At the end of my last post, I spoke about LDS writers/bloggers who have written uncomplimentary, misguided, and in some cases, downright offensive things about the Church they claim to participate in, as well as about its members. Lest anyhone think that I want to shut anybody up, let me be perfectly clear: everybody has the right to an opinion. People who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (approximately 99.8% of the world’s population) have the right to whatever opinion they may have regarding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and may share that opinion how ever they may see fit. Obviously, LDS people have the same right. We all have doubts about lots of things.
I am firm in my beliefs, and rock solid in the very few things that I know to be true. However, if someone has an opinion different from mine, I am respectful, and will always try to see and understand the other person´s point of view. If they say things that are ridiculously false and/or offensive, then I generally will just smile, say something polite, and withdraw from the conversation gracefully. I am not a fan of conflict, and I try to avoid contentious arguments.
One of my few exceptions to this rule is when a member of my church, while pretending to be an active participating member, says something that is patently false about our religion, or offensive to its membership. That person needs to be corrected, and because what they say is false, the record demands correction as well. So, that´s when I pull out all the stops. I will defend the Lord´s Church to my last breath.
In that spirit, I would like to respond to a few comments by blogger Jana Reiss, and attorney and her guest blogger Bryndis Roberts.
In a recent introduction to a guest poster on her blog, “Flunking Sainthood”, Jana Reiss writes about the Church´s article, “Race and the Priesthood” (http://janariess.religionnews.com/2015/03/19/african-american-mormon-convert-lds-church-needs-make-amends-past-racism/):
“That statement put the blame for the ban on “widespread ideas about racial inferiority” that
characterized 19th-century America. . . “
The statement does no such thing. Although it described the atmosphere and attitudes amongst members and non-members of the 19th-century as a background for the article, it places the source of the policy squarely on President Brigham Young, which he initiated when he made an official pronouncement in 1852. Reiss also referred to the policy as being racist. If she feels that it was not a revelation from God, that it was President Young´s invention, then why did the Lord allow it to go on for over 100 years, before removing it. Spencer W. Kimball was not the first prophet to go before the Lord and ask when the policy ought to be reversed. Does that make God a racist, a hater of His own creations? Or maybe all of the prophets from Brigham Young until Spencer W. Kimball were racists who felt that blacks should remain without the blessings of the priesthood. In other words, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, David O. McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Harold B. Lee were all racists, hating an entire class of God´s children. How can anyone believe in a church whose most important belief, other than the atonement of Jesus Christ, is that God speaks to living prophets today, if 10 of the 16 modern prophets have been racists?
Or, perhaps the answer is that it had nothing to do with racist feelings or hatred. Perhaps, as is always the case, God had a purpose, and like in so many instances, chose not to share that purpose with us.
In a post about a week later (http://janariess.religionnews.com/2015/03/23/mormon-priesthood-racism-following-prophet/), Ms. Reiss made the following comments:
It’s not just that it is the very definition of circular logic to claim that LDS prophets were right about
something . . . and then offer as the only evidence the statements of other LDS prophets.
It’s that such arguments constitute idolatry, pure and simple. They reveal the sad truth that some
Mormons are more willing to throw the Lord God under the bus than they are to allow prophets to be
Their need for an idol runs so deep that they can recast the creator of the universe as a racist more readily
than they can see Brigham Young as a man who was often inspired to do great and marvelous things but
who was also, for better and for worse, a creature of inherent finitude. Like us.
Ms. Reiss, we do not use ancient prophets to substantiate a modern day prophet´s official proclamations. Contrary to what you stated elsewhere, we do not use scripture to substantiate what a modern day prophet teaches. We listen to the prophet to help us to interpret and substantiate ancient scripture. Although ancient scripture is of great value, modern revelation through the mouthpiece of the Lord is of infinitely greater value than ancient scripture, and will always take precedence. Thankfully, when studied in context and by the Spirit, no one will ever find a valid contradiction between modern day prophetic pronouncements and ancient scripture.
I have often said that being offended is a choice; however, it would not surprise me to learn that many members of the Church are offended by Ms. Reiss` grossly erroneous and ignorant comparison of their respect and dedication to their leaders to idolatry. Members have had to put up with that kind of characterization for years with regards to our reverence for the prophet Joseph Smith. It appears that Ms. Reiss` advanced higher education did not include a study of her own religion, so let me attempt to educate her: WE DO NOT WORSHIP ANYONE EXCEPT GOD THE FATHER, JESUS CHRIST, AND THE HOLY GHOST, although we greatly revere and respect all prophets, and we hold their official pronouncements to be the word of God (see Doctrine & Covenants 1:38). If she does not understand this basic concept, perhaps she needs to return to the Gospel Principles Sunday School class for a refresher course. Her characterization of our reverence and respect for prophets as idolatry, besides being ignorant and offensive, demonstrates her misunderstanding of the concept of idolatry, something I would not expect from someone with a doctorate in religious history. Her characterization is so off point that I must wonder whether she wrote it specifically to see if she could outrage enough members of the Church to bump up her readership.
Her comment about Mormons being willing to throw God under the bus in order to protect our prophets, which borders on blasphemy, only mirrors her own willingness to throw prophets under the bus, in order to protect her own painfully limited understanding of God and how He executes His will among His children. Because she only has her human experience to help her understand why God would take the priesthood away from a group of people for a limited time, she feels the need to ascribe human motives to His actions. She needs to learn that as we worship God, we accept His will regardless of how painful it may be or how little we understand it, and we reverence His servants, his mouthpieces. We don't shoot the messenger, no matter how difficult the message is.
I think I responded to this idea in my last post on 6-9-2015. With all due respect to sisters Reiss and Roberts, neither one of you has any idea what the reason was for the ban; nor do I. I only know that it was not racism, because it did indeed come from God and He sanctioned it for over 100 years. The one thing I think the three of us can agree on is that God is not a racist. The thing I think that we do not agree on is that neither have any of the Lord´s modern day prophets been racists, and that the Church does not practice institutional racism.
I have been blessed during my life to have met and known a number of these individuals who are called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, The Seventy, and other positions in the general leadership of the Church. Not a one is perfect. Each one has his/her strongly held opinions, and some have some interesting larger-than-life personalties. They are all very different. But I have yet to meet one who was not filled with charity for his/her brothers and sisters. The power of the Holy Ghost, and the pure love of Christ literally emanates from these people. How can you love so purely other human beings, give up all other worldly pursuits to serve them, and still have racist feelings for them. You can´t.
What Reiss and Roberts have done is to forget that they belong to a church run by revelation; it is not led by its members, although they all help to administer it. It is led by Christ, powered by the Holy Ghost and revelation from God. It does not depend on the opinions of its members to determine doctrine. It does not check to see if its policies and practices are acceptable according to other beliefs or philosophies, or popular opinion. It does not mingle scriptures with the philosophies of men. Sister Reiss and Sister Roberts would be much better served not by using their own education and personal experience and bias as a measuring stick with which to measure the church´s doctrines and teaching, but rather by using the pronouncements of God through His prophets to measure their public actions and opinions.
My next post will be: We Are Having a 116-Page Moment!