Tag Archives: General Authorities

The New Nazis – Mormons

Something usually happens to me once or twice each time General Conference rolls around. We’ll be a session or two in, and everything will be rolling smoothly. Then, all of the sudden, a speaker says something and I think, “Yep, that’ll get folks riled up.”

It always makes me smile, in a light eye-rolling sort of way. NEWS FLASH – Mormon Leaders Still Believe Mormon-y Stuff!

I had a similar experience just a few weeks ago, when Elder Neil L. Andersen gave a talk in General Conference called, simply, “Joseph Smith”. Sure enough, people heard him talk about Joseph Smith and immediately went here:

A reenactment of a common scene in the basements of Mormon church buildings.

Someone even wrote, in effect, “I’m not saying that Neil L. Andersen is like Hitler, but… he’s kind of like Hitler.”

Totally not even joking. Continue reading The New Nazis – Mormons

Them’s Chores

I heard a story yesterday originally from a preacher who grew up in Detroit. He’d spent his whole life in the inner city, and when he was still young he went to visit his grandparents on their farm in northern Michigan. He heard the birds like he’d never heard them before. He saw the blue skies like he’d never seen them before. It was wonderful.

The next morning, his grandpa woke him up at 6 o’clock (he hadn’t ever seen that before either). They walked outside, and his grandpa handed him a metal pail. There was a chicken coop across the way, and his grandpa pointed to it and said, “Take this pail, and go and collect any eggs.” He did.

When he got back, his grandpa gave him a bucket of slop. “Take this and go feed the pig.” He did.

It went like this all morning, before the young boy had even eaten breakfast. Finally, his grandpa took him inside where breakfast was waiting for them. After eating his fill, he threw himself on the sofa in the living room. Continue reading Them’s Chores

The Parable of the Vegan Conference

I really enjoyed the parable posted on Millennial Star yesterday.

(Side note: I often really enjoy their posts.)

What’s more, the comments (at least, as of the time of me posting this) have been great, and enhance the conversation around the premise of the original post.

I highly recommend it for those who, like me, are new to this whole new world of online Mormonism.

Correlation is for the Dogs

Lots of Rules

Mormon missionaries have a lot of rules. You can read them for yourselves in the Missionary Handbook.

There are 92 glorious pages, filled with gems like these:

  • “Refer to other missionaries, including your companion,
    as “Elder” or “Sister” and their surnames, not
    by their first names, nicknames, or surnames alone.”
  • “If you play basketball, volleyball, or another sport, do
    not allow the situation to become intense or competitive.
    (For example, do not keep score.)”
  • “Do not watch television, go to movies, listen to the
    radio, or use the Internet (except to communicate with
    your family or your mission president or as otherwise
    authorized).”

I’ve intentionally taken these rules out of context to heighten their “weirdness,” particularly for those who aren’t familiar with how Mormon missions work. They demonstrate some examples of the “do”s and “don’t”s that I was expected to live by for two years. Continue reading Correlation is for the Dogs

Simon Peter and Joseph Smith

One of the most prominent differences between Latter-day Saints and mainstream Christianity is in how we each view the role of prophets. This in turn affects how we each view the scriptural cannon, where true doctrine comes from, and a score of other differences that are actually just different manifestations of this same issues. For members of the LDS Church, the concept of a modern prophet is perfectly acceptable and logical, and many bear testimony of how modern prophets have blessed their lives. Yet for some mainstream Christians, the LDS concept of a modern prophet can be anything from dangerous to absurd to just plain wrong.

Simon Peter and Joseph Smith

Ross Baron, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, set up what he called Community Firesides in his community of southern California, to respond to some anti-Mormon activities that were taking place in the area. His firesides were so successful that he has boiled his method down to ten principles that others can use to be successful.

He made a very important point in one of these firesides, a point that may help Christians not only see how Latter-day Saints view prophets, but also accept that the idea may not be as absurd or dangerous as they originally believed.  Baron said,

“We were getting near the end of [a question and answer session]. The head pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church… stood up, and he said this:

He prefaced it by saying, “Well, I have the quote here that will definitively tell all of you here” –this is what he’s saying, kind of his opening statement– “about Mormonism and about how it’s false.”  And he pulls out the quote from Brigham Young where [Young] said that unless we accept Joseph Smith, that we cannot gain salvation. And he said, “That’s utter blasphemy, and they claim to be Christians, but we know that that is absolutely false. How do you respond to that, Mr. Baron?”

I looked at him, and I said, “Well, can I ask you a question?”

And he said, “Certainly.”

And I said, “Imagine you’re living in AD 34.  You’re in Jerusalem.  It’s Acts chapter two.  Peter is preaching about Christ and him crucified. You feel the spirit. Can you, sir,  reject Peter’s testimony and accept Christ?

And he went, “Um.”

And I knew I had him.

And I said, “That’s exactly how we feel about Joseph Smith: He’s a modern-day Peter. That’s exactly how we feel.”

Now, think about that. If he had said, “Yes, we can reject Peter and accept Christ,” then we throw the Bible out, right? If he says, “No, we can’t [reject Peter and accept Christ],” then he knows exactly the position Joseph Smith’s in.

The New Testament and General Conference

Twice a year, Latter-day Saints from all over the world will gather in meetinghouses and listen to the words from modern day prophets and apostles. It happens every six months, and it’s called General Conference. Members of the Church use this as an opportunity to, as David O. McKay said, “worship the Lord in sincerity and reverence, and to give and to receive encouragement, exhortation, and instruction” (see “General Conferences Are Held for Specific Purposes“).

You can find similar purposes behind many of the books in the New Testament. In fact, most of the latter books in the New Testament are letters written to the various congregations scattered across the old world. The apostles on the earth at that time wrote those letters in order to do the exact same thing that modern apostles are doing with General Conference – to give and receive encouragement, exhortation, and instruction. Latter-day Saints will look to their leaders who will declare, as did Peter of old, that “there is none other name under heaven given among men” than Jesus Christ “whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

And because we believe that they, like Peter, are special witnesses of Jesus Christ, we cannot accept the Savior while rejecting their counsel. We view them no differently than the original church viewed the apostles.

Accepting Joseph Smith

I thought it might be worthwhile to include a likely candidate for the quote reference by the Lighthouse Baptist Church above. In it’s entirely, it can be seen to be perfectly appropriate, and in line with the principles already discussed.

Brigham Young said,

“The time was when the test of a Christian was his confession of Christ. In the first Epistle of John 1 is written,

‘Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God; every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God, and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God. And this is that spirit of anti-Christ, whereof ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is in the world.’

This is no test to this generation, for all men of the Christian world confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. This generation, however, is not left without a test. I have taught for thirty years, and still teach, that he that believeth in his heart and confesseth with his mouth that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith is his Prophet to this generation, is of God; and he that confesseth not that Jesus has come in the flesh and sent Joseph Smith with the fulness of the Gospel to this generation, is not of God, but is anti-Christ (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, pg 312-313).

President Young was correct. In this sectarian age, confession of Jesus Christ is not necessarily an indication that one has avoided false prophets, or that the church is of God. In this generation, the true test is whether or not we accept Joseph Smith, God’s chosen mouthpiece in this age, and each successive prophet since his day.

Elder Jensen Apologizes for… Prop 8?

The other day I came across an article on the website Mormon Matters by an author known on site as “johndehlin“.  The article was entitled “Elder Marlin Jensen Apologizes for Proposition 8”.  I’d link to it for you, but since then it has been removed because “virtually everyone” found it to be “totally objectionable” (there is now an “Undo” in it’s place).

Basically, the author was an idiot.

That may sound like a strong accusation, but I consider “idiot” generous.  The author was cunning and deceptive, “wresting” the words of a General Authority of the Church to fit his own self-righteous opinions (see 2 Peter 3:16 and Doctrine and Covenants 10:63).

I feel strongly about this.  Let me explain why.

Oh, the Insanity

Why did I have such a problem with the article?  There are three reasons.

Disunity in Church Leadership?

First, the title of the article is intentionally misleading.  It infers that Elder Jensen is apologizing for Prop. 8, or in other words, for the LDS Church’s involvement in supporting and passing the proposition.  This inference carries with it the claim that a General Authority of the Church would speak out publicly against the Prophet and Apostles that lead the Church, and that there is discord in Church leadership.

Certainly Church leaders disagree on occasion.  While this is a mostly conservative church, there are many political liberals.  In the past, one has even become a counselor in the First Presidency. What’s more, I can guarantee that the group of 15 men that I sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators, who come from such diverse backgrounds, do not agree on everything regardless of political preference.  And the hundreds of men who serve in the quorums of the Seventy come from even more diverse backgrounds and countries throughout the world.  This does not lead Church leaders to backbite publicly or lobby in order to garner support for their views.  The Church is led by Jesus Christ, and when decisions are made, leaders sustain those decisions.

Obscure Citations?

Second, the author used an obscure quote from an obscure stake conference that was little more than a sentence long.  It quoted Elder Jensen as saying, “As far as it is within my power to do so, I apologize.”  There was nothing more referencing what he was talking about other than the title of the article, so this quote reinforced the inference that Elder Jensen was acting contrary to Church leadership and apologizing for their involvement in Proposition 8.

Evidence this important should never be so obscure.  It should be well documented (that’s why we have General Conference) and multi-sourced (talks from multiple Church leaders, wide support in the scriptures, etc).

Biased, Unathoritative Sources?

Third, the remainder of the article was a forwarded e-mail or letter written by a (random) member that attended these meetings.  She had some fringe opinions of her own, and expressed her gratitude that at least some members of the leadership in the Church were admitting their error.

Perhaps the author of the article realized that his quote from Elder Jensen was obscure after all.  He might have thought that citing a lay church member with obvious bias would add strength to his position….  Unfortunately, it was just further perpetuation of the lie that started with the misleading article title.

Idiot.

What Elder Jensen Meant

Elder Jensen was not, in case there is any confusion, apologizing for the LDS doctrine of the family or the LDS support of Prop. 8.  For a much better description of what went on at that stake conference, see the document here by Carol Lynn Pearson.  It seems that Pearson may have biases of her own based on personal experience, but her account is much more balanced.

Elder Jensen had attended a meeting for members of the Church in the area who “continued to feel wounded in the aftermath of the Proposition 8 campaign.”  Many of those in attendance were those who, perhaps like Pearson, had personal experience with homosexuality within their families.  The involvement of the Church brought this issue very close to home, and the meeting gave them a chance to vent.

Pearson comments that after members at the meeting had been given a chance to speak,

“[Elder Jensen] said he had heard very clearly the pain that had been expressed and that “to the full extent of my capacity I say that I am sorry.””

But he also told them that the position of the Church will not change.  Personally, I don’t see how anyone could expect the Church position to change.  The Family: A Proclamation to the World makes the doctrine clear, as do the words of many Church leaders.  Life may be difficult for those with homosexual tendencies, or for those related to those with homosexual tendencies, but the Plan is not going to change, and the commandments are as applicable to them as they are to those faced with alcoholic tendencies, or those addicted to drugs or pornography, or those pre-disposed to violence, hatred, or ignorance.

But the wonderful message of the gospel is that the atonement is also just as applicable! Homosexuality may be something that some people have to live with, but the peace of God surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and the power of the atonement reaches everyone.

Fringe Opinions

I hope that you’re not missing my meaning.

I’m not out to get those who don’t fit some Utah cookie-cutter view of Mormonism (I’m from California, by the way, and I don’t really fit the Utah cookie-cutter, either).  I’m all about sharing opinions, even (and perhaps especially) fringe opinions.  I have some of my own, and I believe that sharing and discussing leads to greater universal understanding and edification. It’s so important to be able to ask questions.

But offering dishonest or manufactured information, intentionally misleading others, is wrong.  If you can’t back up your position logically and truthfully, then perhaps you need to spend a little more time thinking about it.  And if you don’t have time to think about or study your position, perhaps you’re best left out of the discussion.  In the words of W.K. Clifford,

“But,” says one, “I am a busy man; I have no time for the long course of study which would be necessary to make me in any degree a competent judge of certain questions, or even able to understand the nature of the arguments.” Then he should have no time to believe (“The Ethics of Belief,” found here).

Follow the Prophet

There will always be doctrines within the Church that will conflict with the personal opinion of someone, somewhere.  As the Church grows to include a variety of peoples and cultures, many will find that they have opinions or traditions that conflict with gospel principles.

Elder Holland, in one of my favorite General Conference addresses, addressed the thinking that the Church leaders are out of touch with society.  He’s had a stellar career both inside and outside of the Church, which is something to keep in mind as he references his personal and professional life.  He said,

“Some sources have suggested that the Brethren are out of touch in their declarations, that they don’t know the issues, that some of their policies and practices are out-of-date, not relevant to our times.

“As the least of those who have been sustained by you to witness the guidance of this Church firsthand, I say with all the fervor of my soul that never in my personal or professional life have I ever associated with any group who are so in touch, who know so profoundly the issues facing us, who look so deeply into the old, stay so open to the new, and weigh so carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully everything in between. I testify that the grasp this body of men and women have of moral and societal issues exceeds that of any think tank or brain trust of comparable endeavor of which I know anywhere on the earth. I bear personal witness of how thoroughly good they are, of how hard they work, and how humbly they live. It is no trivial matter for this Church to declare to the world prophecy, seership, and revelation, but we do declare it” (Prophets in the Land Again).

I don’t have a gay brother or sister.  I’ve had very few gay friends.  But if I did, it would not change my desire to faithfully follow the prophet.  I sustain the Prophet and the Apostles as men who lead this Church through the inspiration of Jesus Christ.  It is his church, not theirs, and God will never permit any of them to lead the Church astray – “it’s not in the program” (See Official Declaration 1).  When they announce a position that I find contrary to my own, I hope to have the strength to follow them and live in greater accordance with the Savior’s gospel.

May we not, as members of the Church, mentally stone the current prophets while polishing the sepulchers of past prophets.

For further reading on this, another great article in addition to Jeffrey R. Holland’s address mentioned above is one written by Ezra Taft Benson called “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet.”