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Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism 101/Chapter 18
Response to claims made in "Chapter 18: The Church and Its Leadership"
|Chapter 17: Joseph Smith||
A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism 101A work by author: Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson
- Response to claim: 264-268 - The authors conclude that trusting in these men, their teachings and their counsel, is a foolish and destructive path
- Response to claim: 266 - The authors attempt to paint a picture of restriction for members of the Church
- Response to claim: 266 - Ezra Taft Benson said, "No teacher has the right to interpret doctrine for the members of the Church"
- Response to claim: 266 - "Do most Mormons accept this role of such authority, even to trust these men to lead them to eternal life? Apparently so. What if they are wrong?"
- Response to claim: 266 - "for Mormons, rejecting the prophet and other church leaders is akin to rejecting God Himself"
- Response to claim: 267 - While the Mormon leaders may say that they and their organization are above reproach, such a position of ultimate authoritarianism is not a New Testament trait
- Response to claim: 267-268 - If the leaders of the early church had claimed ultimate authority, then we could rightly conclude that Paul would never have become an apostle
- Response to claim: 268 - "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel ... let him be accursed"
- Response to claim: 268 - the New Testament apostles did not have any special authority to declare doctrine and teach the gospel
- Response to claim: 270 - Brigham Young taught that Adam was God, but this has been relegated to "theory"
- Response to claim: 270-271 - Brigham Young stating that God is "progressing eternally," while Bruce R. McConkie states that God's knowledge and power is full and complete
- Response to claim: 273-275 - Pascal's wager: is what you are being asked to give up more than what you might receive in exchange?
Question: In Mormonism, when our leaders speak, has the thinking been done?
The prophets themselves have counseled us to think for ourselves
It is clear the Church leaders counsel us to follow the guidance of the prophet. It is also clear that the prophets themselves have counseled us to think for ourselves. James E. Talmage summarized it well when he said that "God has not established His Church to make of its members irresponsible automatons, nor to exact from them blind obedience. Albeit, blessed is the man who, while unable to fathom or comprehend in full the Divine purpose underlying commandment and law, has such faith as to obey. So did Adam in offering sacrifice, yet, when questioned as to the significance of his service, he answered with faith and assurance worthy the patriarch of the race: "I know not, save the Lord commanded me." Each one of us will ultimately be responsible for the decisions that we ourselves have made—not those that the prophet have made. As the Prophet Joseph Smith once said, "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves."
Critics use a statement made in the Ward Teachers' Message published in the Improvement Era in June 1945 to claim that members must do whatever Church leaders say without question
Critics use a statement made in the Ward Teachers' Message published in the Improvement Era in June 1945 to claim that members must do whatever Church leaders say without question. The statement is presented by the critics as follows:
- Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes, whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the "prophets, seers, and revelators" of the Church is cultivating the spirit of apostasy.... Lucifer ... wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to "do their own thinking."...
- When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan—it is God's plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy.
We provide the complete quote below, with the phrases emphasized by the critics in bold type:
- Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes, whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the "prophets, seers, and revelators" of the Church is cultivating the spirit of apostasy. One cannot speak evil of the Lord's anointed and retain the Holy Spirit in his heart.
- It should be remembered that Lucifer has a very cunning way of convincing unsuspecting souls that the General Authorities of the Church are as likely to be wrong as they are to be right. This sort of game is Satan's favorite pastime, and he has practiced it on believing souls since Adam. He wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to "do their own thinking." He specializes in suggesting that our leaders are in error while he plays the blinding rays of apostasy in the eyes of those whom he thus beguiles. What cunning! And to think that some of our members are deceived by this trickery.
- The following words of the Prophet Joseph Smith should be memorized by every Latter-day Saint and repeated often enough to insure their never being forgotten:
- I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 156-157.)
- When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan--it is God's plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.
Response from President George Albert Smith regarding the statement: "The passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church"
When the ward teaching message was published, concerns were raised regarding how this statement would be interpreted. President George Albert Smith responded to a concern expressed by Dr. Raymond A. Cope of the First Unitarian Society:
- The leaflet to which you refer, and from which you quote in your letter, was not "prepared" by "one of our leaders." However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.
- I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts. The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings. This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow.
Finally, we should point out that, in a 1946 letter to Dean Brimhall, Elder Albert E. Bowen of the Quorum of the Twelve rejected the ward teachers' message even more forcefully than had President Smith and explained that it had been written by a young clerk in the Presiding Bishop's office and sent out without anyone in authority having approved it.
Brigham Young: "I exhort you to think for yourselves"
Brigham Young made the following statements:
- Ladies and gentlemen, I exhort you to think for yourselves, and read your Bibles for yourselves, get the Holy Spirit for yourselves, and pray for yourselves.
- The great masses of the people neither think nor act for themselves. . . . I see too much of this gross ignorance among this chosen people of God.
Joseph Smith said the following:
- All have the privilege of thinking for themselves upon all matters relative to conscience. . . . We are not disposed, had we the power, to deprive anyone of exercising that free independence of mind which heaven has so graciously bestowed upon the human family as one of its choicest gifts.
Dallin H. Oaks: "We can be united in following our leaders and yet independent in knowing for ourselves."
Dallin H. Oaks shared the following in the April 2008 conference:
- Members who have a testimony and who act upon it under the direction of their Church leaders are sometimes accused of blind obedience.
- Of course, we have leaders, and of course, we are subject to their decisions and directions in the operation of the Church and in the performance of needed priesthood ordinances. But when it comes to learning and knowing the truth of the gospel—our personal testimonies—we each have a direct relationship with God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, through the powerful witness of the Holy Ghost. This is what our critics fail to understand. It puzzles them that we can be united in following our leaders and yet independent in knowing for ourselves.
- Perhaps the puzzle some feel can be explained by the reality that each of us has two different channels to God. We have a channel of governance through our prophet and other leaders. This channel, which has to do with doctrine, ordinances, and commandments, results in obedience. We also have a channel of personal testimony, which is direct to God. This has to do with His existence, our relationship to Him, and the truth of His restored gospel. This channel results in knowledge. These two channels are mutually reinforcing: knowledge encourages obedience (see Deuteronomy 5:27; Moses 5:11), and obedience enhances knowledge (see John 7:17; D&C 93:1).
Additional quotes from both early and modern Church leaders may be found here.
Response to claim: 266 - Ezra Taft Benson said, "No teacher has the right to interpret doctrine for the members of the Church"
Response to claim: 266 - "for Mormons, rejecting the prophet and other church leaders is akin to rejecting God Himself"
Response to claim: 268 - "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel ... let him be accursed"
Response to claim: 270 - Brigham Young taught that Adam was God, but this has been relegated to "theory"
Question: What is the Adam-God Theory?
Brigham Young taught that Adam, the first man, was God the Father
Brigham Young taught that Adam, the first man, was God the Father. Since this teaching runs counter to the story told in Genesis and commonly accepted by Christians, critics accuse Brigham of being a false prophet. Also, because modern Latter-day Saints do not believe Brigham's "Adam-God" teachings, critics accuse Mormons of either changing their teachings or rejecting teachings of prophets they find uncomfortable or unsupportable.
Brigham never developed the teaching into something that could be reconciled with LDS scripture and presented as official doctrine
Brigham Young appears to have believed and taught Adam-God, but he never developed the teaching into something that could be reconciled with LDS scripture and presented as official doctrine. Therefore, we simply don't know what Brigham Young meant, and modern leaders have warned us about accepting traditional explanations of Adam-God. Since the Church has rejected it, we won't be able to answer the question until the Lord sees fit to reveal more about it.
The Church's official position is that Adam-God is not the doctrine of the Church
Regardless of which approach the reader prefers to accept, the Church's official position on Adam-God is clear: as popularly understood, Adam-God (i.e., "Adam, the first man, was identical with Elohim/God the Father") is not the doctrine of the Church. If there are any particles of truth to anything surrounding the Adam-God doctrine, one would expect those things to harmonize with what has already been revealed. Only further revelation from the Lord's anointed would be able to clear up many points surrounding that doctrine.
Response to claim: 270-271 - Brigham Young stating that God is "progressing eternally," while Bruce R. McConkie states that God's knowledge and power is full and complete
Response to claim: 273-275 - Pascal's wager: is what you are being asked to give up more than what you might receive in exchange?
- James E. Talmage, The Vitality of Mormonism, (Deseret News Press, 1919), 42.
- George Q. Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith, the Prophet (Salt Lake City, Utah: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1888), 529.
- Ward Teachers' Message for June, 1945, "SUSTAINING THE GENERAL AUTHORITIES OF THE CHURCH" Improvement Era, June 1945, p.354
- Letter from President George Albert Smith to Dr. J. Raymond Cope, Dec. 7, 1945 (emphasis added).
- Albert E. Bowen to Dean Brimhall, 26 October 1946, p. 1. Dean R. Brimhall papers, MS 114, box 12, folder 21, Manuscripts Division, J. Willard Marriott Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:107.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:295.
- Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 49. off-site
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Testimony," Ensign (May 2008).
- "The Revelations of Heaven," Ensign (November 1994), 62. This issue covered the conference addresses that took place in the October 1994 General Conference.
- Brigham Young, "Eternal Punishment-'Mormonism,' Etc.," Journal of Discourses 9:150. Cited by Harold B. Lee, Conference Report (October 1950), 129-130.
- Elaine Jarvik, "Sunstone Publisher Resigns," Deseret News (13 June 13 2001), B2.
- "Sunstone List of Speakers and Topics, 2001 Washington DC Symposium," .
- "Council for Secular Humanism Events," . While FairMormon does have not access to Chandler's membership status, other works by him demonstrate that he is some type of secular humanist, which is hardly an LDS view.
- Howard W. Hunter, "Follow the Son of God," Ensign (November 1994), 87.
- Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 239. GL direct link
- Clark H. Pinnock, "From Augustine to Arminius: a Pilgrimage in Theology," in The Grace of God and the Will of Man, edited by Clark Pinnock (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1989).
- Fritz Guy, "The Universality of God's Love," in The Grace of God and the Will of Man, edited by Clark Pinnock (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1989), 35. Could this 'paradigm shift,' which necessitates a re-reading of the Bible, which then results in a new understanding of the Bible, be anything like that which the First Presidency of the LDS Church wrote in their Christmas Message of 1910: "Men must be susceptible to truth in order to receive truth." [Messages of the First Presidency, edited by James R. Clark, Vol. 4, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1970), 220. GL direct link] To receive new light one must first rid oneself of the old darkness. Compare also Crawford Knox, Changing Christian Paradigms and their Implications for Modern Thought (Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1993).
- The last line is a theme that runs throughout the papers in the volume edited by Pinnock, and is consistent with the LDS position: Pinnock says that "we are co-workers with God, participating with him in what shall be hereafter" (page 20).
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