Following the prophet is easy when all you need to do is agree

A sacrament speaker brought up the November policy change today.

That marks yet another consecutive week of someone mentioning the policy change at least once during sacrament meeting, Sunday school, and elders quorum class.

I’ve beaten to death my feelings on the wordings and implications of the policy change, but as I was stewing on pondering the words of the speaker, a thought came to me that I hadn’t considered before, particularly connected with something the following speaker mentioned.

Why are Mormons so quick to stand firm behind the prophet when what he says requires no sacrifice?

In this case, I am definitely in the minority in my ward and stake regarding my feelings regarding this policy change. Most ward and stake members I know (and for that matter, Mormons I know outside of my stake) support the brethren on this change.

But it’s easy to support it. You don’t have to invest anything into supporting them. In fact, all you need to do is agree with them.

Let’s contrast this with home teaching.

Our high council speaker today reported that home teaching in our stake sits at 27%. That means that 3 out of every 4 families in our stake don’t receive visits from their home teachers. While anecdotal, friends of mine have shared similar statistics where they live.

So, back to my question: why are Mormons so quick to stand firm behind the prophet when what he says requires no sacrifice but so slow when what he says requires sacrifice?

Conversely, why am I labelled an apostate or a heretic when I disagree with the brethren on a policy (like the recent decision to prohibit children of gay parents from being baptized) but follow their counsel in other ways (like home teaching every month)?

Why are others not labelled apostate or heretics when they agree with the brethren on a policy (like the recent decision to prohibit children of gay parents from being baptized) but don’t follow their counsel in other ways (like home teaching every month)?

To be abundantly clear, I’m not judging those who don’t visit their home teaching families. I’m simply using that as an example. And it’s certainly not the only example we could use.

Finally, you know what the irony is in all this? Thomas S. Monson sat on the committee that established the current home teaching programme.

Do Mormons really believe in prophet fallibility?

For family scripture study this past week, we’ve been reading in 1 Corinthians, and a few things Paul wrote prompted a discussion on the fallibility of prophets. I’ve been reflecting on this over the last few days, and I wanted to write my thoughts down to help me think through things.

For example, consider 1 Corinthians 11:4–9:

Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.

But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.

Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.

I think you would be hard pressed to find a Mormon who takes this counsel literally. I bet that a more common reaction would be, “Oh, that Paul.” I don’t think it’s difficult for Mormons to dismiss words of an ancient prophet that seem incongruous with our current society (secular and spiritual) paradigms.

What about more recent prophets?

Well take a look at this quote from Brigham Young:

“Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening, called the moon? When we view its face we may see what is termed “the man in the moon,” and what some philosophers declare are the shadows of mountains. But these sayings are very vague, and amount to nothing; and when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the most ignorant of their fellows. So it is with regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain. It was made to give light to those who dwell upon it, and to other planets;” (Journal of Discourses. 13:31. P. 271)

Again, I think you’d have a hard time finding Mormons who take this literally. In fact, I’m confident most would do their best to dismiss it (as opinion, popular belief at the time, or some other rationalization).

Speaking of Brigham Young, what about the Adam God Theory that he taught, along with Heber C. Kimball, Franklin D. Richards, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff? I don’t think most members accept this teaching as doctrine.

Or how about this teaching of Joseph Fielding Smith:

“There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantage. The reason is that we once had an estate before we came here, and were obedient, more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less. . . . There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, pp. 66–67)

This doctrine still has staying power, as I have come across a few members (by no means a majority) who still believe this. Despite its lingering nature, it’s been denied as a doctrine by the current church:

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

It seems to me that, in theory, members of the LDS church support the idea of prophet fallibility. In fact, it seems many live it. At least when it comes to dead prophets.

I wonder, however, what would happen if someone suggested that a statement of Thomas S. Monson was problematic in some way.  I could be wrong, but I get the impression that most Mormons would view that as a sign of apostasy or at least ill speaking of the Lord’s anointed. Assuming this is true, then why is it okay for Mormons to claim fallibility in dead prophets but risk church discipline if they claim it in living prophets?

“Holy men of God spake…”

A common idea I have seen expressed in and out of the church is that of the infallibility of the prophets. More specific is the idea that whatever the prophets say can be construed as doctrine if not just authoritative. This belief of course has led to all sorts of traditions and anomalistic doctrines. Things like the Adam-God theory, all indigenous Americans being descended from Lehi, etc.

I came across an interesting scripture last night in 2 Peter 1:20-21.

No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

It seems even in the New Testament that prophets need to be moved by the Holy Ghost for their words to be prophetic.

I guess the challenge then is determining when they are moved by the Spirit.

Knighting an Apostle

My Sister just sent this to me… Most funny! (Apologies if this has already been mentioned)


?Ǭ†After President Hinckley finished with the sustaining of the officers
?Ǭ†of the church during the Saturday morning session, Elder Eyring had
?Ǭ†moved into his new seat on the stand. Unfortunately, they didn’t show
?Ǭ†this on TV, but when President Hinckley turned around, he stood there
?Ǭ†for a moment looking at Elder Eyring (probably with the little twinkle
?Ǭ†in his eye), then picked up his cane and “knighted” him on his
?Ǭ†shoulder and head. Truly one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen
?Ǭ†him do.

?Ǭ†Here’s the picture from it. I love how Elder Erying looks just like a
?Ǭ†little boy….

Prophesying Calamities

I was contemplating something while sitting in church today. I have hear people say that you can tell we are in the last days because God is send all the calamities. You know, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, drought, disease, and the like. One only need look at Wikipedia to see that people believe God sends/causes natural disasters.

What I was contemplating, however, was whether God specifically causes all the calamities prophesied of in the Bible.

On the one hand, one could say that the prophets foretold of the calamities and God is sending them forth now to fulfil the promises of the prophets.

On the other hand, perhaps our day is an unusual time in the history of humankind (call it global warming if you must), in which we see an abundance of calamities. In that case, maybe the prophets saw the frequency of calamities and prophesied regarding them. Maybe God isn’t sending any of them. Maybe the prophets saw when the second coming of Christ was and noticed it coincided with this unusual amount of calamities, and simply used this period as a benchmark.

And maybe then God isn’t behind any of these calamities. Maybe it’s just the earth responding to whatever environmental changes there are.

It seems odd to me anyhow that God would send calamities just so the prophets wouldn’t be wrong.

Desirous to see, hear, and know these things

While studying the scriptures tonight, I came across a verse that seemed pretty timely. It’s 1 Ne 10:17 and in it Nephi discusses some thoughts he had following his father sharing the dream of the Tree of Life.

[After] I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost . . . [I] was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost

As I sat thinking about this, the recent general conference came to mind. I was left wondering how often ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù after hearing words from the prophets ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù I desire to see/hear and know by the Spirit the things they taught.

I was left wondering how often, following general conference, I read, ponder, and pray about the words of the prophets.

Probably not often enough.