Where is the door? How do WE knock?

Salt Lake Temple doorknobsOne of the gems of my mission was the opportunity to spend an evening with a Bishop from the RLDS (now Community of Christ) Church in central Missouri[1]. Retrospectively I can appreciate how gracious and patient he was with us, and I hope that I have since adopted some of his approach in my inter-faith conversations with the a priori convinced.

One of the sincere questions I posed to him concerned the (then) recent RLDS decision to ordain women to the priesthood and subsequent acceptance of women into the Quorum of Apostles. I was intensely curious to hear his understanding and justification of these events. And I was scandalized by his response.

To be clear, I was not scandalized or upset by the idea of priestesses. Rather I was scandalized by his account of how and why the change occurred:

“Well, we sort of came to a point in our history where this question was conspicuous for us: why don’t we ordain women? And we decided to take it seriously. We searched the scriptures and saw that there was no injunction in either ancient or modern scripture against women’s holding the priesthood. Given the lack of any revelatory prohibition, we realized that the reason we had never ordained women was cultural – it came from the 19th century context in which our church was born. And with that, we decided to ordain them!”

My quote here is obviously not a quote – it’s my best attempt fifteen years later to verbalize the emotional and conceptual remnants of a conversation that has grown in importance for me as time goes on. Candid, pragmatic. Even casual. And that is why I was scandalized.

I’d spent the last eighteen months dedicated to sharing my belief in modern day prophets. There was this boy, Joseph Smith, who opened the heavens – not just for a moment, but in a way arresting the heavens, working with angels to erect an institution that enabled a covenant people to realize their privilege as the children of God and go to God – as a family – and get revelation. Yes, along with the rest of Christianity and numerous other faiths we believe in our ability to receive individual guidance. But additionally, we believe in ourselves as a people, with a mouthpiece – admittedly a human mouthpiece, human like the rest of us, but who nonetheless receives an ancient mantel and can, amidst all of the confusion of this world, obtain the mind and will of the Lord on our collective behalf. This was a radical idea, and a radical blessing. And it was worth spending two years of my life to share with others.

What was the point of the Restoration if not to establish us as a covenant people with an ability to petition the heavens and receive answers? What is the point of a Restored Church if not to provide a structure and space where this can happen? What is the point of a Prophet (as opposed to, say, a representative council) if not to play this crucial role? The priesthood is not meant to be mere institutional authority, distributed as best meets organizational needs – rather it is meant to be one of the blessings God has given us to facilitate our becoming like God, a literally efficacious use of the powers of heaven that allows us to act as Saviors on Mt. Zion. And it has been given to us – as it was given to Abraham – because we sought after it and have kept the covenant associated with it.

If who ought to have and be authorized to operate this power in our Mormon family has become a conspicuous matter for us, isn’t this exactly what a prophet is for?[3] At this point, I think we’re all still together – we’re all nodding our heads and saying, “Yes!” (or, at least, large numbers on all sides are).

But here’s the key problem this post is meant to highlight – one for which there is currently no answer, just as there is currently no revelation on whether women ought to be ordained[4]:

How do faithful members collectively petition our prophets to petition the heavens? How do we collectively ask, how do we faithfully seek, how do we collectively knock? Where is the official door, behind which our prophets and apostles sit, on which we CAN knock? And how does a group of faithful members with a serious concern gain access to that door?

I think Joseph Smith was an organizational genius – or at least listened well to others who were. As was Brigham Young. We’ve thrived as a people for almost two centuries not simply on the power of the Restoration message and the sacral artifacts Joseph brought forth, but also on account of effective organization. This question of how a worldwide church grants access to its top leadership, however, is not one that occurred to Joseph. For three quarters of our existence we’ve been a small and highly connected community. This has changed in recent decades.

There are tens of thousands for whom equality generally is literally a spiritually trophic issue, and who are doing their best to enter into dialogue with our prophets, seers, and revelators. How can they faithfully do so? Individually we’re discouraged from writing letters to our General Authorities – instead we’re told to counsel with our local leaders. But I don’t share local leaders with the thousands of my sisters and brothers who are seeking an answer on this question. What are we to do?

There are also those for whom this is not quite so pressing, even if they recognize how serious it is to the rest of us[5]. Unfortunately, I think that they often get distracted in the minutiae, in the banality of such things as whether it is legally prudent for the Church to request its members not to speak with the press during General Conference on Temple Square. Occasionally some go further and attempt to give their substantive opinions on the matter of how we ought to respond to collective crises. But alas, that’s all they are – opinions. No one can say at this point, “Here, this is how to collectively and faithfully petition our governing councils, this is the nature of the Church as an institution, and here is the sanctioned means whereby significant portions of the church gain access to our leadership.”

In addition to my prayers on the substantive matter of women’s equality, I offer my prayers that the leadership of our Church will be given divine wisdom in how to make the transition to authentic and substantive connection in a world-wide Church.

If standing in line along with everyone else and asking to be let in to a session of General Conference is unreasonable activity, what is reasonable?


* * * *

[1] He’d been a lifelong member, and as a Bishop oversaw a dozen or so congregations. As far as I can tell, his role was something like a more ecclesiastically engaged Stake President. Given the size of the RLDS Church, it might be more accurate to compare him to an Area President.

[2] See Joseph Smith sermon, 8 August, 1839.

[3] Note: I don’t think that our prophets are there only for major, doctrinally relevant changes like who receives the privilege of priesthood ordination, but also the host of thorny structural and logistical issues that are so deeply relevant to the question of equality. This set of questions really is distinct from the question of ordination, even if the two are currently strongly linked in our discussions.

[4] And there isn’t. It’s an empirical fact. We have lots and lots of folks with different opinions that they consider to be the authoritative, doctrinal answers to the question – but they’re simply wrong. As in, their opinions might ultimately be vindicated as substantively correct, but currently we don’t have the revealed light and knowledge necessary to vindicate them.

[5] I’m not talking about the frenzied hoards spewing vitriol at faithful feminists. Those folks excommunicate themselves from any serious dialogue. Rather I’m talking about those who are trying to substantively engage feminists, while disagreeing with their ideas, proposals, philosophical assumption, methodologies, or actions.

98 comments for “Where is the door? How do WE knock?

  1. Disclaimer that I tried to make clear upfront and just want to make sure it comes through crystal clear: I have tremendous respect for the Community of Christ Church. Every member I’ve met has represented themselves in impressive fashion and has had an attitude toward the LDS church that is far more Christlike than the attitude I usually see expressed by LDS members toward their fellow Restorationists. It’s always baffling that we who suffer so much in terms of misrepresentation can be quick to misrepresent other branches of Mormonism. When I said that my experience with the RLDS Bishop was a gem in my mission I meant it quite sincerely.

  2. As recorded in Numbers, this is an issue Moses dealt with when he lead the camp of Israel. At one point when Joshua complained to him that there were unauthorized prophets in the camp,

    …Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them! (Numbers 11:29)

    The whole chapter is quite instructive with regard to how Moses was inspired to manage his prophetic leadership responsibilities.

    Your illustration with the Church of Christ leader seems apt. They dealt with popular pressure by making so many concessions that the lost any distinctive flavor, and have seemingly joined the Christian “sea of sameness”. Perhaps the contemporary Church is altogether too engaged with popular secular questions to be so in a position for being receptive to Divine revelation.

  3. James, your post assumes that the church should have a mechanism for collective action. I tend to suspect it would be a very bad thing, as it would create an institutional incentive for creating parties and movements among the membership. I think it would also be spiritually corrosive, as it would transform the church from the one aspect of our lives where we try to accept God’s will into one more sphere where we seek to implement our own will by organizing and lobbying.

    The answer to your question as to how to bring questions before the apostles seems to be that all the like-minded church members should direct their questions to their own bishops, stake presidents, and the random visiting authority. That may not be very satisfying, but it seems like a much preferable alternative to legitimizing collective action among the membership.

  4. Prayer. Fasting. Counseling with the Lord for patience and humility. Then counseling with local leadership in patience, humility, and long-suffering. Preaching by the Spirit when moved to do so in local meetings.

    Basically all the things that have been rejected out of hand as not being effective quickly enough to suit.

  5. Yes, the Community of Christ comparison is always problematic. In any case, one Mormon church taking the liberalizing route is probably enough. But the bishop’s conversation is certainly interesting.

    As to the more general question — at this point, there really is no reasonable avenue for the membership to communicate with the senior leadership. The Church is too big and they are too insulated. Some members, unfortunately, vote with their feet — as thousands leaving activity or exiting the Church are doing. Some write letters, which get kicked back to local leadership so the letterwriter can get called in by their bishop or stake president. About the only way the membership can actually communicate with senior leadership is through the media, and this sometimes gets results (think Bott episode or getting women to say prayers in General Conference). Which is why, despite the complaints one hears from the general membership and the frustration of senior leadership, some Mormon groups keep using the media to amplify their message.

    Leadership does sometimes use surveys to solicit input from members. My ward got a set of packets like this about twelve years ago. We were told they were anonymous responses, but the packets were barcoded. Really, how dumb do they think we are? As if, in the wake of the September Six, an informed member is going to give candid feedback to the senior leadership in a response form with a barcode.

  6. I think using the media and public discourse actually makes the conversation much easier for the brethren because it eventually distills and collates the issues sometimes complete with poll numbers before they choose to respond (or not) through the face of the NewsRoom, the Correlation Dept. or the Public Relations Dept. leaving a lot of wiggle room for future interpretation.

  7. Jonathan, your response assumes:
    1. Collective petition or expression is necessarily negative or critical
    2. That the absence of expression is less damaging than pluralistic expression (perhaps because our General Authorities couldn’t handle it?)
    3. That the status quo is working well, despite the evidence of our dearly departed to the contrary
    4. That expression and petition amounts to lobbying which amounts to bad
    I don’t share any of those assumptions. Nor do I think that continuing a practice designed for a small church – when it doesn’t work in a larger setting – is very plausible. Maybe I’m wrong.

  8. James,

    Thank you for the thoughtful post.

    Jonathan (#2) makes an excellent point. If I can paraphrase, any adaptation by the church must preserve its integrity. Is that about right?

    I don’t propose to have an answer, but it seems to me that failure to adapt is equally challenging to the church’s integrity. I think there are ample examples of our own church’s history and other organizations’ histories where failure to adapt “in a timely manner” caused far more damage than any damage caused by conciliation with internal agitators.

    (I’m going to reread this in the morning. Hopefully this makes sense.)

  9. SilverRain:

    Basically all the things that have been rejected out of hand as not being effective quickly enough to suit.

    I haven’t the foggiest why you think that things like prayer, fasting, and counseling with the Lord have been rejected. I don’t know anyone concerned with women’s issues who hasn’t been actively doing these things. Many will tell you that their current positions are a result of these ongoing efforts. The two certainly aren’t mutually exclusive.

    You hit on the difficulty with the status quo: given the absence of a door to knock on, members who feel deeply about something like equality can either leave or use the world’s method of leveraging media. I don’t think most of us like either option.

  10. James (no. 9), You describe to Dave only two alternatives, neither of which you like very much. There may be more alternatives. Certainly, there is at least a third: be patient and supportive and seek understanding, practicing faith, hope, and charity.

  11. James, because I’ve been listening. Almost invariably, such is the response when participants are questioned, and I take them at their word.

    Rejecting prayer, patience and personal counsel doesn’t have to mean they abandon it, only that they don’t find it sufficiently effective.

  12. “If standing in line along with everyone else and asking to be let in to a session of General Conference is unreasonable activity, what is reasonable?”

    Exactly. Great question, and great post James.

    “Prayer. Fasting. Counseling with the Lord for patience and humility.” “Rejecting prayer, patience and personal counsel doesn’t have to mean they abandon it, only that they don’t find it sufficiently effective.”

    I hear this answer a lot to the question of what do you do when you personally disagree with or just plain don’t understand a church policy or piece of doctrine. I often get the sense that what is usually meant by this answer is that a person may be allowed a space to think about something and mull it over in their minds before accepting it, but that if they are to actually come to a legitimate position on something that they must ultimately accept official doctrine and policy. However, whenever someone answers this question by saying, “OK, what if they have prayed, fasted, and grappled with a question with appropriate intensity but received a different answer,” it seems to blow the other person’s mind. Some people just seem to be absolutely incapable of distinguishing between the church leadership and God’s words; that virtually everything that they declare as doctrinal and policy is essentially God’s declaration. How do you know that the church leadership is immaculately transmitting God’s message? How do you know when God speaks? These are questions we should always be asking.

  13. Just a thought …

    I wonder if we lack a sufficient vocabulary to have a meaningful discussion about … internal dissatisfaction, or disquietude, or petitioning, or … do we even have a word for it?

    In other faiths, a belief that strongly varies with an existing belief is a heresy. Sometimes there are institutional mechanisms for dealing with heresy. Other faith traditions have a long history of discussing and analyzing heresy, and, accordingly, they have developed a rich vocabulary for discussing the issue.

    When the heresy is sufficient, and the heretics are zealous, a heresiarch (zoinks!) emerges and the heresy can become a schism.

    In our faith we heap loads of work on the word apostasy. Apostasy is a catch all term for all rebel rousers, those who leave and then kick against the pricks, those who leave and then quietly go about their lives, those who stay in the church but vent on blogs, those who form the Latte Day Saints, etc. We lump all of our troubles onto one little word, “apostasy.”

    James, we may lack the vocabulary in our faith to answer your questions. Just a thought.

  14. One thing that I have not heard from the OW leaders is whether they believe our leadership has/has not reflected and prayed for inspiration on their demand. It must be a demand, because with a request, when told ‘no’ you leave it alone, not continue seeking publicity.

    That their message has been given is clear. They have received response to their demands on several occasions now. That OW chooses not to end until they get what they specifically demand (Kate Kelley has said this), and not anything less than the Melch Priesthood, shows that this is no longer a request. This is no longer just seeing what the Lord might say on the topic. This is all about political change. The 1st Presidency understands that 10% of our sisters are intent on holding the MP, be apostles, etc. I don’t see how we can have people on this post think that they haven’t noticed the demands that have made it all over the news and blogs. I don’t see how their message could be more apparent, and continuing it in its current form only creates a media circus, not any consideration for change.
    As for methods to recommend changes, I would note that stake presidents and bishops do send up their concerns and ideas to their leaders. If a member has a request, it should go up the chain of command. Unlike the CoC/RLDS, we follow a pattern for revelation. It usually does not come quickly, because we are not following polls, but the will of God. I’ve seen my stake president spend weeks pondering and praying over an issue, ensuring that it is the Lord’s will and not his own. It is a very inspiring thing to see such dedication. I have no doubt that the Brethren do the same thing.
    OW wants to push a political remedy to something that should not be political.

  15. rameumptom (#14):

    In a world where we have the word “bloviate,” it’s surprising that we Mormons don’t have an intelligent way to discuss internal dissension. Wouldn’t you say?

  16. “Unlike the CoC/RLDS, we follow a pattern for revelation.”

    From the CoC website, http://www.cofchrist.org/ourfaith/faith-beliefs.asp:

    “We affirm the Living God is ever self-revealing. God is revealed to the world in the testimony of Israel, and above all in Jesus Christ. By the Holy Spirit we continue to hear God speaking today. The church is called to listen together for what the Spirit is saying and then faithfully respond.”

    Also, how do you know that members of OW aren’t or haven’t received revelation?

  17. Yes, a vocabulary would be very helpful in capturing the nuances.

    I have questioned a lot of church actions and even doctrines, but I guess that the difference between my concerns and some other movements is that I always had humility that I might be wrong. And apparently I was.

    I was very much opposed to the church’s steamrolling through the building of the BYU Jerusalem Center in the face of local protests. I thought it was rude and insensitive and wrong. But Pres. Holland said that if it was not built them, it would not be built. Over time, public sentiment changed, and my Jewish friends who toured the Holy Land recently were taken there. I also used to think that we must have been genderless as spirits and got to choose which sex of body to come to. For me, this was the biggest thing about the Proclamation on the Family. And I came to accept it.

    So I can totally appreciate other people having questions about this or that. I think questioning is healthy.

    I am less sympathetic to those who declare what the church should do. Especially when it is couched in USAmerican dogma, whereas the church is a worldwide church.

    The first 20 years that I was a member, I don’t remember a general authority ever getting up in front of a congregation and taking questions from the audience. I’ve been to several such events in the past five years, which are great times to ask about such things. Oh wait, perhaps some of those who have concerns might not be in attendance at a Saturday night session of stake conference. But the meeting was open to anyone who wanted to attend. And the manuals also welcome input, so I have sent letters to that address.

    Somehow policies do get changed, even without lobbying, so maybe church leadership is not totally deaf. Lowering missionary age, allowing those with non-member spouses to attend the temple, and various other changes come to mind.

    I am concerned about the co-opting of the word “equality” to mean only “female ordination.” A lot of us have deep concerns about equality but find value in differentness. I was a feminist, a dues-paying member of NOW, when I joined the church because I thought LDS teachings got a lot of things right on gender relations. How can we have a “serious dialogue” when you are setting the agenda and defining the terms?

  18. (#17) “How can we have a “serious dialogue” when you are setting the agenda and defining the terms?”

    Is this a question for me? I’m not proposing to define any terms. Here’s what I’m suggesting …

    Our LDS faith is very young. We have been, until recently, geographically and culturally isolated, so we haven’t fleshed out some of the issues that other faiths have dealt with. One of those issues is dealing with “internal dissent.”

    The original post innocently asked, What does internal dissent look like in the LDS church? How do members approach leadership?

    My modest contribution was that we first may need a vocabulary to talk about internal dissent. We Mormons have a work-horse word, apostasy, that we bandy about without too much thought. Is it possible that by borrowing the dialogue of other, older faith traditions we could gain some insight into our own?

    Two possible contenders for thinking about “internal dissent” are heresy and schism. For example, how has Judaism approached “heresy”?

    I don’t intend to invent our terms, but it seems to me we need a richer vocabulary before we can answer the questions posed in the original post.

  19. Re #18, I was not directing the ‘serious dialogue” comment at you, but rather quoting from the OP.

    I agree that the larger issue in the OP was important. But it almost gets mired in the current issue of OW and priesthood.

  20. Steve #16, what you quoted from CoC shows a totally different pattern. They seek the entire Church to “listen together”, rather than to have a top down revelatory experience. And this is shown in their annual meetings, where they gather leaders and others from all over to discuss, work, rework, and then vote on new revelations/decisions they work on collaboratively.

    If such were the case in the LDS Church, then OW would have a place to poltick: at an annual meeting to decide new inspired decisions.

    But LDS do not work that way. Never have. Hopefully, never will.

  21. I’m going to take a quick stab at answering some questions that I have heard asked several times. Generally, it seems that those who ask are doing so rhetorically, as if there is no answer. I can’t promise a deep answer in a blog comment, but at least I can point down the right road to understanding. From Steve Smith:

    “How do you know that the church leadership is immaculately transmitting God’s message?”
    This, to me, is one of the biggest breakdowns in understanding between those who countenance actions such as OW’s and those who don’t. Frankly, it just doesn’t matter. You see, revelation isn’t just about the answer. It’s about the process. If the church leadership aren’t “immaculately transmitting God’s message” to the general Church, they are answerable to HIM for that, not to me. It doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is the revelation I get for my stewardship.

    There could be infinite reasons why the Lord might prompt them to say certain things, among those reasons may be that they are not as in tune as they could be. But I know my God. I know how He works with me, and I know that He is as much if not more interested in the process of us learning to listen to Him as He is in the accomplishment. For me, as soon as I’ve begun to feel comfortable hearing the Word of God, He has refined His methods. I trust that He is as concerned with the leaders as individuals and with others of the members as He is with me. I don’t need every word or every policy to be tailored to my comfort and needs.

    So I don’t care about whether or not the leaders are hearing every nuance exactly as it is communicated by God. It is enough for me to know that He has called them to be where they are. I care far more about answers to questions such as, “should I remain in this Church?” “What can I do this week to serve Thee?” “Who in my sphere of influence needs my help?” “What wisdom can I glean from this trial?” “How should I teach my daughter to prepare her for baptism?” “What can I say to my friend who is hurting?” “How should I approach my bishop about this thing that is troubling me?” “How can I address this problem in my calling?” “Should I speak up about this in Sunday School right now, or is it not the time?”

    I could easily go on. All of these questions and more have I struggled with in the past week. I have more than enough in my stewardship to keep me from questioning the in-tune-ness of others in theirs.

    “How do you know when God speaks?”
    Because I spend every waking (and many sleeping) minute wrestling with questions such as the above, my heart tunes itself to seeking spiritual confirmation. When the leadership exhorts something the Lord wants me to do, I feel it resonate. Like a piano when it is in tune. The leaders say many, many things that are not what the Lord wills for me. That doesn’t mean they are wrong to say them, nor that I am wrong for not resonating to it. It only means that I am in a different place than most of those around me, or that the Lord has something else for me to do. It might even mean that I don’t need exhortation, or will be getting it in another way. I wish that weren’t true as often as it is.

    “How do you know that members of OW aren’t or haven’t received revelation?”
    This is a more complicated question. First, I think some most definitely HAVE received revelation. I would be very surprised if those who are earnest have not. However, when they claim to have received revelation for the whole Church, I can know they are (at best) deceived. First, it is not their stewardship. They have no authority. Second, though I may resonate with their emotions, their actions do not resonate. At all. Of course, not everyone tunes into the Spirit exactly as I do. I suspect there are as many languages of the Spirit as there are people. But I have spent countless time and energy learning to recognize the Spirit when He speaks to me. I may not be perfect at it, but over the years I’ve learned to trust what I sense.

  22. The Church does have a means of gathering concerns. However, some feel those means are not sufficient because their anticipated outcome are not forthcoming and because they do not receive direct feedback that their concern has been heard (and articulated as they wish).

    As it stands, the leadership of the Church has two major avenues for getting feedback. The first is personal extended families. Each of these individuals is a parent. Most are grandparents. The idea that they have 100% orthodoxy in their families is pretty far-fetched (and easily disproved). President Benson and his grandson Steve Benson come readily to mind. They are not the only example. I was be frankly astounded if there were literally NO individuals with same-sex-attraction among the entire pool of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc. (And if there were NONE, that would have some interesting implications.) This method does suffer from being a fairly small group of people compared to the population of the Church as a whole and being fairly hard for a specific member to join. But it does exist.

    The second means is much more far-reaching. Almost every week of the year, the General Authorities of the Church are spread around the globe, meeting with both the membership and the local leadership. Occasionally during the meetings with the membership, the leaders ask questions and open the floor. This is rare and may be daunting for individuals to bring up truly controversial questions. And they are obviously only available to members active enough to attend all their meetings. But they do exist.

    But the meetings with the local leadership are different. During a period where I served as a local leader, I had the chance a couple of times to attend those meetings. Every single one included a time to share concerns, pass along what the local membership is facing, try to get a finger on the pulse of the Church, etc. I can attest that many unorthodox concerns were shared (among them women and authority in the Church). They were not mocked and were taken seriously. Of course, this means has its own limits. The individual members are completely reliant on their local leaders to accurate and sincerely pass their concerns on and on the general leadership to hear it charitably. If you are already troubled by the organization of the Church, it is easy to see why you might not trust that this is going to happen. Too many potential points of failure that are completely outside your knowledge or control.

    What there isn’t is a formal means for someone to sit down with a Church leader (above the level of Stake President) for an extended period of time and have a back and forth. And no such means could exist. Imagine if every person with an issue were granted just two hours. Even 1,000 individuals would require 2,000 hours…. a full time job for a single person. It is hard to imagine that the person doing this job would have time to perform the many other responsibilities of a General Authority. We would end up right back where we are. Concerned individuals would meet with someone they would invariably perceived as not being a decision maker. They would have to trust their concerns were being seriously and passed along.

    And that brings us to the final problem. For any individual who thinks they know the direct the Church should take (and it is NOT taking), the assumption has to be that the process has broken down somewhere. Even if it has not. Even if their concern has been heard, processed and a decision reached – if that decision is not the one the concerned individual wants or hopes for.

  23. rameumptom, in #14 you wrote that the LDS church “follows a pattern of revelation” but not the CoC. Then in #20 you concede that the CoC is following a pattern of revelation, just different than that of the LDS church. But all this raises the question(s) that I was trying to get at originally: what exactly is revelation? If revelation is God speaking to humans, how is it transmitted and known? How do you know that the CoC isn’t receiving revelation? If we are to accept that LDS church leaders are transmitting God’s words, are they doing this all of the time? If not, then how do we do know when they are transmitting God’s words and when they are speaking for themselves? How do we know that the LDS church leaders’ positions on women and the priesthood is not merely their own opinions instead of God’s opinion?

    SilverRain, thanks for elaborating on my questions. But in parts of your answers, it appears that you are allowing for there to be a possibility that the LDS church are wrong on some issues, while in other parts you treat the LDS leaders’ words as unquestionable revealed truth. Also, if leaders of the OW movement are having revelation, what is the nature of this revelation? Is there any possibility that they are right that women should have the priesthood?

    Finally, some more food for thought. Spencer W. Kimball claims that in 1978 he received a revelation that all worthy men of age were to be considered eligible to receive the priesthood. However, the 1978 revelation said nothing of interracial marriage. Curiously, however, the LDS church leaders, who once regarded interracial marriage to be against LDS church doctrine and the revealed truths of God no longer try to bar interracial couples from marriage. How are we to explain and justify interracial marriage in the LDS church and in the temple if there has never been any official revelation reversing the LDS church’s former doctrine-based policy against interracial marriage? Doesn’t this contradict the position stated by President George Albert Smith in a letter to Lowry Nelson in which he wrote: “We are not unmindful of the fact that there is a growing tendency…toward the breaking down of race barriers in the matter of intermarriage between whites and blacks, but it does not have the sanction of the Church and is contrary to Church doctrine.” In further correspondence with Lowry Nelson, George Albert Smith suggested that the ban on interracial marriage was the revealed word of God: “You have too much of a potentiality for doing good and we therefore prayerfully hope that you can reorient your thinking and bring it in line with the revealed word of God.” http://mormonstories.org/other/Lowry_Nelson_1st_Presidency_Exchange.pdf

  24. Steve, I’m not ignoring the rest of your comment, but let me focus on the first part for now. All hangs on you accepting that perspective which is outside of your own before you can understand the rest of where people like me are coming from.

    I never said the leaders speak “unquestionable revealed truth.” That is an assumption on your part. What I said was that it doesn’t matter whether or not they are speaking perfect truth.

    Let me try an analogy. I am a graphic designer and marketer by profession. I have been hired by you to design the brochures, website, and manage the branding for your company. You have colors and styles you personally like, but a totally different brand appeals to your customers and sells your product more effectively.

    As the marketer, I try to steer you towards the branding that is more effective. Now, would you refuse to rebrand because you don’t like the new look, even though it’s more effective? Would you refuse to rebrand because it may not be as effective as some other, higher profile branding? (It’s not a “perfect” brand?) Or do you trust my expertise as you have hired me, assuming I’m the best person available and affordable to you?

    It is similar with the prophet, except in this case we are all the Lord’s employees. He has chosen specific employees from the pool to head His company. They may not be the most perfectly in tune with the Spirit, they may not be the wisest. They may have serious blind spots to how the Savior eventuality wants the church to be. Yet, far better than any mortal employer, He knows His people. He knows our capacities, our weaknesses, and He knows perfectly what will prepare the Church at this moment for His vision in the way most effective to His purposes.

    So it doesn’t matter to me if OW is more accurately communicating God’s will. As long as I believe this Church is true, truly and ultimately led by Him, I am content to defer to those He has chosen and called to their specific callings. Even if they ARE less intelligent, less in tune, or less wise than I am.

    I know my Lord. I trust Him and His power to change things when they are meant to be changed. I am willing to endure whatever pain, discomfort, or heartache He sees fit. And if I believed He was no longer in charge, I would be gone, whatever the social, emotional, or familial cost.

    So the question is entirely moot. Hence the vile reaction by some of the unwise who support the leadership. They see their Savior, and their beloved though imperfect servant-leaders being attacked. They see OW trying to destroy and undermine the very foundations of their testimony and love for the Church. To them, it has very little to do with the result (ordination of women) and everything to do with the process.

    Very few of them are self-aware enough to see and understand the hand of the Lord over the people of OW as well. Very few understand that the Lord does not need defenders who act out of anything but love. They are no more perfect than OW. They merely sin differently, and cannot understand OW’s brand of sin.

    I, having plumbed many of the depths of my personal sin and failings, tend to comprehend both sides a little too well. I feel deeply for both. I only wish for the power to persuade both sides to take a step back and reach out to each other in love and caring across the ideological gap. Though I know that isn’t really my place, either, I can’t help but try.

  25. SilverRain, you seem to be saying one of two things: 1) the LDS church leaders are imperfect, fallible human beings, but they are better than the rest of us, so we should follow them. They are in essence marketing experts who probably have a better vision of what godly order is than the rest of us, and we would be acting most wisely to follow their counsel much as the hypothetical client would follow the advice of the marketer. 2) The LDS church leaders are just as fallible of prone to error as the rest of us. But God has chosen them to lead, so we should follow and obey them for the sake of maintaining order in God’s church, even if their words and actions is seemingly out of line with what God would want. This would be somewhat equivalent to subjects of a given empire or kingdom (with the key difference being that the LDS church is a private, voluntary organization) tolerating and complying with unjust policies of a ruler on the rationale that maintaining order in society is preferable to unpredictable disorder caused by voicing opposition. Most of your response seems to reflect the second position.

    The question of whether or not God’s will is reflected in OW’s push is very important. For shouldn’t following God’s will take precedence over following seemingly unjust counsels of other humans, even if you do accept that they have been chosen of God? At what point should one stop following, or at least question and challenge, the supposedly divinely chosen leader? What if Pres. Monson were to make it a requirement that members not drink soft drinks in order to be worthy of a temple recommend? What if Pres. Monson were to declare that the Word of Wisdom was no longer and celebrate by publicly drinking a glass of wine and smoking a cigar? What if Pres. Monson made it a requirement that members accept every last word in the Old Testament as literal history in order to be considered worthy for a temple recommend? Would you still follow and not openly question, even though you sensed this to be wrong? What if a member of the OW feels with such strong conviction that they are acting out of God’s will and that God has revealed to them that the LDS church leaders’ policy denying priesthood to worthy women is out of line with God’s will, but they won’t admit it because of selfish shortcomings? Should the OW member follow what they perceive to be God’s will, or should she just continue to tolerate the seemingly unjust policy?

  26. Not quite on either count. Your assumptions are coloring my words again. The LDS church leaders are imperfect, but it doesn’t matter. Not because they’re “better than the rest of us,” but because God has called them. And I believe God calls imperfect people to do His work for a reason: at least in part because imperfect people ARE His work.

    I follow them not “for the sake of maintaining order” but because I trust my God’s judgment.

    I can easily comprehend how the OW movement might reflect God’s will for individuals, but still not reflect His will for the Church. Whether by way of testing and trials, by way of individual growth, or any number of other reasons.

    One ought to question and challenge, or stop following, a divinely chosen leader when one can do so in the power of the Spirit, by way of revelation, in meekness, humility, and love.

    This is why I can’t answer every imaginary scenario. The answers are entirely based on my relationship with the Spirit. If an OW member feels with strong conviction that they are acting out of God’s will, they may be right. Maybe God wants them to do this for some reason. It may not be because the Church needs to change exactly the way and at exactly the time the OW member expects. They may be wrong. The Lord may be allowing them this error for their own growth, and the growth of the leadership. They may be in open rebellion, fooling themselves into believing their own will is the will of God. Whether or not she should follow her perception of God’s will or tolerate quietly is something I cannot possibly judge. Only she can.

    The answer to that doesn’t matter to me. That’s between them and the Savior. Just as my feelings, inspiration and revelation are between me and the Savior. Just as the feelings, inspiration and revelation of the Church leadership is between them and the Savior. They do not answer to me. They answer to Him. I only answer to those leaders with stewardship over me inasmuch as they are representing Him. They are a proxy.

    I do answer to God for my actions, feelings, inspiration and revelation. Including speaking up about my experiences, opinions, and perceptions to others when I’m so moved.

  27. I’m curious, why does it matter if OW had a revelation or not? Is there an argument that we should follow these women because they’ve received revelation?

  28. SilverRain, I hope I don’t come off as putting words in your mouth, I’m just trying to understand what you’re saying. But I can’t understand how it might be God’s will for a woman to stage a mild act of protest against those whom she deems to have stewardship over her and then for it to also be God’s will that she not question the authority of the steward on any given issue. It seems contradictory. It makes God’s will out to be this inscrutable force that no one can really know for sure.

    “One ought to question and challenge, or stop following, a divinely chosen leader when one can do so in the power of the Spirit, by way of revelation, in meekness, humility, and love.”

    OK, so you’re saying that there are times when questioning and challenging the LDS leaders would be justified.

  29. “why does it matter if OW had a revelation or not?”

    “Is there an argument that we should follow these women because they’ve received revelation?”
    Again, no. However, opponents of OW commonly argue that OW is in the wrong because they are going against revelation. This raises the questions of what exactly is a revelation, how do you know when a church leader is speaking God’s truth (which I think would be considered a revelation) or their own opinion, and if the LDS doctrine is that individuals who aren’t leaders can receive revelation, how do know that OW members haven’t received revelation?

  30. or reworded: is it possible they could be prompted by the Spirit to do what they are doing? Regardless if female ordination is the end result? Yes it is possible. We can’t judge their hearts or their personal inspiration/revelation/promptings . . . we don’t have stewardship to do so. It is not our place.

    This is part of the question – because it’s possible God wants Ordain Women to exist for a number of reasons; it is possible that we can all pray about the same issue and get a different answer from God; His ways are mysterious and maybe this is how He wanted the conversation started.

  31. #29 LDS individuals can only receive revelation for that which they have stewardship. This would include their personal lives and their specific responsibilities in the church. OW folks cannot receive revelation for the entire church because they have not received those keys. Nevertheless, I am not aware of any OW claims that their campaign is motivated by direct revelation or that God Himself is at the head of their cause.

  32. Sorry, I responded but it said I had an “invalid security token” and I don’t have time to write it again right now….

    TLDR is that it is not contradictory when you look at scope. What is right for HER may not be right for the Church. Something that is wrong can be nevertheless turned to God’s purposes. That is the Atonement.

  33. #30 Why would The Spirit prompt OW followers but NOT provide a similar prompting to the Prophet and Apostles who were called through The Spirit to lead the Church? While much of God’s way’s are mysterious I believe that his ways are also logical and consistent. You would have to agree that it would be illogical and inconsistent for God to call men to lead his Church and then withhold inspiration from them.

  34. SR’s comments remind me of the defendant who tried to get their client off with an appeal to determinism: since all of a persons actions are fully determined, then they never had a real choice in the matter. The judge responding with a guilty verdict, claiming that since his actions were all determined, he too never had any real choice in the sentencing.

    The same thing applies to revelation: even if OW is inspired in their actions, this does not preclude the church’s response being equally inspired. The difference between the two is that one group is uniquely authorized by god to act on this inspiration when it comes to church policy and the other is not.

  35. The same thing applies to revelation: even if OW is inspired in their actions, this does not preclude the church’s response being equally inspired.

    Then it seem likely this is the dialog God intends.

  36. #31, true, I don’t think the OW claims to have received revelation. But how do you know that the LDS church’s policy of a male-only priesthood is based on revelation, God’s will, and not just humans’ personal opinions? And hypothetically, if an OW member claimed to have received a revelation from God about receiving the priesthood, how would you know whether or not this was true?

  37. Steve Smith, that is a testimony. Ground-level Moroni 10:3-5. Which is why people argue that OW must not have one. I don’t agree, because I see more nuance than that, but there it is.

  38. Smith,

    Its not illogical or inconsistent to employ a feint or initiate a conflict?

    What if God knows that having internal opposition at this point may be better than having it later.

    You know, like war games.

  39. #35

    Whether OW have received a revelation is totally irrelevant. Whether LDS leadership has received received revelation on that matter is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the LDS leadership is uniquely authorized to make a decision on the matter and OW is not. We aren’t authorized to pass judgment on it either, for that matter.

  40. Despite some interesting and worthwhile comments, this thread has gotten entirely derailed. I know it was almost destined to, since OW’s actions this Saturday were one of the catalysts for writing the post. However, I’m more interested in the question of the post (see the title, the final question, and everything in between). So in addition to arguments about the possible revelation received by OW and/or its relevance – or anything else with regard to OW – I welcome comments on the topic of the post.

  41. I guess I just don’t understand why talking to your local leader is so readily dismissed as an inadequate option. I don’t mean to single out this particular post, since I see so many people in the ‘nacle doing the exact same thing. Such people seem to be saying, “C’mon, that’s not a real option.” But they never go into too much detail for why such an option is not good enough.

    I would certainly agree that going to our local leadership is not adequate communication with the church leadership by the standards of our 21st century, post-Enlightenment Democracies…. but why would we ever think that these are the proper standards against which to measure out communication with priesthood leaders?

    In other words, the door on which we should knock is that of our Bishop’s office. To be sure, one person asking the Bishop questions such as these will likely not accomplish much…. nor should it. Why should one person with their question be allowed to have such unauthorized influence in the church? If, however, enough people do press hard enough by way of private and discreet conversations with a given bishop, then such communications most definitely will go up the chain of command. (This process strikes me as being very analogous to neurons firing within the brain or some other kind of decentralized market mechanism.)

  42. I admire the zeal of all who have commented above. Sometimes I have a wee bit of trouble with apathy, and it’s a bit refreshing to see some zealously advocacy for various viewpoints.

    What about Paul as a model of an internal agitator who shaped early Christianity without being what we Mormons would consider an orthodox channel of “revelation”? How did Paul have the influence that he did? Am I completely off on this one?

  43. Jeff G, an example that comes to mind is the account given by Stephens and Meldrum in writing their Evolution and Mormonism: A Quest for Understanding. They passed a request for clarification on the “official” LDS position on evolution up the chain (bishop to SP to senior leaders) and received a reply back down the chain, which they then included in their book. That is the only instance of a successful up-and-down-the-chain communication that I am aware of.

    Obviously, the organizational culture of the particular organization determines whether such communication actually gets to the guys at the top, whether they give it any serious consideration, and whether they reply. My sense is that within the LDS organization local leaders have an incentive to not pass along bad news (and any complaint or even inquiry is, to most local leaders, bad news).

    Something as simple as a suggestion box in the lobby of the COB or a feedback button at LDS.org (“let your leaders know what you think is great and what you think needs improvement in the Church!”) would at least give the impression that feedback is desired. The lack of any such mechanism suggests no feedback is desired.

  44. In some sense, you might be right. Most priesthood leaders that I have interacted with have made it perfectly clear that any concern that I had could be brought to them. At that level between the average member and their immediate priesthood leader, I think feedback is very much welcomed. As for the levels which exist between these local leaders and the priesthood leaders above them, I simply cannot say whether you are right or not. My suspicion is that the only disincentive for feedback which exists at that level is simply the filtering process in which only those issues which are most urgent are brought up. Thus, if a bishop doesn’t see OW as being urgent enough to pass up the chain, this is probably because it simply is not that urgent of an issue within his congregation.

  45. Don’t know about you guys, but I actually send emails to my local Church leaders all the time. And generally receive timely answers. I think perhaps this problem is rather contrived.

    Of course, I understand why some people would be reluctant to approach their own leaders. Maybe they’re socially backward or shy, or feel intimidated or uncomfortable, or have something they are embarrassed to ask about. But that’s not the same as trying to imply that Church leaders are unapproachable or that Church members are somehow cut off from communicating through official Church channels.

    Maybe what people are seeking is a way to make comments but remain anonymous. If that is what concerns you, let me assure you that there is no such thing as anonymity.

  46. Jeff G, you’re right that OW has no power to decide policy for the LDS church (the question of authorization from God is just as subjective of a matter as revelation, no one can prove what revelation or divine authority actually are or whether or not these rather abstract concepts actually exist). But what is wrong with one female requesting a ticket to attend the priesthood session or showing up at the conference center with the hope of getting in? What is wrong with several women doing that as a group? What is wrong if other people show up and want to write about the experiences of these women? Indeed, the LDS leaders encourage members to go through the so-called ‘proper’ channels of authority. But do they punish anyone for trying to contact the high-ranking leaders directly? As far as I can tell, OW is making all the right moves. They are not doing anything that would warrant formal church discipline. They are gaining plenty of attention by church members, church leaders, and others. If the church leadership tried to discipline OW participants, it could easily backfire, perhaps even triggering more support for OW. Lots of people may not like OW, but there is little that they can do about it.

  47. Haven’t you ever heard the phrase: “It’s rude to ask” meaning that asking somebody to do something rather than waiting to be invited puts that person in a position that is at the very least uncomfortable. Forcing the church’s hand is simply not a form of loyalty that I’ve ever heard of.

  48. Bringing up Paul as an example is not going to help the argument for bringing the public to bear pressure on Church leadership.

    He had influence because he submitted to divine authority. He is a very flips example of the type of questioning that is appropriate

    The thing that people ignore with baffling finality is that women attended Priesthood session ALL THE TIME before Ordain Women decided to try to turn it into Bunker Hill. They weren’t a significant number of attendees, but they were there. It’s like the pants thing. Pure posturing. Attending isn’t the issue here, or it wouldn’t be broadcast, and OW would be satisfied merely going to their stake centers, at best. Sorry to be so blunt, but anyone who falls for that veneer is not really worth engaging in discussion with. That point was made thoroughly upthread.

    There is a point at which it is clear that I’m better off spinning my wheels elsewhere. No point trying to explain a different perspective to those who take it as a given that there is only merit in their own.

    I’m not nearly so patient as I wish I were.

  49. Jeff G, where in LDS church doctrine is asking for something wrong? Sure, it is the nature of authority to not like it when people ask things of them and to dig in their heels against demands for change. If changes are made, they don’t like to be seen as the being pushed into change by external forces or forces from below them; instead, they like to appear as the initiators of change. But how is necessary change effectuated if people don’t ask things of leaders? It cannot be denied that the change of policy on interracial marriage (and bear in mind that there was no official revelation about interracial marriage, which the First Presidency in the 1940s clearly believed ran counter to church doctrine and was against the revelations of God) was largely the result from pressure from the pews which eventually penetrated the leadership. Loyalty at all costs is nothing but blind faith, is it not? It is better to be loyal to principles than to the weak arm of flesh.

    SilverRain, if women used to attend Priesthood meeting “all the time,” why can they not attend priesthood meeting now?

  50. SR: “is that women attended Priesthood session ALL THE TIME”
    You’ve made this assertion before, and I asked then for specifics which you failed to provide, and at the same time I pointed to the examples given by those in OW and others which indicated that women had in fact been specifically excluded before the advent of OW. So, I’m sorry, but I do not buy this assertion.

  51. All I know is that when the subject of OW came up, my friend who is an usher mentioned how ridiculous it is for that reason, and I believe her. It was a surprise to me then, too.

    What kind of specifics do you want? I know so-and-so and she went? How is that any better than I know so-and-so who ushered Conference sessions, and she saw women attend?

    Your expressions of disbelief do nothing to show that they are barred from attending in their stakes. My assertion that it really isn’t about attendance does not hang on solid proof that a woman has crossed the doors of Priesthood meeting before. It is more illogical to assume that one hasn’t.

    As far as then/now, let me put it this way. Women attended Priesthood regularly. Now a group uses Priesthood attendance to make a political point, and women are actively turned away. You tell me why that might have changed.

  52. Also, please stop pretending that what OW is doing is “merely asking.” You aren’t convincing anyone with half a thought in their head.

    You’re wasting your time arguing against an assertion that thoughtful opponents of OW aren’t even making.

  53. Steve,

    Your comment said a lot of things that have the appearance of being based in scripture, but really aren’t.

    The scriptures which tell us to ask tell us to weary The Lord in prayer, not weary our leaders in public.

    Your account of “necessary changes” being forced on church leaders sounds a lot like Martin Harris-like ark steadying.

    Your appeal to relying on the arm of flesh radically inverts that passages intended meaning where we are told not to rely on our own understanding of things and to trust in The Lord and His anointed.

    Finally, I see nothing but the shallowest of reasons to compare these issues to the Priesthood ban. Our church was never structured around racism in anything but the most shallow sense. To overthrow patriarchy within the church, on the other hand, would require massive changes in terms of structure, doctrine, practice and values within the church.

  54. SR: “Also, please stop pretending that what OW is doing is “merely asking.” You aren’t convincing anyone with half a thought in their head.”

    If this is directed at me I’m baffled. A single post almost 6 months ago, and our exchange then, which even in the beginning did not resemble your “I only wish for the power to persuade both sides to take a step back and reach out to each other in love and caring across the ideological gap.” (your #24) – precious little love and caring in your initial comment then – anyway a single post and exchange 6 months ago hardly constitutes a continuous ‘pretence’ you are asking I stop. Pretty much any comment I have made on OW since that time has been limited to explaining why I don’t have a profile. Are you confusing me with someone else? Beyond that I am baffled as to why the obvious animosity.

    On the usher question, well I would like to know who these women are who get into the conference centre. Because female ushers have commented that they have to leave before the start, they don’t get to stay inside. Are they wives of speakers, leaders? And I really don’t think you can assert ‘always’.
    Additionally, judging from comments made around the blogs, the OW action does not appear to have disadvantaged those who have attended the broadcast in their local buildings.

  55. Hedgehog, it wasn’t. It was in response to Steve Smith’s comment. I was responding to both, and wasn’t clear on which part was directed to which. I get lazy when I’m swyping on a mobile phone. So I’m going to not worry about your second paragraph except to say that I have no idea what you’re talking about “precious little love and caring.” Whatever it is, I’m the first to admit that I often fail to live up to what I wish for myself. I get increasingly impatient with online discussions over the last few months.

    I have pretty much lost all my tolerance for people who put words into my mouth, continually and deliberately misunderstand me because they’re so convinced they know everything including my real intentions and thoughts, those who continually bathe in red herrings despite repeated and practically irrefutable debunking, and those of any ideological stamp who insist that “the other side” is full of angry hate-filled idiots. (I’m not saying you have done that, just that when I start getting hints of the above I lose my civility pretty quickly. That is not intentional, it’s something I wrestle with frequently, which is why I often permanently or semi-permanently drop off of engaging on certain blogs or even from time to time off the Bloggernacle altogether.)

    I’m guessing they were mostly “wives and leaders” though I don’t know. I wasn’t there myself.

    I don’t recall ever saying “always.” I said “regularly,” which is not the same thing.

    The point is that women can attend, if that is what they want. The fact that they are not simply doing so, and are trying to do so with the maximum possible theatrics, proves to me that they have another agenda altogether. That’s even before Kate Kelly flat out said they have another agenda altogether. Really, is it so much of a leap to take her at her word?

  56. SR, ok. Not to worry then.
    I would personally still doubt that any woman who asked would have been allowed to attend, though wives of speakers would be a happy improvement on Frances Monson’s experience, of course the conference centre is much larger than the tabernacle.

  57. That may be most of the problem, outside of the confrontational nature of everything. A meeting geared to men gives men preferential seating. At first, in the Conference Center, there was plenty of room (which was when my friend ushered.) Now, maybe not so much.

  58. I don’t understand why OW has to be portrayed as a force that is trying to undermine the LDS church. I think that it could be well argued that OW is a force that is trying to help strengthen the LDS church. They are in essence trying to break the constraints of a rigid church culture that functions to bind leaders to tradition. Think about it. If the LDS church leaders could simply snap their fingers and make it so women had the priesthood and could serve in local leadership positions without worrying about any sort of outcry and backlash from the rank and file members and with a guarantee that members would be immediately welcoming of and compliant with the policy change, the church could double the number of potential available leaders overnight. In theory, the LDS church would only gain from allowing women to be ordained to the priesthood. But leaders fear that they might undermine their own authority and legitimacy if they do not constantly project an image of continuity and maintain tradition, no matter how illogical the traditions seem. LDS church leaders were loath to ordain blacks to the priesthood for that very reason. They feared the reaction of the racists from among their rank and file.

  59. Steve Smith. I think that OW very much sees themselves as a force trying to strengthen the Church. Just as Uzzah did with the ark. But the point is that it’s better to let the Lord decide what is actually going to strengthen it.

    Most of us who believe the Lord is running the Church REALLY don’t want a mere mortal, or even groups of mortals, trying their hand at it.

    And that’s the problem. It is a totally different paradigm than the one shared by minority groups such as OW. That doesn’t make their concerns meaningless, but it ought to give them a dose of humility in how they go about asking their questions.

  60. I also think you’re pretty optimistic to think that you know exactly why things happened the way they did with the priesthood ban. Unless you’re claiming some kind of special revelation.

  61. “Most of us who believe the Lord is running the Church REALLY don’t want a mere mortal, or even groups of mortals, trying their hand at it.”

    Zoinks! We’ve set the bar a bit high me thinks.

    Just as a thought experiment, What percentage of the decisions in the church must be guided by God for the “Lord to run the Church”?

  62. Steve Smith #23,
    The CoC has a different pattern of decision making than the LDS. We have a First Presidency and 12 Apostles that receive the revelation, and then ask for a sustaining vote of the members. The CoC has a conclave (annual meeting), where they politick over what should be their doctrine, and then determine that the will of the people is the will of the Lord. For example, they determined that the scriptures do not explicitly deny giving women the priesthood, and so they voted to give priesthood to their women.
    How do I know that the prophets of the LDS church receive revelation? I have received personal revelation that they are prophets, and have chosen to sustain them as such. They are not perfect. Yet, they are very sincere in wanting to do solely the Lord’s will. They are very cautious in their decision making, based on prayer and answers given by the Spirit.
    We sustain them as the only ones able to receive revelation for the whole Church. OW is not sustained by the membership to receive such revelations for them.

  63. SilverRain, I’m confused as to why you mention the story of Uzzah steadying the ark as if we’re supposed to derive some sort of moral lesson from it which is that we should never question authority, even when the authorities seem to be going off course. The message I derive from the story of Uzzah is that ancient Hebrews were a largely superstitious people who thought that reaching into some holy box was an affront to God and warranted death and that they wrongfully valued some obscure inscrutable standard of sanctity over actual human life in many cases. It is a meaningless story, and whatever meanings are derived from it are often immoral. I don’t hear anyone going around citing Numbers 15:32-36, in which God supposedly tells Moses to kill someone for picking up sticks on the Sabbath, as a justification for ratcheting up the penalty for breaking the Sabbath.

    rameumptom (and this goes for SilverRain as well), you seem to be grasping to try to find a justification for denouncing OW. The problem is that there is none. They’ve done nothing that would warrant any sort of church discipline.

  64. you seem to be grasping to try to find a justification for denouncing OW. The problem is that there is none. They’ve done nothing that would warrant any sort of church discipline.

    Did I miss the part where someone was denouncing OW or suggesting they should be disciplined by the church?

  65. Steve Smith:

    “But leaders fear that they might undermine their own authority and legitimacy if they do not constantly project an image of continuity and maintain tradition, no matter how illogical the traditions seem.”

    Steve, can you please present an argument without essentially accusing church members and leaders of cowardice, idiocy or practicing priestcraft?

    Josh Smith:

    Is the Church led by revelation? If so, is it only stumbled upon only every generation or so, as ideas and institutions evolve? Are prayers answered or revelations obtained when we demand them, or must we often quietly wait on the Lord?

  66. “Just as a thought experiment, What percentage of the decisions in the church must be guided by God for the “Lord to run the Church”?”

    In my experience, God is the quintessential opposite of a micromanager. Ideally, He develops us to the point where He can be pretty hands-off. Our will is His will and all that. Sorry, but a question of asking what percentage of God’s direct influence is necessary to accomplish His will is like asking how much lipstick you need to raise a pig, to my mind.

    Steve Smith. Once again, I feel like you’re having a conversation that I’m not having. Frankly, I’m getting kind of weary of it. Not offended, just exhausted. I used Uzzah as a shorthand parable to communicate my meaning, not as a proof of its value.

    And stilesbn is right. I completely missed the part where I “denounc[ed] OW.” Again, a conversation you’re having (maybe in your head?) with someone else….At any rate, I think this is the point at which I’ve said whatever useful things I’m going to say, and I’m off to spin my wheels in some other sandbox….

  67. SR (#66): You’re right. Asking about percentage of decisions are achieved via “revelation” is a silly question. Who knows, right? Have a great day SR.

    Old Man (#65):

    I’m only going to take a stab at your first question. :-)

    Is the Church led by revelation?

    I’m going to edit your question a bit.

    Is the Church [only] led by revelation?

    No. The Church is not only led by revelation. The Church is led by many things besides revelation.

  68. Jeff G. You win Times and Seasons today.

    Without a doubt, the church is *only* led by uniquely authorized priesthood leaders. :-)

  69. Josh,

    If you edit my question, does that mean I get to edit your answers? ;-)

    So other than revelation, what “things” is the Church led by?

  70. Old Man,

    This is a fun conversation. I’m really enjoying this back-and-forth.

    I really do genuinely believe in revelation. I believe in God and that sometimes we are blessed with better answers to life’s problems than we could come up with on our own.

    That being said …

    I think the Church is guided primarily by structure. The decision-making process of councils and unanimity places constraints on the decisions that can ultimately be reached.

    Other influencers of Church leadership include …

    Political expediency (especially in Church dealings in foreign countries and 19th century America)

    Inertia (who we were as a Church yesterday leads us by the nose; maybe that’s a good thing in many ways)

    Traditions and culture (I’ve lived in foreign countries and I’ve experienced first hand that so much of the Mormon experience is a matter of custom)

    Charity (much of what we do as a Church is out of a genuine love of our fellow men inspired by God, but probably not directed or mandated by God)

    What do you think Old Man? When God is silent, what guides the Church?

  71. “Did I miss the part where someone was denouncing OW or suggesting they should be disciplined by the church?”

    Well, I said grasping at a justification to denounce OW, which is a little different than saying that people have directly denounced them. But let’s not pretend that several commenters haven’t been quite dismissive of OW and haven’t tried to paint them in a negative light.

    But the question asked in the OP is very relevant, especially given the comment section that followed it. Where is the door and how do we knock? For one, the door has been made difficult to find. And the “it’s rude to ask” mentality, which Jeff G seems to be quite fond of, seems to be the prevailing attitude among the leadership and the rank and file, and this intimidates people. I just can’t understand why it is rude to ask. Why must people invoke the whole “don’t steady the ark” mentality? And on that note, what exactly did Uzzah do wrong? It is as if people are scorned just for asking a simple question to which they want a satisfactory answer; meaning, something beyond “God said so.” Shouldn’t we be holding authority accountable and asking for satisfactory explanations to the policies and doctrine that they enforce, which affect so many people’s lives. People pay a lot of money and devote a lot of time to helping support the LDS church. Some good answers to tough, but basic questions would be nice.

    Lastly, I can’t understand why people must deny the obvious about policy change in the LDS church throughout its history. What has constituted policy and doctrine has undoubtedly changed over time largely due to a number of external and internal pressures. It is not like the church leaders are automatons who just carry out God’s orders much like a soldier would carry out the orders of his superior officer. They critically think through the best course of action to take in the face of challenges and hedge their bets about whether it’s better to institute some changes or remain on the same course. Over time LDS leaders have continually made changes in policy and doctrine. There is no reason to believe that the LDS leaders can’t and won’t change policy on women holding the priesthood in the future. This is true especially given the fact that LDS women are more educated than they have ever been and hold leadership positions in their careers. It only makes sense that they desire leadership roles in the LDS church and to break the traditional patriarchal mold that has dominated LDS society. What OW is doing is a harbinger of future transformation of policy related to LDS women. Those who dismiss OW are on the wrong side of history.

  72. “LDS women are more educated than they have ever been and hold leadership positions in their careers. It only makes sense that they desire leadership roles in the LDS church”

    And who are we to resist such attempts to model the church after the world?

  73. Josh,
    The structure has largely been determined by revelation. And which of the others, without revelation, will lead to the ordination of women? Political expediency? We would be seriously underestimating the mettle of church leaders. Major decisions and restructuring would not be made without direct revelation. The ordination of blacks was minor compared to this proposed change, and protests did not pave the way to that revelation.

  74. “What would lead to the ordination of women?”

    I don’t pretend to know. To my view there are a lot of factors that could affect that decision.

    What about this Old Man? Given that there are many, many influences on the direction of the Church, why not give our fellow saints a bit of wiggle room to exercise their consciences as they see fit?

    That is, maybe the degree of orthodoxy demanded by some members is inconsistent with the Church’s real structure–a Church structure where decision making seems to have many influences.

    For example, a small band of ladies in their Sunday best seek entrance into Priesthood Session. Why not give them the benefit of the doubt? Certainly what they are doing is courageous; they’re sincere; they have zeal; they say they are faithful Mormons; they’re definitely part of the flock (these aren’t outside agitators); there is a precedent for what they are asking for; they’re not breaking the law, and they respect the Church’s private property; and they smell much better than a lot of the rabble that gets let in to Priesthood Session. :-)

    Seriously though, I think there’s plenty of room in our faith for you to disagree with OW’s cause, yet still agree that OW is morally justified in its efforts.

  75. Josh,

    What difference do you see between The tactics employed by OW and those employed by Laman and Lemuel? After all, all these same benefits of the doubt could equally have been given to them.

  76. Jeff G,

    I am interested in your model of leadership. Let’s take patriarchy and authority for granted. How do you assess who is a good leader and who is a great leader. To me the main thing that matters is what young women believe.

    One could say that leaders say what God tells them and then its on the individuals as to whether they follow or not. But we also have a tradition that successful leaders have enormous influence on who they lead.

    Is there no way within your authority-centric understanding of the church to assess effectiveness in guiding the church.

  77. Jeff G. (#76): You may have to make a stronger argument for your analogy of Laman&Lemuel=OW. Just off the top of my head, Laman&Lemuel were types of Cain and Joseph’s brothers, no?

    Importantly, OW is much easier on the eyes than any depiction of Neanderthal Laman and Lemuel. :-)

    You tell me Jeff G. Why do you want to see Laman and Lemuel in the nice ladies asking for seats at Priesthood Session?

  78. “For example, a small band of ladies in their Sunday best seek entrance into Priesthood Session. ”

    Josh, does it effect your perception of this at all now that they believe their numbers to be 500, and will now have a police escort onto temple square?

    And somehow, it’s still not a protest.

  79. Good point Frank. If they really have 500 and a police escort, its not a protest, its a movement.

  80. Frank (#79): The “protest/no protest” rhetoric does nothing for me. I’m completely uninterested in labeling OW’s actions as protests or not. I’m much more interested in whether average LDS members can appreciate that other members can be equally devote (maybe moreso) and hold differing views on some topics.

    I’m interested in big-tent Mormonism. I think if we really consider how the Church is led, we’d be much less concerned with strict orthodoxy.

    Here’s what I said above about how I believe the Church is led:

    I really do genuinely believe in revelation. I believe in God and that sometimes we are blessed with better answers to life’s problems than we could come up with on our own.

    That being said …

    I think the Church is guided primarily by structure. The decision-making process of councils and unanimity places constraints on the decisions that can ultimately be reached.

    Other influencers of Church leadership include …

    Political expediency (especially in Church dealings in foreign countries and 19th century America)

    Inertia (who we were as a Church yesterday leads us by the nose; maybe that’s a good thing in many ways)

    Traditions and culture (I’ve lived in foreign countries and I’ve experienced first hand that so much of the Mormon experience is a matter of custom)

    Charity (much of what we do as a Church is out of a genuine love of our fellow men inspired by God, but probably not directed or mandated by God)

  81. Josh,

    You mean those two nice young men who were simply asking their father to not lead them and their families into a dangerous wilderness and when their father wouldn’t change his mind they vocally tried to recruit support from those around them in order to pressure him to to do as they wanted? That doesn’t sound familiar?

  82. Martin,

    Of course there are ways of evaluating leadership. Why would you ever think otherwise?

    What is not allowed, however, is the public and democratic evaluation of our leaders. This just is murmuring. We are allowed to pray. We are allowed to discretely take our grievances up the chain of command. We are allowed to believe and want whatever we want. We are not, however, allowed to publicly voice our complaints and criticisms about our leaders and still pretend to be sustaining those same leaders.

  83. “We are allowed to discretely take our grievances up the chain of command.”

    Jeff, I know we’ve argued this before, but the Church is designed explicitly to prevent this from happening.

  84. In our culture we are brought up to believe that peer review, leaders being accountable to the people, having a voice with regards to policy and other such democratic values are just that – values. But these things are never described as such in the scriptures, but are instead labeled murmuring, contention, disputes, etc. Our modern democratic heritage has simply taught us to te describe these behaviors in a way that makes them appear righteous. Look at Josh’s comments and consider the genealogy behind that terms, phrases and values he defends. They simply do not come from our Mormon heritage.

  85. One last comment for me. I’ll continue to read posts in my email, but I better get some work done.

    Jeff G. (and others),

    It looks like this is your tipping point:

    We are not, however, allowed to publicly voice our complaints and criticisms about our leaders and still pretend to be sustaining those same leaders.

    Why? I consider myself open minded. I can be persuaded on this point. Why do you draw the line at public actions that voice disagreement with a current practice?

    Keep in mind, in this case:

    There are no laws broken;
    There are no threats of laws being broken;
    There are no private property interests being violated;
    There is no threatened schism;
    The agitators are internal;
    The Church has not denounced the internal agitators.

    Why is it that a public statement is such a threat to your perception of orthodoxy?

    Again, that question is not to just Jeff, though I am interested in Jeff’s response. You get the last word Jeff. I’ll read your comments, but I’m bowing out of the discussion.

  86. Ziff,

    You are right to a certain, rather limited extent. If your bishop is doing something totally inappropriate you most certainly can go to the stake president. Ultimately, however, it is up the that stake president and other priesthood leaders above that bishop who decide what is and is not right. The priesthood is top-down authority which can never be compatible with the values of a bottom-up authority like democracy.

  87. Josh,

    It may not be an institutional schism but it does seem to be a schism on several levels.

    It is an attendance schism. It is a public relations schism. It is a gender role schism. it is an organizational schism in that the leadership is not based on the stake, ward structure.

    The letter to the 4 women certainly could be read as a denouncement. “Not helpful” and “please reconsider” from the LDS church seem like rebukes and denouncements to me.

  88. I’m using the word “schism” as in meaning a break off from a group. There is no threatened rift, as far as I know.

    And who signed the letter? Who was it from? I’d be interested in the letterhead too.

  89. “What difference do you see between The tactics employed by OW and those employed by Laman and Lemuel?”

    Ooh, good point. I mean Laman and Lemuel tried to force Nephi to accept their authority by threatening to kill him on a couple of occasions and tying him to a post on a ship. I guess that is sort of reminiscent of the time that OW radicals barged into Thomas S. Monson’s office and tied him up and held him captive in the trunk of a car. Oh wait… that never happened, I guess I was misinformed.

  90. They also had different names!

    But that doesn’t say anything at all about the similarities between the two, does it?

  91. “We are not, however, allowed to publicly voice our complaints and criticisms about our leaders and still pretend to be sustaining those same leaders.”

    I agree that that would warrant formal discipline. But what evidence do you have that OW is publicly voicing criticism of LDS leaders? All they appear to be doing is showing up at Priesthood session and requesting tickets to enter. And this is protesting and demonstrating? Women can’t enter temple square during the priesthood session and ask for tickets?

  92. “Jeff G, I am interested in your model of leadership.”

    I can answer that one. His model of leadership is “pay, pray, obey.” It is to keep emphasizing the unfortunately timeless message of “when the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done.”

  93. Josh,

    Schism’s almost never start by breaking off as a group. They start as a conflict within a group and then lead to a separate group.

    Ordain Women is a group. They may not be a religious organization but they are an organization with a religious purpose. The historically minded may have many examples but I don’t know of many similar situations in the last 50 years where a group organizes to request a change in LDS church policy from within the church.

    The letter I’m referring to is the March 17th letter on LDS church Public Affairs letterhead with Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the “From” Spot. That seems pretty official to me.

  94. It was signed by “Jessica Moody,” presumably a woman. How much weight should we give a letter from a woman? That seems to be outside of the “authorized channels” so important to some on this list.

    Are Church “denouncements” exempt from official channels?

    For the record, I’m a pretty-much faithful LDS man who has a high tolerance for differing perspectives and public expression of those perspectives.

    Now I really must leave this very interesting conversation. :-)

  95. Unfortunately, the conversation here has focused very little on the content and questions of the post. On the one hand, I suppose there’s no denying that OW has captured all of our hearts, minds, and tongues, and my using them illustratively in the original post made discussing them a temptation far above that which respondents were able to bear. On the other hand, I think that the relative silence on these questions manifests how difficult a problem this really is. How do we set up functional and broad communication lines in the Church today – ones that don’t involve the inherent problems of passing concerns through multiple mouths and minds and biases before the petitioner’s plea reaches the petitioned (if it ever does – passing the plea is optional at every stage)? What ought the faithful to do when we have deep, reasonable, and broadly shared concerns? Our institution has never been static, and it’s certainly not static now. What we culturally feel comfortable doing or what actions we feel repelled by has and will continue to change. Pinning down exactly what sort of institution we have – which is the key to determining what is and is not appropriate beyond the dictates of cultural intuition – is incredibly difficult to do. The problem won’t go away, however, it will only grow as the size of the church and the number of steps between your bishop and your prophet grows. But more than a merely logistical question, this is also a theological one in a Church where an important role of prophets is to respond to the needs of the membership of the Church.

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