Saturday, July 12, 2014

On Asking Questions and Patiently Hoping for Changes

I'm grateful that Church spokeswoman Ally Isom (in her RadioWest interview with Doug Fabrizio) acknowledged there is room for healthy dialogue and even for questioning.  Naturally, most of the revelations Joseph Smith received were because members brought issues to his attention or he himself asked a question.  People help shape the content and context for prophetic inquiries. So in a very real sense, there’s always been trickle-up revelation.

But while listening to her on the interview, I was frustrated that spokeswoman Isom kept conflating a bishop in a disciplinary hearing with God--not to mention the audacity to suggest it is always the member's choice to stay in the Church rather than be excommunicated, and not acknowledging the reality is that it is the choice of one man in a position of "a little authority" (regardless of whether or not he is exercising unrighteous dominion) as to whether or not the accused remains in the Church.

Apparently there are too many literalistic Mormons who seem to conflate God and the prophet too. These folks seem to believe that if God wants change he will literally dictate it to the prophet, as though the prophet is a puppet, so they assume we mortals can just sit back and wait for divine direction.

But from my experience and also in history, I see that God expects for US to make the first move. WE humans decide to act or take a question before the Lord and THEN hope for divine direction.

I'm not crazy enough to think that in 1978 "God changed his mind about black people" or that humans pressure the Lord anymore than he pressures us (which is pretty much zilch). The only real power he has to effect change over us is through love, and there’s a lesson in that for us.  He doesn’t coerce, and nor should we.  I think the Lord waits patiently for us to figure things out on our own.  He had made it clear he “denieth none that come unto him, black or white, bond or free, male or female…all are alike unto God”. But WE didn't get part of that before 1978 until WE changed our perspective.

Historically it has taken us mortals (even our prophet leaders, since they’re not raised in a cultural vacuum) a long time to realize what God already desires for his children. With Paul and all the other prophets, we "see through a glass darkly." But God waits patiently and lovingly for us to correct our perspectives and figure out His will for ourselves. He even shows long-suffering to apostles who live so set in their ways and convinced of the rightness of their position (even though their position turned out to be wrong, and regardless of the "certainty" they spoke with that they knew or "know" Gods will.)

I personally think there's still part of that "all are alike" scripture (and no, he's not referring to biological/physical sameness) that the Church collectively isn't understanding right. Instead of believing Him and taking His word that "all" are alike unto God, in terms of who can or can't be ordained to the priesthood we continue to deny those who happened to be born female, and regardless of their spiritual strength, leadership talents, and the worthy desires of their hearts.

God has never declared that holding priesthood keys or offices was or is some divine gender role--we the people have projected antiquated gender roles onto God.

I think those of us who believe the ninth article of faith--that many great and important things are yet to be revealed--should be patient, but I don't think we need to be passive.  As President Kimball once wrote in a letter to his son Ed: "Revelations will probably never come unless they are desired. I think few people receive revelations while lounging on a couch."

As a historian I'm fascinated by these issues and look for background, context, and reasons—cause and effect—which impact the how and the why things happened the way they did.  Those lessons have much to teach us in the present and the future.

Ironically, another change occurred in 1978--the prohibition (yes, there was a prohibition) on/of women praying in Sacrament meetings. The "Brethren" explained that the policy (set in 1967) "had no scriptural basis and should be abandoned." I believe that there are still gender prohibitions without any scriptural or doctrinal basis that should likewise be abandoned.

And for the record, it wasn't until April of 2013 that a woman first prayed in General Conference. Of course, if you think change comes to passive puppets without any effort on our part, then you probably believe that Ordain Women had nothing to do with that (even though faithful feminists had been seeking after that very thing for years), and also that last October just happened to be a good time to begin televising the General Priesthood Session of Conference (which really should be called the General Men's Session, since women also exercise priesthood power and authority*.)

*Elder Oaks's recent conference talk explained that women already excercise priesthood power and authority, but do not currently hold priesthood offices or keys. He didn't provide a reason, footnote, or citation as to why this is the case--just an assumption that the historical patriarchal pattern is divinely decreed. (Historically we also know that some prophets and apostles also had assumed the racial priesthood ban that ended in 1978 had originated with God, yet the Church's recent "Race and the Priesthood" essay correctly places the ban's origins with Brigham Young in the context of the racism of that day and age.) Elder Oaks did acknowledge, however, that in the temple women perform priesthood ordinances and exercise the priesthood keys of the temple president, though he did not explain why women are banned from performing ordinances outside the temple or why they cannot excercise priesthood keys outside the temple, such as by serving on a stake high council under the direction of or by virtue of the keys of the stake president.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your posts. I really enjoy them.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but most of the church "revelations" seem to reflect the personal opinions of the general authorities, which are usually one generation behind the current cultural norms.
Back in 1970 a "good mormon" was married, never divorced, didn't use birth control,hence had large families, and the wife did not work ouside the home and they certainly did not drink any kind of caffiene in any form! Black people were marginalized because they could not hold the priesthood. My husband served a mission to the south and was told not to proseletyse blacks.
Forty years later, look at the difference!. I can easily believe that some day women may hold priesthood callings but I think the LGBT people will always be marginalized. The fact that these people exist with out any choice on their part pretty much flies in the face of the whole plan of salvation. Its so frustrating.

JoshtheBold said...

I completely agree with the view that follow the scriptural precedent of asking questions gets revelations and have no problem with Ordain Women personally. (I am of the personal belief women will have the priesthood one day in the church).

I also have the belief that leadership is influenced by culture and can be wrong (see the last 25 verses of 3 Nephi 11 and take note of how Christ speaks to the 12 disciples "there should be no disputations among you as there hath hitherto been". They obviously had disagreements and were wrong in some aspects. It is also interesting though that despite that precedent, he puts complete trust in them again in 3 Nephi 12:1 "Blessed are ye if ye hearken to the words of the 12 whom I have chosen")

I also agree with the AoF 9 premise, and I don't pretend to know what could change in the church- nor does anyone else.

The one thing I do caution with that is this line- "God has never declared that holding priesthood keys or offices was or is some divine gender role--we the people have projected antiquated gender roles onto God."

I agree. However, He also hasn't declared the opposite- "God has never declared that holding priesthood keys or offices ISN'T some divine gender role".

If we are to be intellectually honest- those with a progressive/liberal view cannot project their view of gender roles upon God in the same way the conservative view is accused of doing the same. My one complaint with ordain women- "we will not stop until women are ordained." An open and honest heart will go in either way, despite what one believes to be fair or right on their own.

Much love.

Jeff G said...

I haven't actually listened to the whole interview. How did she do this?:

"spokeswoman Isom kept conflating a bishop in a disciplinary hearing with God"

Unknown said...

Great post!

Phyllis said...

Great post, Clean Cut.

"As a result of the sacred ordinances performed in the holy house of God, no light need be permanently extinguished, no voice permanently stilled, no place in our heart permanently left vacant." Thomas S. Monson. Try telling that to Kate Kelly.

Clean Cut said...

This is EXACTLY how I feel:

"The rest of the world is inching closer and closer to gender equality. Every year, more women assume roles as CEOs, university presidents and even military generals. In fact, at present, the person most likely to be the next President of the United States is a woman. In such an event, our current priesthood restriction is going to look downright absurd. I certainly don’t want to be the one trying to explain to my mother how a woman can be the single most important figure on planet earth, but the Lord can’t trust her to pass out bread and water on a Sunday morning.

"And while many of our brothers and sisters sincerely believe that we must wait on the Lord to make changes in His Church, it’s likely that He is waiting on us."