Way back in the dawn of time, we had a rather lengthy discussion about the appropriate role of criticising Church leaders. Apparently this topic is still interesting enough to prompt comments, so I thought I’d put my two cents in.
Actually, I thought I’d try to put in Elder Eyring’s two cents.
While preparing for a lesson, I watched Elder Eyring’s talk from last fall. I quite enjoy Elder Eyring’s talks. He is pretty much guaranteed to get choked up while presenting them, but I can’t really hold that against him. In any case, Elder Eyring started off with the following point about the Apostasy, which he learned from Elder Faust:
“…if the Saints who heard Paul had possessed a testimony of the value and the power of the keys he held, perhaps the Apostles would not have had to be taken from the earth.”
He then went on to note that the same idea applies to us today. That we will benefit from the keys our leaders hold only to the extent that we have the faith needed that Christ can act through these leaders:
“But just as in the time of Paul, the power of those priesthood keys for us requires our faith. We have to know by inspiration that the priesthood keys are held by those who lead and serve us. That requires the witness of the Spirit…And we must have an assurance through the Holy Ghost, refreshed often, that those keys have been passed without interruption to the living prophet and that the Lord blesses and directs His people through the line of priesthood keys which reaches down through presidents of stakes and of districts and through bishops and branch presidents to us, wherever we are and no matter how far from the prophet and the apostles.”
Now this is basically the same point that Moroni made in Mormon 9:20, that if we see no miracles, it is because we lack faith. Elder Eyring then noted that Satan is fully aware of this dynamic, and so “Satan will always work on the Saints of God to undermine their faith in priesthood keys. One way he does it is to point out the humanity of those who hold them. He can in that way weaken our testimony and so cut us loose from the line of keys by which the Lord ties us to Him…”
Furthermore, when we emphasize the humanity of our leaders, we help Satan destroy our faith and that of others:
“The warning for us is plain. If we look for human frailty in humans, we will always find it. When we focus on finding the frailties of those who hold priesthood keys, we run risks for ourselves. When we speak or write to others of such frailties, we put them at risk.”
In effect, we get self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t have faith in the keys held by leaders, they will no longer be able to help you. At which point, sure enough, you feel justified in thinking that the leaders don’t help you. We call this a bad move.
Elder Eyring is fully aware of the humanity of the leaders, as he stated above. But before we start criticizing leaders or talking up their humanity and mistakes, we should ask whether it is worth the cost of the risks that Elder Eyring has pointed out. Sometimes it might be. Typically, it is better to hold our tongue publically and take up the issue privately. I would add that Elder Eyring’s phrasing of “speak and write” seems to be geared not towards quiet conversations with our leaders. But rather towards public dissension and private backbiting. It seems, in fact, to fit pretty nicely with the forum we have here.