Recent events bring up the apparent dichotomy of thinking for oneself versus following the Bretheren--an issue worthy of discussion. Obviously this tension has been highlighted by the recent political events in California, but the issue isn't new, and it's always nice to learn from other people's perspectives. Anti-Mormons love to bring up the "when the prophet speaks, the thinking is done" quote, but usually fail to include George Albert Smith's clarification to that statement.
In response to a letter of concern, President Smith said 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.
The Prophet Joseph Smith once said: "I want liberty of thinking and believing as I please." This liberty he and his successors in the leadership of the Church have granted to every other member thereof.
On one occasion in answer to the question by a prominent visitor how he governed his people, the Prophet answered: "I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves."
Again, as recorded in the History of the Church (Volume 5, page 498  Joseph Smith said further: "If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way."
I cite these few quotations, from many that might be given, merely to confirm your good and true opinion that the Church gives to every man his free agency, and admonishes him always to use the reason and good judgment with which God has blessed him.
In the advocacy of this principle leaders of the Church not only join congregations in singing but quote frequently the following:
"Know this, that every soul is free
To choose his life and what he'll be,
For this eternal truth is given
That God will force no man to heaven."
I suppose Steve Young, along with Joseph Smith, would also say: ""I want liberty of thinking and believing as I please." After all, it is very stereotypical to suggest that all Mormons think alike. Steve Young's great, great, great grandfather, Brigham Young once said: "There is too much of a sameness in this community. . . . I am not a stereotyped Latter-day Saint and do not believe in the doctrine . . . away with stereotyped 'Mormons'!" (JD 13:153, 55, as quoted by Hugh Nibley).
I’ve found that I personally resist being categorized as one type of person or another. I’m really hesitant to apply labels to myself and to others. I’m not sure if I can articulate all the reasons why. I suppose sometimes they’re actually helpful, but I hate feeling that I’m being pigeon-holed or cornered into being or thinking a certain way along with a certain group. It’s more liberating to be open minded to the wisdom of all, no matter where it is found, and to apply it. In other words, I’m open to good ideas no matter who presents them or where they come from. I might disagree with what one person thinks is a good idea, but I’ll hesitate to label that person out of respect for the fact that people can change.
Likewise, it bugs me when some people treat politics as if our faithfulness is contingent on which party we belong to, how we vote, or act as if the "other side" is evil. I seek out a more reasonable, moderate, middle ground. Our own eleventh Article of Faith has so many implications: "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."
My hope here is to get people to think, and ideally to respectfully share their thoughts, so that I can benefit from a more enlightened and diverse conversation than that which would take place between me and myself. My open question for any visitor here is how do you understand/reconcile the issue of "thinking for yourself" and being "obedient" by "following the Prophet"?
Waves of Adversity
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