A blog post is circulating, written by Angela Fallentine over at Mormon Women Stand, titled, “Why You Can’t Be Loyally Opposed to the Church.” She argues that, in order to be truly faithful, a Latter-day Saint must accept “fundamental, core doctrines of the gospel; namely that marriage is only between a man and a woman and the law of chastity.” She isolates these two doctrinal points, I would assume, because of the on-going controversy surrounding the recent policy change and subsequent policy clarification that specify formal church discipline must occur for those in same-gender marriages or committed relationships; such discipline manifests as “church courts” and will result in the excommunication of any same-gender committed couples. While the church membership generally understands the difference between policy and doctrine–a lesson learned with the lifting of the priesthood ban–Fallentine seems to be swinging a few decades behind the curve ball.
She writes: “Is it that unreasonable to suggest that if one is actively advocating against the directives or teachings of the prophet, they are also acting against him?” She then adds, “The heart of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the belief and faith in prophets’ and apostles’ ability to lead and direct the Lord’s kingdom here on the earth.”
I’d take issue with the idea that “belief and faith” in church leaders is the heart of the gospel of Christ. And I’m not sure what she would classify as “actively advocating,” though later she chastises those who write articles decrying the recent policy change; she warns that “the angels in heaven are silent notes taking” in order to condemn certain wordsmiths at the judgment bar. It seems her idea of “actively advocating” is quite broad, then. But what troubles me most about her wording (considering the current climate) is the way she equates “the directives or teachings of the prophet” with doctrine.
If writing a blog post qualifies as “actively advocating,” and if “the directives and teachings of the prophet” are all doctrine, then I must conclude that Fallentine’s words demonstrate her own disloyalty to the Church and to God. You see, like her, I know a few quotations, and they don’t harmonize well with hers. I’m just going to drop a few right here:
“There are those among this people who are influenced, controlled, and biased in their thoughts, actions, and feelings by some other individual or family, on whom they place their dependence for spiritual and temporal instruction, and for salvation in the end. These persons do not depend upon themselves for salvation, but upon another of their poor, weak, fellow mortals. ‘I do not depend upon any inherent goodness of my own,’ say they, ‘introduce me into the kingdom of glory, but I depend upon you, brother Joseph, upon you, brother Brigham, upon you, brother Heber, or upon you, brother James; I believe your judgment is superior to mine, and consequently I let you judge for me; your spirit is better than mine, therefore you can do good for me; I will submit myself wholly to you, and place in you all my confidence for life and salvation; where you go I will go, and where you tarry there I will stay; expecting that you will introduce me through the gates into the heavenly Jerusalem.'” – Brigham Young, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Feb. 1853. JD 1:312.
“I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves, for this would strengthen the faith that is within them. Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, ‘If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are,’ this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.” -Brigham Young, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Oct. 1855. JD 3:45
“How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the spirit yourselves. That is your privilege.And when you testify in this public congregation, or in your prayer meetings, testifying of the things of God that you know and understand, you are at liberty to speak freely upon those things which you believe.” – Brigham Young, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. June 1857. JD 4:368
“What a pity it would be, if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.” – Brigham Young, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jan. 1862. JD 9:150
The careful reader will observe that none of the quotations Fallentine uses are words spoken by men who then served as President of the Church, including those by Ezra Taft Benson, who uttered the quotation in 1982 while serving as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve. For readers like Fallentine who grant equal credibility to the words of members of the Quorum of the Twelve, I offer these:
“Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a Bishop, an Apostle, or a President. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone; but if we lean on God, He never will fail us. When men and women depend on God alone, and trust in Him alone, their faith will not be shaken if the highest in the Church should step aside. They could still see that He is just and true, that truth is lovely in His sight, and the pure in heart are dear to Him.” – George Q. Cannon, First Counselor of the Q12, Feb 1891. Millennial Star 53:658–659, 673–675. (Read here.)
“Perhaps it is His own design that faults and weaknesses should appear in high places in order that His Saints may learn to trust in Him and not in any man or men. Therefore, my brethren and sisters, seek after the Holy Spirit and the unfailing testimony of God and His work upon the earth.” – Apostle Ezra Taft Benson in 1963 quoting apostle George Q. Cannon in the Millennial Star Vol. 53 #43 p. 674.
“There have been rare occasions when even the President of the Church in his preaching and teaching has not been ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’ You will recall the Prophet Joseph declared that a prophet is not always a prophet….This has happened about matters of doctrine (usually of a highly speculative character) where a subsequent President of the Church and the people themselves have felt that in declaring the doctrine, the announcer was not “moved upon by the Holy Ghost. How shall the Church know when these adventurous expeditions of the brethren into these highly speculative principles and doctrines meet the requirements of the statutes that the announcers thereof have been “moved upon by the Holy Ghost”? The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest.” – J. Reuben Clark, First Counselor of the First Presidency, 1954. Sermon published in Church News (July 31, 1954): 9–10. Reprinted in Dialogue.
Of course, all that I’ve demonstrated here is that we can justify our approach to the recent policy change, whatever that approach may be, with the words of Church leaders. Ultimately–and fortunately–the gift of the Holy Ghost, not our wonderful Church leadership, is our link to God. I trust the Holy Spirit will move the membership to a clearer understanding regarding the recent policy change and its clarification. I’m comforted by the understanding that the Holy Spirit moves individuals toward compassion and forgiveness. Right now, it looks to me like we all need a good strong dose of each, one toward the other.
Oh, and as for me, I welcome the angels to record whatever I write here.
Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me. Alma 5:46
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18 thoughts on “A Response to “Why You Can’t Be Loyally Opposed to the Church””
“Oh, and as for me, I welcome the angels to record whatever I write here.” Amen.
Yes, yes! A thousand times yes! I’ve been hoping someone would respond to this post. I might add another quote to those you listed, this one by Joseph Smith:
“We have heard men who hold the Priesthood remark, that they would do any thing they were told to do by those who presided over them, if they knew it was wrong: but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God, who seeks for the redemption of his fellows, would despise the idea of seeing another become his slave, who had an equal right with himself to the favour of God; he would rather see him stand by his side, a sworn enemy to wrong, so long as there was place found for it among men. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty (!) authority, have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the Saints were told to do by their Presidents, they should do it without asking any questions.
When the Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience, as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves, and wish to pave the way to accomplish that wrong; or else because they have done wrong, and wish to use the cloak of their authority to cover it with, lest it should be discovered by their superiors, who would require an atonement at their hands.”
“Priesthood,” Millennial Star 14/38 (13 November 1852)
I do not understand why some Mormons have suddenly taken to believe that the Church and their leaders are infallible. This is part of the doctrine that distinguishes us from other groups: we have fallible leaders, but an infallible Christ and Spirit.
Anyways, thanks again for your post.
Thank you, E L. The quote you offer is great and is often attributed to Joseph Smith. However, the MS published it in 1852, about 8 years after Joseph’s martyrdom. I’ve not been able to verify that the quotation is directly linked to Smith. That’s the only reason I left it out. There are many quotes like this from early leaders and, of course, from Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Somewhere along the line it looks like apostles stopped valuing the words of these two founding prophets. Ironic, considering BY is primarily responsible for the biggest “policy” blunder in the church’s history. But I digress.
“There have been rare occasions when even the President of the Church in his preaching and teaching has not been ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’ You will recall the Prophet Joseph declared that a prophet is not always a prophet….This has happened about matters of doctrine (usually of a highly speculative character) ….” The bloggernacle would have you believe the occasions are not rare, but frequent. I can hardly think of something coming from SLC that hasn’t been critiqued to death. Also, I don’t think marriage, and what it should be, would qualify as something “speculative.” It was one thing to believe leaders are fallible. It’s quite another to say they are fallen.
Thank You for your response! I read the MWS post by Fallentine yesterday and have been so bothered by it. To me, that post represents much of what is wrong with Mormon culture these days. MWS has seemingly a large audience and platform and to spread such a judgemental, black and white, factually incorrect post about such a sensitive subject that has hurt so many people is completely irresponsible. I respect Fallentine’s right to her own opinion on these things but for MWS to publish such harsh criticism as doctrine (when we all know it is not) is just not right. It is harmful and hurtful to so many who are working through this right now. I respect those people who have had no problem with the policy change but everyone needs to realize we are not robots, we are taught to think for ourselves, personal revelation is true, everyone makes mistakes (including our highest leaders in the church making church policy; they’ve admitted to this multiple times) and everyone’s personal journey in this life is different. Let’s foster a culture of kindness, understanding and love to one another not one of entitlement, judging and homogenization. Thank you so much for this needed response!
IDIAT you forgot the most important part of the quote of the quote:
“I do not doubt that the brethren have often spoken under inspiration and given new emphasis—perhaps even a new explanation or interpretation—of church doctrine, but that does not become binding upon the church unless and until it is submitted to the scrutiny of the rest of the brethren and later to the vote of the people. Again, we are only bound by the four standard works and are not required to defend what any man or woman says outside of them.”
By this definition these occasions are not rare, in fact they are all too frequent. The leaders of the church often speculate on doctrine, dogma, and theology. All theology should be based in some type of revelation. What we see with the policy, blacks in the priesthood, and interracial marriage (to name a few) are (or were) on a shaky doctrinal foundation that could be shored up by new revelation. By the church’s own rules, for new revelation to be accepted it has to be brought forth to the church for approval by common consent.
Because there has been no new revelation on the topic, and the existing canon does not unequivocally support the position on marriage, I am not bound to defend or support what they say. As a conscientious human being I am bound to oppose spiritual abuse in all its forms, including this policy.
Ben, do you have attribution for the quotation you offer?
An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown, Edwin B. Firmage p. 124 — There are other sources for this quote.
excellent. Thank you. I’m tempted to edit and add it…
Seems like we’re jumping from a quote from J. Reuben Clark to Hugh B. Brown. The Living Christ — The Testimony of the Apostles? Worthless because it wasn’t presented to the church and voted upon. Glad to know it isn’t doctrinal. The common consent argument has been around a long time.
It’s been around a long time because it’s actually in the canon as a safeguard from false doctrine, as in D&C 28.
It might be a dead letter in the church today, but common consent no less part of our doctrine.
“The Living Christ” might be based on revealed truths, but that makes it an expression of theology, not dogma or doctrine. That doesn’t mean it’s worthless, only that it needs to be supported by other revealed truths.
Can you systematically go through every doctrine of the church and point to a time when they were formally presented to the general body of the church for acceptance? The existing canon doesn’t unequivocally support a lot of things. It sure doesn’t unequivocally support same gender marriage. Like most matters in dispute, leaders are prophets, seers and revelators when we agree with them,. But when we don’t, then obviously they are in error. We’re getting more Catholic every day.
In the sense that we think for ourselves and actually believe what we say about prophets being fallible then being more Catholic might be just what the doctor ordered.
Elder B.H. Roberts explained what Official Doctrine is:
The Church has confined the sources of doctrine by which it is willing to be bound before the world to the things that God has revealed, and which the Church has officially accepted, and those alone. These would include the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price; these have been repeatedly accepted and endorsed by the Church in general conference assembled, and are the only sources of absolute appeal for our doctrine.
In addition the things which have been accepted as doctrine are:
1830, Bible and Book of Mormon were officially accepted with the organization of the Church
1835, Doctrine and Covenants, first 103 sections were officially accepted
1880, Doctrine and Covenants additional 32 sections were accepted along with the Pearl of Great Price
1890, Polygamy was repealed (Official Declaration, p. 291)
1976, D&C sections 137 & 138 were officially accepted
1978, The priesthood was made available to all worthy males regardless of race (Official Declaration 2, p. 292)
These were all done by common consent, following the process outlined in the D&C.
Ben C – I’m curious. If next conference, a member of the FP stood up and said “It’s proposed that The Proclamation on the Family be added to the D&C as OD #3 (or Section XXX – you get the idea), all in favor show by the uplifted hand. (Pause) and those opposed, by like sign (hoots and yelling of “no” issue forth from balcony in the conference center and in homes and chapels across the world) would that constitute acceptance by common consent? I imagine there were many people who objected to OD #2 on the priesthood at the time it was given, yet it’s still official “doctrine.” If POTF were formally added to our canon would that shut people up? I personally don’t think it would, which is why I don’t think the doctrine/by common consent argument gets us very far.
In that case they would (gasp) have to engage us in a meaningful discussion, that is, if they are serious about following the law as it was given to us when the church was founded.
Or they can change the rules, but that requires CC too.
Maybe, like I said, it’s a dead letter, but if it is, that seems consequential.
Does anyone ever just wonder why we have to guess at whether our prophet is or isn’t inspired this week? Why is God such an absentee father? He could sort this crap out in a moment, if he wanted to. And before anyone prattles on about interfering with
free will, please reflect on how much free will is curbed because God refuses to intervene when we control each other – does only the free will of the powerful matter? And when was the last time you prayed for another person’s feelings to be influenced by God?
Awesome response. For anyone who is curious, I have compiled quite a list of scriptures and church leader quotes that all show we ought to trust God rather than man. I just added some of the quotes I found here!