03 November 2008

Prop 8 - The Loyalty Question

Another acquaintance posted this, and I've included the discussion on it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 2:28am
From a talk entitled "Loyalty," given by President Gordon B. Hinckley during the priesthood session of the April 2003 General Conference.

"Now may I say a word concerning loyalty to the Church.

We see much indifference. There are those who say, “The Church won’t dictate to me how to think about this, that, or the other, or how to live my life.”

No, I reply, the Church will not dictate to any man how he should think or what he should do. The Church will point out the way and invite every member to live the gospel and enjoy the blessings that come of such living. The Church will not dictate to any man, but it will counsel, it will persuade, it will urge, and it will expect loyalty from those who profess membership therein.

When I was a university student, I said to my father on one occasion that I felt the General Authorities had overstepped their prerogatives when they advocated a certain thing. He was a very wise and good man. He said, “The President of the Church has instructed us, and I sustain him as prophet, seer, and revelator and intend to follow his counsel.”

I have now served in the general councils of this Church for 45 years. I have served as an Assistant to the Twelve, as a member of the Twelve, as a Counselor in the First Presidency, and now for eight years as President. I want to give you my testimony that although I have sat in literally thousands of meetings where Church policies and programs have been discussed, I have never been in one where the guidance of the Lord was not sought nor where there was any desire on the part of anyone present to advocate or do anything which would be injurious or coercive to anyone.

The book of Revelation declares: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15–16).

I make you a promise, my dear brethren, that while I am serving in my present responsibility I will never consent to nor advocate any policy, any program, any doctrine which will be otherwise than beneficial to the membership of this, the Lord’s Church.

This is His work. He established it. He has revealed its doctrine. He has outlined its practices. He created its government. It is His work and His kingdom, and He has said, “They who are not for me are against me” (2 Ne. 10:16).

In 1933 there was a movement in the United States to overturn the law which prohibited commerce in alcoholic beverages. When it came to a vote, Utah was the deciding state.

I was on a mission, working in London, England, when I read the newspaper headlines that screamed, “Utah Kills Prohibition.”

President Heber J. Grant, then President of this Church, had pleaded with our people against voting to nullify Prohibition. It broke his heart when so many members of the Church in this state disregarded his counsel.

On this occasion I am not going to talk about the good or bad of Prohibition but rather of uncompromising loyalty to the Church.

How grateful, my brethren, I feel, how profoundly grateful for the tremendous faith of so many Latter-day Saints who, when facing a major decision on which the Church has taken a stand, align themselves with that position. And I am especially grateful to be able to say that among those who are loyal are men and women of achievement, of accomplishment, of education, of influence, of strength—highly intelligent and capable individuals.

Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.

Thank you, my dear brethren, you men of great strength and great fidelity and great faith and great loyalty.

Finally, loyalty to God our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Every man in this Church is entitled to the knowledge that God is our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son is our Redeemer. The Savior gave the key by which we may have such knowledge. He declared, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).

Pray to your Heavenly Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and always, under all circumstances, by the very nature of your lives show your loyalty and your love . . .

Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Now is the time to show.
We ask it fearlessly:
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
(“Who’s on the Lord’s Side?” Hymns, no. 260)"

In light of recent events, it's definitely something to think about...


Jason wrote
at 8:25am on October 22nd, 2008
The real question is, what do /you/ think about it?

Cleatis wrote
at 9:46am on October 22nd, 2008
what recent events. I'm confused?

Bob wrote
at 3:39pm on October 22nd, 2008
Wow. I really like that. President Hinckley is so good at conveying his message This is sort of what I was trying to communicate to Jason yesterday, that either the church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. But yea, I'm with Jason on wanting to know what you think of this. Do you agree?

Mark wrote
at 12:16am on October 23rd, 2008
Hey Corey. I appreciate your zeal and your conviction reflected in this note.

I'm a little bit disappointed, though, that President Hinckley glazed entirely over the question about whether or not Prohibition was a good thing or not. In light of so many places in the scripture in which we are counseled to study things out for ourselves, I think it is important for us to come to our own conclusions about what to do in circumstances. I feel a personal loss when that exercise of individual conscience is portrayed as rebellion or infidelity. This tidbit from Joseph Smith says it better than I can:

“We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them [even] if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told do by their presidents they should do it without any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves.” (Joseph Smith, Millennial Star, Vol 14, Number 38, pages 593-595).

Bob wrote
at 12:49am on October 23rd, 2008
Oh, man. I like that one, too. It's hard to tell whether he's talking about ecclesiastical or secular presiding, but it at least FEELS like the former. But then it becomes a question of knowing that something is wrong, and we've been told that the prophet will never lead us astray. With an issue like the current Prop 8 thing in California, I don't know if we can say that we KNOW it's wrong. With the Mountain Meadow Massacre, I think it's a lot more clear cut. Still, that Joseph Smith quote is super important for people who are just blindly following the church leaders without considering the issues for themselves and sorting it out with God.

Mark wrote
at 12:10pm on October 23rd, 2008
Hey Bob. My point isn't to say that Prop 8 is wrong: more generally it's to defend the freedom of conscience I believe is threatened when we start looking at things as overly cut and dry. And worse when we start demonizing anyone who does not agree with a particular political paradigm.

Re: your comment about following the prophet, the reality I read in the scriptures is a lot more nuanced than a sort of sweeping infallibility I'm sensing from your comment. The Doctrine and Covenants has provisions for how the president of the Church's excommunication hearing is to be conducted, for goodness' sake (see D&C 107:81-83). The main point is that nothing excuses us as disciples of Christ from using our God-given brains, consciences, and the unparalleled gift of the Holy Ghost.

Bob wrote
at 1:10pm on October 23rd, 2008
:) I'm with you more than it sounds like, Mark. I posted that Joseph Smith quote you provided, along with the Gordon B. Hinckley talk Corey posted and a bunch of quotes about the inability of the prophet to lead us astray on my blog with some commentary. I said there that I believe that the prophet, as a man, is capable of sinning, but I don't believe he's capable of leading the membership of the church astray. See:

"Always keep your eye on the President of the church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, even if it is wrong, and you do it, the lord will bless you for it but you don't need to worry. The lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray."
[LDS President Marion G. Romney (of the first presidency), quoting LDS President (and prophet) Heber J. Grant "Conference Report" Oct. 1960 p. 78 ]

"The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother's arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth."
[Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, p. 289, 1862.]

"The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray."
President Wilford Woodruff (considered scripture as it is canonized at the end of the D&C)

Bob wrote
at 1:11pm on October 23rd, 2008
Joseph Smith specifically mentioned that it's wrong to obey a leader when one KNOWS that it is wrong. We are also told that we will never be wrong to obey the prophet or the twelve apostles acting as a whole. For that reason, I will always obey, even if I don't understand. I say "understand," and not "agree," for a reason. I will be sure that I feel something is right before I obey it. I need to know it comes from God. But I don't need to know WHY. Any time new direction comes from the Elders of the church, I pray about it. I don't fight it too much, because I'm aware that I'm receiving good counsel. But a decision to follow the prophet when it goes against what I believe already (as is the case with Prop 8) is never easy for me, and definitely comes with a lot of prayer and soul searching. But in the end, I have found I always feel the need to align myself with what the prophet says.

Final quote from me (this one's Harold B. Lee):

"Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, 'as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; … as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.' (D&C 21:4–5.) There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name's glory.' (D&C 21:6.)" (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126).

Mark wrote
at 3:50pm on October 23rd, 2008
Using the logical circuit that you've created, Bob, I guess a starting question would be what counts as being "led astray"? Would the Lord wipe out members of the Quorum of the Twelve or even the President of the Church because they gave lousy political advice? Is that being "led astray"? Joseph Smith gave *really* bad economic leadership. How far astray is astray? I tend to think this principle is talking about something a little more dramatic than encouragement on a state bill.

Does the Lord speak through prophets? Of course. I feel that my role is to study their words, ponder, pray, then go with the Holy Ghost's affect on my mind and conscience. I start getting heebie-jeebies when we try to make people feel that there is no room for this in the gospel and that the sum total of the Restoration is a Stepford wife style of obedience (even if it is wrong). I dunno--it just sounds more like Warren Jeffs than Joseph Smith.

O-Mo wrote
at 5:30pm on October 23rd, 2008
I agree with the quote you close with, Bob, but I question whether it must necessarily (or can possibly logically) apply to any and all counsel given, on a personal level. It's sound and solid counsel all members should remember. But is it possible it doesn't mean a person can never have an honest disagreement in thought and in action and that be OK?

Perhaps there are times when you have to be able to say that you strive for humility to comply with all a Heavenly Father would ever ask of you even while recognizing that at times you may not be required to set aside your conscience to jump to obey a specific counsel of a prophet.

While it's clear we've been assured, by many witnesses, that the prophets will not lead the membership of the church astray, is it true that no decision or policy of the church as an organization can be flawed and therefore not condemning if disobeyed? These are dangerous or edgy concepts, I fully recognize, and perhaps there's spiritual safety in simply following the flow of the church, knowing you will therefore arrive where you intend, even if you briefly flow through questionable places. But I'm willing to take the risk of departing from the flow when I see it going in a direction that troubles me and which might be dishonest or wrong for me personally to go, given what I know and believe. Maybe the problem is when I try to get everyone to act according to my knowledge and perspective in defiance of the prophet's counsel?

It's not a comfortable place to be in: at odds with the church in a policy decision. But years from now, when I look back on my life, I think I'd rather say, "I did what I believe was right and good" than "I 'obeyed' against my better judgment," even while I'd rather say, "I followed true counsel even when it was hard to understand" than "I made a decision I later regretted in hindsight due to my own limited perspective." Both are important perspectives.

And I think making those decisions spurs growth.

Bob wrote
at 12:42am on October 24th, 2008
I'm tired and I just typed up a whole giant eyesore of a response to both of you, but then I had an internet problem and lost it. Bed time for now, but I respect you both and really enjoy the things you say and the challenges you present to my too comfortable way of thinking. More tomorrow, maybe....

No comments: