Guest post: Apostasy For Dummies

This is a guest post by Michael Davidson.

Have you ever been tempted to hang out with a group of edgy Mormons, like those who are bitter that the Church places greater value on a woman being a mother and wife rather than a doctor or lawyer? Do you sympathize with folks who have some weird ideas about the Gospel, like those who are calling for female ordination? Do you have a sibling or parent who thinks that the Church perpetrates “an antiquated and unequal model in both the domestic and ecclesiastical realms?” Be careful, you might just be flirting with apostasy.

“But Brother Davidson,” you say, “how can we know whether or not these friends or family members are apostates?” That is an excellent question, and while I don’t know your friends and family personally, hopefully this post will give you a clue as to how to judge a righteous judgment on this regard. Elder Faust, in his October 1993 General Conference address, gives some clear guidelines that you can apply to any situation. He quoted the Handbook of Instructions as saying, “among the activities considered apostate to the Church include when members (1) repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders; (2) persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority; or (3) continue to follow the teachings of apostate cults (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority.” This definition remains in the Handbook today with no alteration.

Elder Faust then expanded on the topic by warning against apostasy. He said “those men and women who persist in publicly challenging basic doctrines, practices, and establishment of the Church sever themselves from the Spirit of the Lord and forfeit their right to place and influence in the Church.” It’s ironic that most of the apostates in the history of the Church tend to want to influence or change the Church, but the act of apostasy strips them of any right to have influence in the Church that they might otherwise have enjoyed. Elder Faust also warned in this talk that “There is a certain arrogance in thinking that any of us may be more spiritually intelligent, more learned, or more righteous than the Councils called to preside over us. Those Councils are more in tune with the Lord than any individual persons they preside over, and the individual members of the Councils are generally guided by those Councils.”

Additionally, did you know that the Handbook says that “a disciplinary counsel must be held when evidence suggests that a member may have committed … apostasy?” According to the Handbook, your bishop and your stake president have no discretion in deciding whether to convene a disciplinary counsel if there is evidence of possible apostasy. They simply must do it. As a result, it is therefore pretty important to be careful to stay on this side of the apostasy line if you don’t want to end up in a disciplinary counsel.

Continue reading

Sangamo and Pratt

[This post is part of a series on Joseph Smith's Polygamy. To read from the beginning or link to previously published posts, go to A Faithful Joseph.]

Orson Pratt, 1851 Engraving

Orson Pratt has figured only lightly in the account until now. But the events following John C. Bennett’s departure from Nauvoo would throw Orson painfully into the spotlight.

After the Church publicly withdrew fellowship from Dr. Bennett, Bennett approached the editor of the Sangamo Journal, a Whig newspaper in Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, the State Capital. The editor of the Sangamo Journal, one Simeon Francis, had ruthlessly assailed Bennett in the press only weeks before. But Bennett convinced Francis that an expose against the Mormons would help the Whigs defeat the Democrats in the upcoming election.

The initial letter was a kitchen sink of accusations, containing allegations of treason, political tyranny, attempted murder, sexual misconduct, and about every other un-American deed Bennett could think of. But the stories Bennett knew best were stories related to sexual intrigue. These stories also appeared to capture the imagination of the public. The most damning of these was Bennett’s tale alleging Joseph had attempted to woo the wife of one of his own apostles, Orson Pratt.

Orson Pratt

Orson Pratt was one of the original members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in Joseph Smith’s Church, ordained to his position in 1835. Many in the original Quorum apostatized due to the turmoil of the financial collapse in Kirtland and Oliver Cowdery’s allegations regarding Joseph and Fanny Alger. One was killed in the mobbings in Missouri. Those who survived and remained faithful had been sent on missions abroad.

Orson had been in Europe as a missionary during the first months of John C. Bennett’s presence in Nauvoo. While John C. Bennett was putting in place the Nauvoo City Charter, Orson was in England, preaching and publishing in Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Manchester. While Orson Pratt was preaching without purse or scrip, Bennett was having Sarah Pratt wash his clothing, sew his shirts, and make his outer clothing. 1

It is likely during this period of time (May-July 1841) that Bennett formed the opinion that Sarah Pratt “made a first rate go.” 2 Continue reading

Notes:

  1. Rick J. Fish, Orson Pratt in Nauvoo, 1839-1845, May 1993, available online at http://jared.pratt-family.org/orson_histories/orson_pratt_in_nauvoo2.html, retrieved 27 March 2014.
  2. “Affdavit of J. B. Backenstos,” Affidavits and Certificates, Disproving the Statements and Affidavits Contained in John C. Bennett’s Letters. Nauvoo, Illinois, Aug. 31, 1842, “Personally appeared before me Ebenezer Robinson acting Justice of the Peace, in and for said county, J. B. Backenstos, who being duly sworn according to law, deposeth and saith, that some time during last winter, he [Backenstos] accused Doctor John C. Bennett, with having an illicit intercourse with Mrs. Orson Pratt, and some others, when said Bennett replied that she made a first rate go, and from personal observations I should have taken said Doctor Bennett and Mrs. Pratt as man and wife, had I not known to the contrary, and further this deponent saith not.” Available online at http://www.josephsmithspolygamy.com/JSImproperProposals/16ImproperProposalsAccusations/SarahPratt2.html, retrieved 27 March 2014.

Why Did You Resign (from Mormon Matters)? Continued at Last

Way back on September 25 of 2012, I started a series of posts called ”Why Did You Resign (from Mormon Matters)?”  where I started to explain why I left Mormon Matters and came to Millennial Star.

And then I was forced to stop blogging due to personal reasons. Recently I returned to blogging (at least temporarily) because I had recruited Meg Stout to Millennial Star to do her excellent posts on Joseph Smith and polygamy and wanted to be supportive of her.

But before I disappeared I had nearly finished part 4 of that series. (With at least one more part, possibly more, still planned.) So very soon I’ll be publishing part 4 which, as it turns out, is the single most important part of my explanation for why I left Mormon Matters.

And as with all of my opinions, I promise it will be colorful. But this one will be particularly divisive because I’m going challenge the entire paradigm of “dialogue” as currently implemented by Mormon Stories and Sunstone and similar groups. So get ready for a controversy and possibly a Bloggernacling. ;-)

But since its been so long, here is your chance to review what I previously wrote:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Was I DIsrupting Mormon Matter’s Real Purpose?

Part 3: The Question of Balance