Human reasoning is pretty much indispensable in our daily lives as human beings. Not only are we allowed to engage in human reasoning, but we are actively encouraged to do it…. Unless it contradicts the teachings of our priesthood leaders. Priesthood authority trumps human reason.
“We feel very sure that you understand well the doctrines of the Church. They are either true or not true. Our testimony is that they are true. Under these circumstances we may not permit ourselves to be too much impressed by the reasonings of men however well-founded they may seem to be. We should like to say this to you in all kindness and in all sincerity that you are too fine a man to permit yourself to be led off from the principles of the Gospel by worldly learning. You have too much of a potentiality for doing good and we therefore prayerfully hope that you can reorient your thinking and bring it in line with the revealed word of God.”
-12 November 1947 Letter to Lowry Nelson, First Presidency, Archive.org
The teachings of our priesthood leaders are not based in or backed by human reason which means that asking “why?” is typically a fool’s errand for those both inside and outside the church. The fact is that priesthood leaders typically know not why, save that the Lord hath commanded it. We are strongly encouraged to accept what our priesthood leaders tell us…. Unless it contradicts personal revelation. Personal revelation trumps priesthood authority.
A strong and healthy testimony is based in neither human reason nor in blind and unquestioning obedience to our priesthood leaders, but in our personal testimonies. But the light by which we do follow our priesthood leaders is not that of human reason, but personal revelation. When we do question our priesthood leaders, we do not ask them to give us a reason – because they very likely do not have one. Thus, we have no need to question our priesthood leaders at all really. Instead, we simply have to question God about our priesthood leaders. He will tell us what to do even if He might not tell us the reason for it – remember, revelation is not based in human reason. Thus, without such a foundation in personal revelation, we will never have the faith that is necessary for our priesthood leaders to trump human reason as it’s supposed to.
“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.
-Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, 135.
Personal revelation does trump priesthood authority, but is supposed to be kept personal rather than aired publicly. It is a guide for me and me alone. That is why we do not share our patriarchal blessings. That is why young RM can’t receive a revelation telling a girl to marry him. That is why running to the media with your personal revelations is a sham. As far as any other person is concerned, my personal revelation is not God’s will for anybody except me. Indeed, the only reason we would expect to share our personal revelation is if somebody asks “why do you believe that?”, but such a question belies a confidence that human reason really does trump priesthood authority and personal revelation. If such a person really wanted to know if they too should believe it, they would seek revelation for themselves by consulting the teachings given to us by the prophets and going to the Lord in prayer.
“Should you receive a vision or revelation from the Almighty, one that the Lord gave you concerning yourselves, or this people, but which you are not to reveal on account of your not being the proper person, or because it ought not to be known by the people at present, you should shut it up and seal it as close, and lock it as tight as heaven is to you, and make it as secret as the grave. The Lord has no confidence in those who reveal secrets, for he cannot safely reveal himself to such persons”
- Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, 40–41.
Thus, there is a selection bias within the bloggernacle in that we will very rarely hear or read a faithful member contradicting a church doctrine that is officially backed by priesthood authority. This is not to say that these people will always agree with the church. To be sure, faithful members will always disagree with the church and – precisely because these members are faithful – their disagreements will largely be based in personal revelation rather than human reason. Similarly, it is also because these members are faithful that they will keep these personal revelations to themselves.
Thus, since personal revelation does not belong in the bloggernacle, and since priesthood authority trumps human reason, we must conclude that within the bloggernacle, nothing trumps priesthood authority. Accordingly, all the written material in the bloggernacle will either affirm or be neutral to the official positions of the church. If this is not the case and we do see positions within the bloggernacle that conflict with the official positions of the church, there are only so many explanations for this:
1) Somebody is using human reason to trump priesthood authority.
2) Somebody is openly sharing their personal revelation.
3) Somebody does not have a testimony of the church and its leaders.
Finally, we should be on the lookout for various code-words that are used to disguise these three kinds of red-flags. For instance, some people will pretend that priesthood leaders and their promptings are somehow more “fallible” than human reason or the personal revelation that they openly share. Many will insist that they are not reasoning against revelation, but merely “agitating” for revelation. Others will pretend that airing such personal revelation is somehow more “authentic” than keeping it to yourself. Still others will bear testimony of the “gospel” and of Jesus, but never of His duly ordained servants.
It’s simple really: seek personal revelation whether you should follow the priesthood leaders on some matter. If the answer is “yes” then there will be no reason to contradict them in the bloggernacle. If the answer is “no” then keep it to yourself and be on your way. In neither case are faithful saints supposed to take to the bloggernacle or other media to make their case through reason or sharing their personal revelation.