Life is very hard but I do want to be obedient to God in all things.

  13. Jana,
    [You're] a willing accomplice to truth and a righteous person.

    Thanks for the chuckle HarryStamper
    I just hope I am the only one that read that abysmal response. This is what gives Mormons a BAD name!

  14. I generally ignore talks like this, as they are preaching to those that not only selectively obedient, but also selectively judgmental. Those that think every word that falls from the lips of the speakers at general conference are scripture ignore the parts they do not like then use talks like this to shove their views down our throats.

    To give an example, as a teen I had long hair – it was the 80’s. So did my friends. We were still able to bless and pass the sacrament, but there was one woman that swore we were always up to no good. One night we were walking out of the church building after a weekday activity and she stopped us. She told us that the Lord saw us and showed her what we were about to so. She told us it was wicked and that we shouldn’t do it. She begged us not to go head with our plans. We thought she was nuts, but just in case, we went to Wendy’s that night and avoided McDonald’s.

    Too many of the hearers are not the doers yet they are still the finder pointers. Talks like this are meant for good but are used as ammo for people like this.

    • Jana Riess

      “just in case, we went to Wendy’s that night and avoided McDonald’s” . . .

      Ha ha! That Ronald, you know, is clearly dangerous. ;-)

      On a more serious note, I’m glad you could have a sense of humor about this.

  15. I don’t think Elder Hales is talking about picking between two good options. The commandments generally don’t come in that form anyway, the only possible exception I can think of being Adam and Eve, though I think there’s more going on there than we understand. I’m pretty sure Elder Hales is talking about picking right over wrong, at which we all fail some time or another (for all have sinned…). I believe he’s inviting us to say, “I will turn off a movie when it fails to meet my standards,” for example, instead of “Oh, it’s not that bad.” And it’s not blind obedience when I use my agency to follow the commandments. That is deliberate obedience.

  16. With that said, though, I have to register my astonishment at HarryStamper’s comment. An accomplice of Lucifer? A wicked person? I mean, I guess if you’re saying anyone who sins or errs is an accomplice of Lucifer, that would pretty much define all of us, so Jana would fall under that umbrella too. But then, so would you. You might want to back off a bit on that judgment a bit and let the Savior worry about that part.

    • HarryStamper

      Let explain further my comments…..the author of the article says….”So I’m not on board with the idea that I should simply accept anything proposed in General Conference, even if it is reiterated at different times by different general authorities, as was the case with this weekend’s repeated statements opposing gay marriage.”

      The day after General Conference the author attempts to diminish perhaps undermine the remarks made in conference…especially those comments made by Apostles. The author does this publicly by publishing this article/blog. If the author went to lunch with me and expressed these comments…fine….it’s doing it publicly where she crosses the line.

      The comments of “accomplice of Lucifer and wicked person”….comes from D&C 10 in reference to Martin Harris undermining the publication of the Book of Mormon…the Lord called him a servant of Satan and a wicked man. Yet Martin repented and later became one of the 3 witnesses and financed the publication of the Book of Mormon.

      I will say she’s articulate and persuasive….these talents could be used better.

      • Jana Riess

        :-) It’s not every day that I get referred to as an accomplice of Lucifer. If Lucifer is relying on me, he’s doomed for sure!

        Harry, just to push back a little, what I hear you saying is that it’s fine to disagree with a church talk, but it’s not kosher to discuss those issues publicly, even if the author’s intent was in no way to “diminish” an apostle.

        So my question is: Why would it be okay to disagree privately if what is at issue is serious enough in your mind that you believe the one who disagrees has fallen into the clutches of Lucifer? (Sorry, that still makes me laugh.) Is public conformity of greater value than personal integrity? Is it not hypocritical to disagree and *not* be honest about it?

        • HarryStamper

          Hi Jana…Thanks for the comments….you said….”It’s not every day that I get referred to as an accomplice of Lucifer. If Lucifer is relying on me, he’s doomed for sure!” Fortunately you recognize this…..

          Your comments did diminish the conference talk of an apostle. You wrote your not on board in accepting comments at general conference especially “repeated” comments about gay marriage. In the previous paragraph you somewhat mocked previous comments from past general conferences as to support your theme. Your not on board, you decided to publish it, you decided to write a nice essay in disagreement with these talks……thus diminishing their value for some people…not all but some…

          As I said already….your articles are public with lots of readers / followers…your personal issues are not even the point ( of course you want them to be)…..it’s your public advocacy of your issues / disagreements that is the point.

        • Obviously, both of my comments above are more than enough to answer your questions. I think you know this….but…your like a Book of Mormon character who enjoys the spotlight……..

          Concerning being honest…therefore I must say it….or else I’m a hypocrite….let me ask…If I think most of the people in the ward are fat and ugly…when I speak in sacrament meeting this Sunday…should I tell them that?…from the pulpit…???

          Okay…let me try to be more specific…..I don’t know why I have to repeat myself…your the one with the PhD…..you said…”Why would it be okay to disagree privately if what is at issue is serious enough in your mind that you believe the one who disagrees has fallen into the clutches of Lucifer?”……I don’t believe someone who disagrees privately is in the clutches of Lucifer, but someone who advocates publicly like you have and did….this is evidence that perhaps Lucifer at least has a finger in your ear……

          You said…..”Is public conformity of greater value than personal integrity? ” It’s neither…..in regards to the issue at hand….your public conformity is demonstration of your personal integrity.

          You said….”Is it not hypocritical to disagree and *not* be honest about it? “…..you can be honest about it it all you want ( and remember it is all about you) but you don’t have to publicly advocate it the way you did.

          Perhaps write a persuasive article on reconciling one’s personal beliefs when they differ from the teachings of the church. Not from an adversarial point of view but from a constructive angle….woman want the priesthood, imagine yourself a Bishop or Stake President…how would you counsel a fellow member?
          Your writing skills are tremendous…I would look forward to this article…..:)

        • Jana: “It’s not every day that I get referred to as an accomplice of Lucifer. If Lucifer is relying on me, he’s doomed for sure!”

          Classic response!

      • Harry, it’s one thing for the Lord to categorize the behavior of Martin Harris and an entirely separate thing for you to apply this judgment to others. You’re supposed to liken the scriptures unto yourself to improve your own performance. You might want to reconsider the extent to which you liken them unto others while inserting yourself in the Lord’s role.

          • Harry, if you were to say exactly in private what you wrote in public, my personal opinion would be that the Lucifer comment was still way over the top, and that we should be wary of taking what the Lord has said specifically to another in scripture, and putting ourselves in His shoes to repeat the refrain to others, whether publicly or privately.

            I’m sure Jana would say that I’ve regularly disagreed with her on all manner of things, from the wisdom of the Feminist Girls Camp to the Ordain Women movement, to the above criticisms of Elder Hales’ remarks. But I hope that when we disagree that we treat each other with dignity and respect – as fellow children of loving Heavenly Parents.

            Do I become concerned that some of the views expressed by Jana, or others associated with groups she aligns with, may veer from the heretical to the apostate? Yes. Probably the first blog post of hers that really grabbed my attention was: “I’m Not an Apostate Mormon, Just a Garden-Variety Heretic” (http://janariess.religionnews.com/2013/04/30/im-not-an-apostate-mormon-just-a-garden-variety-heretic/) But I think the key here is that I’ve read nothing to indicate that her heart doesn’t strive to be in the right place, even if I have strongly differing views on several issues.

            I think the only person who gains from comparing people with Lucifer is Lucifer. He loves to stir up those who would too readily make such comparisons, and he loves the hurt feelings which the recipient of such remarks might feel. A win-win for his realm.

          • Jana Riess

            Well said, Tom. And yes, I would agree that we disagree on many things, but you have always been polite to me and I appreciate it. I think it’s terrific that you come to this blog even though you know you will often find things to disagree with, and that you state your opinions without resorting to personal remarks. Thank you for that, and for giving my heart the benefit of the doubt.

          • Jana Riess

            Harry, I am the person to whom that question should be addressed, and the answer is no.

            It is never appropriate — in Zion or anywhere else — to call someone you have never even met a wicked person and/or an accomplice of Lucifer. Stick to expressing your opinions without personalization, please. See here: http://janariess.religionnews.com/2014/04/14/accomplice-lucifer/

  17. One last thing- Porter, there actually is at least 1 revelation that has been sanctioned by all 15 Brethren since 1978 in the form of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which begins “We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…”
    We might also count “The Living Christ” in that group.

    • Ryan said “One last thing- Porter, there actually is at least 1 revelation that has been sanctioned by all 15 Brethren since 1978 in the form of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World…”

      So let’s define “revelation,” Ryan. And while we’re here, let’s define “prophet.”

      The fact is, Spencer Kimball couldn’t point to a “Thus sayeth the Lord” in his so-called revelation on Blacks and the priesthood.” And more, the “proclamation” on the family was just that: A proclamation, not unlike that issued by bureacracies of all stripes. And no one can point to a single prophesy that was given by a modern-day LDS prophet that was fully proved out.

      The fact is, the LDS church is afraid to say anything definitive anymore. It is trapped by its history, refusing to repudiate its past leaders who were guilty of hideous racism and doctrinal arrogance. And now, it wants so desperately to be acccepted by mainstream Christianity that it is playing a daily game of “Look how very much like you we are” with other denominations. It says it welcomes Gays, but it fights against giving them equal rights.

      The LDS church has lost its identity and is barely growing. Soon it will begin shrinking. And that’s a good thing.

      • Jack Stickney

        Rachel; You must be on your own planet somewhere to believe that the LDS Church is on the wane and lost its identity. The birth rate alone makes it self-sustaining; and the convert baptisms with 85k missionaries continues to remain steady and even rise.

      • Perhaps, Rachel, the Lord is waiting for His children to live up to what they have already received before inconveniencing them with further “Thus saith the Lord” proclamations.

        In the meantime, for those of us who claim membership in the church and correspondingly sustain the prophets and apostles as the Lord’s anointed mouthpieces, should we not give their words the gravity befitting their holy callings?

        When we are called to account for our lives, I don’t want to be the guy with a long laundry list of prophetic counsel I shirked while nurturing a perpetual pattern of doubt.

  18. HarryStamper- You hit it on the head. The Lord said it.

    Rachel- Yes, let’s define those things. The Bible dictionary has revelation defined as “making known divine truth by communication with the heavens,” and states that a prophet “[is] to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will….It was also the prophet’s duty to denounce sin and fortell its punishment, and to redress, so far as he could, both public and privet wrongs….In certain cases prophets predicted future events, e.g., there are the very important prophecies announcing the coming of Messiah’s kingdom; but as a rule a prophet was a forthteller rather than a foreteller.”

    The Proclamation to the World fulfills all of these requirements in my eyes. So yeah, it’s prophetic revelation.

  19. Susan Humphreys

    What amazes me is that folks actually believe that someone claiming to be speaking for God (which is what a prophet is) is telling the Truth. The Pope makes the same claim as do many Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians of all stripes. They can’t all be telling the Truth when what the claims they make are so contradictory. Unless God is schizophrenic and out to deceive mankind! Oops that would mean that God is the Devil, the great deceiver, not God. Are they all sure it is God’s voice they are channeling and not the Devils or the voice of their own Ego? One local pastor pointed out pages in Bible that claim the Bible is telling the TRUTH and then commented that no other religion makes that claim in their text. I replied of course not, they aren’t that foolish or self-righteous. Claiming that you are telling the TRUTH, or speaking “God’s word”, or are a Seer, doesn’t mean that you are. AND I might add it set you and your whole religion up for a GREAT FALL when it is divscovered that you aren’t and you weren’t!

    • Susan, it is obvious that people from all the many denominations believe that they have more truth than the other guy. We all get that. I think the point being made here by many Latter-day Saints is that if one is going to call oneself a Latter-day Saint with the standard package of core beliefs that that entails, then one really DOES believe that certain people claiming to speak for God are really doing so. I personally know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God. This truth has been manifest to me and then reaffirmed more times than I can count. I understand why non-Latter-day Saints either cannot fathom how I say I can know, or may outright think I’m nuts. So be it. But for card-carrying Latter-day Saints, the view that the living prophet speaks for God and speaks the truth is the default position. As it SHOULD be. In my view, the ones setting themselves up for a great fall are those who are so certain that nobody can be right and that religion is nothing more than an opiate for the masses.

  20. Just to clarify one point, the link you posted in your article about the Bear Lake Monster does not in fact say that Brigham Young believed the monster had a tunnel between Bear Lake and the Great Salt Lake (as you stated), rather, it said “it caused some [unidentified] people to speculate” that there was a tunnel because of so many sightings all over the state. It (and many other accounts I found) said that with so many sightings, Brigham Young wanted to find out if the story was “an honest tale of a serpent, or only a fish story” and to that end he sent a long rope to help catch it to settle the matter once and for all after so many years of rumors floating around.

    The way you brought it up in your article made it sound like Brigham Young himself truly believed in a tunnel between these lakes and then testified of this tunnel over the pulpit in General Conference.

    What you just did on that point of fact in your article makes it look like you’re throwing that specific item in only to cause distrust of Prophets of God and make him look ridiculous simply to try to make your argument seem stronger.

    Either you stopped digging for the truth once you found what you liked and agreed with, or you made an honest mistake while trying to discredit a prophet of God for the purpose of getting other people to more readily disbelieve current prophets of God.

    Rigorous truth is very important in matters dealing with salvation. People are often lazy and won’t do their own research and therefore will trust whatever you say – maybe even more than they will trust a prophet of God.

      • Will you post a link to that or quote it verbatim with a citation so I can do my own research because I couldn’t find what you wrote online anywhere.

        Just to be clear, you are saying that he personally said he believed there were tunnels between the lakes and he stated that over the pulpit at general conference? Because that’s what you implied in your article above and your reply to my comment didn’t state that you were wrong about it and you haven’t corrected the article yet.

        • While I was waiting for a link or quote from you, I looked up any combination of the words “brigham”, “young”, and “bear” in any order or any location within the 24 million words of all 10,000+ general conference talks indexed in a database at http://corpus.byu.edu/gc/ and found 0 hits. That’s even without the words “lake” or “monster” included. Just the two words “Brigham” and “tunnel” also had 0 hits. I think this topic wasn’t spoken of in General Conference. Ever.

          I did yet another internet search to find anything anywhere about Brigham Young believing in tunnels as you describe and found nothing. This also included a targeted search of mormonhistoryassociation.org with all of it’s conferences and publications and I found not a single page, pdf, or article that contained “Brigham Young” and “tunnel”.

          Do you have the quote or a link yet?

          • Please provide a link. It seems that you’re misrepresenting Brigham Young based on what I’ve found and I’d like to get to the truth of this.

          • Look for “Bear Lake Monster”….
            Ronald W. Walker, BYU Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3, p.333
            “During his career Joseph Rich would serve as a surveyor, missionary journalist, telegrapher, merchant, lawyer, judge, and politician; before contributing to the Keep-A-Pitchinin he had proven his mettle as an humorist by creating, in his words, that “wonderful first class lie–‘The Bear Lake Monster,'” Utah’s long-lived transplant from Loch Ness. Richards was one of the territory’s first men to receive medical training in the East, Brigham Young himself supporting his education.”

          • Thanks Harry, but that document doesn’t say anything about Brigham believing in a tunnel between lakes that this monster swam through, much less that he spoke of this during general conference. In fact I couldn’t find anything about Brigham believing in the monster in that document. Link fail.

            I’m asking Jana to back up the claims in her article with an actual link that supports those claims. So far, I haven’t found anything to support them.

          • your right on..that’s the point BY never did….it common knowledge at least today..that it was satire and bit of a running joke. To continue to promote that BY believed it and taught it is not looking at all the facts. Certainly shouldn’t be used as a reason not to take conference seriously.

        • I don’t think she implied what you say she implied, rcronk.

          She’s simply saying that even prophets can believe some crazy things that “may” or may not be true.

          In other words, you and I and Paul and Brigham and all the prophets are products of our time and “see through a glass darkly”. We can’t expect perfection from our prophets, regardless of whether it’s said in conference or not.

          Our claim is not to have a perfect church, or perfect leaders. The only claim of perfection is about Jesus Christ, and as President Uchtdorf said, the Restoration continues.

          Since you find the Lochness moster example to not be a good example, just substitute it for some of the equally outlandish and racist stuff Brigham Young believed about the curse of Cain and the inferiority/superiority of the races:

          “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African Race? If the White man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.”

          “You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. The first man who committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam.
          Cain slew his brother.
          Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon Cain, which is the flat nose and black skin.
          Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race–that they should be the ‘servant of servants;’ and they will be, until that curse is removed;”

          That’s equally outlandish, and if it were spoken today the entire Church would be practicing selective hearing as well as selective obedience to that crap.

          “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”

          https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng

          • Yeah, I got all that and agree with most of it. It’s not my point though. My point was that one example she used, that sounded the dumbest, looks like it is wrong. That’s all.

        • Jana Riess

          No, I did not say it was stated over the pulpit at GC. Jeepers.

          The paper in question would have been delivered at the May 2006 or May 2008 meeting of the Mormon History Association. Feel free to look up the paper (that panel also had something about Mormons and UFOs, I believe) and report back if I have flubbed the details.

          • Got it. You were saying that we shouldn’t trust everything that is said in GC because general authorities have been wrong about things before.

            The Mormon History Association website was up a few days ago and is down currently so I can’t look it up. If it comes back online soon, I’ll take another look. If the speaker was looking at the same source documents I have been looking at, then I think either the speaker or you have misunderstood the issue. If they have different source documents, then someone should post those documents on the internet somewhere so people who want to know the truth can find them.

            You mention ordain women and gay marriage in your article and it appears that you disagree with the church’s stance on those two issues. Have you received a confirmation from the Holy Ghost on these two issues yet or are you just disagreeing based on your own beliefs?

          • The website is back online and it only has the 2008 program in pdf form. I searched that and found nothing about bear lake. Unless you can come up with a quote or cite a source, I’m going to assume that either you or the speaker you heard misunderstood the details of the bear lake issue since what I’ve found on the subject disagrees with what you’ve posted.

            I would still like to know if you have received confirmation from the Holy Ghost that gay marriage should be allowed along with the ordination of women or if it’s just an opinion or belief of yours.

  21. I came away from this conference weekend inspired to be better, motivated to come to Christ and develop a love for God and my fellow man. I was encouraged to believe in things I cannot see and have faith and hope. I was taught to stand strong for truth in a world of ever-shifting values.
    After reading this article, I am pondering what its intent was. Here is what it did for me:
    I was asked to question the authority and calling of prophets, disbelieve the words of God and walk after my own ways according to my own thoughts and prayers.
    I felt discouraged from trying to bring my life in line with what God has taught and encouraged seek after my own wisdom.
    I felt if something from the prophets or apostles conflicts with my views I should be unteachable and hold fast to my own opinion instead of what I am hearing.
    After reading this, I don’t feel the Spirit uplifting and strengthening me, I feel confusion, disbelieve, discouragement and doubt. I am sure, Jana, that you have a good heart, I can feel it in many of your words. I would hope that you and I could be sisters who encourage and uplift and inspire a belief in God, Christ and in His words through the prophets. That we could help each other become who God wants us to be according to His words and His path. I don’t feel that this public article strengthens my faith, and for that I am sorry that it is out there to confuse and discourage others in their believing.

  22. Thanks Jana for writing so honestly about a topic that is taboo. I loved your thoughts and I too have had many of the same. I enjoy your blog and find it stimulating as well as thought provoking.

  23. “It has been thus ever since Eve disobeyed a lesser commandment…”

    A lesser commandment? There was only one commandment, and her and Adam breaking that one commandment was serious enough for them to be cast out of the presence of God. It was only when the Lord covered their shame by shedding the blood of innocent animals (a foreshadow of the Messiah that would take away the sins of the world) that they would be reconciled to God.
    And that is the only hope any of us have. It’s not through obedience to the law that we are able to be reconciled to God, it is by the shedding of innocent blood, the blood of Jesus that was shed for us.
    Our agency does us no good in this. We are born with a nature that is opposed to God, in rebellion against God. We make no decision in that condition that moves us toward God. For example: God says He will not declare anyone righteous in His sight by their obedience to the law, but only by the righteousness of Christ. So why are Mormons still seeking to be declared righteous in the sight of God by obeying the law?
    http://downtownministries.blogspot.com/

    • It is true that Jesus told us that He came to “fulfill the Law” of Moses and replaced those animal sacrifices with the sacrament supper to help us remember the body and blood of His sacrifice.
      In addition, He had already told the Pharisees that on just two commandments we could hang all the law and the prophets—to love God and our neighbor. To top it off, in John 14:15, He says, “If ye love me keep my commandments”.

  24. Hi Jana,

    I appreciate all of your articles. While I usually agree with half and disagree with half, it’s always thought provoking. I think you do a very good job of showing that not all Mormons think exactly the same, and also that smart, thoughtful people can be faithful Mormons.

    I was however disappointed with your reference to Brigham Young and polygamy. It’s among a list of “mistakes” made by Church leaders, but when his quotes are taken in context, I don’t see how his statements can be construed as a mistake. (E.g. (1) in context his point isn’t that people have to actually enter into polygamy, they just have to accept it as a true commandment from God, (2) many of the men in the audience would not have been polygamists and were unlikely to ever be polygamists [simple math says that not everyone can have more than one wife–especially if Brigham and Heber have 30 each), and the intention of the talks does not appear to be telling them they needed to marry more women–or else).

    I would have preferred if you just left that out of your article. I feel like most of the time this idea is just used by anti-Mormons who hope that no one will bother to spend 10 seconds checking the context of the talks. I don’t want to say you’re being disingenuous, but in all honesty, I can’t see how any one can use those quotes without being disingenuous.

    • One more thing:
      If you were however trying to say the mistake was polygamy itself, and not that the mistake was saying ALL people must enter into polygamy–then I could maybe buy that argument (though I’d probably disagree). However, the article did not read to me like that was the argument you were making.

    • Jana Riess

      I can see now how my statement would have been confusing. Young was trying to communicate the idea that polygamy was an eternal principle that had to be embraced for entrance into the CK. You’re quite right that it would have been logistically impossible for it to be *practiced* by everyone in this life.

      But for the record, I do not personally believe that polygamy is an eternal principle or that the afterlife will be polygamous, so in this I differ greatly from Young.

  25. Oh Jana, The Holy Spirit’s obviously calling to you. How long will you continue to resist Him? Your salvation is based on what Jesus did for you because He loves you – not on your ability or inability to follow rules – His or those of claimed religious leaders.

  26. Did anyone ever wonder why there are so many different commandments we LDS are given to obey? I won’t bother to list them, they are legion. I’ve thought about this a lot and come up with the idea that maybe we just aren’t going to be obedient in all things at all times. But in an entire life, maybe we can accomplish most of them. Food storage…we have our year’s supply. We finally hunkered down and bought the whole thing, freeze dried. Over the years we have tried to do food storage and wasted so much money and time. The ton of wheat in the barrels we wound up moving to Florida, where it sat in the garage for the next two years in 100+ degree heat with 100% humidity. I found out we could not do wheat due to allergies, but we had food storage, until we realized we had a ton of steamed wheat. Then there was the garden…we bought a tiller and a freezer big enough to hold two cows at one time and went to work in the back yard, which was fill dirt from the excavation of the house. We harvested two tomatoes and some sad looking green beans. We never used the freezer for food, but it was a dandy place to store toys. We lugged that freezer all around the country, planning one day to fill it up with food and be ready for the hard times. Oh yes, missionary work, we were all over that one. I can’t say we were hopeless in that field, we’ve had some friends be baptized thanks to our efforts…but right now, I am fresh out of non member friends. There’s only so many times you can ask people if they want to know more before they do that thing, pretending not to be at home when they see you there. Journaling you ask? Why yes, as a matter of fact our shelves are full of a lifetime of journals. I must have filled up more than thirty, my spouse has almost finished his second. And so it goes through all the things we are commanded to do, the temporal things. We do the best we can, but we also make a lot of mistakes. Why would that be? You’d think if the Church is true, Heavenly Father wouldn’t let you fail at being obedient. It wasn’t until recently that I understood that perfection isn’t a mortal attribute, it is a spiritual trait and comes only through the perfecting Grace of Jesus Christ our Savior. What I’ve learned through a lifetime of trying to be obedient that its more trying than being. I loved Conference. I listened to each speaker as though he spoke only to me. The sweetness of the Spirit I felt with each talk grew until at the close of the conference I had that glow. I knew I had heard truth because of the glow in my heart, and for me, that is enough. So this OW movement, where is the line of men trying to get The Lord to allow them to be pregnant? I’d like some guys I know to get in that line. A few parting thoughts: Downtown Dave, what took you so long to get your MoHate on with this column? You are usually first in line. Janna, I am grateful you are thick skinned. I guess skin depth is a question on a bloggers application though. And I must be honest about our food storage. If I don’t die some time in the next twenty years I will be hauling out the old freezer. That freeze dried stuff is too pricey. If it goes bad like they say in twenty five years and I am not dead, I won’t be able to afford to buy it again. Just saying.

  27. Thanks for this post Jana. I just don’t get why the idea that we should pray about counsel from prophets & apostles even amounts to “selective obedience” or why that would be offensive to some people on this thread. In my opinion, that is called using spiritual discernment. In the talk by President Uchtdorf called “What Is Truth”, he writes the following:

    “Latter-day Saints are not asked to blindly accept everything they hear. We are encouraged to think and discover truth for ourselves. We are expected to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to a personal knowledge of the truth.
    Brigham Young said: “I am … 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. … Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates.”

    The same thought is given in John 7:17, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

    I appreciate that you do speak openly about your questions and thoughts on different gospel topics. Having a venue to hear others thoughts and speak my own is essential in my process of seeking out truth.

    • Amen to that, Ali.

      Unfortunately just this morning I learned of a women whose bishop took away her temple recommend simply because she couldn’t bring herself to agree with him that EVWRYTHING spoken at General Conference was the word of God.

      Ecclesiastical roulette at it’s worst.

  28. Patrick Bristow

    Thomas T. You should post your last name so that I can be sure never to retain you as my lawyer. Your post has to be one of the most poorly reasoned arguments I have had the misfortune to read.
    It must be frustrating to you that you were brought into the world about 150 years too late. You would have made a fine councillor for Brigham Young.
    You could have expounded the Adam God theory, slit the first throat as a “sign of love” as part of Blood Atonement, helped BY build his fine Mansions from the misappropriation of member contributions. Oh yes, and ridden down to Cedar City to help the Stake presidency there murder innocent men women and children at Mountain Meadows. And being the fine attorney that you are you could then have represented Lee on the grounds that he was innocent of Murder because he was following the words of BY who is the mouthpiece of the lord.
    However, here in lies the problem, today with our twenty first century thinking the new batch of leaders claims that all of BY false teachings and misguided policies were all part of his being a Man. And, all of his pronouncements that have not been discredited yet, for now are his Godly attributes. And, for a safe haven we as followers can’t be held accountable to God for any sin we incur by following those councils.
    I can see you at the great judgement Bar of God defending the vile Murderers of Mountain Meadows on the grounds that they were misled by Gods chosen servant, Brigham Young.
    “my Lord, the defendants are protected by Priesthood Ordenance 157-32 of 1855 section B” which states” the members of My church can not be led astray by the words or actions of my Anointed Leaders. In the rare case where false teachings slip through the cracks then I will forgive the members and lay all their sins in the lap of the misguided leader” in this case Brigham Young.

    The only compliment I can give BY is his opinion of Lawyers.

  29. I can’t remember who said it, one of the things that I disagree and really rubbed me the wrong way about the conference. One of the leaders said something to the effect that church members should not question and should be obedient of church leaders IE “prophets” “apostles”.

    I think church leaders are fallible. We are supposed to do our best to do God’s will, if a church leader is leading us in a different direction I will be disobedient of the church. I think Brigham Young and the Mountain Meadows massacre are good examples of why there are times that church members should ask why and be defiant if church leadership is doing Satan’s will. God and Jesus should be our ultimate leaders, not church leaders.

  1. […] Mormons and the problem of selective obedience (Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood)– “The problem with any all-or-nothing view of prophetic authority is that it removes our greatest gift, agency. In the Mormon cosmogony, our God cared so deeply about human freedom that a full third of the host of heaven was sacrificed in order to preserve it. How tragic that those on the far right are so anxious to surrender that agency and allow someone else to do their thinking for them. It is equally tragic, however, when those on the far left conclude that there is no such thing as prophetic or inspired leadership, or that God has long since stopped speaking through human mouths.” […]

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