Rational Faiths has recently posted an article arguing that — by the LDS Church’s own definitions — the LDS Church has slipped into apostasy. The central argument (there are side arguments I won’t touch on here) is that in LDS rhetoric and literature, the primitive Christian Church fell into apostasy when it began to rely on councils and creeds rather than apostolic direction and prophetic revelation.
Today, the author argues, the LDS Church does the same — rather than being led by a prophet receiving direct revelation from God, the Church is led by the Council of the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles, a council, he argues, that directs the Church by issuing creeds, activities very similar to those the LDS Church attributes to the great apostasy. Two comments:
(1) The author has not done his research. For being published in BYU Studies and Book of Mormon Studies, his article is flimsy in documentation. For example, he says this about the revelation to lift the priesthood restriction: “The Twelve had no part in any ‘deliberations.’ Rather, after being approved by the counselors in the First Presidency, it ‘was then presented to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who unanimously approved it.’ No input or deliberations from the Twelve are mentioned.” What the author is implying by this is that the “council system” whereby the First Presidency and the Twelve unanimously approves changes in Church policy is a new phenomenon, one that did not exist when this significant change was made.
However, the author is wrong. He assumes that because none of the deliberations and conversations were mentioned in the introduction to Official Declaration 2, they must not have happened. However, he has not researched his claim. Historical records show that every member of the quorum of the Twelve was allowed and encouraged to speak their mind and air their concerns, and that President Kimball was not prepared to move forward until they had all come to agreement. For example Elder Bruce R. McConkie spoke at length defending the change, giving his opinion that the change needed to happen. Each member of the quorum was given the floor and allowed to speak their mind, before they unanimously supported the new policy. I don’t have the sources right now (I’m writing on the fly), but others may, and I encourage them to post them in the comments. On this point (and others), the author is simply factually mistaken, and engages in shoddy research.
(2) The Doctrine and Covenants makes this council system very plain. I’m not even sure where the controversy is. D&C 107 describs the formation of First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Quorums of the Seventy. Then it says that these quorums are equal in authority with one another, so long as their voice is unanimous:
“And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the aunanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other … Unless this is the case, their decisions are not entitled to the same blessings which the decisions of a quorum of three presidents were anciently.”
In other words, the unanimous voice of the Twelve is equal in authority with the First Presidency, and the unanimous voice of the quorum of the Seventy is equal in authority with the Twelve. This is written down as revelation by Joseph Smith. There is nothing controversial about it — Joseph Smith is the one who set it up, claiming to have done so by revelation.
Now consider: of COURSE these groups are going to engage in conversation, deliberation, and even disagreements before arriving at unanimity.*Would anyone expect otherwise? Would anyone expect 70 men, for example, to walk into the same room and magically agree with each other before discussing the issues, praying about the issues, fasting about the issues, and hearing out their various concerns first?
The essential difference between the Council of Niceae (for example) and the Council of the Twelve is almost entirely slighted in the article — it’s not that one is a council and the other is not, it’s that one has priesthood authority, and seeks and receives revelation through the guidance of the Spirit, and the other is based in philosophical argumentation. That’s the difference. Does the author of this post expect that a true apostolic Church will not be led by a council of Twelve Apostles, but by one man acting alone?
Anyways, I’m saddened to see a clearly intelligent researcher throw away his loyalty to the Church based on such shoddy research. I hope none of our readers are fooled by his arguments. I could respond to each of his other arguments, but I have dissertation work to get back to.