Think for yourself or not – that is the question .Cognitive Dissonance 1

Many of you in the bloggernacle thrive on having two opposing ideas at once in your head. I have always found that difficult. I have seen many who can’t cope with it at all and have to come to a conclusion one way or the other or their belief system will cave in and their minds will explode.

I have all the best intentions in the world to start a series on cognitive dissonance this year. To start off I have found some quotes from the brethren which seems to be in opposition to each other. I am sure some of you will figure out away in which they are not!

Don’t Think for Yourself!!

“Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the prophets, seers, revelators’ of the church, is cultivating the spirit of apostasy. One cannot speak evil of the lord’s annointed… and retain the holy spirit in his heart. This sort of game is Satan’s favorite pastime, and he has practiced it to believing souls since Adam. He {Satan} wins a great victory when he can get members of the church to speak against their leaders and to do their own thinking.”

“When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s Plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give directions, it should mark the end of controversy, God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.”

Ward Teachers Message, Deseret News, Church Section p. 5, May 26, 1945
Also included in the Improvement Era, June 1945 (which was the official church magazine before the Ensign)

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“Always keep your eye on the President of the church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, even if it is wrong, and you do it, the lord will bless you for it but you don’t need to worry. The lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.”

LDS President Marion G. Romney (of the first presidency), quoting LDS President (and prophet) Heber J. Grant “Conference Report” Oct. 1960 p. 78

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“The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother’s arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth.”

Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, p. 289, 1862.

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“When the Prophet speaks the debate is over”.

N. Eldon Tanner, August Ensign 1979, pages 2-3

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“I sat in this tabernacle some years ago as President Joseph Fielding Smith stood at this pulpit. It was the general priesthood meeting of April 1972, the last general conference before President Smith passed away. He said: ‘There is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, or the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the lord’.”

L. Aldin Porter of the Presidency of the First Quorum of Seventies (Ensign, Nov. 1994, p. 63)

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“Follow your leaders who have been duly ordained and have been publicly sustained, and you will not be led astray.”

Boyd K. Packer (General Conference, Oct. 1992; Ensign, Nov. 1992)

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“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray.”

President Wilford Woodruff (considered scripture as it is canonized at the end of the D&C)

Think for Yourself!!

President Joseph F. Smith said, “We talk of obedience, but do we require any man or woman to ignorantly obey the counsels that are given? Do the First Presidency require it? No, never.” (Journal of Discources (JD) 16:248)

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Apostle Charles W. Penrose, who would later serve as counselor to President Smith, declared: “President Wilford Woodruff is a man of wisdom and experience, and we respect him, but we do not believe his personal views or utterances are revelations from God; and when ‘Thus saith the Lord’, comes from him, the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill.” (Millennial Star 54:191)

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“And none are required to tamely and blindly submit to a man because he has a portion of the priesthood. We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark, that they would do anything they were told to do by those who presided over them, if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God… would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without asking any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their minds to do wrong themselves.” (Millennial Star, vol.14 #38, pp. 593-95)

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Brigham Young said:

“What a pity it would be, if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? 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 led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-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 the influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.” (JD 9:150)

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“How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the spirit yourselves.” (JD 4:368)

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“I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied…Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, ‘If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are,’ this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.” (JD 3:45)

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“…Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold sceptres of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer.” (JD 1:312)

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“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel [see, for example, verses 9-10: ‘If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing…the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him.’]…said the Lord had declared by the Prophet [Ezekiel], that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church — that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls — applied it to the present state [1842] of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall — that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves…” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pp. 237-38)

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George Q. Cannon, Counselor to three Church Presidents, expressed it thus: “Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone;” (Millennial Star 53:658-59, quoted in Gospel Truth, 1:319)

Have you had experiences where you think you have genuinely had bad advice from following your leaders?

Later prophets and apostles trump older ones. How do you think the older ones feel about that?

Have you had times where you had so much on your plate you were glad to let someone think for you and it worked out for the best?

Should we think for ourselves in the church or should we let the Brethren think for us that is the question?


Comments

comments

70 comments for “Think for yourself or not – that is the question .Cognitive Dissonance 1

  1. Chu
    January 9, 2010 at 12:35 am

    I’d make this decision, but that would involve thinking for myself. Darn.

  2. January 9, 2010 at 1:21 am

    I think my head just exploded.

  3. January 9, 2010 at 4:18 am

    This is cognitive dissonance? I don’t think so. You have one set of quotes that point out the importance of following Church leaders, the authority they have to lead the Church, and the safety members can have that following their counsel will not bring someone to harm. And then you have another set of quotes that point to the importance of people developing their own relationship with the Spirit, rather than simply relying on their leaders to answer every question. The first set do *not* say that you shouldn’t think for yourself.

    As a result, I really, really don’t care for how you’re framing your questions. How about trying to understand how none of these statements contradicts any of the others, and how to apply both sets of advice to how you live your life? Do you have a problem with the idea that the leaders of the Church are authorized by God to lead his Church and to speak for him in line with their duties? Do you think he would allow them to lead you astray on anything of consequence, particularly if you follow the counsel to seek the Spirit who can not only confirm what you’re told but help you understand it correctly?

    Think for yourself, but don’t think for a second that you’re dealing with questions in a vacuum. Read D&C 9, and see the role that thinking, studying and coming to conclusions plays in receiving inspiration — it’s a very important role, but it doesn’t mean that your conclusions should be taken as final or conclusive just because you thought about it.

  4. James
    January 9, 2010 at 5:39 am

    Thanks Blain 3

    “Do you think he would allow them to lead you astray on anything of consequence, particularly if you follow the counsel to seek the Spirit who can not only confirm what you’re told but help you understand it correctly?”

    Below is a good article from President Holland an interview he did in 2006 with PBS.
    I think genuinely the apostles/colleagues who talked about Cain and a race of people being less valiant in the pre existence were not saying these things because they were prejudice. They probably fasted and prayed and felt the spirit told them to preach these things as apostles. But still they got it wrong according to Brother Holland!

    http://mormonmatters.org/2009/11/24/elder-holland-publicly-denounces-past-lds-racist-teachings-by-general-authorities/

    “One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated. … I have to concede to my earlier colleagues. … They, I’m sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it. All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong.

    Blaine “Do you think he would allow them to lead you astray on anything of consequence, particularly if you follow the counsel to seek the Spirit who can not only confirm what you’re told but help you understand it correctly?”

    Holland “Well, some of the folklore that you must be referring to are suggestions that there were decisions made in the pre-mortal councils where someone had not been as decisive in their loyalty to a Gospel plan or the procedures on earth or what was to unfold in mortality, and that therefore that opportunity and mortality was compromised.

    Blaine do you think the folklore the apostles taught is was of consequence to the black members of our church to be told they were less decisive in the pre- existence?

  5. James
    January 9, 2010 at 5:51 am

    Cognitive Dissonance

    This is the feeling of uncomfortable tension which comes from holding two conflicting thoughts in the mind at the same time.

    Brother Holland realizes as I’m sure you do the best way we can rid our selves of dissonance is to change our behavior.

    But I think we can be unequivocal and we can be declarative in our current literature, in books that we reproduce, in teachings that go forward, whatever, that from this time forward, from 1978 forward, we can make sure that nothing of that is declared. That may be where we still need to make sure that we’re absolutely dutiful, that we put [a] careful eye of scrutiny on anything from earlier writings and teachings, just [to] make sure that that’s not perpetuated in the present. That’s the least, I think, of our current responsibilities on that topic. … “

  6. January 9, 2010 at 6:13 am

    I would say that there are some problems with your quotes. The ‘when the prophets speak the thinking is done’ quote and the Tanner quote were publically criticized by the prophet after they were said.

    Second, many of the leaders you cite could have had quotes in both sections, like BY. So I think the problem is not one of how we resolve this tension, but how did they do it.

    I think the idea that the ‘trump’ older prophets is blown a little out of proportion. I do not think they see each other as competing. I think Pres. Benson’s point was that when new revelation is given like 1978 then that takes precedence over what was previously said. The same thing applies to me. What I think now is different from what I thought 5 years ago and so I do not feel that I can be held down to things I thought that long ago. I have believed it then but I have changed.

    I don’t let anyone think for me. But for the most part I don’t have a hard time with what I am asked to do. In my exp so far I have not been put in these difficult positions. Some have I am sure, but I think that is the result of leaders over stepping their bounds or followers mis-understanding the role of a leader. Sometimes there is both and this is where we get real problems.

    I think cognitive dissonance, for me, arise more from the incogruence of action and belief (esp. in our history – and this somtimes involves belief), rather than between different sets fo beliefs.

  7. January 9, 2010 at 6:25 am

    4 — But now you’re waving your arms and trying to shove this into a question of leader infallibility, rather than your stated objective of “think for yourself or not.” Our leaders are fallible — did I really have to state that yet again. So what? So are you. I didn’t say they’d never get anything wrong, and neither did any of the quotes you cited. Are you this ready to walk away from your original thesis?

    5 — I know what cognitive dissonance is. I’m suggesting that there is nothing conflicting between the sets of quotes you’re citing, and challenging outright that the opening set tell you not to think for yourself as you claim. Now, are you going to address that challenge, or are you going to cherry-pick the portions of my comments you think are easiest to argue with?

  8. sandr
    January 9, 2010 at 6:46 am

    I think that these examples are not necessarily contradictory. I think like many principles in the gospel, the ‘right’ way is a balance between two extremes and because it is a balance you get quotes that seem to contradict each other because the leaders of the church are try to help the church keep its balance. Sometimes the church sways to far in one direction and church leaders try to correct the balance. Sometimes there will be a lot of members are too casually in listening to their leaders and disregard notions of inspired leadership and so the brethren push for more obedience. Then other times a lot members are too casually about cultivating their own personal spirituality and think that if they just blindly follow their leaders, they will be saved, so the brethren encourage the members to take more responsibility for their spirituality and to think more for themselves. Many times, their is a combination of both types of members, so you get some leaders pushing one way and some pushing the other. But they as a WHOLE are not contradicting each other, they are trying to bring the church into balance. You cannot take single quotes and try to declare a principle from it. You have to take all the quotes and try to figure out what they all point to.

  9. James
    January 9, 2010 at 7:04 am

    6 Rico

    Rico: I would say that there are some problems with your quotes. The ‘when the prophets speak the thinking is done’ quote and the Tanner quote were publically criticized by the prophet after they were said.

    James: haven’t heard of this can you please reply with it! Tanner was just one though there were many others in the same vain

    “Follow your leaders who have been duly ordained and have been publicly sustained, and you will not be led astray.”

    Boyd K. Packer (General Conference, Oct. 1992; Ensign, Nov. 1992)

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    “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray.”

    President Wilford Woodruff (considered scripture as it is canonized at the end of the D&C)

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    Rico:Second, many of the leaders you cite could have had quotes in both sections, like BY. So I think the problem is not one of how we resolve this tension, but how did they do it.

    James:I could only see BY’s could you please show me the others. The problem I see it is how we going to resolve the tension if they can’t.

    Rico:I think the idea that the ‘trump’ older prophets is blown a little out of proportion. I do not think they see each other as competing.

    James: neither do I they just didn’t have correlation and didn’t keep track of what the others were saying!

    Rico :I think Pres. Benson’s point was that when new revelation is given like 1978 then that takes precedence over what was previously said. The same thing applies to me. What I think now is different from what I thought 5 years ago and so I do not feel that I can be held down to things I thought that long ago. I have believed it then but I have changed.

    James: I agree but the problem is your not speaking on behalf of God – they are and it is taking as thus!

    Rico:I don’t let anyone think for me. But for the most part I don’t have a hard time with what I am asked to do. In my exp so far I have not been put in these difficult positions.

    Some have I am sure, but I think that is the result of leaders over stepping their bounds or followers mis-understanding the role of a leader. Sometimes there is both and this is where we get real problems.

    James: Say the stake president on behalf of the Brethren asked you and your ward to go door to door and raise money on behalf of prop 8 (assuming you were a California bishop) and you were against it!

  10. GBSmith
    January 9, 2010 at 7:09 am

    #7

    I think there is a conflict because the implication is that one the one hand we’re expected to seek guidance from the spirit about direction we’re given but on the other hand there’s only one answer that we’d better get. The practical reality is that it doesn’t come up very often and when it does it’s usually between members and bishops or SPs. The only big issue I can think of now would be on the stand the brethren have taken on same sex marriage and if a person can hold an opposing view and still be considered faithful.

    I still like the comment by an episcopal priest that God doesn’t expect you to check your brain at the door.

  11. January 9, 2010 at 7:53 am

    The only big issue I can think of now would be on the stand the brethren have taken on same sex marriage and if a person can hold an opposing view and still be considered faithful.

    Yes, can they? I would love a definitive answer to that. It’s probably the most clear cut issue that’s come along in many years where someone might have to choose between what their conscience tells them and what the prophet tells them.

  12. James
    January 9, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Thanks Blain 7

    Hope I haven’t caught a nerve or maybe I’m being a little sensitive to your writing style but there seems to be a little lack of Brotherly love going on! Anyway hope your ok and you had a Merry Christmas and are having a Happy New Year 🙂

    4 — But now you’re waving your arms and trying to shove this into a question of leader infallibility, rather than your stated objective of “think for yourself or not.” Our leaders are fallible — did I really have to state that yet again. So what? So are you. I didn’t say they’d never get anything wrong, and neither did any of the quotes you cited. Are you this ready to walk away from your original thesis?

    James: Sorry Blain I can see it was confusing ! Brother Holland ‘s example to me was not intended to show prophet infallibility it was meant to show even when they the apostles and prophet are doing everything they think the spirit is telling them to do. We can look back years later and see what they taught is folklore even though they were thinking for them selves and maybe even felt they were guided by the spirit.

    5 — I know what cognitive dissonance is. I’m suggesting that there is nothing conflicting between the sets of quotes you’re citing, and challenging outright that the opening set tell you not to think for yourself as you claim. Now, are you going to address that challenge, or are you going to cherry-pick the portions of my comments you think are easiest to argue with?

    James: Once again Blain super huge apologies I am sure you know what cognitive dissonance is.

    “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s Plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give directions, it should mark the end of controversy, God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.”

    James: To me the above is saying even if I disagree with something like proposition 8 or that blacks were fence sitters in the pre-existence , just don’t think about it , its in gods hands we know what were doing the thinking it has been done for you.

    George Q. Cannon, Counsellor to three Church Presidents, expressed it thus: “Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone;” (Millennial Star 53:658-59, quoted in Gospel Truth, 1:319)

    James: To me this is saying the opposite that if your heart tells you it’s wrong then don’t do it or you will be disappointed in your leaders and will fail to support them!

  13. January 9, 2010 at 8:03 am

    #9 – See Terryl Givens, People of Paradox, p. 18. George Albert Smith ‘Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church’.

    James: Tanner was just one though there were many others in the same vain

    Rico: The Woodruff and Packer quote are not the same as the ones that proclaim the thinking is done.

    James:I could only see BY’s could you please show me the others. The problem I see it is how we going to resolve the tension if they can’t.

    Rico: I do not have time to do the research but Joseph F. Smith was certainly one for following the prophet. I think they did resolve the tension to a certain extent, that was the point I was making. They emphasised different aspects at different times. I am sure that if you created hypotheticals for them they would provide different ideas. The fact is that we do not and cannot create hard and fast rules for ourselves because context will determine what we think is right and this is the same for the brethren. Which is why they say one thing at one time and another at another. I think it is unreasonable to expect of them what we cannot ourselves do.

    James: neither do I they just didn’t have correlation and didn’t keep track of what the others were saying!

    Rico: The idea of correlation is not the only issue, it applies to earlier scriptural prophets as well. I just think we assume it is talking about correlation when it was probably not intended to. I think this is a weak argument.

    James: I agree but the problem is your not speaking on behalf of God – they are and it is taking as thus!

    Rico: Just because they are taken as speaking for God does not mean we have to have them be the same always in what they think. If you want that then you want a very conservative Church. I would rather have leaders that can move forward.

    James: Say the stake president on behalf of the Brethren asked you and your ward to go door to door and raise money on behalf of prop 8 (assuming you were a California bishop) and you were against it!

    Rico: As I said, there are difficult situations. I agree they exist. I have not faced and so do not know what i would do. I would give it serious thought and prayer and make a decision. but i can see the possibility of coing down on both sides. I am open to it.

    Eugene England talks about the difficulties of balancing integrity and obedience in a thoughtful essay:

    http://www.signaturebookslibrary.org/dialogues/chapter2.htm#obedience

    I would go by his position. That we need to take very situation on its merits. Now I agree that there could be some cognitive dissonance but this can be resolved from within. For those who want to live by unquestioning obedience let them while for those who want to question let them. All these statements highlight is that we can tolerate both strands of Saints. I think this is the real tension, the one that exists within. Why did Joseph sometimes assert his authority and sometimes allow a great deal of freedom, the same for Brigham… this highlights for me that at different times we are or support different courses of action.

  14. January 9, 2010 at 9:05 am

    10 — I can guess that that’s the implication trying to be made, but there is a lack of evidence to back up the claim that there is conflict or contradiction between the sets of quotes. I have pointed out that they’re talking about different things (and all are absent context), and, when you account for those things, the apparent conflict is no longer in play.

    12 — I’m not particularly angry, although I am a little annoyed. You’ve made some specific claims, and, when those claims are challenged, you’re presenting a moving target about what you’re willing to respond to. The way conversation works is that you say things, I respond to the things you are saying, and then you respond to the things I am saying (that’s for the defining “cognitive dissonance” to me). But what’s happening here is that you are saying things, I am responding to the things you are saying, and you are responding by responding to a few of the words I’ve chosen, and then trying to explain in more detail what you were saying in the first place.

    I understand what you’re saying, both before and later. I am challenging your assumptions. I have pointed to a very different reading of the first set of quotes, and you are telling me what your original reading was without any indication that you even read what my alternate reading is. This wastes my time, and is annoying. I don’t write because I love typing.

    So, you said

    To me the above is saying even if I disagree with something like proposition 8 or that blacks were fence sitters in the pre-existence , just don’t think about it , its in gods hands we know what were doing the thinking it has been done for you.

    This, at its core, is where we are disagreeing. I see those quotes as talking about the direction of the Church, not matters of opinion or belief. This is not a doctrinaire church — with a handful of exceptions, the institutional Church doesn’t care what you believe, although it does care a great deal about what you do. They are saying that the leaders of the Church make the decisions about what the Church should and shouldn’t do, and that you don’t need to worry that they’re doing it wrong, or look to someone else for a better idea of where the Church should be going. The Church doesn’t ask you what you believe about the priesthood ban, or same sex marriage, or abortion, or anything like that. Think about things all you want — do lots of thinking, in fact. Study, ponder, pray — you’ve heard that taught, right?

    But if you’re thinking you’re in a position to second-guess the leaders of the Church, who have both the authority and the responsibility to lead the Church — well, why would you think you’re in a position to know their jobs better than they do?

    So nobody has told you to let the Church leaders do the thinking for you. Your premise is false. Sorry if that doesn’t sound brotherly lovey enough for you — love is more than twinkies and milk. If you want more warm fuzzies, I’d suggest buying a teddy bear. As Eric said to Cory, slightly paraphrased, life’s tough, brother — get a helmet.

    Now, I’ve got to get back to work.

  15. Holden Caulfield
    January 9, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Blain-to me you are illustrating the cognative dissonance James is talking about.

    “But if you’re thinking you’re in a position to second-guess the leaders of the Church, who have both the authority and the responsibility to lead the Church — well, why would you think you’re in a position to know their jobs better than they do?”

    Leaders are infallible (incapable of being second-guessed)

    “Do you think he would allow them to lead you astray on anything of consequence” Infallible in anything of consequence.

    BTW, I agree with James that to blacks this was something of consequence, especially to those blacks in Brazil in the early 70s that my mission president told me to lie to because he didn’t want us to “waste our time with them”.

    “Our leaders are fallible”

    From James’ post:

    “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s Plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give directions, it should mark the end of controversy, God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.”

    At least one of James’ quotes (the one above) does have a church leader talking about “thinking” not just behavior. This quote above mentions “to think overwise….may cost one his faith”. While your point is well taken that the church deals with behavior, the quote says what it says.

  16. Aaron
    January 9, 2010 at 10:55 am

    This is a great post and I look forward to the rest of the series. It really addresses the core of some of my personal difficulties with the church.

    No doubt, much of what the previous brethren have tacitly stated as doctrine has been reversed. The priesthood ban, and polygamy being a requirement for exaltation, are the most salient examples for me. In any case, I previously held value in the consistency that was provided by the leaders of the church. Come to find out, they really haven’t been so consistent, even in some matters of great consequence. That leads me to think that they are or were wrong about these and other things at some point. I can’t stomach the idea that I should always believe, follow, and do what they say given their current track record, especially when my own conscience/intellect sometimes tells me otherwise, even after fervent study, pondering, and prayer.

    I can accept that brethren are fallible. Fine. For me that issue is deeper than that. God supposedly leads the church and he is not supposed to be fallible. I get that Brigham Young and others were racist and that racism was probably at least partially responsible for the priesthood ban. I can understand how Brigham could be a prophet and still want to start that sort of thing. What I can’t wrap my head around is how God allowed it to happen and let it continue for 125+ years, denying who knows how many people the blessings of the priesthood and the temple, when the temple is supposed to be the ultimate reason for our earthly sojourn in the first place. I would expect God to let Brigham and others know in his own way that they were wrong. But he didn’t, at least not for a long time.

    One other thing… if the brethren do encourage free thinking, even when it of a dissident nature, they sure don’t say so. Even if you can think about whatever you want, as a general rule you sure can’t talk about it in church. You most certainly have to act as though you believe a certain way, even if you don’t, or you will often not be considered to be in good standing. This may be a part of the church culture more than the doctrine, but I don’t hear the brethren speak out against ostracizing people who see things differently very often. Maybe that is part of why church is difficult for me, the source of my own dissonance – in ways it forces my behavior to not match my convictions.

  17. GBSmith
    January 9, 2010 at 11:08 am

    I agree, Blain, what is being discussed involves action/following and not doctrines. The dissonance or mutually exclusive part is that I’m being expected to ponder and pray and then get a predetermined answer that will lead to a predetermined action. And if that’s the point what is the need of thinking and praying in the first place? And if I, in good conscience, can’t go along am I in apostasy?

    And once again, Holden, you have pierced to the heart of the matter.

  18. January 9, 2010 at 11:25 am

    I love working with paradox, and would enjoy harmonizing “follow the prophet” with “think for yourself”, but the second set of quotes seems pretty specific about denouncing the content of the first set of quotes. I agree with the commenter that said that the bretheren say things in response to the current climate, in order to bring things back into balance. But, this collection of quotes does seem problematic to me.

    Some spiritual traditions favor teaching pupils one on one, because the nature of truth is so paradoxical and any teaching can be mis-applied. Once you have a large institution to pass down teachings, quality control demands that you pin down the moving target of paradoxical truth. That’s when you get the paradox that institutions are really good at doing the opposite of what they set out to do. Schools can foster learning, or they can squash creative genius by leaving the pupil no time to pursue his passion. Religions can facilitate spirituality, or they can obscure a personal connection with God by setting themselves up as an intermediary, leaving the seeker to stop seeking God because he thinks the church is God and he has already found it.

  19. Ray
    January 9, 2010 at 11:30 am

    “The only big issue I can think of now would be on the stand the brethren have taken on same sex marriage and if a person can hold an opposing view and still be considered faithful.”

    Yes. There is a difference between personal beliefs and institutions beliefs – and it’s when members don’t understand that difference and fight to have it eradicated that most of the serious problems occur. (Btw, I mean that about ALL members on BOTH sides of any issue – not just those who disagree personally with an institutional position.)

  20. worm
    January 9, 2010 at 11:38 am

    The Spring 1986 issue of Dialogue had an interesting discussion of that “thinking has been done” statement. Incidentally, it was part of some sort of message for home teachers. Here is an excerpt from a letter by George Albert Smith to a Unitarian church leader, who was surprised by the statement:

    “The leaflet to which you refer, and from which you quote in your letter, was not ‘prepared’ by ‘one of our leaders.’ However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.

    “I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts.”

  21. January 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    James–

    Your topic is divided under two headings:

    1. Don’t think for yourself

    2 Think for yourself

    I think if you researched each of the church leaders you’ve quoted more extensively you would find less “cognitive dissonance” with their words. I don’t believe any of these men would tell you to don’t EVER think for yourself–church leaders have done it for you, or don’t EVER listen to church leaders—think for yourself.

    On certain issues the Lord and His prophets have done the thinking, there is no debate. For example, paying tithing. There is no debate about keeping the law of tithing. We have our agency and can choose to live the law of tithing or not.

    On other issues the prophets give counsel based on their best judgment or by a decision as a quorum. For example, provident living and The Proclamation on the Family. This counsel leaves the thinking to the individual.

    Regarding quotes: the problem with using quotes is that they only tell a small part of what the writer had in mind at a given moment–like striking one key on a piano. In order to have a complete understanding of what a persons view is, it would require listening to the entire musical performance.

    I’m certain if you took all the talks ever given by the church leaders you’ve quoted it would be clear that there is a more harmony in their thinking than you’ve presented.

  22. Suzanne
    January 9, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Go directly to God for “all” your questions! Question “everything”!!
    If you “really” want to know the “Truth” seek the Lord Jesus Christ!

    1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

    John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

    John 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

  23. mcarp
    January 9, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Nicely done, James. A good collection all in one place. I need to save it somewhere…

  24. January 9, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Whilst I agree there are weaknesses in James’ argument, I feel that many of the commenter’s are purposely nitpicking and looking beyond the mark, many anti-Mormons do the same thing which is one of the reasons why I find it distasteful.

    Blain – your eventual comments defeated your own position, you talked yourself into a corner, then short yourself in the foot. It reminded me of A few Good Men – “You want the truth,… I’ll give you the truth”.

    Jared #21 I liked your piano analogy, and this is similar to the position I would take, an entire conference develops the symphony rather than just one talk or just one quote.

    A friend of mine raised this question once, Is the Prophet really fallible? Can our current Prophet lead us astray?

    I think these questions as implied by James can cause dissonance if we manage them incorrectly. Learning of deceit, pride, slavery, bigotry and other questionable moral issues can create problems. I have no concise solution to the causes of dissonance except for when The Brethren say they are talking for God, they actually should (it would make my life easier).

  25. Thomas
    January 9, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    The only irreconcilable contradiction I see here is between Charles Penrose’s statement that obeying a priesthood leader, even in something that you know is wrong, is “wickedness in the extreme,” and the Marion G. Romney/Heber J. Grant/Ezra Taft Benson “if he ever tells you to do anything, even if it is wrong, and you do it, the lord will bless you for it” doctrine.

    I stand with Elder Penrose on this one. We ought to obey God rather than men.

  26. Holden Caulfield
    January 9, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    “I think if you researched each of the church leaders you’ve quoted more extensively you would find less “cognitive dissonance” with their words. I don’t believe any of these men would tell you to don’t EVER think for yourself–church leaders have done it for you, or don’t EVER listen to church leaders—think for yourself.”

    I know what you are saying, Jared, but before I posted anything here I re-read the Tanner article in the August, 1979 Ensign
    entitled, “When the Prophet speaks the debate is over”. He wrote on the topic to reinforce that same idea that was the topic of a worldwide conference talk given just before his article in the Ensign. The talk reinforces every jot and tittle that the title makes the reader feel. To me, it was a downright scary talk. Whatever specific words have been used in the past, I think the Mormon culture is “believe and do, don’t conflict yourselves by thinking overwise”.

    It’s like the prop 8 issue. Many people have said the church didn’t tell us how to vote. As Aaron said above,, “if the brethren do encourage free thinking, even when it of a dissident nature, they sure don’t say so.” If the brethren did encourage us to vote HOWEVER we wanted, they sure didn’t say so in any meaningful way. Their yes on prop 8 rhetoric was so loud, I couldn’t hear them saying I should vote however my life experiences would have me (until conveniently AFTER the vote).

  27. January 9, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Thomas #25 I’m not sure if I agree with you, whist lots of situations spring to mind that I would not like to be commanded to do, I can highlight many examples of prophets and leaders doing things they initially believed to be wrong but still obeyed.

    Abraham, Nephi and Joseph would all come to mind.

  28. Aaron
    January 9, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Jared (#21):

    “On other issues the prophets give counsel based on their best judgment or by a decision as a quorum. For example, provident living and The Proclamation on the Family. This counsel leaves the thinking to the individual.”

    Unfortunately, if I were to come out and say that I don’t agree with parts of the Proclamation on the Family, or give pragmatic reasons whey having a one year food storage probably isn’t something that ALL people should focus on (just to use your own examples), in the minds of many latter-day-saints including leadership, I would be seen as a heretic on my way down the road of apostasy. In reality, there just isn’t room for that kind of thinking in the church unless I keep it to myself and act as though my heterodoxy doesn’t exist. I can’t even wear a blue shirt to church or have multiple earrings in my ear (not that I wear earrings) without feeling judged way more than I ought to by some members and leaders of the church. that judgment doesn’t really bother me personally as people in all social groups will judge you to some degree no matter how you are, but it illustrates the point that at the end of the day, you are expected to fall in line with every little micromanaged detail of your life that the brethren speak about, or you are wrong and need to repent.

  29. January 9, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    the fact that I agree with both MrQandA #27 and Aaron #28 above illustrates the kind of cognitive dissonance *I* experience when contemplating this idea…

  30. January 9, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    #28 Aaron–

    I think you bring up some good points. Peer pressure can be a real pain, as well as a helpful motivation to achieve. This, as you said, is found in any group.

    As I get up in years I find this kind of thing less annoying. I don’t like to conform to the groups expectation–sometimes that just a form of manipulation–yuk. I like to conform to my own best nature. I’ve found that by reading the scriptures, repenting, striving to keep the commandments, serving, being forgiving, and etc gives me all the motivation I need to stay on the narrow path.

  31. Doug G.
    January 9, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I believe the church has worked very hard to change its basic beginnings. I have read all seven volumes of the “History of the Church” in my TBM days. Something that struck me over and over was how many critical decisions were left up to the members to vote on. Who served in what positions? How tithing money was used? What should be included in the standard works? What property should we buy and develop? Etc…
    It seems clear to me that Joseph Smith liked the idea of a democratic church even when the members voted against things he felt strongly about. (Wanting Sydney Rigdon removed as his first counselor comes to mind…)

    In many ways the brethren in those days appealed to the members and then accepted their decision. (I think it was Oliver Cowdery who got his feathers all ruffled when the members in Kirtland decided to remove him as bishop. Joseph told him he couldn’t leave him in the position if the majority of the members wanted him out.)

    As the church moved away from the united order and polygamy, I think they had to become more forceful in their rhetoric and thereby remove the democratic nature of the church. Statements like “God wouldn’t let the prophet lead the church astray.” were put to the members and then asked for their sustaining vote.

    James point in his post is very relevant because the church is not governed today has it was in the 19th century. The fact that members were counted on to do their own thinking and then vote is 180 degrees off from the way the church runs today. I won’t argue with which way is better, but let’s not disparage James for pointing out the obvious.

  32. January 9, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    #31 – I agree the Church has changed culture, particularly in how it approaches/frames this debate. But that is not James point. That would have been more interesting to me. He seems to highlighting that there are conflicting statements. That the members are being told different things by different people in the same era and this is the same throughout the history of the Church, thus the range of quotations from different brethren.

  33. January 9, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    15 — For Heaven’s sake, can’t anybody read? Quoting myself in comment 7

    Our leaders are fallible — did I really have to state that yet again.

    . In no words have I ever said our leaders are infallible. I promise you that. Putting words in my mouth is a conversation foul. Don’t do it again.

    If you want to try answering my questions, instead of fabricating meaning that isn’t there, that would be welcome. Why would you think you could do a better job of leading the Church than the people called to do it? And why would that be different than me thinking I could do your job better than you do?

    16 — I think there’s pressure toward group think in the Church. And the Democratic Party. And the Republican Party. And the Tea Party Movement (which is interesting, since it’s a movement defined by what it is opposed to more than what it’s for). I will even stipulate that the Church has a reasonable stake in what doctrines people teach as official doctrine. I have found no consequences from speaking outside the box from any official channels — most often, my Institute Director bishop seems to agree with me, in fact — but I’m pretty careful to disclaim my own opinion as mine when I’m speaking of something speculative. Members can disagree with me, but that’s hardly a problem unless they get rude about it, and that problem would be theirs.

    But now we’re wandering from what was claimed — that there was an explicit claim that former leaders of the Church told people that they shouldn’t think for themselves, because the leaders will think for them, based on the quotes we were given.

    17 — I think you’re conflating things that need not be conflated. And, again, the thread is not about getting answers — it’s about thinking for yourself or not. Thinking for yourself is an important thing — once again, D&C 9 speaks to this step as being essential in the process of inquiring of God. Now you want to have the option that God will tell you something at odds with what he tells the people chosen to lead the Church? Am I missing something?

    24 — I have no idea what you’re talking about. You’ve not stated any of my points, or given a single criticism of that point, but, by wave of your magic wand, I have disproven myself? I’m clearly too tired, because you seem so confident — I must be missing something. Please help my poor sleepy brain out.

    25 — Good points. I think I tend to agree with you on them. But I’m tired enough that I could be wrong about that.

  34. Suzanne
    January 9, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Don’t Be Deceived! Think For Yourself! Research Everything! Question Everything!
    Ask The Lord To Open Your Eyes To Truth! Read The Bible!

  35. January 9, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    #16 Aaron said: I get that Brigham Young and others were racist and that racism was probably at least partially responsible for the priesthood ban. I can understand how Brigham could be a prophet and still want to start that sort of thing. What I can’t wrap my head around is how God allowed it to happen and let it continue for 125+ years…
    ———————————————————————————–

    The Priesthood ban on blacks is a big challenge for many. Follow the link below for a post I wrote on this issue. I’d be interested in anyone thoughts:

    http://www.ldsaliveinchrist.com/2009/12/the-priesthood-ban-for-dummies/

  36. GBSmith
    January 9, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Blain,
    “Now you want to have the option that God will tell you something at odds with what he tells the people chosen to lead the Church? Am I missing something?”

    I think what you’re missing is that you can’t have it both ways. What you’re saying is that you can/should think for yourself but not come to any conclusion that is not what the Brethren have said. That was the point of my first comment. Can a person disagree and still be considered faithful? I agree with Ray that if that disagreement leads to open opposition that you get into trouble. And it’s never necessary.

  37. Cowboy
    January 9, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Jared:

    I’ll take a stab and give you my thoughts on your post. For the bulk of the post you are on damage control trying to protect the image of Prophets as useful tools through which the Lord convey’s his will. In doing so you acknowledge that Prophets are sometimes fallible, though you clearly believe that they are still useful. I am not able to determine what your exact position is from two possibilities:

    A) Prophets were in error about the race issue entirely, up to and including the ban. In other words, even though you see value in the Prophets, you believe that they were wrong on both the ban, and the alleged “folklore” doctrine.

    or

    B) This is what I would call the Elder Holland approach. That is, Prophets are capable of error, though the Lord would not permit them to insitute a policy which is against his will. In short, God did in fact inspire and support the ban, however Prophets relied on human wisdom (fallibility) by reason of scripture and tradition to provide justification for the ban, which was made manifested in the said “folklore”.

    some clarification on this would be helpful in understanding your position.

    You then appeal to the saviors example of not directly ministering (though in short order he did) to the gentiles. I think there is some validity to this point, in at least demonstrating that even Jesus was somewhat discriminatory. However, I also see some problems with this line of reason. Gentiles, in the NT example were defined by lineage and culture, whereas the Priesthood ban applied to color. I would bet that in the 19th century dinstinguishing the two may not have been as easy. If we are to make a lineage argument for the priesthood ban, via the gentile example from the NT, then I would have to ask what lineage must the blacks be related to compared to the house of Israel, if not encapsulated under the broader tent of “gentile”. That reasoning, unfortunately, returns us back to the descendents of Cain justification, which of course has now been declared “folklore” by Elder Holland. In short, I think institutionally that Option A) above, is the only line of reasoning that would effectively reconcile the Church to society and not contaminate the doctrine any further. By no means does A) rationalization completely maintains Prophetic harmony, but I think it is the best tack at this junture. Even so, I see the Church taking position B), which tends not to stray all that much from the alleged “folkore”.

  38. Aaron
    January 9, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Jared –

    Your post stated:

    “Will the Lord permit a fallible prophet to frustrate his will? No.”

    So following this logic the Priesthood ban must have been God’s will since it did indeed happen and was instituted by his chosen prophets, even if they got the reasons wrong. Except for God is supposed to be no respecter of persons (D&C 38:16) and “God denieth none who come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female, etc…” (2 Ne 26:33).

    Crap, here comes that pesky feeling of dissonance again.

  39. January 9, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    #37 Cowboy–

    I enjoyed reading your analysis–thanks for taking the time.

    I have an assignment I am working on for tomorrow so I will follow up with a few additional thoughts later.

  40. January 9, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    #38 Aaron–

    Good point. However, the Lord isn’t referring to the priesthood in the verses you cite. We come unto Christ by faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost. In these things he is no respecter of persons and all (black and white, bond and free, male and female) can be received in His church when they have properly prepared.

    With the blessings of priesthood, temple marriage, and etc He is a respecter of persons.

    I’ve got be up early, so I can finish up the with this tonight.

  41. Mike S
    January 9, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    The cognitive dissonance extends far beyond the priesthood and polygamy. It seems things mean whatever is expedient at the moment. All my life, I have been raised with a doctrine I thought was very profound – that we can literally be Gods, and that God was once like us. Then President Hicnkley suggests that he doesn’t even really know what that means. I was taught since I was a little boy in the Articles of Faith to “obey the law of the land” and heard conference talks about the saints in Eastern Europe being blessed for obeying their countries’ oppressive laws. Then we heard justification for basically ignoring immigration laws and looking for ways to sneak people here illegally to and from missions.

    The biggest practical problem that I see is the difficulty to tell when a leader is speaking as a leader and when he/she is speaking as a person. Not that it will ever happen, but if I were ever in a high leadership position, I would still have my own personal opinions. When someone like BRM writes a book like Mormon Doctrine, we are told that that is just his opinion, yet other things he might say we are told are equivalent to being from God because of his position.

    It has been a long, long time since we’ve had a “Thus sayeth the Lord…” type of thing.

  42. January 9, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    36 — No, I’m not. I’m getting at something, quite badly apparently. Let me see if I can be a bit more clear.

    1. I am not talking about various and sundry doctrinal questions. As I have said (I know I have), the Church doesn’t care about your opinion of all but a handful of doctrinal questions, and those are basic enough that I don’t understand why you would want to be in the Church if you disagreed with the preferred answers to those. As long as you’re not teaching them as official doctrine when they’re not, I (at least) am find with you believing whatever you want, and I won’t mind if you talk about it in my GD/EQ. I might vocally disagree with you, but disagreement is not a problem for me.

    2. I don’t care if you disagree with The Brethren™ in how they lead the Church, but that’s because, with no offense intended, your opinion about that doesn’t matter any more than my opinion matters about how you do your job. They are the ones called to carry out their stewardships, and, while I may have an opinion about how they do that, I’m not in a position to judge theirs all that often because I don’t have enough information, and I’m not so perfect at carrying out my stewardships that I feel qualified to do so.

    3. Five of the alleged “don’t think for yourself” quotes are explicitly speaking about the (lack of) danger of the leaders of the Church leading people astray. The first talks about people “thinking for themselves,” but in a context that makes it pretty clear that it’s talking about plans, and activities, not about doctrinal questions. Thus, my conclusion is that these quotes aren’t talking about matters of belief or doctrines — they are talking about the running of the Church, particularly that the leaders aren’t going to lead the membership away from where God wants them to be. This doesn’t say that they might not get a path wrong, nor that the membership might not go somewhere off the proper track, but that those events won’t coincide, and, again, that it’s not going to matter much in the overall scheme of things. Kevin Barney (I believe) has done some exploration of this concept elsewhere — it’s worth looking into.

    4. I’m not the one insisting that you have to come to the same conclusion as Church leaders, so there is no “both ways” that I’m trying to have things. When it comes to questions of doctrine that are outside the scant handful of those that are essential, your beliefs and understandings of those particular doctrines at any moment in time isn’t all that important, and, if you continue to think about it (which I have only encouraged) honestly, there’s a good chance that your understanding, and, possibly, your belief, will change over time. There is no place I’ve seen that we’re required to be right about everything we believe or understand — just that we need to love God and our neighbor, which has more to do with what we do than what we think, afaict.

    And, when it comes to what you think about matters of Church policy, your opinion on how the Church leaders are doing their jobs, as mentioned above, doesn’t matter to me. I want God to be merciful with them over their short-comings, because mine are bigger, and I need a lot of mercy.

    As to how the priesthood ban fits into what I’m talking about, I honestly don’t know — I don’t have enough information about God’s relationship with the ban to really weigh in on whether it’s a counter to any of my points or not. I do know that nothing about the priesthood ban makes the Church untrue (and I remain unclear about exactly what the truth of the Church means), but ymmv on that.

    I’m not playing with the thread-drift points, such as the one about infallibility of our leaders — nobody of consequence is arguing for infallibility, so let’s give the straw men a break, if we can. The interminable rambling fights of the bloggernacle (and their internet fathers that went before them) are things I’ve been playing with for fifteen years, and I’m pretty much done with them.

    Now, that’s about as good as I’m apt to get with this.

  43. Ray
    January 10, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I attended a general Stake Priesthood meeting yesterday, and I thought the following statements from some of the talks were relevant to this thread. First, however, the stake focus last year was on living a Christ-centered life (specifically developing the characteristics of Christ), and the new theme this year is the promptings of the Holy Spirit that come directly to us.

    Now for the quotes (or, more accurately, my notes on them):

    1) The Lord will lead us through the minefields of life, but He will not lead us through unscathed. We will be wounded in our journey through life, but He can heal us.

    2) Our primary focus should be to live according to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

    3) Seek divine guidance personally.

    4) We must ponder deeply the things we hear from others and the Holy Ghost.

    5) Even Jesus taught the Nephites when he visited them that they needed to ponder his words – not just accept them without pondering them. Even as he taught them truth, he simultaneously told them to understand that truth as individuals through contemplating what he had said overnight THEN returning to hear more.

    6) We must follow the Spirit that we feel He gives us.

    7) This cannot be constrained or forced; it must be desired and accomplished from within.

    8 ) We must act when we feel prompted to do anything that feels good or right to us.

    Thought I would give some modern examples of practical context of discussions like this. Again, there is a difference between organizational responsibility and individual responsibility – between “thinking for myself” and “thinking for others”. I see the quotes almost all as targeting one of those things and not the other.

    Also, fwiw, I think it is misleading to call Marion G Romney “LDS President Marion G. Romney” – even with the disclaimer in parentheses. I’ve never heard ANY counselor in the FP called “LDS President __________” – and I don’t know of ANY member who would say that. That wording also is not used in the post for any of the other men who served as counselors in the FP.

  44. Holden Caulfield
    January 10, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Blain—“In no words have I ever said our leaders are infallible. I promise you that. Putting words in my mouth is a conversation foul. Don’t do it again.”

    You crack me up, Blain. Control issues?

  45. January 10, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    44 — Fair point. Move to amend to add ” if you wish to engage in conversation with me.” I’m okay if you don’t want to.

  46. Jeff Spector
    January 10, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    I see no conflict. Agency trumps all. It’s all in the choosing.

  47. Holden Caulfield
    January 10, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    The temple recommend question asking if “…..you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?” deals with thoughts, feelings and not actions, although the first part of the questions I believe asks about affiliation.

    It seems as though this is dealing with control of our thoughts to some extent. Has anyone heard a reasonable explanation of this question? Known anyone who didn’t get TR because of “sympathies”?

  48. Ray
    January 10, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    I don’t know of anyone on the approval side of the desk who interprets that in any way other than being an active sympathizer – iow, actively opposing the Church through affiliation with an organzation that fights the Church openly. I sympathize emotionally and in other ways with LOTS of people who fight the Church, and I’ve never thought of that being in any way against the spirit of that question.

  49. Thomas
    January 10, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    #27: There’s a difference between Abraham, Nephi and Joseph being directly commanded by God, the Spirit, or an angel with a flaming sword, and a guy in Cedar City getting an immoral order from his stake president in 1857.

    If I were to get an infallible communication directly from the Lord explaining to me that my existing moral compass was wrong to rule something out, then I’d consider it. (After getting my head examined by a competent mental health professional.) But if the communication is coming from someone I know to be potentially fallible, then while I would generally obey a direction I believe to be misguided, I would absolutely refuse one I believed to be wicked.

  50. January 10, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    #47 I’ve answered that one “yes” every time I’ve gone in for a recommend. I think they should just go ahead and change the wording to: “Do you belong to a fundamentalist/polygamous group?”

  51. January 10, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    re 47:

    Like BiV, I’ve always seen that as referring to fundamentalist/polygamous groups (and when I’ve asked my bishop and SP, they’ve said that’s what that means.)

    however, i can’t say i’ve ever answered that one ‘yes’. I’m more prone to saying “no” one too many times.

  52. Aaron
    January 11, 2010 at 12:20 am

    Jared (#40): I understand that the Lord wasn’t talking specifically about the Priesthood/temple in those verses, but I don’t see any indication that he intended to be exclusionary of those most central aspects of the Gospel either.

    I think that his point was that personal worthiness and all other things being equal, he would not deny people blessings of the gospel based on race, gender, wealth, status, etc…

  53. Holden Caulfield
    January 11, 2010 at 9:54 am

    It is difficult to think for ourselves and find things not get in the way. I have always been bothered by the Prophet’s explanation of the word Mormon. It seemed as though he was simply making it up. It seemed too convenient. In the Times and Seasons in 1843, Joseph Smith explained:

    “Through the medium of your paper, I wish to correct an error among men. . . . The error I speak of, is the definition of the word “MORMON.” It has been stated that this word was derived from the Greek morme. This is not the case. There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of God, translated the Book of Mormon. Let the language of that book speak for itself. On the 523d page, of the fourth edition, it reads: “And now behold we have written this record according to our knowledge in the characters which are called among us the Reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech; and if our plates had been sufficiently large, we should have written in Hebrew, but the Hebrew hath been altered by us, also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold ye would have had no imperfection in our record, but the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also, that none other people knoweth our language; therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof.” Here then the subject is put to silence, for “none other people knoweth our language,” therefore the Lord, and not man, had to interpret, after the people were all dead and as Paul said, “The world by wisdom know not God.” So the world by speculation are destitute of revelation; and as God in His superior wisdom has always given His saints, wherever he had any on the earth, the same spirit and that spirt, as John says, is the true spirit of prophecy which is the testimony of Jesus. I may safely say that the word Mormon stands independent of the learning and wisdom of this generation.–Before I give a definition, however, to the word, let me say that the Bible in its widest sense, means good; for the Savior says according to the gospel of John, “I am the good shepherd;” and it will not be beyond the common use of the terms, to say that good is among the most important in use, and though known by various names in different languages, still its meaning is the same, and is ever in opposition to bad. We say from the Saxon, good; the Dane, god; the Goth, goda; the German gut; the Dutch, goed; the Latin, bonus; the Greek, kalos; the Hebrew, tob; and the Egyptian, mon. Hence, with the addition of more, or the contraction, mor, we have the word MORMON; which means, literally, more good. Yours, Joseph Smith.”

    I quoted that entire section because it shows the great length to which Joseph Smith went to explain his inspiration and the lack of that of the world. He used that inspiration to tell the real meaning of the word Mormon.

    In 1990 in the Ensign Pres Hinckly wrote, “I knew, of course, that “more good” was not a derivative of the word Mormon. I had studied Latin and Greek, and I knew that English is derived in some measure from those two languages and that the words more good are not a cognate of the word Mormon.”

    His insertion of “of course” to me is interesting. Who knows what to believe, what to think. To me, more reading of the past only creates more uneasiness. I have always felt the same way about Zelph.

  54. Cowboy
    January 11, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    So that I understand, was Joseph Smith suggesting that the Nephites contrived the term Mormon by juxtaposing an Egyptian word for “good”, “mon”, with and English contraction of the word “more”?

  55. January 11, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Like Rico said, many of those leaders could have quotes on both sides. For example, I have heard Elder Packer say things that could be seen on both sides.

    But is it a new concept to someone, that we (hopefully) have a relationship with the Lord that is independent of the Church?

    For me, for a while after I was baptized, I thought that the Church pretty much is God (not literally!), but then I learned to pray. For me, real, constant prayer was a totally new concept. The evening prayers that my mom made me say made me squirm (the hypocrisy or something, I’m not totally aware of what it was; just her mental/spiritual absence maybe). So that was not exactly a good point to start from…

  56. Holden Caulfield
    January 11, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    “So that I understand, was Joseph Smith suggesting that the Nephites contrived the term Mormon by juxtaposing an Egyptian word for “good”, “mon”, with and English contraction of the word “more”?”

    The way I read it. I’m thinking the rule is Mor before mon, except after e.

  57. Mark
    January 12, 2010 at 12:11 am

    This is rather hilarious and very interesting – in a totally good way. The back and forth from Blaine is such a good example of seeing what you want to see. (I do the same, so I’m not casting stones – I live in a glass house, too!)

    The way I see it (and definitely not the way Blaine sees it) is this – when a church leader talks about either being led astray or not being led astray, that is ONLY about doctrinal issues. We’re not talking about the mountain path from Logan to Salt Lake City. And the POINT (or one of the points) of James’ original posting, I think, was to point that out that having a church leader say, “Don’t worry, I and my brothers up here on the podium won’t lead you astray, so just do what we tell you to do [meaning believe what we tell you to believe] and you’ll be fine” is very much the opposite of the comments (sometimes by the same people) directing us to think for ourselves. The idea that “once the prophet has spoken the topic is closed” is inimical to the idea of learning and growing for ourselves in our quest to be like God – you can’t become like anything just sitting on your ass listening to what other people tell you!

    Of course, how to reconcile the fact that leaders contradict others, or that some people contradict themselves? Well, one step is to admit that people in general (ourselves included) live lives characterized by varying levels of dissonance at the cognitive level. And James’ point (again, I think) is that members of the church are put into positions where cognitive dissonance can take over because we have church leaders telling us on the one hand to relax and trust what they say – trust where they lead us and trust their opinions on issues big and small because they won’t lead us ASTRAY [again, astray is a code word for DOCTRINALLY ASTRAY – after all, Satan sits at the other end of “astray”] – and on the other hand we have leaders telling us that to unquestioningly accept what we’re told is the worst thing we could do. Sometimes the same people tell us both things, and that’s cognitive dissonance for us trying to make sense of that.

    For the record – cognitive dissonance has this definition (among several): Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two contradictory ideas simultaneously. The “ideas” or “cognitions” in question may include attitudes and beliefs, the awareness of one’s behavior, and facts. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, or by justifying or rationalizing their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.[1] Cognitive dissonance theory is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that the attempt to reconcile two statements with rather (or diametrically) opposed points of view by church leaders we are all trying to take seriously would induce some sort of feeling of cognitive dissonance. Well done James! 🙂

    So I think being put in a position as a person trying to live a fully Christian life and as a faithful member of the church while being told by some church leaders to trust them and their words without worrying and simultaneously being told by others that the last thing you should do is trust them implicitly is a great example of something that could lead us as members to positions of cognitive dissonance. Maybe that’s not the definition Blaine has in his head, but it is a valid one.

    Just to be as transparent as possible, I’m on the side of this idea – to become like God I have to figure out how to understand and see things the way God sees them. There are many aids placed here to help me, but I have to develop that understanding (I can’t just take it from someone else fully developed.) If I just accept what someone else tells me about how God sees things I never challenge myself to grow and move closer to the goal of becoming like God. Others don’t see it this way – I have friends who believe all they need is for someone to tell them what to believe. But my current perspective is that we become more godlike (or Christ-like if that makes you feel better [but remember that Christ said if you’ve seen Me you’ve seen God]) requires us to exert ourselves. Sometimes this means stepping up and saying something or doing what we can to correct injustices in the world. Like it or not, the ban from Brigham Young to Spencer Kimball on blacks in the church was an injustice. Joseph Smith ordained at least three blacks to the priesthood – they’re buried in Salt Lake City. So either God changed his mind, Brigham Young had some ideas of his own, or Joseph Smith was wrong – you can each pick. But the real injustices were carried out by the dozens or hundreds (thousands?) of church members who came up with and published, then taught all those strange and horrible “reasons” why blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood. And the people who worked their way through genealogies to make sure that there was no African blood back as far as could be found in any new member who was worthy of the priesthood. Think of the thousands of people who were hurt or missed out on the gospel because of this! If we didn’t have a culture where good people can step back from difficult issues and say “well, if God wanted it to happen he would reveal it to his prophets” who knows what might have happened or how much faster this might have been resolved. And I don’t think saying “Well, God must have had His reasons” is acceptable – because it is an abandonment of our responsibilities to think and question and hold our leaders responsible. But that’s just me.

    And while I agree with whoever wrote up there that I’m (like you)not in a position to judge any church leader, I can look at an act or a belief or a policy and come to a conclusion on whether it’s good (from God) or bad (from man). That’s called the Light of Christ and we all have it (not to mention the Holy Ghost and the Spirit of God.) If our starting position is that anything and everything ANY church leader does or says is by definition correct and unquestionable, we are denying the point of the Light of Christ and introducing an infallibility doctrine that actually doesn’t exist. Are Bishops who decide to forgive (and not report to the police) spouse and child abuse acting in inspired ways? Of course not. Are church leaders who excommunicate guys who come to them and say “I think I’m gay” acting within the bounds of inspiration? Maybe, but if they are then the Bishops who welcome gays and lesbians to their congregations must be wrong! Or maybe that’s another example of actions that can induce feelings of cognitive dissonance in church members who experience both types of bishops! 🙂

    And don’t forget about our right to object to our leaders – I know no one does that these days (can you imagine the reaction of the congregation?!?) but it did happen in JS’s day.

    Also (and sorry for the length of this) look at the recent passage in Salt Lake City of protection in housing and employment for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Before the church sent a spokesperson to address the City Council it was going to be a close vote. After the spokesperson read the church’s position, the bill passed unanimously. Why didn’t everyone ALREADY have enough moral courage and Godlike moral insight to know that people should NOT be fired or thrown out of their home because of sexual orientation – surely people should be protected in their ability to keep a job they are performing well to have the money to live ON and a place to live IN? The church’s position didn’t make that suddenly a just cause – it WAS and IS a just cause. I know it’s just me, but I think God has got to be shaking his head in great sorrow that we have so little compassion and moral courage while claiming to be members of His church.

    Back to cognitive dissonance – I think another (and my last point) is this. In many ways the cognitive dissonance in the church is really the conflict between the culture of the church [which is really all about obedience (at it’s best interpreted as “we really care about you, we don’t want you to fail in this life so trust us, do what you’re told by inspired leaders and all will be well”] and the culture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is )I think) about learning and striving to be like Christ and therefore like God through all the difficulties, failures and learning experiences that it requires. The redemption was made because we WILL fail; living a life of maximum protection to prevent us FROM failing is an attempt to obviate the need for redemption and I think that’s sort of scandalous that we would presume to do that. Developing a moral compass in partnership with God is the point of this life – God rejected the other plan that pretended to guarantee our return to God. Why – well, how could we become like God if we never faced challenges, failed (and repented) and therefore grew in knowledge and capacity sometimes? I mean, Christ managed but then we are all NOT Christ – just trying to be like Him. Figuring out how to do all this with respect and understanding both ways is of course part of the complexity of the issue. But that’s my perspective. Sorry for the LONG post!

    PS I’m OK being like Sebastian in those Renaissance paintings – thrown the darts and shoot the arrows if you must! 🙂

    PPS Sorry for any spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. It’s getting late, I’ve had some cold medicine and it’s off to bed for me. Thanks for your compassion! 🙂

  58. James
    January 12, 2010 at 11:01 am

    57 Mark

    “Sometimes this means stepping up and saying something or doing what we can to correct injustices in the world. Like it or not, the ban from Brigham Young to Spencer Kimball on blacks in the church was an injustice.
    • Joseph Smith ordained at least three blacks to the priesthood – they’re buried in Salt Lake City.
    • So either God changed his mind,
    • Brigham Young had some ideas of his own,
    • or Joseph Smith was wrong – you can each pick.
    • But the real injustices were carried out by the dozens or hundreds (thousands?) of church members who came up with and published, then taught all those strange and horrible “reasons” why blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood.
    • And the people who worked their way through genealogies to make sure that there was no African blood back as far as could be found in any new member who was worthy of the priesthood.
    • Think of the thousands of people who were hurt or missed out on the gospel because of this!
    • If we didn’t have a culture where good people can step back from difficult issues and say “well, if God wanted it to happen he would reveal it to his prophets” who knows what might have happened or how much faster this might have been resolved.
    • And I don’t think saying “Well, God must have had His reasons” is acceptable – because it is an abandonment of our responsibilities to think and question and hold our leaders responsible. But that’s just me.”

    Mark thanks for your thoughts. I particuarly like the above i bullet pointed. How do you in your mind think about revelation then. I question if God couldn’t through to Brigham Young then how do we know he was able to speak to previous prophets?

  59. January 12, 2010 at 11:38 am

    This is close to those Sunday School rants, where people gripe about correlation.

    Look, when you’re taught American history in your schools, what are the stories they tell you? Do they start by “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” or similar stories about the Europeans’ uncivil, untrustworthy and downright racist genocide ideas. How many peace treaties were discarded like toilet paper, when more land was wanted from the Natives’ areas?

    My point is not to expose Europeans’ lengthy uncivilized and racist ideas in North America; my point is, that nobody, who wants you to get to know them better, starts with the worst things he’s ever done.

    I will continue to think for myself. Some things take longer to understand than others, but if there’s a “factoid” that doesn’t seem to fit the general picture of the Church or anything else I have preconceived notions of, I study and pray. Usually I come to a good understanding.

  60. Holden Caulfield
    January 12, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Let me write that down. Study and pray. Got it.

    Does that work for just the factoids or the entire conglomeration of incongruencies found in church history?

  61. Heber13
    January 15, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I have enjoyed reading most of these comments (except the ones that seem to be puffed up) and the discussion topic is a good one, something that helps us understand truth better by thinking through the principles being taught.

    My impression is that some quotes and teachings are being presented as mutually exclusive arguments, and I don’t see it that way.

    The debate is assuming there is cognitive dissonance by suggesting church leaders say “Don’t think for yourself” and others say “Only think for yourself”. I don’t believe the quotes support that interpretation.

    To me, it is better to understand the concepts of personal revelation and institutional revelation (revelation for the church).

    I don’t know of any examples that I can think of that suggest those 2 types of revelation are conflicting, thus do not create dissonance.

    I cannot receive revelation on the stance the church should take on any matter. I do not hold the keys for that. So if I think for myself, that does not mean that what I think is right is “right” for everyone else in the church. I am allowed my interpretation…and I may be wrong.

    The church leaders cannot deprive me of personal revelation and free agency, so I must take what they say and apply my own thinking, studying, and personal revelation to understand what their words mean to me personally, and what I must do so that on the day I stand before God, I can have a clear conscience that I did always seek the will of God and was always obedient to God.

    When I don’t agree with what the church may say (for example, my understanding of what the church says on Prop 8), I can choose to act. That does not mean I must shout on the roof tops why I think they are wrong, or leave the church beacuse I disagree with them. But it does not mean I must obey without thinking for myself. In the prop 8 example, would anyone be excommunicated for not contributing funds to the political cause? I know of no one. My understanding is participation was voluntary, with the strong influence of church leadership. They may have exerted heavy influence (which I may disagree with), but there was always a choice by everyone (bishops, members, and everyone).

    I always have a choice to agree with or disagree with church quotes, and choose to live my life as I think God wants me to. But I do not have the ability to speak for the church. I may be annoyed if I don’t like what church leaders are saying, but part of this life is coping with our circumstances in a Christ-like way…not pointing out Blain is right or Blain is wrong. I appreciate Blain’s point of view, and I choose to create my own understanding of the principles, always trying to become more like Christ in how I do it.

    Obedience and Free Agency are not mutually exclusive or diametrically opposed in their principles.

    Perhaps I need specific examples where a prophet has led people astray or where personal revelation was squelched to see where the church has ever infringed on either of this eternal principles. I tend to think God is more concerned with the state of our hearts, than He is about getting all the prophets throughout history to be accurately quoted in books. That is why there must be continuous revelation…to continue to clarify what we need to understand to become better.

  62. Invictus
    January 18, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Blain…you are not coming off as a nice guy in this. I would suggest you tone it down. It is not enjoyable reading a response from someone who is erring on the side of conceit.

    Admin…is there any way we can block people from appearing in our comments section?

  63. January 19, 2010 at 12:09 am

    62 — Not particularly worried about you thinking I’m a nice guy. I’m interested in conversation, where people will read what I say, think about it and respond to it. You’re welcome to not read what I have to say. I don’t understand why getting people to tell me where they think I’m wrong and why is so much harder than getting them to tell me they don’t like my tone.

  64. Invictus
    January 19, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    We are more interested in polite opinion sharing here with an atmosphere of respect and brotherly love then proving whether someone is right or wrong. If you want to do that go over to the MADB board.

  65. dmac
    January 19, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    57 Mark – I really enjoyed reading your post. I’m a new-comer to this site – just stumbled across it actually -and this thread has been intriguing and frustrating at once. But as far as I’m concerned, Mark hit it on the head. We are mortal and fallible and that goes for all of us, regardless of the stewardship that may be ours or the keys we hold. Sometimes because of the positions we hold and the responsibilities we carry our errors take on much greater significance. For my part, I welcome the guidance of leaders but I do not follow blindly just in case they too stumble.

  66. January 19, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    64 — Then why did you come to a dead thread a week after I dropped the rope to stir things up? I get that nobody is going to respond to what I said, because it’s more fun to talk about how I said it than to consider my points. I made peace with that and moved on.

    Now, if you’re actually James flying under a ‘nym, and you’re trying to say that I’m not welcome in your threads, then just say so as James and I’ll leave your threads alone. If you’re a perma flying under a ‘nym, then let me know and I’ll leave your threads alone. WordPress doesn’t really give you the capability of shutting me out of commenting without moderating everything (perhaps post-only — I don’t know), but that’s not necessary. I’ll respect your space, and I’m not going to waste my time in a place where I’m not going to get thoughtful responses. That’s not a diss of the blog (and it remains to be seen that it would apply to the whole blog — I don’t think so).

    FWIW, you might want to see if I’m being so terribly impolite, or if I’m using a very direct conversation style. I spend a lot of time in recovery settings, and find that leaving lots of possible ambiguity about what I mean counterproductive (sometimes, dangerous), so try to limit the possible ambiguity about the things I’m trying to get across, and then those who see the problems in what I’m saying will have a better chance of showing me that I’m wrong if I am. I’m not interested in being right all the time — I’m interested in learning all the time, and I can’t do that if people think I’m wrong but won’t show me why. It’s frankly less useful than the people who want to make everything I say wrong, even when they have to twist my words to make it look that way, because at least they give me something — benign disagreement isn’t even that substantial.

    So, I’m sorry you don’t like my tone. I didn’t care for what I saw as a false dichotomy and mischaracterization that I saw in the OP, and I might have been in a grouchy mood at the time. If you want me out of your threads, I’ve told you what I need to do that. If you can look at what I’m saying a little differently in a way that works for you, then cool. If not, then maybe the best thing is to ignore my comments. It won’t hurt my feelings if you do.

  67. James
    January 20, 2010 at 4:39 am

    66 Blain

    I don’t know how to fly a NYM!!! I don’t know what a NYM is but I think I know what you mean and 64 is whoever he or she is is not me!!

    “I’m interested in learning all the time, and I can’t do that if people think I’m wrong but won’t show me why.”

    I guess I am kind of like a deer with head lights on me , when someone attacks I find it hard to think I’m stunned!! Ask my wife 🙂

    But on the other hand I know Im a hypocrite because I do dish it out here and with my kids. But I do respond to conversation style more than something that appears to be agreesive.

    I don’t know about you but if someone is aggressive the fight of flight charactersits come out and if I choose to fight sometimes Im defending something I wouldn’t fight for just to save face!I think we all get enough of that in real life.

    life’s tough, brother — get a helmet. It’s good to have your thoughts though and they are thought provoking and challenging

  68. January 20, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    67 — Glad for the clarification of that part. And I think we’re starting to communicate here. I’ve had this conversation a ton of times and I still have to go through it every so often. Let me tell you a story.

    Many years ago I bought a new computer — a 386SX-16running MS-Dos5, with a user interface called GeoWorks that had client software for this upstart on-line service that thought some day it could challenge the big-boys (Compuserve and GEnie) called America On-line. It had a free trial number of hours, and I looked around and around (it was a long-distance call to the only access number in my area, and things didn’t move fast on my 2400 baud modem), and, at the very end, I found a listing for Hatrack River Town Meeting, which rung bells from a book I had just bought by Orson Scott Card — there was a little blurb at the end of the book. So I went there, and met Scott and a bunch of people. After a while I was invited to come to a private area called Nauvoo, and there I met Robert Woolley. He was one of the more insightful folks in that space, but it was pretty low-key and happy for the most part.

    Fall of 93, I got access to the internet, and discovered e-mail lists, among them one called LDS-Net (aka “Internet First Ward”), and one of the people there was Bob Woolley. I was, at this point, a very opinionated guy (I know that’s hard to believe) arguing for a very traditional by-the-manual approach to Mormonism from a position of ignorance in my first real contact with liberal/progressive/Sunstone/Dialogue Mormons. I was a mess. I didn’t know what I was talking about, and I didn’t even know that I didn’t know what I was talking about. I had my testimony, and I wanted to believe that Church leaders had never really got anything significantly wrong, and that, basically, nothing important had changed from the time Joseph walked out of the Grove.

    Well, Bob took some serious time to spank the Hell out of me when I said something really stupid and wrong. He wasn’t alone. I met a bunch of people that I didn’t even know enough to know what kind of rock stars they were in the liberal/progressive/Sunstone/Dialogue community like Greg Prince, Jeff Needle, the Schindler brothers, Kevin Barney, etc.. And I also met some hard-core conservative Mormons like Red Davis and Jon Redelfs, and got to see both sides of a number of issues in Mormonism that I hadn’t really thought through. They all gave me way more to think about than I deserved for my little contribution, but I learned a lot about learning in an environment where views get to butt into each other.

    And then, after a few years, and other mail lists like Morm-hist and Scripture-L, Bob Woolley contacted me off-list to let me know that I had posted something to whichever list that he could find nothing with which to argue, and he wanted me to know that. He did that a few more times after that (and I did a few in response). It was quite a sign of how much I had learned that Bob and I were close enough in our thinking at this point.

    I left those mail lists after a time because of lack of time, and I lost track of Bob, and haven’t found anybody who knows how he’s doing or where he’s at. I’m not sure he’s still alive. But I think of him often and the debt I owe him that I can’t repay. So I do what I can to pay it forward (even though I find that phrase trite) by giving to others what he gave to me — an opportunity to step back and look at their assumptions, understanding and reasoning, perhaps with additional information they didn’t already know, so they can see if what they’re thinking really works or not. My style isn’t gentle, because gentle leaves wiggle-room for sloppy thinking, and that’s no favor. God chastens who he loves as well, from what I can figure out, and I think I understand some of why.

    Bringing your ideas out of your head and placing them in front of other people is a gift, and an act of courage. It takes courage because, when you say something, people will say things back. They will know different things, and see things differently, and they will challenge you and your thinking. Sometimes they won’t be gentle (that would be me). But it’s not necessarily a lack of caring behind that lack of gentleness, and disagreement doesn’t mean you’re entirely wrong or stupid. You’re neither. But you’re not entirely right or more brilliant than everybody else either. You’re just like the rest of us — owner of a finite, unique and limited perspective. Just like the rest of us, you are a blind man facing an elephant. You can describe the part that only you can reach better than anybody else, and leaving your voice out deprives us of knowledge of that unique contribution only you can make. But you’re just one voice, and you don’t understand all that you see, so you need to listen to the other voices, describing what only they can see, and what they can understand of it. So some of the courage is to see and hear and consider, and then to adjust your thinking based on the new light and knowledge you received in the process. It’s hard. Very hard.

    Don’t wuss out. Get your helmet, suit up, and get in the game. Let go of your ego (it’s not your friend). Be ready to fall down. When you find you’re on the ground, stand up and get back into the game. It is better to look stupid while you are learning than to look smart while remaining stupid. You have been blessed to live in a time when you can participate in a place like this, where people from all over the world can come and tell you why you’re wrong with the courage that comes from knowing they’ll never have to see your face or have you see their faces. With time, practice, and growth, you get better. You won’t be right all the time, but you’ll be right oftener, and you’ll know where you’re right and wrong oftener. Don’t bury your unique voice in the ground — bring it to the exchange, and make it grow. Truth is not fragile stuff, made of spun sugar and glass. Truth is sturdy, hard stuff, and you can beat it and push on it and twist on it and it will remain. You have to hunt it down, dig it out, and work hard to sift it away from error a grain at a time. You can’t do that in your comfort zone.

    So, shake it off. You’re not a deer, and these aren’t headlights. You’re not in danger here. You’re among friends. A little butt-kicking never hurt anybody.

    I am so posting this to my own blog.

  69. Brook McDonald
    June 14, 2015 at 1:57 am

    Beautiful, the whiplash this causes is very pointed in showing the issues. Though apparently from the comments above it must be actually coupled with more ‘false teachings’ to show others why this is so damning and impact-ful, the presentation is plenty clear for one like me who has been more than a little unsettled by the black and white teachings put forts that are often retracted, ignored, and recently even disavowed.

    Even if God wouldn’t hold me accountable for following a false prophet or even a mistaken one than he has placed for me to follow… I know I would hold myself accountable.

    I cannot also believe that God would condemn someone who must follow their conscience and ‘disobey’. The teaching is that God looketh on the heart. There is o room for anyone to judge another’s actions then, no? Unless you pretend to be good at heart ‘reading’. Not your job, move on.

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