13 Comments

  1. Antony

    Just a quick point, the Lord’s Anointed is not only the Leadership of the Church. All who have been through the temple are anointed. The quotes you have from brother Brigham do not claim them to be revelation for the Church, rather they are how he personally felt about Joseph Smith.

    We have a responsibility to know for ourselves what is right and what is wrong (see for example the JST Mark 9:44).

    I also believe that Evil Speaking is more than being in disagreement with the leader. If leaders were truly infallible, or should be left to God to sort out as brother Brigham suggested, why do we have Doctrine and Covenants 107:82–84? Considering this, I would say that a humble follower of Christ would take up the disagreement with the leader and escalate it as necessary to the right councils. Evil Speaking, in my mind, is taking it to those who have nothing to do with the case and sowing discord and dissent within the Church.

    Thanks for all your work in keeping this site up and running. I truly enjoy reading the articles here.

  2. Just out of curiousity, how do you resolve the tensions in the quotes above between those that say that it is never appropriate to raise concerns about Church leaders (however broadly we may define that term) and Elder Oaks’ recommendations about certain conditions in which it is possible?

  3. Jordan

    I like your point that church leaders are accountable to God. Maybe there would be a few select instances where there would be some intermediate accountability to us (if they’re our home teachers?), but even then, ultimately it’s God that we will all have to report to. The Doctrine and Covenants truly is clear on this issue. It is not the will of the people that elects church leaders. We do not suffer them to be our leaders. God does.

    No, they’re not infallible. Yes, leaders we work with may need correction sometimes—which is hard to give. (Me, I just murmur. I’m wicked like that.)

    Reading the original email, I actually thought of the US government, and not just because s/he mentions the Constitution. Our civil leaders are elected, they do serve at our pleasure, and they are accountable to us (said document begins “WE THE PEOPLE” not “WE THE GOVERNMENT”). We seem to be forgetting that.

    Sovereignty—the ultimate authority—in our civil government lies with the people. In the church, it lies with God. I fear that the author of the email isn’t the only one who’s gotten these two confused.

  4. Antony, thanks for your comments. Elder Oaks talks about five things in his talk on “Criticism” that members can do that have differences with leaders of the Church. Taking it to the leader and escalating it to the appropriate councils are some of the things he recommends.

  5. TT, I don’t see where Elder Oaks ever says that criticism of Church leaders is possible. On the contrary, he says it “is always negative. Whether the criticism is true or not, as Elder George F. Richards explained, it tends to impair the leaders’ influence and usefulness, thus working against the Lord and his cause.”

    At the beginning of the talk he spoke very briefly about constructive criticism, directed towards issues and critical evaluation of products and services, is appropriate. But he did not apply that to Church leaders.

  6. Anna

    Good post. I see so much criticism towards our leaders on LDS forums and blogs – some of it quite negative and self-righteous.

  7. So, in your reading, even constructive criticism is verbotten? What do you make of the third and fourth recommendations for how to deal with differences which include having a private meeting or writing a letter? Further, options 1, 2, 3, and 5 all suggest that private criticism is possible, as long as one doesn’t talk about it.
    What distinction do you make, if any, between disagreement and criticism?

  8. Option 1 is to overlook the difference.
    Option 2 is to reserve judgment and postpone any action on the difference.
    Option 3 is to take up our differences privately with the leader involved.
    Option 4 is to communicate with the Church officer who has the power to correct or release the person thought to be in error or transgression.
    Option 5 is to pray for the resolution of the problem.

    Even constructive criticism is verbotten?” Yes, when it is openly directed at Church Authorities. Elder Oaks states that even true criticism is inappropriate.

    What do you make of the third and fourth recommendations for how to deal with differences which include having a private meeting or writing a letter?” That is not public, open, criticism. It deals with the issue where it lies, between the individual and the church leader.

    Further, options 1, 2, 3, and 5 all suggest that private criticism is possible, as long as one doesn’t talk about it.” I don’t know if any of these options consents to continue privately criticizing the Brethren. I believe that that will only continue to erode the faith of the member, and drive the Spirit away.

    What distinction do you make, if any, between disagreement and criticism?” We can disagree, privately, with Church Authorities (I wouldn’t recommend it, as Brigham Young rightly showed). It is when we tell others of our disagreements that it turns into criticism.

  9. Tyler

    Elder Ballard cautioned against believing that prophetic counsel is subject to personal interpretation and individual criticism.

    “There never has been a greater time than this to be living on the earth. But we also must never forget that Satan knows our Heavenly Father’s plan. He and his fallen followers are active and doing all they can to thwart God’s plan and destroy the faith of His children. I need to caution you about some important ways that Satan is carrying on his destructive crusade.

    “Please be very careful in your choice of entertainment….

    “Now, I’m aware there may be a few of you who think that you know better than the leaders of the Church about this subject. You may even argue that there is artistic merit or that ‘everyone is doing it.’ You may believe that you are not one of those people who will be influenced by on-screen sex or violence. To you I have only one question: are you going to follow the true and living prophets or not? It really isn’t any more complicated than that. The standard of the Church with regard to morality is clear. If you choose to read anything that contains material that is contrary to the moral standards of the Church, then you are placing yourself and your own wisdom above the counsel of God and His prophets—a course of action that would indeed be very unwise. As soon as you begin to think that you know better than the leaders of the Church, that our counsel doesn’t apply to you, you are stepping onto a slippery slope that has claimed far too many victims already. It takes real desire and unequivocal, unreserved faith to accept and to live prophetic counsel even when you may not completely understand it. Such sincere desire and simple faith has the power to guide you safely through every challenge you may face in your life.”

    M. Russell Ballard, “Are You Going to Follow the Prophets?,” Ensign, July 2001, 64

  10. Great post. Right on the money. When one is at odds with a church leader or frustrated with a general authority’s counsel, that is a clue that one needs to get back right with the Lord. Our relationship is with the Lord, and the Lord anoints whom he will to lead the church. We sustain them by our vote when they are called, but only the Lord has the “impeachment power.”

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