“The greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord.” – Brigham Young
This quote is probably familiar to many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have participated in online discussions about the church.
Faithful members have had it thrown in their faces by dissidents and detractors on numerous occasions. Dissenters see it as a powerful sound-bite in support of the notion that members of the church must be continually vigilant that the fallible leaders of the church do not lead the church astray.
And as a soundbite it is reasonably effective. But there is one problem: Brigham Young never said it. The quote is completely spurious.
In response to recent disciplinary actions by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, supporters of those being disciplined have complained that the charge of apostasy is inaccurate because, they assert, the individuals and the organizations created by them have not taught any false doctrines or acted in opposition to the prophet or the Church.
They insist that all they are doing is asking questions. So, what false doctrine can they possibly be teaching?
This is my attempt to answer that important question.
At the outset, let’s immediately dispense with the notion that “asking questions” is always unambiguously innocent and unassuming.
“In God’s plan for the happiness and eternal progression of His children, the blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women. Only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices. All service in the Church has equal merit in the eyes of God. We express profound gratitude for the millions of Latter-day Saint women and men who willingly and effectively serve God and His children. Because of their faith and service, they have discovered that the Church is a place of spiritual nourishment and growth.”
“We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.”
“Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.“
I want to address those members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are among the groups of dissenters, critics, and agitators in the Church who suddenly find themselves in an uneasy association with people who increasingly are openly hostile to the Church, its leaders, and its teachings.
I know that some of you are uncomfortable with the direction in which your associates have gone. Uneasy with the comments and conversations on the websites you frequent. Some of you quietly feel misgivings and twinges of conscience about the blatant public denigration of the Church and the Apostles by the people with whom you identify and with whom you have built friendships. You were seeking answers to your questions and resolution for your doubts, but now all you see is increased doubt, questioning, and strife.
Some of you are asking yourselves “How did this happen? I’m a good member of the Church. Why do other members call me or the group with which I participate apostate? How did I get here?”
Let me reassure you that there is a place for you in the Church. We want you here. And yes, we want you with all your doubts, questions, and complaints.
The misgivings you feel about where you suddenly find yourself are valid. Don’t reject them. Listen to them.
It doesn’t matter how you got to where you are as much as it matters that there is a way back.
With the LDS Church releasing commentary on Race and the Priesthood, it has become fashionable to believe someday a full apology will be given that a ban was ever instituted. Most Mormons say we don’t know why or when the ban was first instituted, questioning if it was from God or man. The prophets, the arguments go, were wrong. The problem with these lines of thinking is that the record indicates the why and when does exist, even if existential questions remain.
Since the start of Mormonism, written records have been an important part of the religion. A few revelations, such as D&C 47, instruct individuals to write and collect records as a testimony. Researchers have noted the amount of history and biography available for research. Very few religious organizations have as much of a paper trail to read. Although not everything was written down to substantiate, it doesn’t matter if a person agrees with the attribution of the divine hand of God. There is a lot to sift through and examine for each facet of development.
The Priesthood ban for blacks is not without its own records. Probably the best study of the issue is from Chapter 4 of Neither white nor Black, an article written by Lester E. Bush, Jr. Despite the introduction that claims he refutes the orthodox explanations of the origin of the ban, his findings actually substantiate that a well recognized ban did exist. It it true that some of the more “folk doctrine and history” are seriously questioned. The clear line of authority for its beginnings remain intact, even with some inexplicable twists and turns.
For a complete understanding of where and when the ban developed, it must be acknowledged that it didn’t come from Joseph Smith. That seems to be the major roadblock to accepting it as a genuine authorized policy. Although still having the prejudices of the time, he was progressive in treating blacks as worthy of equal treatment. That isn’t to say he was an abolitionist in the strict sense of the word. For him masters still had claim to slaves even if ideally all men should be free. This was consistent with the New Testament “hands off” approach to the currently reviled institution. In the Church during his life blacks had no Priesthood ban or any restrictions. For those who insist that the ban was wrong and without authority, this would be the end of the argument. Yet, the Church he founded believes in a continual line of prophets and revelation. His words and teachings might be the first and most scrutinized, but not the last. Continue reading →