Punishing Those without Choice

July 8, 2015    By: Jeff G @ 6:57 pm   Category: Apologetics,Bloggernacle,Ethics,Evolutionary psychology,Mormon Culture/Practices

Posts at both BBC and W&T, have recently claimed that God would never – or perhaps ought not – punish somebody for something they did not choose to do.

While this claim does make perfect sense to our modern ears, the scriptures tell a very different story.  In the Bible, for example, God promises to visit with vengeance various people and the generations that come after them when the latter clearly did not have any choice in the matter.  (Adam and Eve are the most obvious, although not the only example.)  We also read of Jesus cursing a tree for not giving fruit when it was not in season. (It was Voltaire, I believe that thought this proved Christianity was absurd.)  Indeed, we might say that the whole problem of theodicy is that we cannot understand why some people are allowed to suffer when they have seemingly done nothing wrong. (Both Job and Joseph Smith were great examples.)  The fact of the matter is that even if something is not anybody’s choice, this does not mean that God is pleased with it or that we should be perfectly accepting of it.  Claims to the contrary are of modern and quite secular origin.

This is not, however, a straight forward argument for or against the acceptance of SSM within the church.  If anything, mine is an argument that arguments should play no role in deciding the issue, and if the church fully accepted SSM tomorrow my point would still remain the same.  My fear is not SSM but that arguments like those at BBC and W&T are attempts to domesticate and constrain the church through science (showing SSA to be innate or not) and human reason (people should or should not be punished for what is innate).  No matter what science says, or what makes sense to our modern sense of morality, we should follow the Lord’s righteous prophets in whatever it is that they say the church should or should not do.



  1. Didn’t comment over at BCC because it will just result in an endless argument. At the base of every position taken for SSM there is a common element: “I know what’s right and wrong, I know what Jesus would do, I know better than the FP/Q12. Follow me.” No thanks.

    Comment by IDIAT — July 9, 2015 @ 6:35 am

  2. We are being evolved by God to higher and higher levels of enlightenment, where it not so there would be no need for anything more than the ten commandments or the Old Testament, Christianity and Joseph Smith’s restoration would obviously be unnecessary. We can expect the rules to change as we continue to evolve toward greater enlightenment.

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 8:33 am

  3. I think appeals to choice are deeply problematic due to the at best ambiguous notion of choice. A lot of liberal thinking tends to adopt the myth of the blank slate and I suspect this is a manifestation of this. (While it’s a bit polemical at times and not always fair to those he criticizes, Pinker’s The Blank Slate is probably worth reading on the subject)

    That said, despite the problematic notion of contemporary uses of “free” or “choice” – especially at a biological level – I’m a bit uncomfortable with how you use scripture.

    For one, vengeance on generation tends to be ambiguous in meaning when pushed too hard. Are these natural consequences of the choices of those in those cultures? Is it expediency on a cultural basis? Is it uninspired compilers of the Old Testament bringing in their cultural understanding (often rather xenophobic) when compiling sources? Adam and Eve is a good example of this since from an LDS view the story is much more complex than it appears at first glance. Further what appears a curse is actually a blessing and so forth.

    Jesus cursing a fig tree is IMO a silly example since he’s giving effectively a parable by example. The issue isn’t literally the fig tree.

    It is typical of LDS thinking, drawn primarily on children with learning or brain disorders combined with Mor 8:11 or Mos 3:16. Yet while this is a common teaching it’s technically drawing inferences not explicitly stated in scripture. When applied uncritically it’s circular logic.

    In any case I think it fair to say the meaning of our actions draws its meaning from context. The same “act” can have very different meanings in a different context.

    Typically we say people aren’t responsible in some cases. Take the famous example of a mass murderer who shot people because of the effects of a brain tumor causing massive personality change. The problem again is that we tend to draw on folk theories of free will, choice, that don’t take into consideration the effects of the brain. (Since most of these ideas developed before science)

    The difficulty for conceptions of responsibility is figuring out how to deal with the brain. A lot of people, probably the majority within philosophy, tend to just discount most robust senses of responsibility even if we have to act “as if” people are responsible. Within religion there tends to be an assumption of responsibility and then drawing implications from that.

    There’s an inherent conflict due to conflicting ideas. I don’t think there’s a way to resolve things.

    Comment by Clark — July 9, 2015 @ 8:49 am

  4. There’s a significant difference between God allowing people to suffer and God actively punishing people, which I think you’ve elided above.

    Comment by Kristine — July 9, 2015 @ 9:00 am

  5. What a great word. Somehow I made it this far in life never having heard “elided” before. I’ll have to remember that one. (Yes, I’ll admit looking it up)

    To your point while there definitely is a distinction between punishing and allowing suffering, when it comes to the problem of evil I think either is problematic. And really the key issue is why on earth God would allow these issues to appear.

    Comment by Clark — July 9, 2015 @ 9:29 am

  6. oops–Clark–that wasn’t directed at you, actually, but at Jeff’s OP. Sorry to be sloppy.

    I think it matters a lot–once you’ve got Mormonism’s not-quite-omnipotent God valuing agency above almost everything else, God allowing people to suffer is a much different problem than actively *making* them suffer.

    Comment by Kristine — July 9, 2015 @ 9:33 am

  7. Kristine,

    Part of what I’m getting at is that there is a difference, even if there isn’t any bright line between God “allowing” somebody to suffer, God “making” somebody suffer and God punishing somebody for a choice they made. It is posts like the ones I reference that actively conflate punishment with suffering. They basically argue as follows:

    1. I feel like I have no choice.
    2. Thus I have no choice.
    3. Thus, my behavior is perfectly justified.
    4. Thus, I should not be suffering.
    5. But I am suffering.

    I don’t think that 4, 3 or 2 follow from 1, even if 5 is true, and the scripture provide plenty of support for my doubts.

    Thus, God actively made Job suffer, but it was not a punishment for a choice he made. God actively made us all work by the sweat of our brow and die physical death because of Adam and Eve’s choice – while it’s unclear whether this is itself a punishment or not, we are told that we won’t be punished in the final judgment for what other people did. And so on.


    I absolutely agree with what you said. The living prophets are under no obligation whatsoever to follow the precedent set within the scriptures. (Although I think that’s safer than blindly following modern progressive politics.) My point in using such precedents was to shake our confidence in the tight, necessary and timeless connection that we inappropriately impose upon choice and punishment. I’m suggesting that this tight connection is a relatively recent product of modern individualism wherein each person stands or falls individually for their own actions. There are plenty of cultures and instances within scripture where this is simply not the case.


    The suggestion that the examples I cite might be cultural products rather than actual scripture, while seeming like a blank check to me, actually proves my point: namely that our individualistic sense of whether or not suffering only belongs with the individual who choose is culturally contingent.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 9:46 am

  8. Kristine (6) I didn’t think you were addressing me. Just chiming in.

    I think there is a difference but not as much as one to do the job you are pushing for. There’s clearly a difference between pushing a baby into a pool to drown and standing on the side watching it drown when I could do something. Yet the difference isn’t that huge morally.

    The way out of this typically isn’t to note the difference between causing and allowing but to suggest there’s a developmental reason for our suffering.

    BTW – I also wasn’t being snarky mentioning the word. I really loved that you used it.

    Jeff (7) I agree there’s a bit of cultural contingency to it. But I don’t think it is merely culturally contingent. This may make me run abreast of your quasi-Rorty view of contingency though. For instance it’s clearly a cultural distinction between a person in 100 AD thinking the planets were daemons moving in spheres above the earth versus what someone at NASA thinks about planets. Yet it’s not just a cultural difference.

    The reason I bring up the issues I did is because there appears to be a real difference behind them. It matters if Jesus’ talk about the fig tree was literally about the fig tree or was an indirect discussion of something else.

    I’d add that in your rejoinder to Kristine you conflate being responsible with being justified. To use the extreme case I brought up earlier, the Texas shooter with the brain tumor may not have been responsible for the murders but that doesn’t mean he’s justified in the killing.

    Comment by Clark — July 9, 2015 @ 10:05 am

  9. Jeff–that’s a terrible misreading of Job. I also think there’s a LOT of middle ground between your caricature of the liberal position and the (apparently)capricious and arbitrarily punishing sort of God that is the logical extreme of your position.

    Which is to say we probably don’t disagree all that much, and it would be tedious to argue until we discover the actual points of difference.

    Comment by Kristine — July 9, 2015 @ 10:09 am

  10. To return to your point Jeff, If anything, mine is an argument that arguments should play no role in deciding the issue

    Clearly none of us have authority to make decisions for the Church. In that regard you are completely correct. However we do have to make decisions regarding how we act. And, to be completely frank, people have not acted well towards gays. Even the way the topics are discussed must be very trying for gays. Whether gay people have a choice in their feelings certainly matters a great deal for us. It should determine how we act.

    I think that by and large most don’t have a lot of choice in the issue. (That is there’s no simple way to will a different feeling) Thus that should determine how we act. Yet many (most?) conservative religious people want to act like it’s merely a choice on par with deciding who to ask out. Clearly it’s not.

    Avoiding that central issue seems to be deeply problematic. Further merely saying, “well lots of people suffer” is a horrible way to respond to people who on the face of it are being asked to do something amazingly difficult the vast majority are not asked to do. It seems unfair because it is unfair.

    Comment by Clark — July 9, 2015 @ 10:20 am

  11. Kristine,

    I can live with that. :)


    Again, I don’t think it is me that is conflating responsibility with justification, but those who are arguing for full acceptance/justification from the fact that they don’t have any choice. If you want to pull those two things apart even further, I’m perfectly okay with that.

    With regards to the Jesus story, I think the relevant point isn’t what Jesus said, but what he actually did. He actually did curse a fig tree whether it was used as an object lesson for something else or not. After all, we could make almost any thing an object lesson of some kind or another, but that doesn’t change the actual event itself.

    As for planets vs moral responsibility, I think you are papering over (eliding?) the obvious empirical differences between the two cases. In the case of assigning moral responsibility for various actions, what is there to appeal to in addition to culture? Even an appeal to God is simply to ask for His cultural values. In the case of planets, by contrast, there is still this same, inescapable cultural element, but there is also, in addition to culturally conditioned interpretations, relevant empirical data which is simply not available in the case of moral responsibility.

    In other words, what is this “something else”, other than cultural difference, that we have to appeal to in the case of moral responsibility?

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 10:25 am

  12. Jeff: the tight, necessary and timeless connection that we inappropriately impose upon choice and punishment.

    This is written in absolute terms which I think offers you some defense but the general concept of motivation being considered in judgement I think is strongly implied by our belief that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression. Further I believe that evidence for the sinfulness of SSM isn’t any stronger that than for the sinfulness of SSA.

    As for multigenerational punishment I think this refers to problems like the abuse cycle where innocent children are abused and later become the abuser. The punis

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 10:32 am

  13. #12 continued:
    Where the punishment is an inherent part of the abuse of both the abuser and the abused.

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 10:36 am

  14. “God would never – or perhaps ought not – punish somebody for something they did not choose to do. While this claim does make perfect sense to our modern ears…”

    It also made perfect sense to President Packer when he rhetorically asked: “Why would God do such a thing? He is our Father!”

    But I agree that God’s scriptural manifestation can be seen as capricious. “I will stop their ears and blind their eyes that they see not and hear not.”

    And God’s physical manifestation, i. e. Mother Nature, has absolutely no sense of fair play. It’s all survival of the fittest in a cold, indifferent universe.

    We’ve somehow separated God from His physical manifestation in nature, and we’ve ignored His arbitrary character in the scriptures. But they come together in the Book of Job, where God’s answer to Job’s complaint is a vision of natural glory, the terrible leviathan and behemoth. For Job there is no: “peace be unto thy soul, thy afflictions shall be a small moment.” For Job there is only the infinite power and glory of the universe which crushes all.

    There is a “fair” God who is like a Father, who shows “tender mercies” and such. But it is clearly only one dimension of God. Because we have so thoroughly deceived ourselves into imagining a God who is ONLY merciful and just, when we encounter the other dimensions of God, we have to find others to blame: Satan, humans (who get way too much blame for the Natural Man, when it was God who created the Natural Man), and prophets who are “out of touch” when they are simply following revelations from God. It’s time to turn to God and resubmit President Packer’s question: “Why would You do such a thing?”

    Comment by Nate — July 9, 2015 @ 10:51 am

  15. Clark,

    “Whether gay people have a choice in their feelings certainly matters a great deal for us. It should determine how we act.”

    This is exactly what I”m pushing back against, since this holds church policy hostage to science and reason – it shows a stark lack of trust in the church and its ability to acquire revelation on the subject. Your position makes absolutely perfect sense within a modern, secular bureaucracy such as state government, etc., but it makes zero sense within the type of organization that state government were explicitly designed to replace: churches lead by revelation rather than reason.

    “Yet many (most?) conservative religious people want to act like it’s merely a choice on par with deciding who to ask out. Clearly it’s not.”

    I fully agree with this… I’m just not sure that we are in any position to draw any kind of moral inferences from this… not with much confidence anyways. Again, I’m not pretending to know what it’s like to be gay in the church, nor am I pretending to know what the church should do on the subject. All I’m asserting is that all such moral arguments on the subject should be taken with a big grain of salt. My argument is not for or against the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle – rather it is that faith and not reason should determine our position in this matter.


    I agree that there are strong elements within the scriptures that say we will be punished in the final judgment according to our own sins and nobody else’s. (There are, however, several strong statements within the 19th century church about people being able to save their family members in the afterlife due to their own righteousness in spite of the unrighteousness of the family member!)

    The posts that I am pushing back against, however, are saying something far stronger than this. They suggest that 1: such statement apply to this life as well, 2: that this moral principle is the whole story, and 3: that this story does not change across time and context. Without these very shaky assumptions, we are simply in no position to judge any such matter based on our limited understanding of “the nature of justice” within our early 21st century, Western mindset.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 11:08 am

  16. What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God.

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 11:17 am

  17. Howard,

    You know how I feel about proof-texts that bear no obvious relevance to the discussion. You’re gonna have to articulate what you think that passage means within the current context.


    You hit exactly on some of the points that I had in the back of my mind. A LOT of God’s actions simply do not line up very well with our modern moral sensibilities, so why would we ever think that these same moral sensibilities ought to determine or constrain church policy? I’m reminded that an angel had to draw a sword in order to compel Joseph Smith to institute a policy that totally violated his moral sensibilities.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 11:29 am

  18. Jeff,
    Apparently you’re unfamiliar with that scripture??? I’ll be happy to tie it to relevance when I have time.

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 11:37 am

  19. I know the scripture, but the relevance is not obvious. After all, nobody here is arguing against justice in any way whatsoever. The question, to quote Alasdair MacIntyre, is whose justice, which rationality?

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 11:43 am

  20. As another example, the Nephite punishment for their wickedness in the end was the destruction of their civilisation. Yet Mormon was not spared. Indeed, it’s strongly implied that the only ones who physically survived were those willing to deny God – those who would not being specifically hunted down and wiped out.

    “Yet many (most?) conservative religious people want to act like it’s merely a choice on par with deciding who to ask out. Clearly it’s not.”

    On the other side, as evidenced in the linked posts, the characterisation is that of complete fatalism. The existence of the temptation is proof that it should be acted upon and that those who say it is wrong are denying agency, or worse, that the presence of temptation means it’s wicked to even attempt to use your agency in obedience.

    And yet conservative members are the controversial ones.

    Comment by Fraggle — July 9, 2015 @ 12:40 pm

  21. Let’s begin with all things gay are only a misdemeanor (at most) worse than all things hetro. I base this on homosexuality not even making honorable mention in the all important 10 commandments thus apparently falling somewhere less sinful than failing to honor your father and mother and also upon no record of Jesus even mentioning homosexuality during his mortal ministry.

    Next adultery which IS serious sin was handled in a very interesting way by Jesus himself when the adulteress was brought to him in the temple. After personally dismissing the legalistic critics (maybe today’s homophobes?) he asked where her accusers are? In other words it’s none of their business and it’s equally none of anyone business what another person’s sexuality is about. Nor did he condemn her, simply: go and sin no more.

    Now let’s suppose that there actually is some universal eternal problem with acting on certain sexual orientations (like having black priesthood holders or girls passing the sacrament) (which I doubt since it’s only at most a misdemeanor) why would God punish them if they had nothing to do with choosing that orientation. in other words can mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit!

    What would the rationale be for that scripture to be wrong here?

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 1:55 pm

  22. Howard,

    I am completely baffled by your comment. Your first 2 paragraphs are totally beside the point and then you simply reassert the position I have attacked as a rhetorical question.

    If that passage is just a nice way of expressing your feelings, that’s fine, but I don’t see how mercy (not) robbing justice has anything to do with the discussion at hand, let alone how it could possibly support one side over the other.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 2:00 pm

  23. Ok, well let’s go the other way then, what compels someone to be punished for something they didn’t choose?

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 2:04 pm

  24. I don’t know.. and that’s the whole point.

    My being able to (or inability to) reason about and articulate moral principles is totally beside the question of what ought to be done within a church led by revelation.

    What human reason can show is that many people have been punished for their own choices and many people have been punished (even by God) for choices that they did not make. Which one is the right way within our specific context is for God and God alone to reveal to his servants, not us.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 2:19 pm

  25. Well I’ll leave you in that hole then. I think you’re being over the top optimistic though by labeling committee inspiration revelation, it’s more like navigation by playing the hot and cold game. They were wrong about blacks so why can’t they be wrong about gays?

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 2:32 pm

  26. Jeff (11) while I disagree with some commentators at BCC and T&S I’m not sure most are arguing lack of choice ? justification. Some are of course but not enough to characterize that as the usual position. I think even those making the argument from choice put forward what they perceive to be a stronger argument that they think God wants it.

    With regards to the fig (and I can’t believe we’re still dealing with that) cursing a plant just seems categorically different from free agents. i.e. it’s a category error to draw conclusions from what Christ did to a plant.

    To the cultural difference issue – my whole point is that there are empirical differences. i.e. that appealing to cultural difference avoids the empirics. With respect to the question at hand the empirics go well beyond “I don’t feel I have choice.”

    Nate (14) What do you mean by nature being God’s manifestation? Nature is a creation but I’m not sure it’s his manifestation in any strong sense. But I’m not quite sure what you’re arguing about God but it sounds like a view of God many would disagree with. Reconciling God as portrayed in Job and God as portrayed in the Book of Mormon or New Testament is of course difficult. I tend to take that as creative liberties by the authors of Job. Although I agree with the main thrust of Job that we don’t understand God so we can’t judge God. However if your argument is that God is arbitrary and capricious then I just can’t agree.

    Jeff (15) So far as I know the Church has never claimed that homosexuality is non-biological. If anything especially the last 10 years most indications suggest adopting the mainstream views on the subject in terms of science – although even there the Church hasn’t gone that far. Could you perhaps point to the contemporary statements you are referring to? The closest I could find was this by Elder Oaks

    Perhaps there is an inclination or susceptibility to such feelings that is a reality for some and not a reality for others. But out of such susceptibilities come feelings, and feelings are controllable. If we cater to the feelings, they increase the power of the temptation. If we yield to the temptation, we have committed sinful behavior.

    I think he’s using “feeling” in a fairly narrow sense but he seems to indicate inclinations that aren’t choice. (By feelings I think he means our response to our inclinations such that we become angry or other such passions)

    Later he says

    The Church does not have a position on the causes of any of these susceptibilities or inclinations, including those related to same-gender attraction. Those are scientific questions — whether nature or nurture — those are things the Church doesn’t have a position on.

    Note when I say, “it should determine how we act” I’m not referring to justifying sexual acts but rather how we as believers act towards gay people. i.e. how charitable. We are typically charitable to the vast majority of young people who engage in sex outside of marriage in a way we haven’t been charitable towards gays. Yet they are committing exactly the same sin based upon the revelations as I see it.

    Fraggle (20) The usual interpretation of the destruction of the Nephites was that it was a natural consequence of their choices. They became bloodthirsty and were a minority in the land. The Lamanites wiped them out as a political entity. Now I’d add that God may bless us as we’re in tune with him. But I don’t think withholding those blessings tied to our communion with him is destroying people. Most of the curses of nations I think are natural consequences. It’s like God warning us not to jump off a cliff lest we be destroyed.

    With regard to the other issues I think fatalism on the one side and easy choice on the other are both wrong. Lots of false dichotomies. As I said at M* most of those condemning gays and suggesting these choices are easy would themselves fall away swiftly were the same things asked of them. This are difficult and on the face unfair things asked. This is far worse than the usual analogies because in this case they are being asked to sacrifice something fundamental when the things that would make them happy in this life are available. Most analogies people bring up (disease, health, etc.) just don’t apply.

    Comment by Clark — July 9, 2015 @ 2:41 pm

  27. Again, you’re using the same faulty reasoning when you accuse them of being wrong about blacks.

    Remember when God sent an angel with a sword to threaten Joseph unless he instituted a policy that clashes with both his and most of our moral consciences? Yes, we feel a certain amount of moral indignation at racism (only allowing one genealogical line the priesthood), homophobia, animal sacrifices, chauvinism, killing the defenseless, full blown genocide and polygamy. And yet, we find cases in which God has explicitly commanded each of these things.

    Granted, we can also find cases where God explicitly forbade each of these things as well, but this is exactly my point! The whole point of having living prophets is for them to guide us as to when we ought to do such things and when we ought to not do them since human reason will never be good enough.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 2:44 pm

  28. Oh, they were right about blacks??? Which part, blacks can, blacks can’t, blacks can again?

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 2:48 pm

  29. Weird. The arrow was cut off in the above. It should read choice => justification only with an actual arrow character.

    To be clear (and Elder Oaks emphasizes this as well in the interview I linked to) God simply doesn’t ask the same of all people. We don’t understand why. Those who think this life should be egalitarian are simply incorrect in terms of what life clearly is like. That said, I think we have an ethical duty to improve everyone’s life to the best they are willing or able to accept. Ultimately what I’m getting at is how we act towards others. I think we can and should be charitable even while maintaining our commitment to our understanding of what’s been asked of us.

    Comment by Clark — July 9, 2015 @ 2:49 pm

  30. Jeff (27) I think the position of the church is largely that GAs were incorrect in what they taught about blacks. As I understand it racism was wrong. It sounds like you’re trying to justify racism as revealed and that seems very problematic. At best you might have a case with the Jews, except that there appear to be converts there. At best we have the issue of Jesus not preaching to non-Jews except that it was fairly soon revealed to Peter that he was supposed to preach to everyone.

    That revelation can invalidate reason seems sure. That we should just discount reason seems far more problematic. Usually the details of our actions are underdetermined so we have to reason as best we can about what to do unless we are lucky enough to get a clear revelation on the subject.

    Comment by Clark — July 9, 2015 @ 2:53 pm

  31. Clark,

    “Some are of course but not enough to characterize that as the usual position.”

    You’re almost certainly right about the BBC crowd (I don’t find them near as threatening as others seem to), but I think I’m spot-on when it comes to the voices at other blogs.

    “I can’t believe we’re still dealing with that”

    I was just thinking the same thing! :)

    “my whole point is that there are empirical differences”

    I see what you’re saying. You’re comparing Copernican astronomy and the Geocentric cosmos to Evolution Psychology and having a choice. I guess I missed that because one of my goals is to downplay the relevance of empirical data. My whole point, again, was to free the church was being held hostage to the empirical findings of scientists. With regards to whether such people actually do have a choice or not, I think we’re probably pretty close to each other – it’s just that I find the issue far less relevant than you seem to.

    “So far as I know the Church has never claimed that homosexuality is non-biological.”

    I must have given you the wrong impression on something. Quite frankly, I don’t care all that much if it is or is not biological, and I think the church feels the same.

    “I’m not referring to justifying sexual acts but rather how we as believers act towards gay people. i.e. how charitable.”

    I think we agree here. I’m all for as much charity and acceptance as we can fit within the boundaries set by the church. I simply refuse to let those boundaries be determined in any way by science.

    “We are typically charitable to the vast majority of young people who engage in sex outside of marriage in a way we haven’t been charitable towards gays.”

    I think there is a pretty big difference between the two though. Many people have rightly claimed that homosexuality is a social construct of VERY recent invention. By this they do not mean that people never participated in homosexual activities. Rather, they mean that it wasn’t until the last 200 years or so that we came to define ourselves in terms of our sexual preferences. Thus the “sin” that we are supposed to hate currently lies at the very heart of the “sinner” such that – by their lights – we could never truly hate one and love the other. The same cannot be said for extra-marital sex since this is still considered an activity that persons sometimes participate in rather than the persons as such. I strongly suspect that most of the “non-volitional” rhetoric surrounding SSA follows (both historically and conceptually) from this very recent conceptual re-positioning of sexual preferences at the core of a person’s being. In fact, I would guess that a lot of church rhetoric is primarily aimed at resisting this conceptual re-positioning.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 3:06 pm

  32. Clark in 29,

    If all your talking about is acquiring useful information to help people within the moral boundaries set by the church, then I don’t disagree in the least. I just worry that there is nothing in the science or human reason that is able to contain it within those boundaries.

    “I think the position of the church is largely that GAs were incorrect in what they taught about blacks.”

    Of course it is! That is what we are taught today within our context. Just be clear, however, my racist example had more to do with God’s preference for Israel above other races, and certain tribes within that nation above others. These policies are equally racist and nobody denies that they came from God.

    So much of what I am fighting against is the ideas of Greek origin that claim particularity to be a bad thing. God is a particular person that makes covenants and command with certain people and certain times and often changes His mind, etc. We have been trained to think that moral laws and gospel truths apply equally to every person, everywhere and forever (just like the laws of nature) and this false idea that led some many intelligent people astray.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 3:16 pm

  33. The church itself seems to be moving toward re-positioning of sexual preferences at the core of a person’s being with their new gay website:

    Where the Church stands:

    The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 3:18 pm

  34. Howard,

    I think its a little more ambiguous than you suggest. It sounds like they are still treating it as a deeply felt temptation – not unlike other kinds of temptation – to engage in behaviors that are themselves external/accidental (as opposed to internal/essential) to who you really and truly are.

    It may be that there is (possibly!) a shift in progress, but inasmuch as there is a shift, I don’t think its as far along as you suggest.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 3:23 pm

  35. Jeff (31) I confess that while I read blogs more now than I did there for a few years I don’t read that many. So I’m not quite sure which blogs you’re referring to. Certainly there are a lot of blogs that tend to be critical of the church. I rarely read those blogs.

    I think we have to consider science when thinking through most of our behaviors. I don’t quite see why we’d let science affect us in determining responsibility in murder but not in other kinds of responsibility. You can’t have it both ways. Either it matters or it doesn’t.

    You don’t appear to be saying that Church teaching exhausts every response for every situation. In that case it’s not at all clear to me why science wouldn’t apply in our reasoning. Unless you are saying you should never reason about anything. But I don’t think you’re going that far. (If so then you in trouble since all your blog writing is an example of reasoning)

    As to the social construct theory, I tend to find that analysis while true to a point downplays the important place of empirical data. All too often I find such social constructivist theorizing as a way to avoid scientific evidence.

    I’m not sure what it means to define ourselves. It seems that sex has always been important to us. More abstract notions of what it means to be human in some literary since are rather variable of course. I confess I just don’t find such notions too interesting.

    I don’t think non-volitional aspects has much to do with these ideas though.

    As to race, while God put Israel up, there was as I noted always adoption. Further in other places God appears to have been fine with non-Israelites. i.e. the Jaredites. While God made promises to Abraham and Isaac I don’t think we can take from that the point you are making.

    Howard (33) I think that’s reading too much in to that. To acknowledge that for some people people don’t choose attraction isn’t to say it’s at the core of our being (whatever that means). For instance it doesn’t deal in the least with bisexuality. There’s almost certainly a much wider range of attraction than the bipolar way it’s usually presented. There are definitely people who might be attracted to a person of the same sex but are also attracted to people of the opposite sex. Clearly the issue is much easier for those people than it is for people who are only attracted to people of one sex.

    Comment by Clark — July 9, 2015 @ 3:31 pm

  36. Well when considering the church’s current position (which already shows some capitulation) I think it’s also important to factor in things like Oak’s personal involvement in BYU’s (related) coercive Aversion Therapy aimed at converting gays to straights. To accept SSM is to admit being less than guided by God in this faulty misadventure.

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 3:31 pm

  37. Howard,

    “To accept SSM is to admit being less than guided by God in this faulty misadventure.”

    Again, you assume much when you cavalierly assert this.


    “I don’t quite see why we’d let science affect us in determining responsibility in murder but not in other kinds of responsibility. You can’t have it both ways. Either it matters or it doesn’t.”

    Again, I think appeals to science make perfect sense within a modern judicial system. Within a revealed church that believes that God has, in fact, commanded murder at various times, it’s nowhere near so simple.

    “In that case it’s not at all clear to me why science wouldn’t apply in our reasoning.”

    Again, I fully on board with reasoning within the moral boundaries that have been revealed for us. I do not, however, believe that science has any right to determine or constrain those boundaries. Faith and revelation must always be the masters while science and reason must always be the slaves; never the other way around.

    “All too often I find such social constructivist theorizing as a way to avoid scientific evidence.”

    I agree, but I think this is one of those cases of social constructivism that is based in pretty solid evidence rather than a way around it. It’s really bothering me that I can’t find the link right now, but this a position strongly defended by Foucault and is pretty well supported within queer studies. (It also frequently gets misinterpreted since the morally loaded language of the discipline come back to bite them in this case.)

    Here is a decent gloss on the subject:

    edit: This might be an even better starting point:

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 3:49 pm

  38. Jeff (37) I’m not saying it’s simple. If anything I’m saying the opposite. But we deal with the complexity through reason.

    I’m familiar with the social constructivist literature. I must not have been clear. I don’t deny in the least an element of arbitrary human creativity. Ditto for race. But to say something is partially social is not to say it is purely social. I made the same point a few times earlier although now I can’t remember which threads I made them in. (Perhaps back at BCC)

    Comment by Clark — July 9, 2015 @ 3:59 pm

  39. Jeff I think you’re attributing Clark’s quote to me in #37.

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 4:01 pm

  40. Howard,

    How in the world do you draw that conclusion? I assume that “some capitulation” means that they recognize more now that in times past that homosexual feelings may not be a choice. That has nothing to do with supporting the redefinition of marriage and other rhetoric. The church doesn’t support SSM because it frustrates the plan of salvation, pure and simple.

    Comment by Pierce — July 9, 2015 @ 4:04 pm

  41. How in the world?

    Well Jeff, they abandoned Prop 8 funding and quietly backed away from it. Also they went from E. Packer once boldly declaring it a choice to the new website stating “…individuals do not choose to have such attractions…” That’s quite a bit of movement.

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 4:14 pm

  42. You’re right Howard, it copied the wrong text. I’ll go back and fix it.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 4:18 pm

  43. Clark,

    Okay then again, we aren’t as far apart as we probably thought. Why we can collectively decide to see the world one way rather than another, this does not mean that the world won’t “push back” more strongly against some interpretations rather than others – in the sense of being less useful, less wieldly, less reliable, etc.

    The difference, I think, is that you think we have a moral obligation to accept that interpretation against which the world pushes back the least – by scientific standards – whereas I don’t see the amount of “push back” as having moral content at all. Instead, we are free to accept whichever interpretation is most convenient to our righteous purposes as constrained by revealed moral boundaries.

    Thus, while the empirical content (that we both agree is there) is practically relevant, I do not think it is morally relevant in any direct sense. As I’ve said in our discussions over at your blog – inasmuch as truth has any moral content at all, it does not come from its empirical content.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 4:28 pm

  44. Jeff I think the new #37 quote was supported in #36. What is your objection to this quote?

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 4:31 pm

  45. Howard,

    “That’s quite a bit of movement.”

    This is the biggest assumption that I see you making. You assume that movement necessarily entails falsity at some point or another. You frequently make VERY bold assertions regarding the current nature of the church that depend upon this (in my opinion) rather shaky assumption.

    Thus, when we all agree that the church’s current position on blacks and the priesthood is right, you use that shaky assumption to argue that the church was previously wrong. I don’t think we can make this move with the confidence that you do.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 4:32 pm

  46. Howard in 44,

    I think my 45 speaks to my objection. Without the assumption of immutability on your part all your support simply evaporates into thin air.

    It just seems that, given your frequent criticisms of the church, you are hanging A LOT of weight from this assumption of immutability. How can you be so certain about it?

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 4:35 pm

  47. Well clearly it is movement, is it not? So are you arguing the “quite a bit’ part? Moving from “a choice’ to “not a choice” is a course reversal. So where is the falsity?

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 4:36 pm

  48. No. I agree that there is movement, which is exactly what we would expect in a church that is guided by continuing revelation. What I am arguing, then, is that we have just as much reason to see movement as evidence of truth as we do of falsity. How then, is movement in the church evidence for falsity when we expect to see movement within a true church?

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 4:49 pm

  49. Well when movement includes course reversals (such as blacks and gays) are you arguing both the north and the south direction are correct and both were divinely directed? If so what is the meaning of the 180 degree apparent inefficiency?

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 4:53 pm

  50. I’m arguing that it might very well be the case that south was correct in one situation and north is correct in another and that we are in no position to impose our current understanding and revelation upon those people in the past who are outside of our stewardship.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 4:58 pm

  51. Howard,

    I still think you’re overstating yourself if you think the church has reversed itself on gays. Reversing itself would be promoting gay marriage and behavior. Adopting a better understanding of homosexuality is not “north and south,” as you suggest.

    Comment by Pierce — July 9, 2015 @ 5:09 pm

  52. Pierce,
    I have repeatedly used the example of Packer’s “choice” vs the new website’s “not a choice”. That is a reversal.

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 5:13 pm

  53. Yes, and I addressed that in my comment. Accepting a better understanding of what homosexuality is is not a reversal on the position of sexual activities or marriage.

    This is only one of several reasons why the “wrong about blacks means wrong about gays” argument falls to pieces. I am guilty of using the “wrong about blacks” as a cudgel in conversations with Jeff about belief, doctrine, infallibility, our responsibility to adopt a false idea, etc. But the argument is limited by scripture and doctrine.

    Comment by Pierce — July 9, 2015 @ 5:24 pm

  54. Pierce,

    I think this three way disagreement is helpful in articulating my own position. If we posit the word of living authorities against those of dead authorities in the scriptures then it seems like we argue as follows:

    1: I argue that we can forget the dead authorities since they are only authorities in virtue of living authorities.
    2: You argue for a certain immutability in which living authorities are significantly constrained by dead authorities.
    3: Howard also endorses a kind of immutability but also seems to argue that whichever authority – living or dead – is closer to his own moral views and moral feelings is right.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 5:47 pm

  55. Jeff,

    Good articulation. I personally think that position 2 more closely correlates with the teachings and philosophy of the church as a whole. For one, we have uniformly accepted the scriptures as binding, an action independent of the authority of the sources from which they sprang. We do not, however, do that with any and every utterance of a priesthood authority. Just because we have taken this for granted and have more or less campaigned with “follow the prophet” in recent years, it doesn’t mean that we have eliminated this recognition in the church.

    Second, the scriptures generally contain more identifiable ‘revelations,’ which are distinguishable from the ‘good advice’ we hear in lieu of revelation. This is difficult to dispute for many reasons, but one evidence is that we place so much emphasis on studying scripture than we do studying the Ensign.

    Third, this attitude prevails in the church and is supported my many quotes from different authorities, like this one from Joseph Fielding Smith:

    “My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them…. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine”

    Now, I think that a new revelation can out-do an old one, but I don’t think a modern apostle’s opinion or teaching can necessarily out-do scripture, as JFS indicated. How does your position square with this rather ubiquitous belief? Why choose a more indefensible position, with all of its accompanying problems, in order to avoid position 3? You don’t have to! ;-)

    Comment by Pierce — July 9, 2015 @ 6:11 pm

  56. well to me it isn’t about living vs dead or authority vs authority. Authority in practice means almost nothing besides order. The scriptures are the living word of God when interpreted via the spirit and otherwise the word of God is spoken by Prophets but it is a mistake to conflate Authority with Prophet or believe that Prophets are created via ordaining and sustaining, Prophets are made by God himself, not some hierarchical process. Joseph was a great Prophet, our current LDS GAs and leaders are not, though they are undoubtedly inspired and some may even be prophets.

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 6:29 pm

  57. Pierce,

    I think that 2 is much closer to how members themselves describe their experience in the church, but I think 1 is closer to what is actually happening. The discrepancy comes, I think, from the fact that we have been trained to suppress or disguise all naked appeals to authority since they don’t care much weight in our modern culture.

    Indeed, a worry that I have is that in exposing such appeals to authority I might be violating the boundaries set by those very authorities regarding how we discuss their stewardship. This would indeed be a problem. As things stand, however, I think I just bring another, useful interpretation that, while not the standard description, is still within the moral boundaries.

    Comment by Jeff G — July 9, 2015 @ 6:43 pm

  58. Jeff (43), when questions are left underdetermined then the science and other evidence seem to be of prime importance. You keep returning to where there have been clear revelations but it seems to me that’s not the usual case. For instance, as the quote I gave from Elder Oaks suggests, the church has no position on the choice issue.

    Jeff (57) I think people are more than willing to appeal to authority when it’s appropriate. I don’t see any lack of appeals to authority in the Church. Far from it. Rather the question is what that means.

    Howard (56) Why can’t prophets be made by God himself via some hierarchical process and by calling and setting apart. For instance I expect two new prophets to be called rather soon by inspiration. I think you’re setting up a false dichotomy. But of course if you don’t think they are prophets that definitely puts you far out of the mainstream of the church. (As well as perhaps having trouble getting a temple recommend since that is one of the questions)

    That’s fine of course. I’ve no problem with people not accepting the LDS religious views. But it’s not apt to be terribly persuasive to those who do. Just like my saying all 15 are prophets isn’t apt to convince you.

    Comment by Clark — July 9, 2015 @ 8:29 pm

  59. Clark wrote: Why can’t prophets be made by God himself via some hierarchical process and by calling and setting apart.

    I don’t know Clark, God being God you would think he would but WHO has he produced in the LDS hierarchy that can even approach Joseph’s capabilities? Which dozen even of LDS presidents can you add together to get close to Joseph? It seems one must be hand selected and hand trained by God to be in that league. Sorry but an inspired committee doesn’t come close. Joseph restored the gospel and started the church (several actually). GBH built temples. TSM called younger missionaries. These administrators are not even rough equivalents to Joseph in any prophetic way. By their fruits ye shall know them. Their fruits are vastly and undeniably disproportionate as compared to Joseph.

    Comment by Howard — July 9, 2015 @ 9:00 pm

  60. I assume Howard that you believe there was no prophets after Moses in the Bible until Jesus if not John the Baptist. Seems to me that no other prophets, even Isaiah, did anything more than talk. To be perfectly honest, I don’t believe you understand Joseph Smith’s mission or accomplishments; to restore the Priesthood authority (inspired hierarchy) not necessarily prophetic “truths” or “works.” He actually rarely prophesied, and when he did most of them were what many consider carnal worldly concerns about property and social constructs. That is a criticism that stands even today. He could have taught us nothing new about Heaven or God or ethics, and he would still be a prophet simply by restoring the Priesthood, or authority of men from God to rule in our own spheres. In other words, the crowning prophetic achievement of Joseph Smith is the reintroduction of God approved BUREAUCRACY.

    Comment by Jettboy — July 10, 2015 @ 8:17 am

  61. Jettboy, my point isn’t there were no prophets after Moses or no prophets after Joseph. Rather it’s there are Prophets, there prophets and there are inspired committees. So, what’s the difference? It can be found in the mix of God’s intended message with man’s filter. Messages through Great Prophets are more God’s message than man’s and on the other end of the spectrum messages through inspired committees are more men’s messages than God’s.

    When God speaks through one of his hand picked and personally trained Great Prophets we can be assured that the fidelity of the message is closer to God’s intent. As we move to SWK (a prophet) for example we find him in his biography spending months on his knees seeking a simple yes/no answer to the black question, then cherry picking his timing to present it to the quorum at a time when two likely descenders were absent to arrive at a wordless feeling of a “revelation” (inspiration is a better description).

    And as we move further still from a Great Prophet’s revelation we find Hugh B Brown’s description of what I call committee inspiration.

    “(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.”

    When God is speaking through one of his Great Prophets God is controlling the agenda, the content and the conversation (if there is one). When an inspired committee approaches God (according to Brown’s description of the process) the agenda, content and conversation (if there is one) is initiated and largely controlled by man. They are simply seeking his approval.

    One is God led, the other is man led. And the two are vastly different. One is God’s will and the other is man’s desire seeking God’s approval.

    Comment by Howard — July 10, 2015 @ 9:00 am

  62. I can’t understand why anyone has ever seriously believed that being homosexual is a choice. It’s a ridiculous notion. If you never made a conscience choice to be attracted to the opposite sex, why would you expect anyone else to have made the choice? Furthermore, if you believe it is a choice, it must be true that homosexuals are naturally attracted to the same sex. Therefore, they must have been able to change their attractions by willpower. That’s as absurd as a man deciding that he isn’t going to be attracted to models in bikinis anymore once he gets married. It just does not work. Please, have some common sense. For whatever reasons, gay people are born with sexual attraction to the same sex. I personally believe that there is good indication that Paul himself was gay.

    There’s a strawman though when saying that gay people shouldn’t be punished for being gay. Of course not; who says that they are? The prohibition (and thus the punishment) is for homosexual behavior.

    That does bring up a really good discussion about what exactly are different people punished for? Is a person who never received the gospel punished in spirit prison for drinking coffee? If not, would a gay person who never received the gospel be punished for having homosexual sex? The word of wisdom was pretty clearly directed to the saints, not the general population. Weren’t the Israelites justified in following the Law of Moses despite it being contrary to the gospel in many ways as well as being inherently insufficient for salvation?

    Comment by Eso — July 12, 2015 @ 1:41 am

  63. “If you never made a conscience choice to be attracted to the opposite sex, why would you expect anyone else to have made the choice?”

    Really, that is the logic here?

    If you never made a conscience choice to get a tattoo, why would you expect anyone else to have made the choice?

    If you never made a conscience choice to drink alcohol/do drugs, why would you expect anyone else to have made the choice?

    If you never made a conscience choice to commit adultery, why would you expect anyone else to have made the choice?

    There are plenty of people that engage in homosexual behavior without necessarily being strongly attracted that way. I think that the term that is used for that is called “experimentation.” There is a reason why that term is used.

    Regardless of whether it is a choice or not to have homosexual desires(which is not the point of the OP, anyway), it is the choices that one makes that are the point.

    If a man or women is born with a high level of sexual drive and attraction to the opposite sex, are they excused from fornication or adultery because they are born that way?

    Regardless of our individual desires or proclivities, we are given a set of guidelines to aid us in our choices. Should we choose not to follow them, why should we expect that we suddenly should have a special dispensation meted out? If God wants to (and I certainly hope for His mercy in all things) then I am confident that he will do as His will is and make it known through His servants. In the meantime, I am trying hard to stick with His guidelines.

    Comment by Mike — July 12, 2015 @ 9:38 am

  64. The problem, of course, is that what we mean by “choice” is vague and ambiguous in the first place. Therefore you are both right from a certain point of view.

    Comment by Bruce Nielson — July 13, 2015 @ 11:35 am

  65. Howard (59) God being God you would think he would but WHO has he produced in the LDS hierarchy that can even approach Joseph’s capabilities? Which dozen even of LDS presidents can you add together to get close to Joseph?

    But are they being asked to do the same sort of thing? I think Joseph was right for the period Joseph was in. I’m not sure Joseph would have done a better job than Brigham for what came next. And I’m not sure either had the skills that say Pres. Hinkley had for bringing the church into the modern era.

    So I’d say that underlying your question is a premise I reject. Prophets are tools God uses and sometimes he needs different tools.

    The issue ends up being what is essential for a prophet to be. And that question you’ve not yet really addressed instead assuming I share some hidden premise. Occasionally God makes major changes and has the figure appropriate for that. As Jetboy noted though not everyone needs be Moses, Elijah or Joseph.

    Howard (59) Rather it’s there are Prophets, there prophets and there are inspired committees.

    From the links you posted earlier it seems like your real concern is the the President shouldn’t wait for the rest to get their own revelation but rather everyone should just follow the President like a King. Is that about right? Can you explain why you feel that way? I confess I just don’t see any scripture for that and considerable scripture against it. (Think Paul & Peter’s conflicts for example)

    Eso (62) For whatever reasons, gay people are born with sexual attraction to the same sex.

    I think what throws people off is that it’s not an either/or situation. There are lots of people capable of being bi-sexual which makes some people say, “hey this person changed by choice.” I think for a certain period the gay movement even opposed the notion of bisexuality although that’s changed the past decade or so. That happened precisely because of that confusion it created. But of course just because some people are capable of instinctual bisexuality doesn’t mean everyone is.

    But I think the evidence is strong that sexuality is much more fluid than the debate still tends to acknowledge. (Again, that’s changing now that there isn’t quite the fight for acceptability anymore)

    Comment by Clark — July 13, 2015 @ 12:47 pm

  66. Jeff (57)

    “I think that 2 is much closer to how members themselves describe their experience in the church, but I think 1 is closer to what is actually happening.”

    I wouldn’t be so sure. It seems that most of your posts lately have been about combating those who are doing this. I think that people are shifting from (1) as they see that many things that they thought was revelation or doctrine (in the official sense) really wasn’t. IMO, I’ve also noticed that it seems like there is less and less emphasis from the Brethren on controlling little behaviors, and more on core gospel principles found in the scriptures. So I think they may have learned from some of their predecessors, and have noticed the shift in culture from (1) to (2) and are gracefully going with it. And I respect them all the more for it.

    Comment by Pierce — July 13, 2015 @ 1:58 pm

  67. Pierce there tends to be ebb and flow on what gets focused on. Typically from putting burden on member to figure it out and then when there are too many screwups the pendulum shifts the other way. At least it’s been that way in my lifetime.

    It’s also been my experience that the figures who are most fire and brimstone over the pulpit are often the most lenient in practice and vice versa. It’s not a perfect correlation but an oddity I’ve noticed frequently.

    Comment by Clark — July 13, 2015 @ 5:04 pm

  68. Clark,
    I agree Joseph was right for the period Joseph was in and I agree Prophets (and for that matter, prophets) are tools God uses and sometimes he needs different tools.

    But you’re missing the main point, it isn’t “what is essential for a prophet to be?” or that “the President shouldn’t wait for the rest to get their own revelation…everyone should just follow the President like a King.

    It is that the fallibility (on average) of a Great Prophet is far less than that of a lessor prophet who’s fallibility (on average) is less than that of an inspired committee because a Great Prophet is God led, an inspired committee is far more man led. They are vastly different because each steps down in it’s sophistication of communication and communing with God! One is largely God’s will and the other is largely man’s desire simply seeking God’s approval.

    The LDS church is currently led by administrators who’s business acumen generally out weigsh any demonstrated prophet, seer or revealing skills. The church is as much a business as it is a religion these days. (See the 500,000 Resident Metropolis they are planning to build in Florida. And what’s with building a multi $Billion mall in an era that malls are being retired?)

    Comment by Howard — July 13, 2015 @ 5:34 pm

  69. On what basis do you make that claim. No offense but Joseph and Brigham, both great prophets in my book, seem much more fallible than say Hinkley.

    I just don’t see on what basis you’re making your measurements. It seems the issue of everyone getting a revelation is orthogonal to the issue of greatness.

    Comment by Clark — July 13, 2015 @ 7:44 pm

  70. Clark,
    We know almost nothing of Hinkley’s revelations, we know he built temples, that seems like a pretty safe decision doesn’t it? What else did he reveal?

    I used “fallibility” in 68 as a shorthand summary for the far more detailed concepts I laid out in 61 (because you don’t seem to be understanding 61) concerning inspiration vs revelation with a major point being inspiration IS NOT revelation, and revelation IS NOT simply inspiration with an amplifier or even a lot of inspiration.
    Inspiration is like playing Magic Eight Ball or the child’s game of Hot and Cold compared to revelation which is more like using Skype or beyond. Try restoring the gospel and organizing a church by receiving only Magic Eight Ball type answers from God, it’s going to be a very long process and like the game of telephone it won’t resemble much of what God had in mind when you’re finished.

    Revelation especially more advanced forms of revelation such as conversational telepathy, concept, image and video downloads is far more capable of transferring God’s mind and will accurately (in other words transferring it infallibility)(my measurement) than Hot and Cold feelings that depend on the mortal guessing the right questions to ask God

    Comment by Howard — July 14, 2015 @ 6:51 am

  71. Again, I just don’t think you’ve made your case that only what you call committee inspiration is all that has happened. Indeed some of the sources you quote, such as that article on Kimball deeply undermine that thesis.

    Comment by Clark — July 14, 2015 @ 8:38 am

  72. Well then please make that case using the Kimball article.

    Comment by Howard — July 14, 2015 @ 9:03 am

  73. I did above. It mentions angelic appearances and other such claims.

    Comment by Clark — July 14, 2015 @ 9:51 am

  74. I should add that the burden of proof isn’t on me. You’re making the positive claim that such things are *not* happening. My point is that people with extreme spiritual experiences don’t typically relate them publicly. I even provided scripture for why that is. Your whole argument is ultimately an argument from silence. You can’t establish what you claim.

    Comment by Clark — July 14, 2015 @ 9:54 am

  75. I’ve got one foot in each of yours’ camps. On the one hand, while Joseph may have had experiences that he didn’t relate publicly, there were many that he did. He also wrote down actual revelations and presented them to the church for their approval and acceptance, which has made them binding on the church. Others have as well, but it is terribly infrequent. There is clearly a difference in mantel between Joseph and his successors. That is one big reason why I think people are reviewing history and doctrine and kind of weeding out things that they don’t find the need to focus on or accept. With Joseph’s doctrine, I am much more ready to accept it because he tells us where the source of it is. We don’t get that from today’s leadership, accept very vague and general allusions to “God’s inspired prophets.” Not relating almost any manifestations publicly seems to be more of a modern precedent–and more of an exception than the rule for scriptural prophets. It kind of goes back to the question of whether or not a prophet, seer, or revelator is more of a verb or a proper noun.

    On the other hand, calling them administrators is an understatement and a bit disrespectful. We don’t know what goes on in their lives and what role inspiration/revelation plays. Joseph set up a system of a First Presidency, 12, 70’s, etc. He talked about cohesion, inspiration, etc. He didn’t set up a successor who would be doing the exact things he would do. And yet he counseled the Saints to follow the 12.
    The 12 and 3 are still apostles, doing the same things the predecessors have always done, and though imperfect, we have a responsibility to follow their lead. My assumption is that they are as inspired as a group of men can be, and the Spirit confirms this to me when I hear what they teach. It doesn’t mean that we must believe that everything they say is doctrine or binding. They instruct, we take it to God and live by what we learn, or face the consequences of not doing it. Downplaying their mantle because they are involved in business enterprises is also counter-productive. Joseph was also involved in business (how did Kirtland Safety Society work out?). Jesus counseled his apostles to make friends with worldly people and to be world-wise, yet not be of the world. There are countless advantages to having a corporation as part of the church. In today’s world we cannot be a global church, obtain property, minister, or help the poor without that kind of entity. And you need money to do that. Just a reality.

    Comment by Pierce — July 14, 2015 @ 1:53 pm

  76. Clark I believe you wrote:

    Indeed some of the sources you quote, such as that article on Kimball deeply undermine that thesis.

    So the burden of proof is on you for that statement. I’m simply asking to make the case for your statement not for mine.

    Comment by Howard — July 14, 2015 @ 4:06 pm

  77. _If you never made a conscience choice to get a tattoo, why would you expect anyone else to have made the choice?_

    Find someone a person that has no sexual attraction, and you’ll analogy will be appropriate. Yet for the vast majority of humans that do have sexual attractions, it is despite not having made a choice to have one (of any particular variety).

    Comment by Eso — July 14, 2015 @ 6:37 pm

  78. Again, already did that. The article mentioned Wilford Woodruff appearing. Still waiting on your claims.

    Comment by Clark — July 17, 2015 @ 1:04 pm