Commanded by the Prophet

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So if the Prophet sends you a letter signed by all of the First Presidency, would you feel obliged to obey the instructions included therein?

Does the option of ignoring the instruction exist (assuming you’re a faithful member)?

Is it any different if the letter is read over the pulpit in Sacrament Meeting?

If you had personal opinions which run against what the Prophet instructed, how would you deal with the situation?

40 thoughts on “Commanded by the Prophet

  1. Yes.

    Well the option is still there.

    If it’s a commandment,no, no difference. If it is a request or suggestion, well that’s different.

    Depends what the personal opinions are, and if they are his personal opinions or commandments from the Lord. In spite of what some people think, there is a difference.

  2. I thought the church took great pains to make sure they didn’t get involved in political matters. Interesting that a letter would be sent in this case. I don’t remember any such letter when votes were going on here on the same issue.

  3. The Church cannot get involved by endorsing political candidates and, as a general rule, does not endorse a particular position on other issues.

    The proliferation of state lotteries and attempts to redefine marriage to include same-sex unions have been two issues that the Church has felt no need to stand on the sidelines.

    Of course, it is up to individual members to determine on their own if this is direction from God and support or decline support as they see fit.

  4. Well, number one they are asking, not saying you have to do this, second of all, they are stepping in on a political issue because it overrides a moral issue, and so the First Presidency wants the members to make clear their stance on this.

    I don’t remember a letter here either, but perhaps they weren’t aware of it going on at the time. As well, we had a different president at that time.

  5. I noted that the letter said that the local leadership will give areas that “you may become involved in”. That word “may” leaves the door open to decide whether to become involved or not. Now if they had said “you must become involved in” that be a whole different matter. At least for me.

  6. So SS, you don’t think the last paragraph makes it clear that Californian members are expected to be involved in these locally organized activities? They do say,”We ask that you do all you can…” I mean it’s not written in a stone tablet and carried down from the mount, but the spirit of the letter is pretty apparent.

    If it were my father saying,”The family believes the Jones’ need some help and I’d encourage you all to ask your mother how you can help out on the weekend.” I think it’s pretty apparent that he expects me to be there.

    Maybe I just read too much into these things. ;)

  7. “they are stepping in on a political issue because it overrides a moral issue”

    This could make some sense for me if they were to do it consistently, rather than cherry picking the issues.

    If ever there were a ‘politics being overridden by morals’ issue it would be the ongoing conflicts throughout the world and the church is suspiciously silent about those issues (Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, etc.).

  8. I have to take the letter as I interpret it. They say “may” and I take it at that. Even in the last paragraph they say “ask” – not command. I suppose I’m a little like a rebellious teenager – give me an “out” and I’ll take it! ;-)

    I often wonder about the cherry picking myself. The church did not make any kind of pronouncement about gay marriage here in Canada (or England as far as I know). Why not? Why California? Is it a really sinful place and they are worrying that this might be the last straw before destruction? Or perhaps Canada is the very sinful place and we are hopeless. I don’t know. I agree with Rick though – places like Darfur should be spoken out about and the church is not doing what it should be doing (IMO).

  9. Rick

    Well can you think of any other particular moral/political issue they might step in on? Same Sex marriage is quite blatantly against the tenets of the Proclamation on the Family. I can’t think of anything else governments have legislated that approaches it. If you can point out some specifics that would be helpful.

    When it comes to wars between countries, that is where it becomes dicier. The church isn’t going to try and direct governments on how or when they need to engage in war, whatever their personal thoughts are on the matter. But we are talking about actual commandments (yes I know killing is against the commandments). You notice the church government isn’t approaching the US or Californian government, but the church membership. There have been times in the past when they have done this in other areas.

    I don’t know why they choose specific subjects to touch and others not too. Perhaps if you wrote headquarters they might enlighten you.

  10. For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
    Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
    For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
    But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
    Who am I that made man, saith the Lord, that will hold him guiltless that obeys not my commandments?
    Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled?
    I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.
    Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above. (D&C 58:26-33)

    I couldn’t have said it better! So, what’s the question? One thing I’ve noticed is that everything official given out by the church, from whatever level, is questioned to death, and disobedience to it is rationalized away as something the privileged and all-knowing are smart enough to do; and, the rest are just dumb sheep, going straight to hell for their stupidity in following any direction they may not totally understand, or agree with, since they never can think for themselves.

    Of course, if the church came out for, or against, anything else, we could find what’s wrong with it, if it disagreed with our own personal convictions, which are always right–why doesn’t the church ask us before doing anything important? (It makes me so damned mad that they don’t understand about us!)

    I want to see a thread on the 10 Commandments, showing how we can work around them, with some argument or other, so that we can feel good about ourselves; showing independence in cherry-picking what to obey; genius in our original thinking; and, then condemnation of the church for having the gall to say that our actions have been wrong, when giving judgments against us, persecuting and discriminating against us, when nothing of the sort is deserved–after all it depends on what the definition of “is” is. O wo is me!

    Why don’t we all just go and find preachers having itching ears so that we can be happy in whatever we choose to do, as long as nothing is required of us, except for paying indulgences to take away our sins–since that’s much easier than repentance?

  11. “I couldn’t have said it better!”

    Almost anyone could say it more clearly. Better is a subjective word, so I won’t comment on that aspect.

    After reading that wall of words you typed, Dan,I’m still at a loss to determine what the point was that you were trying to drive home.

    Are you calling us to obedience? Are you saying that people try to weasel out of every church announcement?

    Mary, if you don’t see the sanctioning of war, or the standing by of nations while atrocities are committed, as a moral issue then we must not share the same definition of the word ‘morals’.

    What do you see as moral issues? I must not be using the word in the same way as you.

    I don’t believe the Proclamation on the Family is even canon, Mary. Kim will correct me if I’m wrong, but it is actually only policy, not in fact a commandment.

  12. Found this on another site (about another topic) but it is quite relevant:

    In view of the dual guaranties of freedom of speech and religion, these rights to petition and advocate apply with even greater force to a church. Far from being inappropriate, a church has a clear right under the law and may have an ethical obligation to seek changes in laws and government practices to enable it to carry out its worthy moral and social objectives. – Dallin H. Oaks, 28 Jan. 1980 (before he was calledas a General Authority

  13. Here’s another interesting tidbit from the other site:

    It was printed in the March 1980 Ensign concerning the Equal Rights Amendment which the Church opposed and encouraged members to actively oppose as well. If you consider the proposed California constitutional amendment in the same light, Rick’s view that the Church is demanding blind obedience may be a bit melodramatic.

    Membership in the Church has not been threatened nor withdrawn simply because of expressed agreement with the proposed amendment. In this, as in all other matters, members are free to accept or reject the counsel of the First Presidency. Freedom to discuss the merits of any public issue is a legitimate exercise of citizenship, recognized and encouraged by the Church. This can be done without indulging in ridicule or attacking those with opposing views.

    The mission of the Church is to save, but when those of its members publicly deride it, demean its leaders, and openly encourage others to interfere with its mission, then it may exercise its right to dissociate itself from them.

  14. “Almost anyone could say it more clearly.”

    That might be so (but I strongly doubt it), but then would the meaning of it be the same as it is now? What changes would that clarity make, so it could be understood “more clearly” by us mere mortals? And if God agreed with that newer version, then why didn’t He say it that way to begin with–wasn’t it thought through enough, so it should have be re-written after several decades of deep pondering about it? I’d like to see your version of “more clearly” so I could understand what it is supposed to mean, since I most heartily disagree with you.

    “I’m still at a loss to determine what the point was that you were trying to drive home.”

    I’m not the least bit surprised.

    “…people try to weasel out of every church announcement?”

    After reading the blogs, how could I come to any other conclusion?

    “I don’t believe the Proclamation on the Family is even canon…”

    “ We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children….This proclamation was read by President Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting held September 23, 1995, in Salt Lake City, Utah.”

    So, since it wasn’t read in General Conference, with President Hinckley saying “THUS SAITH THE LORD!” before or after reading it, then it can’t possibly be official church doctrine? (What is “canon” anyhow? Do we have to follow it if we don’t agree with it?) Ask any one of the survivors, of those 15 who signed onto it, what their opinion is concerning your belief that it’s not part of the canon of the church, and also ask how important the Proclamation really is to members of the church and possibly the rest of the world’s population. Since Bull Moose quoted Elder Oaks, he would be a good one to ask about this.

  15. Oops, in the next to last paragraph of #15, I meant “woe” instead of “wo” or anything else someone might want to put there.

  16. Rick

    You are misunderstanding me (once more). Yes I DO personally see war as a moral issue and I know that church leaders often do as well. But I don’t think we could determine, from our limited view, the intricacies of morality in war. I am against war, though there have been times where I have seen it’s need (if Hitler hadn’t been stopped I would hate to see where we would be today. Oppression in any time or nation is wrong. I have relatives who died and were tortured because of his warped mind). What I am not sure of is whether the church should tell the governments how to proceed in such endeavours. Personal morality is more the line of spiritual leadership. And, as has been said, we do not need to be, nor should we be commanded in all things. After all, we are given free will.

    I am not saying the Proclamation is canon, but I do expect it to be one day, as I believe it is divinely inspired. I could be wrong, but the leadership may feel this way as well.

    Morality to me has to do with our inner integrity and feeling of right and wrong, how we behave and treat others and what our standing is before God in these matters.

  17. One thing I’ve noticed is that everything official given out by the church, from whatever level, is questioned to death

    Maybe that’s because the members are simply heeding the council given by Brigham Young:

    “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security. . . . Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 135)

    What is “canon” anyhow?

    That which has been accepted by the church membership as authoritative and binding. At this point, LDS canon consists of the standard works. When a new document is to become canon (generally added to the D&C), it is presented to the general body, which then votes to accept it as scripture. For examples of this, see the full text of OD-1 and OD-2.

  18. “But I don’t think we could determine, from our limited view, the intricacies of morality in war. “

    I don’t see it as being about war, but about victims.

    If you saw someone bleeding at your feet, would you stop to help them? How about if you had to walk a yard? A block? A mile? At what distance does one’s obligation to a moral action become diminished?

    This is a clear cut moral question to me. At least deserving of comment by ‘moral leaders’ of the day.

  19. I personally think letters from the First Presidency should be accepted as authoritative and binding. However, in my experience I’ve found most members consider letters from the First Presidency to be taken seriously only if it fits their personal or community circumstances.

    For instance, some of you may remember the First Presidency letter of 11 February 1999, wherein the following was stated, “Sunday meetings, other than those under the three-hour schedule and perhaps council meetings on early Sunday mornings or firesides later in the evening, should be avoided so that parents may be with their children.” We were living in Maryland when this letter was released and the neighboring Stake avoided holding meetings on Sunday except for the three hour block. They even chose the option of not holding council meetings or even choir practice on Sundays. Well, a month later we moved to Utah and none of the wards we’ve lived in since have avoided any Sunday meetings. I talked to a Bishop and he said, “Scheduling church meetings during the week was disruptive to family life.” I then spoke with a Stake President and he said, “If we were to avoid Sunday meetings other than the 3 hour block, the church was cease to exist. Members of the church in Utah don’t want to be bothered with church on any other day but Sunday. So, we’ve decided as a Stake that we won’t support the First Presidency on this issue.”

    What this tells me is that members can pick and choose which First Presidency letter or what principles of the letter they want to obey. It all depends on their circumstances and what they feel at the moment.

    Therefore, me and my family have chosen to support the First Presidency and have avoided Sunday meetings except for the the 3-hour block and the occasional fireside. If we lived in California we would support, defend, and sustain as best we could the First Presidency letter.

  20. Rick

    Sigh. I TOO think it is clear cut.

    I don’t see it as being about war, but about victims.

    Yes, I think it is about victims too. Again, I am against war. But I don’t claim to be a leader of anything so I can’t speak for the leaders and their choices.

    If you saw someone bleeding at your feet, would you stop to help them? How about if you had to walk a yard? A block? A mile? At what distance does one’s obligation to a moral action become diminished??<<

    Uh, yeah. I would and actually HAVE. But this isn’t about what choices I would make in what to do specifically. But when or how the leadership should advise world leaders. We also don’t know IF they have advised world leaders in certain things regarding war. Don’t make this personal, this is their decision not mine, but you are putting this on MY SHOULDERS. Why don’t you ask Pres Monson directly my sending him a letter? Instead of trying to make me out to be the callous one when I am not.

    What I also see war about is protecting the innocent. As I said, there have been times when the innocent have suffered and do need to be saved. I can’t claim to know when war should be stopped or started in all cases. My ancestors suffered and died because of oppression and abuse.

  21. Sorry Mary, I’m not being clear.

    I don’t expect the church to “advise world leaders” I expect them to advise their own people. In my previous email I should have used the words ‘one’ and ‘one’s’ rather than ‘you’ and ‘your’ – I was speaking generally, not specifically to you.

    So, to me, it’s a question of a vacuum of moral leadership on the top in regard to important issues, and over-indulgence in issues which are much less important. Can you imagine how much could have been done in Darfur or Afghanistan with the tens of millions the church spent fighting gay marriage in California and Hawaii?

  22. They may have in the past, I don’t know. But perhaps this is one of these things that they feel membership should approach on a personal level and that has perhaps been made clear enough through scriptures and teachings from the prophets. When it comes to same sex marriage that is a relatively new thing/

    Alright, sorry for misunderstanding.

    I don’t know. Honestly, I really don’t know. I DO know that the church has spent myriads of money, resources, volunteer time and people helping the victims of war and poverty. Perhaps in these regards they work in a less public way.

  23. I think the Lord must feel those millions are being well spent. I don’t have a strong opinion, but if we lose the sanctity of man/woman marriage and family, perhaps we lose much more than our lives. I believe that they wouldn’t be fighting this fight if it weren’t worth fighting.

    If they suddenly said they supported gay marriage, I’d support that, as well. I recall being adamantly opposed to the MX missile project and feeling ashamed when the prophet issued a statement opposing it, as well, because I wasn’t sure what I would have done if it had been the reverse.

    I think I would have withdrawn from the opposition groups, kept my opinions and vote to myself and waited to understand.

    Back to the link someone gave about the gay marriage letter, I think the words “a broad-based coalition” are important. This is not just Mormons attacking gay people. This is a group of Christian religions joining together to protect what they consider to be crucial.

    The church doesn’t take public stands on these types of issues very often, doesn’t take sides in politics, etc., it’s significant that they have decided this is worth the money and the fight.

    And I’m sure they’re not diverting any funds from humanitarian projects in the least. Our humanitarian programs are one of the things I’m proudest of about our church. It’s not fair to condemn them on that.

  24. “I think the Lord must feel those millions are being well spent.”

    As evidenced by what exactly?

    I don’t see what is so significant in the humanitarian wing of the church charity system.

    In the 14 year period from 1984 – 1997 the church reported cash donations for non-Mormon charities at $30.7 Million, or an average of 2.19 Million per year (Ostling’s Mormon America). I mean a conservative estimate of tithing rolls in at, what, like 4-5 billion a year? This is the kind of effort you’d hang your hat on?

    I don’t know, you may see it differently.

    Marriage is a civil function. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why so much effort (and money) goes into something that will affect next to zero LDS families and HUGE issues are ignored.

  25. “I am not saying the Proclamation is canon, but I do expect it to be one day”

    Given that a portion of the Proclamation has been already been used as quasi-scripture (with “paragraph x” cited as the reference at the end of the recitation) in the Primary group meeting in our ward, I do believe you’re probably right.

  26. 22–Kim–There is nothing wrong with discussing what is given out by the church; but, the way it’s being done is what I’m questioning, which doesn’t sound like what BY was advocating. If I disagree with some statement of the church, I don’t broadcast my opposition to the world, challenging the church’s position on things I don’t understand as well as those who’ve made that decision. I’ve been around long enough to understand that there are some issues we don’t understand as well as we think we do. Sometimes we have to lend support, in spite of our lack of understanding, instead of automatically opposing it.

    I remember about 40 years ago when Elder Benson said not to buy all this expensive food storage stuff, which upset me–I was not in the business. I didn’t come out against him, but just let is be; and, several months later I understood what he’d said, and then agreed with him.

    I understand what Canon is, and figured you did, too, but was wanting Rick’s definition, since he appears to question so many things that are said by the church, and I am still wondering what he accepts, and why–if anything.

    I have held, and now hold, high enough positions in the church that I am supposed to understand what doctrine is. I don’t bring it up specifically, as that doesn’t make an argument’s point stronger; but, at times I have been in on some information the normal church members don’t receive–which also doesn’t make anything I say correct–so I have a different understanding of some things that are questioned. I also cause controversy in Gospel Doctrine class since I’m tired of kindergarten level answers which are frequently given because it’s easier than thinking a bit.

    I also believe that I’m still around because my shoveling-coal position is currently occupied.

  27. Over at Rational Mormonism, under “Prepare For Revelation” the last paragraph is related to this discussion:

    “When we prepare ourselves, we are ready to do what is necessary – if we learn that it is. In essence, we commit ourselves ahead of time. If we can’t make that commitment, we may not be ready to receive the knowledge we think we want. If doing what is right would cost us more than we are willing to give, we may never learn what is right. One example of this is in testing the counsel of the leaders of the Church. As true latter-day saints, we must seek individual spiritual confirmation of every instruction we receive. To fully prepare for that, we must acknowledge the possibility that such a confirmation might not be given.”

    When you get a different answer, you don’t publish to the world how you’re right and the church is wrong (which then puts you on the road to apostasy); but, you must also wonder if yours was from a different source, and then which is right, and why. Also, were you open to the possibility of getting a different answer that you might not have wanted?

  28. This is a follow-up from my post #24.

    To all of you who have concerns about the statements made by the Prophet and/or General Authorities I offer my opinion. Go talk to your Bishop and Stake President. They probably have the same concerns. During the last 20 years I’ve lived in about 15 different Wards, in various parts of the United States and have discovered that the vast majority of my Bishops and Stake Presidents have concerns with statements and policies coming from the General Authorities. I personally feel that these local leaders have been put in their positions because the Lord is very aware of the concerns facing most members of His church and He needs leaders who can relate to those they are trying to lead. I don’t think your Bishop or Stake President will condemn you for your concerns. So, go talk to them. Let them know about your concerns with what the Prophet and/or General Authorities say. Work together in finding solutions to those concerns.

  29. Dan, you know what canon is as well as I do.
    I am using the church’s standard definition of canon.

    Regarding that which I accept: for the most part none of it since I am not a member.

    Speaking to your second post, the whole message is mixed.

    My paraphrasing (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).

    You need to resolve to accept the revelation before your hear it (i.e. Obey without consideration).
    Unless you haven’t received a personal confirmation for yourself.

    If you don’t get confirmation, or you get a conflicting answer, you may be doing it wrong.
    What ever you do, don’t tell anyone you disagree. That’s very bad. There’s probably something wrong with you. Maybe start over from the first step.

    That kind of processing of revelation sounds a lot more like blind obedience to me, but your mileage may vary.

  30. This if my view of a letter from the prophet.

    First, Does it line up with the Bible because there are many false prophet preaching for profit out there. So, the message would in fact have to line up with the Word of God 100%. Now, saying that it is a legit request from a God Called Prophet, and it does line up with the Bible, then you have the spirit of discernment to help you decide if what is being said is truly from God, and if I felt that it was then yes I would do what was requested.

  31. rick–“My paraphrasing (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).” It is difficult for me to understand that you can’t see that your alleged paraphrasing is anything close to what I said, or meant.

    “What ever you do, don’t tell anyone you disagree. That’s very bad. There’s probably something wrong with you.” How can that be considered a correct paraphrase of, “When you get a different answer, you don’t publish to the world how you’re right and the church is wrong (which then puts you on the road to apostasy); but, you must also wonder if yours was from a different source, and then which is right, and why. Also, were you open to the possibility of getting a different answer that you might not have wanted?”

    I agree that it is your paraphrasing, but the meaning and intent of my statement has been distorted to mean something quite different. If you can’t see that, perhaps you should take this to a competent English teacher to get another opinion on how accurately you summarized what I said.

    Your paraphrasing of my other statements likewise distorts what I said–only you know for sure how intentional your efforts were. I feel like I’d have gotten a more accurate reply to my post if I’d have talked to a wall.

  32. Imagine if monogamous homosexual couples were allowed in the church… Just think of how the membership could potentially skyrocket in California, New York, Canada, South America, all of Europe… The possibilities are endless.
    Wait a minute… oh yeah. There is that whole ‘Obeying the Word of God – Proclamation On The Family’ thing.

    Just a toss out there. Laugh a little.

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