On the Folly of Demanding Demographic Diversity among the LDS Apostles

[Cross Posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

As you probably already know, three new apostles were called during the recent October 2015 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Apostles serve as special witnesses of Jesus Christ and hold priesthood authority and keys to direct the work of God on the earth. Jesus directs his church through these living apostles and prophets. And as members of the church we believe these men are called by God through inspiration to the living prophet and president of the church.

Some members of the church, and not a few dissidents and former members, have expressed disappointment and feelings of hurt because the three new apostles do not come from diverse enough backgrounds to meet their contemporary concepts of Diversity. All three new apostles are white men, born in Utah. These disappointed members and critics wanted new apostles with backgrounds more representative of the diversity in church membership, which now has more members outside of the United States than in.

There has been plenty of commentary about this criticism, and I don’t want to rehash what has already been said. But I do want to step back and take a more abstract look at some of the problems with wanting the Lord to call apostles based on demographic diversity.

Diversity is a good thing. Each individual brings a unique package of experience, background, talents, and ideas that can contribute to building the Kingdom of God.

However, when considering diversity, it is important to recognize that we, as human beings, tend to draw arbitrary lines and to group people based on simplistic similarities. However we draw those lines, we unavoidably generalize, oversimplify, and reduce people from complex individuals into artificially uniform groups.

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No Doubt to Know

girlthomasTrying to find a way with Scriptural understanding to reconcile the honest search for Truth and the spiritual destructiveness of unbelief, I found that doubt is not a positive attribute. As described by prophets and the Lord Jesus Christ, doubt is the enemy of faith. Unbelief is slightly worse because of a more concrete condition of the mind and heart, but they are both related to each other. Doubt doesn’t lead to faith. It destroys it by leading to questioning everything; even miracles that we participate in by the Grace of God.

The one instance when doubt brought greater understanding was Acts 10:17 after Peter received his vision of the unclean animals. Religiously speaking, it was a weak doubt because he had complete confidence the vision was real. He simply wondered, “what this vision which he had seen should mean,” and pondered for an answer. His faith in the vision was rewarded with a missionary opportunity to baptise a gentile. He then realized in Acts 10:28 that, “it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” The use of the word “doubt” in this instance might be the wrong choice of words, when “wondered” might be more appropriate.

Despite modern definitions and meanings, to doubt is not the same as questioning. It is natural and even required by Scripture that we should question. No one can discover truth without inquiring with mind and spirit where it can be found. How we are to question is important to properly growing in faith. There is a form of action involved that goes beyond the intellectual curiosity. It reads in 1 Thes. 5:21 that believers should, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” As always, Jesus Christ explained how this is to be done while teaching at the Temple. His teachings became a source of astonishment to the people attending because he had no formal intellectual training. They asked him how he could know so much without the proper school education and he responded in John 7:16-17 that, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me,” and “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” He is teaching that the way to discern spiritual things is to follow what God has already taught. This idea is emphasized in verse 19 when he asks, “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?” Those who do not follow the basic teachings of God cannot comprehend deeper truths and will be stuck with their questions. Continue reading

Man of La Mancha: A Deconstruction

215px-Playbill_Man_of_La_ManchaThe following is really a personal tale of a story that helped me in a personal way at just the right time. But I’m telling it as a review of the play, Man of La Mancha. Spoilers abound throughout, but this is a rather old story by now.

As many of you know, I sometimes struggle with my faith, especially during times of depression. One night when I was at a low, my wife reminded me we had a play to go to that night. We’d already changed our date for the play once, so even though we didn’t feel like going we decided to not waste the tickets. When we arrived at the theater, I saw that the play was Man of La Mancha. I groaned inwardly, “Ug! Not Don Quixote!” Boring! Or so I thought.

Half way through the play I still had no idea where the meandering storyline was going. I couldn’t relate to the characters either, so I wasn’t enjoying the play much.

Then all of a sudden the threads of the story came together in an unexpected way that.  As the play ended I turned to my wife and said “well… that was sort of like God shouting a message to me… just when I needed it the most.”

I will explain the play and its theme and why its message was one that I needed to hear. Continue reading

LDS President Eyring to Speak at Vatican Colloquium Supporting Traditional Male-Female Definition of Marriage


On November 18th, 2014, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be addressing a global meeting of faith leaders hosted by the Catholic Church at the Vatican. The meeting, called a “colloquium” will be opened by Pope Francis and is meant to bring world religious leaders together in support of the traditional, male-female definition of marriage. Continue reading

My Personal Themes from General Conference

McConkie follow the prophetWe’re 10 days out from General Conference. I am still thinking about it and letting the lessons I learned from it percolate in my head. I hope you had your own personal theme develop for you as you listened to the speakers.

I was impressed by speaker after speaker with three themes.

First, FOLLOW THE PROPHET! Yes, I realize that’s in all caps, because yes, I am screaming that at the world. We just need to follow the prophet to find the answers to our questions, the solutions to our problems and for maximum happiness in this life. Sister McConkie taught in her talk “We heed prophetic word even when it may seem unreasonable, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. According to the world’s standards, following the prophet may be unpopular, politically incorrect, or socially unacceptable. But following the prophet is always right.” Did we get that? Following the prophet is always right, despite what is popular out there in the world.

Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the 70s also addressed following the prophet instead of following popular trends as well. He asked us, “Which way do you face?”, and challenged us to not invert the first and second great commandments. Again we were reminded, “The scornful often accuse prophets of not living in the 21st century or of being bigoted. They attempt to persuade or even pressure the Church into lowering God’s standards to the level of their own inappropriate behavior, which in the words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell, will ‘develop self-contentment instead of seeking self-improvement’ and repentance. Lowering the Lord’s standards to the level of a society’s inappropriate behavior is—apostasy.” That was the money quote for me, lowering the Lord’s standards to the level of society is apostasy. Makes you think about the things we’re interested in and advocating for. I hope we all asked ourselves if “our issues” match up with what the prophets are teaching us, and if they don’t, instead of rationalizing them away, we’re willing to change our thoughts to match the council of the prophets and the standards and doctrines of the Church.

Eyring revelation from GodMy second theme of General Conference was the importance of receiving our own witness of the teachings of the prophets. Elder Eyring’s talk specifically addressed this and the principle of “confirming revelation.” He said, “Human judgment and logical thinking will not be enough to get answers to the questions that matter most in life. We need revelation from God.” Did we hear that? We cannot rely on our own judgments, the opinions of friends, junk we see on facebook, or the latest and greatest train of thought. We must receive our own “confirming revelation” like Nephi of old.

I am heart broken to see so many friends, who are also members of the Church, cherry picking the words of the prophets to fit their agendas, rejecting the doctrines of the church, specifically those regarding chastity, morality and marriage, for worldly standards and practices. The thing is, the world is always in a constant state of flux, and revels in emotionally charged rhetoric that will surely short change us on our salvation. I’ve also been told numerous times by these same friends that they had “personal revelation” and/or a “witness of the spirit” that things like The Family Proclamation and the Church’s stand and support of traditional marriage are not true. I’ll just be bold here and state that these witnesses cannot be true. It might have been a witness, but a witness that is not inline with the doctrines of the Church and the words of the modern, living prophets is not from the Lord. The Holy Spirit is not going to give any of us a confirmation or a witness of something that goes against what the Lord has taught. The Holy Ghost will always witness the truthfulness of the Gospel and the truthfulness of the words of the prophets.
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