The Story of Alexander Doniphan is well-known and probably does not need to be recounted here (For more information see Mormon Heretics Post – A Memorial Day Jack Mormon or see this). Very simply: when a number of the leaders of the Church were threatened with execution the man asked to carry it out, Alexander Doniphan, refused to do so on the grounds that he thought it was illegal. He is now recounted in LDS history as an example of integrity. However, his refusal is also an example of dissent and viewed from another point of view would not be lauded as it now is. For example, if a Stake President refuses to excommunicate someone, at the request of a higher General Authority, because they feel that is the right thing to do, would their integrity be praised? Is there a way of valuing LDS dissenters and what is the criteria for doing so?
I want to use the example of Hugh Nibley as someone who successfully navigated this treacherous path. He has written: “There may be things about the Church that I find perfectly appalling. But I know the gospel is true.”  Many of his more popular writings have been critical of the Church’s culture and leadership and yet he is accepted and even quoted. He even published with Signature Books; which as you know is just asking for trouble. Neal A. Maxwell has said: “Hugh, of course, is above the fray not in the sense of his being esoteric or highly advanced but likewise I think his commitment has been so visible and so pronounced and so repetitively stated so that’s not even the issue. So then we get on to what is Hugh saying?” 
Is it enough to be visible, vocal and pronounced about your commitment? Michael Quinn believes that his essay on Post-Manifesto Polygamy was one of the reasons that he was excommunicated and yet this essay has a declaration of his continued faith in the Gospel. In addition, I have heard many who fear being ostracised or disciplined for views they espouse online, even if they would fall under the category of things you find ‘perfectly appalling’. It seems to me that there is an acceptable limit to dissent, but where is that limit? What else is required to be within the limits of faithful dissent?
Lowell Bennion argues that we do not have to “accept any interpretation of scripture (I would add this applies to any ‘revelation or direction’) that denies the impartiality or love of God or the free agency and brotherhood of man. These concepts are too basic to the gospel to be denied by someone’s interpretation of a verse of scripture” or a policy. Bennion suggests that we can legitimately dissent if we can justify it upon the basic ethical principles of Christ’s message (like Doniphan did). Yet, to what extent is this a viable option for individuals within the Church? Eugene England shares the experience of being a Sunday School teacher for a few weeks before being released for expressing his ‘liberal’ views on some sections of the O.T.. Clearly this was not an acceptable level of dissent.
In addition Jeffrey R. Holland has discussed the line(s) of faithful dissent in the extreme cases. He has said “We don’t discipline people in this church for very much.” Moreover, he thinks the “church has a history of being very, very generous.” In addition he argues that there are “lines” plural that members should not cross, if they want to retain the blessings of being a member of the Church. He believes that “The chief among these is the issue of advocating against the church” because then “the institution itself cannot retain its identity and still allow that”. For example, he notes that “There are plenty of people who question the historicity of the Book of Mormon, and they are firmly in this church and the church isn’t going to take action against that. [The church] probably will be genuinely disappointed, but there isn’t going to be action against that, not until it starts to be advocacy: “Not only do I disbelieve in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, I want you to disbelieve.”” Yet it seems to me that there is a fine line between advocacy and discussing, raising questions and writing about these issues.
- Where do you see the limit of Faithful Dissent?
- Why is a declaration of commitment and faith not enough in some cases?
- Is there a space for dissent within the Church upon ethical principles, like Bennion argues?
- Does Elder Holland sound like he is accurately defining that limit and do you agree that this is an appropriate limit?
1. Hugh Nibley, Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1978], xvii.
2. Neal A. Maxwell, Faith of an Observer [Provo: BYU & FARMS, 1985]. A Transcript is available here.
3. Michael Quinn, Transcript for The Mormons, PBS [online]. A Transcript is available here.
4. Lowell L. Bennion, The Best of Lowell L. Bennion: Selected Writings 1928-1988, edited by Eugene England [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988], 208.
5. Eugene England, Why the Church is as True as the Gospel in Sunstone [Salt Lake City: Sunstone Education Foundation, Dec 1999].
1. I’m not in a position to determine where that line should be drawn. I can come up with elements that I think are useful in that process, but I don’t see why my opinion much matters. I do believe that there are points of disagreement where that disagreement would leave me wondering why someone would reasonably fit in the Church. I’ve heard people tell me things about staying because of their families, or because they’re comfortable in the culture, and I think they’re crazy, personally. Being a Mormon is way too much of a pain in the butt to go through if you don’t really believe it’s pleasing to God, and Johnny Lingo and funeral potatoes just don’t do much to counter that for me.
2. Because declaring something doesn’t make it so. “Don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are Cultural Mormons.”
3. I think so.
4. Not at all, nor does it sound like he’s trying to do that. I think he’s trying to indicate that there is a limit, and that it’s reasonably applied, with some general guidelines about how to avoid crossing it.
Great post. Being “The Faithful Dissident,” you’d think I’d have some answers. 🙂 But it’s something that I’ve wondered about many times. Elder Holland said that the “church has a history of being very, very generous.” Maybe so, but I think that some of it depends on the leaders that you are subject to in your area. Some will tolerate a little dissent, while others have little tolerance. A while back I expressed a bit about where I stand, based on my changed view of the Church (citing evidence given in “Rough Stone Rolling,” among others) with my stake president. I have a good relationship with him and he’s a very fine person and a smart man. A while back he gave an amazing talk in my branch about balancing spirituality with intellectualism, where he actually stated that although the Church was good, it hadn’t always done what was good or right. He didn’t elaborate on that, but I was surprised by it and appreciated it. I thought he would “get” it and perhaps have some words of comfort for me, but instead I was pretty much accused of associating with anti-Mormons. I then realized it was hopeless and if I wanted to spare myself from a lot of problems, I would have to let it go. Sometimes I hate having to go “underground” under a pseudonym, but that experience reaffirmed to me the danger of letting the cat too far out of the bag. I’m sure the damage has already been done and I will be under their “watch,” so to speak. It was really disappointing to me.
Where do you see the limit of Faithful Dissent?
I would say once it crosses the line to wanting to tear down the Church. This should not be confused with wanting to change things from within, realizing of course that it’s often not within our jurisdiction to do so. Sometimes our “dissent” can’t be much more than a hope and desire for things to be different.
Why is a declaration of commitment and faith not enough in some cases?
I think that to some leaders it is, while others have an “all or nothing” approach. If we’re not 100% “with” them, then we’re against them.
Is there a space for dissent within the Church upon ethical principles, like Bennion argues?
Sort of. I suppose that some space was created for those who disagreed with the Church’s Prop 8 stance. Many feel compelled — at least on an ethical basis — to disagree with the Church on the matter. I haven’t heard of anyone being ex’ed simply for disagreeing. But I’m not sure the Church is open to much more than cognitive dissonance in this case. Same with other ethical matters such as abortion, euthanasia, etc.
Does Elder Holland sound like he is accurately defining that limit and do you agree that this is an appropriate limit?
I think Elder Holland’s definition is reasonable and is what it should be. The problem is that I don’t think that the message manages to trickle down to the masses. Many members and local leaders would practically want to lynch someone for openly expressing views that Elder Holland seems to deem reasonable and acceptable.
I think that FaithfulDissident has hit the nail on the head. Elder Holland’s comment is very egalitarian, but in my personal experience it is not a view held by local leaders. I mean really, how many of them even watched the PBS series, let alone read the transcripts.
When I voiced doubts to my bishop I was released from my calling and denied the opportunity to ordain my son. While no disciplinary counsel was ever held, I was explicitly told that my doubts were enough to make me unworthy to have a calling or to exercise my priesthood. It was at that point that being a Mormon became too painful to continue.
Maybe Elder Holland was speaking only of disfellowship/excommunication and would view the actions of my local leaders as correct. I don’t know.
I wonder when the church looks back at its current history if they ever wish to reinstate excommunications from the past. With retrospect may look harsh/
John W. Fitzgerald spent the majority of his adult life as a professional educator. He served both as a seminary teacher in the L.D.S. Church, and as a principal in Salt Lake County’s Granite School District. He also served professionally as a chaplain in the United States Army during World War II and continued this service with the Utah National Guard until his retirement in 1967. During his adult life Fitzgerald was a student of history and of the social policies that surrounded him. Through this constant intellectual activity he came to question the L.D.S. Church’s position on not allowing black men into the priesthood. He became both an informed and a critical observer of this issue. Fitzgerald was excommunicated from the L.D.S. Church, in the early 1970s for this criticism. Fitzgerald was also openly active in other social issues of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, as can be seen through his personal writings. His papers are a compilation of the above experiences and of items from his family and historical interests. Although the black issue carries a major undertone in the collection, the papers are also rich in Fitzgerald’s personal observations and his personal writings.
As I have studied church history, I have learned some interesting things about dissent. First of all, thanks for linking to my post about Alexander Doniphan. I do want to point out that Alexander is not a Mormon, but was a friend of the Mormons (for those who don’t know.) Originally the term “Jack Mormons” referred to friendly non-Mormons. As such his dissent, while lauded in the church, isn’t really an example of dissent inside the church.
As we look at the administration of Joseph Smith, he was quite tolerant of dissent–much more so than Brigham Young. Some of the most virulent anti-Mormons were actually former members of the church, such as William Law, a member of the First Presidency, and founder of the Nauvoo Expositor.
It seems to me that such dissent was quite threatening to the early church–such dissent led to the death of a prophet. As a result, Brigham Young was much less tolerant of dissent. I think he viewed dissent as dangerous, and it certainly was–leading to the death of Joseph Smith. Brigham excommunicated Sidney Rigdon (also of the First Presidency) and apostle Lyman Wight, among many others. Brigham created a much less tolerant attitude toward dissent. I think that attitude has persisted.
Even as we look at polygamy, dissent was not tolerated. In 1906 (2 years after the Second Manifesto), 2 apostles resigned, John W. Taylor and Matthias F. Cowley. As a result of their opposition, both were expelled from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1906, and in 1911 Taylor was excommunicated for continued opposition. Certainly their dissent was not viewed as helpful. (I note that David O McKay was called to replace Cowley in the quorum.)
I think the bloggernacle is generally more liberal in its dissent, but there are conservative dissenters too. We all agree, for example, that conservative dissenters endorsing polygamy don’t belong in the church, but often we don’t apply that same dissent to ourselves. Where is the line? I think it’s hard to define precisely.
I couldn’t get the Post-Manifest Polygamy link regarding Quinn to work. Help?
Holden hope this one works – Aaron is in France but should be back later this week
I have referred elsewhere to what I call “the loyalty test”. If you were asked in a disciplinary committee whether you would alter your stance if TSM asked you to do so, your answer determines your loyalty. For example, when Chad Hardy was in his disciplinary council, he says they asked him if he would stop publishing the calendars if TSM asked him to do so, and he said he would not. It’s subjective, though. The loyalty question just helps the council assess your loyalty based on their own threshold for loyalty and their own perception of your dissent and your humility. I imagine there’s a lot of variation, although I would think disfellowshipment would be easier to administer where there was doubt that any actual sin (other than dissent) had occurred.
What I find ironic about your story is that you, in my opinion, were more worthy to ordain your son than your bishop. Why? He violated D&C 121:37 by exercising unrighteous dominion. Who would be unworthy to exercise their priesthood if they were required to have no doubts and no concerns? It would likely be a pretty empty chapel.
“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Mark 9:23-24
The man’s doubts didn’t stop Christ from healing his son. It should not have stopped you from ordaining yours.
I don’t think anyone alive goes through this mortal probation without silently expressing doubt in some form or fashion. This ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach to honesty has a numbing effect on our ability to perceive truth and gain true knowledge.
I personally believe the Lord is much more liberal than our chuch leaders (particularly local leaders) when it comes to dissent. I believe the Lord wants us to ask questions, and to seek for answers. I think He wants us to struggle at times so we desire to understand and really seek Him for understanding. The times when I have questioned Him the most have been the times when I have gained understanding that never would have come otherwise.
For me, questioning has been an eseential part of my faith and it has brought me a lot of struggle and pain, but also greater understanding and peace. Many things I express to the Lord I would never say to anyone because I think that is how it is suppose to be. We are supposed to pour our hearts and souls out to the Lord and we aren’t supposed to share all the spiritual things that come to us from Him. So for me, there is no limit of dissent when it comes to the Lord.
As far as local leaders, that is an entirely different ball game. I truly believe the Lord accepts people who are sincere and love Him and yet are at all different levels and places. Leaders, however, don’t always do that. I think the limits of dissent really depend on the type of leader you are dealing with and not necessarily what is acceptable to the Lord or not.
“the limits of dissent really depend on the type of leader you are dealing with and not necessarily what is acceptable to the Lord or not”
Right on Jen, I completely agree, and have been pondering writing a post sometime on this issue if I could just unscramble my brains from school a bit. Often it seems that the dictates or personality of a leader create situations of rebellion or dissent, rather than people not following God, if that makes any sense. For example, say an SP comes up with some new stake-wide rule, and some people disagree with it. Even if the new rule is above and beyond (or completely outside of) the commandments or temple recommend requirements, by not agreeing with the SP you are all of a sudden a dissenter or in a state of rebellion.
“I personally believe the Lord is much more liberal than our church leaders”
I agree with this as well, and you only need to look at Christ’s example in the NT to back this one up. A friend of mine recently pointed out that one of the main things Christ did was he tried to loosen people up – think of helping those outside of one’s culture or group, answering direct questions with parables, overturning the established yet spiritually dead society, picking corn on the Sabbath, etc. I’m not sure if that is what you were getting at, but sometimes I wonder if we, and our leaders, are afraid of this kind of religious practice. Perhaps it can only be achieved by people like Hugh Nibley or others who had/have the trust of church leaders, yet are still able to speak out against the establishment, so to speak.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope you will write a post on this issue because I would love to hear more of your thoughts about it as well as the views and experiences of others.
Good luck unscrambling your brain from school! 🙂
I find it amazing that many of you would personally take the time to express doubts to your local leaders. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I’ve never really felt a need or desire to do so. I don’t have any serious doubts about core gospel principles (God exists, Jesus is his son and my savior, JS was a prophet, TSM is a prophet, WoW, LoC, etc). Where my doubts come in are purely with cultural matters (I don’t consider multiple piercings or tattoos to be a problem even though I don’t have any, I have no problem wearing speedos on public beaches and even wore a thong speedo for the first time on the French Riviera yesterday, and I don’t think green jello, funeral potatoes, BYU sports, or Halestorm movies are necessary for my salvation). I’ve made enough off-center comments in Sunday School to where I’m sure I’m not under consideration for a calling of any significance, but I don’t think confessing my doubts to my Bishop or Stake President would really help in any way. My Bishop is a nice enough guy, but my Stake President is a fairly rigid, hard-line, my-way-or-the-highway-to-hell leader and confessing any doubts to him or questioning any of his positions is only asking for trouble.
14 — Well, Steve, you’re going to burn in a very special Hell for your lack of faith in Halestorm movies, and you deserve to burn in another special hell for the speedo thing.
Too bad, because you seem to be an otherwise nice guy.
I agree with MH that there seems to be a different standard for liberal and conservative dissent. For instance, I can take a position supporting gay marriage with little or no fear of losing good standing in the Church, but when I mentioned in a private interview with my bishop that I had a testimony of the Adam-God doctrine, I was told that I was an apostate, and that I needed to immediately turn over my temple recommend. He said that I could never be a member in good standing unless I renounced my testimony of that doctrine, which I could never do. Higher leadership all agreed with the bishop.
You can question the status quo and how it pertains to the future, but you can’t question the status quo and how it pertains to the past. Progressive dissent = O.K., conservative dissent = apostasy. An openly gay man will last much longer in the Church than a man who advances the doctrine of plural marriage. A gay man only suffers discipline only if he acts on his beliefs. An advocate of plural marriage is excommunicated for belief alone.
If the American colonies had lost the Revolutionary War, we’d all be remembering George Washington and his peers as traitors to “their” country. Likewise, Helmut Huebener was excommunicated from the LDS church for his political dissent, yet decades after the Nazis lost the war, LDS authorities restored his membership (declaring it “excommunication by mistake”) and he is held up as a hero for his integrity. In the end, there is no objective standard for “unacceptable dissent.” Rather, it’s a matter of who has the power to punish, and what opinions/attitudes happen to be prevailing in the moment.
Being a Mormon is way too much of a pain in the butt to go through if you don’t really believe it’s pleasing to God, and Johnny Lingo and funeral potatoes just don’t do much to counter that for me.
Hey now…funeral potatoes are one of the few things I do miss!
I suppose that some space was created for those who disagreed with the Church’s Prop 8 stance. Many feel compelled — at least on an ethical basis — to disagree with the Church on the matter. I haven’t heard of anyone being ex’ed simply for disagreeing.
No, but some LDS lost callings and/or temple recommends for their refusal to support Prop 8. Others were threatened that action would be taken against their recommends and/or membership if they didn’t withdraw their public statements on the matter. At least one man was summoned to a disciplinary council for refusing to cease speaking out via his website, but the disciplinary council was quickly “postponed” once that threat hit the media.
I agree with Jen and Adam.
The line in the sand is, seeking to draw others along the same line of questioning. I completely agree that much spiritual growth can be generated through questions, & receiving the answer, although this is Gods authority to provide us with trials to overcome, because I learned from being burned by sin and am stronger because of it, I would not suggest that others attempt the same, it may not have the same desired effect. God try’s us individually.
In 2 Kings 5 (please read chapter for further clarification)
Clearly God will consecrate the actions of leaders whether they fit with protocol or not, if we are quick to dismiss faithful invitations, because of prideful expectations then we loose out.
Our attitude is the Key to solution to these problems; much dissidence is due to our expectations not being met in a manner you desired. I think this is the difference between declaration of commitment, when initial response is one of suspicion or doubt, curtailing the capacity for Faith.
9 – Spektator – The key to the man asking the Lord to heal his son was the words “Helpest” I would suggest under these circumstances no leader would take an aggressive stance to an individual that is approaching a problem in a manner of seeking help.
2 Sam 6
Much revelation is brought about via questioning, I do believe there is place to question any and every point of the Church that may come to mind, however the warning is given if we take it upon ourselves to “steady the ark” then we could do ourselves more damage than it is worth.
we need to get the basics right first, milk before meat, and if we approach our leadership asking “helpest my unbelief” and our leader encourages us to return to milk to help us, after troubling our tummy’s on the tougher meat, then we should humbly accept this encouragement.
Nick, if I am thinking of the same man you mentioned in the last paragraph of your comment, he was looking for a fight. That’s an important distinction, even if we agree in general about not liking the pressure that did exist in too many locales.
Ray, I think “looking for a fight” is in the eyes of the beholder. I’ve no doubt his stake president thought he was “looking for a fight.” At the same time, I’ve no doubt that this individual was sincere in his view that his church was committing a great injustice, which could only be effectively addressed in a very public manner.
Suppose, for example, that he tried to protest this injustice by writing a letter to Mr. Monson, expressing his views on why the institutional promotion of Proposition 8 was wrong. You and I both know that per official LDS policy, his letter would would only have been forwarded to his own stake president, with instructions to “take action” regarding it.
Nick — Yes, and I like Johnny Lingo too (the Ten Cow version). I even like John Baker’s Last Race and Tom Trails. But you can have all you want of those regardless of your fellowship status.
“I find it amazing that many of you would personally take the time to express doubts to your local leaders. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I’ve never really felt a need or desire to do so.”
Right, and what’s more is that I’ve not had a bishop or stake leader who is really capable of being a help in that situation. I think when people are having doubts the dialogue needs to be as sophisticated as those doubts. While I’ve really liked all the Bishops I’ve had, I would say (from what I know of them) That none of them would have the tools for addressing someone with serious doubts that arise from Church history, or profound personal challenges, etc. Bishops tend to rely on box checking and while important its not really the heart of spiritual experience.
“Is there a space for dissent within the Church upon ethical principles, like Bennion argues?”
Not only is there such a space, but there has to be such a space. It’s not just a matter of personal agency, or the fact that our leaders are not perfect conduits of God’s will. Its also a matter of the structure of ethical situations. Here is the real lesson we should be taking from the hebrew creation story, and the version of that story we receive in the temple: good and evil, right & wrong are not absolutes and dualism does not give us an accurate representation of ethical decision making situations. In ethical situations of any complexity there are multiple possible right answers. I think after my experience with prop. 8 I am just about ready to say that its good and necessary for individuals to fill these various positions, even if, or perhaps even because, they conflict with the position that our leadership has embraced.
On a more pragmatic level there also needs to be such a space because our leaders words often contain ideological expressions that are synthesized with a doctrinal message. When we are able to see the ideological being positioned as the doctrinal or theological, we have the ethical duty to respond to that. How one chooses to respond is a complex matter. There are many possible responses, but I think it shows tremendous cynicism to not respond.
Nick, he said openly he was hoping his effort would cause a disciplinary council so he could make it into a nationwide issue. That’s looking for a fight – plain and simple. (again, assuming we are talking about the same person)
I’m going to drop this now, but his motivation being pure in his eyes doesn’t change the fact that he was agitating for a chance to get ex-ed publicly.
The problem I have with the Alexander Doniphan example, besides what was pointed out that he was a non-Mormon and therefore not that helpful when it comes to Mormonism, is that he was clearly in the right. The men who were going to kill Joseph Smith were doing so without any law backing them up. It was illegal assassination and murder pure and simple.
The difference between Hugh Nibley and Michael Quinn should be obvious. Nibley never badmouthed or challenged the LDS Leadership living or dead. He always expressed any criticism in general terms and persuaded using scriptural and prophetic examples. He talked the language of faith. Quinn, on the other hand, was completely opposite. His bookends declarations of faith were not upheld by the bulk of his work. Many times he questioned the motives of past and present LDS leaders and was very specific as to his criticisms of them or policies. He persuaded with historical narratives, using scripture and prophetic statements to underline his criticisms rather than examples for improvements. He talked the language of skeptical scholarship. Hugh Nibley breathed faith in his words. Michael Quinn gave textual lip service to faith, while making accusations.
“Many times he questioned the motives of past and present LDS leaders and was very specific as to his criticisms of them or policies.”
I don’t have any of Quinn’s books over here, so I can’t really judge his work. But is it impossible to take a faithful standpoint while still criticizing and/or questioning the motives of leaders? I still consider myself “faithful” in many ways, but I really question the motivations behind things like polygamy, destruction of the Nauvoo press, and the priesthood ban. Maybe there is good evidence to some of these “accusations.”
Hugh Nibley I know from correspondence with him had to be very careful to support all his statements by scripture. I personally am happy to question any general authority over his doctrine if it does not agree with scripture. I have written many letters to General authorities including the Twelve expressing concern at some of their remarks which in my opinion are not supported by the Word of God. For example read the letter I wrote to Elder Christofferson concerning his talk at General Conference on Zion. http://studiesonzion.com/documents/What_is_the_full_meaning_of_the_term_Zion_in_the_Scriptures.pdf
I pointed out to him that you cannot have Zion without the United Order and that he had left this out of his talk. His reply which I have included in the study document is interesting. I have included many other copies of my correspondnece in the studies under the sub heading “Doctrine and covenants” on the website studiesonzion. Maybe I ma treading the fine line but I feel all members no matter what their position are obligated to follow the scriptures in doctrine and practise. The study http://studiesonzion.com/documents/Are_these_Teachings_in_the_book_The_Millennial_Messiah_Scriptural.pdf was sent direct to the First Presidency in which I pointed out the false doctrines of Elder McConkie in his book Millennial Messiah. I never heard form them because there is truth in my study.
“Maybe there is good evidence to some of these “accusations.”
Maybe, but the question is what is the limits of LDS dissent, and not how good is the evidence. Frankly, I do have problems (faithful or not) with questions of motivation behind polygamy, destruction of the Nauvoo press, and the Priesthood ban. If history is any indication, so does the LDS leadership.
Firstly I should apologise for my sloppy posting. It was a matter of lazy cut and pasting. The links all now work. Thanks to James for helping me out. Thanks to everyone else for their comments. Further I should apologise for not putting any responses here, but I have been away, and this will lead to a few responses from me now. Sorry!
#2 – Although I agree that wanting to teard downt eh Church is too far. I have heard some advocate that they would like the LDS Church to become just another Christian Church and to drop other claims (I thinking particularly of Grant Palmer). He would fit in the category of wanting to stay within the Church, but change what the Church is to something else. From an institutional point of view that is unacceptable. Moreover, I am not sure that I am happy with that.
The problem of the discrepancy between local and general leaders is interesting. I agree that E. Holland’s comments suggest there is major difference. However, although I see the reasons behond supporting local leaders decisions, I guess that if they felt that the decisions were wrong they would bring out new policy announcements to counter-act the trends they are seeing.
#8 – I think your loyalty test is interesting. That really is a difficult issue. It is interesting that they use TSM and not God.
#12 – Your right that disagreement is an issue. I firmly believe that disagreement should be within the limits of dissent. I think E. Hollands comments even provide that space. I think we should be allowed to discuss those differences with leaders, especially if we could be perceived as trying to persuade others if we talk with other members of the ward.
#23 – You may not have met one but I believe that they are out there. They may be rare but Bushman was a SP, you would imagine he was a Bishop, and he is a Patriarch. but i bet he never had an issue raised with him by people in his stake.
#25 & 28 – I used a famous example to lead the discussion in. Although depending who rights the story that sort of thing could have been seen as good. Anyway, I think Nibley did challenge the leadership of the Church. You seem to suggest that scholarship and faith are opposites. I think both tried to blend them. They used different methods, but both tried.
In addition, I am not sure that I agree with your statement that the question is separate from the idea of evidence. #27 highlights Nibley’s use of scripture to back up his arguments. This using a form of evidence, an especially interpretive one. I would hope that doing history and reading the evidence a certain way would not be outside the limits of dissent, otherwise we will stifle the history of the church which gives this church part of its power, IMO. Also, lots of ‘faithful’ historians have interpreted the evidence in lots of different ways one of my favourites is ‘I don’t have a Testimony of Church History’ by Davis Bitton but were not subject to discipline.
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This morning I read an interesting scripture in D&C 102:23 – This section provides council on how to hold a disciplinary council and speaks particularly and briefly here about issues of doctrine. The important distinction this draws on is whether or not these things have been written down or not. Therefore according to the Scriptures, writing down your views can cause some trouble for you.
The D&C clearly teaches that the revelations of the D&C are to be the law that the church lives by, and that no person– not even the President of the Church– is above this law. The agreement to sincerely seek to live by the D&C law– as an experiment based on the principle of faith– should be the boundary the church sets up for membership. Based on the D&C law, members have the right, in good faith, to NOT sustain even the President of the church, and to not reject evidences against him, and to seek to resolve controversies over him, even by a trial if necessary. Faithful dissent allows this. Consider this: http://www.lds-awakening.info/Publications/Issue3.pdf