Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Where do you draw the line....with a Prophet?

I must admit that I have been extremely surprised at many of the responses to the letter from the First Presidency asking us to contact our Senators to support marriage between a man and a woman. I understand that this is an emotionally charged and extremely complicated issue. It is not the issue at hand that has surprised me. I, myself am still a little at a loss of what to think. I know that God loves all his children, regardless of what their hair color, religion or gender preference is.

What surprises me is the negative attitude many have taken against the First Presidency for issuing this statement. I've read blogs/comments that state the First Presidency has no idea what it is talking about, or they have no understanding of the actual effect of this ammendment or the real agenda of the politicians. One article written by a BYU Professor basically called the First Presidency a bunch of liars ( for which I am sure his tenure at BYU will not be much longer).

I know for myself, that sometimes Church leaders mix their personal beliefs with Church Doctorine and we've discussed this in past posts ( like Genius or Apostle....) but I do not think that the First Presidency has made this a personal issue. I believe that they are speaking out because the Lord instructed them to. The Prophet and Apostles proclaimed truth in the Proclamation on the Family YEARS ago. It has a specific part stating that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. No one blinked when they read that part when the proclamation first came out. There was a resounding, "DUH." Who would have thought years later that we would be debating about gay marriage? Not me, anyway.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I find it interesting that people are so willing to dismiss the First Presidency in anything that has to do with politics. When President Hinckley asked the members of the church to re-read the Book of Mormon, no one ( at least that I was aware of ) said, "President Hinckley doesn't know what he's talking about. What a stupid idea." or "President Hinckley doesn't understand the real issue at hand here..." etc. Millions of members of the Church opened their books and had great experiences.

I know the Prophets and Apostles are not perfect. They are men. But they are men called of God. Every Conference we raise our hands and sustain them as our leaders. But I wonder if you can really say that you fully support them and then pick and choose what counsel you will actually follow. " I support the Prophet, but only as long as he sticks to topics D, G, and A."


At 6/06/2006 12:28:00 PM,

The leaders of the church are just people like us, they have differences of opinion and different political beliefs. Sometimes you even hear a cool story about the twelve debating a certain issue that the church has not taken a firm stand on (stories about which leaders do and don't drink coca cola come to mind), but I think that when they act in their official capacity they should be granted the highest degree of deference. There is a difference between two of the twelve discussing what they believe is the best way to handle the same sex marriage issue and an official proclamation to the church. When it comes out officially it is hard for me to imagine that it is coming just from the minds of the men who occupy the office and I think that we should treat it as being from God.

Also, while some might argue that the statement is an implicit endorsement of a specific act, unless I wasn't listening that closely (which is entirely possible) it didn't say to tell our representatives to pass any specific bill, just to let them know that we value traditional marriage. this doesn't necessarily mean that we are being told to support a bill that has been purposed, it could include an idea like "the stuff that is being discussed is a little too much, but we do need find a fair way to protect traditional marriage"

At 6/06/2006 01:02:00 PM,

I agree. Why do people in this church continue to dispute revelation from God? I guess many don't have a firm foundation. Like Chris said, it's revelation, not a personal opinion.

At 6/06/2006 06:00:00 PM,

Chris makes a good point. The First Presidency did not ask us to tell our respresentatives to vote for the marriage ammendment. They merely urged members of the Church to "express their opinons on this matter". In fact, our bishop even had to re-read the letter this past Sunday because when it was originally distributed to the ward, it had been accompanied by a message from our relief society president telling the sisters that we needed to write our senators about our support for the ammendment. Apparently, the first presidency had specifically instructed that the letter be delivered without editorial comment, so Bishop felt the need to present as shut.

One more thought: let's not be too hard on the people who are a struggling with this. I think it's good that people are voicing their doubts and concerns. That's one of the things I love about the Gospel. We're not asked for blind obedience. In fact we are encouraged to explore the issues, ideas and commandments given us and recieve our own confirmation of them. Because I worked closely with a very wonderful gay man (who had a very wonderful partner and who recently adopted a son) this used to be a difficult issue for me. I remember spending a lot time thinking about this last year and never being able to conceptually grasp why they should be deprieved the right of marriage (I mean, they didn't have the same upbringing I did, they shouldn't be held to the same standard etc.) It was as I was writing about this one day--trying to work out the issues on paper--that I recieved a clear spiritual witness; that God's purpose was wise one and that he was aware of the challenges faced by gay individuals and loved them and would care for them. This experience strengthened my testimony incredibly. And it came about because I choose to really grapple with an issue, because I expressed my concerns to my Heavenly Father. I agree that we need to be respectful while doing so (calling the First Presidency "stupid" is ridiculous), but I think it's a good exercise to go through and something we all can learn from.

At 6/06/2006 07:14:00 PM,

I actually hesitate to interpret the statement of the First Presidency to allow for any 'political debate' regarding its meaning. I think it is clear what the intention was, and I think it is clear what the application should be.

If there is any doubt, please note the following:

More specifically, acting as an official representative of the Church under the Apostolic mantle, Elder Nelson said the following:

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is pleased to be represented in this significant cause. While those of us here today represent a broad spectrum of religious diversity, we are firmly united in our declaration that marriage of a man and a woman is ordained of God. The sanctity of marriage and family constitutes the spiritual undergirding of lasting and successful societies.

"Together we share a duty to preserve marriage and family as established by God. The time has now come when a constitutional amendment is needed in this country to protect our divine inheritance. Such action does not reduce our regard for individuals who choose to live by other standards. But it confirms our conviction that marriage is the foundry for social order, the fountain of virtue and the foundation for eternal exaltation." (italics added)

It seems difficult to suggest any other reading of the Statement by the First Presidency (particularly one that would encourage a person to write their Senators in opposition to such a principle); however, I agree with Janelle's statements that we all need to grapple with gaining a testimony of the issues of the church and its doctrine (even if that simply means coming to the understanding that whatever is "suggested" in official capacity as prophets, seers, and revelators is the will of God).

"whether it be by mine own voice, or the voice of my servants, it is the same..."

At 6/06/2006 10:29:00 PM,

If something is the will of God, why would prophet, seers or revelators "suggest" instead of boldly declare/require/command? It seems that when something is a "suggestion" (and I am not saying anything about whether or not this particular letter was a suggestion), then it is just that - a suggestion. Otherwise it would have been framed otherwise. 

-Testimony Grappler

At 6/06/2006 10:47:00 PM,

It seems difficult to place this argument (and not simply this one -- laying aside the debate over whether this letter is a 'suggestion' or not) simply in terms of mere semantics.

Assuming that we take anything coming from the mouths of the Prophets as a the word of God, whether suggestion or commandment, wouldn't it be wise to follow it?

For example, a Prophet states that it would be wise to build up food storage. Naturally, we are able to disregard that 'suggestion' and choose to do otherwise (semantically, we're not breaking any commandment and therefore sinning); but then again, when the "I told you so's" start rolling, which end do we want to be on?

Simply put, I'm sure it isn't a sin to not write your Congressman (or to even write in opposition to the Amendment) b/c this letter could be a "suggestion." But as with anything from the mouths of the Lord's annointed, we choose to follow or not, and then accept whatever consequences may accompany that decision.

At 6/07/2006 07:55:00 AM,


That is a huge assumption. It would be silly to "take anything coming from the mouths of the Prophets as a the word of God." For example, President Monson once told my brother that no one should drink buttermilk or eat black olives. He said they were too disgusting. Commandment? Suggestion? Idle conversation? Speculation?

Even President Hinckley has publicly questioned words "coming from the mouth" of Brigham Young - namely the Adam God doctrine.

Sometimes a prophet is a prophet, and sometimes a prophet is just a man saying stuff. Again, I think that the unanymity between the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve on this issue, plus the officialness of it, puts it squarely in the camp of "official word of God" material... but not always.

At 6/07/2006 10:18:00 AM,

Hence the reason why I qualified my statements either, limiting them to "the First Presidency" or "an official representative of the Church" or "under the Apostolic mantle."

Obviously, if President Hinckley were to suggest that I try the Grilled Salmon the next time I visit The Garden, I wouldn't necessarily feel inclined to do it (mostly because I hate eating fish).

I think you missed my point, which is: regardless of the semantics at issue, if there is an official statement by the First Presidency or by a member of the Twelve acting on assignment, OR if it is a Prophet of God speaking as a Prophet of God, then I think it would be wise to follow that counsel.

My other assumption, one which I don't think is as "silly" as the one you thought I was making, is that there is a clear-cut method by which we can determine when God's representatives are acting as such or when he "is just a man saying stuff." Although it may seem circular, I think our authorities have given us a pretty good idea when that is the case.

At 6/07/2006 10:26:00 AM,

I dont think it's always very clear-cut, especially on your "official" pronouncement line.

I dunno, how clear cut is it that Brigham Young said Adam was the only God we have anything to do with in General Conference? Sounds like he was acting in a fairly official capacity, yet the Church has denounced his statement made in what appears to be an official capacity.

Or how about racist comments in general conference by certain apostles in the 1960s (and earlier?)

Or maybe the First Presidency statement officially denouncing evolution... and then the later retraction of that same denouncement...?

At 6/07/2006 11:26:00 AM,


You've raised some interesting issues, although I'm a little unsure about the specifics of the statements you are talking about, obviously not having read the same things that you have. Where can I read it, and I'll get back to you?

My initial reaction, however, particularly in regards to the Young-Adam comment: I have a really hard time believing that Young would say such a thing, and think perhaps his statement is merely misread.

Nor have I read anything regarding a statement and retraction on evolution; rather, it is my understanding that the only official statement was that by the First Presidency in 1909 entitled "The Origin of Man."

"It is held by some that Adam was not the first man upon this earth and that the original human being was a development from lower orders of the animal creation. These, however, are the theories of men. The word of the Lord declared that Adam was “the first man of all men” (Moses 1:34), and we are therefore in duty bound to regard him as the primal parent of our race...

"...There is nothing in this, however, to indicate that the original man, the first of our race, began life as anything less than a man, or less than the human germ or embryo that becomes a man.

It is my understanding that this statement as never been retracted, nor have I ever read anything indicating that our Church leaders have ever accepted Evolution theory (in the generalized 'fish to ape to man' sense); however, this is an entirely different concept than 'species evolution' (i.e., natural evolutionary tendancies within species), which anyone with a basic biological background would necessarily accept (and which I don't think the Church has ever commented upon).

Again, not having read the specifics of what you are addressing, that is my general reaction. I'd love to read what you're asking about though.




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