Why the long process?


I know a couple of ladies in the church—one married, one divorced—who have gone to their bishops to confess to breaking the law of chastity and both were told to stop partaking of the sacrament, the other also being forced to surrender her temple recommend. Now, it has been well over two years for both women and neither one has received permission to partake of the sacrament. In these two years, both women have confided in me that they were repentant and felt that God had forgiven them, but that because they still couldn’t partake of the sacrament, their desire to participate in and continue going to church has been waning.

One of these ladies even told me that her bishop had explained to her that she was only required to confess to the bishop and to God, that she need not confess to her husband nor divulge the name of the man with whom she was unfaithful. She disobeyed his counsel and confessed everything to her husband and they are now reconciled, but she still can’t partake of the sacrament, despite her repentance.

Two plus years seems like an awful long time to keep a repentant person who has confessed her sin to God and priest—and in the case of the married woman, confessed to the husband and received forgiveness from him—from partaking of the sacrament. I wonder how prevalent this practice is. I wonder if church discipline is being used as a means to punish, instead of as a means to bring the unrepentant to godly sorrow and repentance (confession).

I am reminded of Nephi, who, after his brothers had attempted to murder him, they came to their senses and asked his forgiveness and, said he, “I did frankly forgive them.” (See 1 Nephi 7: 21.) He didn’t require them to go through a waiting period, etc. They felt sorry, they confessed, he forgave. Simple as that. So, what’s up will all the waiting times?

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50 Comments

  1. I always read the story about Nephi being quick to forgive as a different case than the ones you are describing. In that case, Nephi forgave a personal trespass against him. In the cases you discuss, women broke covenants of chastity and offended God. In that case, God alone is authorized to forgive. The Bishop cannot do so, nor was the offense directed at him. He can only relay the will of the Lord, as directed to him. He cannot compel the Lord to reveal knowledge or information or authorization. It’s true that he can impede himself from receiving revelation and revelatory direction.

    It behoves all church members to humbly stand by their leaders. If the leaders have wronged us, surely such will be recompensed to us by the Lord, if we endure it well (the same as if others have wronged us). But if they have not wronged us, by being overly critical, we risk going against the will of God. If they have wronged us, and we do not endure it well, then of course, blessings are denied us.

    If they have wronged us, perhaps God will hold them responsible. But that is the responsibility of God, not of man. It is His Church; not ours. Thus, we operate by faith in Him, His ways, and His timetable. All are required to endure to the end.

    Under certain circumstances as you describe, if the sisters are feeling unjustly treated, could they not appeal to the Stake President for direction, guidance, and counsel? Or petition the Bishop until their concerns are met?

    I’m sure this is another disappointingly orthodox response.

  2. Mormon Paleo, all responses are welcome here.

    My understanding, found in The law governing confession, is that if there is confession and repentance expressed, the sinner should be forgiven. I suppose that confession in the eyes of some bishop’s is not good enough to establish that repentance has taken place, as sins must be forsaken, so perhaps they are thinking that these women must demonstrate over a period of time that they have truly abandoned or forsaken the sin, hence the prohibition of partaking of the sacrament, but that seems to me to be an awfully long time. Also, both women said they were forgiven by God and the one said that her husband had immediately forgiven her upon her confession. The reconciliation was instant, once confession took place. So, why does a bishop, who is not a direct party, or an offended party, who also hears a voluntary confession (no witnesses) by these same women, issue a punishment that lasts 2+ years? One more thing, in the case of the married woman, she said the stake president was aware of her situation, but still everyone was dragging their feet.

    It sounds to me like typical Mormon behavior, such as our home teaching numbers. We procrastinate until it’s too late, then try to rush it at the end. But in the case of people caught in transgression, this is dangerous as they both said that going to church was no longer something they looked forward to. I just hope this is not a prevalent practice in the church, because if it is, surely it would be a cause of inactivity.

  3. Mormon Paleo – I’m a little uncomfortable (. . . okay, more than a little) with “It behoves all church members to humbly stand by their leaders. ” I’m not sure what you mean by ‘stand by’. I can’t believe that you mean to give -all- ‘leaders’ carte blanche for every conceivable activity. If you haven’t been exposed to abusive ‘leadership’ I’m very happy for you. Unfortunately, we can’t all be so lucky, and need to figure out how to deal with it. I would say that once a leader has crossed the line it becomes a difficult exercise in knowing when to stand up and be counted and when it just isn’t worth it and quietly go about your business waiting patiently for things to change. And either one can be done with humility.

    With respect to these particular cases, I’ve never been a bishop so can’t comment from that point of view. However, it seems drawn out considering experience from high council days.

  4. It behoves all church members to humbly stand by their leaders. If the leaders have wronged us, surely such will be recompensed to us by the Lord, if we endure it well (the same as if others have wronged us). But if they have not wronged us, by being overly critical, we risk going against the will of God.

    In a general sense I think you would be correct, but to say that we should stand by and watch our Bishop do something we know to be wrong is just silly. In this situation I do think 2 years is a long time to wait, I don’t know all the details and I have to withhold judgment.

    However, we are not required to just swallow everything our leaders say, not even what the Prophet says. If we feel that something is wrong, and don’t receive revelation to the contrary, we are free to say so. We should not be afraid to speak out just because someone has a “higher” office in the Church. Yes we should be respectful (as to anyone) but we should also not be silent. Even Prophets screw up (e.g. priesthood ban) so ultimately, personal revelation is what should guide us, not leaders. Standing by and watching a leader abuse power is just as bad as participating in the abuse. Speaking on the whole and not necessarily for this particular case.

  5. Even Prophets screw up (e.g. priesthood ban) so ultimately, personal revelation is what should guide us, not leaders.

    Why so sure that the priesthood ban was a screw-up? And even if it was, it’s sort of a bad example since we couldn’t have done anything about it anyway. Sorry, I’m not being reflexively critical; I just found the comment intriguing.

  6. Why so sure that the priesthood ban was a screw-up?

    Personally, I don’t see how it could be anything else. I understand that people will try to rationalize it (Christ didn’t go to the gentiles, Blacks weren’t valiant in the pre-existence, Cain/Ham curse, pick your reason). After reading many of Brigham Young’s, and other leaders, racist comments I cannot imagine that the ban came from God but from their own flawed human hearts. I think the only reason the Church held onto it for so long was because Brigham Young taught it so vigorously that people assumed God had told him to implement it. People that want to say it was of God will have a hard time explaining how Elisa Abel, along with several others, was allowed to hold the priesthood.

    Why do you think we couldn’t have done anything about it? We could and some did! Many leaders of the Church fought to change it. IMO I think it was ultimately that pressure from inside and out of the Church that made it change. I think the prophet would have never thought on it twice if public sentiment hadn’t turned against it. If more members of the Church would have stood up and said it was wrong it would have changed sooner.

  7. I also have always believed it was a screw up, for the same reasons that Jay brings up (Elijah Abel, etc.) The 1978 revelation received by President Kimball is also suspect in my view. The Official Declaration presented to the church for a sustaining vote is kind of weird. Why not present the revelation itself instead of a declaration that a revelation had been received? Had I been a member of the church at that time, I would have raised my hand in opposition and demanded that the revelation received be presented to the saints for a vote. I suspect that the revelation was a thrashing by the Lord toward the leadership of the church that they had incorrectly chosen to exercise the keys in this priesthood ban, in assuming that Young knew what he was doing, without anyone bothering to ask the Lord about it (until Kimball) and that that was the reason why the revelation was not read to the saints. In other words, to save face. Of course, I may be wrong in this, but without the revelation before us to see exactly what the Lord said to Kimball, we’ll never know.

  8. They may have asked the Lord a yes/no question. Also, David O. McKay also prayed about the priesthood question.

  9. That’s true, they may have. But we don’t know. I think it just comes down to the fact that both quorums were finally unanimous in the affirmative in discontinuing the prohibition, as even if some other prophet had received a “stop the prohibition” response from the Lord previously, if they were not unanimous in accepting it, it would have been struck down.

    Some links of interest to this topic are:

    http://www.blacklds.org/priesthood

    http://www.blacklds.org/history

  10. Well, there was certainly a screw-up somewhere, given Brigham Young’s declarations that the ban wouldn’t be lifted until the millennium. I just wouldn’t assume a priori that the implementation of the ban itself was a mistake and the lifting was an inspired correction.

    What I meant by “we couldn’t have done anything about it” was that we couldn’t go against it and ordain blacks anyway. But I guess it is a good analogy to the original post, since the women in question can’t very well ignore the bishop’s orders and take the sacrament anyway.

  11. Those who follow blindly their leaders without question, are not following the Gospel nor the principles set down by Christ Himself. He told the remnant of Nephites and Lamanites at Bountiful to go to their homes and to continue to pray on His words. He invited all men everywhere to pray to the Father in His name for all things. You know the whole “knock and I will open” verses. Many Prophets have included in their messages that we as members need to pray about and receive testimony on our own. Where it gets sticky is when you don’t feel the Spirit about what a Bishop or Stake Pres. is telling you and you decide to let them know. One thing is for sure, we have been promised that at least the Prophets will not lead us astray…

    As for the Blacks and the Priesthood Ban, I don’t have time to comment on that one right now.

  12. Those who follow blindly their leaders without question, are not following the Gospel nor the principles set down by Christ Himself.

    Agreed. However, trying not to be too judgmental, the majority of the Church membership does exactly that. Many members constantly emphasize that the Ensign is scripture (I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve heard this one). If that were true we would all be forced to believe that the earth was 4,000 years old and that women that don’t stay home and have perfectly groomed children are somehow falling short. I’ve also heard Mormon Doctrine quoted and segments of Hinckley’s Larry King interview repeated as proof that drinking Coke is breaking the Word of Wisdom.

    People are so desperate for direction that they accept whatever is told to them without actually stopping to think if they agree with what is being said. Nor do they pray about it to get spiritual confirmation (though I admit that a few do). It really burns me up when I ask someone why they think a certain way and they say, “because that’s what the prophet said”.

    In some ways I think Wilford Woodruff did the Church a disservice when he said the prophet will never lead the Church astray. This gave members such confidence in their leaders that they have relinquished the responsibility thinking to one person. If it passes by him it has to be right, right? The lord would never let him express anything that would lead the Church astray, right? I say that most of the time you would be right but history shows it is not always true. For the few that do pray about the things the Prophet talks about I say good, and I hope you also give it serious thought as well before you pray. That is the way it should be done.

  13. Darion said, “Where it gets sticky is when you don’t feel the Spirit about what a Bishop or Stake Pres. is telling you and you decide to let them know.”

    I was recently in such a position with my bishop. Several months ago he asked me to do two things I was unwilling to do. So he said, “Why don’t you pray about it?” I said, “Okay, I will.” Well I did. After much prayer the Holy Ghost said to do what the bishop asked in the first thing, and not to do what he asked in the second. So, recently, in a meeting with him, I had the opportunity to tell him of the revelation that the Holy Ghost communicated to me. What was his response? He still wanted me to do what he asked me to do, regardless of the revelation I had received, citing times in his life when he had just followed his leaders because that is what the leaders told him to do.

    My policy since joining the church has always been the same: follow what the Spirit says to me, as it has never led me wrong. It led me into the church and it has led me throughout my life. So, I found it quite interesting that a man in authority was telling me to disregard the answer I had received and simply blindly follow him. Needless to say, I stuck to my guns. But I think this practice of disregarding revelation that contradicts what a leader is saying is prevalent in the church, or, it may be that LDS no longer seek or receive revelation. This is too bad, as receiving personal revelation and following that revelation is one of the keys to stopping unrighteous dominion and tyranny in the church.

  14. One thing is for sure, we have been promised that at least the Prophets will not lead us astray…

    That “promise” is false.

  15. The TLC once had a pamphlet entitled, Follow the Brethren Fact vs Fiction, in which they analyzed the heck out of this topic, hitting virtually every scriptural point that I myself would bring up. Be forewarned, though, the article is speaking against LDS church leadership and preaching repentance to them, so you have to wade through tirades of scripture quoting and claims of apostasy among us, but the scriptural exposition concerning this topic (follow the brethren) is well done. One more warning, the article is long.

  16. “So, I found it quite interesting that a man in authority was telling me to disregard the answer I had received and simply blindly follow him.”

    I have had this experience too. It took me years of intense prayer and meditation to “get over” the abuse that had been inflicted. It was a privately fought battle. I love the gospel but I HATE going to church. I do go. But why? It seems like a breeding ground for one up manship, for leader worship, for hurt feelings, for bizarre religious distortions of the plain and precious truths, like, oh I don’t know, that my salvation will ultimately be worked out between myself and my Savior? I feel sort of ill whenever I see the chapel, let alone go into it. But, I feel that I must go to my Sunday meetings because I love going to the temple and “attending one’s meetings” is a prerequisite to getting that signature on the recommend . . . so am I just a faker or am I taking up my cross and participating in what my Savior will deem a worthy sacrifice when He examines my heart?

    I don’t mean for this to be a threadjack, but having to deal with leader worship is really the biggest issue that is making church attendance so downright nauseating!

  17. Thank you for this comment. You’ve brought up a topic I’d like to address in a future post.

    I’m glad you are still trekking it out to church despite any hypocrisy you might see. Many people get offended and leave when hypocrisy in the church is manifested to them. I’d say that is a good sign that your heart is in the right place.

    You might at least take comfort in knowing that the Lord has prophesied that he will remove all hypocrites from his church, be they leaders (even bishoprics, apostles and prophets) or members in due time, before he comes. So, hang in there a little longer. We are heading into the Lord’s spring cleaning time now. That’s my understanding.

  18. Baptism is the only requirement for “worthiness” to partake of the sacrament. Bishops should not be telling people not to partake of the sacrament unless their inspiration is coming from the wrong source. Considering the state of our world, I expect that many members of our church are receiving inspiration from the wrong source (or the Lord has but a bit in the mouths, and a hook in their jaws, and it leading them astray for his own purposes). There is much wrong with our church today…

  19. Its easy to try to steady the ark. The Bishop is the common judge in that ward. The two ladies who have told you about their sexual sin have not fully repented, for if they did, they would not be telling others about their mistake, IMHO.

  20. Willingness to confess, even in public, is a sign of true repentance. Isn’t that in the D&C?

  21. have you ever wonder why Joseph smith was also a freemason, and why there’s so much freemasonic ritual in the temple, even today the church doesn’t have a true answer with the Adam-God teaching of Young, there’s great confusion inside of the church for that matter Joseph smith and young and all the other prophets of the lds church have never prophesis anything that come true. you need to study the bible and seek for true salvation and it’s true meanning because it is almost to late for you there’s not second chances after death, the book of mormon is nothing but a fiction book , God was never a man, if he was than he is not the creator but the created, he said before and after have never existed any other gods, and God doesn’t deal also with others god, your purpose wasn’t to become a god. Hope you go back, smith was killed in a gun fight after his brother was killed, and when he went to the window tried to escape they shot him down. Young was responsible for the Mountain Meadows massacre because of Pratt death, you are blinded by liar and you are also a fanatic, i hope you pray God for forgiveness, and understanding, Jesus Christ carries every name tiitle like the father, he is also Micheal the Arc-angel, Or Micheal, you need to know that he was the one who created you and he is not your brother, he is the one who created everythinng visible and invisible and there’s he is the only one who hold the holly priesthood. The book of Abraham is the tangible proof about Smith being a false prophet because BYU has the original documents, and it was translate by Roberts one of the LDS best, that document has nothing to do with Abraham, his teaching is nothing but fiction, go ask around to be affraid to investigate the history of your church because the truth will set you free like me and others.

  22. Well that about covers it.

  23. Back to the original question: Why the long wait to be allowed to take the sacrament? I am guessing that the two ladies were disfellowshipped? You didn’t mention that, but that might be a natural assumption given the nature of their alleged sin. If so, they need to receive full fellowship back, which can be done quickly if the bishop and his counselors feel that true repentence has occurred. It could be that the bishop has forgotten how long it has been and just needs reminded. I would counsel the two women to make appointments with their bishop immediately, explain their feelings and desires and thoughts. If they’ve repented and he’s really trying to be a good bishop, he’ll be able to easily sense what is right for them. If the one or the other of the women feel that they are not being heard, or are being punished, they should make an appointment to talk to the stake president. These are just simple solutions to what is likely a complex issue that nobody but the people involved really understand. Remember, you can’t just take one side of the story and presume to know all the answers… especially third or fourth hand like I’m doing. ha. Bottom line, however, is communication, I think. Those women need to be telling their bishop how they feel about the sacrament. If they have and he’s stonewalling them, they need to take the message up to the next level. Quickly.

    I think I’ve been lucky (or blessed) to have had mostly good experiences with bishops and church leaders (knock on wood, ha). I was once called in, “called to repentence” about a particular thing I had refused to do. After I’d explained my position to the bishop, detailed the reasons I was refusing this particular thing, he said that he understood my position and respected my decision and did not feel that I needed to repent. I was never asked to do that thing again. If he would have told me “just do it anyway and follow your leaders” I would have told him politely no. I’m also glad he didn’t tell me to “go home and pray about it”, because I’d already gone through a measure of praying and pondering and thinking about this issue. At that time of my life, I think a butt-head bishop could have driven me away over what amounted to be a rather small issue. Luckily, my bishop was a really nice, open-minded, intelligent guy.

  24. My understanding is that they were not disfellowshipped, which makes these two situations all the more weird, IMO. There are only two “punishments” that can be inflicted in the church, per D&C 134: 10:

    We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world’s goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship.

    One lady has apparently been to her bishop many times, each time with feet dragging on the part of the bishop. The other has been to see her bishop several times, also. One lady is in my ward and I haven’t seen her there in about a month. Not a good sign, but maybe just happenstance. I haven’t spoken to the other lady in more than a month, also, so I don’t know if she is still attending church. If not, I don’t expect anyone to be calling on her, as my experience is that if you stop coming, no one seeks you out.

    A case in point: in one ward I was in I was a home teacher to a family and became friends with the father. He then was called to be a counselor in the bishopric and I was released as his home teacher. At some point, he was released as a counselor and a new counselor was called. I soon stopped seeing him at church, but I saw his wife and children all the time. I figured he must have been on a long distance assignment for work or something. One Sunday, though, I saw his wife crying. I approached and asked what was wrong and she composed herself and said she was all right. I then inquired about her husband as I hadn’t seen him in awhile. She started crying again and confessed that he was now inactive. I asked her for permission to go and see him and she gave it.

    When I visited the man that afternoon, he immediately looked at me with suspicion and the first words out of his mouth were, “Who sent you?” I said no one sent me and related to him about seeing his wife, etc. He invited me in. During our ensuing conversation, let me just say that he revealed plenty of the real happenings in our ward. However, the one thing that really struck me and stayed in my brain was when I asked him who had visited him or called him since he stopped attending church. “Not a one,” was his response. “You are the first.” I said, “What about your home teachers? Haven’t they contacted you?” “The bishop is my home teacher!” he said. (Mind you, nearly six months had passed since he became inactive, so there was plenty of time to contact him.)

    Now, I’m not relating this story to rip on the leaders but to show that my general experience in the church has largely been one of apathy and cliques. (There are, of course, individual exceptions.) If you attend your meetings, you are part of the “in crowd.” People love you (if you are lovable and sociable, that is) and interact with you. But if you stop attending, generally the pattern is that you are part of the “out crowd” and contact becomes limited. This man had served in the bishopric for much time, developed many “friendships” with many members, as a result, but the instant he stopped going, no one sought him out, even though he had close neighbors who were both members of the church and priesthood leadership.

    If a man serving in the bishopric, like he had, cannot expect to be sought out by the saints when he stops going, what chance do two female members have of being sought out if they go inactive?

  25. For those of you who are saying that it’s not true that the prophet will never lead us astray, please expound on that.

    I firmly believe that the prophet is the only person who will never lead us astray. This does not include the Apostles, who I believe are capable of disagreeing with the prophet and leading us astray. Look at the contentions among the apostles in the early days of the church, how many of them fell away, some never to return?

    I think there is going to be some heavy cleansing of the Saints in the near future, and one of the methods used will be an Apostle who will disagree with a new revelation of the prophet that the Saints are to uphold. It will likely be seen as very weird or strange to not only the world, but to most members of the church…it will be so weird and against the thoughts of the world in fact, that it will cause an Apostle (or Apostles) to split off from the church, accusing the prophet of losing his mind, and they will bring half or more of the Saints with them.

    It’s great that some people pray for personal confirmation of revelations from the prophet, and I am for that 100% But if you get an answer that is against the prophet, it’s wrong.

    I’m not saying the prophet is a perfect human being and is incapable of sinning, but he will not leave the Saints astray. As times get increasingly turbulent and the popularity of the world puts increasing pressure on the church to conform to Babylon, we’re going to set ourselves further and further away, and be viewed increasingly as completely lost or out there. This will purify the saints as all the weakest or those who are members simply out of convenience will say “this is to weird for me, I’m out of here”.

    I can’t put a number on it, but I would guess (based on those people I know in the numerous wards/stakes I have attended) that depending on the right purification method selected by the Lord (weird commandment to obey) upwards of 75% will fall away.

  26. Doug-

    I appreciate your comment, your scenario sounds plausible to me. I think a good read would be from Ezra Taft Benson, Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet. He says, among other things, that the current prophet is more important than the dead ones, more important than all the standard works, etc.

    For the part on the prophet leading the church astray he says this:

    Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

    President Wilford Woodruff stated:

    “I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp. 212–13.)

    President Marion G. Romney tells of this incident which happened to him:

    “I remember years ago when I was a bishop I had President Heber J. Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home … Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: ‘My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.’ Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, ‘But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.’ ” (Conference Report, October 1960, p. 78.)

    I have read this post a couple times but never felt to comment. I have often wondered about this sort of thing. The Doctrine and Covenants says:

    37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
    38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
    39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Doctrine and Covenants 121:37-39

    I have read this passage many times and I am saddened by it. I have seen the abuse of power in the church and wondered if v. 38 could apply to people still in positions of authority. Could a bishop, for example, be left unto himself to persecute the saints and fight against God? I don’t know, I think so, I have seen bishops run people out of the church for very minor reasons. One example comes to mind; I was really good friends with a staunch member, one whose brother was a member of the seventy. Through unfortunate circumstances he and his wife split up. His wife was very close friends with the bishops wife. The bishop made this good brothers life hell when it was already bad enough. The bishop made it so difficult for this brother he quit coming to church all together, in a time when the church could have really helped. I consider what the bishop was doing as using his office in a way that could be considered “unrighteous dominion”. If so, that would separate the bishop from the spirit and leave him alone in all manners, yes? The spirit will not guide a bishop in matters concerning the ward if he is acting in such a petty way toward a member. Is there bishops or others in authority out there who have no priesthood? Sure, they might have the certificate, but does the Lord recognize it?

    As with others, I do not know enough about the story told by the LDS Anarchist to comment, but I will say I would be very disappointed if to more faithful members were pushed away by people not using there positions and authority properly.

  27. It’s great that some people pray for personal confirmation of revelations from the prophet, and I am for that 100% But if you get an answer that is against the prophet, it’s wrong.

    The Prophet can be wrong. History shows this to be true. It maybe that most of the time he is right, but to say he will never lead us astray is silly. Brigham Young is a prime example of this. Anyone that is familiar with his words cannot be comfortable with the things he said. Prophets are just as suseptable of saying their opinion as doctrine as any other member of the Church. Even Joseph Smith did this. At the time people took it as doctrine, there is no arguing that. Now we are told it was never doctrine. hmmmmmm. Sound a little fishy to me.

    My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.’

    I’ve heard this applied to local leaders also, and I totally disagree with it. If you sin you are responsible for that, you will not be blessed for doing wrong. That is why prayer is so important and it’s ok if you pray and are told to disagree with the Prophet. Gay marriage would be one example.

  28. Jay-

    I’ve heard this applied to local leaders also.

    It does not matter that you “have heard [it] applied to local leaders” It has never (as far as I know) been preached from the a pulpit that matters regarding local leaders. A few over zealous members extending it down to local leadership does not invalidate the whole principle.

    Also, I don’t understand what you mean when you say:

    Gay marriage would be one example.

  29. In my opinion, a lot of those things Brigham Young and Joseph Smith said that people deem as a little “whacky” now, are indeed fundamentally important and true but have been toned down over the years to be less harsh and appeal to more people.

    I also attribute it to 1) A complete lack of understanding on our part. This could be either due to our lack of spiritual preparation to hear such things or simply our lack of knowledge as to the context/geopolitical factors etc. when such statements were made. It also could be selective filtering, choosing one sentence he said without explaining the underlying circumstances and a few sentences before and after. People do this when quoting the Bible all the time, completely skewing the spirit of the verse and twisting it to fit their needs.

    2) Have you ever played the game telephone? One person states something and by the time it gets passed a long to 2 or 3 people the meaning has already been changed drastically? This improper passing, or second hand accounts are virtually all we have heard from Brigham Young. Most everything that Brigham Young said has been recounted by someone who wrote it in their journal a few days later, or was recorded by a speed typer who could easily falter on one word or punctuation that would change the entire meaning of a sentence. Look here http://www.write101.com/punct.htm for the obvious importance of punctuation. A shorthand speed recorder could easily make such mistakes.

    Brigham Young said that he has “never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture. Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve.” (13 J.D. 95.) Brigham Young did not have the privilege of correcting all of his recorded sermon’s before he died.

    I have also read recently, though I don’t remember where, that it saddened him how people would relay comments or questions back to him regarding aspects of his doctrine that were not even close to the point he was trying to make.

    I think the fact that he was brutally honest and deep, combined with the lack of accurate recording techniques and Saints that were unprepared spiritually to understand the meaning (thereby recounting their “perception” of what was really said) makes for the perfect storm for discounting and making accusations about Brigham Young’s teachings and character.

  30. It has never (as far as I know) been preached from the a pulpit that matters regarding local leaders. A few over zealous members extending it down to local leadership does not invalidate the whole principle.

    It matters little if it were “preached from the pulpit” I would still reject it because it is not scripturally sound. If we were part of the army I could understand this mentality but this is a Church not an army. This type of rhetoric is repeated by leaders that don’t want to be questioned on anything. I wish I could say that it is a few over zealous members that believe they would be blessed for following their leaders. Unfortunately, I’ve heard this from numerous sources in several areas of the country, so I don’t think it is an idea held by a few extremists. I feel confident that if I took a poll this Sunday and asked if members would be blessed for following him in what they felt was wrong, most would answer in the affirmative.

  31. While I understand that what you are trying to say and agree that things can be written down wrong or taken out of context, the problem is when you have multiple sources saying the same thing. It becomes more difficult to defend a position, statement or doctrine when it keeps appearing in different settings.

    In my opinion, a lot of those things Brigham Young and Joseph Smith said that people deem as a little “whacky” now, are indeed fundamentally important and true…

    I can’t completely accept that statement. BY’s (and other prophets and apostles) teachings on blacks were wrong. There is no excuse for them, though many in the Church try to defend the statements because they don’t want to acknowledge that God would allow racism in His Church, especially among his prophets.

  32. But isn’t the entire history of the Bible and Book of Mormon one giant racist story? God has his Chosen people, and therefore is racist against all those who he curses and destroys to ensure the continuation of the chosen ones. Virtually every Prophet in the Bible would be classified as an extreme racist and probably terrorist in today’s world.

    HOWEVER, this does not mean that the unchosen ones are destined to Hell and have no chance. Look at the numerous conversion stories in the BoM whose curses were lifted. Also, often times the Lamanites were more righteous than the Nephites. Just because in one part of the Book of Mormon it refers to the Lamanites as a slothful and filthy people (this is a racist remark is it not?) does not mean that they were for all generations. Often times they found more favor in the eyes of the lord than the chosen Nephites. Could this not not be true today or even at the time of the Civil Rights movement? I can imagine God looking down at the humble blacks at the height of the Civil Rights movement as more righteous than many of the haughty white members of the church. This obviously happened many years after BY died.

    Are the early BoM prophets condemned to be labeled racists when they called the Lamanites loathsome and filthy, when generations later they became exceedingly righteous examples to the Nephites? No! Times changed, culture changed, attitudes changed. At the time it was true, but it doesn’t mean it would be the case forever.

    What I’m trying to say, is just because Brigham Young referred to the Blacks as less valiant in the premortal life (or insert whatever reason here) does NOT necessarily mean that they have always been or always will be “inferior” or “unfavored” by the Lord. Brigham Young could have easily made that statement based on things that he read in the Bible about the Canaanites. I mean for crying out loud it’s no secret that the majority of Africa, even to this day is a cesspool of violence and disease with virtually no modern thriving beautiful cities. Does it make one racist to point out the obvious that the history of this race does not appear to have Gods blessing (not to mention the Bible specifically states that they didn’t). But look what has happened since BY, they have now migrated to beautiful areas all over the world and lead the way in all kinds of fields and sciences and prosper much more than those left in Africa (the same way many Lamanites migrated to cities of the Nephites and joined them in Righteousness).

    Basically, one size doesn’t fit all. Statements made 150 years ago are not set in stone for an entire history and future of a race. I believe BY was smart enough to realize this, especially due to his extensive knowledge of the Book of Mormon. The problem is we are not smart enough to realize this and blame our lack of understanding as blasphemy on his part.

  33. …just because Brigham Young referred to the Blacks as less valiant in the premortal life (or insert whatever reason here) does NOT necessarily mean that they have always been or always will be “inferior” or “unfavored” by the Lord.

    You’ve missed the point. They never were less valiant than those of us with lighter skin. This was a myth made up to justify the priesthood ban. Look at the history of this issue and where those statements came from and you will realize that. Joseph Smith gave a black the priesthood (Elijah Abel), several blacks received the priesthood during the ban, it was obviously not from God.

    Does it make one racist to point out the obvious that the history of this race does not appear to have Gods blessing (not to mention the Bible specifically states that they didn’t).

    I don’t think you know your history very well.

    Basically, one size doesn’t fit all. Statements made 150 years ago are not set in stone for an entire history and future of a race. I believe BY was smart enough to realize this, especially due to his extensive knowledge of the Book of Mormon.

    Brigham Young said that blacks would always be inferior along with many other offensive statements that are not justifiable. I understand the desire by many members to elevate BY by making rationalizations for his words but it comes out better for the Church if we just admit he was racist as many people in the 19th century were and that it took many years for us to get rid of his “policy” of denying blacks the priesthood.

    The problem is we are not smart enough to realize this and blame our lack of understanding as blasphemy on his part.

    Some prophets were more careful than others about expressing their opinion. Brigham Young was one of the prophets that was most free with expressing his thoughts. In many instances this was a bad thing. I’m not saying he didn’t do any good, we did after all make it to Utah under his leadership and establish Salt Lake and many other cities. However, we shouldn’t gloss over his faults to make us more comfortable with him as a prophet. He was human. The priesthood ban was a mistake plain and simple. Blacks weren’t valiant one minute and not the next, there were no neutral people in heaven.

  34. I don’t think we are supposed to to feel “comfortable” with Brigham Young, or anybody else for that matter as a prophet. Being uncomfortable forces us to confront things, it forces us to grow and progress. The Jews sure weren’t comfortable with Jesus around.

    All I can say is be careful if you think the prophet is capable of leading the Saints of God astray. The time is coming when the church will be cleansed and there will be disagreements among the church and Prophet/Apostles. Those who choose to side against that of the Prophet are not choosing the right side. If you truly believe that the modern day Prophet is a Prophet of God, and yet you can’t trust him, what is the point of it all? This is my number one point, if you can’t trust in the Prophet, who can you trust?. (*Note, this does not mean that you give up your right or desire to receive personal revelation, in fact it should only enhance it).

    While you curse those members who “blindly follow the prophet”, God praises them as being amongst the most blessed and calls that a gift of the spirit. I myself don’t have that gift, and am not a blind follower (would I be on this website if I was?). But I consider myself a follower with open eyes that tries to understand things but will not immediately discredit or let my foundation falter if I am incapable of understanding, but I will continually strive for it. For me to assume a Prophet doesn’t know what he is talking about or that I am privy to more information than he is the definition of pride.

    I agree with you on many points. Glancing over your blog, however, I see that I also disagree with a lot. Mainly stuff that have been plainly explained by the Prophets yet you obviously see no reason to believe in.

  35. …if you can’t trust in the Prophet, who can you trust?

    You can trust God.

    Note, this does not mean that you give up your right or desire to receive personal revelation, in fact it should only enhance it.

    In my experience members take for granted that the prophet is always right (i.e. will never lead the Church astray) and therefore pay only lip service to personal revelation, in effect relinquishing their right to receive revelation to the prophet because they never seek personal confirmation about what has been taught (why bother if he is never wrong?).

    While you curse those members who “blindly follow the prophet”

    I don’t believe I cursed anyone. Do I wish people would be more informed and stop repeating things that are inaccurate (i.e. blacks were less valiant, polygamy is the order of heaven), yes I do. Unfortunately, too many members don’t care enough about their church to understand and become fluent in their own history. It is sad but undeniably true. I can respect someone that is informed and takes a different view than me, that is their right. However, I can not respect someone that continues along without a desire to understand the origin of their own beliefs and yet presumes to slap those of us that have on the wrist for not following what they see as truth.

    I consider myself a follower with open eyes that tries to understand things but will not immediately discredit or let my foundation falter if I am incapable of understanding, but I will continually strive for it.

    Though you may not believe it, I felt the exact same way. I have formed my opinions after careful thought, consideration, and prayer. Unfortunately, for me there were just too many things I had to justify/ignored to keep my testimony exactly the same as it had always been.

    For me to assume a Prophet doesn’t know what he is talking about or that I am privy to more information than he is the definition of pride.

    Not pride but realism. Again if you are familiar with LDS history you begin to understand that a prophet doesn’t always know what he is talking about.

    Glancing over your blog, however, I see that I also disagree with a lot. Mainly stuff that have been plainly explained by the Prophets yet you obviously see no reason to believe in.

    I’m not sure what exactly you are referring to since I have covered many topics on Mormons Talk but I’m not surprised that you would find things you disagree with. I am always happy to talk with people about the issues even if they disagree with me personally.

  36. Doug, I’m curious: do you acknowledge that the Presidents of the Church have contradicted each other on matters of doctrine?

  37. Taken from an official LDS document. http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=970af549db852110VgnVCM100000176f620aRCRD&vgnextchannel=f5f411154963d010VgnVCM1000004e94610aRCRD

    “Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted. ”

    Doug, I’m curious: do you acknowledge that the Presidents of the Church have contradicted each other on matters of doctrine?

    It’s hard for me to answer this. It’s not as easy as yes or no in my eyes. I myself am still learning and changing my opinions practically on a daily basis as I learn more. Obviously there are some contradictions going on in the eyes of the average person. I personally think these contradictions are more like a stairway to the truth. The whole “Line upon line, precept upon precept” concept. What may seem like a contradiction may actually be the next step to truth, a step that you would never have encountered if you didn’t start with something a little more familiar. Milk comes before meat.

    But if you want to talk contradictions, don’t focus solely on modern day prophets. The bible is chocked full of one contradiction after another.

    So my answer is, I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. The more I learn, the more I realize that I know nothing.

  38. How do you guys bold quotations? I’m not familiar with this blog code.

    …if you can’t trust in the Prophet, who can you trust?

    You can trust God.
    I agree with you there. But additionally I trust God to choose a Prophet that can guide the church to the best ability of a mortal.

    In my experience members take for granted that the prophet is always right (i.e. will never lead the Church astray) and therefore pay only lip service to personal revelation, in effect relinquishing their right to receive revelation to the prophet because they never seek personal confirmation about what has been taught (why bother if he is never wrong?).
    I completely agree! These members will get what they deserve. Their testimonies cannot survive on the borrowed light they get from the prophet.

  39. To bold, begin the text with [left arrow]strong[right arrow] and end the text with [left arrow]/strong[right arrow]. (By “left arrow” I am referring to the “less than” symbol and by “right arrow” I am referring to the “greater than” symbol, both of which are found on the keyboard.)

  40. Thanks, HTML code it is.

    Jay, some quotes to support your point of view.

    “‘I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are being led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give their leaders if they know for themselves by the revelations of Jesus Christ that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know by the whisperings of the Spirit of God to themselves whether their leaders are walking in the way the Lord dictates or not.’

    “To me, there is a tremendous truth. It is not alone sufficient for us as Latter-day Saints to follow our leaders and to accept their counsel, but we have the greater obligation to gain for ourselves the unshakable testimony of the divine appointment of these men and the witness that what they have told us is the will of our Heavenly Father.” (Harold B. Lee, in Conference Report, Oct. 1950, pp. 129–30.)

    The following story from the life of Marion G. Romney illustrates the principle taught by both Brigham Young and Harold B. Lee:

    “In the political field where so much pressure is exerted on men to compromise ideals and principles for expediency, party workers early learned to admire Marion G. Romney’s intense loyalty to his own conscience as well as to the advice of his Church leaders whose pronouncements on vital issues affecting the welfare of the nation he accepted as divinely inspired even though it frequently brought him into sharp conflict with leaders of his own political party. On one such occasion when Church leaders in a tersely-worded editorial had denounced the trends of the political administration then in power, he confided in me something which it might be well if all loyal Church members in public life could emulate: ‘When I read that editorial,’ he told me, ‘I knew what I should do—but that wasn’t enough. I knew that I must feel right about following the counsel of the Church leaders and know that they were right. That took a whole night on my knees to accomplish.’ I submit in that statement the difference between ‘intelligent’ and ‘blind’ obedience. Marion G. Romney while never disloyal to authority over him, could never be rightfully accused of being ‘blindly obedient.’”

  41. Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church.

    I read this statement in the LDS newsroom when it was released. The only problem is that it only addresses situations where “a single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion”, Unfortunately, there are teachings that were taught on multiple occasions, to many people that we now consider opinion. This despite the fact that they were taught by a prophet speaking as a prophet in a church setting. In other words these were not conversations over the dinner table, they were talks given by leaders. In fact, many of the controversial teachings of BY were repeated by himself and others several times and accepted as doctrine by those that heard it.

    I don’t think too many people would hold a single statement on a single occasion by one person as doctrine anyway. All this statement by the Church does is allow dismissal of controversial subjects as opinion, but it really doesn’t address that many of the topics of concern don’t even fit the definition of “opinion” they offer (i.e. they are things said on multiple occasions by several leaders). My understanding is that doctrine is a teaching of a church, if you’ve only repeated it once, in one setting, to a select few, it is hard to really consider that a teaching of a church and it could easily be construed as someone’s opinion.

    Anarchist,
    Listen to Van Hale’s podcast (Mormon Miscellaneous: http://www.mormonmiscellaneous.com) on the different Bibles available now. He talks about the advances in the ability of scholars to translate more accurately and new discoveries that have allowed a better understanding of the original text. It’s kind of a pet subject of his.

  42. Just an update: One of the ladies mentioned in the post has had her priesthood restriction lifted and now can partake of the sacrament. This happened a couple of months ago. Also, she has received a calling, too. The other lady I still know nothing about and just assume she has stopped going to church.

  43. Another update: Good news! I learned this morning that the other lady mentioned in the previous comment is now attending church regularly.

  44. I once had a bishop who was a convert. He had only been a member for seven years. He was a financial adviser, well respected and organized. However, two experiences that I know of made me wonder. First, a friend called him in the early morning hours to get help with a blessing; her son had severe asthma. He said he couldn’t come even after he found out that her home teachers were both unavailable (literally, one on vacation the other already at work). Second, my friend was put into a presidency and prayed about her counselors. She submitted the names and was denied. Not once, but four times. Because the people she wanted were in other areas that the bishop didn’t want to disrupt. Finally, she asked if he, the bishop, had prayed about it? He had already been a bishop for 3 years and admitted that he had never prayed about any names that came to him for callings. It never occurred to him to pray about it. He was strictly by the manual. That scared me.

    That incident helped me understand the member saying, “Callings happen by inspiration, but usually desperation.” And after pondering on this event and discovering the quotes that are listed in many of the blogs, I came to a conclusion.

    I’m not perfect. My parents aren’t perfect. The bishops out there aren’t perfect. The prophet isn’t perfect. We are all just humans, trying to understand ourselves, our God and that personal relationship. Knowing where I am spiritually and where I used to be, must be the same for other people. They all grow. We can not expect any man to be perfectly in tune with the spirit 24/7, receiving personal revelation that is truthful from God. We can only expect that every man is striving for it. Some may attain that high level, others will fall short over their lifetime. My job, as I see it, is to allow others the room to grow. Hoping that they give back to me the same.

    These two sisters have been through an ordeal. They sinned and are seeking to find forgiveness. If a bishop’s human weakness gets in the way, hopefully he learns from that and won’t repeat it. Should the women confront him on their desires for the sacrament? yes they should. And whatever answer they get from the bishop should include the desire to know that the bishop has prayerfully consulted the Lord about it. However, maybe the Lord is testing these two women in their resolve to attend church despite these feelings. I learned a long time ago that we as humans presume to know things about God’s intentions. We often presume too much for our good. On this note, a few words about the tangent blog about the prophet’s words.

    In the LDS church, the prophet, in my opinion, has become deified. He is not God, but a conduit for God’s will involving his people. The saints trust his spiritual level over their own is the problem. They trust in his revelation because of it, instead of seeking their own. Somehow I think they believe that if their spiritual level matched the prophet’s, then they would be a GA or general RS president. It doesn’t work that way. I see personal revelation as, “put your money where your mouth is” with all its implications. People don’t trust themselves and hence need a leader to rely on. Is that bad? No. But many people see the idea of personal revelation as a move toward anarchy in the church. And God’s church should be united. And it is, but under God not a prophet. Maybe instead of only attending a gospel doctrine class, we could have one on: How to flex your spiritual gifts: reawakening your potential.

  45. Update: I learned a few days ago that the unmarried woman is now attending an Evangelical Christian church and she told me that she has found “a lot of love there” and that she feels “encircled in it,” which has hasn’t felt “in a long time.” She believes that the “Love of God” and her Heavenly Father is “always” with her now. So, I think it’s fair to say that her long wait to partake of the sacrament has backfired. I’m sure the Christians were all too willing to receive her there.

  46. This is heartbreaking.

    I should make clear that, when infidelity occurs, I do not feel that the spouse or significant other should have to forgive in this life. They can, but the emotions around this are very powerful, and unbelievably painful when hurt, and a person has a right to leave an unfaithful partner and seek out a relationship where that person can feel safe and trust again (and yes, I do believe that this goes for both men and women).

    But the Church as an institution has been commanded by Christ to provide a way for individuals who have sinned, no matter how serious, to return to full fellowship in a timely manner. I obviously don’t know all the details of the situations listed here, but it does not seem that there was much of an intention to help with the repentance process. Rather, it was just a punishment, which is not in line with the teachings of the Savior. We are not to judge and punish, but to help repent.

  47. Yet another update:

    The married woman completely stopped going to church, any church, at all. It’s been, I believe, about two years since I’ve seen her there. She appears to want nothing more to do with religion, any religion, at least at the present time, though she does still believe in God and Jesus, etc. So, her religious beliefs appear, more or less, intact. It is instiitutional religion that she wants no part of.

    The unmarried woman is still attending Christian churches with no desire to return to the Mormon church, at present.

  48. Having to wait 2 years or more is way out of line! I am a bishop and I cannot understand how this can be justified. Even excommunication doesn’t have to last longer than at least a year. The same goes for disfellowshiping. Restricting sacrament from members should be a short term reaction. Having said that, an endowed member ususally will be met with diciplinary counsel. Most often leading to disfellowshiping, depending on the degree of remorse and repentance. What is too bad in this case is that informal diciplin is unknown to everyone except for the bishop and the transgressor. Had she been treated correctly (diciplinary counsel) the outcome had been formal and subject to registration in the church membership records system. Then, the stake president would know about it and be able to follow up on the bishop.

    I feel sorry for both of these women and think they have had more than enough.

    Grrrr! This actually makes me angry!

  49. I suppose I ought to give another update. The married woman is back attending church, sporadically, though she is still bitter towards it, which bitterness has also turned towards God. I spoke to her recently and preached repentance to her and this softened her views against God and, as far as I can tell, she repented of her anger against Him. The other woman, the single one, I haven’t heard from in over a month or so. Last I spoke to her, she was still with the Christians, though I also preached repentance to her and she seemed to begin to change her views. But then I lost track of her and do not know what became of her. A couple of days ago, though, I came home and my wife told me that she had called and spoke briefly with my wife, so I know she’s still alive and kicking, but do not know her current situation, nor do I know where she is nor how to contact her, since she has moved.

    I am no longer all that worried about these women, as I was at first. They both appeared to have had their hearts softened by my preaching, so if the opportunity again presents itself I will do what I can for them.

  50. Anarchist, I’m curious as to what you mean “preached repentance to her”. Do you mean that you worked to turn them from their feelings/thoughts about the church, the leaders, themselves, or God?

    Also, was this in the course of a regular normal conversation, or a meeting specifically for this purpose?

    I only ask because the use of that phrase is so rare in our contemporary culture.


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