Against Activism

May 25, 2013    By: Jeff G @ 1:52 pm   Category: Happiness,Mormon Culture/Practices

For the past couple months the Bloggernacle has been ablaze with a spirit of activism.  For a variety of reasons, I have kept my participation in these threads to a minimum, but I thought it might be nice to weigh in with a few considerations which seem to have either been taken for granted or side-lined from discussion.  But before I get to these considerations, I probably need to address a few caveats in order to anticipate potential reactionaries, trolls and other replies which tend to bog down rather than forward the conversation.

Caveat 1: I am not anti-change.  No doubt, somebody will insist that since I am anti-activist, I must be pro-status-quo.  But being anti-activist is not the same thing as being pro-status quo.  I fully embrace change, but not in the way or sense that activists embrace it.  Indeed, only a severely (or willfully) limited imagination would hold that embracing activism or defending the status-quo are the only two options available to us.  Change, both within the church and without, is not only possible – indeed inevitable – but is beneficial if done in the right way.

Caveat 2: This post is only about activism within the church.  While I am, for the most part, anti-activist in general, this post is simply not about activism in general.  I’m not talking about writing letters to congressmen, attending rallies and other activities aimed at political legislation outside the church.  My target is activism which is aimed at change within the church.

That said, here are a few brief points against activism which I wish to submit to discussion:

Consideration 1:  Activism is the pursuit of ideology rather than prophecy.  Activists assume that even if their ways aren’t quite God’s ways, their ways are still closer to God’s ways than the church is.  Whereas one of the main tenets of ideological activism is that we know certain things, one of the main tenets of prophecy is that we don’t know those things.  We do not know where we are going, which path is best and what the cost/benefit constraints are along the way.  We simply have no clue how God wants his church organized apart from what he has revealed to his prophets.  What we do know, however, is that the Lord greatly prefers a false consciousness to a false prophet.

Consideration 2:  Activism de-legitimizes the priesthood.  The whole point of the steadying the ark story is that a person’s ideas and intentions do not authorize them to act for God in any official capacity whatsoever.  Enlightenment values (the democratization of rationality, truth, etc. along with the de-legitimization of appeals to authority and tradition) have very little place in a church based on prophecy and priesthood.  As an example, feminist activism does not destroy priesthood authority by (potentially) placing priesthood authority in women’s hands, but by circumventing – and thereby de-legitimizing – the priesthood authority altogether.  Activism thus seeks to give an authoritative voice to anybody with an opinion and a base of support.  Such a bottom-up power structure is, however, in obvious conflict with the organization bequeathed to us from above.

Consideration 3:  Activism encourages pride and criticism.  Activism follows Karl Marx in measuring the status-quo against the unrealized ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity.  This perspective pridefully assumes that we know where we are going and how to get there.  It then proceeds to criticize organizations inasmuch as they do not measure up to these ideals as if they were holding people back from realizing their infinite potentials.  The prophets, on the other hand, encourage us to measure the status-quo against the benchmark of chaos, death and perdition, knowing that without the church which the Lord has given us we would be utterly lost.  This second perspective acknowledges that without the church organization we would be nothing, thereby inspiring a sense of humility and gratitude.  Whereas the activist sees the church organization as a leash which prevents individuals from soaring into the heavens, the prophets sees it as a hard-wrought edifice by which we lowly creatures are together able to rise ever-higher through our organized labors.

To recap, I have presented three considerations against activism within the church:

  • The activist does not have the knowledge necessary to change the church.
  • The activist does not have the authority necessary to change the church.
  • The activist does not inspire the virtues valued within the church.

156 Comments »

  1. Amen. Though I love intellectual conversations, one thing I deplore is “steadying the arc”.

    Comment by Joseph Smidt — May 25, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

  2. Agreed. I think there are other more effective ways to promote and be a part of positive change within the church that are not counter to the system of prophecy and authority in place. Activism doesn’t rightly have a place within a church bearing the keys of the Kingdom.

    Comment by Steve — May 25, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

  3. I tend to shrink from activism too, but only one of your considerations explains my concerns. In fact, your considerations trouble me.

    I believe that God loves the honest inquiry. I believe that He would rather have disciples who choose to follow Him than who blindly follow Him. And choice always requires some degree of inquiry.

    We have a long, rich and abundant experience of revelation coming as the result of honest inquiry. It led Joseph to a grove of trees and that inquiry changed the world. It has led me to ponder and struggle and contemplate, and, sometimes, to beg the Lord for insight. It is precisely the QUESTIONS we ask that I believe move history as it relates to the Church’s forward motion.

    To this extent, I believe the activists have started asking good questions (not all the questions are good, frankly, but that’s ok. We don’t need to get them all right). Our prophets, seers and revelators are subject to “cultural unconsciousness” as much as anyone. As the culture around us wakes up, the scriptures take on new meaning. For example, growing up I never quite knew what the scriptures meant when they warned of “rumors of war.” Until the day that i woke up to the evil of terrorism. Of course! That is what is meant by a “rumor of war.” I could not have understood this in the context of my own private inquiry. I had the question for years. September 11 revealed the answer to me.

    So I honor the questions that activists bring. But it takes a deep discipline to ask the questions and not be attached to the answers (or the questions). The pride you speak of, and the certainty of the questions sometimes asked is the thing that can make activism toxic. To ask and inquire out of humility, out of hope,longing and pain, and STILL be open to whatever the answer is, and whatever the timeline is, to me, is the definition of humility.

    John Newton wrote the famous Christian Hymn, “Amazing Grace.” He was a slave ship captain…a vocation that today we would find immoral. When his ship was almost capsized in a storm, he pledged his life to Christianity and God. He became a devout christian, reading scriptures, attending church, gave up swearing and drinking and all the vices. But it never crossed his mind to give up his profession. And in his time, the slave trade was not condemned by civil or ecclesiastic communities. He was asleep. But as the culture moved around him, as he continued to live in obedience and spirit, one day the things that broke God’s heart began to break John Newton’s heart, and he became a dedicated abolitionist. But it happened 30 years after his conversion for this to occur.

    It seems that this is the way God moves. It is a dance between us and Him. I do not believe that for the most part revelation rains down on the prophets like pixie dust. It comes from struggle and inquiry. And that is the blessing that activists give to us.

    Comment by DeepThink — May 25, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

  4. Spot on. Thank you.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — May 25, 2013 @ 6:59 pm

  5. I totally agree with the post. My choice is to follow the prophet. I don’t need to question. But to each his own.

    Comment by Kris — May 25, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

  6. I don’t know.

    I thought the Church should change its practice regarding race/lineage before the FP and 12 received its revelation. I was not an “activist” in the sense of marching or starting petitions, but I was an activist in the sense that if anyone asked me, I would say I thought the practice should change and that if I were a member of the FP and 12 I would advocate for that. I also thought that one piece garments should become two piece, that women married to nonmembers should be able to receive their own endowments in the same way men married to nonmembers could, that ward building and operating expenses should be paid from tithing rather than separate assessments, and a number of other things that eventually were changed. I thought in the aftermath of Proposition 8 that the Church should show forth an increase of love towards the LGBTQ community (and wrote a letter to that effect to the FP). I have made suggestions to my ward and stake leaders about programs and other things, and when I have been a stake or ward leader, I have received suggestions from others that we considered and often implemented.

    In fact, I recall that Moses’ father in law offered some unsolicited advice to Moses about delegation, that Emma offered advice that led to receiving the word of wisdom, that the Sunday School, Primary, Family Home Evening, and evening adoption of scouting program came about note from headquarters, but from interested individuals seeking to do good.

    Yet in all of the instances, the questioner and person with suggestions or thoughts that the Church should make institutional changes:

    did not have the knowledge necessary to change the church.
    did not have the authority necessary to change the church.
    and possibly did not inspire the virtues valued within the church.

    Or did they?

    Comment by DavidH — May 25, 2013 @ 8:11 pm

  7. I hate that “steadying the ark” is applied with such a broad brush stroke.

    It was a priest’s job to carry the ark and prevent it from slipping. By reaching out to save the ark, someone else was taking that job away.

    But what about all the other people who were pointing out that there was a problem – those people weren’t destroyed.

    I see LDS activism more along the lines of people saying (or shouting) – watch out! there’s a problem and the ark is falling. Certainly communication of needs/wants/desires/hopes/dreams etc. is not equivalent to commandeering the church office building and writing a letter on official stationery changing policies as needed.

    So activists are raising a (loud, public) stink about problems they see. What’s the difference between them and, oh, the prophet’s/Q12′s wives/children/friends raising a (quiet, private) stink?

    People are not stepping in and doing the leaders’ job, they’re asking/telling the leader to pay attention.

    So, backseat drivers can be annoying, but sometimes they save us from accidents.

    Comment by LRC — May 25, 2013 @ 9:55 pm

  8. @#6, On the priesthood ban, there were many people who wished to have the ban lifted, in and out of the first presidency and the quorum of the twelve going back many years before the ban was actually lifted. That ban was lifted in accordance with the way God has designed His church to work, through revelation.

    The church leaders do pay attention to what is going on in the church and in the world around them. But things in the church are not done according to the dictates of man and man’s time table(s) but in God’s own due time.

    I have no doubts that the church leadership is cognizant of the agitation in some quarters for women to have the priesthood. It may well come about at sometime, or it may not. But if so, it will be in accordance with the Lord’s timetable.

    Look how many centuries the priesthood was only among the lineage of Levi. Look how many centuries that the Gospel was exclusive to the Children of Israel. Anyone who wished to follow Jehovah and participate in the temple ordinances had to be come to Israel. There was no effort to spread the word of God to the other parts of the world, to non-Israelites until Jesus sent his apostles to teach the Gentiles.

    To be sure, people can and have importuned God for things that God did not wish for them, and did so until God gave them what they wanted, most often to the detriment of the people. Remember how badly the Children of Israel wanted a King? And how they wearied the prophet Samuel and the Lord, despite their warnings, until God finally gave in and gave them a king. And the things that had been prophesied happened.

    And sometimes, good things can be sought. It will take a lot of faith, fasting, and prayer. That is the kind of activism that the Lord will honor.

    Glenn

    Comment by Glenn Thigpen — May 25, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

  9. This is a weak argument supported by a straw man and surrounded by assumption and a lot of spin. Activists are simply petitioning the brethren to ask for an answer from God as Zelophehad’s daughters petitioned Moses. If the brethren act solely on the urging of activists either the activists were right or the brethren themselves are de-legitimizing the priesthood! There is nothing wrong with asking; you must study it out in your mind; then you must cask me if it be right.

    Comment by Howard — May 25, 2013 @ 10:30 pm

  10. Spot on post. The problem I have with the wave of activism in the church is that in invariably focuses outward on getting the mainstream media and blogs to pick up a narrative that the church is bigoted and backwards. In so doing, the activists are going against their covenants to consecrate their time and talents for the building of god’s kingdom. Instead, they are damaging the reputation of the church and tearing it down.

    Comment by Daniel Ortner — May 26, 2013 @ 7:17 am

  11. Daniel,
    Your post is ignorant and very judgmental, placing all activists in the same barrel. Many activists don’t care about the media or any “blog” world that may or may not be paid attention to. Also, you judging their covenants they make can be translated as a parallel judgment toward you: somehow you are breaking your sacred covenants by sitting there pointing your finger at others, making broad statements and conclusions based on your limited exposure and experience.

    All others,
    Activism is an interesting and very sensitive topic nowadays. I think it is largely a matter of perspective and interpretation on how revelation comes about. Being part of that voice that asks for change I don’t see as a bad thing. It isn’t as if the Prophet gauges the weekly pulse of the activists’ world and sits down with the other 14 leaders and talks about it. At the same time, I feel that the average person has an influence on the revelation to be had for the whole church. Whether change comes tomorrow or 100 years from now doesn’t mean that it isn’t an influence. Also, I don’t much like accusations about covenants church members make. One doesn’t have to be a member to influence change in the church. The Prophet isn’t the Prophet of a church, he is the Prophet of the world. As such, a voice from outside can very much influence change, such as the voice of Martin Luther King. Yes, I think he was a positive influence that we ultimately place on Christ who is the head of the church.
    I think as long as we stay respectful, honor our Priesthood and that of our leaders, and listen to our wives (the biggest influence influence on our individual Priesthood) and be very prayerful and meditative about such things, we won’t go wrong.

    Comment by dallske — May 26, 2013 @ 8:29 am

  12. This post seems to rely on the assumption that the structures and practices activists challenge are in every case the direct result of prophesy and priesthood. Maybe they are, but if the whole point of activism is (in some cases, anyway) to question that assumption, then I don’t see much value in an argument that simply restates it.

    Comment by Casey — May 26, 2013 @ 10:33 am

  13. Activists spend a lot of time telling other people they are thinking or acting wrongly. It is interesting to watch individual activists to see if they get defensive when someone turns the tables and tells them they are thinking or acting wrongly.

    Comment by Jacob J — May 26, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

  14. Thank You! Thank You! I wish to see more posts like this on the bloggernacle

    Comment by Michael A. Hickman — May 26, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

  15. “Turns the tables”? Many individuals that voice their opinion AGAINST the popular vote live with people telling them they are wrong daily or weekly. The woman that wears pants to church….she is a minority who has plenty of vocal opposition. The man who speaks up in Quorum when, a popular but not-necessarily-correct doctrine gets voiced and everyone agrees with it, that man is a minority who voices their opinion against a culture where the majority have jumped on some sort of bandwagon. These people get told they are wrong all the time and yet, they still go to church and try to let others see a different point of view.
    Activists may spend a lot of time telling other people they are wrong, but remember, when both parties are doing it, one party is always on the sidfe of the majority, while the other party doesn’t enjoy such a luxury.

    Comment by dallske — May 26, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

  16. It is a fine line. I think activism is potentially beneficial when it gets our leaders to “ask the question”. Revelation seems to only come in response to a petition, and unless issues important to the membership are brought to the leaders’ attention, they may not petition.

    Whether they would have happened in their own time, or whether it was the result of a petition to the Lord after realizing social pressures, I’m glad that garments no longer come to ankles and knees (as well as 2-piece), that penalties are no longer in the temple ceremony, that blacks can have the priesthood, that women can now pray in General Conference, and many, many other things.

    Comment by Mike S — May 26, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

  17. For the most part, really interesting comments!

    A couple responses come to mind:

    1) All rules have exceptions, but I’m pretty confident when I suspect that all of us bloggers are *not* the exceptions to this rule. Yes, there are some counter-examples to the general rules I describe… but so what? I don’t know why they were the exception and I don’t really care. Those questions have nothing to do with the fact that the rules are as they are.

    2) Whatever activists are doing, they are not simply raising a question which might be worth addressing. Rather, they are trying to send a message – an answer to a question. If they simply wanted to raise a question, they could do it just like the rest of us do it: by way of discrete conversations, letters, etc. (It is, after all, rather difficult to imagine a discreet activist.) By contrast, activists are trying to make a statement which is as loud and clear as possible. Whatever this is, it is not humble.

    3) To those who object to my account, I might ask about the origins of the values which they presuppose and defend in their objections. Some comments have suggested that some who have good ideas and good questions should have some kind of power to facilitate change within the church, but this is the exact opposite of what the church teaches. The values and beliefs which under-gird activism and those who defend it are based in the enlightenment and academia, not prophecy and priesthood.

    Comment by Jeff G — May 27, 2013 @ 12:44 am

  18. Interesting. Activists of whatever stripe tend to be ideologues, and presume the correctness of their own positions, and lament the slowness and backwardness of the Church in coming around to their position. Activism doesn’t question an assumption, as much as presume to tell you the correct answer and loudly pressure you to come around.

    Comment by Ben — May 27, 2013 @ 1:39 am

  19. The only reason activism has a voice niche at all is because without activism we get minutia “miracles” like a change in missionary age, really? this is the most important thing God has to say to the world today??? With activism we get a occational Official Declaration.

    In the absence of clear leadership others will jump in attempting to fill the void, it is human nature. It is well within the church’s power to proactively put the activists out of business but instead they choose to react to activism. See women praying at GC. The church bent to activism simply because the activists were right! Yet the church had 182 years to proactively correct this on their own. In this case it seems the activists were very, very patient.

    Comment by Howard — May 27, 2013 @ 5:49 am

  20. I would have to agree that *most*, not *all* activists are idealogues. That said, even though I would say most of them are the loud, bend-to-my-view type, I would then classify myself as not an activist, I merely support many of their causes in a quiet way.
    There is something to be said of Revelation. I think some are trying to keep a very tight definition to that word, confining it to a restricted view. I don’t think Revelation works that way at all. I think God works through angels assigned to individuals much more heavily than we tend to realize. Angels minister to the Prophet just as they minister to everyone else. Angels are there representing not only God, but the Holy Ghost. When a mortal says something to us, and it is not only truth, but what we need to hear, our ministering angels confirm it to us. So we are very much a part of others’ revelation, including the Prophet. Why could not this be true? After that, using our righteous dominion and our Priesthood power, we make decisions through prayer, study and fasting. I don’t rule over my dominion (family) through any other way. I take everyone’s voice as consideration. My children have a voice and have ministering angels just as I do. They have a vested interest in the decisions of the whole family. They may not be able to see the whole picture (like a Prophet), but they are certainly able to give their voice to the one who makes the decisions. There is no reason why activists cannot have an integral part in what some describe as prophecy and priesthood.

    Comment by dallske — May 27, 2013 @ 6:09 am

  21. Ben,

    Spot on!

    Howard,

    That’s a pretty interesting analysis. If it’s right, then it does not bode well for the powers of prophecy and priesthood in the church.

    Comment by Jeff G — May 27, 2013 @ 10:11 am

  22. Jeff.
    Joseph’s revelations filled a book, since Joseph died one revalation and two ODs were added to that book. Both ODs followed significant agitation. What else has been revealed since Joseph? What evudence is there for anything beyond inspiration?

    Comment by Howard — May 27, 2013 @ 10:45 am

  23. Well, I don’t want to say that I fully agree with the analysis, I do like that it calls a spade a spade: activism is an attempt to lead the church because the prophets have done it wrong or not at all.

    Comment by Jeff G — May 27, 2013 @ 11:19 am

  24. Sure, that can be an activist motive but your comment is too simplistic and goes too far because a sincere beleiving desire to have our prophet or the brethern obtain an answer from God can also be an activist motive. All activists are not ideologs or motivated by the same things they vary greatly in their motivation.

    Comment by Howard — May 27, 2013 @ 11:32 am

  25. “Activists of whatever stripe tend to be ideologues, and presume the correctness of their own positions, and lament the slowness and backwardness of the Church in coming around to their position. Activism doesn’t question an assumption, as much as presume to tell you the correct answer and loudly pressure you to come around.”

    I’ll be sure to tell that to all the people who angrily questioned the testimonies and worthiness of a few women who dared wear pants to church a few months back.

    Comment by Casey — May 27, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

  26. Let’s not pretend that framing these issues in terms of pants and testimonies being called into question is somehow more fundamental or less tendentious.

    Howard,

    Simplistic is only a bad thing from an academic perspective, not from a gospel perspective. (Again, where did this aversion to simplicity come from?) I would also repeat that as far as priesthood and prophecy go, motives are entirely irrelevant. They mean nothing. The simple fact of the matter is that they have neither the knowledge nor the authorization to speak for the church or its policies.

    Comment by Jeff G — May 27, 2013 @ 5:05 pm

  27. No, simple is a bad thing in any attempt at intelligent discussion because it truncates everything into childish black and white thinking and ignores the abundant knowledge provided by the nuance of the gray scale in between. The reason things are simple from a gospel perspective is that they have been dumbed way down to appeal to a lower common denominator but in doing so they only approximate their ultimate meaning.

    For instance it is a straw man to argue or imply activists speak for the church but simple thinking doesn’t appreciate the sophistication of the straw man manipulation.

    What do you mean by the word attempt in activism is an attempt to lead the church if motivation is irrelevant?

    Comment by Howard — May 27, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

  28. That’s a very strange response, Jeff. Clearly, the pants kerfuffle at very least calls into serious question narrative of “activists=ideologues who want to bully others into submission” given the direction most of the bullying was coming from there. I’ve know a lot of people who have neither the knowledge nor the authorization to speak for the church or its policies who nevertheless feel very free to do so every week in Sunday School, often in a way that “presumes to tell you the correct answer and loudly pressures you to come around”, as Ben put it. The difference is that folks like that tend to do so from political/ideological perspectives that happen to be shared by the majority of church members. The ones you seem to be labeling “activists” are just doing the same thing from a less privileged position and generally in non-standard venues like blogs rather than Sunday School. Whether anyone in particular is justified in doing so is case-by-case, but to act as though only the “activists” are guilty seems blinkered to me.

    Comment by Casey — May 27, 2013 @ 9:31 pm

  29. Casey,

    People’s ideas concerning social standing and privilege are just as relevant to this discussion as my ideas about their testimony, namely not at all. Privilege gives you neither knowledge nor authority in God’s plan. That’s the point.

    Howard,

    “What do you mean by the word attempt in activism is an attempt to lead the church if motivation is irrelevant?”

    The same thing that the word means in “I attempted to wrestle the steering wheel away from the bus driver”, regardless of what my motive was.

    Comment by Jeff G — May 27, 2013 @ 10:32 pm

  30. Jeff,
    Simplistic thinking causes you to miss material differences in concept resulting in conflating and comparing things that should’t be. Wrestling the steering wheel away from the bus driver is vastly different from having a conversation in the back of the bus with others in which the driving and navigation is critically discussed. Activists have no opportunity to wrestle the mic and TV camera’s from President Monson or the brethren at GC or take his seat at the COB or during high level church meetings, they are simply having a conversation about church leadership and that is vastly different from attempting to physically take over the leadership of the church! You are conflating the two. So your analogy of physically wrestling the steering from the driver is a poor one to the point of failing to apply to the question I asked regarding activist motivation because lacking a physical take over attempt you don’t know if an activist is attempting to lead the church or not they may simply desire the answer to their one issue. Don’t we petition the Lord in prayer regarding the things that trouble us? Don’t we sometimes ask the Lord why things are the way they are? Are these prayers a take over attempt? Are we wrestling the steering wheel from The Lord with these prayers?

    Comment by Howard — May 28, 2013 @ 4:29 am

  31. Jeff G, great post. Thanks.

    Comment by Geoff B — May 28, 2013 @ 5:42 am

  32. Howard,

    Your idea of activism is a peculiar one indeed. You can rest assured that my post was not aimed at intimate conversations or personal prayers.

    Comment by Jeff G — May 28, 2013 @ 7:46 am

  33. Jeff,
    I’m not talking about *intimate* conversations, just conversation. The the bloggernacle is a conversation, an article in the Desert News, Salt Lake Tribune or Dialog are parts of a conversation. What kind of activism are you talking about that threatens a physical take over of the church?

    Comment by Howard — May 28, 2013 @ 7:58 am

  34. I was defining “attempt” not “wrestle”. I would also note that lumping all conversation into one whole sounds a bit simplistic which is a good thing when you are trying to shore up moral boundaries, but not when you are trying to tear them down and blur them by focusing on exceptions rather than the rule.

    Comment by Jeff G — May 28, 2013 @ 8:08 am

  35. My own efforts at tending to my own little corner of the vineyard haven’t much raised my confidence that the Church as a whole needs my guidance. Nor are the problems I run across the sort that seems like they’d be easily fixed if only Salt Lake City would do thus and so.

    The confidence most Americans have that most problems have a simple solution is charming and one of their greatest strengths, but like most great strengths, also one of their greatest weaknesses. When problems prove intractable, you start casting about looking whom is to blame.

    American Mormons are American.

    Comment by Adam G. — May 28, 2013 @ 8:16 am

  36. Touché Jeff! I see you are beginning to master the subtleties of nuance, very good!!! But I would like to point you used “wrestle” to define what you meant by attempt.

    Comment by Howard — May 28, 2013 @ 8:27 am

  37. Parts of this conversation remind me of Jacob 4:

    “. . . he that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls. . . . But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness . . . and sought for things that they could not understand.

    “Wherefore, because of their blindness . . . they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. . . .

    Jeff G: props for your deft handling of the topic. I agree completely. It is a hard thing for us as a people steeped in individuality and democracy to understand that there are times when our voices and opinions are welcome for consideration, but not particularly necessary. Just as it is hard for us to understand that there are times when grassroots organization can do us individually more harm than good, even if the principles espoused are good ones. It is reminiscent of Animal Farm.

    Comment by SilverRain — May 28, 2013 @ 9:34 am

  38. Humm, how does Jacob 4 apply SilverRain? Plain is clear and evident. Simple is lacking in knowledge or expetise. They are not synonymous.

    Comment by Howard — May 28, 2013 @ 10:02 am

  39. “American Mormons are American.”

    A review of Sondheim’s Assassins described that musical: America is a place where not only can dreams come true, they should come true. And if they don’t, then someone is to blame. Probably the President.

    Comment by John Mansfield — May 28, 2013 @ 11:05 am

  40. One difficulty I’m seeing here is the broadness of the definition of “activism”. Was it “activism” to ask for clarification on the widely divergent opinions of Temple Presidents on if menstrating women were excluded from baptistry service? To try and ease the pain of women who are shunned because their “Sunday Best” includes bifrucated clothing? To ask for clarification on how the Temple Endowment Law of Obedience translates into marriage?

    The difference I see is in intent. Do these “activists” desire to take the wheel, or simply ask for more light and knowledge? Are they following the admonition to “ask” (“and ye shall receive”), or are they building a list of ransom demands (you should change -these- things if you mean to keep us here)?

    The best “activists” I know are those that are humbly asking, despite the numbers who see even asking as a sign of faithlessness. They want to know more, even if those answers are not going to be what they had hoped for. Some even asked about ordaining women, heard the response of “not right now”, and moved on to other questions.

    We should all be “activists”, in that we should all be active in building our faith and knowledge of the Gospel, not sitting passively declaring that the Church now is perfection.

    Comment by Frank Pellett — May 28, 2013 @ 11:40 am

  41. I like that. :)

    I think that Karl Marx would agree with my considerations 1 and 2, adding, “so much the worse for Mormonism.” He might be a bit iffy on consideration 3.

    Comment by Jeff G — May 28, 2013 @ 11:42 am

  42. 41 was a response to 39.

    Comment by Jeff G — May 28, 2013 @ 11:44 am

  43. Frank,

    “Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change, or stasis.”

    And to repeat caveat 2, the idea that there are only two options (activism and being pro-status-quo) is absurd. Indeed, I would argue that the concepts of priesthood and continuing revelation argue just as strongly against any kind of status-quo-worship as it does against activism. This debate is not about being pro-change or not. It’s about how the (inevitable) change is supposed to come about.

    Comment by Jeff G — May 28, 2013 @ 11:48 am

  44. There’s a fundamental lack of comprehension of God’s government, per Consideration 2, to call into vocal question the relative revelatory stability of those placed at the head for a reason, or to go so far as to assume that one’s personal revelation is superior–even if correct in precept, it may be premature in implementing practice if contradictory to the established order. Witness Joseph Smith’s “[I]t is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves . . . if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom.”

    Furthermore, if our goal were merely to make the Church’s internal workings match the outside world, then I could see all exertions for change as for the better. This, however, is entirely at odds with the picture of the endtimes portrayed throughout all of revelation. Hence, such remonstrations as Harold B. Lee: “We have some tight places to go before the Lord is through with this church and the world in this dispensation . . . which shall usher in the coming of the Lord. . . . The power of Satan will increase; we see it in evidence on every hand. There will be inroads within the Church. There will be . . . ‘Hypocrites, those professing, but secretly are full of dead men’s bones’ (see Matthew 23:27). . . . Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet, ‘as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; . . . as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith’ (D&C 21:4-5). There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory’ (D&C 21:6).” There’s not much left to say for those who at the first disagreement begin to chisel away at the prophet’s preeminent role; the world provides ample alternative belief systems to accommodate their style of “progress.”

    Comment by Kristopher — May 28, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

  45. It’s about how the (inevitable) change is supposed to come about.

    Well according to President Kimball revelation isn’t likely to just come on it’s own without seeking it by really reaching for it and since OD2 took him several months of reaching and also wrestling with his own personal bias to actually receive it, something controversial seems very unlikely to be sought and received by our prophet(s) in the absence of “agitation”, a word provided to us by President Hinckley regarding ordaining women priests.

    Comment by Howard — May 28, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

  46. We’re talking about people who (many of them) throw around the word “bigot”. Innocently raising questions is not what these people are doing. They are actively trying to change the church in a very specific way.

    Comment by Jeff G — May 28, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

  47. You can be an ideologue without being an activist. No one was marching contra-pants until the activists brought it up.

    FWIW, I thought the whole activism part of pant-wearing was overblown. If you want to wear pants, wear pants, no big deal. When I want to, I wear a blue shirt without a tie, but I don’t elevate it to a major form of social protest. I highly suspect it was the activism aspect that brought out the nutballs, not the pants.

    Comment by ben — May 28, 2013 @ 11:16 pm

  48. There’s a big difference between going to the bishop or stake president with my concerns, perhaps over and over, and making sure all in the ward or stake and neighborhood or city know my concerns and rallying them to the cause of importuning the bishop or stake president.

    Comment by John Mansfield — May 29, 2013 @ 8:24 am

  49. That’s very true John because it’s unlikely anything meaningful will be done with concerns taken to your bishop or stake president unless they can be handled locally within their stewardships or turned inward on you.

    Comment by Howard — May 29, 2013 @ 10:02 am

  50. But what makes you so sure that anything meaningful should be done with their concerns? The whole point is that the activist has neither the knowledge nor the authority to make that decision.

    Comment by Jeff G — May 29, 2013 @ 10:22 am

  51. There is nothing wrong with posing a question to our prophets to be answered by God as Zelophehad’s daughters did directly with Moses except that Monson is far less accessible than Moses was! Bishops or Stake Presidents are hesitant to ask up and when they do their request just gets processed by the bureaucratic jungle of clerks generally referred to “Salt Lake” rather than by the brethren themselves.

    Human nature being what it is few prophets will overcome their own personal biases to do months of work on their knees to receive an answer to a question they care little about or personally disagree with and since they moved up in the church by being “yes men” and because of who they are related to the system is strongly biased toward status quo which often leaves the church lagging seculat enlightenment – See OD2. Bringing these kinds of issues to their attention via. activism, agitation of embarrassment adds motivation where little existed. but there is nothing to worry about here because the decision is clearly left up to God not activists.

    Why do you insist on silencing the Zelophehad’s daughters of today?

    Comment by Howard — May 29, 2013 @ 10:51 am

  52. I have had cause to pose questions to bishops and from there to stake presidents many times. Though the answers were not always what I wanted to hear, and though it took some time, when I asked sincerely and humbly and without aggression, there was always an eventual answer. At times, it even changed things.

    I find it curious that so many people are so incredibly concerned about the biases of the church leadership, yet fail to be concerned over their own.

    Bringing issues to their attention via activism is not meant to petition change, but to force it by rule of numbers and through embarrassment.

    I don’t think Jeff G is trying to silence anyone. But he has every right to call out the weakness in activism within a believing framework. Aligning themselves with Zelophehad’s Daughters is a conceit that may or may not be accurate.

    I don’t expect someone to understand the truth of what Jeff is saying when they don’t support the validity of the LDS Church leadership’s divine calling. At that point, the arguments that are made are mere sophistry akin to that seen a few times in the Book of Mormon. Someone without a testimony of the divinity of a leader’s calling can hardly be expected to grasp why it would be inappropriate for someone who truly does believe in the divine calling of that leader to try to control their decisions via bullying tactics.

    Comment by SilverRain — May 29, 2013 @ 11:34 am

  53. SilverRain,
    Since you appear to be addressing me at least in part and appear to be dismissing my viewpoint by making assumptions about my testimony and the testimony of others I think it’s important for you to know that I do have a testimony of the divinity of leaders calling but in many cases those callings do not appear to be being magnified to anything close to past levels and in some cases I’ve had leaders state that they operate most of the time without consulting the Spirit because of the work and time envolved. Are the heavens open to the brethren? Perhaps at a minutia level or an inspiration level but Elder Perry said that the heavens only open on rare occasions. So most of the time those “divine callings” are actually only operating on inspiration at best. How else do you account for the reversal of the ban on blacks?

    I find it curious that so many people are so incredibly concerned about the biases of the church leadership, yet fail to be concerned over their own. This is a Sunday school push back type of argument. If the brethren are biased it matters a lot, if those approaching the brethren are biased it matters little and presents a teaching opportunity for the brethren .

    Church change cannot be forced by activists even if they desired to change it by force.

    I’m happy you’ve found satisfaction via. working within the institution but not everyone has.

    I wasn’t addressing Jeff G’s rights.

    Comment by Howard — May 29, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

  54. Why do you insist on thinking you have the knowledge or authority to say how bishops, stake presidents and prophets should (not) be doing their job?

    You pretty much gave everything away by framing church leadership in terms of a beuracracy rather than in terms of priesthood and prophecy. Is it any wonder that I accuse activists of delegitimizing these things?

    You then said that the church is different from Moses’ time and then you ask me why I insist that the church might do things differently than in Moses’ time. Like I said in the post, we don’t know where the church is going, how it’s supposed to get there or what the cost/benefit constraints are.

    Finally, your comments are anything but humble and grateful toward the priesthood and prophets.

    Am I wrong to see a strong confirmation of my post in your comments?

    Comment by Jeff G — May 29, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

  55. Jeff G
    You know it’s pretty easy to compare the level revelation and spiritual gifts demonstrated during Joseph’s day with the barely perceptible “whisperings” of the Spirit that are taught and accepted as normal in LDS chapels today and see that while authority was retained but power has been lost. I’d like to see the heavens reopened and the power restored!

    So you see what is commonly referred to as “Salt Lake” as more priesthood and prophecy than bureaucracy?

    Am I wrong to see a strong confirmation of my post in your comments? Yes.

    Comment by Howard — May 29, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

  56. I would like to see them opened as well, but the fact still remains that my preferences and beliefs regarding the quantity/quality of revelation are utterly irrelevant. I simply do not know near enough to pass any kind of judgment.

    We all have a choice here: we can follow the scriptures and prophets in construing the church in terms of prophecy and priesthood, or we can follow academic social science in construing it in terms of bureaucracy, privilege, etc. Neither way of construing the church is objectively or logically forced upon us, but we do show which side of our bread is buttered when we make this choice.

    SilverRain was absolutely right, my post was meant to show the tension between these two ways of viewing the church. That is why I said that Karl Marx and others would fully agree with my analysis. The only difference would be that their bread is buttered on a different side than those who follow the scriptures and tradition: they would say so much the worse for the church while other would say so much the worse for activists.

    Comment by Jeff G — May 29, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

  57. Howard,
    The power has not been lost. Every interaction I have had with a leader has manifested that to me. If you have missed the pageantry of it, it is not because it is not there. It has always been this way. The dramatic public manifestations of divine power are rare, else the Bible would be much, much larger. As it is, we can count the drama over thousands of years of human history on our fingers and toes. Such manifestations are not what you think they are, their purpose is not what you think it is. Those who have eyes to see will see.

    I do not have to call your testimony of the priesthood power in the leadership into question. You have done it yourself, repeatedly, over the course of this and other conversations. You can claim you have a testimony of the divinity of the leadership’s callings, but you prove your own lie when you say that you believe the power is gone out of the other side of your mouth.

    This is typical of your conversation. Thankfully, I have a great deal of experience with bad liars, so I can see through the fallacies. The only reason I chimed in at all is because it seemed that Jeff G. is not as familiar with your particular brand of doublespeak, and I felt he might like some support, not because I have any care towards convincing you. Frankly, your salvation and opinions are your own, and I have no inspiration to try to change them. Quite the opposite.

    Comment by SilverRain — May 29, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

  58. SilverRain wrote: Such manifestations are not what you think they are, their purpose is not what you think it is. Those who have eyes to see will see. Nice try SR but how do you know what I think they are? You certainly don’t know me well enough and apparently you don’t know the Spirit well enough to make such statements! It is not pageantry or dramatic public manifestations I miss but…clearly, obviously, they are missing from our church today! It is clear revelation I miss because it has become so rare that inspiration now passes for it in the minds of our members even inspiration by committee. Inspiration is NOT revelation because it contains far more man than God. Joseph revealed more than a book of it. Just because it isn’t mentioned more often in the scriptures doesn’t mean it is unavailable to us today.

    SilverRain you lack charity, integrity and clarity. My testimony is not a lie. There is a huge difference between authority and power don’t be so childish as to conflate the two. One can be divinely called without being personally able, motivated or worthy to exercise the power of God. Ordination doesn’t convey power it conveys authority and a formal invitation to engage the power of God. If you believe all that is available to you is a barely discernible whisper, that’s probably all you’ll get. I personally enjoy far more!

    Comment by Howard — May 29, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

  59. Perhaps I lack all that you say I do. Fortunately for me, your opinion of me (or of running of the Church) means completely fails to engage my emotions. But though I don’t often voice my opinion or perceptions any more, the days are past when I lack the integrity to name what I see those rare times I am moved to speak. I never supposed you would like how I understand your words. People who try to finesse and manipulate through doublespeak never like it when their methods are exposed to the light of day. Or, perhaps I am wrong and you are either contradicting yourself without realizing it or you genuinely don’t see the contradiction. I doubt that, based on my observations of you over time, but it wouldn’t be the first time I am wrong.

    Either way, this conversation between you and me is over.

    Comment by SilverRain — May 29, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

  60. SilverRain,
    That is an ad hominem attack! Take a look at your tenancy to project the negative experience of your past onto unrelated situations in your present.

    Comment by Howard — May 29, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

  61. Jeff G,
    You may be right that activism IN the Church does not dictate change, but I think you would have to believe in innumerable coincidences to believe that activism OUTSIDE the Church does not account greatly to the state of Church policy and doctrine today. Unless, you believe that “God Loveth His Children” could have had any place in the 19th C. Church (or the 1970 Church!) Unless you believe that persecution and statehood had absolutely nothing to do with ending polygamy. Unless you believe that God chose 1978 at he dawn of time and had nothing to do with the struggles of the previous decades.

    It’s not a coincidence that the doctrinal make up of the Church directly reflects the time in which it existed. I think you (and many others) have your own idea of what prophecy and prophets looks like, which informs how you view historical fact.I think that’s irresponsible and deeply flawed and setting up God and his servants for failure.

    We’re not Calvinists people! Failing is the whole point of being here. That’s why Jesus came. That’s why the war was fought – those many years ago.

    Comment by CJ Douglass — May 30, 2013 @ 9:55 am

  62. Howard, that’s not an ad hominem. Ad hominem is a logical fallacy, and does not simply mean saying something negative about someone (let alone whether it’s true.)

    Rather, ad hominem is a way of deflecting or ignoring arguments by calling attention to some personal.

    “Ignore her, she’s a Republican.” “Ignore him, he’s a Democrat.”

    If I said, “Howard’s arguments are irrelevant because he’s insensitive to Silver Rain’s feelings,” that would be ad hominem, even though the second half is true. But simply calling you insensitive does not constitute an ad hominem. And I would like to note, you are consistently condescending to others here and elsewhere, though I doubt you mean to be.

    Comment by NotHoward — May 31, 2013 @ 9:17 am

  63. NotHoward,
    SilverRain was clearly deflecting and discounting my arguments by calling attention to something personal. The implication is; ignore him he isn’t a believing member like me (us), his testimony is a lie. Does that implication have to be expressly stated to qualify as an ad hominem attack?

    Condescension must be in the mind of the reader then because it is not my intent, motive or attitude. I do tend to speak with certitude about things I believe to be true and I tend toward the blunt unvarnished view not to be mean or unfeeling but as a method to gain enough of the reader’s atention to break through denial and contaminated thinking with the purpose of improving the clarity of communication. Language is such a narrow bridge of communication between two minds.

    Comment by Howard — May 31, 2013 @ 9:56 am

  64. Btw NotHoward, SilverRain is responsible for her own feelings and you yours as we all are. No one possess the power to compel another to feel badly via. a blogging conversation unless the reader cedes that power to the writer.

    Comment by Howard — May 31, 2013 @ 10:13 am

  65. Howard,

    While it was pretty easy to grab for the “ad hominem” defense, I think a more charitable reading would be that she’s put her finger on an inconsistency of sorts in your statements – an inconsistency that can’t be swept away by merely dropping some latin name.

    I might also point out that ad hominem is clearly a sin only within the academic tradition bequeathed us by the greeks, not the religious tradition.

    One might even go so far as to say that my post almost entails a kind of ad hominem attack of sorts. I essentially argued that there is a contradiction between believing in the power of priesthood and prophecy on the one hand and being a grassroots activist. What you have done in this thread (as near as I can tell) is not to argue against the existence of this tension, but to simply argue for activism. From there, the logic is pretty straight forward:

    p1: ~(p ^ a) [My original post]
    p2: a [Your position in this thread]
    ____________________
    c: ~p [The conclusion which SilverRain drew about your position]

    Comment by Jeff G — May 31, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

  66. No I’ve argued against the tension you assert by arguing for activism and agitation as a sometimes necessary role in the revelatory process you assert – see 45 & 53. 1) According to President Kimball revelation isn’t likely to just come on it’s own without seeking it. 2) The prophet’s own bias can oppose his motivation in seeking and receiving it. 3) The months of work required to receive pushes back against the desire to seek it. 4) Elder Perry tells us the heavens only open on rare occasions but offers OD2 as an example of them opening.

    Therefore activism and agitation have played and likely will continue to play a strong supporting role in motivating our prophets to seek revelation they otherwise would not! Both OD1 and OD2 the most significant canonized revelation we have since Joseph came about in this way. What do we get without activism? An administrative change in missionary age.

    Comment by Howard — May 31, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

  67. All of this sounds like so much hand-waving. Remember what Martin Harris’ “activism” (in your sense of the word) led to? How do you know the prophets aren’t seeking it without activism? How do activists know what the prophets should be asking? How do they know that the prophets haven’t received an answer already? Why are the secular/democratic biases of the activist somehow less problematic than the prophets’ biases? Yes, the prophets do receive revelation which is responsive to the social environment around them, but this in no sense legitimizes the activist from a religious perspective. Not one whit.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 1, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

  68. Jeff G,

    Thank you for this. Over the recent months I have had the same feelings you’ve, and others, have expressed here.

    Though I’m very sympathetic to some of the activists reasons, I too am uncomfortable with their agenda. Perhaps this is all semantics, but I am more comfortable with stimulating rather than agitating the Church for divine direction.

    I’m curious if the special interest groups would take no for an answer. If the Prophet came out and said they received an answer from The Lord that, no, women are not to have the/a Priesthood or Gays weren’t allowed to be married, and like single Heterosexuals, were to remain chaste, or yes, polygamy was essential to the Celestial economy, would the various activists stop and refocus on another issue?

    Comment by Riley — June 1, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

  69. Dallske,

    Your post is ignorant and very judgmental, placing all activists in the same barrel.

    That is pretty rich given the statements you made in #15 which paint all activists with a (favorable) broad brush and put them all in the same barrel.

    You have no reason to know anything about me, but I am one of those people who gets told they are wrong all the time and continues to go to church. The interesting thing about this post is that it attacks activism in a way that activists are not generally attacked.

    It seems to me that in the dream scenario of a well-intentioned activist, the arguments they make would be considered seriously by the leaders who hold power and would be the catalyst for introspection and reconsideration on their part. And yet, I observe that being criticized publicly generally causes the opposite reaction to this ideal scenario. Lest we blame this entirely on the leaders for failing to be humble, we can stop to observe how activists respond when they are criticized publicly in a post like this. It does not tend to inspire introspection and reconsideration but digging in an self-justification. So I guess it is more of a human failing and not one specific to either leader or agitator.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 2, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

  70. Well it’s human nature on both sides of the issue that creates an activist niche in the first place. It’s human nature for our prophets to have personal biases as we all do and to have a status quo bias given how they rise within the church and it’s human nature to fill a leadership vacuum as activists tend to do in a country the revers free speech. And of course it’s human nature to dislike criticism.

    Comment by Howard — June 2, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

  71. Sorry, late to the party. Steve said, in #2, “I think there are other more effective ways to promote and be a part of positive change within the church that are not counter to the system of prophecy and authority in place.”

    What are those effective ways, please?

    Comment by Kristine — June 2, 2013 @ 8:11 pm

  72. @Kristine. I think it starts with an attitude of being on the same team or on the same side of the table with those who are in decision making positions. Activism often has more of a ‘we versus them’ mentality, and I think that has to go if a person wishes to have influence in a system of prophecy and authority. This attitude includes recognizing that you are not in a position to command those who hold stewardship over you or to know or declare the ‘right answer’ for those people not within your stewardship, that those holding the authority and keys, rather than you, have the ultimate right to revelation for that stewardship.

    That said, if you feel there may be an issue (since you cannot know for sure) that you feel may be getting overlooked for whatever reason, you can approach local leadership (Bishop, RSP, Stake President, Stake RSP, etc.) and let them know what you see and why it concerns you. I think preparing and offering persuasive reasons why you believe this issue may be getting overlooked would be particularly effective. Again in an attitude of being on the same side, trying to look out for both your leadership, yourself, and your fellow members, you can ask if they look into the issue (maybe offering specific suggestions that you think could be helpful like ward or stake surveys to see if the issue really is as you suspect, etc.) and to inquire of the Lord if there may be a solution or possibly better solution to the issue at hand. And this you can do, all the while making it apparent that you have no expectations for a specific course of action, or a specific solution, as you respect the order of authority, and the authorized line of revelation–only that you have a genuine concern for everyone involved in the matter and seek what the Lord would have done.

    If done in an attitude of working together, leaders may find with you that the issue is indeed wide-spread in their stewardship, and by working in this manner you will have legitimized your thoughts/feelings on the matter and recruited those in power on your side in a process of love. If the position is found to be serious enough, and you have a stake president or other local leader now on the same page with you, you can discuss how this issue may be more widespread in the area or even church as a whole, and so the SP or leader can be an advocate with you in approaching higher authorities in the same process. (Although a significant amount of more work and effort, I imagine this would have a much greater impact on ultimate change than simply writing a letter to really any level of authority in the church.) Alternatively, in this process you may find that there is a more specific resolution to the issue on a local level that does not need to go any further, and by revelation through those holding the necessary keys, you may learn something that you hadn’t previously supposed that you may not have learned if you did not inquire of your leaders. And finally, if you find others wondering about these same issues, you can recommend that they go through this same process with their leaders, and even if there are a some select bishops, SP, etc. that do not exercise their keys properly (God will be their judge, not us), I think if done on a wide-scale most of our leaders will act in righteousness, with our best interests in mind, and those issues which ought to be addressed, will indeed get addressed.

    Gentle persuasion, long-suffering, love, humility, and proper order is a much harder, much more arduous process, but I suspect the fruits and resolutions will be much sweeter.

    Comment by Steve — June 2, 2013 @ 9:50 pm

  73. Well look at you, Jeff G. People who are aware of the voluminous debates you and I had years ago here and at your blog would be astonished to see the positions you are so admirably defending in this post.

    Anyhow, I think your foundational argument is rock solid. One of the primary claims of Mormonism is that God restored Mormonism and God currently directs Mormonism through living prophets. Activists who are attempting to get the leaders of the church to make whatever changes they fancy are revealing by their actions that they don’t really think the current prophets are in harmony with God. But if that is the case the Church is already apostate, so why bother fretting over policies to begin with?

    Of course the type of change the activists are after matters. Women wearing trouser to church is not really activism in my opinion mostly because there is no doctrines precluding it.

    Agitating for changing more core doctrines is more puzzling based on my point above. For instance why would a Mormon become an activist trying to get the Law of Chastity changed? If the prophets have that all wrong and God is unhappy about it then the Church is already apostate so why even bother? A policy change caused by activists won’t suddenly make fallen prophets true prophets after all.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 2, 2013 @ 10:28 pm

  74. Gentle persuasion, long-suffering, love, humility, and proper order is a much harder, much more arduous process, but I suspect the fruits and resolutions will be much sweeter.

    Not if change (as a result of whatever flavor of activism you find palatable) is apostasy à la Geoff J. Or is gentle persuasion etc. not activism?

    Comment by Peter LLC — June 3, 2013 @ 6:30 am

  75. I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob
    I believe that Jesus has his own planet as well
    And I believe that the Garden of Eden
    Was in Jackson County, Missouri

    If you believe, the Lord will reveal it
    And you’ll know it’s all true, you’ll just feel it
    You’ll be a Mormon
    And, by gosh, a Mormon just believes
    (A Mormon just believes)

    (Just believe, a Mormon just believes)
    Oh, I believe
    (Just believe, a Mormon just)
    I believe

    Comment by Howard — June 3, 2013 @ 6:32 am

  76. @Peter LLC, #74. That last sentence was meant as a description of the process I outlined above it, or something like unto it. I don’t think what I described could be called activism, since a person approaches leaders without the intent to create a specific change or get a specific outcome since the person recognizes their inability to ultimately know what is right for everyone else outside of their stewardship. Rather they bring a concern that they believe may be valid, but ultimately look for and leave the final answers to those holding the keys. If the idea was apostate the leader could obtain revelation/inspiration that such was the case, and let the individual know of their error. If the person came in from a position of humility and faith, and the leader explained that this answer was by inspiration/revelation, the individual with the concern would accept this counseling and all could walk away reconciled at least as to the way to live the principle in question even if the full reasons for why are not entirely understood.

    Comment by Steve — June 3, 2013 @ 7:55 am

  77. Steve,
    Please share some examples of this method resulting in church wide change. Do you think it was involved in the 1990 temple changes?

    Comment by Howard — June 3, 2013 @ 8:16 am

  78. Peter LLC (#74),

    See Jeff’s Caveat 1 in the original post. I believe that gentle persuasion often leads to the organic change that he (and I) are all for.

    Maybe a more specific definition of activism is still needed though. I assume Jeff means aggressive and abrasive agitating for fast change.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 3, 2013 @ 9:48 am

  79. Howard (#75): “I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob”

    Sadly, our scriptures don’t teach this. Look it up.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 3, 2013 @ 9:50 am

  80. Yes, the prophets do receive revelation which is responsive to the social environment around them, but this in no sense legitimizes the activist from a religious perspective. Not one whit.

    Jeff, Please explain how a revelation that is responsive to the social environment does not legitimize the actors that helped create that social environment. In other words, explain to me how 1978 happens without 1964 and all the men, women and children who had worked for equality for decades.

    That doesn’t mean that Mormon prophets had never thought of it before or even asked, but God clearly worked through activists to see revelation given to his prophets. I just don’t see how you get around the Church’s history, which curiously follows the arc of American history.

    Comment by CJ Douglass — June 3, 2013 @ 10:17 am

  81. There’s agitation, and then there’s agitation.

    When agitation creates more heat than light, when it stirs anger and impatience and pride and demands and upset, when agitators agitate themselves out of belief, no amount of “success” in creating change is worth it, IMO. You can also call it agitation (because it has the potential of bringing a legitimate problem to the notice of someone with the right/power to solve it) when someone asks for understanding, is willing to accept counsel, and can accept “no” or “not yet” as an answer.

    It’s the wrong kind of agitation, IMO, when people bring secular principles to bear on the Church, which is anything but a secular institution. I’ve seen that play out so very many times in the history of church courts, where, because the church system was called a “court” and had some of the trappings of a secular court, participants wrongly claimed and acted as though the rules of American jurisprudence applied. They don’t.

    The same thing happens with the wrong kind of agitation: You can’t treat the Church as if it were a commercial organization with a product to sell, bringing the same kind of pressure you would bring against a car company whose ads you find sexist, or against a megastore whose treatment of third-world labor you deplore. You can draw some parallels, but not enough to make it work: a commercial organization dependent upon sales to satisfy shareholders may cave, but the Church, which answers to an entirely different CEO, cannot cave.

    Like it or not, we’re a top-down organization when it comes to doctrine and official practice. Demands for change from below — agitation — cannot work, because the bottom isn’t the source for doctrine and official practice.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 3, 2013 @ 11:08 am

  82. Well I don’t know, wasn’t black equality a secular principle imposed on the church via agitation? Didn’t a lot of that agitation create a lot more heat than light in the beginning? You first need to gain someone’s attention before you can raise their consciousness and consciousness raising is often required to affect change.

    Demands for change from below — agitation — cannot work, because the bottom isn’t the source for doctrine and official practice. Well not internally, but outside agitation has been demonstrated to work, see OD1 & 2. Yes we are a top-down organization, almost nothing but tithing receipts move efficiently the other direction.

    Comment by Howard — June 3, 2013 @ 11:39 am

  83. Thanks for the analogy, Ardis. I like it.

    I think the problem is that people don’t understand what the Gospel, the Church, is selling. The Church isn’t selling numbers of temples, or behinds in the seats. It isn’t selling a social network, welfare plans, or even a way of life. All those things are part of the Church. Some of them are used to measure and manage a global organization.

    But just as you say, these parallels fail to describe the core purpose of the Church and of religion.

    Understanding the true purpose is only possible if you truly believe and understand that Jesus is the CEO. He is only concerned about money, temples, behinds in the seats, social network, way of life, welfare, etc. insofar as it supports the true reason He sponsored this Church.

    His work and glory is the immortality and eternal life of man. Not in an ROI sense, but only as an invitation. The ONLY thing the Church really “sells” is an invitation. It is an invitation to come to know Christ, the rest of it is only an offering of tools to help us get there.

    I think this understanding is why secular methods of agitation break down. They all assume that the Church’s purpose is the appendages. The method that Jeff outlines works because it IS the purpose. Bringing our hearts and minds in alignment with God is the ONLY thing that really matters. When we approach change in the Church humbly, with that ultimate purpose in mind, we are able to let go of trying to control the speed and direction of Church change, and simply act in our spheres to invite His children to open their hearts and minds.

    Agitation is much more likely to CLOSE minds than open them; it creates a competitive environment when Zion is ultimately cooperative. It doesn’t matter WHAT changes the Church makes, if the competitive environment is the environment it is made in. Even if agitation “works” it works for the wrong thing.

    On the other hand, if our internal environment can be changed from competitive to cooperative, every last change the Lord wishes externally will happen miraculously. We don’t reap what we sow, we sow not to reap but only because the Lord asks it of us. This is what I have observed in my short life as disciple. If we humble our hearts, dedicate to inviting people to come to Christ (including our leaders and ourselves,) the rest is just details. “Change” is irrelevant.

    Comment by SilverRain — June 3, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

  84. Jesus is the CEO Well, ideally yes but if that is true in some literal form today when did Jesus become conservative and materialistic? He seems to have gone through a big personality change since his crucifiction! Is this what resurrection does? I don’t remember any Biblical stories about his interest in building buildings while he was incarnate!

    Comment by Howard — June 3, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

  85. Weak retort, Howard. There is nothing inherently sinful about being a chief executive officer of an organization. If God assumed that title in his church God would still be God and would still be perfect.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 3, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

  86. Jeff, Please explain how a revelation that is responsive to the social environment does not legitimize the actors that helped create that social environment.

    Isn’t this a little like asking how an adaptive immune system that is responsive to the biological environment does not legitimize the viruses that helped create that biological environment?

    Just because the church led by continuing revelation and priesthood authority eventually comes around to adopt a policy that activists had long been pushing for does not in any sense mean that the activists were “right all along”. It simply means that given the moves that the activists have made (for better or worse) the move that the church made was (ideally) the best one available. The church might very well have been doing its best given the crappy situation which the activists forced it into.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 3, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

  87. Well I don’t know

    You’re right, Howard, you don’t know. You’re repeating what others have claimed — you don’t get any points for originality — but you don’t know. The phrase you want is post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 3, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

  88. the bottom isn’t the source for doctrine and official practice.

    Well, except when it is–as in the establishment of the Primary, the Sunday School, the Young Single Adult program, Girls’ Camp, the Exponent (the original, quasi-official RS one), etc. Ardis, you’ll know more examples than I do! Our top-down-ness is historically contingent and variable, like pretty much everything about Mormonism.

    That said, I mostly agree with Ardis about what kinds of “agitation” are likely to result in change. Except I’m maybe even more pessimistic–I don’t think anything works, really: http://bycommonconsent.com/2010/09/24/what-i-said-at-sunstone/

    Comment by Kristine — June 3, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

  89. This may be silly, but I’m still mulling over this analogy.

    I’m reading a book right now where one character from a very wealthy culture tours a much poorer country. He doesn’t understand the market value of things, so he ends up dazzling and confounding the locals by throwing around unheard-of-to-them amounts of money. He ends up with a local as a guide. Before long, this local who first lusted after the comparatively vast amounts of gold begins throwing it around as weapons, etc.

    It makes me think how this all must look to God. We are so concerned with power here, yet He has infinite power. To Him, power is only a tool to get what he is truly after: immortality and eternal life. He can see perfectly that no power here compares to the power He is offering. Yet some of us, His children, become so consumed by a struggle for power, we miss what truly has value: becoming one with Him.

    Money, power, all the things we fret about changing in the Church are ultimately pointless. We are here for such a short time, it is truly a gift to transcend the things that seem so valuable to us here, but truly have no worth. That is why the type of activism decried in the OP is so damaging. It’s focused on all the wrong things: power to change, influence by control, manage the economy and policies of the Church. All those things only have temporal relevance, not eternal relevance. And the former only matter to the Savior so much as they relate to the latter.

    Heh, I think the scriptures say it better, but it’s one thing to read it and another thing to come to understand it for myself.

    Comment by SilverRain — June 3, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

  90. Kristine, those examples fit into my second kind of agitation (the kind that is more question than petition, barely qualified to be called agitation) — none of those ideas were presented with anything like the noise and rancor of recent agitations. Had those at the top said “no” at any point, it’s pretty darn unlikely that those proposing them would be giving interviews expressing their anger and impatience at not having their ideas adopted. Even if she had been told “no,” I don’t see Aurelia Spencer Rogers becoming a Sonia Johnson.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 3, 2013 @ 3:01 pm

  91. It’s true, Ardis–drawing historical parallels is tricky. But one of the reasons quieter agitation was possible in the past was that people with ideas or problems had access to leaders who could change things. That is generally not the case now, so it’s unsurprising that folks make more noise in an attempt to be heard.

    Comment by Kristine — June 3, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

  92. And, um, check the story of ASR and ERS’ setting up of Primary. They pretty much did it on their own and presented it to the presiding authority as a fait accompli. I don’t think that would be tolerated these days, either.

    Comment by Kristine — June 3, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

  93. Sorry to be back soon. Kristine, I appreciate that you’re trying to disagree with me without disagreeing with me, but the claim you so nicely make just doesn’t hold up. Using Aurelia Spencer Rogers as a stand-in for everyone in these examples, she had an idea and she asked someone upline for advice; when Eliza R. Snow agreed that it met a need, it was proposed even higher. But that’s the thing: It was always asked or suggested, never demanded. There was no 19th century equivalent of a letter-writing campaign, no accusations that the Church was working against the interests of its young people, no attempt to back the Church into a corner and embarrass it into accepting Primary.

    Having an idea and proposing it as ASR did has nothing in common with today’s political agitation. It just isn’t right to pretend there’s any similarity.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 3, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

  94. So we crossposted.

    I don’t know why we act as that Church leaders are so out of the loop that they aren’t just as aware as we are of problems. You and I might not have personal access, but Church leaders aren’t wrapped in cotton and stored in safety deposit boxes — they have friends and family and colleagues. They know what’s going on, even if they don’t take the public into their confidence while they’re considering ideas.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 3, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

  95. *as though

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 3, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

  96. I don’t have your email, Kristine.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 3, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

  97. Ardis, I think that Church leaders, especially at the general level, are, in fact, insulated from a great many of the problems. Unlike in times past, they are substantially older than most of the Church population, in most cases geographically isolated, and they interact almost exclusively with other priesthood leaders who want badly to tell them what they want to hear. I think there is actually a significant problem with the lack of communication to bottom to top, and that it’s a problem of relatively recent (past half-century) origin.

    We are, however, likely in complete agreement about the efficacy of facebook and blog protests to ameliorate this problem.

    Comment by Kristine — June 3, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

  98. Boy Geoff you seemed to have missed my point! Having been a COO for many years I find nothing inherently sinful about being a chief executive officer of an organization. Rather I was speaking to Jesus’ change in politics and post resurrection affinity for buildings.

    Ardis, thanks so much for the lesson, the phrase was just offered to soften my opening but you scored a couple of minutia points with me!

    Comment by Howard — June 3, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

  99. There’s the rub, Kristine. They aren’t insulated. Quite the opposite. They are far more globally connected, far more savvy than most realize. My limited interactions with them have made that crystal clear to me. They spend most if their time talking, meeting, pondering, praying, and counseling with people worldwide.

    I just think a great many agitators operate under the fallacy that their problems and solutions are nearly universal. Rather than turning to and relying upon the only One who can help them, they expect the Church to bend to their needs…which are limited to particular demographics anyways and would be better handled at that level, more often than not.

    Comment by SilverRain — June 3, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

  100. I think silverrain has it about right. No doubt, the average church member has far less access to the church leadership, but I see no reason whatsoever to assume that the leadership has less access to the membership in general.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 3, 2013 @ 10:06 pm

  101. I think the leaders are far from insulated. I think of our family and how our children and grandchildren speak their minds at family gatherings.
    I speak of the authorities of whom I have some personal knowledge. Elder Oaks has nephews and nieces who are completely normal. He isn’t insulated. Nor Elder Holland who shops at our grocery store and who talks to us. Have you ever heard Elder Bednar’s funny, open wife speak? Not a stuffy bone in her body. And they are the parents of young sons. How could they possibly be insulated? Believe me, these leaders know exactly what is going on. And that includes President Monson.

    Comment by Eva — June 3, 2013 @ 10:14 pm

  102. I’m so relieved! All this worry about nothing! So it must have been their predecessors who were out of touch then. I guess that explains the ban on blacks reversal! But…what about 182 years of women not praying at general Conference? God really does work in mysterious ways!

    Comment by Howard — June 3, 2013 @ 10:32 pm

  103. Howard, I am truly surprised at how long you have made it at this blog without being banned. I’m really curious to see how much longer it can go before you meet up with Surly Geoff.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 3, 2013 @ 11:01 pm

  104. Just a little humor Jacob J.

    Comment by Howard — June 3, 2013 @ 11:31 pm

  105. One response would be that activism is the problem not the solution when it comes to the heavens closing up. The people are so busy speaking, trying to lead the prophets for them to listen and follow them.

    But of course the real response is that neither you nor I know why the heavens seem more closed. That’s why your activism=open heavens argument falls flat. We have no reason to think that activism correlates with revelation at all, let alone that any correlation between the two is positive rather than negative.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 3, 2013 @ 11:59 pm

  106. One response would be that activism is the problem not the solution when it comes to the heavens closing up. Where is the evidence for this? Did this occur when Zelophehad’s Daughters approached Moses? Where is the evidence that asking or motivating or pushing the prophet to ask God for an answer has any significant negative result? Where is the evidence of any significant revelation since the D&C was published without major agitation preceding it?

    I’ve attempted to inject a little humor in this thread with lyrics to the BoM play I Believe song because of the wishful folklore belief that seems to prevail by way of the great faith of members who choose to “just believe” in spite of almost any evidence to the contrary. How are belief based arguments resolved in a discussion with logic/evidence based people? What is the value of debating an apologist argument that begins with a desired conclusion and then sorts evidence according to confirmation bias and bends it to fit instead of being led by the evidence to a more impartial conclusion? Isn’t the belief based position better served by just bearing testimony and leaving it at that?

    Comment by Howard — June 4, 2013 @ 6:04 am

  107. I forgot about this thread and being a good internet denizen would be remiss if I didn’t get in a last word :)

    People’s ideas concerning social standing and privilege are just as relevant to this discussion as my ideas about their testimony, namely not at all. Privilege gives you neither knowledge nor authority in God’s plan. That’s the point

    Perhaps God has given you access to his plans in a uniquely unmediated fashion; unfortunately, most of what I go on is what I hope to be the spirit and the teachings of the church that I’ve grown up with, with all its spiritual and cultural baggage. That means confronting with a great deal of bias and privilege and ambiguity just within myself, so I can’t share your certainty that others are free from the same, even church leaders. If you’d like to believe that the church’s actions and structure always and exclusively represent God’s plans that’s your right, but as I already said way back it’s tautological assumption, and building your entire argument on that guarantees you’ll never change the minds of those who don’t share it.

    Comment by Casey — June 4, 2013 @ 8:52 am

  108. they interact almost exclusively with other priesthood leaders who want badly to tell them what they want to hear.

    I suspect this is at least as much of an issue in the church as in any other hierarchy. At least where I work the whole point of the layers is to insulate the top from the bottom.

    Comment by Peter LLC — June 4, 2013 @ 9:52 am

  109. Casey, can you point me to anything Jeff has said which suggests that he is certain others are free from bias?

    Comment by Jacob J — June 4, 2013 @ 10:25 am

  110. On the bright side, because of all the recent activism I now cannot not know who Zelophehad’s Daughters are…

    “If you find one scriptural story that supports your agenda, use the sh*t out of it.”
    -C.S. Lewis (I think)

    Comment by Riley — June 4, 2013 @ 5:54 pm

  111. Riley FTW

    Comment by Jacob J — June 4, 2013 @ 9:09 pm

  112. Howard (#98): Rather I was speaking to Jesus’ change in politics and post resurrection affinity for buildings.

    What make you think Jesus didn’t really like buildings before his resurrection?

    (#104): Just a little humor

    Fail.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 4, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

  113. #105 — Jeff (responding to Howard’s earlier charges): neither you nor I know why the heavens seem more closed

    The heavens seem closed to people who aren’t getting much personal revelation. Here’s what the scriptures say about the type of revelation Howard dismisses as mere “inspiration”:

    2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

    3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.

    D&C 8:2-3

    According to Howard, we should pity Moses for only getting “inspiration” in his mind and his heart from the Holy Ghost. All Moses was able to do with that was get through the Red Sea.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 4, 2013 @ 11:33 pm

  114. This question of who is insulated from the reality of the problems of the church is interesting.

    - On the one side you have old or oldish general authority men who spend a huge amount of time with local leaders of congregations around the world. These GA’s are obviously revered so those members they visit might not always be blunt with them about concerns but surely they hear frank truths often in their visits. These GA’s also have children and grandchildren and friends who are probably blunt with them too.

    - On the other side you have the tiny echo chamber of irritated internet activists who spend countless hours in their web-based echo chambers riling each other up. They too have friends and family who can be blunt with them at times.

    Which of these two groups is more likely to be insulated from the reality of what is happening in the church worldwide?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 4, 2013 @ 11:56 pm

  115. The heavens seem closed to people who aren’t getting much personal revelation. Really? You may be right, I wouldn’t know I enjoy easy access to the Spirit and profound personal revelation and these experiences taught me that inspiration contains more man than God and revelation more God than man therefore conflating the two is very misleading.

    Comment by Howard — June 5, 2013 @ 6:28 am

  116. The fact that the church modifies from time to time a policy that don’t make much sense outside of a suburban Intermountain West/American setting is evidence that the general authorities are not totally insulated from the worldwide church. I’m guessing President Uchtdorf has been a leavening influence in this regard.

    Comment by Peter LLC — June 5, 2013 @ 7:03 am

  117. @Peter,

    I don’t think it’s just Uchtdorf. Elder Cristofferson was a Stake President in Nashville and Bednar was a Stake President in NW Arkansas.

    Comment by Tim J — June 5, 2013 @ 8:24 am

  118. Howard,

    Alright, we get it. You think agitation caused by activists leads to revelation. We get it. Now maybe you can address so many of the other points which we have raised against your position.

    Or how about this one: Laman and Lemuel were definitely agitators which led to revelation….. And they were condemned all the while for it.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 5, 2013 @ 10:26 am

  119. Okay I hear you Jeff; enough already Howard! So I’ll turn it down. But to address your request: do you really believe Laman and Lemuel’s rebellion and their rebuke by God for physical beatings is a reasonable parallel to blogger discussions or newspaper articles? Is Lehi the Brigham Young of the BoM and lauded Liahona navigational systems fame a reasonable parallel to today’s church noted for an administrative change in missionary age miracle?

    Comment by Howard — June 5, 2013 @ 10:50 am

  120. According to the Book of Mormon account the main sin of Laman and Lemuel was “murmuring”. I’d guess that term probably has a home somewhere in this debate.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 5, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

  121. I’m not trying to provide parallels. To the contrary, I’m trying to provide counter-examples. Laman and Lemuel were clearly an example were agitation led to revelation – just as you claim – and for that they were condemned not praise – just the opposite of what you claim. Another example would be the Israelites while Moses was on the mountain. They protested and agitated until they got the revelation they wanted… and that was a bad thing.

    So to summarize what I have been saying throughout the entire thread: yes, activism can lead to revelation, but this in no sense whatsoever justifies or legitimizes the activist.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 5, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

  122. Well let’s see. The civil rights movement was ALL about agitation and murmuring, wasn’t it? Should OD2 be condemned by God? Was the civil rights movement condemned by God? Was OD2 as bad result?

    Comment by Howard — June 5, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

  123. Well let’s see. I have yet to criticize any actions that were done by the power of prophecy and priesthood. Not a single one. But I will most definitely criticize all those people within the church who refused to take “not yet” as an answer before OD2 was given. The Lord and His prophets get credit for OD2, not those obnoxious activists.

    Why in the world would you ever assume that the prophets giving OD2 said anything in favor or against the legitimacy of activism? There is no inconsistency of any kind in my praising one set of actions while condemning another. You keep insisting that there is, but you have yet to give a single reason to believe it.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 5, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

  124. So you’re saying 1978 or there about was the right time for God and it would have occurred then *even without* the civil rights movement!? Or that it was the right time following what the civil rights movement did to prepare humankind to receive it?

    Or are you seriously arguing the proximity in time and order of the civil rights movement and OD2 is merely coincidental?

    Have you ever stopped to consider that the civil rights movement may have been inspired by God to prepare the way for OD2?

    Women hadn’t prayed in GC for 182 years, suddenly in year 183 just as agitation for it is rising the time was right for God and there wasn’t a right time in the previous 182 years? Are you arguing the proximity of these two events are completely unrelated?

    OD1 was unrelated to the pressure brought upon the church by the US Government?

    Are you beginning to see pattern emerging? Have I misunderstood your position?

    Comment by Howard — June 5, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

  125. Howard (#124),

    The Civil Rights movement was not a Mormon-specific thing. Again — Jeff stated in the original post that he is not at all opposed to activism on political and social issues outside of the church. Stay on target.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 5, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

  126. I don’t think I’m off target by arguing a correlation between activism/agitation and our prophets seeking revelation even if the source is secular. The point is our prophets respond to agitation as President Hinckley’s interview exchange backhandedly implies:

    David Ransom: At present women are not allowed to be priests in your Church…Is it possible that the rules could change in the future..?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: He could change them yes…But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it.

    Comment by Howard — June 5, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

  127. Yeah, I’ve noticed that he is very big on selective reading and answering questions that nobody was asking.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 5, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

  128. So to summarize what I have been saying throughout the entire thread: yes, activism can lead to revelation, but this in no sense whatsoever justifies or legitimizes the activist. I disagree, if it works (it does) and it’s not illegal (it isn’t) and if the church responds (they often do) and God grants it (he often has) that clearly affirms the process as successful and accepted and I think most people would agree. What is your argument against that conclusion?

    Comment by Howard — June 5, 2013 @ 4:57 pm

  129. Again, nobody is denying the correlation. You simply have yet to establish (rather than assume) that the correlation is meaningful.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 5, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

  130. The examples of Moses and Martin Harris are potent counter examples.

    You seem to thinks that the ends authorize and legitimize the means, but I can think of few doctrines which run more counter to Mormonism.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 5, 2013 @ 5:08 pm

  131. I think I’ll leave that for you to ponder. Nice blogging with you Jeff G

    Comment by Howard — June 5, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

  132. Howard: and God grants it (he often has)

    Herein is the problem with your position. In the vast majority of scriptural cases of “activism” regarding God’s church it is decried as “murmuring”. So sure, God allowed Laman and Lemuel to murmur, but it was to their own severe spiritual detriment.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 5, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

  133. Okay, this is a great argument against murmuring Geoff J! One’s spiritual detriment. Thank you for offering that clarity. Yes, I agree this argument is scripturally supported and may apply today at least in some and maybe many instances but certainly not all. Our prophets broker our relationship with God but they are currently unapproachable by the common member, there is no socially acceptable opportunity or method to present a question/request directly in a way that will actually be responded to personally by the prophet or brethren (not a clerk or assistant) in a timely manner and we have learned via Kimball’s writing that it’s unlikely God will come to them and that the prophet’s biases can be a barrier as is the work required to reopen the heavens. Some people have received prompting by the Spirit to create the necessary motivation via activism or agitation to get our prophets to ask God! In those cases I sincerely doubt there will be any spiritual detriment and I suspect that umbrella extends to others who help them. Power has been passed to the people via the internet, does God demand that we not use that voice? I think not.

    Comment by Howard — June 5, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

  134. Btw, most of the murmuring stops when a creditable response to the question is given.

    Comment by Howard — June 5, 2013 @ 7:50 pm

  135. A few responses, Howard:

    Our prophets broker our relationship with God but they are currently unapproachable by the common member

    Well I would clarify that no one brokers our personal relationship with God. But prophets do handle The Church’s relationship with God. The church is pretty big now so we members are mostly left with a take it or leave it choice. We talk to God and if all goes right God talks back to us and tells us to either take or leave this church as is, imperfections and all. Of course on the local level we have much more influence. That is mostly where the action that matters is anyway.

    Some people have received prompting by the Spirit to create the necessary motivation via activism or agitation to get our prophets to ask God!

    How do you know that?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 5, 2013 @ 10:46 pm

  136. Howard,

    Have you ever heard of this obscure story about Zelophehad’s daughters? I was pursuing the most inspired and verifiable text we have the other day and after deciding I couldn’t do anything with the story of Elisha and the she bear or the slaughtering of innocent Caananite children, I stumbled across it. I had heard it once in General Conference, but obviously that wasn’t as trustworthy since it didn’t originate from God’s most direct medium of revelation – the bloggernacle. Nonetheless, and notwithstanding it was written by Moses long after Moses was dead, I think it has some legs to it – pants suited legs to be exact.

    Comment by Riley — June 6, 2013 @ 12:06 am

  137. Geoff j,
    I should have said Our prophets purport to broker our relationship with God. Why do I say this? Because Follow the Prophet and rote obedience get far far more play than follow the spirit and lessons that teach members how to and we never hear follow the spirit *instead* of the prophet despite; But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. I believe the correct order is Spirit > Living Prophet (not prophets) > scriptures. I do agree that no one brokers my relationship with God.

    …so we members are mostly left with a take it or leave it choice. Perhaps you are left with this but more and more this is being rejected by cafeteria Mormons and common members who don’t use that label but act that way. The church has become pharisaical which Christ clearly opposed.

    How do you know that? Because I am one of them and God tells me there are more and many who don’t know they have been called but are inspired to work in concert.

    Comment by Howard — June 6, 2013 @ 6:29 am

  138. Riley,
    I sorry but I don’t understand what you are trying to say in 136. When I have referred to Zelophehad’s daughters in this thread I am referring to Numbers 27:

    Then came the daughters of Zelophehad…they stood before Moses…by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying…Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father. And Moses brought their cause before the Lord. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, The daughters of Zelophehad speak right

    How do we accomplish the equivalent with Monson?

    Comment by Howard — June 6, 2013 @ 6:41 am

  139. Howard,

    We’re all “cafeteria Mormons” to one degree or another. Either we stay loyal, committed, and actively involved in the church or we don’t. Based on your “The church has become pharisaical which Christ clearly opposed” comment it is unclear whether you have decided to stay loyal and committed to the church or not. Either way, men are free to choose.

    If God told you to fix the worldwide Church through internet trolling then knock yerself out I guess. I recommend you start your own new and improved church though. That would probably be more effective for you.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 6, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

  140. Well that won’t be following the Spirit.

    Comment by Howard — June 6, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

  141. Howard, your position sounds much more Protestant than Mormon in nature. I thought that the whole point of the restoration was to reject the Protestant model of prophecy and priesthood.

    Comment by Jeff G — June 6, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

  142. Jeff G,
    No offense, I’ve enjoyed blogging with you but your comment makes it clear you don’t understand my position very well. Personally I have a very strong testimony of the restoration and I would love to see a reopening of the heavens as they clearly have not remained open but my position here is the result of 10 years of sell what you have, give it to the poor and follow him discipleship of being personally tutored by the Spirit including a full kundalini awakening. Is that Protestant? Mormon? Buddhist? Hindu? Probably something like all of the above and more. :)

    Comment by Howard — June 6, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

  143. Jeff G,
    Here’s a very simplified version of “my” position. Blacks can’t hold the priesthood. Blacks can hold the priesthood. The prophet won’t/can’t lead the church astray. Formulize that and see if it = all is well in Zion.

    Comment by Howard — June 6, 2013 @ 6:27 pm

  144. “So you’re saying 1978 or there about was the right time for God and it would have occurred then *even without* the civil rights movement!? Or that it was the right time following what the civil rights movement did to prepare humankind to receive it? ”

    I’m not sure there’s a meaningful distinction to a God who foresees everything and whose Hand we are commanded to confess in all things. But I am disinclined to believe that the more noisy elements within the civil rights movement were necessary or even helpful to its triumph.

    Edward Kimball’s account of the priesthood revelation is pretty clear that the Brethren were prepared to blow off the worldly kind of activist indefinitely. And the worldly pressure had actually slacked somewhat by the time the revelation was received.

    On the other hand, the faithfulness of the black members, particularly within the Genesis Group, seems to have deeply touched President Kimball and many other of the Brethren, and caused them to plead with the Lord for an answer. I believe that’s the non-worldly kind of activism the Lord approves of.

    I do not know the reasons for the Lord’s timing. I do know that there is credible historical evidence that David O. McKay wanted such a revelation long before 1978, and the Lord never gave him one. And he refrained from making one up. I do not know what restrained the Lord from giving an answer to President McKay. And neither do you, Howard.

    Jeff,

    Good post.

    Comment by Vader — June 7, 2013 @ 11:51 am

  145. Vader,
    The civil rights movement began in 1948, President McKay sought an answer beginning in 1954. What happened on this issue during the 110 years between 1844 and 1954? Apparently little or nothing! Post hoc, ergo propter hoc grants you the technical right to foot in the door plausibility which seem to be considered an apologetic win these days but reasonable people will also look at the probability and given the historical trend the probability is agitation causes LDS prophets to find their knees to seek an answer from God regarding controversial issues.

    Comment by Howard — June 7, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

  146. Where would we be without the activists! If it wasn’t for them the Prophet would continue on in vain repitious prayers and we would be a stagnant cesspool false tradition.

    In all seriousness, Howard, why is it that the activists are so in tune with God and the Brethren are so behind?

    Comment by Riley — June 7, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

  147. That’s not it Riley! The activists aren’t so in tune God, they’re in tune with people like them and well…the brethren aren’t. If they were 182 years would not have passed without women praying at GC!

    Comment by Howard — June 7, 2013 @ 9:29 pm

  148. I guess that’s my problem with the underlying assumption you and many of the activists have: what is good/true/best or the will of the Lord’s is the “will of (some) people.” We could start rewriting the scripture: ‘”For My thoughts [are] your thoughts, [And] your ways My ways,’declares the LORD.”

    I guess I’d like to think that God is unfolding the Celestial life to us but according to what I take from your position is that prophets are inconsequential when it comes right down to it. Society will get there on there own given enough time and activists who are in tune with what they perceive is the direction the people want to go.

    Comment by Riley — June 7, 2013 @ 11:04 pm

  149. I love the example of David O McKay, who, though personally in line with the will of many of the people, waited on The Lord to give His direction – which never came in his life. I wonder if the activists would be willing to get the answer to “wait” or even a “no.” If we did get a wait or a no would the activists, and the people who’s will matters most that they are so in tune with, accept the correction? Curious to see how that would turn out. I would anticipate the answer “no” would lead to more people leaving the church than if God answered yes. Which, in my mind, indicates the state of being the former position is in relation to God’s. Which again, leads me to wonder about the frame of mind of those people (as Jeff G has pointed out) who presume to be in a superior position of knowledge and authority to correctly demand, via rancorous activism, either God or the church acquiesce to their will. That conception is very counter to my understanding of the purpose of the plan of salvation and the gospel. But hey, I could very well be like the Brethren and not be in tune with those who you see as the highest authority – the people. (Or I could just be wrong for whole other reasons)

    Comment by Riley — June 7, 2013 @ 11:55 pm

  150. I don’t see the people as the highest authority, I just see them as worthy of an answer and if they don’t speak with God directly dependant on their prophets to receive that answer. In short; it’s okay to ask the prophet to ask God. But some prophets make that much more difficult to do than others.

    Comment by Howard — June 8, 2013 @ 4:00 am

  151. But some prophets make that much more difficult to do than others.

    Which in your view it seems has been all of them.

    So far it seems the people with the best track record are the enlightened few, who, though lack the proper priesthood keys, are actually in tune with the people who seem to be more in tune with God. I

    Like I said before, in your view it seems the top is just slow bureaucracy getting in the way, which to me, and like Jeff G said in the OP, seems to de-legitimize the priesthood authority and raise the question if it would just be better if they got out of the way so the people, lead by the real enlightened few (who perceive the wants of the people), can fully democratize this thing and make some progressive moves, because right now the only way to make progress is through the rancor of activism.

    Like it’s been said before, the question isn’t asking a question – the question is how we ask the question.

    Comment by Riley — June 8, 2013 @ 6:45 am

  152. …the question is how we ask the question.. Given SWK says revelation isn’t likely without a prophet seeking it and GBH implying agitation motivates them to how do you think we should ask? SWK’s comment strongly suggests praying directly to God will not cause God to approach Monson about it.

    As I posted on another thread: I think it’s fine to campaign (for female ordination). Campaigning doesn’t compel God or our prophets in any way, it simply presents the question and doing so has many interesting byproducts. For instance the question leads to attempting to define what the priesthood actually is and isn’t and it leads to deconflating power and authority and it shines a light on the revelatory process and questions if the heavens are open or closed and it shines a light on the pecking order of women in the church by virtue of their split opinions. I’m sure there’s more. Actually I see campaigning as a very healthy dialog for all involved including the church!

    Comment by Howard — June 8, 2013 @ 7:08 am

  153. Howard: if they don’t speak with God directly…

    If people aren’t asking God directly about their questions and concerns they are doing it wrong. If you want a cause to be an activist about you should be an activist to to get more Mormons to actually utilize that Gift of the Holy Ghost they received when they were baptized and confirmed.

    Of course that worthy cause is not as easy as whining and griping about Church leaders on the interwebs…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

  154. Geoff,
    I think here is a difference between speaking to God as in prayer and speaking with God which is a conversation which apparently few can do. I am an activist for engaging and following the Spirit, sorry if you’ve missed those comments on other threads.

    Comment by Howard — June 8, 2013 @ 4:42 pm

  155. Howard,

    I’m not sure I’m following the difference you are referring to. Getting revelation from God is the same process for all of us. The main difference is how good our spiritual ears are. And spiritual ears only get better through lots of practice. There is only one president on the Church at a time but God wants us all to be prophets, seers, and revelators.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2013 @ 5:02 pm

  156. Yes Geoff, I’m in total agreement with your 155 comment.

    Comment by Howard — June 8, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

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