[Update/Disclaimer (8/1/08 8:10pm MDT): Because of the different use of the term “liberal” that President Lee uses in this talk, in contrast to the common modern political usage, care should be taken when reading it. President Lee’s use of “liberal” was strictly used in the sense of a standard of living the gospel, and is therefore applicable to all members regardless of political affiliations. I personally found much good counsel for myself in the prophet’s words.]
A couple days ago, Tim Malone from the excellent blog Latter-day Commentary pointed me in the direction of a talk in 1971 by President Harold B. Lee on the subject of religious liberalism. Last night, by random coincidence, as I made a passing remark to my father about some members in the Church who claim it improper to use the terms “the only true Church,” he immediately referred to a quote in the same talk. Something is telling me to pay close attention to the words of President Lee. My hope is that all the Saints would too. This man was a living prophet of the living God:
I sincerely pray for the spirit of this great conference during the few moments that I shall stand here.
Sometime ago there appeared in the Wall Street Journal a thought-provoking article, written by an eminent theologian at the Columbia University, under the subject heading “An Antidote for Aimlessness,” which you recognize as a condition that is prevalent in the world today. I quote from this article by Rabbi Arthur Herlzterg:
“What people come to religion for, is an ultimate metaphysical hunger, and when that hunger is not satisfied, religion declines … the moment that clerics become more worldly, the world goes to hades the faster.
“… Religion represents the accumulation of man’s insight over thousands of years into such questions as the nature of man, the meaning of life, the individual’s place in the universe. That is, precisely, the question at the root of man’s restlessness.
“Man seeks something to end his state of confusion and emptiness … in the latest parlance, an antidote for aimlessness. We do not know if the truths of religious tradition can be interpreted to satisfy this need, but we are sure that here, not in political activism, is religion’s path to relevance.”
As an answer to those who may be wandering aimlessly, searching for something to satisfy their need and to end their state of confusion and emptiness, I would like to introduce a few thoughts by relating a remarkable vision which came to an ancient prophet by the name of Lehi—600 years before Christ. To the faithful members of the Church this will be an oft-related incident recorded in the Book of Mormon. To those not of our faith this may, if they will ponder seriously, be very significant in the light of many trends in our modern society.
In this dream, or better called a vision, the prophet Lehi was led by a heavenly messenger through a dark and dreary waste to a tree laden with delicious fruit which proved to be very satisfying to his soul. He beheld a river of water nearby along which was a straight and narrow path leading to the tree laden with delicious fruit. Between the river bank and the path was a rod of iron, presumably to safeguard the travelers from falling off the narrow path into the river.
As he looked, he saw large groups of people crowding forward to gain access to the spacious field where the tree with fruit was located. As they pressed forward along the path, a great mist of darkness arose, so dense that many who started lost their way and wandered off and were drowned in the murky water or were lost from view as they wandered into strange paths. There were others, however, likewise in danger of being lost because of the blinding mist, who caught hold of the iron rod and, by so doing, held their course so that they too could partake of the delicacies which had beckoned them to come, despite the hazardous journey. Across, on the opposite side of the river, were multitudes of people pointing fingers of scorn at those who made the journey safely.
As with many other ancient prophets in biblical history, dreams or visions of this nature were effective means by which the Lord communicated with his people through prophet-leaders. Just so, this dream had great significance, as the Lord revealed to the prophet Lehi. The tree laden with fruit was a representation of the love of God which he sheds forth among all the children of men. The Master himself, later in his earthly ministry, explained to Nicodemus how that great love was manifested. Said he: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”; and then the Master added: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16–17.)
The rod of iron as seen in the vision interpreted was the word of God, or the gospel of Jesus Christ, which led to the tree of life that the Master explained to the woman at the well in Samaria was as “a well of [living] water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14.)
Those, as seen in the vision, who were across the river pointing fingers of scorn represented the multitudes of the earth which are gathered together to fight against the apostles of the Lamb of God. The scorners, so the Lord revealed, represented the so-called wisdom of the world, and the building itself in which they were gathered was the “pride of the world.” (See 1 Ne. 11–12.)
If there is any one thing most needed in this time of tumult and frustration, when men and women and youth and young adults are desperately seeking for answers to the problems which afflict mankind, it is an “iron rod” as a safe guide along the straight path on the way to eternal life, amidst the strange and devious roadways that would eventually lead to destruction and to the ruin of all that is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report.”
These conditions as they would be found in the earth when these scriptures, now called the Book of Mormon, were to be brought forth were foreseen by the prophets. As I read some of these predictions, I would have you think of conditions with which we are surrounded today:
“And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts; unto … envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities … because of the pride of your hearts.
“… behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.” (Morm. 8:36–37.)
The apostle Paul also spoke of a time of peril when “men [would] be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
“Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those things that are good,
“Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. …” (2 Tim. 3:2–5.)
There are many who profess to be religious and speak of themselves as Christians, and, according to one such, “as accepting the scriptures only as sources of inspiration and moral truth,” and then ask in their smugness: “Do the revelations of God give us a handrail to the kingdom of God, as the Lord’s messenger told Lehi, or merely a compass?”
Unfortunately, some are among us who claim to be Church members but are somewhat like the scoffers in Lehi’s vision—standing aloof and seemingly inclined to hold in derision the faithful who choose to accept Church authorities as God’s special witnesses of the gospel and his agents in directing the affairs of the Church.
There are those in the Church who speak of themselves as liberals who, as one of our former presidents has said, “read by the lamp of their own conceit.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine [Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 373.) One time I asked one of our Church educational leaders how he would define a liberal in the Church. He answered in one sentence: “A liberal in the Church is merely one who does not have a testimony.”
Dr. John A. Widtsoe, former member of the Quorum of the Twelve and an eminent educator, made a statement relative to this word liberal as it applied to those in the Church. This is what he said:
“The self-called liberal [in the Church] [Bryce: note this is the same as the latest self-proclaimed and reclassified “new order” Mormon] is usually one who has broken with the fundamental principles or guiding philosophy of the group to which he belongs. … He claims membership in an organization but does not believe in its basic concepts; and sets out to reform it by changing its foundations. …
“It is folly to speak of a liberal religion, if that religion claims that it rests upon unchanging truth.”
And then Dr. Widtsoe concludes his statement with this: “It is well to beware of people who go about proclaiming that they are or their churches are liberal. The probabilities are that the structure of their faith is built on sand and will not withstand the storms of truth.” (“Evidences and Reconciliations,” Improvement Era, vol. 44 , p. 609.)
Here again, to use the figure of speech in Lehi’s vision, they are those who are blinded by the mists of darkness and as yet have not a firm grasp on the “iron rod.”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, when there are questions which are unanswered because the Lord hasn’t seen fit to reveal the answers as yet, all such could say, as Abraham Lincoln is alleged to have said, “I accept all I read in the Bible that I can understand, and accept the rest on faith.”
How comforting it would be to those who are the restless in the intellectual world, when such questions arise as to how the earth was formed and how man came to be, if they could answer as did an eminent scientist and devoted Church member. A sister had asked: “Why didn’t the Lord tell us plainly about these things?” The scientist answered: “It is likely we would not understand if he did. It might be like trying to explain the theory of atomic energy to an eight-year-old child.”
Wouldn’t it be a great thing if all who are well schooled in secular learning could hold fast to the “iron rod,” or the word of God, which could lead them, through faith, to an understanding, rather than to have them stray away into strange paths of man-made theories and be plunged into the murky waters of disbelief and apostasy?
I heard one of our own eminent scientists say something to the effect that he believed more professors have taken themselves out of the Church by their trying to philosophize or intellectualize the fall of Adam and the subsequent atonement of the Savior. This was because they would rather accept the philosophies of men than what the Lord has revealed until they, and we, are able to understand the “mysteries of godliness” as explained to the prophets of the Lord and more fully revealed in sacred places.
There were evidently similar questions and controversies in the Master’s time. In one terse answer, he gave the essential ingredients to safety amidst the maze of uncertainty:
To settle an apparent controversy among his disciples as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom of God, he said: “… except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of [God].” (Matt. 18:3.)
To become converted, according to the scriptures, meant having a change of heart and the moral character of a person turned from the controlled power of sin into a righteous life. It meant to “wait patiently on the Lord” until one’s prayers can be answered and until his heart, as Cyprian, a defender of the faith in the Apostolic Period, testified, and I quote, “Into my heart, purified of all sin, there entered a light which came from on high, and then suddenly and in a marvelous manner, I saw certainty succeed doubt.”
Conversion must mean more than just being a “card carrying” member of the Church with a tithing receipt, a membership card, a temple recommend, etc. It means to overcome the tendencies to criticize and to strive continually to improve inward weaknesses and not merely the outward appearances.
The Lord issued a warning to those who would seek to destroy the faith of an individual or lead him away from the word of God or cause him to lose his grasp on the “iron rod,” wherein was safety by faith in a Divine Redeemer and his purposes concerning this earth and its peoples.
The Master warned: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better … that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6.)
The Master was impressing the fact that rather than ruin the soul of a true believer, it were better for a person to suffer an earthly death than to incur the penalty of jeopardizing his own eternal destiny.
The apostle Paul impressed also the danger of false teachings by bad example. Said he: “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. …
“And through thy knowledge shall the weak … perish, for whom Christ died?
“But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.” (1 Cor. 8:9, 11–12.)
Speaking to the learned and highly sophisticated generation in his time, the prophet Jacob said something which seems to be so often needed to be repeated today: “… When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. …
“But to be learned is good if they hearken to the counsels of God.” (2 Ne. 9:28–29.)
We fervently thank the Lord for the faithfulness and devotion of many in and out of the Church who are in high places in business, in governmental circles, in the legal profession, doctors, trained social workers, nurses, and those in the fields of the sciences and the arts. Particularly are we grateful for those who accept positions of leadership in the Church, who serve as home teachers or class leaders in the priesthood or in the auxiliaries, who make themselves available for volunteer service in helping to care for the unfortunate in all lands and among minorities within and without the Church, and in giving particular attention to the needs of the widows and the orphans.
I say to all such, as did Jesus to Zacchaeus: “This day is salvation come to [their] house.” (Luke 19:9.) These are they who are holding fast to the “iron rod” which can lead us all, in safety, to the tree of life.
I read recently from a column in the Washington Post, by George Moore, who styled himself as the “hermit of Mount Vernon.” (Mount Vernon, of course, was the ancestral home of George Washington.) In this article he said, “I have spent the last twenty years of my life at Mount Vernon reducing my ignorance.” He claimed that a person never learns anything until he realizes how little he knows. In this article he makes this most illuminating observation about George Washington:
“Washington never went to school. That’s why he was an educated man, he never quit learning.”
What George Moore said of himself I suppose could be said of many of you and of myself: “I have spent more than three score years of my life reducing my ignorance.”
Therein, it is my conviction, is the challenge to all who achieve distinction in any field. Some quit learning when they graduate from a school; some quit learning about the gospel when they have completed a mission for the Church; some quit learning when they become an executive or have a prominent position in or out of the Church.
Remember, as George Moore said of Washington, “We can become educated persons, regardless of our stations in life, if we never quit learning.”
The late President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote this: “Any man who does his work well, who is justifiably self-confident and not unduly disturbed by the jeers of the cynics and the shirkers, any man who stays true to decent motives and is considerate of others is, in essence, a leader. Whether or not he is ever singled out for prominence, he is bound to achieve great inner satisfaction in turning out superior work.
“And that, by the way, is what the good Lord put us on this earth for.” (“What Is Leadership?” Reader’s Digest, June 1965, p. 54.)
With the restoration of the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Church in the dispensation of the fulness of times, we were given instructions by revelation, the magnitude of which, as the late President Brigham H. Roberts explained, was “not merely as to whether baptism should be by immersion or for the forgiveness of sins, but the rubbish of accumulated ages was swept aside, the rocks made bare, and the foundations of the Kingdom of God were relaid.”
It may seem preposterous to many to declare that within the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may be found a bulwark to safeguard against the pitfalls, the frustrations, and the wickedness in the world. The plan of salvation formed in the heavens points clearly to the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life, even though there are many who refuse to follow that way.
In a great revelation, the Lord gave instruction by commandment to the leaders of the Church of that early day that they should be seekers after truth in many fields.
First, of course, he commanded that they should “teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom … in all things that pertain [to] the kingdom of God. …” (D&C 88:77–78.)
Then he counsels as to the wide sweep of learning about which we should seek. His church was not to be an ignorant ministry in various fields of secular learning.
And then the Lord addressed his revelation to all others who may not have faith: “… seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118.)
One might well ask: How does one get “learning by faith”? One prophet explains the process: First, one must arouse his faculties and experiment on the words of the Lord and desire to believe. Let this desire work in you until ye believe in a manner that you can give place even to a portion of the word of the Lord; then, like a planted seed, it must be cultivated and not resist the Spirit of the Lord, which is that which lighteneth everyone born into the world; you can then begin to feel within yourselves that it must be good, for it enlarges your soul and enlightens your understanding and, like the fruit of the tree in Lehi’s vision, it becomes delicious to the taste. (See Alma 32.)
It was an English novelist who was quoted as saying: “He who seeks God has already found him.”
Let no one think that “learning by faith” contemplates an easy or lazy way to gain knowledge and ripen it into wisdom.
From heavenly instructions and added to which are the experiences of almost anyone who has sought diligently for heavenly guidance, one may readily understand that learning by faith requires the bending of the whole soul through worthy living to become attuned to the Holy Spirit of the Lord, the calling up from the depths of one’s own mental searching, and the linking of our own efforts to receive the true witness of the Spirit.
The mission of this church is to bear witness of the truths of the gospel and put to flight the false teachings on every side that are causing the restlessness and the aimlessness that threaten all who have not found the straight path and that which could be an anchor to their souls.
My fervent prayer is that I may hold up that true Light of Christ to all the world. I would that all may know with assurance, as I, from study, prayer, and faith, know for a certainty, as the Master declared to Martha, who was mourning the death of Lazarus, that the Lord and Master is indeed “the resurrection, and the life; [and] he that believeth in [him], though he were dead, yet shall he live:
“And whosoever liveth and believeth in [him] shall never die. …” (John 11:25–26.)
I thank the Lord that I can answer, as did Martha and as did Peter of old: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16.)
“Yea, Lord: I believe … thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” (John 11:27.)
To this I do bear my solemn witness, in the sacred name of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, even so. Amen. (Harold B. Lee, The Iron Rod, General Conference, April 4, 1971.)
Sweet. Now I’ve got a thick skull, and I ought to just quit reading this blog if I don’t like it. Well, that is certainly one option, I guess. But there are parts of this blog I like, so I do care about it. Really though, there is no need for the name-calling and childishness. Let me state again, as kindly as possible, and in a way which I hope is non-offensive, why I think this is wrong.
The church leaders don’t need us to interpret their words for them. It has been my experience that they are quiet capable of speaking for themselves. Bryce, if you feel this talk is important, simply post it. I see no need for you to put a title on it beyond what Elder Lee did, or to fill us in on what you think Elder Widtsoe really meant. You have already admitted on another thread that you don’t know the difference betwen a NOM and a liberal Mormon, (and please correct me if my memory is wrong), so it still isn’t clear to me how you reach your conclusions. Ad I do think it is somewhat disingenuous of you to add your (by your own admission uninformed) commentary, then jump back behind Elder Lee and say “I’m just quote the prophet, what’s the big deal?”
I have found some of your posts useful, and you are certainly free to put whatever you want on your blog. Nobody has said otherwise. My first impression, which may have been wrong, is that you were coming out swinging in an attempt to put people in their place. It is as though I had written a post with the title “A warning to religious conservatives”, quoted a talk from conference, then added in my own commentary that says [this means you, Bryce and Geoff B.] , and then stood back when it all hit the fan and acted innocent, saying” What’s your problem, guys, don’t you believe the prophet?” Do you think that would have been a productive approach?
By the way, when it comes to heresy and apostasy, the church exes conservative members at a much higher rate than liberal members, something like 30 to 1. Why do you think that is?
How many times must I point out that this post was almost completely the words of President Harold B. Lee. The words “The rod of iron as seen in the vision interpreted was the word of God, or the gospel of Jesus Christ” were his words, NOT MINE! I find it very disturbing when a prophet of God says that the rod of iron is the word of God or the gospel, and you turn around and say it ain’t. Do you honestly think we should believe you over a prophet?!
Apparently you and John C. really need to get together, because you clearly sit on opposite sides of the line, and it’s very confusing. Either I should add commentary or I shouldn’t. Which is it, for heaven’s sake? I can’t do both!
By the way, I did find out what a NOM is, as it is self-defined by them, and it is analogous to the description President Lee used for “self-called liberals.”
Parenthetical: Bryce, just to confirm, when you refer to President Lee’s comment as having been made by “a prophet”, you mean that it is made by a man who, at the time, was one of the “prophets, seers and revelators”, and who later became the President and prophet, seer and revelator.
Second parenthetical: Regarding debate whether it is okay to use noncorrelated/nonscripture/nonChurch material in talks or lessons, it appears that President Lee was no more averse to quoting from non-Mormons, and even non-Mormon clerics, in his talks, than was President McKay or President Monson or President Hinckley.
First – Yes, all the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are prophets, seers, and revelators, and we sustain them as such. The only difference with the President of the Church is that he holds and can exercise all the keys of the priesthood, and stands at the head of the kingdom of God on the Earth. That’s it. Just because President Lee was only later called (a year later!) as Prophet and President of the Church is entirely irrelevant.
Second – I never argued that it was inappropriate to use noncorrelated/nonscripture/nonChurch material in talks or lessons. Have you read any other post on this site? We are certainly allowed to do so, but only when it supports the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Doubt not, fear not! I’m not going to quote any noncorrelated/nonscripture/nonChurch material if I think it is in opposition to the gospel of God. Why in the world would I do that??
Bryce, please feel free to add whatever commentary you want, by all means. But then take responsibility for it, too, and when people ask you questions, don’t avoid the questions by saying you are only quoting church leaders.
I appreciate your adding in the disclaimer at the top. The terms liberal and conservative have been so debased in our civil discourse that they are almost meaningless as descriptors, and it is even worse in the church. I’ll disagree politely with you that there is no difference between a liberal Mormon and a NOM. One is a believer and the other isn’t, and that doesn’t seem like a difficult distinction to make. There is an even greater difference between libs and NOMs than there is between conservative Mormons and Fundamentalists, because both cons and fundies are still believers in many of the same things.
Try this for a thought experiment. Imagine somebody wrote a blog post entitled “A Warning to conservatives” then quoted extensively from one of Pres. Hinckley’s talks about Fundamentalists. Imagine further that he then added commentary to say that when Pres. Hinckley says Fundamentalists, what he really means is conservatives. And then when somebody objected to that formulation, (and believe me, conservative folks would have a hissy fit, including especially Geoff B.), he just ran and hid behind Pres. Hinckley? Do you think that would be a)fair, b)charitable, c)accurate, d)productive, e) honest, f)none of the above? And yet that is what you have done here, at least as I see it.
I will pass on trying to determine what you mean when you say “add whatever commentary you want” when previously you said that it was wrong for me to “edit and embellish,” “adding my own spin,” and not leaving “the words of church leaders to stand on their own.” Those two points of view are mutually exclusive. If you’ve paid attention, I have taken responsibility for everything I’ve said, and have answered the questions that you have made with my own interpretation. What more can I do?
How do you interpret President Lee’s apparent agreement with the statement, “A liberal in the Church is merely one who does not have a testimony”? How do you reconcile that with your statement that there are liberal Mormons that are believers? What kind of belief does one have if they don’t have a testimony?
As for your thought experiment, when I say President Lee’s talk was about “religious liberalism” I mean it was about “religious liberalism.” That’s what it has been from the start. It’s NOT about anything else, as you so strangely inferred by your example. So I don’t see the comparison. Do you not agree that President Lee was talking about “religious liberalism”?
If we are speaking of the post being about the words of President Lee and not the words of Bryce then we need to also remember that President Lee was only Prophet for a short period of time. It is common knowledge that he did not have an open enough mind to allow the blacks to receive the priesthood when that was the will of the Lord (he was adamantly opposed to many civil rights for minorities). For that reason, it is most likely that the Lord took him early and placed President Kimball in his place. So we must evaluate his words in that context.
Michael, I don’t know where you got that from, but whoa. President Lee was as much a Prophet of God as was President Kimball. I would be very careful calling the prophet a racist. He knows the will of the Lord much more than you do. When did we stop, as a Church, believing that the prophets and apostles speak with the Lord face-to-face?
I am referring to the recent biographies of David O. McKay and Spencer W. Kimball. I am not stating that he was not a Prophet of God. He most certainly was. It does not mean that his personal weaknesses were any less real. Even prophets carry with them their personal experiences which impact their view of the world. It is very well known that President Lee had strong feelings about blacks and the priesthood to the point of not even wanting to re-consider the church’s policy during the late 60’s and early 70’s. It does not diminish his calling as Prophet but it does impact how we view his words before he was officially the Prophet. The same can be said with President Benson.
Human weaknesses do not replace my sustaining a prophet fully as a prophet, seer, and revelator. I don’t care what their “views” appear to be. These men interact with, associate with, and communicate directly with the Lord Jesus Christ. He is continually before them. Whatever they teach is the will of the Lord for the time being. We can always receive confirmation if it is by the witness of the Spirit. Why do we seek to counsel the Lord?
Just how ungrateful we are today to have living prophets of God…
Well Bryce it seems you have a very black and white view of the situation. I also fully sustain them as prophets, seers, and revelators but I recognize that their understanding of certain things is not as complete as it may be due to personal weaknesses or life experience. This has been shown many times. By adding the words “for the time being” to your statement above seems a little disingenuous. They teach the will of the Lord when they speak as moved upon by the Spirit of the Lord. Otherwise they speak as men. It works the same for all of us. I wish I had time to look up all the counsel given to us by these same men over the past 100 years to make sure we are not taking everything they say without seeking further light and knowledge directly for ourselves but unfortunately I do not have that much time. It does not diminish my love, respect or sustaining of them to evaluate how their personal views may impact their public statements. May I ask if you have read Brother Prince’s biography of David O. McKay?
Yes, Michael, prophets are not infallible, but that does not weaken their calling as prophets of God, chosen to speak for Him. The Lord is not whisking away a prophet to instate another one because of human weakness. Good grief. If they were in apostasy, it would be made known. The prophets have been raised up over a long time of testing and trials to become the Prophet and President of this Church. And the Lord knows what He is doing. These men of God are much more perfect than I will probably ever be in this mortal probation.
“For the time being” – The Lord’s will changes from time to time. Yes, this is true. It is dependent upon a number of factors which we do not fully understand. Was the will of the Lord the same for Adam and Eve as it is for us today? Was it the same for the Israelites? Was it the same for the early Christians in the meridian of time? Was it even the same for the early Saints of this dispensation? No. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared:
What did President Hunter do to deserve only being a prophet for 9 months? Did God not want to keep him around either?
Mark IV, I really could care less if somebody wrote a post saying, “a warning to conservatives.” You know why? Because I see them all the time in different ways on dozens of different blogs. They are phrased somewhat differently, but, really, they happen all the time. I seem to recall one you wrote just a few weeks ago at BCC basically calling conservatives hypocrites because they oppose SSM but are not welcoming to gay people. Not to mention the dozens of posts against the Iraq war (implying that you are a war-mongering hateful Satanist if you support the war), the posts saying that if you oppose welfare you are not a true follower of Jesus and on and on and on. The difference is that I never insinuated as you do above that the posts should never have been written. Just as a reminder, here is what you said above:
So, in this comment, you are calling Bryce childish, calling him stupid, insulting him once again for his Wall-E post, saying his posts are ridiculous, telling him to get over himself, saying he knows nothing about NOMs and even about other Mormons and about the religion itself (!!???), saying he is ignorant and then saying he is insulting and hurting the Church.
Wow, that’s a lot of harm for a temple study blog. Mark, can you see how this comment is perhaps a tad, just a bit, over the top? And then you accuse of name-calling and childishness. That’s definitely rich.
It is clear to me that you are very concerned about how “conservative” or “orthodox” Mormons portray themselves, I guess partly because you consider yourself a conservative. Well, the truth is that conservatives come in all kinds of stripes and colors. Just this morning, I went on a hike with a Church member who is a good friend of mine who said the current drought in Colorado is a test from God and the only way things will change is if more people honor the Sabbath. I definitely don’t agree with this, but I didn’t berate this “conservative” Mormon into thinking like me. I simply nodded my head and then changed the subject.
So, Bryce is a conservative and he thinks differently than you? Well, get over it. I am a conservative and I think differently than Bryce and you. Yup, that’s true. We don’t have to conform to your idea of what being a conservative is and moderate our blog posts so they conform to your idea of what is acceptable.
As for your claim that “the church exes conservative members at a much higher rate than liberal members, something like 30 to 1,” you have to know that any numbers like this are completely anecdotal and cannot be taken seriously. The excommunication process is confidential. Are you implying there is somebody in SLC who collects excommunication information and then checks a box saying “Conservative” or “Liberal?” Obviously that does not take place.
I think a large part of the problem here is the issue of definitions. I had absolutely no problem with the prophet’s talk because I took “liberal” to mean “people who think they can do anything and still be members in good standing in the Church.” Obviously, these people are in for a rude awakening and need to repent. Do “political liberals” who are lukewarm about, for example, the Church’s support for SSM, need to repent? In my opinion no. I think they are making a huge mistake personally, but there is room for a wide variety of opinions within the Church.
So, when I read “religious liberals” I thought, “yeah the type of people who aren’t even really Mormons anymore.” No reasons to get up in arms about that, but if you read your comment quoted above you definitely did get up in arms.
Another point that needs to be made: people interpret the statements of prophets in posts and comments all the time. You could argue that this is the primary activity in the Bloggernacle, interpreting what prophets say in our own manner. I have read several of your posts in which you interpret prophets’ statements in different ways. So, you are allowed to interpret what prophets say but Bryce cannot and I cannot? Seems like a strange argument to make.
I can just imagine the authorities in Salt Lake huddled around excommunication papers, “Yep, it was another conservative.” Check.
I have the utmost respect for how you have obtained your testimony of the Lord’s prophets. Perhaps because I am a convert to the restored gospel my testimony of them has been obtained, nourished and tested through other means. I feel that it allows me to have a greater respect and understanding of them. I have gained so much nourishment from Rough Stone Rolling, David O. McKay’s biography and Spencer W. Kimball’s biography. It has allowed me to grow closer to these men in ways that other “fluffy” biographies and descriptions have not. I am grateful to see them as men as well as prophets, seers and revelators. I would never want to lose my testimony over Kirtland or Missouri-type events.
To answer your question, I don’t know why the Lord called President Lee home so early when he was in such good health. I don’t presume to know. But I also don’t discount the possibility that the Lord called him home to have President Kimball bring about His will.
You never answered my question about reading the recent biographies.
My two cents:
I liked President Lee’s talk. I disagree that the “rod of iron” represents “the gospel,” however. A careful reading of the scriptures equates the “word of God” with revelation. President Lee was one of the prophets who taught us that the scriptures take precedence over any teachings by any man in the church of any calling whether high or low. Consider the following:
“It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine. You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:203)
“If anyone, regardless of his position in the Church, were to advance a doctrine that is not substantiated by the standard Church works, meaning the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, you may know that his statement is merely his private opinion. The only one authorized to bring forth any new doctrine is the President of the Church, who, when he does, will declare it as revelation from God, and it will be so accepted by the Council of the Twelve and sustained by the body of the Church. And if any man speak a doctrine which contradicts what is in the standard Church works, you may know by that same token that it is false and you are not bound to accept it as truth.” (Harold B. Lee, European Area Conference of the Church, Munich, Germany, 1973)
“If it is not in the standard works, we may well assume that it is speculation, man’s own personal opinion; and if it contradicts what is in the scripture, it is not true. This is the standard by which we measure all truth.” (Harold B. Lee, Improvement Era, January 1969 p.13)
“The Church has confined the sources of doctrine by which it is willing to be bound before the world to the things that God has revealed, and which the Church has officially accepted, and those alone. These would include the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price; these have been repeatedly accepted and endorsed by the Church in general conference assembled, and are the only sources of absolute appeal for our doctrine.” (B. H. Roberts, Deseret News (23 July 1921) sec. 4:7.)
“One of the reasons we call our scriptures The Standard Works [is that] they are the standard of judgement and the measuring rod against which doctrines and views are weighed, and it does not make one particle of difference whose views are involved. The scriptures always take precedence.” (Bruce R McConkie, “Finding Answers to Gospel Questions,” an open letter to all “honest truth seekers,” dated 30 October 1980)
I don’t think it’s that big of a deal at all, but I do disagree with Pres. Lee (strictly speaking) on his definition of the iron rod being “the gospel.” I don’t think that really does much damage his talk, however.
I agree that we can’t know why the Lord called President Lee home so quickly, but I suspect you hit it on the head: The Lord wanted President Kimball to be president. Why? David O. McKay’s biography gives some insight into President Lee’s feeling about the blacks and the priesthood issue. If we didn’t have President Kimball who spend hours and hours praying for and seeking revelation on this issue, the revelation may have not come when it did.
*awaits the tar and feathers*
If President Lee did not feel the need to change the policy, he would not have been willing to spend the amount of time on his knees that President Kimball did. I would agree with that assumption. If someone does not desire further light and knowledge on a subject then the Lord will not give it to them. Brother Nibley always stressed that aspect of the scriptures.
Each prophet and leader is different. Each has his own personality and views. As a consequence, I think the Lord uses each for their unique purposes. I don’t know if President Lee was open to the idea of changing the policy. There is strong evidence that he wasn’t. President Kimball was and therefore sought and received revelation on the issue. I wouldn’t presume that’s why President Lee died so young (who am I to judge?), but President Kimball was the right man for the hour.
I think that the claim that liberal Mormons are indistinguishable from NOMs is a ridiculous statement. So, yeah, I continue to think a post based on that premise is also ridiculous. Hugh W. Nibley is the archetypal liberal Mormon. He critized the church more than anybody, according to Elder Maxwell, he took liberties with the WoW by his own admission, and had unorthodox views on just about everything, in addition to being on the far left politically. I find it very amusing that Bryce holds Nibley up as the formemost Mormon apologist on one hand and then reads him right out of the church with this post.
The figures on excommunications come straight from Dallin H. Oaks.
Geoff, if somebody in a public forum said that conservative Mormons were no different from Fundamentalist Mormons, I certainly hope you would speak up. That is a stupid and unfounded claim to make, and it deserves to be put out of its misery. Whoever wanted to drag his blog through the mud (and, by extension, the good name of an apostle and the reputation of the church) by making it is certainly free to do so, but don’t you think he should expect some blowback?
And you know what? As I read back through this, I see that I have some things to apologize for, because I have violated my own sense of fairness and the ideals I claim to favor. I’d ask Bryce to delete my comments, but that would be taking the way way out. I think I would prefer that they stay right here, so whenever I am tempted to speak in haste I can look and see that I really have nothing to be proud of.
My apologies to all.
Bryce, I do appreciate your posts about the temple. Keep them coming.
Mark IV, it takes a big man to apologize and recognize he’s written things he regrets. Believe me, I know because I do it all the time. 🙂
Geoff, sometime when I’m in your part of the country I’ll drop you an email, because I want to go to lunch with you. The Cuban sandwiches are on me.
Very interesting post…and outcome. As long as you continue to defend the words of the prophets, as you are doing here, I will support your efforts. You’ve disturbed a hornet’s nest of pent-up emotions here and it’s never easy to deal with the blowback. But what “you” have said by quoting a prophet of the Lord is 100% correct and you shouldn’t be expected to apologize for that.
To anyone who believes otherwise, please re-read the words of Abinadi to King Noah and his “priests”. They wanted nothing but good news and soft words of praise and flattery from Abinadi because they had deluded themselves into thinking that their particular interpretation of the Law of Moses was more righteous than the orthodoxy of the time. Consequently, when they demanded to be told things like “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that publish good tidings”, they were sorely disappointed.
Please note that I’m not implying that Bryce is Abinadi. I’m also not pretending to have all knowledge or to be perfect or any of that. I shouldn’t even have to state that because it’s something we all know based on our personal experiences with our own shortcomings.
I’m simply stating that, based on my reading of the comments excoriating Bryce for daring to open his mouth to his fellow members, to teach and exhort and share testimony of gospel teachings as we are all commanded to do one with another, he’s doing so by quoting a prophet of God. As others have stated earlier, President Lee’s talk is nearly identical (except for then vs. now definitions and vocabulary) to ones I keep hearing at every General Conference I’ve ever listened to up until April 2008. And, I expect that it will be so in the future.
The scriptures (the Iron Rod) and the Holy Ghost (represented by the Liahona) work in unison. They constantly remind us that if we can’t take the heat of the words of the prophets while in this life, which is a time to prepare to meet God, we will certainly not feel comfortable with that teaching when we are reminded of it after this mortal existence.
Thank you all for your comments, and especially for your apology Mark. I also apologize if I offended you at all or anyone else. We never mean to do such things do we. Oh the weaknesses of the flesh! Where’s Nephi’s psalm? I’ve got it around here somewhere…
I think we’ve explored this topic as thoroughly as we should for the moment. I’m going to close it now, and get on to some more important temple subjects (after I finish this Rough Stone Rolling project!). I think my blog has wandered…
Thanks once again.
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