Earrings and Coffee and Our Eternal Ties to Current Church Leaders

June 13, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 10:35 pm   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices,Theology

What would you say if I told you that even though the Word of Wisdom and the most recent earring rules are temporary commandments, they will still be on the exam at our final judgment? Well if you are a Latter Day Saint I suspect they will be and here is why.

In my last post I postulated that commandments and rules can serve as faith promoting crutches or “Dumbo’s feathers” to us. In the discussion that followed it started to dawn on me that perhaps there is more to these rules that come and go in the church than I originally thought. Perhaps we will be called on to answer for our obedience (or not) to the little rules that our priesthood leaders give to us here… even the seemingly dumb rules that are likely to expire over time.

Think about a few of the scriptures that apply. When God gave Nephi the sealing power he told him:

Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.

God said similar things to Peter and to Joseph Smith. So what does that mean? Well I suspect it means just what it sounds like – what they say here will count for or against us there. I think God makes these men stewards over the earth; he makes them shepherds and we are tested partially on how well we listen to his delegated voice through them.

Further evidence comes in the scriptures that described what we will be judged by at that great and last day:

For behold, out of the books which have been written, and which shall be written, shall this people be judged, for by them shall their works be known unto men.
And behold, all things are written by the Father; therefore out of the books which shall be written shall the world be judged.
(3 Nep 27:25-26)

The scriptures seem to imply that there will be literal books we will be judged by to me. Those must surely include current copies of the conference issue of the Ensign.

But the interesting part of this is that different generations of saints may be judged by slightly different criteria. Certainly the eternal principles will apply to all, but there are temporal rules that I propose only apply to the saints in the flocks where the shepherds emphasize the rule. That means that while the 19th century saints could drink coffee and some beer and chew tobacco without offending God, 20th century saints cannot. And why? Because the steward of the church said so and what he seals on earth is sealed in heaven when it come to the flock he presides over.

Even more interesting is that some rules that used to apply to saints under former shepherds are not binding on us today under the new shepherd. A couple of examples might be the proper method of anointing the sick with consecrated oil. Former prophetic counsel condemned the current practice of a few drops of oil on the head but current shepherds disagree and our shepherds are the ones that matter to us. Another example is the counsel to have large families. Former shepherds over the church emphasized this rule and I believe the saints who of child-bearing age in those days were bound by that counsel. Current shepherds do not emphasize that rule so those of us having kids now are not bound by it.

What does it all mean? Well among other things, it means we are bound to our leaders in this world. What they say matters to us, even if it may be expired by the time our children or grandchildren are adults. It also implies that God delegates more than we might normally want to think he does. But why wouldn’t he delegate real responsibility? Our theology says that we are in training to be like Him right? How else do we train besides practicing?

What do you think?

70 Comments »

  1. I think if you haven’t developed faith in JC and accepted his gift (the atonement) so that the judgement passes over you thanks to his grace, you’re a dead duck.

    Comment by Steve (FSF) — June 14, 2005 @ 6:24 am

  2. How wonderful to have a living prophet on the earth, so he can give us some arbitrary temporary rules about earrings and coffee based on his own opinions! Not a very inspiring message. I don’t think missionaries will get very far with that one.

    The thing about these arbitrary rules like the ones about how much oil to use, they don’t really get changed, they just kind of fade away. What about, say, playing cards? Will we be judged by the rules against playing cards? If so, how long a period of silence will have to go by before the rule expires?

    Comment by kodos — June 14, 2005 @ 7:19 am

  3. I see this as another round of Grace Vs Works and the Infallibility of the Pope… I mean Prophet.

    Let me just remind everyone:
    There are only 2 commandments, the rest is commentary.

    Matthew 22:37-40 (KJV)
    37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    It all boils down to being all about Love. I would rather be surrounded by loving individuals focused on obeying the 2 GREAT commandments who happened to drink, smoke, wear 4 earrings, and were tattooed from head to toe, than be surrounded by a bunch of Molly Mormons and Peter Priesthoods who were more focused on outward appearances than their heart (which unfortunately I find way too much of in the church).

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 14, 2005 @ 7:39 am

  4. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    This quote does not mean you can ignore the rest of the gospel. This quote says that those two commandments are the support, foundation and basis for the rest of the gospel, which includes prophets and their counsel. Without God’s love and the Atonement, the rest of it wouldn’t matter. However, we have God’s love, the Atonement, the prophets and the laws. It all matters.

    Comment by harpingheather — June 14, 2005 @ 7:49 am

  5. I’m not sure that we’re not bound by former counsel. What do you base this on?

    Just because a rule is not empahsized does not mean that we’re not bound by it.

    For example, my mom may have a long list of expectations from me, but she doesn’t emphasize all of them all the time. That would be overwhelming and time consuming.

    I think some rules are emphasized more than others because the message is more timely or it may be something we are struggling with as a people.

    We shouldn’t wait to do the right thing just because the prophet hasn’t mentioned it in a while.

    Comment by Crystal — June 14, 2005 @ 7:50 am

  6. I believe that the issue of the Word of Wisdom is obedience to the prophet, God’s voice on Earth. God gave us prophets because He knows we need them.

    I believe that the issue of multiple piercings, tattoos and such is reverence for God’s tabernacle– your body.

    Comment by harpingheather — June 14, 2005 @ 8:11 am

  7. Hm. Are you saying, Geoff, that God allows his prophets to come up with their own rules (that may, as HH points out, serve to direct us towards a larger divine principle), which He will then affirm? Or are you saying that God’s own counsel shifts as the times do? You appear to be closer to the first; I find it slightly troubling, though I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because it seems to place our eternal fates in the hands of fallible men. Will the generation who heard Mark E. Peterson warn against interracial marriage because of the “curse of dark skin,” or Ezra Taft Benson preach against supporting socialism be judged by their adherence to that counsel? If so, does that mean that God requires us to abide by rules based on false theological assumptions?

    Comment by Matt Bowman — June 14, 2005 @ 9:08 am

  8. The question is whether living those little things (no tatoos, one set of earrings, etc.) helps us to live the bigger things (humility, charity, love, etc.). It’s funny to picture God standing at the gate saying, “Sorry, no pass for you because of your tattoo. Yes, I know, you were incredibly humble and loved everyone around you, but…”

    Comment by Rusty Clifton — June 14, 2005 @ 9:09 am

  9. we are bound by all prophetic counsel; you can obey and be blessed or not and forego that blessing. its a choice; and current emphasis, or lack thereof, doesn’t change counsel. Of course, being a lawyer; I see counsel/commandments as court cases, i.e.:

    if not overruled by a subsequent court of higher authority (or equal in the case of the Prophet), then it is still good law.

    calling a commandment no longer binding simply because it hasn’t been repeated recently is just more rationalizing, with an emphasis on rationa(lies). :)

    Comment by lyle stamps — June 14, 2005 @ 9:09 am

  10. This quote does not mean you can ignore the rest of the gospel. – Harping Heather

    Actually that quote means the rest is commentary just as I stated before the quote. The core and emphasis still rests on the 2 great commandments.

    I believe that the issue of multiple piercings, tattoos and such is reverence for God’s tabernacle-your body.- Harping Heather

    Its ultimately irrelative the amount of multiple piercings and tattoos a person has. It appears to be more of the church trying to maintain a squeeky clean image than to help members come closer to Christ. The heart is what matters.

    Matt. 15:11 (KJV)
    11Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

    Drinking tea and coffee will not defile a man. Thats why it was given as words of wisdom not as a commandment neccessary for eternal life.

    On a side note: I find it very interesting that the church asks as part of the temple interview whether you obey the word of wisdom but does not ask about loud laughter. In fact I find it out that I can’t find anything about loud laughter being a deal breaker in the bible, book of mormon or pearl of great price. Where did this come from?!

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 14, 2005 @ 9:49 am

  11. Sorry, Speaking up, the loud laughter bit was my fault. I can get all crazy with laughter sometimes, so they issued this edict, and the rest is history. My bad.

    Yeah, the laws and commands change. I kind of see it as God has all these laws that we can obey to become like him, but he commands different laws to be obeyed at different times, according to our circumstances. I mean, universal laws really only apply on a universal level; thus, on particular levels, the laws take on different emphasis and understanding.

    Comment by bboy-mike — June 14, 2005 @ 10:05 am

  12. For those who are critics of the “two-earring”, “tatoo”, “clean shaven” rules (I am among them), it is not about obedience vs. disobedience. This is what the argument seems to always come down to though when it is discussed. The real issue isn’t whether we want to obey or not. I am a real critic of these rules, and yet I obey them, I have no desire to disobey them, I was obeying the grooming rules before they were brought up. Like I said, obedience is not the issue. When the prophet speaks I obey, but this isn’t equivelent to saying, when the prophet speaks I agree.

    The issue is the principle that is being taught when so much focus is given to these issues. The savior taught in the new testament that those who focus on the outer vessel are full of dead mens bones, we must seek to change the inner vessel in order to become right with God. As we do this, the consequence may be that the outer vessel will change also, but that is not up to us, our duty is to change the inner vessel.

    I have no issues with Mormon Culture. I love Mormon Culture actually. I think people who are clean shaven, and wear nice clothes look nice. I like the fact that when I go to smith’s I cannot find any green jello on the shelves. I would never want my daughter to pierce several holes in her ears. But culture, and morality are two different things, at least I think so. When someone doesn’t conform to the culture, I do not think they are being immoral. If I choose to grow a beard, I think that I am still right with God (probably more so since I look more like him :) j/k) Seriously though. God does not look on the outer vessel, and I don’t think we should either. When our leaders spend so much time focusing on this, I become concerned about what this is really teaching the members, I don’t think we need help at judging how others dress, we already do that automatically.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — June 14, 2005 @ 11:32 am

  13. Craig,

    That is what the issue always comes down to because that’s always what people make of it. I don’t think there’s anyone here who is arguing or has argued that minor, superficial things are more important than the fundamental issues of charity. I think we all agree that loving the neighbor as the self is much more important.

    The issue is whether the small things are of importance at all. Both here and at Dave’s, many have either suggested or hinted that they’re not. I must agree with Geoff, that we’re bound to obey our leaders no matter how small or superficial the issue.

    Comment by Eric Russell — June 14, 2005 @ 12:09 pm

  14. Eric,
    My point is that the focus on the outer vessel is not only of no importance, it is actually detrimental to one’s spiritual growth. Thinking that you are doing what’s moral by wearing a white shirt, shaving your face, cutting your hair, and refraining from getting tatoo’s is counter-productive to one’s relationship with God. The ironic thing is, disobeying the prophet does the same thing. That’s why I think it is wrong that outer appearances are being focused on by the brethren.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — June 14, 2005 @ 12:16 pm

  15. speaking up: when given the choice between following your interpretation and Pres. Kimball; I choose the latter. He explicitly stated that coffee drinking would keep the otherwise faithful LDS member out of the Celestial Kingdom. Frankly, the pride involved in putting one’s opinion about that of the Prophet is…[insert own adjective here].

    To the extent that the “not what goes in but comes out” NT scripture relates to the WoW; it is superceded and overruled by the Word of God given to a Latter-day Prophet; in this case Kimball (see Miracle of Forgiveness I believe).

    Comment by lyle stamps — June 14, 2005 @ 12:50 pm

  16. speaking up: when given the choice between following your interpretation and Pres. Kimball; I choose the latter. He explicitly stated that coffee drinking would keep the otherwise faithful LDS member out of the Celestial Kingdom. – Lyle Stamps

    Sorry, but when given the choice between following Pres. Kimball’s interpretation and Jesus Christ; I choose the latter. And I hope that he was speaking as a man at that moment and not as a prophet. Nonetheless, I believe that Christ will judge as to who goes to the Celestial Kingdom.

    To the extent that the “not what goes in but comes out” NT scripture relates to the WoW; it is superceded and overruled by the Word of God given to a Latter-day Prophet; in this case Kimball (see Miracle of Forgiveness I believe). – Lyle Stamps

    It makes common sense to say that “not what goes in but what comes out”. Tell me how coffee defiles the spiritual man. It doesn’t. It was given as a word of wisdom. Not a commandment. It was made as a commandment by man later and some say by inspiration. The questions here that keeps coming up and that Geoff brings up, is:

    “…it means we are bound to our leaders in this world. What they say matters to us, even if it may be expired by the time our children or grandchildren are adults.”

    In other words Are we bound to our leaders?

    “It also implies that God delegates more than we might normally want to think he does. But why wouldn’t he delegate real responsibility?”

    And does God delegate that much power to our leaders?

    Right now, I’m trying to discern the answers to these questions. I’m not sold on being “bound to my leaders” or that God would delegate the keys to the pearly gates to commandments that leaders come up with during their reign.

    My question that goes along with this is based on what Geoff says at the beginning of this blog entry:

    “Current shepherds do not emphasize that rule so those of us having kids now are not bound by it.”

    My question is did the Shepherds stopped emphasizing certain rules because the members disobeyed it? Is this like Moses giving the Israelites divorce since their hearts were hardened? Or is this like realizing that it was a dumb rule and it needed to be quietly put to death in the night?

    Polygamy is in the news a lot lately. According to some church leaders back in the day, it was necessary to practice it to get to the highest kingdom. Whats interesting to see is all the negative things that come from polygamy, especially the recently reported dumping of boys to weed out the competition for girls news report. Basic math will tell you this is a natural consequence when the birth ratio of boys to girls is roughly 1:1. I have trouble believing polygamy came from God during modern times (1800 AD plus). It doesn’t pass the smell test. Polygamy made sense in the Old Testament for only a few reasons. Since women enjoyed little property rights and had little capacity for production that were reliant on a male for the basics of life. So a brother was told to marry his brother’s widow. Soloman’s and David’s brothels were basically political treaties and they even went to far with it. Abraham was having trouble producing an heir and took another.

    Whenever considering a commandment or teaching, I keep in mind what President Lee said. That such a teaching must be (1) consistent with scripture, (2) consistent with the teachings of the prophets living and dead, (3) consistent with the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and (4) consistent with human experience.

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 14, 2005 @ 2:08 pm

  17. (semi-) POACHER (from my post of a month ago that was only slightly related)!!

    Now that I’ve gotten the Steve Evans out of my system I can comment.

    I think Geoff is right. I think that Craig has a point (about how an emphasis on outward symbols of righteousness can lead to problems), but I do think that this will always be a problem (at least on earth). One can answer correctly on all the temple recommend questions and still be someone who ain’t that great. There have to be some proof texts, but no mortally administered proof text will ever be perfect. C’est la vie.

    I am always curious when people make a distinction between what a prophet said and what Christ would say. How do they know that there is a difference (especially in a church with an open, revelatory canon)? I mean this moreso regarding the practical applications of the Gospel (which seems to be the subject here) than with its esoterica (although a case could be made regarding that, too).

    Comment by John C. — June 14, 2005 @ 2:40 pm

  18. Lots of great comments here. I’ll respond to some that were not answered already first.

    kodos: …how long a period of silence will have to go by before the rule expires?

    That is the big question with my latest theory. I don’t have a good answer for it yet. These things seem to change gradually. (BTW — I predict the year’s supply will be the next to fade. It is already being replaced by the get out of debt counsel from the brethren as far as I can tell.)

    Crystal: I’m not sure that we’re not bound by former counsel. What do you base this on?

    We are certainly bound by any counsel that current leaders remind us of. But there are some things that we just aren’t asked to do now. See the examples in the original post on having tons of kids and how to anoint with consecrated oil. (Follow the links because they are good ones I think).

    Matt: Hm. Are you saying, Geoff, that God allows his prophets to come up with their own rules (that may, as HH points out, serve to direct us towards a larger divine principle), which He will then affirm?

    Yup. A little scary, eh? Don’t worry; I think God only allows his stewards limited leeway. President Wilford Woodruff stated:

    “I say to Israel, The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, selected by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946], pp. 212-213.)

    I know this has Speaking Up pretty concerned but the scriptures seem to support the idea. I don’t think there is any getting around it. Consider these verses:

    And know ye that ye shall be judges of this people, according to the judgment which I shall give unto you, which shall be just. Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am. (3 Ne. 27:27)

    And I write also unto the remnant of this people, who shall also be judged by the twelve whom Jesus chose in this land; and they shall be judged by the other twelve whom Jesus chose in the land of Jerusalem. (Morm. 3:19)

    If those disciples act as judges to those people it is safe to assume that God will care about how well we heed the shepherds He places over us now.

    Craig: When someone doesn’t conform to the culture, I do not think they are being immoral.

    I agree Craig. But that is not really the subject of this post. The prophet has given one piece of direct counsel concerning earrings. That, for us at least, now becomes much more than a question of culture. The point of this post is that I think God will honor that “rule” and disregarding it will mean missing out on the blessings associated with it. Let’s just be thankful we weren’t counseled to all grow mullets or something (though that must be enough reason for God to remove a prophet before he utters it, right?)

    Speaking Up: when given the choice between following Pres. Kimball’s interpretation and Jesus Christ; I choose the latter.

    As you have surmised, my hypothesis here is that Christ will back his steward every time or remove that steward. By way of analogy it is like when Kristen chooses a punishment or reward for one of our children when I am not there. She tells me about it and I always back her up. That said, if there ever came a day when one of us went overboard the other would step in and pull the plug. I am coming to the conclusion that God trusts his stewards and lets them make lots of these kinds of choices themselves and as long as they don’t impede His mission he goes for and backs them.

    I should note that this whole idea only works well if this life is not the only probationary state in the eternities and if God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge — ideas we have discussed at length here in the past…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 14, 2005 @ 6:20 pm

  19. At some point you have to step back from this discussion, take a deep breath, and ask yourself “what does drinking coffee and wearing earrings have to do with being close to God?”

    And the answer is nothing.

    Comment by Phil — June 14, 2005 @ 6:40 pm

  20. Phil,

    For most people in the world it is true that these things have nothing to do with being close God. But I’m not addressing this discussion to most people in the world — I’m addressing it to faithful Latter Day Saints that hopefully are already close to God and want to get even closer.

    Here is an analogy (I may use this in a later post too). I heard a second hand story about a guy that was a fitness model. He got some gig as one of those guys on a workout video and and after the audition he reported to this friend of mine that he was furious with himself for splurging and breaking his diet to celebrate. What was his dietary offense? He ate a granola bar! (True story).

    Now to most anyone else in the world this sounds utterly ridiculous. But the point is that this guy had standards that we find shocking. (And that’s how those people look that way — not because banjo-flex or whatever product they are hawking).

    So my point is that while this discussion may look silly to most people, I submit the faithful Latter Day Saints are trying to get to that next level of closeness to God. We want to get to the point where we truly are prophets, seers, and revelators within our own spheres of responsibility.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 14, 2005 @ 7:07 pm

  21. Geoff

    The fitness model who was upset that he broke his diet regimen knows that eating too much will make him gain weight.

    Cloaking arbitrary, irrelevant “rules” with the language of standards, morals, salvation, and the Celestial Kingdom is, in my view, an abusal of clerical stewardship and is indicative of an obsession with obedience for obedience’s sake at the expense of developing an individual’s spirituality.

    Comment by Phil — June 14, 2005 @ 7:20 pm

  22. Phil,

    I think the answer has already been talked about here. Drinking coffee and wearing earrings man not have anything to do with being close to God if a prophet hadn’t counseled against them.

    Because we have received direct counsel from a prophet on this issue, it tests the condition of our hearts. Are we willing to accept the voice of the Lord’s servant, even though we know he is a man like ourselves? Even though the counsel may not be eternally relevant? I think we will only be blessed for obeying prophetic counsel. Even if that counsel turns out to be temporary or irrelevant or even wrong.

    Of course, we are welcome to pray for personal confirmation for whether we should obey or sustain ANY counsel or action. I think that helped me when I sadly took out my second set of earrings, which I thought were beautiful.

    Comment by Heather W. — June 14, 2005 @ 7:33 pm

  23. Matt: Hm. Are you saying, Geoff, that God allows his prophets to come up with their own rules (that may, as HH points out, serve to direct us towards a larger divine principle), which He will then affirm?
    Yup. A little scary, eh? Don’t worry; I think God only allows his stewards limited leeway.

    Okay. But how limited? I note you dodged the last half of my post about Elder Peterson’s counsel not to marry between races. I would argue that this goes beyond earrings, firstly, because a case can be made for a larger principle (body as a temple), and secondly because earrings have little to do with any larger divine issues. However, counseling against interracial marriage is, first, based on an _incorrect_ principle (the curse of Cain). Secondly, it could easily be argued that this council _inhibits_ a true divine principle – that of marriage. I can’t imagine God holding anyone accountable for not following this counsel. Therefore, I assume this counsel would fall outside said leeway, right? I don’t think Elder Peterson was removed. So, the question seems to return to something quite close to a timeworn one – when do we know prophets are speaking under inspiration?

    Comment by Matt Bowman — June 14, 2005 @ 7:45 pm

  24. “I think we will only be blessed for obeying prophetic counsel. Even if that counsel turns out to be temporary or irrelevant or even wrong.”

    Have you abrogated all responsibilities for thinking for yourself as an adult? Good grief. I don’t think God, or his prophets, would want you to give up your God-given power of discernment or judgement. It’s called being human and being an adult.

    Comment by Phil — June 14, 2005 @ 8:41 pm

  25. Heather W,

    Thanks for the interesting personal anecdote on the subject

    Matt,

    Sorry if I appeared to be dodging the question. I thought I was responding to your whole comment.

    You asked: Will the generation who heard Mark E. Peterson warn against interracial marriage because of the “curse of dark skin,” or Ezra Taft Benson preach against supporting socialism be judged by their adherence to that counsel? If so, does that mean that God requires us to abide by rules based on false theological assumptions?

    Well the answer is, it depends. The question I think you are asking is “when is counsel from our leaders counsel from our leaders and to whom does it apply?” I can say that as a general rule any counsel given at General Conference qualifies for the whole church. If counsel is given at a BYU devotional then it applies to that audience only. If it is given at a stake conference it applies to that stake. I could continue but you get the idea. There is clearly gradation here.

    If you want to look more closely at the specific examples you brought up I would love to. Do you have citations on the specific sermons where the counsel was given from Elders Peterson and Benson? It may very well be that the answer to both of your examples would be “yes”.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 14, 2005 @ 8:51 pm

  26. I submit a new parascripture: as for me and my house, we shall humor the Lord.

    It says it all: even though the commandment appears petty and strange, we’ll obey it, just in case.

    Comment by Mark N. — June 14, 2005 @ 9:27 pm

  27. Bboy Mike, that was you?! Thanks a lot, just because ONE person (you) gets a little crazy with the laughter the rest of us must suffer. No more chortles (I did know a lady who really chortled!) and guffaws.

    I too romanced the idea of getting a second piercing, in the top of my ear through the cartilidge, but someone once told me that if they hit the wrong spot one side of your face would go slack for the rest of your life. I really thought and though about it but once Gordon B Hinckley nixed extra piercing I sadly let that dream go. I just had to realize that I’m a hipster in my heart whether I had 10 inch guage in my ear or not!

    Comment by Kristen J — June 14, 2005 @ 9:33 pm

  28. Mark N,

    If that slogan works for you then I say knock yourself out.

    I don’t think it captures the point I am getting at in this post very well, though.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 14, 2005 @ 10:14 pm

  29. Phil,

    I must have somehow missed your comment #21. What specific rules in the Church today do you think constitute “an abuse of clerical stewardship”?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 14, 2005 @ 11:03 pm

  30. Phil-

    No, I haven’t given up thinking, but thanks for your concern. Why do you think I prayed about it? If I hadn’t gotten the answer that it was the right thing for me to take them out, I certainly would have kept those diamonds in!

    My favorite quote from Harvey (a great old Jimmy Stewart movie)–”You can be oh-so-smart or you can be oh-so-pleasant. I was smart for a lot of years and I recommend being pleasant.”

    Comment by Heather W. — June 15, 2005 @ 4:18 am

  31. “I say to Israel, The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, selected by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946], pp. 212-213.)

    [Take Me Out by Franz Ferdinand playing in the background]

    As you have surmised, my hypothesis here is that Christ will back his steward every time or remove that steward. – Geoff

    Wow, I’m just picturing God’s Destroying Angel walking about with his Sword of Damoclies over the Prophets head waiting to smack him down.

    Lets see: A man who is prophet of the church saying that as prophet we should obey him because God won’t let him lead the church astray. If you were to look at this statement from outside your church-world-view you’d realize how absolutely ridiculous that statement is. And a recipe for totalatarian power. And let me remind you that Absolute Power corrupts Absolutely. We probably don’t see traditional abuses of power in the church due to the extreme old age of the men who assume the reigns. If anything, the system of a new prophet taking the position is a inspired system.

    So, why did God let the Pope lead his church away? Why did he not start slaying early church leaders when they penned the Nicene creed? A creed that has done more to confuse generations and generations of man on the nature and being of God? Where were these angels of death when the Bishop of Rome sold out to Constatine? When Signey Rigdon tried to assume the Prophets title, he was able to lead a sizable number away… he didn’t die. When Emma Smith helped to find the RLDS leading others away, she didn’t die, her children didn’t die, in fact they kept on building up that church. The position of prophet was finally removed from that family due to the failure to produce a male heir, but thats a natural consequence for any hereditary position. Where were these angels of death when Brigham started preaching AS A PROPHET the Adam-God doctrine? How about the blood-atonement for murderers? Was the Adam-God doctrine just for his generation? Now, with Pres. Hinckley we are not under Adam as our God?

    God has shown throughout history that he takes more of a laissez-faire approach thats congruent with free agency. He rarely removes leaders whether they are spritual or temperal. The trap you build for yourself if you belive in the Take Me Out doctrine, is you make God complacent in letting evil leaders of both a religious and secular nature perform their evil works without being removed. He would be an accessary of the millions of deaths from Hitler, Mao, Stalin and many others. He would be an accessary of the spritual fallings of the Catholic church or of Israel such as when the kingdoms split and the Northern Kingdom started worshiping bulls (idols). Where was the angel of death then?!

    Don’t confuse the one extremely rare case of Balaam to distract you from the ever larger history of the world. Balaam was still able to help the king lead astray a portion of the Israelites. He may not had cursed them using the Lord’s words but he was able to be a stumbling block to them. [By the way, most Jewish scholars do not take the story of Balaam and the donkey literally.]

    No. Free agency doesn’t end at the doorstep of Prophet. The Angel of Death doesn’t walk around keeping spritual leaders in line. Anybody can lead us astray whether in a spritual sense or otherwise. Pres. Lee was right in his inspired quote on how to tell if its inspired (the quote is above in one of my posts). I’ll use that for any doctrine or console that I hear from church leaders.

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 15, 2005 @ 6:53 am

  32. Geoff, I wonder if you appreciate how much your theory weakens the appeal of the whole idea of having a restoration and prophets. This is pretty far from what I taught as a missionary.

    Comment by kodos — June 15, 2005 @ 7:01 am

  33. Sorry if I appeared to be dodging the question. I thought I was responding to your whole comment.

    And I’m sorry if I’m coming across as overly intense. I’m just interested in how broad the borders of binding counsel are. You’re saying they’re much wider than I think most people would think, and have made a pretty good case – one that fits nicely into the doctrine of continuing revelation. You’ve clarified some limits, such as audience. I think, though, that the borders also end when leaders cross into territory that either has no doctrinal relevance or is based on a misunderstanding of doctrine. While neither counsel on earrings nor increased emphasis on the Word of Wisdom are necessarily disqualified, here’s an example that I think is.
    Mark Peterson, speaking at BYU in 1954, said, “This Negro, who, in the pre-existence lived the type of life which justified the Lord in sending him to the earth in the lineage of Cain with a black skin, and possibly being born in darkest Africa.” Later, he says “I think the Lord segregated the Negro, and who is man to change that segregation? It reminds me of the scripture on marriage, ‘what God hath joined together let not man put asunder.’ Only here we have the reverse of that thing – what God hath separated, let no man bring together again.” And, after elaborating a bit on the denial of the priesthood, concludes, “There isn’t any argument, therefore, as to intermarriage with the Negro, is there?”

    Now, he says I think, but if I’m understanding you correctly, his office gives his opinions weight. He’s also basing his arguments on false ideas about Cain and curses and the ‘less-valiant in the preexistence’ speculation. For me, the faulty theological base he’s speaking from invalidates his counsel – I don’t believe God would base His law on falsehood. Would you argue that God would back up his counsel, and bind the audience at BYU against interracial marriage?

    Comment by Matt Bowman — June 15, 2005 @ 7:41 am

  34. “Lets see: A man who is prophet of the church saying that as prophet we should obey him because God won’t let him lead the church astray. If you were to look at this statement from outside your church-world-view you’d realize how absolutely ridiculous that statement is.”

    Ridiculous? Ok, I’ll grant that BY said a few odd things re: the moon. However, saying that what a prophet spoke, over the pulpit, in his Prophetic Office, is ridiculous?

    Look, the Prophet is either the Voice of God on the earth or not. You believe it and follow him accordingly or not.

    So, did you just call God ridiculous? Just checking…it sounded like that to me.

    Comment by lyle stamps — June 15, 2005 @ 8:30 am

  35. Speaking Up,

    The problem with all of your examples is that none of them qualify under the provision that Wilford Woodruff spelled out. None of the situations you mentioned included “the man who stands as President of the church” leading the church astray. None of the break off and apostates groups you list qualify — God has always allowed people to apostatize (including the whole world in the great apostasy) and certainly the various non-church leaders you mention don’t qualify.

    The closest thing that comes to qualifying is some theological musings from Brigham. But that did not lead the church astray so it doesn’t fit either. And anyway, after studying Brigham’s theological positions I think he was probably a lot closer to the mark than most would assume — He just had a misunderstanding on the identity of Adam I think.

    By the way — What I have described is not absolute power for prophets as you stated. It has built-in checks and balances by God so by definition that is not absolute power.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2005 @ 8:58 am

  36. kodos,

    That is an interesting observation, and if it is true I don’t think it should be the case. I am not suggesting anything but a pardigm shift. Anyone who has been in leadership in this church recognizes that God does not make all of the decisions for us. He often lets us make the call and then supports it as long as it falls within the “guardrails” he has in place for his overall plan. The best scriptural example is the interaction the Lord had with the Brother of Jared. The Lord let the Brother of Jared choose how to get the job done and then he supported that decision. I am simply saying that is the standard operating procedure of the Lord with his servants at all levels of the church — including the prophet. To assume that God thinks of every idea and rule himself and that the prophet is nothing more than a mouthpiece is both counter-intuitive and contra-scriptural.

    That said, I certainly believe God originates plenty of ideas himself and passes them on to his servants. This is not an all or nothing proposition. But recognizing that both of these methods apply helps the world make a lot more sense.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2005 @ 9:09 am

  37. Matt,

    Thanks for the details on an interesting case study. I think one would be hard-pressed to show why Elder Peterson’s counsel that a white BYU student in 1954 ought not get married to a black person was bad advice. Such a union in that world would be painful and difficult for both partners no matter where they lived. Clearly this is an example of counsel that was both focused on a specific audience at the time and that has long since expired. But I do think the Lord probably approved of the counsel in that place and time to that audience — regardless of what He thought of some of the underlying reasons given. God probably felt this out of love and concern for partners of both ethnicities.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2005 @ 9:20 am

  38. So, did you just call God ridiculous? Just checking…it sounded like that to me.-lyle stamps

    I don’t know how to answer someone who is lacking so in logic and understanding that that’s the conclusion you came to. All I can tell you is to take some logic courses at a university or maybe suggest that you read some books on how to debate logically.

    The problem with all of your examples is that none of them qualify under the provision that Wilford Woodruff spelled out. None of the situations you mentioned included “the man who stands as President of the church” leading the church astray. – Geoff

    The pope was President of the Church during his time before and during the apostacy. That does qualify under Wilford Woodruff’s statement.

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 15, 2005 @ 10:15 am

  39. I’m still pondering all this, but I wanted to thank everyone for a great discussion.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 15, 2005 @ 10:30 am

  40. 1.

    If prophet then speaks for god
    if speaks for god, then God’s own voice.

    If prophet, then God’s own voice.

    2.

    If prophet is ridiculous, then God’s own voice is ridiculous

    Please, educate me in logic…Is this a formal fallacy?
    The only one I recognize in your argument is poisoning the well…

    Comment by lyle stamps — June 15, 2005 @ 10:48 am

  41. I think one would be hard-pressed to show why Elder Peterson’s counsel that a white BYU student in 1954 ought not get married to a black person was bad advice. Such a union in that world would be painful and difficult for both partners no matter where they lived. Clearly this is an example of counsel that was both focused on a specific audience at the time and that has long since expired.

    Your first sentence is perhaps true – it may have been good advice. However, I question whether Elder Peterson believed that the argument he was making was simply good advice for that time and place, because he was making an argument based on what he believed were eternal principles. Here’s a wildly implausible, but pointed scenario: If a student in the audience raised a hand and said, “Elder Peterson, my spinster great-aunt in Michigan is thinking about marrying a black man twenty years from now,” do you think he would have said, “That’s fine – she’s not my audience.”

    This line of thought makes me think of (look out) R-rated movies. Would you agree that Ezra Taft Benson intended his counsel to be taken only by the young men he spoke to, and that it doesn’t apply to the rest of the church?

    But I do think the Lord probably approved of the counsel in that place and time to that audience-regardless of what He thought of some of the underlying reasons given. God probably felt this out of love and concern for partners of both ethnicities.

    It’s entirely possible God felt the counsel was wise – but _binding_, and a law not to be violated? I think these are two different things. And I don’t see the second one here.

    I guess my point is that I think our leaders freelance sometimes, based on their wisdom and good faith, but also, unfortunately, clouded by their own biases and incomplete knowledge, as Peterson did here. I don’t think that God will hold us accountable for failing to sustain counsel based on false premises.

    Comment by Matt Bowman — June 15, 2005 @ 11:09 am

  42. No true Latter-day Saint can be a socialist or a communist or support programs leading in that direction. These evil philosophies are incompatible with Mormonism, the true gospel of Jesus Christ. . .
    Each priesthood holder should use his influence in the community to resist the erosion process which is taking place in our political and economic life. . .He should see that his party is working to preserve freedom, not destroy it. He should join responsible local groups interested in promoting freedom and free competitive enterprise

    How about this, which Ezra Taft Benson stated in General Conference in 1961. This was, as _David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism_ points out, troubling to Saints in Scandanavia and elsewhere in Europe who had voted for socialist parties. Will God hold them accountable for doing so?

    Comment by Matt Bowman — June 15, 2005 @ 11:17 am

  43. Speaking Up: The pope was President of the Church during his time before and during the apostacy.

    I’m not sure I know which pope you are talking about here. The standard teaching in the church is that the apostasy occurred when the apostles and thus priesthood keys were taken from the earth. We do not believe any pope ever led the true church of Jesus Christ.

    Also, lyle and SU — please keep your comments civil in this discussion.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2005 @ 11:44 am

  44. Great discussion on all sides.

    As for the prophet not letting anyone be lead astray, what about early church history? What about all the apostles that JS had called who later apostisied and took people with them? What about the RLDS splinter church? Are they not lead astray? By the same apostles that JS had called. It seems that by JS’s own callings, the church was, in part, lead astray.

    I think that the idea that we resign our agency to the prophet because of the premise that he can never lead us astray. So, if that is the case, then all of his counsel must be from god, because if it wasn’t then he would be struck down, right? So, the nead to actually discern if the teachings are from god becomes mute. This is a dangerous logical extension of a faulty premise, dangerous for our spirituality to rest it on the sleeve of any other person besides oursleves.

    Comment by Larry — June 15, 2005 @ 12:25 pm

  45. I’m not sure I know which pope you are talking about here. The standard teaching in the church is that the apostasy occurred when the apostles and thus priesthood keys were taken from the earth. We do not believe any pope ever led the true church of Jesus Christ. – Geoff

    I’m not that familiar from where that standard teaching came. Could you give me a source?

    I’m not so sure that would be altogether accurate. First of all John the Revelator didn’t die, so the keys were still on the earth. Second of all, John the Revelator in Revalations addresses his letter to several bishops in several churches. Based on the text it reads as though these bishops are the spiritual leaders of the church. John is banished and the other apostles are dead. The bishops are now the spiritual leaders. John’s warning these bishops in some cases, that if they don’t ship up they’re not going to inherit eternal life. He doesn’t tell them, that they are going to be removed. Note that. He doesn’t tell them, that they are going to be removed. Note that John doesn’t say, well, I’m the last apostle standing and it’s all over now, the church will fall into apostacy as soon as I cease communicating with you. I’m more inclined to believe that the beginning of the apostacy happened when the first bishop of Rome who was believed to be the leading or head bishop (pope) went to Constatine and accepted the state’s support and hence the state’s indirect control. That bishop was not removed either. He lived a very nice life in a very nice palace, I mean church.

    That pope and all popes after him will tell you the same thing as Wilford Woodruff, that they would be removed if they were to lead the church astray. Its the best way to maintain power and the faith of the people. Thankfully, Martin Luther didn’t buy it either.

    Here’s another danger that goes along with the Take Me Out doctrine. After every Prophet dies, should we not have a discussion if he was really killed (removed) for some false thing he did or was about to do? And what could it had been? Joseph Smith might had been removed due to polygamy. Brigham might had been removed due to Adam-God. And so on and so on…

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 15, 2005 @ 12:28 pm

  46. Great comments Matt. I’ll respond to a few.

    I question whether Elder Peterson believed that the argument he was making was simply good advice for that time and place, because he was making an argument based on what he believed were eternal principles.

    That may be true, but I believe Elder Peterson was still in the twelve in 1978 too. Prophets and apostles receive greater light and knowledge along the way too. Therefore, what may have been good advice then became bad advice later. His intentions or expectations at the time he said it are rather moot I think.

    It’s entirely possible God felt the counsel was wise – but binding, and a law not to be violated?

    It sort of depends on what binding entails. I think it mostly means that if a BYU student oppenly and brazenly said to himself “that old coot is and idiot” that God would not appreciate or reward such an attitude. I’m suggesting God backs his leaders unless they try to move beyond the guard rails he has established. I don’t think Elder Peterson overstepped his bounds with this counsel (though it might have been getting close…)

    I don’t think that God will hold us accountable for failing to sustain counsel based on false premises.

    In principle this sounds logical, but in practice I wonder where it would apply. The bigger problem comes when people interpret the counsel in different ways than it was actually given I think. Now there is another subject entirely. But what if President Hinckley had a false premise for this clear statement on earrings? Is that justification for ignoring it? Do you think that God doesn’t care? I am postulating that God will care and back GBH regardless od his premise for giving the counsel because GBH holds those keys and God gives him such leeway.

    …troubling to Saints in Scandanavia and elsewhere in Europe who had voted for socialist parties. Will God hold them accountable for doing so?

    Well if they had voted for socialist parties before the counsel was given this is a non-issue. The bigger question if God would disapprove of a Latter Day Saint voting for a socialist party immediately after this counsel was given. I think there are lots of missing details here so it is hard to say for sure. Did Pres. McKay say something about it to reverse the opinion of ETB? Did the Scandinavians have any other choices? Did ETB qualify the statement later to say that counsel applied to Americans only? I think we would have to get more details here. But much like the other example, if members openly rebelled against the counsel I suspect God would have sided with ETB…

    (Having said that, I also don’t think rebelling against such counsel is a gravely serious sin or anything. I just think we cannot try to convince ourselves that God will side with us when we openly rebel against the counsel of the shepherds he places over us.)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2005 @ 12:44 pm

  47. Geoff,
    In Roman Catholic tradition Peter was the first Pope. Are you saying he turned apostate?

    Comment by Steve (FSF) — June 15, 2005 @ 12:49 pm

  48. Steve (FSF), (and Larry)

    Nope. I’m just saying that Peter did not lead the church astray. I also don’t consider him a pope (since I’m a Mormon and all…)

    But that is also moot because Wilford specifically said “I say to Israel, The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray.” He is specifically talking about this church in the latter days. So the answer to Larry is very much the answer that I gave to Speking Up in #35. The president of this church has never led Israel astray and God won’t allow him to do so. I see no reason to not believe this statement from President Woodruff. It seems some here are trying to expand its’ application beyond the actual statement. (That is usually the problem we run into with prophetic counsel, by the way…)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2005 @ 1:10 pm

  49. I think attitude is everything, whether we’re following certain counsel or not. I think the hardest thing might be deciding whether or not we’re being sincere and honest with ourselves and with God. If we really, truly are, then I don’t imagine it will matter much if we drink Coke or wear thirteen earrings or what have you. I think those that are more “strict” are blessed for doing what they feel is right. I also feel that those who don’t heed certain “rules” are okay if their attitude is in the right place. But I don’t think it’s a good attitude to say, “Sheesh, this is obviously the Prophet’s own idea and not God’s — forget about it!” That just doesn’t sound like a very humble or righteous way of going about things. It seems like we’re focusing too much on ourselves to say, “I don’t HAVE to do this because God didn’t really say so!”

    It reminds me of employees who don’t want to do anything more than what’s in their job description. As customers, we all know how frustrating and annoying it is to deal with such negative employees. On the other hand, there are those employees who want to go the extra mile and do everything they can to make it a better place. There may be two employees who sincerely seek to do this, and both of them may go to different lengths or be more “strict” about following guidelines in order to do so, but I’d say their attitudes are both commendable. And if they’re open to feedback from the boss, there’s little doubt they’ll be great at their jobs. There’s a big difference between these type of people and those who get annoyed at anything that requires more of them than is in their job description.

    Comment by Benny K — June 15, 2005 @ 1:20 pm

  50. Larry,

    You bring up a good point about the dangerous logical extensions of this quote from President Woodruff. Spiritual laziness could arise from improperly applying or interpreting this statement. I think there are safety measures in place against that too though; with lots of very specific prophetic counsel for us to pray and receive our own witness of whatever principle is being taught by our leaders at that time. We cannot absolve ourselves of personal revelatory responsibilities after all.

    I am postulating, though, that when we as Latter Day Saints actually break through with our prayers and enter a real dialogue with God, we will discover that God will tell us to go ahead and follow the counsel his undershepherd gave us anyway. I find it unlikely that in moments of revelatory dialogue God would say “go ahead and wear the extra earrings — I’m overruling GBH in your case” or “Go ahead with coffee/beer/wine/smoke, those shepherds overstepped their bounds and I never cared to begin with”.

    Of course some people feel that God tells them to do something else entirely than what the current church leaders want. I can’t speak for them, but in the extreme they are the ones that have started splinter churches.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2005 @ 1:28 pm

  51. That may be true, but I believe Elder Peterson was still in the twelve in 1978 too. Prophets and apostles receive greater light and knowledge along the way too. Therefore, what may have been good advice then became bad advice later. His intentions or expectations at the time he said it are rather moot I think.

    Sure. My point was that unless it’s specifically pointed out by whoever’s speaking, it’s hard for us to judge how limited or expansive an audience they feel themselves to be addressing.

    It sort of depends on what binding entails. I think it mostly means that if a BYU student oppenly and brazenly said to himself “that old coot is and idiot” that God would not appreciate or reward such an attitude. I’m suggesting God backs his leaders unless they try to move beyond the guard rails he has established.

    I think you’re making a distinction here between respecting the messenger and the message. Certainly, Elder Peterson deserved respect. But what if a BYU student was simply troubled by the racial implications of his remarks, and strongly felt that theories about Cain and less-valiant spirits were so much folklore and horse pucky? What if that student struggled with reconciling her sustaining of Elder Peterson with what her conscience told her? What if she took that struggle to God? Not to put myself in God’s shoes, but I can’t see Him affirming what Elder Peterson said.

    I just think we cannot try to convince ourselves that God will side with us when we openly rebel against the counsel of the shepherds he places over us.

    I guess the question, then, is what constitutes open rebellion. Certainly, it’s wouldn’t have been proper for someone after ETB’s talk to say, “Well, he’s obviously just an old fascist, so I’ll go ahead and rip those pages out of my conference Ensign and flush ‘em while singing the Internationale.” However, I don’t think it’s wrong to prayerfully ponder and in good conscience ascribe them to personal quirks of the apostle himself rather than to inspired counsel. Personally, I have rather large issues with some things Elder Packer’s said, particularly the infamous “The Mantle Is Far Greater Than The Intellect,” but I think it’s possible to continue to believe he’s called of God while chalking some of the more troubling statements in that talk to quirks of his own character. I believe that the witness of the Spirit trumps what is said in conference, and if I continued to be troubled by an apostle saying something like one of these examples after prayer, I would trust that God wouldn’t require me to go against my conscience.

    Comment by Matt Bowman — June 15, 2005 @ 1:32 pm

  52. What I find ironic is that the “focus on the outward” seems to come entirely from those complaining about the focus. Messageboards all over the bloggernacle are weighed down with people trying to debate whether mention of earrings, white shirts, facial hair on bishops, etc., constitute a doctrine, a culturally-appropriate practice, a misuse of ecclesiastical authority, yada yada yada. And the whole show always seems to draw its impetus from those who are offended by it, who then use the length of the conversation they engender as proof of TBM obsession with the jots and tittles.

    Whereas if the complainers wouldn’t spend so much of their effort in straining at gnats, it would be a simple thing to acknowledge the standards asked of us and turn our attention to weightier matters like charity and service and parenting for the other fifty-nine minutes of the hour.

    Comment by The Only True and Living Nathan — June 15, 2005 @ 2:59 pm

  53. Nice Matt. You’re keeping me on my toes here.

    My point was that unless it’s specifically pointed out by whoever’s speaking, it’s hard for us to judge how limited or expansive an audience they feel themselves to be addressing.

    Excellent point. This also gets back to the tough question that kodos asked about knowing when the counsel expires and for whom. This leads me to think that personal revelation is required more so with this paradigm that with alternatives (sort of the opposite of what Larry feared). It requires revelation to know when God cares anymore about a piece of behavioral counsel that hasn’t been repeated for several years. These things fade slowly after all so we need to see what God thinks when leaders stop talking about certain practices over the pulpit.

    For instance, in the 70′s and before it was clear that the leaders strongly encouraged members to have large families. As a result a standard Mormon family in the 60s and 70s would have 6-8 kids (give or take a few). But by the 80s that counsel slowed dramatically and by the 90s even the priesthood leadership handbook had changed. But since there was no formal repealing of that counsel some even today consider it unfaithful to stop at, say, 3 or 4 children. How do we know what God wants when these things start fading? It requires personal revelation. We turn to God and see what he thinks. It should be no surprise if God says “feel free to stop at two” to many couples but encourages others to have more or less…

    But what if a BYU student was simply troubled by the racial implications of his remarks, and strongly felt that theories about Cain and less-valiant spirits were so much folklore and horse pucky?

    I am only applying this principle to practices, not theological questions. The truths of the eternities exist independently of any leader’s opinions — they are fixed — so either the leaders get them right or they don’t. I am claiming that when it comes to our practices (only) we are bound to current leaders and their counsel and that God will back them in their counsel to us.

    I have written in the past on how lots of apostles and prophets have had lots of different opinion on theology and the doctrines of eternity. That is a different category entirely than the practices they counsel us to engage in.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2005 @ 3:16 pm

  54. I’m probably signing off for the day now, so you can take a break. :)

    Good show on the first part – I’m with you there. I would, though, apply what you said to place as well as time. As Elder Oaks said in the recent YSA fireside – “I am a General Authority and thus give general counsel.” (paraphrase) Not everything stated applies equally to everybody. We need to determine that for ourselves, with the Spirit.

    I am only applying this principle to practices, not theological questions. The truths of the eternities exist independently of any leader’s opinions-they are fixed-so either the leaders get them right or they don’t. I am claiming that when it comes to our practices (only) we are bound to current leaders and their counsel and that God will back them in their counsel to us.

    Here’s the crux of it, I think. I don’t see this sort of separation between principle and practice. Correct action is based upon truth, and if we are directed to do something, we should know through witness of the Spirit that it is either based on a divine principle or that God Himself has directed it. If neither of these applies, I don’t believe God will hold us accountable. Our leaders are there to witness of Christ and receive revelation for the church. They’re not there to tell us how to vote, no matter what President Benson would have liked.

    Comment by Matt Bowman — June 15, 2005 @ 4:25 pm

  55. Good show on the first part – I’m with you there.

    Right on! Progress is a beautiful thang…

    Correct action is based upon truth, and if we are directed to do something, we should know through witness of the Spirit that it is either based on a divine principle or that God Himself has directed it. If neither of these applies, I don’t believe God will hold us accountable.

    I don’t think you have the correct criteria here. I think we simply should know through witness of the Spirit that God wants us to perform the action. Anything beyond that (like who’s idea it was originally or even if it was based on correct assumptions or not) is moot.

    Our leaders are there to witness of Christ and receive revelation for the church. They’re not there to tell us how to vote, no matter what President Benson would have liked.

    I think we get ourselves in trouble when we start dictating to God what his servants can or can’t tell us to do. God can tell us how to vote through his servants if he wants. Those of us living in CA during the prop 22 vote learned that first hand.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2005 @ 6:33 pm

  56. All right, so I was wrong about signing off.

    I think we get ourselves in trouble when we start dictating to God what his servants can or can’t tell us to do. God can tell us how to vote through his servants if he wants. Those of us living in CA during the prop 22 vote learned that first hand.

    Ah. You misunderstand me. Let me put it this way: I’m not dictating to God; he can instruct his servants to do whatever He wants. I am, though, saying that it’s not the place of His servants to cross the guard rails, as you put it, of their own initiative. This is what I think the many leaders who developed various explanations for why black men could not hold the priesthood did; obviously, explanations like Mark Peterson’s less-valiant-spirits one were wrong. Therefore, I don’t think counsel he based upon that belief was valid. Because of this, I think that some leaders *have* crossed the guard rails; they obviously have not been removed. So I agree that it’s vital that we receive a witness from God.
    It is entirely possible, I suppose, for God to say, “Yes, wear only two earrings,” and leave it at that. However, to me, it seems much more likely that He would affirm that our bodies have an inherent nobility, that we should respect that nature, and leave the earring question to us. That’s what I meant about affirmations of principle.

    Comment by Matt Bowman — June 15, 2005 @ 8:30 pm

  57. I’m glad you didn’t quit, Matt.

    obviously, explanations like Mark Peterson’s less-valiant-spirits one were wrong.

    Hmmmm. That is a potato that is too hot to touch here…

    Therefore, I don’t think counsel he based upon that belief was valid.

    I think what I said last comment applies here as well (but italics for extra fun!): I don’t think you have the correct criteria here. I think we simply should know through witness of the Spirit that God wants us to perform the action. Anything beyond that (like who’s idea it was originally or even if it was based on correct assumptions or not) is moot.

    However, to me, it seems much more likely that He would affirm that our bodies have an inherent nobility, that we should respect that nature, and leave the earring question to us.

    Lots of times we are looking for an eternal principle to explain any and every prophetic counsel about our behavior. Mormons have become experts at this with our “body is a sacred temple” discussions etc. That is all well and good (though I think it very often quite hysterical and overdone) but I think it may be that we are missing another eternal principle — the one I am trying to illuminate in this post. That is that God backs his stewards.

    I can understand if you simply don’t buy it, but it seems to me that there is lots of evidence to support my theory and that it is a better explanation of the world’s history with prophets than the alternatives floating around.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2005 @ 9:24 pm

  58. Speaking Up,

    I didn’t want to leave your comment (#45) hanging so here are some responses.

    I’m not that familiar from where that standard teaching came. Could you give me a source?

    Although the Wilford Woodruff quote is only referring to the restored Church, I can still give you a couple of quick examples of the standard teaching on the Great Apostasy –

    One example is the Great Apostasy, which occurred after the Savior established His Church. After the deaths of the Savior and His Apostles, men corrupted the principles of the gospel and made unauthorized changes in Church organization and priesthood ordinances. Because of this widespread wickedness, the Lord withdrew the authority of the priesthood from the earth.
    True to the Faith, Apostasy, 13

    Throughout history, evil people have tried to destroy the work of God. This happened while the Apostles were still alive and supervising the young, growing Church. Some members taught ideas from their old pagan or Jewish beliefs instead of the simple truths taught by Jesus. In addition, there was persecution from outside the Church. Church members were tortured and killed for their beliefs. One by one, the Apostles were killed. Because of the persecution, surviving Apostles could not meet to choose and ordain men to replace those who were dead. Eventually, local priesthood leaders were the only ones who had authority to direct the scattered branches of the Church. The perfect organization of the Church no longer existed, and confusion resulted. More and more error crept into Church doctrine, and soon the destruction of the Church was complete. The period of time when the true Church no longer existed on earth is called the Great Apostasy.
    Gospel Principles, Chapter 16

    Here’s another danger that goes along with the Take Me Out doctrine. After every Prophet dies, should we not have a discussion if he was really killed (removed) for some false thing he did or was about to do?

    That’s true, we could discuss that. I just don’t think many people will buy the theories that President Lee or President Hunter was remonved from office for potentially leading the Church astray. We could also speculate that they were allowed to live long enough to become president so that their work up until then would be given more attention, so this sword cuts both ways.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2005 @ 9:30 pm

  59. Geoff,
    What do you mean that “God backs his stewards”. Do you mean that no matter what a Prophet says that God agree’s with him? So when Joseph Smith said that “As Man is God once was, and as God is man may become”, that God agreed with him. ( I believe he did, but that’s beside the point), and that at the same time when President Hinkley was interviewed about this very same issue that he denied that it was a doctrine of the church, that God agreed with him too? I don’t think it comes down to whether God agree’s with the prophet or not, I think it’s just as likely that prophets do things that God does not agree with. Does that mean that we can be disobedient when we think that the prophet tells us to do something that we think God would disagree with? No of course not. Obedience is the first law of heaven, and disobedience is a sin. I do not think that this implies that I cannot disagree with something the prophet has said, and neither do I think that God agrees with everything the prophet says. Man I’m a cynic!

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — June 16, 2005 @ 12:11 am

  60. Craig,

    I agree with you. Check out the second half of comment #53. I clarified that this principle only applies to practices we are counseled to follow as a people and not eternal principles or doctrines.

    An excerpt:

    I am only applying this principle to practices, not theological questions. The truths of the eternities exist independently of any leader’s opinions-they are fixed-so either the leaders get them right or they don’t.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 16, 2005 @ 12:32 am

  61. Lots of times we are looking for an eternal principle to explain any and every prophetic counsel about our behavior.

    And with good reason, too. Perhaps we’re defining ‘eternal principle’ differently; I mean it as those things which matter eternally – the law of consecration may be one of them, but paying a tithe set at 10% is is not. When we hear that we should pay 10%, we _should_, therefore, seek a better reason than ‘because the prophet said so;’ we should use it as a way to teach ourselves and grow spiritually towards the capacity to live consecrated lives. Paying tithing or avoiding pornography simply because you’re told to is like leaning on your parents’ testimony when you’re young; if we want to grow as moral beings, we should be able to defend our decisions in ways stronger than the appeal to authority. Relatedly, I therefore don’t buy the pseudo-doctrine that God will reward us if we follow a leader in his mistakes. We have the ability and responsibility to make our own moral decisions with the guidance of the Spirit.

    I think what I said last comment applies here as well (but italics for extra fun!): I don’t think you have the correct criteria here. I think we simply should know through witness of the Spirit that God wants us to perform the action. Anything beyond that (like who’s idea it was originally or even if it was based on correct assumptions or not) is moot.

    This may be where we’re talking past each other. You say that God backs his stewards, even if they give counsel based on incorrect doctrine. I’m willing to concede that God places a high value on listening to his prophets. However, I don’t think that the worth of that trumps the danger of spreading false doctrine, and so if your theory is correct, I think its boundaries are closer together than you acknowledge. You argue that doctrine and counsel can be separated, but I frankly don’t see how that’s possible, and would be interested to hear your thoughts on why your theory applies to one and not the other, and how you manage to separate them so cleanly. In both the examples I’ve given, the counsel is based on doctrinal assumptions. I guess you’re right; I just don’t buy that God would hold us accountable for failing to heed incorrect teachings.

    Comment by Matt Bowman — June 16, 2005 @ 6:55 am

  62. I found D&C 74:5 rather interesting today. God is talking about Paul and says that, at one point, Paul “wrote unto the church, giving unto them a commandment, not of the Lord, but of himself.” God isn’t even complaining or reprimanding Paul, but is simply clarifying something for Joseph Smith. Or at least that’s my understanding of it.

    Comment by Benny K — June 16, 2005 @ 8:09 am

  63. Geoff,
    What does it matter whether it is a practice or a doctrine. Is the prophet some how immune from being wrong about practice, but possibly wrong about doctrine? And my real issue with this is actually the principle that is being taught, not the action we are asked to perform. Like I said, I could care less that I have to shave every morning, or that my wife and daughter have to wear only one pair of earrings. My issue is that this practice teaches us to equate righteousness/unrighteousness with outward appearances, and not with what goes on in the inner vessel. So what would you say, he’s right about the practice, but wrong about the principle it teaches as a consequence? If the prophet told us that we all need to start walking backward from now on that God would say, yes I agree?

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — June 16, 2005 @ 8:13 am

  64. Micro-managing such as deciding how many earrings you can wear smacks of the amount of steps the Pharisees allowed for the Sabbath. Just as Christ told those spiritual leaders about straining at a gnat, he’d say the same things at ours. And for those who think that our leaders walk on water, remember that there are several prophesies, dreams, etc. by early church leaders saying that the church would NEED a house cleaning before the Last Days. Its going to be more than the simple rank and file that get an eye-opening.

    Also I’d rather have correct doctrine and incorrect practices over correct practices and incorrect doctrine anyday. A man cannot be saved in ignorance. (Of course I’d prefer ultimately to have perfect practice and perfect doctrine).

    The 2 great commandments: Thats whats important.

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 16, 2005 @ 9:06 am

  65. I wonder how much this kind of thing would change if the leaders of the Church were younger men (or women). It worries me sometimes that the leaders could become senile, invent silly rules and everyone would still lock step and follow because “the prophet said so.”

    Comment by A nonny miss — June 16, 2005 @ 9:22 am

  66. Speaking up,
    You said:
    Also I’d rather have correct doctrine and incorrect practices over correct practices and incorrect doctrine anyday. A man cannot be saved in ignorance. (Of course I’d prefer ultimately to have perfect practice and perfect doctrine).

    I’m going to have disagree with you strongly on that one. I’d take incorrect doctrine, and correct practice any day over correct doctrine and incorrect practice. I think you would to if you realized what your saying. It’s like saying “Yeah I know the correct nature of God, but I like to sleep around.”

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — June 16, 2005 @ 10:52 am

  67. Craig Atkinson: On second thought, I think if you have correct doctrine, correct practices will naturally follow, but the opposite cannot occur.

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 16, 2005 @ 11:16 am

  68. Speaking Up,
    I do not think that by knowing a certain doctrine that your automatically going to act in a correct way. And I agree that it doesn’t go the other way either. You may be able to say that we are more likely to act in moral ways when we understand doctrine, but it’s not a given. Blake Ostler about a month ago gave a very compelling post about this very subject. He gave the example of an old woman they he knows, I think shes from Germany but I can’t remember off the top of my head. He talked about her tender heart, and her goodness, and yet at the same time she was ignorant of the doctrines of the church. He believed that she is much closer to getting into the CK than he is. How we act and treat others always trumps doctrine. And trust me, I love studying church doctrine, probably more so than the next guy. But I would never give it prescedence over correct actions.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — June 16, 2005 @ 11:26 am

  69. Maybe Blake could get in on this argument.

    Comment by Craig Atkinson — June 16, 2005 @ 11:27 am

  70. I do not think that by knowing a certain doctrine that your automatically going to act in a correct way.

    Well I guess it depends on how much doctrine you have. If you have the doctrine from D&C about the sacrament prayer, then you’re going to do it right. If you don’t have it, you might get it right, but more likely not.

    I guess its really a silly argument over all since the ideal is both.

    Comment by Speaking Up — June 16, 2005 @ 1:08 pm

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