Reemphasizing some points from General Conference

Discussions in the Mormon blog world regarding social issues are often very frustrating because many readers refuse to consider what prophets have actually said regarding the issues they discuss.

The purpose of this post is to reemphasize — using the words of modern-day prophets, seers and revelators — the Church’s clear position on these social issues.

Elder Russell M. Nelson on same-sex marriage:

“Regardless of what civil legislation may be enacted, the doctrine of the Lord regarding marriage and morality cannot be changed. Remember: sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God. While we are to emulate our Savior’s kindness and compassion, while we are to value the rights and feelings of all of God’s children, we cannot change His doctrine. It is not ours to change. His doctrine is ours to study, understand and uphold. Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fullness of life on Earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood or misconstrued.”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ talk reminded listeners that the 10 Commandment prohibition on idols is not only aimed at man-made statues. Idols are beliefs or world views that contradict God’s eternal truths. One of these idols is political correctness.

The Deseret News summarized Elder Oaks’ talk this way:

“We believe that, as an essential part of His plan of salvation, God has established an eternal standard that sexual relations should occur only between a man and a woman who are married,” he said.

The importance the Church places on the law of chastity explains its commitment to the pattern of marriage that originated with Adam and Eve and establishes God’s pattern for the procreative relationship between His sons and daughters for the nurturing of His children.

“There are many political and social pressures for legal and policy changes to establish behaviors contrary to God’s decrees about sexual morality and are contrary to the eternal nature and purposes of marriage and child-bearing. These pressures have already permitted same-gender marriages in various states and nations.”

Laws legalizing so called “same-gender marriage,” he added, do not change God’s law of marriage of His commandments and standards.

“We remain under covenant to love God and keep His commandments and to refrain from bowing down to or serving other gods and priorities — even those becoming popular in our particular time and place.”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson said the following regarding the role of women in the Church (as summarized in the Deseret News):

Elder Christofferson spoke of the “pernicious philosophy” that undermines a woman’s moral influence by devaluing marriage and motherhood and homemaking as a career.

“We do not diminish the value of what women or men achieve in any worthy endeavor or career — we all benefit from their achievements — but still recognize that there is not a higher good than motherhood and fatherhood in marriage. There is no superior career, and no amount of money, authority or public acclaim can exceed the ultimate rewards of family.”

Attitudes toward human sexuality also threaten the moral authority of women, he said. Sexual immorality and revealing dress not only debase women but reinforces the lie that a woman is defined by her sexuality, he said.

The apostle also addressed those who, in the name of equality, want to erase all differences between the masculine and the feminine. The distinct, complementary gifts of men and women that produce a greater whole are being blurred.

Elder Neil L. Andersen discussed the issue of woman and the priesthood (as summarized by the DN):

“Some may sincerely ask the question, ‘If the power and blessings of the priesthood are available to all, why are the ordinances of the priesthood administered by men?’” he asked.

In response, Elder Andersen shared the words of Nephi when he said he knew God loves all of His children, even though he did “not know the meaning of all things.”

Elder Andersen spoke of “things we do know” about the priesthood.

Although God loves all of His children the same, He did not create men and woman exactly the same. Sacred responsibility is given to each gender and, from the beginning, the Lord established how His priesthood would be administered, Elder Andersen said. The power of the holy priesthood takes faith and worthiness, with righteousness as the qualifier for all to invite priesthood power into their lives.

“While we know a lot about the priesthood, seeing through the lens of mortality does not always give a complete understanding of the workings of God,” he said. “But His gentle reminder, ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ reassures us that with time and eternal perspective we will see things ‘as they really are’ and more completely understand His perfect love.”

The keys of the priesthood — held by members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, direct the work of the Lord upon the earth, while specific priesthood keys are conferred upon stake presidents and bishops for their geographic responsibilities.

“They call men and women by revelation who are sustained and set apart to exercise delegated authority to teach and administer,” he said.

Sincerely asking for and listening to the thoughts and concerns voiced by women is vital in life, in marriage and in building the kingdom of God, Elder Andersen said.

Under the direction of President Monson and the First Presidency, there were many discussions with the General Relief Society, Young Women and Primary presidencies about the age change for missionary service, before President Monson’s decision and historic announcement. As bishops follow the example of President Monson, they will feel the guiding hand of the Lord blessing their sacred work more abundantly, he said.

“The power of God’s holy priesthood is found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” he said. “I testify that as you worthily participate in the ordinances of the priesthood, the Lord will give you greater strength, peace and eternal perspective. Whatever your situation, your home will be ‘blessed by the strength of priesthood power’ and those close to you will more fully desire these blessings for themselves.”

Elder Quentin L. Cook reminded listeners that often people will twist the true message of the Gospel for their own political purposes.

“Third, the most universal subjugation in our day, as it has been throughout history, is ideology or political beliefs that are inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Elder Cook. “This is emblematic of our own day where gospel truths are often rejected or distorted to make them intellectually more appealing or compatible with current cultural trends and intellectual bondage.”

I would like to address one of the memes that my liberal Mormon friends appear to have taken up from Conference: President Uchtdorf said Church leaders have made “mistakes” in the past.

Somehow, as Elder Cook warned, liberals are turning this one line into an admission that everything the Church believes about social issues is magically a “mistake.” This obvious distortion of President Uchtdorf’s meaning is truly immoral and evil. Elder Uchtdorf’s point was simply that leaders are not perfect, and this has been emphasized by every prophet in modern times since Joseph Smith.

At the end of Conference, President Monson said the conference was one of the best ever. This includes all of the messages on controversial social issues.

Make no mistake: the Church’s position on these issues is clear and has not changed.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

46 thoughts on “Reemphasizing some points from General Conference

  1. You missed Elder Anderson’s specific address on women and the priesthood! =)

  2. I thought all of their messages were refreshingly direct. I have felt so pelted by my liberal friends and family of late. It was nice to be reminded that the things that I hold dear and know to be true are still true. I just wish, especially, those in the Church would realize that they will never go wrong following the prophet and that they would be much happier doing that, than following the popular ideas of society.

  3. With Blacks and the Priesthood, the Brethren would say things like ‘until God wants to change it, we have to stick with it.’ These statements here are different in that they don’t mention or anticipate that the Lord will reveal something else in the future. What they are saying isn’t that this is the way things are for now. They are saying that this is the way things are, period.

    This is the hill we’re gonna die on.

  4. Let me put it this way. I’m one of those liberals Elder Cook is referring to, who try to make church doctrines more palpatable to outsiders. I work and socialize in an entirely liberal environment. I can’t think of a single conservative I rub shoulders with outside of church. How am I supposed to be a good missionary if I don’t try and make church doctrines more palpatable to my friends? And same-sex marriage is usually the first topic of discussion about the church with my friends.

    I make traditional marriage more palpatable by telling my friends that not all Mormons believe in launching political crusades to enforce it upon the public. It’s true that if you are Mormon, you can’t have same-sex relations, but many Mormons (myself included) do not condemn outsiders for having same-sex relationships or marriages. I define it as a monastic, rather than a pragmatic practice, like the Word of Wisdom. Proposition 8 was a one-time debacle that the church has not repeated, even though it’s had many opportunities to do so. To me, this is evidence that there are differences of opinion in our leadership on whether crusading with the Religious Right is something Mormons should be involved in.

    Liberals generally have no objection to people who engage in personal, monastic spiritual practices, such as homosexual celibacy. They only object to people who try to enforce their narrow views on others who don’t have those same views. That’s why I try to emphasize the church’s views on free will, and deemphasize the moral condemnation many Mormons get involved in. Christ said the gospel was supposed to be “a strait and narrow way, and few there be that find it.” Christ did not condmen the majority, or the Gentiles for being out of “strait and narrow way.” He only condmened those with The Law, hypocrites who did not follow it. The rest, he invited, “come follow me.”

    Everything stated by Elder Oaks, Elder Nelson, and Elder Cook, does not specifically condemn Gentiles. Yes, they don’t follow God’s law, but they haven’t been given God’s law, just as they haven’t been given the Word of Wisdom. Everything the apostles said can be interpreted as being LDS specific, protecting our own doctrine from outside influences. And I agree with this interpretation. I don’t think the church should marry same-sex couples in the temple. I just don’t think they should be involved in political crusades.

    However, most Mormons don’t see it that way. They see the apostles as condemning the Gentiles, and giving us free reign to charge ahead with political crusading against what is increasingly looking like the majority position of the Gentiles, in a democracy. Probably, some of the apostles do think it’s OK to crusade against it. But I would probably guess that some of the Apostles are NOT OK with getting the church involved in further political crusades.

    Satan reigns here in America from the rivers to the ends of the earth, and Mormons are “strangers and forigners” here. We follow angelic messengers from our father, who give us bizarre rituals, and tell us not to have same-sex marriages. I’m cool with that. I’m cool with inviting others to make covenants and follow these same angelic messangers. But I’m not cool with pretending that our stories of gold-plates, Words of Wisdom, and sexual mores are self-evident realities to slam over the heads of the Gentiles.

  5. Adam G,
    Respectfully, there were talks made prior to the priesthood ban being removed that were just as adamant that that policy would not change. Similarly, the Saints heard similar discourse when being persecuted for polygamy. Anyhow, I’m not here to undermine what was said in conference, but to put it
    in the historical context as I understand it. I
    have disagreements that I feel strongly about
    that are not out of political correctness but out
    of concern for the welfare of brothers and
    sisters in the Gospel.

  6. Nate, very good comment. I always appreciate your honesty and desire to understand and be understood.

    I guess I would point out that there is a difference between defending your beliefs and launching a political crusade. Just 15 years ago the idea of gay marriage being approved of nationwide would have been ridiculous. So, the crusade is actually being carried out by liberal secularists. We are in a defensive position reasserting the rather obvious point that the definition of marriage does not change just because social mores change. So, I don’t accept that what the Church is doing is some kind of crusade. It is really just asserting the same things that have been asserted by traditionalists for millennia.

    I also think you make a mistake in seeing Prop 8 as a one-time thing. The Church joined in the amicus brief on the side of the people who supported Prop 8. The Church has not changed on this issue and never will.

    It seems to me that it behooves latter-day Saints to bring themselves in line with modern-day prophets rather than expecting prophets to accept current social orthodoxy. (This also applies to immigration, btw, where “conservative” Mormons oppose the Church’s more accepting position of immigrants).

  7. Geoff – I see two potential sides of the coin here (in response to your question to Nate).

    Either church members (and maybe some leadership at the margins) are being corrupted and influenced by the world today. Or church members (including leadership) were corrupted and influenced by the world “yesterday”.

    Nate presumably believes the latter, to some degree. So perhaps, according to the strawman of Nate I’ve constructed, the prevailing philosophies of the world as advocated and adapted by some faithful members are leading many in the church out of intellectual darkness and ignorance.

    That concept seems quite backward according to the claims the church makes about restoration, priesthood authority. But in pursuit of that end, priesthood authority is often redefined and reconceptualized since practically no one is capable at explaining a unified theory of priesthood, authority, personal revelation, etc. anyway.

    Personally, I’d like to bypass this issue as it often results in both sides seeking to prove or at least carve out a space for them to be right, for either side to be justified.

    My take is, if the words of Pres. Uchtdorf were a salve that healed some spiritual wounds you felt have been inflicted by the words of an authority now or in the past, then treat them as such (without obsessing over, “see you’re wrong, I’m right” as santification never results from feeling of self-justification); and then get on with the work of salvation and building up the kingdom. Serve others, give your heart to the Lord, share the gospel, invite others, study the words of the prophets, ancient and modern, turn away from vice as entertainment, seek uplifting things in your life, seek to do more with less, etc. etc. AND then after you’ve done this, you’ll come to know what’s true and what’s not true.

    All this harping over who is right or who is wrong at a theoretical level is probably important in that we want to know what direction we’re ultimately going. But if we can’t agree on that, we DO know what the Lord has asked us to do in the here and now in order to get to our destination. Let’s get to it.

  8. Chris, I don’t disagree with you, but this is an issue that keeps on coming up, and it is extremely relevant to anybody who has had any kind of discussion with people whose testimonies are wavering. I have probably talked to close to 100 people in that situation over the years, and the majority of them have cited the Church’s conservative positions on social issues as being a problem for them. But yet the GAs continue to hammer home these points at every General Conference. I can only come to the conclusion that we are being tested. In every generation and dispensation there are tests. In the 1830s and 1840s, it was, “can you continue to believe in Joseph Smith and the Twelve despite societal pressures, mobbing, affliction, etc?” Now, it is, “can you continue to believe in modern-day prophets despite the Church being out of step with societal orthodoxy on issues like same-sex marriage, the Word of Wisdom, chastity, the role of women, etc.”

    So, if we are being tested, we should want to pass the test and we should want our brothers and sisters to also pass the test. Pretending that the Church does not hold these positions, or being a Pharisee who comes up with some kind of exception, does not help people pass the test.

    It seems to me that there are logically only two choices:

    1)Embrace what the prophets say wholeheartedly and defend them.
    2)Put your doubts “on a shelf” until you understand them fully but don’t try to undermine the prophets in the meantime.

    I am OK with number 2. I truly admire people who did not understand how the Church could oppose gay marriage but still refused to criticize Church leadership on the issue. But I think the response of trying to undermine the prophets is extremely dangerous and I feel compelled to warn my brothers and sisters that such a course leads to a lot of problems, including eventually apostasy.

  9. Chris, I thought your comment was generous and wise. Yes, I do see that the modern church as obsessed with “traditional values” which never really existed, and which never really fit comfortably with LDS historical sexual practice to begin with. But you are right that the issue is a distraction from the weightier matters of the Law, and I’m glad you see a place for me in the church in spite of my unorthodox beliefs.

    Geoff, also I liked your comment about how these issues are trials for the Saints. I see the church as a trial, as well as a blessing, because it represents the “foolishness of God, which is greater than the wisdom of men.” God calls the weak things of the world to break the mighty and strong ones. The arguments presented by the prophets hold no rational or intellectual appeal for the secular world. They are pure foolishness. The trial for the saints is to embrace the foolishness, because God has ordained that this foolishness will stand forever, while all the world and its learning will fall away. I don’t see how it can be, but I’m along for the ride anyway, participating on a monastic level with the church and its craziness, which I trust is at the very least, divine craziness.

  10. Geoff to Mormon liberals: Guess what? – you belong to a very conservative church!

    I don’t really have a problem with you reminding your more liberal brothers and sisters of this, but if any of them think the heavy dose of gay=bad in conference yesterday was surprising, they’re not paying attention.

    And, I think you have to give the words of prophets a certain degree of seriousness if you’re any kind of Mormon believer. So let’s do that liberal!

    But, I’m afraid the groundwork of a living/changing religious tradition was established long before 1978 and even before polygamy, although those are key examples. I can accept a duly appointed leader declaring what the current doctrinal understanding is today, but I can only accept a few things taught in this church as “unchanging”. That doesn’t mean I believe that God changes per se, but that our understanding of his will for our time does change. I’ll never be able to ignore that part of our history. Its discouraging to see how easy it is for others, however.

  11. D&C 88:81:

    Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.

  12. With Blacks and the Priesthood, the Brethren would say things like ‘until God wants to change it, we have to stick with it.’ These statements here are different in that they don’t mention or anticipate that the Lord will reveal something else in the future. What they are saying isn’t that this is the way things are for now. They are saying that this is the way things are, period.

    This is the hill we’re gonna die on.

    Adam, with this comment are you saying that you think it is likely that Church leaders have not petitioned the Lord about this as they did with the priesthood ban because they do not think this is the kind of issue that merits bringing to the Lord, as the priesthood ban did based on their conviction that black men would someday hold the priesthood (though only after every single descendant of Abel had received it)?

  13. Perhaps just as important:
    “And while they were at variance one with another they became very slothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord.”

  14. But Geoff, I do agree with you to a large extent on a personal level. It’s saddening to me that so much discord exists because (from my perspective) many members have grown up or adopted the thinking of the world more so than the thinking of the prophets an apostles.

    The fine line that is being walked by many does indeed allow, for now, a life of faith combined with a life that does not disrupt our (their) situation in relation to prevailing philosophies of the modern world. Like you, part of me wonders at what point they will be forced to commit one way or the other and for those who are comfortable walking on that tight rope, I do wonder if it might make it easier to apostasy at a later date.

    But in all fairness, I could just as easily turn the tale around and point out that if 10 years from now the church announces a new revelation that opens up the Priesthood to women, and the great and promised day has arrived where we will now start administering the crowning ordinance of the priesthood in the temple to deceased women by proxy, or that maybe homosexuals may join the church and embrace their destiny to live as angels of light and eternal servants of the Lord or something to that effect… well, I imagine a lot of “us” would think long and hard about whether our church was apostatizing from its origins and embracing more of the world.

    So… I can only say, personally, I feel confident I’m right. I fortunately have the weight of every living and dead authority on my side on virtually all of the issues that matter to me. Moreover, I have personal revelation on many matters that speaks truth to my soul.

    But I don’t deny anyone the ability to disagree with me and still share in our faith. (not suggesting you do) I think for all of us, we’ll have a lot of scales fall from our eyes. My impression is the so-called liberals will figure out 20% of what they believe was dreadfully wrong, and it’s that 20% that really tweaked their thinking. Conservatives may find the same thing in a different direction.

    Like you, I wish we were all on the same page. But if we can’t get there through a little gentle persuasion and entreatment, better to actually get on with the work of building the vineyard than debating what need the Lord has with a tower in a time of peace.

  15. Geoff,

    In response to your discussion with nate re:traditional values and the “crusade.”

    I think you are right when you state that the crusade is more accurately attributed to the “liberal” side. Historically, that is the obvious conclusion. Many people, especially the prophets and apostles have lived through that crusade. I believe that particular lived experience gives them a certain perspective-one of the blessings of having a mature, experienced leadership.

    I can very much sympathize with nate, in that most people I interact with simply do not have that perspective. Their only experience of the past (pre 2000) is second-hand. This second-hand account is inevitably a thinner, over-simplified narrative. When we read a few cherry-picked primary source quotes, taken out of the historical context, it’s often convincing that the leadership’s position was archaic. This archaic position seems so starkly contrasted against the values we have come to know in church and had reinforced in a secular education. Equality, tolerance, compassion.

    Let me be clear. I deeply believe that past leaders, like President Kimball and President Benson were tolerant, compassionate men who valued equality. I believe President Packer is that kind of man. I didn’t always believe that. Growing up, a number of writings by President Packer and President Kimball led be to believe that I was beyond salvation. I felt hopeless and suicidal. Over time, I’ve learned that the problem wasn’t what those men had said. The problem was that I was simply given those materials written two or three decades earlier without historical context. I read their historical words through my present lens.

    I think that much of the problem between “liberal” and “conservative” members (as well as non-members) is largely that we are speaking different languages. This isn’t an easy-fix solution. Church leaders are mortal men who speak from their lived experience. They aren’t expected to be fluent in the 95 languages broadcast from the Conference Center. They shouldn’t be expected to be fluent in current academic, professional, or political languages, either. It is left up to members to attempt to interpret their doctrinal, spiritual messages in real-world application.

    We don’t expect missionaries to be fluent in their language skills because we know that the real converter isn’t a smooth, compelling sales-pitch, it’s the Spirit. However, we do expect missionaries to try to teach the word in the native tongue of the people. While the Spirit is able to transcend language, we do our best to make our message understandable. In the same way, I feel it’s my responsibility as a more “conservative” member to attempt to translate the message so that misunderstandings are less common.

    Does that make and

  16. Nate … if you feel pelted by General Conference, perhaps it’s you that need to change. The messages were not judgmental or mean, but direct and real. The Lord has set his standards, has given his commandments, they don’t change, because the Lord wants us home with him, and he has clearly laid out the way to do this — the way is thru the ordinances of His gospel. The Church is not going to try and be popular with the world, if it did, then what are we doing all of this for? It is us who need to change and bend our will to that of the Lord, not the other way around. The messages were clear — the Lord has a plan for His children, this was restated, reemphasized and retaught. As I listened to the Conference, I was taught, nudged by the Holy Spirit on things I need to work on, uplifted, and had my faith in the teachings of the Church re-confirmed. Following the prophet will never be a bad thing. I did not see any of the brothers or sisters who spoke slam the teachings of the Church over the heads of anyone, or encourage anyone to go out and wage a political war on religious matters.

  17. FWIW, I just ran across a quote that seems very apropos:

    From Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward (1977), 26-27:

    There is so much that the Church stands for that will, more and more, be confronted by and coexist with evil—cheek by jowl, wheat by tares—until the end comes. Our time will become a calendar of contrasts in which the forces of evil will not only attack righteousness, but will do so with an ersatz enthusiasm and plastic nobility as they do the devil’s work. By relentless pressure the adversary will seek to pull all he can into his “outer darkness” forever. It is so like him to direct our attention away from our gravest dangers. Can’t you just about hear the preachments against prudery in Sodom and Gomorrah?

  18. I made a mistake. I went and checked on the old, mainstream bloggernacle to see how they reacted to this General Conference.

    Not surprisingly, I found two reactions: a blend of rationalization and justification which effectively nuanced away any potency these talks might have, and an ongoing parade of self-pity for having to be in a church led by such out-of-touch oafs.

    That latter response actually doesn’t bother me as much: there is a personality type that will always have to see itself as the persecuted outsider in its own home, the noble underdog in a family that just doesn’t understand how righteous it is. It’s not constructive, but it’s introverted. There is a place in the church for that.

    But that first reaction is extroverted and explicitly destructive. It’s desperately sycophantic for the world at large, precisely the kind of philosophical solipsism that drained American Christianity of any power beyond that of a hollow Rameumpton. It has always led to apostasy and always will.

    If General Conference doesn’t challenge the prevailing winds, doesn’t motivate us to reexamine our most cherished assumptions and realign them with the Lord, at the sacrifice of personal pride, then what’s the point of it at all? If we come away from GC simply reassured in our own minds that everything we naturally believe is perfectly fine with God, then why even have prophets speak to us?

    (Of course, the same questions also apply to those who would likewise strip the Constitution of its power to shepherd and shape us, but that’s a comment for another day…)

  19. Huston, excellent comment. I really liked this paragraph:

    “If General Conference doesn’t challenge the prevailing winds, doesn’t motivate us to reexamine our most cherished assumptions and realign them with the Lord, at the sacrifice of personal pride, then what’s the point of it at all? If we come away from GC simply reassured in our own minds that everything we naturally believe is perfectly fine with God, then why even have prophets speak to us?”

    You stated it better than I did, and you are exactly correct. Can you see an interesting parallel between how the Pharisees reacted to the Savior and how some people react to General Conference?

  20. Geoff, I think its a mistake to make that comparison, considering the Pharisees obsession with strict obedience to the law.

    On the topic of dissent from the left or right. My experience as a missionary in remote areas of Utah tell me that the conservative apostates are actually quite numerous, they just don’t have as many allies in the outside world – don’t get as much pub. I met more than one person who grew up in the LDS church and decided one day that the end to polygamy was a mistake – taking on another wife and getting ex’d in the process. And many of them, like Denver Snuffer, seem to want to hang onto their membership, in spite of their disagreements with changing doctrine and policy. I met one couple near Vernel who believed that the call of James Faust to the 12 was evidence that our leaders were capable of being led astray. Yet, they maintained their membership.

    Unfortunately, I know just as many “liberal” members who have left as those that stay.

  21. Christian J, agreed on the point on “conservative” apostates. Yes, this is a worrying phenomenon, which is why you will find that I constantly emphasize “following the prophets” even if your natural mind disagrees with them.

    I take a slightly different approach than you do, however. I tend to follow the approach that there are “two ways,” the Lord’s way and the wrong way. (Keeping in mind that we can always repent and that people can change and that we should be kind and charitable to people wherever they are spiritually). So, from the Lord’s perspective, it doesn’t really matter whether you are a “liberal” apostate or a “conservative” apostate — you are still an apostate.

    On the Pharisee issue, I will disagree. The Pharisees thought that their interpretation of “the law” was the most correct and could not accept something new. Most importantly, they could not accept any authority beyond their own. They concentrated on their worldly concerns and what was popular with their group rather than what the Lord wanted (with some exceptions like Nicodemus). So, you see them as “conservative” apostates, but as I say above that is irrelevant: what was most important was not their worldly philosophy but instead their love of worldly praise and their rejection of the true message of the scriptures and the Gospel. In this sense, the Pharisees are exactly like many of our beloved brethren in the Bloggernacle.

  22. Huston’s point, “then why even have prophets speak to us?” is one major reason why the Great Apostasy occurred to begin with, at least according to an insight I’ve heard from Pres. Packer, who has remarked “we are just one generation away from apostasy” in the past. I do not believe it’s impossible for Priesthood authority to be withdrawn from the earth (apostasy on my part? hehe…) as theoretically we all have our agency. But still, it’s not something I think about.

    I just wanted to point out that Huston’s point pretty much plays into one of my main thoughts on why an apostasy occurred the first time around. The Apostles were speaking and their words either weren’t being headed or twisted around to suit the political/philosophical agenda of the people.

  23. Joyce says: “Nate … if you feel pelted by General Conference, perhaps it’s you that need to change”

    I felt pelted in two ways: On the one hand, I felt pelted to do my hometeaching better, to be a better friend, a better son, more diligent in my callings. On the other hand, I felt pelted by what I perceived as the judgemental tone taken by those who talked about same-sex marriage and other political issues which concern our relationships with the Gentiles. I agree that the church shouldn’t marry gays in the temple. But I believe that God does not condemn Gentiles born without The Law or with a different Law, and I feel uncomfortable with sermons which will be used by members to rationalize their judgemental views towards non-member homosexuals as wicked Sodomites, and acceptance of same-sex marriage as a sign of increasing wickedness. I know from personal experience with the Gentiles, that the fight for marriage equality feels deeply moral to them, something some even pray for, and that they feel deeply morally indignant towards the prejudice of churches like ours. In other words, they are just like you, but on the other side.

    I don’t disagree with the content of these talks nescessarily but with their tone, and their seeming focus on Gentile behavior, rather than LDS behavior. But then again, I feel free to disagree or dislike at times, as the church freely admits that it is run by imperfect men.

    I don’t feel a need to change my liberalism, because I dislike the conservative tone of some of the talks. The fact is, in my behavior, and my beliefs concerning the Law given to The Saints, I’m exactly in line with the prophets.

  24. All I can say is I was pretty disappointed in this conference. I was hoping they’d announce that women get the priesthood, because as EQ President in my ward, I could really use some help moving people on Saturdays and setting up chairs on Sunday.

  25. Nate,

    It sounds to me as though you are saying you are not bothered by the doctrine. You’re just a bit annoyed that the way they were delivered means you’ll have to do the work of interpreting them to your associates. Is that close?

  26. In all seriousness, I loved this conference. Clarity en masse. I feel for Nate, though. I’m cool with all the more political stances the church takes on things, save for illegal immigration. I just know one Saturday I’ll sit down to hear an apostle chastise me for not thinking illegal immigration is awesome, because then I’ll know it’s official and I’ll have to change. It’ll suck. Glad they didn’t get to that this time:)

    Really, though, I think it takes a lot of mental gymnastics to misunderstand the church’s position on gender, priesthood and SSM after this conference. The wave of social pressure demanding a response finally provoked one. It was a major theme of this conference.

    On a completely unrelated, but curious note, is it just me or did they end most of the sessions early this time? I think Sunday afternoon ended about 15 minutes early. BYU TV kept running out of panning flower shots.

  27. Tossman,

    You’re right that it takes a lot of effort to misunderstand the church’s doctrine of gender and SSM. At the same time, I think it may take more effort for some people to accept the church’s doctrine as true, than reject or ignore their lived experience.

    Maybe all I’m asking is for people who find it easy to accept and believe the truth as taught in the Church to recognize and accept that for some people it isn’t as easy. Not that it is any less true, or that we don’t still need to come to embrace the truth; sometimes, for any number of reasons, it isn’t easy or natural.

  28. Kevin L., yes, that is correct. But at the root of it is perhaps a disagreement of exactly what the place of the church is within the political and cultural context of the United States. Many of the Brethren seem to see the church as part of a larger cultural identity loosly called “traditional morality.” Much of the General Conference rhetoric mentioned in this post seems to be not specifically LDS, but fighting against forces of change which are threatening this larger cultural identity.

    This contradicts my own view of the church, which is “a kingdom not of this world,” as Jesus said, “if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.” I am against the church engaging in anything that is “fighting for the kingdom,” either politically or otherwise, and I believe the wisdom of this view has been vindicated by the mess created by Prop. 8, and that it has been discontinued as a method of engagement with the Gentiles. I see our doctrine, commandments, and moral views as LDS-specific, peculiar, and binding only upon those who make covenants to obey them. I find the identification with “traditional morality” ironic, given the LDS church’s history of polygamy. I think the church is “circling the wagons,” and I believe they feel inspired to do so at this time. But I think the future of church rhetoric lies in the more circumspect approaches of Elder Uchtdorf and Holland.

  29. Nate, I hate to spoil your hope for a Church different than the current one, but there is absolutely zero evidence that Elder Uchtdorf or Holland will change the Church’s approach on controversial social issues. Btw, if you study actuarial tables, the most likely next prophet is Elder Oaks. In any case, this claim that somehow if we can only change a few apostles we will get a different kind of Church is simply not borne out by the evidence. The Church’s position on social issues simply has not changed over the years, no matter who is in the leadership. The line has been drawn on same-sex marriage, abortion and women and the priesthood. So it is time to simply accept that and find a way to change your perspective so you are in line with modern-day prophets.

  30. I see no evidence whatsoever that President Uchtdorf and Elder Holland disagree with Elder Oaks, President Packer, Elder Nelson, Elder Bednar, Elder Perry, Elder Cook, or any of the other prophets and apostles. I see no evidence at all that their approach is somehow different than theirs. They just haven’t given conference talks on it yet. But when they do, I just don’t see reason to believe that they’ll be “softer” on those issues.

  31. nate,

    Just as a thought experiment let us assume that you are correct that the laws of God are only binding upon people who, in this mortal life, have made covenants to follow said laws and that everyone else can sin to their hearts content with minimal risk of divine punishment or even natural repercussions.

    Even in this scenario wouldn’t the Church have an interest in fostering social acceptance of traditional morality if for no other reason than softening the hearts of men towards eventual conversion?

    For example: I spent some time down in rural Mexico and one of the biggest problems we faced with missionary work was that almost no-one was legally married to the people they were living with. They just didn’t think it was important anymore. This meant that many people who were otherwise interested in the Church dropped out as soon as the law of chastity was brought up. The idea of having to get married before being baptized just presented too big a hurdle for these otherwise outstanding people. This would not have been as big a problem if that particular area had a pre-existing culture of marriage and strong families.

    Just some food for thought on one possible reason God might consider it prudent to ask his people to encourage some degree of moral standards outside of the covenant. Even if you disagree I hope the thought experiment was at least amusing.

  32. LDSP and Geoff, I shouldn’t have suggested doctrine would change under an Uchtdorf/Holland leadership, but only that “tone” might change. But Geoff is right that as far as leadership, the hardliners seem to have it sewn up for the foreseeable future. But the apostles surprise me at times. Elder Oaks, as “by the book” as he seems, was the first to suggest that homosexuality may be inborn, and unchangable for some. That doesn’t change doctrine, but it does change tone. Also, Elder Oaks, more than any other apostle, has admitted that apologetic efforts cannot do anything more than settle a “draw” on the question of Book of Mormon historicity, a tacit acknowledgement that the Book of Mormon is NOT self-evident in its historicity. That opens the door for theories which embrace its spirituality as its supreme asset but also acknowledge the contradictions inherent in studying it as a historical document. That is a decidedly liberal orientation, compared to past approaches to Book of Mormon scholarship. Elder Oaks would never say “we’ll settle for a draw” in General Conference, but he speaks different languages to different groups of members.

  33. JSG those are good questions: “wouldn’t the Church have an interest in fostering social acceptance of traditional morality if for no other reason than softening the hearts of men towards eventual conversion?”

    I think the answer to that question lies in the approach of door to door missionaries when teaching the Law of Chastity with Gentiles. This Law comes in the 4th lesson, after a great amount of preparatory doctrine, and a thousand opportunities for the investigators to show the missionaries the door. IF they get to the 4th discussion, the missionaries approach it with the most prayer, trepidation, and concern of any discussion. They know they are asking them to make what they know is an enormous and unprecidented sacrifice.

    Because this is NOT the tone of General Conference rhetoric on the Law of Chastity, I have to assume the Brethren are not trying to encourage potential Gentile investigators to obey the Law of Chastity. Rather, they are warning the Saints not to embrace the standards of the Gentiles. They also may be advocating member political support for right-wing campaigns that try to legislate traditional morality among the Gentiles in various ways. The political aspect is the one I disagree with. I believe the church wins converts, “one from a city, two from a family” from individual invitations to “come follow me.” Being seen as part of a right wing political coalition does not help us win Gentile converts, (at least any of the 50% of liberally oriented Gentiles, and these are those in my peer group. Rather we are the enemy of the very moral feelings liberals also have.) Maybe the church is only for Conservatives, but I don’t think so. I don’t think the church really has much influence in stemming large national political tides. Anything they do or say concerning the political battles among the Gentiles will simply put them on one side of a polarized debate, and turn off half the population towards them.

    I’m all for making clear separation between the standards of the church and the standards of the Gentiles. I just don’t believe in alienating Gentiles in the process.

  34. nate,

    I agree that taking unpopular political stances decreases our appeal to large segments of the population and appreciate you for dealing with the stress this creates between you and your peer group. I was merely pointing out that not taking those stances also decreases our appeal to other large segments of the population and that letting the world fall away from God’s standards might decrease our appeal to future generations that would have converted had they only grown up with a slightly different set of standards.

    Of course, it would take an omniscient mind to fully weigh the present and future costs and benefits of political and social activism by the Church. Only a god-like mind could calculate whether the people scared away from the Church by our conservative policies would be outweighed by the people that benefit from a world that isn’t allowed to fall quite as fast. Only a divine mind could balance the pain of a society with too much moral pressure against the pains of a society with too little.

    And clearly I don’t have that sort of mind. But even with my limited mortal brain power I can imagine logical arguments for reasons why God both would and would not ask His people to engage in publicly promoting His standards outside of the covenant. And given how a slight change in base assumptions is all it takes to arrive a radically different conclusion I tend to be reluctant to take a strong stance on any particular point for reasons of mere logic.

    All I can do is assume that Church leadership is right more often than not, support them in their callings and trust in God to clean up after our mortal mistakes in his own way.

  35. JSG, good comment. I would like to point out that “liberal” mainline churches are on the decline, whereas “conservative” churches are the only ones growing. This applies throughout the world (Africa, Asia, Latin America) but most of all in the developed world of the U.S. and Europe. The reason is that if somebody is going to take the time to actually go to a church, pay tithing, attend meetings, etc, that person wants a church that actually preaches the Word. You can get the worldly view anywhere, no need to go to a church — you might as well just take a hike and look at nature. If you want to actually have a religious experience it turns out you are more likely to attend a church that is more conservative in terms of social values.

  36. Err there was a pretty direct talk about immigrants… Illegal is just a word we apply to behavior our oppressive, bureaucratic, leviathan of a government technically proscribes. You know like throwing tea in e harbor or visiting a memorial during the “shutdown”.

  37. Chris, was direct talk was that? I like your logic. Next time a cop pulls me over for speeding, I’ll make sure to tell him that’s just a label we apply to the behavior that our oppressive, bureaucratic, leviathan of a government applies. I’m sure he’ll let me right off.

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