The False Prophets We Follow

July 8, 2014    By: Jeff G @ 5:42 pm   Category: Bloggernacle,Mormon Culture/Practices,Personal Revelation,Truth

“And behold, others he flattereth away … and he saith unto them: I am no [prophet], for there is none.” (2 Nephi 28:21)

“When we reject the counsel which comes from God, we do not choose to be independent of outside influence. We choose another influence… Rather than the right to choose to be free of influence, it is the inalienable right to submit ourselves to whichever of those powers we choose.” (Henry B. Eyring, Ensign, May 1997, p. 25)

Discipleship and Euthryphro’s Dilemma.  At one point in His ministry, Jesus taught a doctrine which seemed patently absurd to his disciples – so absurd, in fact, that many of them turned away from Him at that point.  In so doing they were using their trust in doctrine to constrain their trust in a prophet.  Jesus then turned to the Apostles and asked if they too would leave to which they responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  Thou hast the words of eternal life.”  In so doing they were using their trust in a prophet to constrain their trust in doctrine.  We all must also pick and choose who or what we follow in our lives.  By picking a ‘who’, we necessarily also choose a ‘what’ and by picking a ‘what’, we inevitably also choose a ‘who.’  Many times we frame the decisions we make in terms of ‘what’ so as to occlude, disguise or otherwise repress the ‘who’ which necessarily accompanies any such choices.  While I am willing to concede that our motives for doing this are not always so sinister in nature, I do want to suggest that – contra Euthyphro’s dilemma – there is no deep, intrinsically binding or non-question begging reason for prioritizing doctrines over prophets in our lives.

The “Who?” and the “What?” of Discipleship.  The bloggernacle is a place in which Mormons of various stripes come together in order to put forward, justify, critique and undermine various beliefs and behaviors.  Significantly, the justification for these beliefs and behaviors can always be framed in terms of an appeal to speakers or speech, teachers or teachings, prophets or prophecy, in summary, people or propositions.  This is a choice which we freely and continuously make, even if we do not realize it.  The religious tradition of which Mormonism is clearly part encourages us to frame and justify our beliefs and behaviors in terms of the people that we follow, whether they are our priesthood leaders, our university professors, our favorite author or a political activist that inspires us.  The liberal democratic world around us insists instead that we justify our beliefs and behaviors in terms of propositions, whether they are official church doctrine, peer-reviewed literature and data, a well-articulated perspective or an engaging political cause.  One tradition asks, “Who do you believe and follow?” while the other asks, “What do you believe and follow?”

Because I Said So.  Seeing the differences between these two different ways of justifying our beliefs and behaviors can be very difficult at times if only because the very process of learning to gain the critical distance necessary in order to articulate these dissimilarities also trains us to repress such differences.  Such training as we learn in schools, the media, etc. purposefully gives the impression that there is only one “true” way to go about justifying our beliefs and behaviors rather than two from which we can freely choose.  From this perspective “Because I said so” is never a good enough reason, even if it is God that is saying so.  Within the modern tradition we are taught in school, then, legitimate authority is found not in God at all, but in the propositions and reasons which He has access to.  As a consequence, the democratic world never presents Euthyphro’s dilemma as a dilemma at all, but as unambiguous endorsement of one mentality at the expense of another.  Seeing any appeal to persons rather than propositions as a legitimate option, then, can be very difficult for us modern democratic citizens, but let’s see if we can’t unring this bell all the same.

The Genealogy of Beliefs and Behaviors.  Within the priestly/prophetic tradition of religion, one is a Mormon because he believes and follows Joseph Smith and his successors.  One is Darwinist because he follows Charles Darwin and his disciples.  One is a feminist because he has been taught by Audre Lorde (or some other such feminist author) to see the world in a particular way.   And so on.  In other words, we not only can, but typically ought to construe various thinkers and authors as true or false prophets especially when they do not see him or herself as such. By contrast, within the liberal democratic tradition, one is a Mormon because he accepts and defends various Mormon doctrines.  He is a Darwinist because he accepts and defends the evidence and arguments for evolution.  He is a feminist because of the systematic injustices which he perceives in the world.  And so on.  One tradition sees our beliefs and behaviors as a form of discipleship to those who originated or revealed such things while the other tradition sees a significant difference between the origin and justification for such things.

Do Men Gather Grapes from Thornbushes or Figs from Thistles?  While justifications that appeal to persons rather than propositions are strictly prohibited by one worldview, such appeals are actively encouraged within the other.  Religious attempts to justify various beliefs and behaviors by describing the person who advocates such things are described throughout our scriptures and church history.  Indeed, we might note that those beliefs and behaviors that cannot be so justified tend not to be receive very much consideration or attention within our religious tradition.  Within such a religious perspective, true teachings come from true teachers and false prophecies from false prophets as a normative rule rather than an empirical fact.  Any attempt within the liberal democratic tradition to justify or ground beliefs and behaviors with an appeal to some person constitutes a fallacy with some Greek name or another.  Such beliefs and behaviors stand or fall without any regard for their particular origins.  From this perspective, then, there are few, if any true teachers or false prophets (since everybody is fallible!), only true teachings and false prophecies.  By severing the origin of a belief or behavior from its justification, the normative connection between the truthfulness of a prophet and the truthfulness of his prophecies has also been severed and repressed.  To reiterate, the democratic world implicitly teaches us that there are no true or false prophets worthy of our attention – only true or false prophecies.

Truth as Solidarity with the Lord and His Servants.  Within Mormonism, priesthood is the authority by which revealed truth is structured amongst people rather than propositions.  Given that truth is (at least in part) a particular relationship which holds between people, the speaker is thus at least as important as his speech since his speech gains some credit, legitimacy and/or justification from the relationship which the he has with his audience.  Within the liberal democratic tradition, however, truth is a relation which holds exclusively between positions and is thus structured by logic, experience and other such universal principles which constitute an argument.  Given that truth is a relationship between positions rather than people, the speaker and his relationship to other people is totally irrelevant to legitimacy of his speech and as such can be safely ignored.  Authoritatively binding relationships between people have been subverted and replaced by normative relationships between propositions that we call arguments or reasons.

Asymmetries in the Legitimacy of Speech.  Within the Mormon tradition, priesthood authority structures people by setting apart a particular authorized speaker from a corresponding audience over which he has stewardship.  Thus, the words spoken by a priesthood leader to his audience carry very different weight and significance than those same words do when spoken by the audience to him.  Priesthood stewardship thus defines the legitimate scope of any person’s beliefs or behaviors, it being the essential difference between personal revelation and official revelation.  Liberal democracy, however, rejects any such boundaries since they believe such distinctions serve to divide rather than unify people.  The “arbitrary” nature of social distinctions between people is thus replaced by a universality in both access and subservience to propositions, a universality which equally (de)legitimizes every person’s beliefs and behaviors.  Within the liberal democratic tradition, then, the speech of a priesthood leader to his audience is no different (all other things being equal) from the speech of an audience member to their priesthood leader.  There is, then, little if any essential difference between personal revelation and official revelation, only true and false revelation.  While one tradition focuses on whether a revelator in question has the proper, personal relation to his audience and other true revelators, the other tradition focuses on whether the revelation in question has the proper, impersonal relation to other true revelations.

Oral vs. Written Communication.  A religious tradition which takes the particular relationship between a priesthood leader and his specific and contextually limited stewardship will accordingly place a large emphasis on oral communication.  The paradigm of prophetic speech is when an authorized prophet speaks directly to his listeners as Jesus did to His audiences, giving them immediate instructions as to how they ought to believe and behave within that specific context.  It is in this way that one can speak as one having authority: “you have read X, but I tell you Y.”  Such face to face encounters throw the (dis)obedience of the audience to the speaker in stark relief.  The liberal democratic tradition, by contrast, would rather not listen to the oral communications of a living prophet, for this would necessarily set such a person apart from his audience.  Instead, this tradition will prefer the written words of a prophet who is not immediately present as a person with unequal privilege and is thus easily neglected, forgotten or otherwise repressed so as to restore a state of affairs in which all people have equal access to the same truth.  We can find no better example of this than in the Protestant doctrine of “sola scriptura.”  By focusing on the disembodied words within a book, obedience to the prophet as a contextual person with a divinely appointed audience is thus obscured.  This preference for written rather than oral communication from the prophets strongly correlates. I suggest, with a testimony of the gospel as an abstract set of universal propositions rather than a testimony of the prophets and priesthood leaders as living persons.

Disassociation from vs. Disconfirmation of Priesthood Authority.  On the one hand, religious traditions not only allow but actively encourage us to follow our inspiration in whatever direction it leads us so long as such beliefs and behaviors never correct, falsify, challenge or undermine those of our priesthood leaders.  If we follow this principle to its conclusion, we are not even authorized to receive revelation for or against any church position as such, only for our personal relationships to these doctrines or policies and the men who authoritatively advocate them.  The liberal democratic tradition, on the other hand, allows us to follow our inspiration in whatever direction it leads us, especially when such inspired beliefs and behaviors serve to correct, falsify, challenge or undermine those in authority.  If we follow this principle to its conclusion, we are all equally authorized to receive revelation for or against any and every position, including those which govern and represent the church.  We are also encouraged to reveal, endorse or advocate such positions to other people, for it is precisely by properly linking up as much revelation as possible, no matter where or who it comes from, that universal truth is revealed.

True or False Prophets – It Matters.  Within Mormonism, it is one thing to question, think or believe whatever we (imperfectly) feel the Lord might lead us to question, think or believe – for this just is what it means to be a true prophet.  It is something else entirely to speak, teach, prophecy or otherwise advocate those same things to people outside of our stewardship – for this just is what it means to be a false prophet.     Within a liberal democratic tradition, however, to question, think or believe whatever we (imperfectly) feel the Lord might lead us to so do in our own personal lives does not necessarily mean that we are actually true prophets.  Similarly, to speak, teach, prophecy or otherwise advocate such things to people outside of our stewardship does not necessarily mean that we are false prophets.  Again, one tradition actively highlights the truth or falsity of prophets while the other finds such a distinction as unhelpful at best.

Truth and Authority.  Within the Mormon tradition there is an inseverable connection between truth and authority.  Authority is that which sets a uniquely ordained few apart from the rest of us such that they alone have (imperfect) access to God’s truth.  Priesthood authority structures not only the church, but our also access to God’s guiding truth such that this truth comes down to the general church membership from above by way of the authoritative structure that is the church.  The relationship which the liberal democratic tradition sees between authority and truth, on the other hand, couldn’t possibly be any more different.  Within this tradition, authority is not a conduit to truth but an obstruction to it; authority is not a feature of God’s plan, but a bug within it.  One tradition sees faithful obedience to true prophets as the best protection from imperfect doctrines – human reasoning being that which is most toxic to divine truth.  The other sees faithful obedience to true doctrines as the best protection from imperfect prophets – authority being that which is most toxic to divine truth.

Authority as Censorship.  The previous point is worth expanding upon, for these two different perspectives on the relationship between truth and authority are critical to understanding our relationship to the prophets.  Let us begin with the perspective of liberal democracy which insists that because authority inevitably corrupts institutions and the people within them, those institutions that are wield authority will always censor, obstruct and distort truths to their own advantage.  Accordingly, the liberal democrat sees truth as that which comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comforted.  This process by which an audience is empowered while authority is deflated serves to level any kind of authoritative distinctions which might distort truth – it being the proper relationship among positions to which we all persons have equal access.  This, by their lights, is the very reason why people must bow to propositions rather than the other way around.

Who’s Clarity?  Which Obscurantism?   But what counts as undiluted clarity within one tradition, is exactly that which obscures our vision in the other.  From the perspective of Mormonism, truth is very nearly defined as that which fortifies and expands the hierarchical monarchy that is the kingdom of God…. Just as the liberal democrat fears!  Thus, Mormons see all such attempts at sidelining authority in an effort to see truth unblemished as if they were attempts at sidelining all telescopes in an effort to see the heavens unblemished.  Magnifying and reinforcing rather than constraining and chaffing at authority within the church is the surest means to truths that are unblemished by the philosophies and flesh of men.  Consequently, these two traditions almost run in equal and opposite directions regarding the relationship between truth and authority.  One sees a focus on non-authoritative speech as being an obstruction to the truth which comes to us from authoritative speakers.  The other sees a focus on authoritative speakers as being an obstruction to the truth which lies in unauthoritative speech.

Milk and Meat – Simplicity and Sophistication.  The religious tradition insists that truth is simple and adapted to the weakest of us –illiterate fishermen being the models of faithful discipleship.  The gospel, therefore, is not dumbed down because some of us are stupid, but because some of us are smart.  A focus on who we follow neither requires nor desires any kind of sophisticated analysis of Mormon theology or church history. The simplicity of following our ordained leaders is precisely intended to sideline any kind of scholarly or dialectical discussion of God’s dealings with us. The deeper truths are supposed to be found by approximating rather than distancing oneself from the Lord’s priesthood leaders.  The liberal democratic tradition, on the other hand, makes no such promises regarding the simplicity of eternal truths.  By their lights, the weakness to which the gospel is adapted is not that of pride but that of the intellect – sophistication being the antithesis of simplicity. This perspective sees faithful adherence to ordained leaders as merely a training wheel of sorts to be kicked away once we gain the spiritual maturity that restores the equal relationship that they think ought to exist between us and them.

Obedience as an Expression of Agency.  Within a religious tradition there is no more virtue in following an argument to its logical conclusion than there is in following the prophet to the end of our lives.  Obedience to our uniquely ordained prophets is one of the most divine expressions of our agency.  The choices we make in our lives are ones of who – not if – we will obey.  There is nothing deeper or more praiseworthy in choosing which teaching rather than which teacher to follow – the former being no less infallible than the latter.  The liberal democratic tradition, however, strongly objects to all of this.  To obey another person is to forfeit rather than express one’s agency.  True and free agency, according to this perspective, is to be expressed in an adherence to principles and propositions rather than mortal men.  All of these assertions are aimed at undermining and erasing any kind of social distinction which might set some people apart from others, social distinctions which in the religious tradition have been ordained of God.

The Bloggernacle: In the World or of the World?  We as Mormons are supposed to live in the liberal democratic world, but not of the liberal democratic world.  Our church with its religious traditions and values finds itself surrounded by a hostile culture with a radically different set of values and morals, a culture that is aimed at invading and conquering ours.  Make no mistake, the liberal democratic attacks against our faith are carried out in the name of morality, but it is a morality that is very different from that which defines our righteousness.  Their tradition has nothing but moral indignation for our supposed worship of authority figures – as they like to call it.  Our tradition returns the favor by dismissing such unauthorized principles and propositions as the unstable philosophies of men, mingled (at best) with scripture.  Within the bloggernacle we see far too many people who inadvertently find themselves trading in their clear and simple faith in the prophets for the sophisticated nuance of liberal democratic propositions.  By so doing, they regrettably express their agency by obeying the prophets of that world even though they go to great lengths to disguise this obedience.  Let us not be fooled any longer.  Before we critique or undermine our priesthood leaders, let us ask: Who is it that we are obeying by so doing?  Whose principles and propositions are we using to compromise and undermine our faith in the prophets?  Which morality are we upholding and defending, that which we have covenanted to uphold and defend or that of the world around us?

132 Comments »

  1. If I understand correctly, you are saying we should follow the prophet rather than doctrine, if I put it in a nutshell. Is that correct?

    Comment by DD — July 8, 2014 @ 6:27 pm

  2. I’m saying that in following a prophet, we also follow various doctrines and that in following various doctrines we also follow some prophet or another.

    Thus, if we exchange our subtle and complicated debates regarding what to believe for the clear cut question of who to believe, things become much simpler for us.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 8, 2014 @ 6:32 pm

  3. Then the problem arises of how far we want to go to defend a doctrine that is currently taught, when the possibility always exists that a future prophet will preach a different doctrine. Perhaps you see that as a feature rather than a bug.

    However, if that is the case, can we cut out the Sunday School hour of the block? In the current format, it spends very little time on the words of current leaders. If the format is changed, it would likely overlap significantly with what is already taught in Relief Society and Priesthood meetings.

    Comment by DD — July 8, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

  4. A lot of these posts talk about “the World” of liberal democratic secularism as one pole and a sort of authoritarian theocratic hierarchy system as the other. But certainly there is a lot more complexity out there than this binary? The modern liberal secularist project is pretty new given the history of human thought. Like, where does neo-Platonist Christianity lie? If I buy neo-Platonic ideas am I in “the World” or am I devoting myself to a prophet (Plato or Plotinus)? It seems to be that adhering to neo-Platonism is affirming that there are person-independent truths that are neither established through authority nor dialectical consensus/pluralism. Maybe that’s outside the scope of your numerous posts but I feel like it’s a bit like the “Fear and Love” scene in Donnie Darko. Certainly there’s more out there than these two simplified poles?

    Comment by Syphax — July 8, 2014 @ 6:49 pm

  5. DD,

    You’re right, I do see that as a feature of continuing revelation than a bug of timeless, once-and-for-all revelation.

    As far as Sunday school goes, I think we are taught the words of the living leaders much, much more than you suggest. Either way, at no point do I advocate the wanton disregarding of dead prophets – only a preference or priority for living ones.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 8, 2014 @ 6:52 pm

  6. Syphax,

    I absolutely agree with you. I mentioned that asking who? rather than what? is encouraged rather than required within the religious tradition. It is liberal democracy that wishes to place certain values completely out of bounds and it is this extreme position that I mostly strongly object to.

    Thus, I don’t think that we should abandon all human reasoning. Rather, I argue that human reasoning is not the ultimate judge of everything that people claim it to be. I don’t think that persons are the only things which compel our obedience and loyalty totally independent of their positions. Rather, I argue that persons compel some obedience and loyalty totally independent of their positions.

    My thesis is that once you have acknowledged that reason is not the supreme ruler over our beliefs and that authorized people are intrinsically binding to some degree, then you have already left the culture of liberal democracy.

    In other words, it is the tradition of liberal democracy that compels the binary which you object to, not religion.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 8, 2014 @ 7:00 pm

  7. Okay, I get that. And actually now what you’ve written makes a lot more sense to me. You’re not saying that, for instance, my search for what religion is right is not primarily a battle for what authority figure I want to attach to (i.e. Moses vs. Swedenborg deathmatch).

    Comment by Syphax — July 8, 2014 @ 7:09 pm

  8. So I’m guessing you reject these statements?

    Comment by Nate W. — July 8, 2014 @ 7:13 pm

  9. Your philosophy is appealing, but I do not think it will every be that clean. There will always be tension between the oral word and the scriptures, between dead prophets and living ones. I believe we are meant to deal with these complexities as part of the tests of life. We have been given other puzzles to deal with as well. There will always be tension between personal revelation and priesthood authority. There will be tension between agency and obedience. There will be tension between seeking the Spirit and developing the strength and knowledge to do what is right on our own.

    I have learned not to trust any simplistic rule that claims to resolve these issues without fail. As the link provided by Nate shows, plenty of authorities would go in precisely the opposite direction you do in solving the problem you confront.

    I think we have to approach each situation individually and make the best choice we can. Then we have to trust the atonement to make up for our imperfections. I don’t see any other way to get through this life.

    Comment by DD — July 8, 2014 @ 7:53 pm

  10. Sorry, “I do not think it will *ever* be that clean.”

    Comment by DD — July 8, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

  11. It seems that church leaders have been pushing both ends of this dichotomy for many years. Priesthood correlation strengthened the authority of the hierarchy while also laying out the basic principles that should be taught universally from the scriptures.

    Comment by el oso — July 8, 2014 @ 8:55 pm

  12. Excellent again.

    I think this partly explains why the bloggernacle seems to be dominated by those who lean toward the liberal democratic direction. It is this mindset that seeks to express itself, and to value like minded self-expression.

    In contrast it is the authority sustaining conservatives who would naturally prefer the Ensign, or general conference, or the lesson manuals, etc. and not feel as much need for self expression, or to value any alternative voice.

    I think you are doing well at making these distinctions. I think both sides are being described fairly and charitably.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — July 9, 2014 @ 4:39 am

  13. Eric,
    “it is the authority sustaining conservatives who would naturally prefer the Ensign, or general conference, or the lesson manuals, etc. and not feel as much need for self expression, or to value any alternative voice.”
    I haven’t found this to be the case. Plenty of conservatives found Denver Snuffer (before the church action), Cleon Skousen, and various other purveyors of conservative alternative voices to listen to/read. I think everybody is bored by the Sunday School manuals at this point.

    Comment by John C. — July 9, 2014 @ 6:41 am

  14. The Bloggernacle doesn’t give self-expression. That’s easy enough to get by writing in a journal. I would wager the Bloggernacle attracts liberals because they feel outnumbered in their personal lives and feel they need to gather among the like-minded to buttress their opinions.

    I’ve seen it in how most people tend to change their opinions to match the stereotype of the group they identify with. Maybe they start with one “liberal” opinion, and find people who agree with them on that, making them feel validated. Then, over time, they start agreeing with opinions they didn’t originally have so they can preserve the feeling of belonging.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 9, 2014 @ 8:30 am

  15. John,

    Maybe Jeff G can help me out here, but I may be using liberal and conservative wrong. This is not necessarily democrat and republican politics. This is more in the classical sense I think. Liberal democratic in terms of a free market of ideas or propositions, and conservative in terms of sustaining the authorities. In such a case any activist (on either end of a political spectrum) can apply the liberal democratic market of ideas and propositions against the legitimate authorities. I am out of my element and may not be using the right terms, on not using the terms well. Am I on track Jeff?

    Comment by Eric Nielson — July 9, 2014 @ 9:16 am

  16. So the only mention that personal revelation, the spirit, or the light of Christ gets in this post is as a marker of apostasy and false prophets. That doesn’t seem very Mormon.

    Comment by Cynthia L. — July 9, 2014 @ 9:23 am

  17. Silverrain,

    Again, I am probably not expressing things right. In the case of participating in blogs, it is self-expression in a public market of ideas. Whic would often be different from writing in a journal.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — July 9, 2014 @ 9:44 am

  18. Lots of great comments.

    Syphax,

    I’m saying that we definitely can and ought to construe our choice in religion as a choice in which prophet to follow. No matter what we choose to believe, we almost always follow some person who revealed those ideas – a person which we can construe as a true or false prophet. I am not, however, saying that such choices are nothing else than choosing a prophet. However, my argument is that if we pay attention to who rather than what we are following, we will stay on safer ground.

    NateW,

    Those are fantastic quotes which do give me some pause. On the one hand, I certainly acknowledge what I think is their main point: that our acceptance of past revelation does and ought to constrain our acceptance of new revelation. If somebody comes along and says something which is radically at odds with scripture, then we have every reason to be suspicious of their prophecy. This I think is the main reason why these general authorities spoke as they did to their particular audiences.

    Nevertheless, I think those very same general authorities would not agree with us pushing those comments too far. There are plenty of episodes within the scriptures themselves in which prophets are rejected for contradicting the previous scriptures. We could also provide statements from several higher ranked general authorities which say that living prophets can and ought to trump the dead ones in the scriptures.

    I do not, however, see a flat out contradiction here. Instead, I think the main point is that we should be suspicious of radical discontinuities in the teachings of the Lord’s anointed. The living prophets both constrain and are constrained by our understanding and belief in the scriptures.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2014 @ 10:38 am

  19. DD,

    I fully accept all of the tensions that you list, except that between agency and obedience. Again, obedience is an expression of agency and agency is simply our choosing who to obey. That said, we occasionally must use our agency to obey priesthood or obey personal revelation. Other times we must express our agency by choosing to obey oral vs written revelation. In all of these cases we are fully using our agency and fully obeying. My point is that is we pay attention to who we are obeying rather than what, we will use our agency much better.

    El oso,

    I definitely agree. One of the primary ways in which living prophets have always led their followers is by showing them how they ought to read and apply the teachings of past prophets. This, I further suggest, does not make the living prophets any less inspired that those who came before.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2014 @ 10:45 am

  20. Eric,

    I agree with Silver Rain (as always) in that I think the primary motivation for most of us bloggernaclers is solidarity. My original push to the net was that I felt utterly alone in my ward with all my questions and thoughts that really had no place in a church setting. That said, I think that a strong majority of the bloggernacle is made up of people with one foot in each of the camps I describe. I definitely acknowledge that I was (and still am) such a person in that I thought the values that I had learned from the liberal democratic world must – in some sense – apply to church doctrine and policy. This, I think, is a huge mistake which all of my posts are aimed at exposing.

    JohnC,

    I would certainly agree that my depiction of Mormonism vs the Liberal Democratic world does not line up that well with political lines. (My views are very much hostile to a lot of right-wing ideology.) It is for this reason that I suspect that a lot of people who are seduced by the people you mention do so out of a loyalty to “what” rather than “who” – a loyalty which is part of a larger bundle of values inherited from the world. This bundle of liberal democratic values shapes the expectations that people on both sides of the political spectrum come to have regarding prophets and priesthood leaders.

    In my own experience, I too became very taken with Mormon fundamentalist literature and claims to continuing revelation right before I gave up belief altogether. The reasons that I almost followed my own version of Snuffer were very much the same reason why I left the church – and these reasons came not from the religious tradition but from the modern enlightenment tradition that we know as liberal democracy.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2014 @ 10:57 am

  21. Silver Rain,

    I absolutely agree with your analysis. As I said above, the ‘nacle is full of people who have one foot in each tradition and are under the mistaken belief that the morals of one must also hold within the other. These people go to the ‘nacle and find others who think this exact thing and then reinforce each others’ belief that a certain set of worldly values is being marginalized within the church and – since these values are universal – this just is an immoral state of affairs. They thus set out with a misguided righteous zeal to correct this immoral state of affairs within Mormon culture … and here we are.

    Eric (again),

    You’re right. I do not at all mean to single out liberals or democrats. I there are a good many right-wing principles which I think are equally at odds with the religious tradition I defend just as I think there are a good many left-wing principles which are very compatible with my analysis. I do think that it is practically easier to be a strong right-winger than a strong left-winger within the church… but practical ease does not entire moral rectitude.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2014 @ 11:08 am

  22. CynthiaL,

    You’re right that I could have emphasized personal revelation a lot more. I fear, sometimes, that appeals to personal revelation serve to disguise and muddle rather than highlight and refine the choices we make. In the case of this post, I really ought to have highlighted that we should be using personal revelation to choose who we ought to obey rather than what we ought to obey. I think this message in strongly implicit in my post, but it definitely could have been made more explicit. My main point is that framing our choices in terms of who to believe rather than what to believe makes following the spirit much clearer and simpler… just like it was always meant to be.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2014 @ 11:14 am

  23. Jeff,

    Are you familiar with the “Strongman” idea, in relation to man’s inclination to be led by a Prophet?

    Comment by Murray G — July 9, 2014 @ 11:20 am

  24. Can’t say I am. Help me out?

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2014 @ 11:27 am

  25. I disagree about there being no tension between agency and obedience, but that really is not the point. I think any purported rule that guarantees that we will use our agency correctly is probably wrong. I think we are best using our agency when we decide, to the best of our ability, what is the correct thing to do in each situation. Sometimes, we need to just do what we are asked, other times we need to raise our objections. I think both can be done faithfully.

    Comment by DD — July 9, 2014 @ 3:44 pm

  26. The Bloggernaclce as the world. Nice. [Insert middle-finger emoticon here]

    Jeff, you are no more a self-righteous ass than the rest of us. Your insistance that all who disagree with you and the Church are relying strictly on a liberal democratic paradigm shows that you rarely leave your NCT/M* echo chamber.

    I personally outright reject the application of the liberal democratic framework to non-profits like the Church. It is useless and stupid. I say that as somebody who is more a faithful liberal democrat than anything else (well…I am more faithful to my wife and kids).

    That of you all people, you make claims to stability…well…it is your narrative…do what you want with it.

    Cynthia, the other personal revelation that counts is the personal revelation that re-affirms Salt Lake.

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 4:24 pm

  27. “I do not at all mean to single out liberals or democrats.”

    You are an outright liar.

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 4:28 pm

  28. Promise me that it will always be like this, Chris.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

  29. I have not changed much since joining that pit of evil, the Bloggernacle, in 1995.

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

  30. Wait…that would be 2005…anyways, I know you think you are serious about dialogue, but I will leave that up to the respectable bloggernacle-types to buy into that.

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

  31. I think it is hilarious that Chris H lumps NCT together with M* in his mind. We’ve been blogging here for nearly ten years and have never been considered a “conservative” blog in the past. Mostly we’ve been accused of being liberals over the years. That and the accusations of theological speculations (which is entirely true).

    Comment by Geoff J — July 9, 2014 @ 5:10 pm

  32. Do you read Jeff G’s posts?

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

  33. *posts

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

  34. NCT has not done much theological speculation in years, y’all mostly just take shots at liberals and feminists.

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 5:17 pm

  35. The new Jeff G holds views that are a lot different than the old Jeff G I used to debate with regularly. Of course the main difference is the old Jeff G was on his way out of Mormonism and the new Jeff G has recently returned to the fold.

    One thing for sure is his ability to formulate and defend his arguments is as admirable as ever.

    (That and his posts are still long winded…)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 9, 2014 @ 5:22 pm

  36. He is a skilled Sophist. No doubt,

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 5:25 pm

  37. Ha. Feel free to engage and defeat his arguments if you can, Chris. That’s the point here.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 9, 2014 @ 5:36 pm

  38. Yeah, this is likely my NCT quota for the year. Sorry for being an ass.

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 5:40 pm

  39. I’m coming up on my 10 year mark in January. In the past 10 years my worldview has changed drastically on more than one occasion. With that in mind I can definitely say that although clear and concise articulation is definitely a weakness of mine, but an ability to understand and internalize the opposition is certainly not.

    I do often worry, however, about what Geoff’s take is on what I’ve done with his blog.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2014 @ 5:46 pm

  40. Are you familiar with the “Strongman” idea, in relation to man’s inclination to be led by a Prophet?

    Let me take a crack. In a nutshell, reliance on a prophet, a man, a “Strongman”, ultimately leads to your own condemnation and will never bring Zion. Or something along those lines. Yes?

    Comment by stephen — July 9, 2014 @ 5:46 pm

  41. “…but an ability to understand and internalize the opposition is certainly not.” Yeah, the post is about how evil the opposition is and about how they have chosen the world over God. Yeah, I am glad you understand us. Your charity is nothing short of touching.

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 6:03 pm

  42. (Note: I have no charity either…but in am not claiming to have any.)

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 6:05 pm

  43. I do often worry, however, about what Geoff’s take is on what I’ve done with his blog.

    I’m just glad you still have the blogging bug, Jeff. You’re keeping this place alive with your posts lately. I burned out on blogging about Mormonism some time ago. Besides, it’s amusing to see you rankle so many in the echo chamber that much of the rest of the bloggernacle has become.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 9, 2014 @ 6:14 pm

  44. Yep, we are rankled. Also, [I’m a thin-skinned, emotionally-stunted weenie], Geoff.

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 6:39 pm

  45. We know, Chris. We know.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 9, 2014 @ 6:50 pm

  46. The more enemies, the merrier. My impressions of you from the last few months have been confirmed. The irony of Mormon mainstreamers accusing anyone of being caught in an echo chamber is awesome,

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 7:07 pm

  47. At first there was Chris H. Then along came Howard. I thought maybe, just maybe, you dropped the “Chris” and went with Howard (presumably what the “H” stood for). Now that I know Howard is a different person than Chris Henrichsen I have to re-evaluate my reality.

    Jeff G, love your thoughts as always. Now if we could get Jacob J and Blake going again with you and Geoff J it will be just like the good ol’ days: Calvinism sucks, atonement and MMP.

    Comment by Riley — July 9, 2014 @ 10:16 pm

  48. Riley,

    Given how much I loathe Howard…that hurts.

    Chris H….I have used my full name for sometime now.

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 11:44 pm

  49. Don’t forget libertarian free will posts.

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 9, 2014 @ 11:45 pm

  50. To bring my falling out with Jeff and Geoff full circle:

    My first bloggernacle comment once got me labeled as a cross between Nate Oman and a. NCT commentator:

    http://snarkernackle.blogspot.com/2006/05/ts-permabore-breeds-with-unknown.html

    Good times! I think the landscape of Mormonism has changed a lot…and rapidly over the last decade. Enemies have become friends. Friends have become enemies. It happens.

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 10, 2014 @ 12:01 am

  51. Jeff G.,

    So do you agree that from a liberal, democratic point of view the church is just an authoritarian fallacy?

    Your position would make much more sense to me if mormonism didn’t also take the position that its truths are also true by liberal, democratic verifiable means.

    I mean can you see Kolob with a telescope or can’t you?

    Mormonism has never maintained (until you) a distinction between authority reality and reality for everyone.

    Particularly, the admonitions to further one’s education. If authority was the truth that mattered and it was simple, why pursue worldly education at all?

    All the mormons I know make truth claims basedon mormonism that they think are truth claims in an abjective, non-authoritarian way. They also use liberal, democratic truth claims against other authority figures, they don’t just rely on saying “that prophet doesn’t hold the authority.”

    Its the frequent cross-over that makes your positions such an exaggeration of the mormon position.

    Comment by Martin James — July 10, 2014 @ 11:56 am

  52. Hey Jeff G,

    Essentially, it is man’s desire to be led by a leader/prophet. It is about men/women wanting to be led by a prophet, instead of becoming a prophet unto themselves.

    Contrarily, it has been argued that this is not God’s intent. In fact, there are many examples of past prophets (including Joseph Smith) having the desire that men/women do not rely on Prophetic voices, but rather they establish a personal relationship with Christ himself.

    It also expounds on what the Second Comforter really is, and what that really means.

    While I appreciate the notion that current prophets are spokesmen for Christ, I wonder how many of them actually have experienced any type of qualifying experience (aside from being “ordained” to an office) that gives them the power of a “true witness” of Christ.

    Have you ever wondered why some people experience things (not being prophets), and yet “prophets” never experience anything? (ie. Brigham Young)

    Comment by Murray G — July 10, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

  53. I’m a little confused as to what your objection is here, but let me take a stab at it anyways….

    “If authority was the truth that mattered”

    I never said anything like that. Indeed, I reject almost any statement that suggest that any small set of things are “all that matter.” My position is not that modern values do not matter. Rather, it is that modern values are not the ones the matter most, let alone the only ones that matter. Again, to paraphrase Jacob, to be a liberal democratic citizen is good so long as your liberal democratic values are constrained by the gospel and not the other way around.

    Within a modern mindset, if religion is to be accepted or embraced it is because religion is instrumental in pursuing liberal democratic values. These values include individual happiness, sense of solidarity and other such things that many within the ‘nacle cite as their primary reasons for continuing to associate with the church. These reasons aren’t bad so much as insufficient if one wants to take a stand against the world and its values.

    The mindset that I am advocating is almost the exact opposite of this. A modern education is accepted or embraced because it is instrumental in pursuing religious values. These values include scriptural literacy, the provision for stay-at-home moms, world-wide accessibility to the gospel, etc. There are clearly other reasons that the world would agree with, but these are the ones that clearly stand apart from those of a liberal democracy.

    With regards to the typical member’s use of the word “truth”, I would agree that they often fall into a modern usage of the, but not totally. Most importantly, however, I think that their usage is largely automatic and unreflexive in that their answers reveal more about the questions they are typically being asked than they do about the people who answer them. For example, most church members say that institutions, people and paths are true when such statements can only be seen as metaphorical at best from a modern perspective, categorical confusion at worst.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 10, 2014 @ 12:35 pm

  54. Jeff G.,

    Take a read at this quote below from the New Era from 1974. Compare the 1947 discussion of education with your;

    “These values include scriptural literacy, the provision for stay-at-home moms, world-wide accessibility to the gospel, etc.”

    Mormonism is about authority that has the truth not authority as truth which is the doctrine of Satan.

    From Winter Quarters in December of 1847, the Council of the Twelve issued an epistle to the Church that read in part:

    “It is very desirable that all the Saints should improve every opportunity of securing at least a copy of every valuable treatise on education—every book, map, chart, or diagram that may contain interesting, useful, and attractive matter, to gain the attention of children, and cause them to love to learn to read; and, also every historical, mathematical, philosophical, geographical, geological, astronomical, scientific, practical, and all other variety of useful and interesting writings, maps, &c., to present to the General Church Recorder, when they shall arrive at their destination, from which important and interesting matter may be gleaned to compile the most valuable works, on every science and subject, for the benefit of the rising generation.

    Comment by Martin James — July 10, 2014 @ 12:50 pm

  55. Murray,

    I think the idea that men/women want to follow people so as to relieve themselves of responsibility is definitely a worry throughout much of church history. What my model does is put an immense amount of pressure of members to seek a personal confirmation from Christ of His leaders on earth.

    There are so many in the ‘nacle that assume that asking for and responding to reason-giving is the only way in which authority can be checked and balanced (outside of violence) – and they believe this since this is exactly what is taught within a liberal democracy. When they come across scriptures and passages which clearly say that reason-giving is not supposed to constrain the Lord or His servants, they experience no small amount of cognitive dissonance. If there reason is the only way to constrain authority, and reason is not allowed to constrain authority, then authority must be unconstrained within the church.

    What my posts are aimed at is showing that allowing personal revelation which is itself unconstrained by reason-giving to constrain our association with the church is itself the check and balance which the Lord intends for His church. Personal revelation, then, is that which constrains authority which in turn constrains reason.

    Brigham Young and others greatly feared that people would not allow their personal revelation to constrain their loyalties to authority figures, but this is not at all the same thing as reason-giving constraining authority or personal revelation. I should probably write up a post about this.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 10, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

  56. Martin,

    I don’t see how that quote contradicts anything I’ve said. I’m not trying to be deliberately obtuse here, but I’m afraid you’ll have to spell things out a bit more for me.

    I would also strongly resist any equivalence between authority and truth. Some people have true authority and others have false authority. Priesthood authority is true authority in that it structures our (plural persons who make up a community) relationship to, communication with and path to the Lord.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 10, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

  57. Chris H,

    :) My apologies. I always thought Howard was too over the top to be real.

    Comment by Riley — July 10, 2014 @ 8:06 pm

  58. :)

    Comment by Howard — July 11, 2014 @ 5:08 am

  59. Jeff G,

    I understand. Essentially, your model is encouraging members to seek confirmation of the Brethren, and their calling, which is fine. I am curious regarding this statement: “Personal revelation, then, is that which constrains authority which in turn constrains reason.”

    This is how I understand that statement, and your response in whole: “By relying on personal revelation and a personal witness of Christ (or the act of seeking this out), and not a revelation and confirmation of the Brethren, a person’s “reason” is flawed, and a disconnect exists between the individual and the Brethren”. You also seem to be asking members to obtain a testimony of the Brethren, because if you can obtain this testimony of the Brethren, that in turn returns you back in line with God, and by necessity, separates yourself from the Liberal-Democratic way of thinking (which is fine, I agree with that).

    I am suggesting there might be another way. Bypass the testimony of the Brethren, and seek out a personal confirmation of Christ.

    We might not be on the same wavelength, and for that I apologize.

    Comment by Murray G — July 11, 2014 @ 10:44 am

  60. Well, there are two ways of construing what I just said: in terms of who to believe and follow or in terms of what to believe and follow. I will use the interpretation which I urge in the original post:

    In our lives we are constantly confronted with people who we might believe and follow, and these people very often disagree with each other. Thus, we must decide who we will and will not believe.

    The least divine way of deciding who we will believe and follow will be by asking for, giving and responding to human reasons. This is what I have called the liberal democratic tradition.

    A more divine way of deciding who we will believe and follow is by looking to see who has the appropriate priesthood authority over us in that particular situation. This is the religious tradition and neither can nor should be identified with the liberal democratic tradition due to the contradictions between the two.

    Mormon doctrine teaches us that when and inasmuch as these two traditions point us towards different people to believe and follow (and they inevitably will at times), we are to use priesthood authority rather than human reason to decide. This is not to say that we shouldn’t use human reason, just that priesthood reasoning trumps human reason.

    This is not a very controversial claim when it is placed in its proper perspective, really…. But an argument can be made that I have not put it in its proper perspective since I haven’t discuss personal revelation. I have been so concerned with placing priesthood authority over human reason, that I have not situated this priority with respect to personal revelation.

    Personal revelation is certainly the most divine way in which we decide who to believe and follow in our lives. This also is part of the religious tradition that is Mormonism. Scriptures assure us that personal revelation neither can nor should be identified with the liberal democratic tradition, but it is somewhat ambivalent as to its possible identity with the direction of priesthood authority. What is clear, however, is that if or inasmuch as personal revelation contradicts priesthood authority, our obedience to directions received from personal revelation ought to trump our obedience to directions received from priesthood authorities.

    Worth pointing out, however, the reason why personal revelation trumps priesthood leaders is because the Lord has higher priesthood authority than they do. We are not to follow personal revelation as a way of responding to the reasons that we have requested from the Lord, but because of the authority that the Lord has over us. Thus, personal revelation is really not at all distinct from the religious tradition of priesthood authority at all.

    Another point worth mentioning is the personal revelation is personal. It tells us who to follow and who not to follow. It typically is not a case of reason giving, since the reason doesn’t matter. Furthermore, it in no way tells us to lead, persuade or give reasons to others. This would be to again place human reason over priesthood authority. Thus, in my view we do follow human reason unless it contradicts priesthood authority. We then follow priesthood authority unless it contradicts personal revelation. In no way am I saying never reason or never contradict priesthood authority.

    The position which I am attacking attempts to sideline priesthood authority as much as possible. Their perspective is more like follow human reason unless it contradicts personal revelation, full stop. Thus, they see personal revelation as a way of asking for, giving and responding to reasons. Thus, they try to integrate personal revelation within a liberal democratic framework rather than the religious framework which we have been commanded to frame things.

    I will have to write up a post on this.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 11, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

  61. Authority is stewardship. It is void of content.

    Comment by Howard — July 12, 2014 @ 6:56 am

  62. What are you talking about?

    Comment by Jeff G — July 12, 2014 @ 7:50 am

  63. You are conflating. Authority is stewardship not content. What makes the content that flows from authority more divine?

    Comment by Howard — July 12, 2014 @ 8:15 am

  64. Good stuff as usual. I’ve been trying to think how these concepts could be visually displayed in a simple diagram, but have failed.

    Perhaps if you put something like that together, it could really help answer a lot of questions about the interplay between personal revelation, authority, and reason before they’re even asked.

    Comment by SteveF — July 12, 2014 @ 8:17 am

  65. Howard,

    Your comment shows either total lack of comprehension of or a total refusal to engage the original post.

    SteveF,

    I’m like you in that I love to see charts and diagrams. That’s how a best see and understand things. I would definitely like to start exploring other mediums for unpacking my model.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 12, 2014 @ 11:53 am

  66. Jeff G, I was referring to your summary in #57. For additional clarification of my comment, in another thread you wrote: Prophecy and priesthood are no more in competition with each other than drinking water and pipes are. One is the pathway through which the other flows.

    But the problem is prophecy has been shown to be quite rare and opinion quite abundant. In other words the water in the priesthood authority “pipes” almost never contains true prophecy and at times has frequently and for long periods of time contained what is now considered to be false doctrine regarding blacks. So an assumption that drinking from the church faucet is divine is a pretty faulty assumption. A far safer route is to consider church water, study it out and ask the spirit.

    Comment by Howard — July 12, 2014 @ 4:15 pm

  67. “prophecy has been shown to be quite rare and opinion quite abundant”

    Given that an absence of evidence does not constitute an evidence of absence, I’d love to see the demonstration you’re referring to.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 12, 2014 @ 4:51 pm

  68. So, apparently we’ve moved beyond a total lack of comprehension or a total refusal to engage and on to a total foot-in-the-door plausibility challenge? Have a great day Jeff. I look forward to reading your write up.

    Comment by Howard — July 12, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

  69. Howard,

    I know how ad hoc and desperate that move seems to you. I’ve been there and know what it’s like to see somebody so flagrantly violate any sense of rationality. My snarky tone didn’t help much either. But really think about why that move seems so desperate and unrespectable. What rules does it violate? Where do those rules come from? Are those the only rules at play? Are there other rules that might actually support such a move?

    Anyways, I don’t expect you to necessarily answer these questions the same way I do. It did, after all, take me quite a few years to be able to genuinely say something like#64 with a straight face. The point is that these are all open questions whose answers are not at all obvious.

    Comment by Jeff. G — July 12, 2014 @ 7:28 pm

  70. Jeff G,
    I understand your are seeking a method to demote reason and you are attempting to ironically support it with logic but you are not completely inline with the church in doing so:

    Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of Church doctrine. Moreover, the Church exhorts all people to approach the gospel not only intellectually but with the intellect and the spirit, a process in which reason and faith work together.

    Instead you seem to be furthering Packer’s escalation of faith promotion above truth or Oak’s prohibition of criticism even when it’s true. The problem is in the absense of frequent direct revelation over time these methods invite and accrue error.

    Comment by Howard — July 12, 2014 @ 7:49 pm

  71. You may be right about my particular answers to those questions. But a rejection of my answers is not itself an answer to those same questions.

    Like I’ve said before, I don’t necessarily expect people to accept my model of things. But I do hope that they’ll be a little more hesitant and self-conscious in their reasoned dismissal of the church leaders’ claims.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 12, 2014 @ 8:20 pm

  72. Jeff G

    The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one…I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.

    If ever an awakened enlightened man walked the earth it was Jesus Christ and he is our exemplar! While Jesus obeyed the Father, becoming unquestioning obedient mobots is not the path Jesus laid out for us and adoring celebrity brethren worship is idolatry.

    We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

    Is it your belief the brethren are immune to this? Brigham Young taught

    “the greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord.

    The ban on blacks fiasco serves as a glowing example that the the words of the brethren deserve and invite critical examination and prayer.

    Comment by Howard — July 13, 2014 @ 5:18 am

  73. Howard,

    I’ve already address those questions many many times. Rather than pretending that the answers that you don’t agree with were never given, maybe you could explain why the answers don’t satisfy you?

    Comment by Jeff G — July 13, 2014 @ 11:22 am

  74. Probably because the weren’t clear and conscise or convincing.

    Comment by Howard — July 13, 2014 @ 12:09 pm

  75. Howard,

    I think you are mostly revealing your own reading comprehension weaknesses now.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 13, 2014 @ 5:03 pm

  76. Ha…”mobots.” If the terms “TBM” and “profits” get dropped I’ve got a bingo.

    Comment by Riley — July 14, 2014 @ 12:11 pm

  77. Jeff G,
    First time commenting here, and I enjoy your posts. Like others, though, I think you’ve oversimplified the process. A family story illustrates the point. As a teenager, my dad had an apostle come speak at his stake conference in the late 50s/early 60s. The apostle stated unequivocally that man would NEVER land on the moon. When my father questioned this statement in front of his own father (the stake president), my grandfather stated that because an ordained apostle had spoken, his words should not be doubted. My grandfather was relying on the authority of the individual speaking, rather than the reasonableness of the content of the message. My father recognized the priesthood authority of the apostle, but he still felt that the message was incorrect. Within a decade he was vindicated. Just as in the statements that Nate G referenced, my father understood that apostles are still human beings with their own opinions and interpretations of scripture, and they can sometimes err in those interpretations.

    It has not always been the case that prophets/messengers of God have been the leaders of the recognized priesthood hierarchy, and because of that, God provided a way for individuals to evaluate the content of the message (study it out, ponder, pray, examine the fruits, etc.). The people of Ninevah wouldn’t have recognized any priesthood authority from Jonah, but they were able to respond to his message of repentance. The people at the time of Enoch couldn’t have been persuaded to listen to him based on his authority, there was no known church authority in that time period — they followed the spirit of his message and witnessed the miracles he performed (same with Moses, Jesus, Joseph Smith, and every other leader of a priesthood dispensation). Investigators today don’t necessarily view missionaries as having authority, but they can still evaluate the content of the message (the restored gospel, the Book of Mormon) and have witness of its truth. They THEN receive a witness of the authority of the messengers.

    We are fortunate to live in a time when the recognized church leaders/prophets are also the leaders of the church hierarchy – it’s only happened a few times that we know of in the past (Samuel as both prophet/judge and High Priest in the Old Testament, the apostles in the Old World and the disciples in the New World after Christ’s appearance, Alma the Elder arranging a large-scale church structure in the land of Zarahemla). Just because we have recognized prophetic authorities, however, doesn’t mean we are supposed to set aside our reason and access to personal revelation.

    An individual solely relying on the priesthood authority/office of an individual to assign value to a message can miss valuable opportunities for learning. Take a guy who tunes out when the General RS President speaks in General Conference — she has no authority over HIM, he figures, so what value is her message? Isn’t it possible that the content of the messages by those asked to speak in General Conference (who are NOT the First Pres or 12 apostles) can still have application to the general body of the church? We are encouraged to obtain wisdom from a variety of resources, including outside the designated priesthood hierarchy. In order to discover that wisdom, we need the ability to evaluate the content and reasonableness of the messages independent of the authority of the messenger.

    Comment by Mary Ann — July 14, 2014 @ 12:49 pm

  78. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Mary Ann. While I don’t think I disagree with anything you’re saying, it does behoove me to clarify a few points.

    1) My main point is not that we only trust a priesthood leader and nobody else. My main point is that we do not trust anybody to contradict a priesthood leader. It is for this reason that I see my arguments as a refutation of many blogs, but not my own (hopefully).

    2) By priesthood leader, I mean somebody who is speaking by and within their authority – meaning an official position. It is for this reason that I wouldn’t be too worried about people landing on the moon, etc.

    3) Priority and applicability are two different things. RS sisters can and do give us messages (in GC and elsewhere) which are fully endorsed by the priesthood authority. What is important to acknowledge, however, is that the priesthood authority is authorized to stand up and correct those who have been invited to speak. Again, the question is who’s word takes priority between two mutually exclusive views.

    4) I’m not saying that a focus on the “what” rather than the “who” isn’t useful or even indispensable at times. What I am saying is that a focus on the “what” should never prevent us from following the proper “who”.

    I don’t know if that cleared anything up?

    Comment by Jeff G — July 14, 2014 @ 1:56 pm

  79. (Correct me if I’m wrong, Jeff.)

    I’m pretty certain you are all mistaking Jeff’s meaning. I doubt he’s saying “always listen to what the prophets tell you, never think, never try to get your own confirmation.” But he IS saying that when it comes to matters of faith, where the wisdom of the prophets conflict with the wisdom of secular sources, when we have prayed about it and found no conclusive direction directly from God, we should give our benefit of the doubt to the prophets.

    Man on the moon isn’t exactly a matter of faith. Unless you’re planning on investing in it.

    He is speaking to the very specific and frequent cases where people judge prophets to be fallen or not in tune simply because what they have to say doesn’t jive with their political or secular preferences.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 14, 2014 @ 1:56 pm

  80. That’s pretty close…. although I think giving prophets the “benefit of the doubt” is a little soft for my taste.

    Basically, I saying:

    Always follow human reason, unless it contradicts priesthood leaders. Then we should always follow priesthood leaders, unless it contradicts personal revelation. Then we should always follow personal revelation.

    I am not saying “never follow human reason.” I am not saying “never disobey prophets.” I am saying, however, “never allow human reason to contradict priesthood leaders.”

    (Of course personal revelation can always contradict human reasoning that doesn’t contradict priesthood authority, but I think we all agree on that case.)

    Comment by Jeff G — July 14, 2014 @ 2:37 pm

  81. And roll your eyes at other people’s personal revelation that does not pass our human reason and contradicts priesthood leaders to boot.

    Seriously though, I think Jeff has given a lot of credit to those who contradict priesthood leaders. My hunch is that their motives are often based on things much less noble than personal revelation.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — July 14, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

  82. Thank-you Jeff and SilverRain for the helpful clarifications.

    I’m not sure this post will refute many of the blogs that you hope, though, precisely because of the disagreement over when priesthood leaders are speaking “by and within their authority.” Where many mainstream members viewed Elder Oaks’ talk as an official position of the brethren on women’s ordination, many OW supporters merely viewed it as “Man has never landed on the moon because that is not the divinely decreed pattern” (to paraphrase a bit). ;) Outside of the brethren saying “Thus saith the Lord”, members often disagree about when to take thoughts of the brethren as scripture versus opinion.

    For Snuffer supporters, there is no legitimate priesthood authority to appeal to outside of Joseph Smith (as the current leadership is corrupt in their view) and therefore you can only rely on human reasoning and personal revelation. Again, the common ground is lost. Mainstream members see current priesthood leaders speaking “by and within their authority,” whereas Snuffer supporters do not.

    Comment by Mary Ann — July 14, 2014 @ 4:49 pm

  83. Mary,

    You continue to force me into making important clarifications – thank you!

    I think my view is a bit stronger than I led you to believe with my clarifications. Most importantly, the fact that only personal revelation constrains and trump priesthood authority is a very strong position to take. It is exactly what leads to the difference I drew in a previous post between disassociation and disconfirmation.

    When it comes to what we believe in our personal lives, there is nothing that can or ought to trump personal revelation. But this ability to trump priesthood authority does NOT carry over to the public sphere of which blogging is a part. My personal revelation is not revelation at all as far as you’re concerned because I have no authority to receive such revelation for you.

    This separation of the private and public spheres places enormous constrains on the scope of legitimate blog posts and comments. Since my personal revelation is not revelation for you, the only options we are left with in order to correct or contradict some statement online is an appeal to human reason (which makes no pretensions to revelation) or priesthood authority (who are the only people allowed to receive revelation for other people).

    Thus, if we truly believe that priesthood authority trumps human reasoning, then nothing trumps or is able to legitimately contradict priesthood authority in the public sphere!

    The only way that somebody can legitimately trump or contradict priesthood authority in the public sphere is by claiming to receive revelation for other people, and this just is to become a false prophet.

    I hope this makes it clear how much distance there is between my view and that of other bloggers. If one accepts that personal revelation trumps priesthood authority which trumps human reason then there are only two ways to publicly contradict priesthood authority:

    1) By claiming to receive revelation for them.
    or
    2) By using human reason.

    But both of these ways have been placed out of bounds if one accepts the hierarchy I advocate.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 14, 2014 @ 5:10 pm

  84. Human reasoning can indeed trump priesthood authority as Dr. Lowry Nelson’s did with regard to the 1949 Q1 statement and the church’s position on blacks. Is is a fascinating read and shows the role personal biases play in directing priesthood authority. The brethren were clearly warned but Dr. Nelson’s understanding of human nature was far ahead of theirs and ahead of their time. The church would have been better served had the brethren taken Dr. Nelson’s council to heart and sought spiritual confirmation of it.

    Also we can share personal revelation with others and they confirm it for themselves. This occurred with Prop. 8, the spirit fleeing and is happening a lot now with regard to feminist issues.

    Comment by Howard — July 14, 2014 @ 6:24 pm

  85. http://mormonstories.org/other/Lowry_Nelson_1st_Presidency_Exchange.pdf

    Comment by Howard — July 14, 2014 @ 6:38 pm

  86. For what it is worth, I do disagree with one thing in that it is possible for someone to receive public revelation outside of priesthood authority IF the existing priesthood line has apostatized and IF that person is personally called by God.

    When that happens, however, that person’s words are subject to the personal revelation of individuals to determine whether or not they are true revelators, just like the Church’s priesthood authority.

    What I find baffling is how complicated people try to make something that is ultimately very simple. Someone claims to be called of God, and we can ask God for verification. Easy. You just have to gain a testimony to the divine calling of the person. Discussion #1 stuff. All you have to remember is that you will answer to God for how you interpret the Spirit and act upon what you know. In that day, there will be no sophistry and no rationalization.

    I have experienced a few times when my personal revelation contradicted priesthood authority. I find a few metrics useful when judging my own inspiration and revelation.

    1) When I have felt the Spirit moving me against priesthood counsel, I’ve also always been moved to counsel with them. NOT to avoid talking it over with them. It always honored their priesthood, not rebelled against it. As I’ve spoken with them, the Spirit worked in both of us, and in the end we were both edified and strengthened in the Spirit. In three of the major cases, they came around to my inspiration.

    2) In every case, I was always more likely to try to talk myself OUT of the inspiration than INTO it. I was filled with a feeling of trepidation and caution coupled with inner certainty and peace. That trepidation always inspired me to greater patience and charity towards others who didn’t agree with me.

    3) The doubts/contrary inspiration always moved me closer to God and to His children. Contentions melted away, fear faded. I was filled with certainty and compassion, not instability and fear.

    To my mind, this is a start to indicate how we can righteously receive revelation that may not align with that of our priesthood leaders. Prayer, study, and humility were hallmarks of Spirit-inspired dissonance. And as I worked it out with the relevant leaders, the dissonance became a more complete harmony.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 14, 2014 @ 6:43 pm

  87. Howard,

    That link was probably the strongest confirmation of my position that I could possibly have hoped for. The first presidency clearly indicate that priesthood authority most definitely does trump human reasoning. Thus, during that time when people had to choose between believing the priesthood leaders and human reasoning on that topic, we were supposed to believe the priesthood leaders. When the time later came when human reasoning and the priesthood leaders said the same thing, there was no decision to make.

    Thank you for finding this strong piece of evidence for my model. :-)

    Comment by Jeff G — July 14, 2014 @ 6:48 pm

  88. Lol, of course, I love you confirmation bias Jeff! If Q1 said it it MUST be so! The fact that they were totally and completely wrong shouldn’t sway the fact that they were never in doubt!

    Comment by Howard — July 14, 2014 @ 6:55 pm

  89. SR,

    Gasp! I think we might actually disagree about something…. but I’m still not so sure.

    Of course I do acknowledge that people can receive revelation and then teach the content of that revelation and then invite others to confirm for themselves from God whether that content is true or not.

    However, I want to say that such people cannot teach their personal revelation as revelation for anybody else without the proper authority. I find much backing for this in D&C and church history.

    I must confess that my views on this are a little fuzzy for the time being. I think it definitely has something to do with our relationship to the catholic church, and I think this allows me to hazard an opinion or two:

    I think the difference between these two cases probably comes down to regulation within and without the church. In other words, I think that people can sometimes receive revelation contrary to the church, teach the contents of that revelation and then ask others to pray for themselves. Such people should not, however, expect the church to go along with this. The church cannot allow dis-confirmation from within and will be forced disassociate such teachers from the church.

    Thus, in accepting the claims of JS, catholics should fully expect the catholic church to call them up on charges of apostasy since both sides see the other as apostate. In the same way, we should expect those who start revealing doctrines to others which contradict the teachings of the church, we are also left with a cases where – to some degree or another – both sides see the other as apostate.

    I think this perspective follows quite naturally from the original post in that by following one person rather than another we are necessarily choosing to follow a true or false prophet. My post does not prohibit people from calling the church leadership false prophets – it just prohibits them from pretending that they aren’t doing exactly that.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 14, 2014 @ 7:11 pm

  90. Howard,

    I still can’t tell whether you’re not understanding what I’m saying or whether you’re deliberately misrepresenting what I’m saying. Again, I don’t expect you to agree with what I’m saying, so long as you properly understand and represent what it is that you are disagreeing with. I don’t think that’s unfair of me.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 14, 2014 @ 7:13 pm

  91. Howard,

    Let’s see if we cant cu through this impasse with a couple of questions:

    1) When it comes to personal biases, do you see yourself as having less biases than the priesthood leaders or simply different biases?

    2) If your biases are merely different, then what are the biases that underpin your own views?

    3) If you think you simply have less bias than the priesthood leaders then I would ask how? Also, what makes you think that this view is not itself biased?

    Comment by Jeff G — July 14, 2014 @ 7:19 pm

  92. Jeff, my point is that I believe God can call prophets outside of established priesthood lines. In other words, I believe that God sometimes grants authority to those who did not previously have it. There is ample scriptural evidence for that, Joseph Smith not being the least.

    However, short of such a calling (and it is rather momentous claim) I agree with you. I do believe that we can be called by the Spirit to challenge our priesthood leaders, but in my experience that is always constrained within a private sphere. I believe that’s essentially what you’re saying, as well.

    And, as you mention, people who have been so called cannot expect to work within priesthood lines by trying to circumvent them. That’s a pretty dead giveaway that they aren’t as inspired as they think. To simultaneously believe one is a faithful member of the Church yet try to seize the wheel of leadership is as baffling as trying to maintain one is a benign predator.

    More to the point, I think you’re addressing the other half of the equation which is the frequent predilection for ignoring the prophets in favor of one’s own preferences. It seems people are focusing on the other side, which is too often used to justify personal revelation that is anything but. By voicing my “disagreement,” I hoped to clarify how to measure when one is truly receiving such revelation vs. simply indulging one’s assumptions.

    Whenever I’ve been moved contrary to what has been taught me, it has never been accompanied by satisfaction or a sense of my own wisdom, as is so evident in most of those who parrot the “mistakes” of past leadership. It has always been more of a grim certainty and concern that I’m self-deluded which makes me more reluctant to discuss the failings and errors of others.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 14, 2014 @ 8:19 pm

  93. Jeff,
    Everyone has biases. No one knows what they don’t know including the brethren! OTOH, had they been enjoying a conversational relationship with the Lord as Joseph often did there is a good chance He is much less biased than any of us mortals. But clearly they were not given the outcome and that is largely the point, they are more Olivers than Josephs’, more administrators than prophets.

    So one very big advantage of reasoned discussion is that we can bump our biases against one another and begin to bring those biases into the conscious mind so we can deal with them. That is what Dr. Nelson was attempting to do with 1Q.

    We know the brethren are fallible tho it isn’t apparent that they knew it in their closed minded exchange with Nelson, so it’s a big mistake for us to act *as if* they are infallible or to just accept what they say without (at least internal) debate.

    And we need to remember that Oaks tells us they dispense general *advise* (not necessary revelation) and that we may be an exception to the general advice.

    Comment by Howard — July 14, 2014 @ 9:18 pm

  94. Howard: had they been enjoying a conversational relationship with the Lord as Joseph often did

    What makes you believe Joseph Smith actually had conversations with God and wasn’t making it all up?

    Did you ask God? Did God tell you?

    If so, what does God tell you about the current prophets of the church? Or has God stopped talking to you?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 15, 2014 @ 12:10 am

  95. Gefoff J wrote: Did you ask God? Did God tell you? Yes. …has God stopped talking to you? No.

    If so, what does God tell you about the current prophets of the church? God has confirmed these examples: From Hugh B. Brown’s memoirs

    “(An idea) is submitted to the First Presidency and Twelve, thrashed out, discussed and rediscussed until it seems right. Then, kneeling together in a circle in the temple, they seek divine guidance and the president says, ‘I feel to say this is the will of the Lord.’ That becomes a revelation. It is usually not thought necessary to publish or proclaim it as such, but this is the way it happens.”

    Prior to the wordless revelation that became OD2 Spencer W. Kimball wrote in a letter to his son Edward

    “Revelations will probably never come unless they are desired. I think few people receive revelations while lounging on a couch. . . . I believe most revelations would come when a man is on his tip toes, reaching as high as he can for something which he knows he needs, and then there bursts upon him the answer to his problems”

    Edward’s account of
    Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood

    God has pointed out that these methods are minor variations on instructions given to Oliver in D&C 9:8 study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right. This is very different and less than D&C 85:6 Yea, thus saith the still small voice, which whispereth through and pierceth all things, and often times it maketh my bones to quake while it maketh manifest, saying…what’s on God’s mind and it is very different and less than receiving the dictation that became the BoM or speaking what became the D&C via. thus saith the Lord revelation.

    God has confirmed the current prophets of the church are Olivers *not* Josephs and that this a major source of accumulating error because Olivers initiate the topic and content in a more or less y/n fashion and as a result their biases act as a filter limiting topics and content, Josephs channel God’s mind eliminating the bias of man. The two methods are very different and result in very different outcomes.

    Comment by Howard — July 15, 2014 @ 4:12 am

  96. So if you are an LDS (Oliver) “prophet” and a product of your upbringing which led you to firmly believe that blacks should not hold the priesthood at least not in your lifetime, why would you do the months of effort, concern, pondering, praying and worrying SWK went through to seek an answer you don’t believe in??? It is in congruent, is it not? It goes against human nature.

    This is the role of agitation in today’s church. Without civil rights agitation would SWK have petitioned the Lord for blacks?

    The is how bias plays a significant role with Olivers where God can simply speak his mind through a Joseph and we move on without the need for agitation.

    So now we face the question of women and LGBTs and Oliver bias must be overcome to receive an answer from *God* instead of an answer from Oliver’s biases or a legalistic restatement of the status quo.

    Comment by Howard — July 15, 2014 @ 5:15 am

  97. Howard, I think you’re kind of delusional about how Joseph received revelation. Scripture and history make it clear that it wasn’t so easy for him, either.

    But where people like you see that as a bug, the Lord sees it as a feature. That’s the part you miss entirely.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 15, 2014 @ 5:27 am

  98. Shall we consider D&C 76 one of my delusions SR? Please explain the “feature” you revere and I see as a bug.

    Comment by Howard — July 15, 2014 @ 6:48 am

  99. I think your understanding of D&C 76 is one of your delusions, assuming your point is what I think it is (since you don’t state it.)

    Throwing out scriptures and assuming that everyone else sees things the way you do is certainly one of your biggest delusions.

    D&C 76, set in context, is clearly a result of much pondering and prayer.

    Not everyone is so enthralled with their own wisdom as to be unable to seek, ponder, and pray about things that are outside of their own biases.

    All of my experiences with those who have truly become in tune with the Spirit has taught me that part of the path of Christian discipleship is just that: learning to actively seek God’s will no matter the consequences to one’s own dearly held beliefs. Over a lifetime, such effort melts personal biases and makes it easier to receive revelation.

    It’s the “over time” part that those like you seem to see as a bug. You derogatorily refer to the current apostles as if they are “Olivers,” like that is some kind of category of receiving revelation. But it isn’t. The description by Hugh B. Brown, for example, is not proscriptive, it is a snapshot of that process at that time. Anyone who applies themselves to learning how to receive the Spirit quickly finds out that “yes/no” revelation is a beginning, just one hue of revelation in a rainbow.

    Receiving revelation is not entirely a linear process. You don’t lift the 1-pound weights, then graduate to 2-pound, etc. until your spiritual muscles are strong enough to lift hundred-weights of revelation. It is roughly linear, and you do get stronger, but when you wrestle before the Lord, you often find yourself relearning tools you had mastered before.

    When you see the end product of revelation, such as Joseph’s writings, it is easy to assume that it came as easily to him as it is to you. But that is not the reality of revelation as I have discovered it. Sometimes it is that simple and easy. But most of the time it isn’t…and it wasn’t, even for Joseph. Up to the end of his life, he still had certain revelations he was still struggling to understand.

    Those like you see that as a bug: that we are continually tromping over old “revelatory” ground, that those who use “yes/no” revelation are somehow less advanced, less progressed than those who receive clear and open communication. But the process of revelation is about the journey, not the end goal.

    Whatever is truth is something we already know. We have already lived with Heavenly Father. We already know what is Truth and what is error. We came here, not to learn truth, but to experience the process of not-knowing. To learn truth, not only intellectually, but experientially. Outside of rare circumstances, we are not meant to simply conduct pure knowledge into the world by revelation.

    The messiness that so many like you condemn is, in fact, the entire purpose of mortality.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 15, 2014 @ 8:34 am

  100. SR wrote: It’s the “over time” part that those like you seem to see as a bug.

    No I don’t. Everyone must go up the learning curve but what qualifies beginners to lead the church? (That’s a bug.) Joseph was 38 when he died and 14 when he received the First Vision. TSM is is almost 87 and was a bishop at age 22. I really don’t think time is the main problem here.

    Anyone who applies themselves to learning how to receive the Spirit quickly finds out that “yes/no” revelation is a beginning, just one hue of revelation in a rainbow.

    Indeed! But here’s the rub. There is no evidence that Brown’s snapshot of the process has grown beyond that level which means the brethren use about the same method the EQP and RSP use and about the same method Oliver used with about the same effectiveness, they just have a greater stewardship. Consider the contrast between Joseph and those around him, truly he was a guide not a blind guide. Do you consider Oliver to be Joseph’s revelatory equivalent?

    So the point is we shouldn’t act like they are Josephs (That’s a bug.), their advice needs to be checked with reason and with the spirit.

    …he still had certain revelations he was still struggling to understand

    This is different. This occurs because advanced revelation arrives in one’s mind as a concept download that must be unpacked and understood in context which often means in the light of other reveled information before words can be somewhat accurately assigned to it. I believe this partially explains multiple first vision accounts. This is not struggling to understand if God meant y or n.

    …people like you…those like you This is pretty “othering” language SR. Who are are you including me with? Obviously not “people like you”.

    Comment by Howard — July 15, 2014 @ 9:24 am

  101. “Up the learning curve…” “Grown beyond that level…” You’re proving my point, Howard.

    But you do bring up another good point, even accepting your erroneous view of revelation: why do you need evidence at all? It’s, frankly, none of your business “how advanced” the leadership are in the revelation process.

    But you’re betraying your misunderstanding. The revelatory process isn’t about advancement at all.

    I know of several people who characterized Joseph exactly as you characterize President Monson, and with a great deal more personal knowledge to back it up.

    I can believe it’s hard for you to understand that revelation is not a linear process, where people can be ranked as more/less advanced. If you were to accept that, you would also have to accept that you are not ahead of the pack.

    I’m including you with people who perceive revelation the way you say you do, which is indeed “other” from how I understand it. Are you saying I shouldn’t lump you in with them, that you don’t really believe the way you say you do?

    Comment by SilverRain — July 15, 2014 @ 9:44 am

  102. SR wrote:It’s, frankly, none of your business “how advanced” the leadership are in the revelation process.

    Frankly it’s every member’s business. What’s the point of following blind guide “leaders” who “lead” in circles or backward? The church has spent the better part of 170 years in the wilderness, it’s time to be lead to Zion.

    Comment by Howard — July 15, 2014 @ 9:52 am

  103. Howard,

    You’re either dodging my question or you’re asking God the wrong questions. The right question: “Is God guiding the church today through the apostles and prophets in place now?” It’s a simple yes or no question — the kind that is most easy to get answers from God on (per section 9).

    If God tells you no, then you can confidently leave the church. If you do that, leave us alone and don’t be a Mormon stalker. If God tells you yes, then you can relax and enjoy membership in Jesus Christ’s church.

    The fact is that if God will answer the questions of a guy like you, just think of what he is communicating to much better men than you, like the First Presidency.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 15, 2014 @ 10:27 am

  104. I agree with Geoff. That’s basically the distinction which I tried to draw between disassociation and disconfirmation – but Geoff’s way of putting it is so much snappier!

    Comment by Jeff G — July 15, 2014 @ 10:33 am

  105. Geoff J,
    The answer is; not the way he’d like to lead it.

    Comment by Howard Dirkson — July 15, 2014 @ 10:50 am

  106. Ha! Ok Howard. So you had communication with God about the state of the restored church, and God confided in you that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are doing it wrong and that He is really frustrated with them because, you know, they just don’t listen to Him as well as, well, Howard does.

    Sounds like you’ve had your Sacred Grove moment, amigo! Let us know how that new church comes along for you. With God on your side it has to be a big success, right?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 15, 2014 @ 10:58 am

  107. I didn’t say or imply anything like that.

    Comment by Howard Dirkson — July 15, 2014 @ 11:12 am

  108. “Frankly it’s every member’s business.”

    No, it isn’t. We have no stewardship over them, and they have no accountability to us.

    One of the major fallacies of the LDS online blogging world. Perhaps the biggest.

    But I suppose we know what would have happened to you, had you been of Israel under Moses.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 15, 2014 @ 11:29 am

  109. Yeah, my only difference with the way you phrase it, Geoff, is I think that once we are disciples “better than” loses meaning. It’s like a family or tribe. We all have different roles, but comparing one role to another is meaningless. I truly believe that there is no meaningful rankable difference between the person handing out programs in XYZ Ward, Podunk, US and President Monson.

    We don’t get leadership positions because we are more righteous or dedicated than those around us. “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.” It’s the qualification that matters, not the calling.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 15, 2014 @ 11:34 am

  110. David Whitmer = Joseph Smith

    Comment by Howard — July 15, 2014 @ 11:51 am

  111. Yes, Howard, you did imply that. You said God told you current church leaders are doing it wrong. If you have an in with God like that, run with it, big boy.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 15, 2014 @ 12:15 pm

  112. Geofff J,
    God confirmed the role of agitation and the reason it’s sometimes necessary and he conveyed his sympathies for those who would like to change the plight of women and LGBTs in the church.

    Comment by Howard — July 15, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

  113. I think that once we are disciples “better than” loses meaning. It’s like a family or tribe. We all have different roles, but comparing one role to another is meaningless. I truly believe that there is no meaningful rankable difference between the person handing out programs in XYZ Ward, Podunk, US and President Monson.

    I absolutely agree with this, SR. I think there are only three alternatives, really:

    1) We continue the enlightenment quest for some foundational and universal tradition from which we get to measure all others – no matter how problematic this idea has become. (Modernism)
    2) Admit that this enlightenment quest was a fool’s errand from the begining and refuse to allow any tradition to measure any other – no matter how impractical and amoral this ultimately is. (Post-modernism)
    3) Just accept the tradition which God has given us and use it to measure the others – trusting that His ways are better than any other people’s ways. (Pre-modernism)

    I don’t think its difficult at all to apply these perspectives on tradition to the evaluations and measurements that we bring to the roles we take on within the church.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 15, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

  114. Howard,

    If you feel that God has confirmed your views regarding “agitation” then that is all fine and good. But please, I beseech, do not follow the others in claiming that Pres. Hinckley clearly advocated in favor of agitation. I’m not claiming that you’ve made that desperate claim, but it has definitely become a pet peeve of mine.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 15, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

  115. Haha. God told you to “agitate” against His church? (AKA troll, badmouth, and harass church leaders online) You’re getting promptings from the wrong god, Howie.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 15, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

  116. David Whitmer = Jesus Christ

    Comment by Howard — July 15, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

  117. Jeff G,
    Pres. Hinckley did not clearly advocated in favor of agitation but his comment allowed for agitation and implied nothing would be done in it’s absence.

    Comment by Howard — July 15, 2014 @ 12:37 pm

  118. I think that there is some ambiguity in the relevant passage, because I don’t see him clearly saying that either. The way I read it is that he was saying, “women do not have the priesthood, nor are they dissatisfied with this state of affairs.” Under this reading, there is no implication that agitation is a cog within the divine machine. I do acknowledge that yours is also a possible reading of that statement.

    Thus, I would suggest that:

    1) His statement is not at all a clear and unambiguous endorsement of or even tolerance for agitation.
    2) The context of the statement is clearly not intended to be official announcements to church members.
    3) There seems no reason for a person to claim that this is a case of revelation while rejecting other more official statements which do not agree with their ideology.

    Anyways, those are the reasons why it’s such a pet peeve for me.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 15, 2014 @ 12:48 pm

  119. RB: At present women are not allowed to be priests in your Church. Why is that?

    GBH: That’s right, because the Lord has put it that way. Now women have a very prominent place in this Church. They have there own organisation. Probably the largest women’s organisation in the world of 3.7 million members. There own ???. And the women of that organisation sit on Boards. Our Board of Education things of that kind. They counsel with us. We counsel together. They bring in insight that we very much appreciate and they have this tremendous organisation of the world where they grow and if you ask them they’ll say we’re happy and we’re satisfied.

    RB: They all say that?

    GBH: Yes. All except a oh you’ll find a little handful one or two here and there, but in 10 million members you expect that.

    RB: You say the Lord has put it that way. What do you mean by that?

    GBH: I mean that’s a part of His programme. Of course it is, yes.

    RB: Is it possible that the rules could change in the future as the rules are on Blacks ?

    GBH: He could change them yes. If He were to change them that’s the only way it would happen.

    RB: So you’d have to get a revelation?

    GBH: Yes. But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it. Our women are happy. They’re satisfied. These bright, able, wonderful women who administer their own organisation are very happy. Ask them. Ask my wife.

    GBH: Are you happy? (to his wife…)

    Mrs. H: Very happy! (laughs)

    http://www.abc.net.au/compass/intervs/hinckley.htm

    Comment by Howard — July 15, 2014 @ 1:05 pm

  120. I know, I just watched the interview. I still get the strong impression that he was in no way encouraging or advocating agitation. At the very least, such a thing is not at all clear.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 15, 2014 @ 1:13 pm

  121. Q So you’d have to get a revelation?
    A Yes. But there’s no agitation for that.

    Comment by Howard — July 15, 2014 @ 1:14 pm

  122. Interpreting President Kimball’s offhand comment as an encouragement to publicly agitate against the Church is quite amusing, considering all the prophets since Joseph have been uninspired, according to you.

    You: “Yes. But [it hasn’t happened because] there’s no agitation for that.”

    What was actually said: “Yes. But there’s no agitation for that….Our women are happy.” Meaning that it would take a revelation to change it, but whether it changes or not, the women are generally happy with it.

    Ah, mental gymnastics in the leotard of intelligence.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 15, 2014 @ 1:24 pm

  123. I think you mean President Hinckley’s interview answer, don’t you?

    Comment by Howard — July 15, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

  124. Jeff,

    Howard isn’t interested in what President Hinckley actually meant, he’s interested in justifying his church bashing. While it’s charitable of you to try to reason with him on this, it is futile.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 15, 2014 @ 1:53 pm

  125. With how many people mock and moderate my comments in the nacle, I’d hate to commit the crime for which I now serve the sentence.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 15, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

  126. Of course, Howard. I see you have no substantial response, as expected.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 15, 2014 @ 2:44 pm

  127. Geoff, I respond when I’m up to it because there are people who actually believe the things Howard spouts.

    I have my doubts as to whether or not he is one of them. I suspect he is merely a troll. But it is worth responding, just because there are people who really fall for his brand of “logic.”

    Comment by SilverRain — July 15, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

  128. At this point the vitriol is unbecoming the saints so have a great day all. Jeff G, see you on another thread I hope.

    Comment by Howard — July 15, 2014 @ 2:52 pm

  129. I think it is pretty reasonable to think that GBH was saying something more like there is no agitation ‘from’ that rather than ‘for’ that. Especially given the follow up comments. I think he is saying that women of the church are generally not agitated due to not having the priesthood – they are happy and engaged in the church.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — July 15, 2014 @ 3:38 pm

  130. *LOL* Howard, no vitriol. Merely calling your ideas out. I have no emotional engagement in anything you say, vitriol or otherwise.

    You frequently try to bash the church leaders than hop up on a high horse the moment people call you on it. You can’t appeal to “you aren’t becoming of a saint” and take your ball and go home when things aren’t going your way. You don’t have enough ground to stand on. The chip on your shoulder is too big for you to be pulling beams OR motes out of other people’s eyes.

    Perhaps you would feel less attacked if you had a point. But I admit to an urge, every once in awhile, to see how much actual rationality you can handle before you give up. That isn’t becoming of a saint, perhaps, but it does satisfy my curiosity now and then.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 15, 2014 @ 3:59 pm

  131. Saying that there is no agitation does not mean that things would change if there was such agitation. Reading Mormon doctrine in Pres. Hinckley’s many media interviews is silly (see those who read him including caffeinated sodas in the WOW because he did not correct Mike Wallace when Wallace listed it as something Mormons prohibit).

    Much of Mormonism is absurd. OW is no different in this regard.

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — July 15, 2014 @ 9:49 pm

  132. I simply read Howard for plucky comic relief.

    Comment by Michael Towns — July 16, 2014 @ 9:07 am

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