Periodically, the world lurches through serious changes. When it does, it forces people to choose between the world’s goals and the Church’s standards. When this happens, we go through a serious moment of apostasy.
Previous events in modern LDS history include:
- The nation’s banks collapsing in 1836-37, causing the failure of the Kirtland Savings, and many people leaving Joseph and the Church
- The first succession of Presidency after the death of Joseph Smith
- The end of polygamy under Wilford Woodruff
- Blacks receiving the priesthood (yes, there were many who left the Church either due to racist beliefs, or because they insisted JFSmith and BRMcConkie could not be wrong)
- Equal Rights Amendment of the 1970s/80s
- The September Six (early 1990s)
As we can see, some of these apostasy events were larger than others. Some affected only a small group, but were highly publicized, while others involved large numbers of members, and even apostles.
Today, I believe we are entering into an era that could open the door for another large movement away from the Church. There are three major areas affecting this:
- Gay rights
- Women’s rights
- Intellectual assaults on the Church
For the movement on Gay rights and on women’s rights in the Church, I think we may see some major apostasy. As gays and their supporters (including many LDS, such as Marie Osmond), push for gay marriage, we will see the Church forced to make a decision. The Church has established a line in the sand, based upon the Proclamation on the Family (which I hope becomes OD3 this General Conference), stating we will love all God’s children, but marriage ordained of God is between man and woman. So important is this concept that the header for OD1 was changed in the new LDS scriptures to proclaim that the standard is one man/one woman in marriage, unless God commands otherwise. I do not see God commanding otherwise, as scripture has only ever defined two types of marriage: traditional and polygamy.
On the women’s front, I have no problem with them praying in General Conference, wearing pants to Church (as long as it is part of a dress suit, and not something frilly), etc. I don’t even mind the Lord giving women A priesthood of their own, similar to what Joseph Smith gave the original Nauvoo Relief Society. However, this again must be done according to the Lord’s will and time, and not ours. In a recent discussion elsewhere, one sister bemoaned the fact that she was “dismayed” about 15 old white guys sitting in SLC, not allowing her to have the priesthood due to an old misogynistic tradition. I asked her, why she had to be dismayed about anything? Why did she assume they did not have her best interests at heart, while seeking the will of God? Such attitudes of distrust towards the Brethren will ultimately lead to apostasy.
The third area can also be tricky. Where does one draw the line between faithful intellectual discussion and research, and that which only breeds doubt? I know some members, who were shocked at the “rough” treatment they felt Richard Bushman gave Joseph Smith in “Rough Stone Rolling”. For me, however, I see a historian and patriarch, who wanted to write a scholarly book that was fair to history and to the real Joseph Smith.
OTOH, we see many websites and blogs that purport to be faithful, but then drain the spiritual energy out of the room. “Mormon Stories” by John Dehlin began as a worthwhile and evenly balanced venture, but turned into a focus on all things bad regarding Mormonism. Sensationalism and controversy were discussed, but rarely a faith building discussion. Such sites encourage people to walk away from the Church, rather than weigh the good and bad. Such sites focus on the physical senses (seeing, hearing, touching, feeling, tasting), but not the spiritual experience. There are many who once had a spiritual testimony that lost it in the confusion of “facts” interpreted or spun in a negative way.
Perhaps this is a warning to all of us to hold tight to the iron rod, and move forward to the Tree of Life. Do not allow the mists of darkness and the scoffers in the big building confuse us from the real task at hand. Gay marriage, women holding the priesthood, and historic blunders by prophets are issues, but they are not THE issues leading to eternal life.
It will be interesting, yet sad, to see who among us “stand in holy places and be not moved” (D&C 87:8)
*Note, asking or recommending something from the Brethren does not lead to apostasy, when faith is employed in those called of God. It is when we enter the room with a chip on the shoulder, daring our leaders to knock the chip off our shoulder that we begin the path to apostasy.