This episode, which was recorded a couple of days after the close of the April 2011 General Conference, explores the interplay between Latter-day Saints and those who are called to lead them as prophets, seers, and revelators. Why do some church members want to elevate leaders’ words delivered at conference almost to the level of scripture? Why is there so much adoration of leaders even as they regularly acknowledge their own humanity and fallibility, and even speak of the adulation they receive as one of their biggest challenges? To whom do church leaders aim their words, and why? How much do audience expectations shape what leaders say and do? Are there ways to view leaders respectfully while also respectfully disagreeing with their positions?
Please join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Joanna Brooks, Heather Olson Beal, and Charles Randall Paul for a free-flowing and insightful discussion about these and other aspects of the relationship between church members and those who lead them.
About 20 minutes into the podcast Joanna spoke of wishing Elder Packer nothing but the best. Some of us are praying for Elder Packer’s ultimate best; a painless, glorious, joy filled entry into his great reward.
Quotation: Fiddler on the Roof… “Is there a proper blessing for the Czar? Hmm, a blessing for the Czar…. ”
“May God bless and keep the Czar…………. far away from us!”
Love that Czar blessing, Bitherwack.
The subtle “markers” of tone of voice, a chuckle, a nod of the head, wishing them death or when someone maligns anyone, (including the President of Quorum of the Twelve) reminds me of the saying: “What Patty says about Paula, says more about Patty, than it does about Paula.”
Society often hates (and sometimes times kills) or is very uncomfortable around those that love and serve God most completely, and understand his doctrine most fully. These hated and maligned souls understand the divine identity of God’s children and believe, live and say; “ they know not what they do.”
Well subeight, those of us who love and serve God and understand His doctrine wish nothing but the very best for sincere, but misguided corporate administrators who spread their prejudices into millions of homes throughout the world.
If he truly knew what he does to contribute to bullying, hatred and suicide, he would be filled with a profoundly harrowing misery. He deserves our most sincere pity.
The sooner he is silent, the less pain he will eventually need to be responsible for. I’m reminded of, “Place an angel with a flaming sword before the tree of life lest he live forever in his sins.”
Of the prejudicial demons Pres. Packer may be wrestling, the question may be whatever his personal struggles… should they be played out on such a broad stage in front of such a large audience. I’m embarrassed for him and his family.
Jesus’ love and inclusiveness extends even to bigots.
We need to love the homophobe, not the homophobia.
Loved this podcast. I think most of the issues with the church eventually boil down to the role/view of prophets. If mormonism could get a handle on what a prophet is and isn’t, I think we’d be a lot healthier as a people. Of course I’m still trying to figure that one out. I really enjoyed hearing the views of each panelist.
Why don’t Mormon prophets prophesy? When was the last time these so-called prophets predicted anything of importance?
64 And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?
They predict a temple will be built in a certain place, and lo and behold, in a few years a temple appears. It’s quite remarkable.
I do agree Axel, they seem much more like administrators now. I wouldn’t necessarily ask them to predict something, but it seems that in these uncertain times, we could do with a little more prophetic certainty and leadership.
I enjoyed the podcast and the viewpoints of the panelists. I enjoyed the podcast and the viewpoints of the panelists. I was hoping that they would comment on what I see as some of the more problematic statements by earlier church leaders, such as the one by Wilford Woodruff about the prophet never leading people astray or the one by Marion G. Romney that says that if the prophet told you to do something wrong and you did it, the Lord would bless you for it. These are often quoted in talks and are still in some lesson manuals.
I think that I like to listen for counsel on spiritual matters from the General Conference. On the other hand, knowing them for what they are (i.e. fallible humans), I realize that when they speak, they reflect their culture and upbringing. No man was ever completely free of that–even the thought is actually impossible.
And, at the same time, I can talk to God directly and get answers from him, so I don’t go purely on the basis of what Church leaders say.
And then there’s the matter of practice vs. doctrine. Not everything that I recognize as practice is doctrine. Doctrinal statements are few and far between.
P.S. “Prophesying” can sometimes lead to foretelling some things–it can also be a warning, and of such there is no shortage in recent history. If you read Old Testament, the prophesies there are usually warnings, that Jonah’s prophesy to Niniveh. They repented, so Jonah had “falsely” predicted their imminent downfall?
I don’t think I have teh final answers, either…
I was intrigued by the ideas of the church moving from an obedience perspective to a relational perspective. I wonder how much this is influenced by the ways we seem to be communicating with each other. ( I am thinking of social media like Facebook, podcasts, the new Mormon adds, and etc.) Even the church has a Facebook page where we can “talk” with the church.
I also wonder if our teaching and understanding of atonement is moving from obedience to relational. It seems I hear more these days about atonement being more of a connection or relationship with God. A God who suffers with us, and resides with us, rather than a servant/master perspective that works on the principle of obedience. Any thoughts?
I want add an experience of “Follow the prophet” talk that was given in my ward 2 weeks ago. The Elders Qurom president was talking in sacrement meeting on this subject and I was sitting behind a brazillian sister. He starts in on the subject of the Immigration bill that the prophet and church is supporting in Utah. The brazillian sister has been actively involved in protesting this bill at the capitol building and perked up when this subject was being talked about. The Elders Qurom president basically says that if we disagree with the prophet on this bill it is our fault and we are not in tune with the spirit and we need to do more so that we can agree with the prophet. The whole time I was watching this sister as she started wiping tears from her face and shaking her head no. This made me sick, it is the classic “its your fault if you disagree and you are not worth enough” argument. I was so mad I went home for the rest of the meetings. Just wanted to share.
surv7, did you talk to that sister about it before you went home?
No, but I did see the Elders Qurom President in the parking lot after the meeting and I about went over and let him know what I thought. I quess I am just chicken.
I think it is time we stop sitting silently in our pews. Sacrament meeting is hard, but Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society are times when that kind of thing should not be allowed to pass without comment. Without comment, we are assumed to be in agreement. If that is not the case, those people need to know. I understand, it takes courage. People aren’t going to magically become tolerant until they know that someone they know feels differently.
Hope monson doesn’t die before packer. Then were screwed.
I loved Randall’s comment about us about 45:30 in about the new marker being obedience and his idea that we want something literal/concrete, in other words we want an idol. And if our prophet is gone (no more revelations) then we’ll make our own golden calf.
Yes, its a little like the Isrealites asking for a king. We shouldn’t want an idol, and yet we have gone a long way toward creating some. (The treatment GAs get is honestly embarrassing.)
Enjoyed the broadcast, but maybe I am a hard liner. Abraham was doing what he was told by GOD probably even more directly than Nephi in regards to Laban’s head. If God told me to do anything, and I knew it was from Him, I hope I would do it! I have been told that this was a prototype of the Father’s sacrifice of His own Son. But maybe I would call 911 after the fact!
We are not sure exactly how that voice was communicated in both cases, but:
“And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him. And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath
delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property. And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword.”
In the case of Abraham it was pretty clear that God was talking to him directly. When Isaac asked, where is the sacrificial lamb, Abraham said:
“My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.”
Little did Isaac know. 😉
Now in the regards to a prophet, we all have the right to inquire directly to God about His will in regard what a prophet might tell us. Only thing worse than following a false prophet is not inquiring of the Lord first.
Jesus replied, “No-one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
I think most of the people on this podcast are on a salt-free diet! 😉
Another take on the story of Abraham and Isaac:
We have the tendency of identifying ourselves with the character Abraham. Thus making “Abraham and Isaac” into a story of obedience, sacrifice, and our own Abrahamic Test (Mormonism has the talent of turning any story into a lesson of obedience and following the prophets).
Instead, identify yourself with the character Isaac and look at the symbols.
It is us on the altar. Our Father cannot “look upon sin with the least degree of allowance”. None are innocent and all are sinful. The sentence is death.
In our final minutes, a Ram is provided to be sacrificed in our place. A Lamb, that takes our sins upon himself and is slain.
There is a rich tradition of alternative explanations of the Akedah in Jewish scholarship that I only recently learned about. I wish I had learned to explore and ponder scripture to that depth at church. There is so much wonderful and deep thought out there that I felt isolated from because I only wanted the truth from the source.
I want to give my kids a better chance.
Another great panel, thanks all!
My favorite all time commentary on the Abraham-Isaac story comes from a Radiolab episode called In Silence from 2009: http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2009/apr/07/in-silence/
In the intro to this podcast you say that the church leaders play down the idea that they are infallible. I disagree. How many conference talks do we hear that we should seek personal revelation, but it will never contradict what the brethren tell us. How is this personal revelation? Also when we watch the thank thee oh God for a prophet videos showing President Monson being received as a rock stair all over the world how does this play down this idea. The brethren encourage us to take their words as scriptures.
When you point out that we do not have the ability to disagree with the brethren directly this is true. I have written to the brethren many times. None of these letters have ever even been kicked back to my local leaders, but they seem to be completely disregarded. I have even called to the administration building and been directed to the staff member taking letters on a specific subject. I spoke with this individual by e-mail and by phone. Even this staff member had not read my letter. He acted as if he did, but was completely unaware of the content of my letter. At the time I felt very disregarded.
The specific topic of homosexual members and President Packers comments. I wrote a letter to Elder Packer concerning his talk. I doubt he or anyone else ever read it. But I do believe it is our moral responsibility to stand up and be counted any way we can on issues such as this one. I do not believe that the problem that he is incorrect about homosexual relationships. The problem is how the church treats its homosexual members creates an environment were three times the gay men in the church committing suicide than straight men. At the core of this is when the brethren lead people to believe falsely that they can change who they are attracted to these members either need to completely reject this idea or struggle with self hatred every day of their lives. For the pasted 20 years neither the 12 or the first presidencey has said or implied that homosexuality can be changed until November confrence, but niether have they come out and said that sexual oriantaiton can not be changed. Also, in the prop 8 campain the brethren were completely willing to promote, passalong, and publish complete faultshoods for plolitical expediancey. If fact that has continued since prop 8. Elder Oaks has spoken in many venues stating that the leadlization of gay marriage would mean that the church would be forces to preform same sex marraiges in the temple. This not only contradicts the protections provided the church in the first ammentdment it contradicts every example that we have seen in the US to date. Every time same sex marriage has become leagal in this contry or in any other for that matter they have included extencive protrections for religious freedom. Oviously Elder Oaks with his background in the law is very aware of these facts but choises to promote faultshoods. In light of all of this so many faithful members that understand fully the great harm the church’s policies and missinformation cause we still talk about respectfully sitting back and not openly being critical of the statements or policies.
Because our leaders are falable we know that personal predudice can and does infect our culture. If we as members of the culture are not will to speek up and stand up for what we know is right. The intallernce in our culture will continue. If we do not want the self hatred and the suicides to continue we must be willing to stand up and be counted. In 2001 President Packer “I give you a strong caution. Be wary of the word tolerance… we are not required to tolerate anything that leads to unhappiness….Tolerance is often demanded but seldom returned. Beware of tolerance. It is a very unstabled vertue.” I for one refuse to continue to talarate the polices that not only cause so much unhappiness, but leads so many of our brethers and sisters to suicide. I also am done tolarating the lies that brethern not only leave unchanllenge but openly choose to promote, because these not only lead to unhappiness but cause so many of our fellow members to feel so much self hatred as to commit suicied.
Here is a great podast exploring the Abraham Story on radiolab.org. This podcast explores the hard questions of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.
This one was fun to listen to. I think Dan is getting better at reining in those wild liberal Mormons and bringing them back on topic. It’s like herding cats! 🙂
I was surprised that the panel agreed that the church leaders don’t claim to be infallible. I had to go back and look at my missionary name tag to make sure we were talking about the same church! LOL. I also read over Chapter 9 in the new Gospel Principles book. I remember teaching Doctrine and Covenants for Seminary too. Man, when the General Authorities speak it is scripture. It is more relevant than ancient scripture. It is the Lord’s message for our day from the prophet chosen for our day. This is what conference is, right?
Here are some goodies from chapter 9:
“We should do those things the prophets tell us to do. President Wilford Woodruff said that a prophet will never be allowed to lead the Church astray”
“We should follow his inspired teachings completely. We should not choose to follow part of his inspired counsel and discard that which is unpleasant or difficult.”
“When we do as our prophet directs, blessings pour down from heaven.”
“We are blessed in this insecure world to have a prophet through whom the Lord reveals His will.”
We don’t need to look for group psychology to explain why Mormons revere the prophets or why we look up to them so much. It is right there in the lesson manuals. This is the manual from 2009. I wouldn’t be surprised if older manuals are even more direct. From the time they are little Primary kids know very much how important obedience is, and they know to “Follow the Prophet, Don’t Go Astray!”
Here is a serious question I would like someone to answer if they know the answer. Do Catholics sing songs about the pope or papal authority during their worship services? Is that unique to Mormonism to show that kind of respect to ecclesiastical authority? (This is a real question. I’m not mocking the Mormon faith.)
Mormons and their leaders … in a nutshell?
We thank thee, la la. for the Jimmer,
Who guides us who watch but can’t play,
We have nothing to do with his greatness!
But we borrow a bit anyway.
Human nature – some have more of it than others
There are studies which indicate that having a conservative disposition or having a liberal disposition has a biological basis. Similar studies suggest that conservative people’s brains actually function differently than liberal brains. This does not necessarily correlate with being politically conservative or liberal (because that can be more easily influenced by upbringing or culture) although it often does.
These studies find that, in general, those with a conservative world view tend to place much more value on things like authority, obedience and other similar markers which have now come to identify a good Mormon.
There are also studies which show liberals tend to have a much higher incidence of becoming inactive or leaving the Church altogether. To be sure, part of this probably stems from liberals being made to feel uncomfortable and alienated by the high percentage of conservative members, but I suspect that a larger part stems from liberals being more inclined to question authority and go against the grain.
I mention this because I believe this to be the primary reason the Lds Church has not only become so conservative, but also why it has become so focused on obedience. Over time, liberal minded members who are less uncomfortable with obedience, conformity and authority either leave or become marginalized, while the conservative members are more likely to thrive in such an environment making them not only more inclined to stay active, but also to be promoted into positions of leadership. This becomes a cyclical process that many religions go through as they mature. In the early days, freethinking liberals are attracted to this new, weird group, but as power structures develop, those free thinkers become marginalized and the conservative members become the organizations core.
Also, Dan, I think you have really grown a lot as host in a very short time. i will confess, I was initially a bit skeptical about you as host. I think you are a great guy and a great writer/thinker, but you didn’t seem to have quite what it took to host a podcast. Particularly having to, (sort of) fill the shoes of John Dehlin, someone with enough natural charisma and who has been doing it a long long enough to develop the craft to a very high level. But you have really pulled through! Some of the first episodes were, in my opinion, a little rough, but you have proved yourself to be a able and competent host, so way to go and keep up the good work! And you have even done well at reigning in your ‘whatnots’, which I’m sure you know can get out of hand sometimes.
Mormon leaders, buying a stairway to heaven? http://www.moneyteachers.org/Rothschilds+Gift+to+Mormons.htm
Los mormones deben adorar a Cristo no a sus lideres. (JEREMIAS 14:14)
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