Sunday, September 17, 2006

Conformity

As a disclaimer for the following article, I would like to remind everyone that my opinion does not necessarily reflect that of the College Democrats, Church, or BYU-I. Any disagreements are to be directed at myself.

It all started over the summer when I viewed a message board comprised of BYU-I students. The subject of politics had come up and opinions were flying. I noticed something however that bothered me quite a bit. By the time I got up here for school this semester I had largely forgotten about it, until the issue raised its head again in a class room discussion (carried out over a several day stretch). It is on it that this article is about.

The issue is conformity.

More specifically, at what point do we as Latter-Day Saints exchange our personal views for those conforming to what the Church has said? We as Saints feel very strongly about agency, the right to choose, and about acting on what we feel is right. Some I feel have taken these principles too far though. In the discussions there were some who expressed that they felt that women should have the right to get an abortion anytime the wanted. There were some who felt that gays should be allowed to marry. There were some who felt that communism was the best form of government.

These conversations raise the issue: “While the Church doesn’t require us to vote a certain way, when our opinion on political matters differs from what the Church and its leaders have expressed, should we forsake our way of thinking?”

I say we should.

One of the primary reasons for our being here is to learn to trust in the Lord, and to bring our thoughts, actions, and desires in line with His. He has called Prophets in our day to guide us not just spiritually, but in a very real, physical way. We are expected to forsake false teachings that the world expounds for the truth that scripture and revelation teaches. False teachings are not regulated to matters relating to the proper mode of baptism, or the necessity of authority. They exist in science, medicine, philosophy, psychiatry, sociology, and politics (just to name a few).

When our ideas or the wisdom of the world is in opposition to what the Scriptures say, or what the Prophets (note the plural) have said, it is our obligation as Disciples of Christ to think as he would have us think. When it says, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints favors a constitutional amendment preserving marriage as the lawful union of a man and a woman” what right do we have to say “I think the Church is wrong” and still call ourselves faithful members? We have none, and we stand as hypocrites.

We have an obligation to seek out the Church’s stance on every issue. Where it has taken none we must do our best through prayer and wise judgment. But where it has taken a stance we should stand by it, for no amount of false teachings or false revelation on our part will change the truth. As Elder Maxwell once said, “There didn’t seem to be any problem with conformity the day the Red Sea opened.” (http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll?f=templates$fn=default.htm)

12 comments:

Jessica said...

And yet the Church hasn't set forth any type of disclipline for members who disagree with a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Let us all be careful in not casting any stones towards those who choose to not write, or support the writing of, discrimination into our constitution. Jesus reserves his judgement until the last day, we would be wise to do the same.

Blake Roberts said...

You are correct, the Church does not set forth any discipline for those who disagree with the gay marraige amendment, nor should we persecute those who's ideas differ from our own.

However, I do stand by the belief that it is wrong for a member of the Church to support causes that the Church has said are wrong, evil, or otherwise encouraged us to not participate in. We are to be our brother's keeper, and as such we have a duty to help those around us who are making mistakes.

If I am correct in this thinking, then the people should be treated as any other Saint who has made mistakes, they should be taught the truth and encouraged to see the error of their ways (but more importantly, the blessings of obedience) that they might repent and forsake the darkness for the light of truth.

Cameron said...

April 2003 Priesthood Session talk by President Hinckley on Loyalty.

October 1998 General Conference talk by President Hinckley. See question 2.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World concludes by calling upon "responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society."

Peter Nguyen said...

You bring up an excellent subject Blake. The question here is, can one dissent from the Church, yet still be a faithful member?

This is a difficult question, and it is one that should be answered by someone who has authority.

I also believe that history will show that there are many instances where members who disagreed were dealt with harshly. There are also many instances in Church history where members who disagreed were left alone.

Agree with Blake, there is a line, but I'm not sure what that line is, where it is, or what dimension it is. I also agree with Jessica to some extent. Jesus the Savior of us all knows us more perfectly than anybody. He will be the just executor of the Law.

So what's my answer about conformity? Well, it's the obvious, unoriginal answer: Be worthy, pray and do what the Lord tells YOU to do. It's His plan and He's the director. My path may not be your path. I don't see the big picture, HE DOES.

The Lord through Moses said, "Thou Shalt not Kill," yet he commanded Nephi to kill Laban. Go figure. The Lord knows all, and we'll be safe in His hands.

Cameron said...

Now may I say a word concerning loyalty to the Church.

We see much indifference. There are those who say, "The Church won't dictate to me how to think about this, that, or the other, or how to live my life."

No, I reply, the Church will not dictate to any man how he should think or what he should do. The Church will point out the way and invite every member to live the gospel and enjoy the blessings that come of such living. The Church will not dictate to any man, but it will counsel, it will persuade, it will urge, and it will expect loyalty from those who profess membership therein.

When I was a university student, I said to my father on one occasion that I felt the General Authorities had overstepped their prerogatives when they advocated a certain thing. He was a very wise and good man. He said, "The President of the Church has instructed us, and I sustain him as prophet, seer, and revelator and intend to follow his counsel."

I have now served in the general councils of this Church for 45 years. I have served as an Assistant to the Twelve, as a member of the Twelve, as a Counselor in the First Presidency, and now for eight years as President. I want to give you my testimony that although I have sat in literally thousands of meetings where Church policies and programs have been discussed, I have never been in one where the guidance of the Lord was not sought nor where there was any desire on the part of anyone present to advocate or do anything which would be injurious or coercive to anyone.

The book of Revelation declares: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

"So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15–16).

I make you a promise, my dear brethren, that while I am serving in my present responsibility I will never consent to nor advocate any policy, any program, any doctrine which will be otherwise than beneficial to the membership of this, the Lord's Church.

This is His work. He established it. He has revealed its doctrine. He has outlined its practices. He created its government. It is His work and His kingdom, and He has said, "They who are not for me are against me" (2 Nephi 10:16).

How grateful, my brethren, I feel, how profoundly grateful for the tremendous faith of so many Latter-day Saints who, when facing a major decision on which the Church has taken a stand, align themselves with that position. And I am especially grateful to be able to say that among those who are loyal are men and women of achievement, of accomplishment, of education, of influence, of strength—highly intelligent and capable individuals.

Each of us has to face the matter—either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.

Thank you, my dear brethren, you men of great strength and great fidelity and great faith and great loyalty.

--President Gordon B Hinckley

Jessica said...

President Joseph F. Smith said, "We talk of obedience, but do we require any man or woman to ignorantly obey the counsels that are given? Do the First Presidency require it? No, never." (Journal of Discources (JD) 16:248)

Apostle Charles W. Penrose, who would later serve as counselor to President Smith, declared: "President Wilford Woodruff is a man of wisdom and experience, and we respect him, but we do not believe his personal views or utterances are revelations from God; and when 'Thus saith the Lord', comes from him, the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill." (Millennial Star 54:191)

"And none are required to tamely and blindly submit to a man because he has a portion of the priesthood. We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark, that they would do anything they were told to do by those who presided over them, if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God... would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without asking any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their minds to do wrong themselves." (Millennial Star, vol.14 #38, pp. 593-95)

Jessica said...

Brigham Young said:

"What a pity it would be, if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken the influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually." (JD 9:150)

"How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the spirit yourselves." (JD 4:368)

"I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied...Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, 'If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are,' this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord." (JD 3:45)

"...Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another's sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold sceptres of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer." (JD 1:312)

Blake Roberts said...

Those are all excellent, true quotes. None of them however give any Saint permission to go against what the General Authorities (again, note the plural) have said. We should be continually seek to broaden our understanding of the gospel, and seek for the Spirirt's confirmation of the gospel.

What the Spirit will confirm is the truth,a nd it will not change from person to person. The truth is whole truth and eternal. As we pray about the
counsel given on matters, about the truth of the Book of Mormon, and as we sustaint he General Authorities as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, we can know that what they teach is true (when given through official sources, when it is in line with previous revelations, and when it confroms to the law of witnesses).

Ezra Taft Benson Gave 14 principles of following the Prophet which I believe we can all learn from (reading it over I found myself lacking in a few):

First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the Standard Works.
Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.
Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or diplomas to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
Sixth: The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.
Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
Eighth: The Prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.
Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter—temporal or spiritual.
Tenth: The prophet may well advise on civic matters.
Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—The highest quorum in the Church.
Fourteenth: The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed—reject them and suffer.

You are right, we should seek the Spirit in all things, but we can know it will ALWAYS confirm what the Prophet teaches, and that confirmation will strengthen our resolve to follow it.

Blake Roberts said...

Sorry, I forgot to cite the Benson quote. It comes from:

http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll?f=templates$fn=default.htm

Cameron said...

So how do we reconcile the seeming disparity in the Authorities quoted thus far? In my opinion, part of the answer lies in D&C 58:26-29. We are counselled to be anxiously engaged in a good cause, we should not wait until we are commanded to do something. We should be constantly searching out God's will and doing what we feel is right. However, these verses also say that we should keep the commandments, and if we "receiveth a commandment with a doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, we shall be damned."

So yes, we need to seek out the Spirit and not do only those things that we are commanded to do. But that doesn't mean we are exempt from keeping the commandments because we disagree with them.

Often we aren't given to know the reasons behind a commandment until after we have been obedient. This was the case with Adam and sacrifice, found in Moses 5:6.

As for gay marriage, which is pretty much what this conversation is all about, I think prophets both modern and ancient have been pretty clear. It's a topic that I have thought alot about and wrote about here, here, and here.

Peter Nguyen said...

Speaking for the BYU-Idaho College Democrats, we do not believe in or endorse same-sex unions. However, some are not so sure about the necessity of a constitutional amendment. The majority of the group does, however, support an amendment.

FYI

Blake Roberts said...

I didn't think that this conversation was about gay marriage, I've been operating under the idea that it continued to be about the issue of conformity.

Peter's right, the College Dem's do not support gay marriage, abortion, etc.