Tag Archives: Jeffrey R. Holland

Teaching the Gospel with Twinkies

This post started as a comment, but I ended up being too long-winded. I decided it’d be bad form to pontificate that much in the comment thread.

This movie terrified me as a child.

Of course, as I’ve prepared this post, it’s grown even more (I’ve got to give you some context!). Sorry about that. Still, I feel like I’ve learned some cool things, and I can totally pontificate here as much as I like.

A Twinkie?

The original post I was considering commenting on was actually a book review of John Bytheway’s recent book How Do I Know if I Know? It was generally positive, though the author, Ivan, admitted that JB is probably closer to “milk” than “meat” (in the words of Paul’s analogy). This shouldn’t surprise anyone – JB has become popular because of his entertaining style that’s aimed primarily at youth in the Church. To borrow a business term, it’s his competitive advantage.

In response to the review, someone suggested that it might be generous to label JB as “milk.” They offered that “Twinkie” or “Oreo” might be more appropriate substitutes.

Oh no you di’int!

Gauntlet thrown! Continue reading Teaching the Gospel with Twinkies

Boldly Going Where No One Has Gone Before

I felt like Elder Oaks’ address from General Conference, “Loving Others and Living with Differences,” was fantastic. And heavy. And a little biting, especially if you’re one of those dweebs who doesn’t let their kids play with other kids who aren’t members of the Church.

(I mean, seriously?…)

Dang it. I just lost the “is it I?” game, deep diving into my second General Conference talk. Crap.

I feel like there’s so much in there that I’ll need to “noodle” over, but one of the heaviest parts of Elder Oaks’ talk, in my view, is the discussion about contention. “Contention” can mean a great many things to a great many people, which is what makes discussion about it so slippery. Before we look more into clues that help us see how Elder Oaks’ understands “contention,” let me tell you a story. Continue reading Boldly Going Where No One Has Gone Before

General Conference and Looking for “New Wording”

I’m really excited for General Conference. Come Saturday morning, I’ll be in my super comfy Nautica PJ’s (or maybe sporting my PhillyD monkey shirt), probably setting the oven timer for the amazing French toast casserole we make biannually at conference time.

This French toast recipe is as true as the Church.

Making this breakfast is a family affair. It’s tons of fun.

We don’t dress up for conference in our family, unlike some folks, I guess (the Trib runs pieces like this during the two times a year time it tries to be nice to the LDS Church, the weeks before the spring and fall conferences). That definitely helps me be excited.

When my wife and I were dating, though, I did have her convinced for a moment that in my house, we stayed in church clothes all Sunday long.

(I could see it in her eyes, the way she considered breaking up with me right then and there.)

The way we approach conference – more in terms of what we listen for rather than our dress or food quirks – is very important when it comes to getting the most out of it. Let me show you what I mean.

In 2005, then President Gordon B. Hinckley gave a talk entitled, simply, “Gambling.” I’ve always found the structure of this talk far more interesting than the content. Continue reading General Conference and Looking for “New Wording”

A Harmful Address from General Conference

I like to explore the blogosphere after General Conference ends. I’m interested in the reactions that others have to the words of the Church leaders, men who I consider to be prophets, seers, and revelators. This helps me to think more critically about what I’ve heard, which in turn builds my testimony in what they’ve said.

One particular post caught my eye. A marriage and family therapist, and member of the LDS Church, wrote a post on the Saturday morning session of General Conference, dividing each speaker’s comments into (potentially) three sections:

  • Messages I Found to be Healthy and Uplifting
  • Messages I Found to be Needing of Further Nuance/Discussion
  • Messages I Found to be Harmful

The first two sections aren’t anything special – this blog, for example, is a place where I often add my own nuance and discussion (from my perspective, of course) to the words of prophets. That third section, though, piqued my interest, perhaps because it’s an idea that is so foreign to me – it’s a short walk from “harmful” to “dismissible,” and that concerns me ever so slightly.

In the interest of adding to the dialogue, I’d like to look at the “harmful” portions identified by this blogger in Jeffrey R. Holland’s address. Continue reading A Harmful Address from General Conference

My Thoughts on Today’s Supreme Court Review

Yesterday, you might not have known what was on the Supreme Court’s docket for today.

Today, you know.

You know because you probably have a Facebook account (1 billion of us do, as of October 2012) and your news feed was likely filled up by activists and constitutional “experts” on both sides of the argument, all commenting on news coming out of the Supreme Court.

My Anecdotal Observations of Fellow Latter-day Saints

I’ve written before on the subject of so-called same sex marriage, but I feel like I can contribute to the conversation in one way tonight. I’d like to talk about some of my observations of the LDS community. Certainly I don’t have a good view of all Latter-day Saints, so my observations will be little more than anecdotal. Still, that doesn’t make them invalid. I, at least, think that they’ll be worth considering.

A Diverse Body with An Important Foundation 

We Latter-day Saints are a fairly diverse group of people. You might not think it, getting pop culture hints from “The Book of Mormon” musical and Big Love, but Latter-day Saints are a 14 million member strong group who live all over the earth and have varied levels of activity and belief, and a wide range of personalities, opinions, and mannerisms.

I’ve mused before about what, among such a diverse group of individuals, unites us, and you can read that post for those thoughts. Since then, Elder Robert D. Hales spoke in General Conference about “Being a More Christian Christian”. His criteria for what it means to be Christian (and I think “Christian” here is interchangeable with “Mormon” or “Latter-day Saint”, as will be clear in a moment) is also a fine study about what should be the same among Latter-day Saints. A Latter-day Saint is:

    • Someone who follows the gospel pattern of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end (paragraphs 2 – 4).
    • Someone who believes that God has followed a pattern of calling prophets to teach His children, and that this pattern has continued in our day with Joseph Smith and his successors (paragraph 5).
    • Someone who believes in the Godhead as taught in the scriptures and by modern prophets. This belief regarding the nature of God is at odds with Trinitarian theology (paragraph 6).

There is quite a bit in there that mainstream Christianity would find objectionable, but that should suggest to us that when Elder Hales asks, “With these doctrines as the foundations of our faith, can there be any doubt or disputation that we (Latter-day Saints) are Christian?”, he’s not comparing Latter-day Saints to modern, mainstream, creedal Christianity as much as he’s comparing Latter-day Saints to biblical Christianity.

But that’s a talk for another day and another post.

The point is that Elder Hales highlights a belief in the principle of prophets and a testimony that the leaders of the Mormon Church are the modern-day equivalents of  Peter, Moses, or Paul. That’s not an idle statement to make or believe in. Paul wrote to new church members of his day,

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:19-20).

Distance from Modern Prophets

Whether or not you’re familiar with the LDS position on the issue of so-called same-sex marriage, consider these posts from some of my Latter-day Saint Facebook friends:

“Hopefully today is the first step towards increasing equality in our nation.”

“Real equality would be government that is not in charge of marriage.”

“taking agency away from a group of people is what satan (sic) wants…..”

And many of them posted graphics, like these:

Posts like these really confuse me. They confuse me because, for example, the leadership of our Church said just today:

Today the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments regarding the definition of marriage in this country.

We firmly support the divinely appointed definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman because it is the single most important institution for strengthening children, families, and society.

We hope the court will agree, and we look forward to the decision on this important matter.

That’s not even the least of all they’ve said, but it suffices for this post. It’s not difficult for the sincere student to learn more about the LDS position (try here, at Mormons and Gays, which then links to other legitimate sources at the bottom of the page). This position is in direct conflict with many of the sentiments and graphics above.

Something seems off….

A Story with a Moral – Faithful Obedience

I’m reminded of the story of Martin Harris and the lost 116 pages. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, here is a refresher.

Joseph Smith began translating the Book of Mormon plates in the late 1820s. He had a scant education, and enlisted the help of Martin Harris, a local of Palmyra, New York, to act as scribe. Harris’ help was invaluable – not only was Harris a respected member of the community, but he also gave significant resources to help finance the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon.

By the middle of 1828, Joseph had dictated 116 pages to Harris. Unfortunately, Harris’ relationship with his wife was tenuous at the time. Additionally, she was suspicious of Joseph, and opposed to the resources her husband was devoting to Joseph’s cause. Harris asked Joseph if he could take the manuscript home to show his wife. He thought this would help encourage her support and help heal some of their strained relationship.

Joseph asked the Lord if Harris could take the manuscript. The Lord refused. Still, Harris pressured Joseph to ask a second time. Again, the Lord refused. Harris pressured Joseph once more, and the Lord agreed to let him take the manuscript as long as he showed it to only a few specified family members.

Tragically, Harris lost the 116 pages of the manuscript. They were never recovered, and Joseph was commanded not to re-translate those pages (the thieves who had stolen them had changed the words so that, were Joseph to re-translate, the two versions would not agree – see Doctrine and Covenants 10).

The Lord, with his omniscient foresight, had prepared for this loss. He told Nephi, one of the primary authors of the Book of Mormon, to make two sets of records covering the same time period.

And the reason for making two sets of records? Nephi didn’t have a clue. He tells us,

“Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.

“But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men” (see 1 Nephi 9).

Mormon, who almost 1,000 years later would be inspired to include Nephi’s record in concert with his abridgment, would write,

“And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will” (see Words of Mormon 1:3-7).

Joseph continued to translate, but from this additional record instead of the material he’d previously translated. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said,

“We got back more than we lost. And it was known from the beginning that it would be so.”

For more on that story, you can also read my post, “God’s Divine Backup Plan”.

Some Principles to Follow

Often when we hear this story, we focus on Martin Harris and Joseph Smith. There’s nothing wrong with this – there’s an important lesson to be learned from them. But I’d like to focus on two different individuals. I’d like to focus on Nephi and Mormon, and particularly Nephi.

Nephi, as we saw, was commanded to make a second record detailing the same period he’d just covered. Keep in mind that this is an age before copy-and-paste, before xerox, before the printing press. Nephi was making records on metal plates while traveling as a nomad through uninhabited Arabia and (likely) South America. That would have been extremely arduous and tedious. Yet he did it.

Nephi did this, all without (as far as we know) ever knowing why. He never received any indication of what the Lord’s “wise purpose” was, what fruit would be born from his laborious seed planting. Not even Mormon, who spent his life protecting and abridging these records, ever knew the end from the beginning in regards to these records. Yet they obeyed. And because they obeyed, we have the Book of Mormon today, complete with the powerful testimony of early Nephite prophets.

What’s the connection for Latter-day Saints to same-sex marriage?

In 1995, then president Gordon B. Hinckley presented “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”. It highlighted the vital family values that our Church stands for, and called for members and citizens to support measures aimed at upholding the traditional family unit. This proclamation reads, in part,

“We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children….

“We warn that… the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

When Prop 8 was prepared as a ballot measure, the First Presidency, led by current president Thomas S. Monson, sent a letter to California congregations. It encouraged Latter-day Saints to do all that they could to support the measure. It read,

“Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families:

“In March 2000 California voters overwhelmingly approved a state law providing that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The California Supreme Court recently reversed this vote of the people. On November 4, 2008, Californians will vote on a proposed amendment to the California state constitution that will now restore the March 2000 definition of marriage approved by the voters.

“The Church’s teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan for His children. Children are entitled to be born within this bond of marriage.

“A broad-based coalition of churches and other organizations placed the proposed amendment on the ballot. The Church will participate with this coalition in seeking its passage. Local Church leaders will provide information about how you may become involved in this important cause.

We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.

Regardless of the other issues at work here – and make no mistake, this is a highly complex and controversial issue – the Church leaders have been very clear about what is expected of faithful Latter-day Saints. After that, the decision is ours to decide which way we face.

The choice is, of course, ours to make. But let’s make no mistake about what’s happening when we follow personal whims, lean on political correctness, or disregard prophetic counsel. Perhaps President Brigham Young said it best:

“You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God, and sink yourselves to hell.”

Stand with the prophets, even if you don’t understand why. You may never understand – we learn that much from Nephi and Mormon – but you can have faith that the Lord knows what he’s doing.

What Makes Mormonism Unique – A Sense of Community?

The Book of Mormon Girl

Joanna Brooks, an English professor at San Diego State University, is the creator of the blog “Ask Mormon Girl” and author of “The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith”. Her blog is an interesting one, and her opinions ones that I often agree with (as if that somehow gives them greater credence), but she also drifts from what I would consider doctrinal sensibility (in Meridian Magazine’s articles here or here her perspective is referred to as “Mormon Lite”).

For example, at “Camp Courage”, Brooks gives what a Meridian Magazine author called a fair synopsis of “The Book of Mormon Girl”. Quoting from the latter article above,

My name is Joanna, I say. And I am a straight Mormon feminist.

(Cheers. The crowd cheers.)

I grew up in the orange groves of Republican Orange County. I was raised to believe in a loving, kind, and powerful God. …

In 1993, one of the leaders of my church declared feminists, intellectuals, and gays and lesbians enemies.

I felt as if someone had thrown my heart to the concrete and dropped a cinderblock on it.

In 1997, my church started giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to the anti-gay marriage initiatives.

I felt as if someone had thrown my heart to the concrete and dropped a cinderblock on it.

…But I went back to church so that my daughters could know the same loving, kind, and powerful God I was raised to believe in.

Just a few months later, my Church mobilized a huge campaign for Proposition 8.

And again I felt as if someone had thrown my heart to the concrete and dropped a cinderblock on it.

I did what I could. It wasn’t enough. But I am a Mormon. And I am not giving up.

I’m not sure this is the kind of person I want speaking for my faith. She tends to reinterpret Mormonism to fit a personal agenda.

As an aside, my microscopic popularity assuages any fears I have of being seen myself as speaking for my faith.

As a further aside, those who really speak for my faith will be speaking this very weekend! How awesome is that?!

A Sense of Community

I felt that background important going into the rest of this post.

The BYU newspaper “The Daily Universe” wrote an article about Brooks recently. She visited UVU (a university nearby BYU) and did a reading from her book. She also had the opportunity to tell a part of her story. She says,

“I’ve never stopped thinking of myself as Mormon, and I don’t consider myself as ever having left the church. But there was a time for about eight years where I did not attend church. I was going through what I would call a faith transition and a re-evaluating of my relationship with the Church because of excommunicated feminist intellectuals and the church’s stance on same-sex marriage.”

Her reactivation in the Church came because of her two young daughters. Singing primary hymns with them, she realized

“that I could, by myself, teach them the doctrine, but I couldn’t give them that sense of how to belong to a community and to this crazy, beautiful thing called Mormonism. They helped me be brave enough to go back and be with other Mormons.”

So, the most vital thing, the most essential thing, the most important thing, that her daughters needed out of Mormonism when simple doctrine would not suffice was a “sense of how to belong to a community,” or, more specifically, the “crazy, beautiful” community of Mormonism.

That’s silly.

“Our Most Distinguishing Feature”

Recently at Harvard Law School, Jeffrey R. Holland spoke on a sort Mormonism 101. Towards the end of his presentation, he said,

“For today, we are unique in the modern Christian world regarding one matter which a prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called “our most distinguishing feature.” That is, divine priesthood authority to provide the saving sacraments—the ordinances—of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The holy priesthood, which has been restored to the earth by those who held it anciently, signals the return of divine authorization.  It is different from all other man-made powers and authorities on the face of the earth.  Without it there could be a church in name only, and it would be a church lacking in authority to administer in the things of God.  This restoration of priesthood authority eases centuries of anguish among those who knew certain ordinances and sacraments were essential, but lived with the doubt as to who had the right to administer them.  Breaking ecclesiastically with his more famous brother John over the latter’s decision to ordain without any divine authority to do so, Charles Wesley wrote:

“How easily are bishops made
By man or woman’s whim:
Wesley his hands on Coke hath laid,
But who laid hands on him?

“In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we can answer the question of “who laid hands on him” all the way back to Christ Himself.  The return of such authority is truly “the most distinguishing feature” of our faith.”

His question and answer portion (found here) also included a question, and fantastic answer, on the same subject.

It comes as no surprise that Brooks considers the deficit of her “home-church Mormonism” a loss of a sense of community, and not this most distinguishing feature. It is this feature, the keys of power of the priesthood that Church leaders hold, and their subsequent authority to speak and act for God, that are primarily behind my own support of the Church’s position on Proposition 8. Who knows but that we feel the same about this issue; the difference is that I sustain Church leaders as prophets.

It is this uniqueness, this most distinguishing feature, that influences practically everything that makes Mormonism what is it, including the “only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30).

What do you think is the most important feature of the true church?

The Potter’s Clay

I was reading through some of my old mission notes the other day, and came across a fantastic little lesson. It all starts with this scripture from Jeremiah:

“O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:6).

The Potter’s Process

To those who may have taken ceramics in high school (or have seen the movie “Ghost” more than a few times) this may be old news. For the rest of us, though, this is how the ceramics process works.

First, you have to cut and wedge the clay. Wedging is done by rotating the clay and pressing it onto a hard surface. When done correctly, wedging homogenizes the clay and gets all the air bubbles out.

This is very hard work, but work that is absolutely critical. Air still in the clay will expand during firing, and the piece will explode in the kiln.

A piece is then molded and dried before making its’ way to the kiln, where firing takes place. Firing is normally done in multiple steps. The initial firing, referred to as bisque firing, is meant to harden the clay in order to make glazing easier. This first firing takes a few days, as the oven temperature slowly rises to almost 2000 degrees, then slowly falls before pieces are removed from the kiln.

If the temperature rises or falls too quickly, or if the wedging was poor and air bubbles were left in the clay, the piece will explode. It will be completely destroyed, and will likely destroy or damage pieces near it in the kiln.

Our Response to the Divine Potter

As our Heavenly Potter works us into the shapes he desires, we can respond in two ways.

Rebellious Clay

The first response is to rebel against his efforts, to push back against the wedging and the molding. Regarding this response, Isaiah asks,

“For shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?” (Isaiah 29:16; see also 2 Nephi 27:27).

“Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” (Isaiah 45:9).

Isaiah essentially points out how silly it is to fight our Potter’s hands. It would be absurd for my own clay to start talking back as I formed it into a pot or dish! It’s dirt! It has no idea what’s going on, or what is best.

Humble Clay

This is why it’s so much better to respond in the second way, with humble acceptance. Contrasting the intelligence of a human potter and mud is an apt metaphor. Compared to our Heavenly Father, and just like the dirt, we don’t have a clue.

Additionally, the clay has no real value until it is molded. We could never become apart from the molding, pursuing our own course, what our Heavenly Potter could make us.

In the words of Isaiah, how better is it to say to the Divine Potter,

“But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8).

In his hands we can be shaping into something special. As he wedges us, and we feel the pressure of being stretched and refined, let us remember his purpose. He wants to prepare us for the kilns ahead, and give us the fortitude to withstand the heat.

Firing and Repentance

Once clay is kilned, it’s practically permanent. While it’s possible to become malleable again, it’s so much harder than before the clay is fired.

First, scraps need to be soaked. And soaked. And soaked. The moisture was taken out of the clay over a long, hot process, and it will take a long, long time for moisture to return. It does not happen overnight.

Then the clay must be reconstituted. This is sometimes done with a machine that crushes and mixes the scraps into clay that can once again be molded and shaped.

But all is not done even after reconstitution. Again, the clay must be wedged, and wedging reconstituted clay is far more difficult than wedging new clay.

What can we learn from this?

First, we learn that repentance is hard. It is possible, and it is worth it, but that does not mean that it is without a price. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said,

“I am convinced that… salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that [we] have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. [We] have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.

“Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that [we], to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.

“For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.

If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn’t an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn’t an easier way.

The soaking, and the reconstitution, and the wedging after a life of sin will be difficult, and painful.

But I repeat, it is worth it. Isaiah tells us,

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

Jesus Christ is our Savior. Should we, God forbid, reject his careful molding and shaping, his atonement provides for us to be soaked, reconstituted, and wedged so that we can be all he wants us to be.

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.”