[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.
I haven’t written much on the topic of gay marriage in recent months because I felt that pretty much everything on the legal merits had been said ad nauseum. I also had little pretension or doubt as to what the outcome of the Supreme Court case would be, though I was eager to see what rationale the Court would use as it created a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
This morning, knowing that the decision was pending, I spent time in the temple praying for peace and clarity regarding the opinion. As I did so, I again received a reassurance that I have received frequently over the past several months. Ultimately, while there are reasons to despair over the changes that have swept the nation, we should be filled with hope because the Lord is in charge.
While many are celebrating today, I know that many others are afraid of the impact this decision will have on the Church and the cause of religious freedom. And many are wondering how to respond as our views increasingly become a minority position. While these thoughts are purely my own, I hope that some of what I express in this post will provide comfort and consolation for those who are anxious as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision.
Opponents of same-sex marriage have frequently warned that when the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage (which it did today), it will be this generation’s Roe v. Wade and lead to a never ending cultural war on the topic. I sincerely hope not. Though I have frequently and strongly spoken up against the legalization of same-sex marriage, I hope that the fighting will recede and that those who see the urgent need to defend the family from decay and destruction will be able to move on to fighting for other pro-family measures.
The following guest post is from Beth Buck. Beth is a stay-at-home mother of three. She works part time as a staff writer for an emergency preparedness website, has a degree in Middle Eastern Studies/ Arabic from BYU, and holds a black belt in Karate.
Patriarchal blessings are unique to Mormonism in concept and practice. No other denomination (save the offshoots of Mormonism) continues the biblical tradition of receiving a prophetic blessing unique to each person. The lds.org topical article describes these as “personal counsel from the Lord.”
During Conference there were a lot of talks about marriage and family. While the talks briefly mentioned current events such as same-sex marriage, they mostly focused on something somewhat different. Elders Christofferson and Perry in particular had very similarly titled talks which focused on the doctrine or the why of family (“Why marriage, why family” and “Why Marriage and Family Matters” respectfully). President Packer likewise talked about “The Plan of Happiness” and in doing so focused heavily on the doctrine of the family.
Twenty years ago, the Family a Proclamation the World declared powerfully to the world our unique theology and doctrine of family. In the interceding years, that vision has only become more and more essential. Yet, we often focus on the details of the proclamation such as teachings about the roles of men and women and lose sight of what this inspired doctrine taught about the nature of significance of the Family in God’s plan.
What I believe we are witnessing today is a great clarification and sharpening of the doctrine of the family brought about by current events and the global effort to redefine marriage. These challenges have led our leaders to ponder and reflect on the true meaning of the family. These challenges have deeply enriched our understanding of the gospel as a familial matter. Much more so than twenty years ago, our leaders today teach not merely what families should be like, but why this is so essential.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie famously taught of the three pillars of eternity as being the creation, the fall, and the atonement. Today, instead of three pillars Elder Christofferson put forward four things essential for realizing God’s plan of happiness. The first three were the same as Elder McConkie’s pillars—creation, fall, and redemption, but the fourth of these pillars is the Family “the setting for physical birth and subsequent spiritual rebirth in God’s kingdom.” Elder Christofferson explained that this is essential, because in marriage we are able to create “in partnership with God, the physical bodies that are key to the test of mortality and essential to eternal glory with Him.” It is in marriage that we become co-creators with God and therefore enter the path towards exaltation.
President Packer also discussed this theme in his remarks. He emphasized that “The power of procreation is not an incidental part of the plan of happiness; it is the key to happiness.” It is through this power, that “we may come close to our Father in Heaven and experience a fullness of joy, even Godhood.” Being able to responsibly use our power of procreation responsible is the great test of mortality.
Just a quick reminder that the 2nd Annual Friends & Foes Rendezvous is tonight from 6 to 8 pm.
I hope to see some of you there. Especially those who dislike my online interactions but who have never met me in person.
If you won’t be able to attend but would like to meet up some time, please feel free to contact me through the contact form at http://www.sixteensmallstones.org and we can arrange to have lunch.
And whether I see you or not, I hope you have a fantastic General Conference weekend!
J. Max Wilson