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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