There have been some truly absurd things floating around the Mormon blogs these days. The single most absurd has to be this post, in which the writer calls for “civil disobedience” against the Church on the issue of women and the priesthood.
Make no mistake: the writer is a supporter and promoter of the Ordain Women (OW) movement, which seeks to force the Church to take a stand on the priesthood that 90 percent of Mormon women do not support.
But the post is especially silly because the writer apparently does not know the difference between civil disobedience against the government (very often a laudable thing) and civil disobedience against a private, voluntary organization.
The writer is correct to point out that disobedience against unjust laws is often necessary in a republic like ours. The civil rights movement provides a classic case of just disobedience: Rosa Parks truly is a hero for refusing to give up her seat to a white person. But Rosa Parks was disobeying a government law that forced her into second-class status. It was the government of Montgomery, Alabama, which is a monopoly institution enforcing monopoly laws, that was oppressing her. There were no other busses in Montgomery for her to take. If she wanted to get from one part of town to another via the bus system, she was forced to submit to unjust laws.
The contrast with the Church should be obvious. Nobody is forcing you to go to Church, and when you go to Church, you are not forced to do anything. I address this in the post “Us” vs. “Them.” If you do not like the way the Church is run, you can go to another church.
A private organization that is run by its members in a voluntary fashion is simply nothing like the oppressive government Kaimi Wenger claims to hate so much. When you join a private, voluntary organization, you are agreeing to certain terms of participation. Common courtesy and basic ethics imply that you accept the structure of the organization and its terms of participation. If you want to change the organization, you follow the procedures inside the organization to institute change.
I address this in this post called “The parable of the chess club.” This post tells the story of dissidents who join and chess club and use the system — and the media — to successfully change it into a checkers club. It is obvious that these dissidents could have, from the beginning, started their own checkers club. It would have involved less conflict and would have respected the will of the people who wanted to play chess. But this is not the goal of the activists — their goal is to use bullying and force to ruin the organization for other people.
The same principle applies to Kaimi Wenger and the other activists in the OW movement. Many of the primary leaders of the OW movement are inactive or excommunicated members of the Church. They have clearly shown that they do not like the Church as it is and have decided to change it into something more in line with their vision of what the Church should be. They have rejected the idea that God and modern-day prophets lead the Church and feel that, instead, they should lead the Church.
Make no mistake: there is no significant difference between the OW members and the long, long line of Church dissidents who have felt they know better than Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and the other leaders of the Church. All we have to do is study Church history to see that Kate Kelly, Kaimi Wenger, Margaret Toscano and the other OW supporters are the modern-day versions of John C. Bennett, Sidney Rigdon and Thomas Marsh.
And like early Church dissidents, the modern-day dissidents will always claim that they want to “improve” the Church. Many of them will claim they are faithful latter-day Saints but then will refuse to answer questions about whether they believe in the primary truth claims of the Church.
There is a process for disagreeing with Church leadership. If you have suggestions for change, you can discuss with your bishop or stake president or even write polite letters to the prophet and the apostles. You can also pray for change that you think is important.
I would like to mention the example of Neylan McBaine, who has worked with Church leaders to make changes that she feels are important for women in the Church. Her participation has been to use existing channels within the private, voluntary organization that is the Church. She agrees with the OW movement on some of its goals but not on its methods, and this is crucial: within a private, voluntary organization you effect change by working within the structure of the organization.
The OW movement is completely uninterested in the majority of men and women who are perfectly fine with the Church the way it is. They show a complete moral blind spot when it comes to what other latter-day Saints want. Does the will of the majority count for them? No, because they simply know better. They are the all-knowing, all-seeing elites who know better than the millions of rubes who accept that the Church truly is led by modern-day prophets who might be more inspired than the inactive Church members trying to change the Church.
I want to be clear that I am not encouraging Kate Kelly and her followers to leave the Church. Thomas Marsh eventually realized he was wrong and rejoined the Church. So did Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris. The Church will be fine through this ordeal and will continue to grow and spread the Gospel through the Earth. I want Kate Kelly and Kaimi Wenger to be part of the Church and to return to the Gospel. I want them to accept the inspired role of modern-day prophets who are leading the Lord’s church. The Church and people who follow the prophets will be fine — the only ones who will suffer are those who lead rebellion against the Church because they are rebelling against God.
But I do worry about people who may be inspired to follow the Church dissidents. People can often be swayed by causes that may appear good (“equality”) without analyzing the end result (apostasy).
Go to lds.org and look up all of the talks reminding us to obey modern-day prophets. This is the secret to our eternal salvation, not following small movements led by people opposed to the Church.
As Elder Hales said:
With the restoration of the priesthood in 1829, there was a restoration of prophets in this dispensation. Living prophets are leading this church today. The greatest security of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints comes from learning to listen to and obey the words and commandments that the Lord has given through living prophets. I would hope that the world would understand the importance of having a living prophet on earth today.
Follow the prophets, not the dissidents. This is the key lesson from history and the key message for faithful latter-day Saints today.