Blood on the Doorposts

Let’s call her Sister Jones. We both taught seminary in Northern California a few years ago. I liked her from day one: faithful, funny, and willing to lend out anything from her complete collection of Sunstone back issues. (This was in the days before full Internet access, you see.)

The year began without incident, but then the rumbling started: Proposition 22. The best thing, in my opinion, about California politics is the incessant parade of weird and wonderful ballot inititiatives (medical marijuana, the eating of horsemeat, benefits for immigrants and, yes, gay marriage). I think we (liberals, conservative, and everyone in between) were surprised at how very involved the Church got this time. While some wards had nothing more than one letter read over the pulpit in sacrament meeting encouraging members to oppose what they called same-sex marriage (which, confusingly, meant a ‘yes’ vote on Prop 22), out stake got the whole enchilada: members visited by high council members asking for financial donations, mutual nights devoted to delivering lawn signs, phone calls from the ward Prop 22 specialist asking us to spend time calling or going door-to-door to contact likely voters, and more.

For some in our stake and for some reading this, such an initiative lines up quite nicely with their idea of good government. This post isn’t for them. It is for people like me who, had the Church been silent, would have had a ‘No on 22’ sign in the window.

But the Church, of course, wasn’t silent. And for people like me, who put a priority on being in harmony with the teachings of the Church, this created a very difficult situation. Sister Jones was in that camp as well. But she was (and is) a faithful woman, and so she put a ‘Yes on 22’ sign on her lawn, which was right in the center of a small, liberal college town.

A few days later, she came into my seminary classroom pale and literally shaking and thrust down the local newspaper so I could see it. In full color, above the fold on the front page, was a picture of her ‘Yes on 22’ sign. While the photo was too close in to see the house behind it, the caption below identified the intersection where the house was found. She was worried about the safety of her family, worried about her and her husband’s reputation (and the Church’s reputation) in the small town where they had made their home.

She may or may not have had tears in her eyes. I looked up at her and she said, “I think we’ve found our generation’s equivalent of blood on the doorposts.”

It became the cornerstone of how and why I was (and am) able to support the Church’s opposition to SSM even when I don’t support the Church’s opposition to SSM.

The scriptures are replete with examples of the prophets asking the faithful to do illogical things. Sacrifice my own son? To what end? Blood on the doorposts? Why? Marching around Jericho? You’ve got to be kidding! Wash in the Jordan seven times? I could have bathed at home! Cut off Laban’s head? Surely there must be some other way. The principle behind these events is enshrined in a verse that none of us believe:

Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend. (Mosiah 4:9)

We think, we all do, that we can comprehend everything. So when we come up against the prophets asking us to do something illogical, like oppose gay marriage (again, I’m not talking to or about those whose personal inclination would be to oppose it; I’m talking to everyone else), we recite the reasons why this is illogical.

But the scriptures have promised us that we will not comprehend everything. Perhaps this is what bothers me when well-meaning Sunday School classmates wax on and on about the health benefits of the Word of Wisdom. If it is all about health benefits, you can keep your prophet and I’ll just consult the latest nutrition journals. What’s the point, anyway, of a prophet who can do no more than echo in religious terms what scientists have already demonstrated? No, I want a prophet who can do more than provide counsel that can be justified and rationalized by the learning of men. Of course, when that counsel comes, I’m upset and feel vaguely sick in the pit of my stomach. That’s certainly the case for SSM. But I will take it; I will take it on as my own and I won’t publicize my Really Good Reasons for thinking the SSM is not the hill the Church should be fighting on.

For me, opposition to SSM is all those things we always talk about: a test of obedience, a test of faith, a test of our willingness to follow counsel. If my personal inclination was to oppose SSM, it wouldn’t very well be a test of obedience, now would it? (And I realize that for many members it is not; I imagine they have their own tests, like having to listen to Sunday School lessons given by the likes of me every week.) But for me it is.

And that’s why I oppose same-sex marriage, even though I don’t.

Note: For those who have problems with the obvious, I’ll specify that this post is not the place to hash out whether opposing SSM is a good thing. But don’t fear: there’s plenty of places where you might do that. Try here or here or here or even here and, hey, what about here and don’t forget here and, oh, this would be a good place, but there’s also here and even here and . . .)

142 comments for “Blood on the Doorposts

  1. A. Greenwood
    August 2, 2005 at 1:51 pm

    Those of us who feel that opposition to SSM is more than a personal preference or an illogical test of obedience, please respect the boundaries of debate that Julie in A. has established.

    And good on ya, Julie in A., and you, Sister Jones.

  2. August 2, 2005 at 1:58 pm

    Julie, this is a very thoughtful post.

    I think, however, that you’re comparing things that are not parallel. While washing in the Jordan may seem illogical or inefficient, it is not in the same category as being asked to sacrifice your child, which may also seem illogical (if it is through this child that one had been promised seed as numberless as the sands of the sea and stars of the heavens) but, more importantly, is rejected by one’s inner core as an immoral violation of all that is sacred and good. A careful distinction must be made between these sorts of commanded actions, even though same-sex marriage may possibly qualify as the second sort depending on the relevance of the situation for one’s own life,

    In my own life I have had no trouble following what seem to me to be merely what you call “illogical” commands, but I have yet to reconcile the Abrahamic sacrifice that I feel was asked of me. I am still troubled by the doctrine that God may call you to give up what you care about most, what you’ve prayed for, and wept for, and fought for, and are worthy of. For Abraham there was a ram in the thicket, but sometimes God requires us to actually follow through with the bitter sacrifice. And then, what are you left with? Can you then still believe that God is a personally loving God?

    I don’t think the answers are as easy as we sometimes make them out to be.

  3. Steve Evans
    August 2, 2005 at 2:07 pm

    Julie, if I understand your post correctly you’re saying that our opposition to SSM should be a matter of blind faith and obedience, if we do not have a personal testimony of such opposition. Is that correct?

  4. gary
    August 2, 2005 at 2:08 pm

    Further to Melissa’s comment, it also worth noting that God commanded Abraham. The commandment did not come from a fallible intermediary. Abraham apparently did not need to wonder whether the instruction really was God’s will. When we get instruction from our leaders, we do not always have that level of certainty. It is one thing to do God’s will, while knowing that it is in fact God’s will, even though it seems illogical, or even immoral. But what if we genuinely do not believe that a given instruction is in fact God’s will? Isn’t the fact the something seems illogical or immoral to us at least some evidence that it is not actually God’s will? It is not as if there is no precedent for uninspired instructions and teachings.

  5. Julie in Austin
    August 2, 2005 at 2:08 pm


    I agree with you that the opportunity costs of washing in the Jordan are way, way lower than that of sacrificing your own long-awaited child. At the same time, using both of those examples allowed me to suggest that for some people (like me), opposition to SSM will be akin to washing in Jordan (“This doesn’t make sense. This is embarrassing. What’s the point?”) while for some (perhaps those who would enter into SSM if given the chance), it will be more akin to sacrificing a child.

    No argument for me that sometimes the answers are not easy; I hope that my sharing one scenario where I came to an answer didn’t imply that I thought everyone would get all their questions answered so tidily.

  6. Julie in Austin
    August 2, 2005 at 2:14 pm


    For me, at least, this was anything but blind: I probably spent more time thinking, praying, and talking with a variety of other people about SSM during the Prop 22 situation than I waste in the bloggernacle now. If you mean obedience-when-you-don’t-see-a-logical-reason-for-it, then, yes, it is that. But if it weren’t, we wouldn’t have a category labelled ‘obedience,’ would we? We’d just call it ‘following your best judgement.’ Further, I would say that there is some element of testimony to my position in that, while the answers to my prayers have not included any good reasons for opposing SSM, I have definitely felt that it would be wrong (for me) to be visibly or vocally supportive of SSM.

    gary raises a very good point. You’ll notice that I gave several examples where the command *did* come through fallible leaders. Each person will need to determine for her or himself whether the Church’s opposition to SSM stems from God or from human leaders and then take it from there.

  7. Nate Oman
    August 2, 2005 at 2:14 pm

    gary: Two responses to your post. First, there are scriptural examples of people following seemingly illogical commands that come from prophets rather than God himself. Consider, for example, the widow who gave her last bit of oil and flour at Elijah’s command or Nahom, who washed in Jordan, on the command of the prophet.

    Second, if you use what you think of as being moral or logical as the criteria for deciding whether or not prophet utterences are inspired or not, then you fall into the circular problem of prophets only being able to tell you things that you already know. This is not an argument in favor of prophetic infallibility. But it does suggest that we must come up with some sort of substantively neutral way of identifying “truely” prophet statements.

  8. August 2, 2005 at 2:22 pm

    Julie, you pre-empt a post I’ve worked on for a while on the illogic of discipleship. The money quote-

    There are a “host of scriptural and historical incidents that illustrate how unwavering obedience is sometimes more flexible than deciding our own limits. The hazard of inflexible obedience is that we accept directives that are not from God; the risk of deciding our own limits is that we reject commandments that are of God. From Abraham to Heber C. Kimball and up through today, the Lord has had the unnerving habit of wrenching heartstrings and asking the preposterous. It seems that counting the cost is something the Lord expects from generals and architects, but dislikes in his disciples. The Abrahamic tests go beyond the bounds of rational theology, at least in the moment when decisions are made. To say ‘this cannot be of God,’ ‘beyond here I will not go,’ or ‘God would never ask this’ is to run the risk of being too narrow, and almost certainly the demands of discipleship will press us until we shatter like glass.”
    -“What Sunstone Means to People Like Me.” Sunstone, July 1981.

    I find that particularly poignant coming from Sunstone…

  9. Kirsten M. Christensen
    August 2, 2005 at 2:39 pm

    I shouldn’t speak for Julie, but I think that is what she’s saying, Steve, except that, for her, blind obedience is a blessing, if you will, available _because_ we have a prophet. She trusts that the ‘blindness’ is neither universal nor temporary — that someday (probably _way_ later than she might wish) she will see what the prophet saw and then understand the purpose of the commandment or teaching.

    I have not yet been able to summon this kind of faith on every issue. I would not have put a “Yes on 22” sign in my yard. I am certain of that. I am also quite certain that I would not have put a “No on 22” sign in my yard, even if the church had been silent. I guess my lack of signage would have been my way of acknowledging that it is the prophet’s job, not mine, to determine, as Julie said, what hill we should be fighting on. But I would not have been willing to climb the hill myself on this issue, meaning, I would not have agreed to pass out signs (or let my children do so), or otherwise become involved publicly. Without knowing all the details of the proposition, I cannot say how I would have voted, but I know that I would not have let the church’s opposition dictate my vote. It sounds like this is essentially also what Julie did–accepted the church’s opposition without openly joining it.

    Which raises the issue of whether lack of public contradiction of the church is enough, or does the Lord require of us that we climb all the hills the prophet identifies?

    Like Melissa, certain things in the scripture and the church today do contradict my core beliefs about what is good or right to such an extent that I cannot reconcile them, even with prophets, but I am ok allowing myself time to come to an understanding. I guess I also allow the possibility (and perhaps this is where Julie and I differ) that not everything from the prophets is immutable. Blacks and the priesthood is an example here. Would I have been evil or disobedient had I openly lamented this clear discrimination during the days when it was held as doctrine by the leaders and most of the membership of the church? What did the Lord expect of members who simply could not reconcile this exclusion with what they understood of God’s love of all his children and desire for them to have his blessings? I would have hoped that I would not have been an apologist for this, even if I said I believed we were lead by a prophet. And what did Pres. Kimball’s revelation teach us, then, about the vision of earlier prophets? Did the church have a collective “Oh, now I get why we excluded blacks from the priesthood” in June 1978? No. I think most had a collective “thank goodness the teaching and practice can now fit what has felt right in our hearts all along.”

    I’m not attempting to equate blacks and the priesthood with SSM — just that our history complicates the issue somewhat, I think.

  10. August 2, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    Even if a prophetic utterance is uninspired, is it our duty to override it? Would God ever give personal revelation telling someone to disobey the prophet? Is there precedence for that? Even if a particular issue isn’t God’s will, isn’t obedience to the prophet still God’s will?

  11. Rosalynde Welch
    August 2, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    I think Nate is right that this problem is as much (or more) about the nature and claims of authority as it is about the process of obedience. But I think, Nate, that the new criteria you’ve set up—that is, that one’s response to authoritative claims should be determined not by one’s conscience but by the epistemological origin of the claim–is structured by an unanswerable question: when is the prophet speaking with prophetic authority, and when merely as a man? There is no scriptural principle by which to make this determination; furthermore, prophets themselves often seem unclear on what sort of authority they’re claiming, or invoke several sorts in the same discourse. In the end, I think this question will unavoidably channel one’s pre-existing convictions as much as the question of conscience does. There’s got to be a better principle on which to base a theory of authority that, as Nate so often and so eloquently argues, has to have some substantive claim on belief and behavior to be at all meaningful.

  12. August 2, 2005 at 2:58 pm

    Darn computer ate my comment…

    I think Rosalynde’s question can be answered, but not in an objective, verifiable way (and I suspect that’s what she meant). Thus argues Elder Rueben J. Clark in his 1954 talk, “When Are Church Leader’s Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?” Copy here

    Another relevant point out of the past is George Q. Cannon’s following statement.

    “If we do anything, let us do it understandingly. If we hear any principle taught from the stand that we do not understand, let us seek to comprehend it by the Spirit of God. If it be not of God, we have the privilege of knowing it. We are not required to receive for doctrine everything that we hear. We may say, “I do not know whether this is true or not; I will not fight it, neither will I endorse it, but I will seek knowledge from God, for that is my privilege, and I will never rest satisfied until I have obtained the light I require.”

    If you hear a doctrine that does not agree with your feelings or that you do not believe, take this course; do not reject nor endorse hastily without knowing or understanding. By taking this course you will develop the principle that God designs we should possess, and we will thus become a wise and understanding people, for we will be based on the rock of revelation.” –Gospel Truth, 270.

  13. Julie in Austin
    August 2, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    Kirsten wrote, “Which raises the issue of whether lack of public contradiction of the church is enough, or does the Lord require of us that we climb all the hills the prophet identifies? ”

    I think you’d have to let the Spirit guide on this one. For example, I felt in CA that I needed to (1) not publicly say anything that would support a No on 22 vote and (2) vote yes on it myself. When we moved to Texas there was a DOMA in front of the lege, but that’s different from a ballot proposition. I felt fine turning down general invitations to our ward to go to the capitol and speak to congresspeople. When SSM came up at FMH, I felt that I needed to post this.

    Kirsten then gave the example of what position on blacks and the p’hood one might have taken pre-1978.

    The irony, of course, is that if you had been privately opposed to the ban, prayed about it, but not said anything publicly about your concerns but instead publicly defended the ban as the will of the Lord, you would have been following the prophet–literally, because that’s what Pres. McKay was doing during this time. (Of course, the general membership didn’t know this.) I cannot think of any scriptural or Church history precedents where speaking out against the position of the Church has been condoned by the Lord (Anyone? Anyone?) Of course, that’s different from speaking privately with a Church leader (a la daughters of Zelophehad) or having personal inspiration to do something other than the standard operating procedure (such as Nephi and Laban’s poor head or mothers of young children who work full time or whatever).

  14. JKS
    August 2, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    Thank you Julie. I don’t know if you read my post on this issue on FMH, but I had to say something about what having a prophet means. If the first presidency’s makes a statement we should listen. How can we possibly understand all of God’s plan, all of his commandments, all of his reasons?
    All of your analogies are appropriate. There are many things that God asks us to do and we don’t know why. Taking that step with faith is what he asks of us.

  15. Rosalynde Welch
    August 2, 2005 at 3:06 pm

    Great quotes, Ben, although they sidestep the juicy question: so what if your seekings lead you to conclude that the doctrine is, indeed, *not* of God?

  16. gary
    August 2, 2005 at 3:11 pm

    Nate and Julie: I acknowledge that there are scriptural examples of commands coming through prophets and not from God himself. My comment about Abraham was intended merely to point out an important distinguishing feature which I believe limits the applicability of Abraham’s example. Some people (I am not one of them) truly believe that opposition to SSM is wrong. I am not sure that the example of Abraham is all that useful to those people. Neither are the examples of people doing apparently illogical things which seem silly, but are not otherwise immoral.

    I don’t mean to suggest that my own sense of what is logical or immoral is the standard by which prophetic utterances are to be judged. However, my best judgment on these issues is a relevant consideration. I agree that we need a way to determine when the prophets really are speaking God’s will and when they are not. I don’t have a good answer to that question, so I just have to do the best I can with whatever good judgment and inspiration he sees fit to give me.

  17. Kirsten M. Christensen
    August 2, 2005 at 3:12 pm

    Thanks or the GQ Cannon quote. I guess this approach is at the core of what I described in my intro post — that rather than leave the church I ultimately chose to stay in the church “until I have obtained the light I require.” And in my experience, the obtaining can take a long time. This used to bother me, since I like answers as much as the next guy. But Elder Cannon does not suggest that light will come within any particular timeframe. I don’t think anyone else does either.

    I remember once walking in on a conversation three of my younger brothers were having. One of them, who had already been out of church activity for several years, asked imploringly, “How much can you _not_ believe and still call yourself a Mormon?” I suppose the answer to that question will be different for everyone, but I wonder how many people leave because they’re sure they’re the only one who doesn’t have a testimony, or doesn’t understand this principle or that. I wonder if more would stay in the church if they knew how universal the search for understanding is, that faith and questioning need not be mutually exclusive, and that ‘getting’ everything in the church is not a requirement of membership.

  18. A. Greenwood
    August 2, 2005 at 3:12 pm

    “If you mean obedience-when-you-don’t-see-a-logical-reason-for-it, then, yes, it is that. But if it weren’t, we wouldn’t have a category labelled ‘obedience,’ would we? We’d just call it ‘following your best judgement.’”

    That’s it. There it is.

  19. Julie in Austin
    August 2, 2005 at 3:15 pm

    gary, (and RW, too),

    To someone who has sincerely prayed about it and concluded that opposing SSM is wrong, I would suggest that they remember that they don’t have the authority to receive doctrine/practice for the entire Church, and I would assume that the message is that the Lord doesn’t want *that individual* to oppose SSM.

    (I have a very hard time getting worked up over efforts to prohibit gambling–although I think gambling is awful –but I don’t feel out of harmony with the Church on this issue. I just think that I’m not one of the foot soldiers in that battle.)

  20. gary
    August 2, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    Eric: ” Would God ever give personal revelation telling someone to disobey the prophet?”

    Yes. Nephi cut off Laban’s head in direct violation of a commandment issued by God’s prophet. Furthermore, when the prophets themselves tell us that they are not always speaking as prophets, then we have no choice but to consider whether specific instructions represent God’s will. I see no reason at all why God would not give personal revelation telling someone that the words of a prophet were either wrong or inapplicable to that person.

  21. Kirsten M. Christensen
    August 2, 2005 at 3:30 pm

    And I agree with Gary that, for whatever reason, Abraham and Isaac offer me little insight or comfort when it comes to the SSM issue.

    Doing “the best I can with whatever good judgment and inspiration [the Lord] sees fit to give me,” when that might contradict some teaching of the prophet, is tricky on its own. But we’ve been talking here so far about really personal, internal struggles. What about when your kids ask you to explain what seems to them a contradiciton? Learning to listen to one’s heart _and_ the prophet hopefully won’t often cause tension, but sometimes it does for some of us. How does one teach this to children? I’d be interested in others’ experiences.

    My seven year-old son and I began the first presidency’s “finish the BofM by the end of the year” challenge last night. As we were reading about the response of the people to Lehi’s dire warnings, my son interrupted me, his voice edgy: “How do we know they didn’t just make this up? How do we know if it really happened?” You ask God. “Well how do you know _God_ is real?” I was not prepared for all the room in his voice that it might _not_ be true, that God might _not_ be real. But I was so moved, and rendered nearly speechless by all the possibility for filling that space. If there weren’t more than one possible answer, the questions would have no purpose. He asked me to pray with him. I did. What a privilege. I’m not sure he knows this morning that Lehi was real. I know he knows it’s ok to ask.

  22. Mark B.
    August 2, 2005 at 3:30 pm

    A few more comments on Gary’s post:

    Both Abraham and Nephi got their commands directly from God. Or at least they say that they did. (And, by the way, I believe them.) But the question of knowing whether the command comes from God is the same whether it comes direct or from the prophet. How did Abraham or Nephi know that it was God commanding the act, which in both cases must have seemed abhorrent? (Nephi’s record says as much. Abraham’s doesn’t.) Both men apparently were practiced in hearing the word of God, and knew it when they heard it.

    In addition, as we’re looking at imperfect persons through whom the message is mediated, it is inescapable that one of those imperfect persons will always be ourselves.

    Finally, there’s a great lesson from Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Perhaps refusing the ritual obeisance to the idol when the music played may have seemed illogical while Nebuchadnezzar’s slaves were stoking the furnace (You know, Lord, I had my fingers crossed when I bowed down to it–I knew Who the real power was), but they nonetheless refused. They stated their faith that God could save them, but if not, know thou, O King, that we won’t bow down to it.

    It takes a lot of faith to live up to the “but if not” standard.

  23. Mark B.
    August 2, 2005 at 3:31 pm

    Oops. I failed to turn off the bold after the first “but if not”. If someone wants to fix it, thanks.

  24. August 2, 2005 at 3:32 pm

    “Nephi cut off Laban’s head in direct violation of a commandment issued by God’s prophet. ”

    Which one? The question is not as stupid as it sounds…

  25. Kirsten M. Christensen
    August 2, 2005 at 3:34 pm

    I think that would be “Thou shalt not kill,” from our friend Moses.

  26. August 2, 2005 at 3:37 pm


    Besides the other great issues raised, you’ve sidestepped a humdinger in the Abrahamic comparison. Abraham was himself put on an altar as a human sacrifice– to false gods. There are plenty of examples of people thinking they are talking to God when they have been deceived. Thus the question of “does this counsel come from God” is not really answered by the fact that Abraham heard a voice presumably from heaven or saw a personage, or even felt a burning in his bosom. Abraham had faith that the message was from God, not Satan. We have faith that the message is from God when it comes from prophets.

    Remember, faith precedes the miracle and you receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.


    Thanks for this post. Things like this make T&S worth reading.

  27. Nate Oman
    August 2, 2005 at 3:39 pm

    Rosalynde: It is not clear to me that the answer about prophet authority necessarily comes down to a dicotomy between epistemology and conscience. I don’t think you necessarily have to have a correct answer to the question in every instance of whether what a prophet says is “prophetic” or “merely human.” To begin with, I suspect that this categorization is way too binary. Furthermore, I am quite comfortable with some sort of fallibilism, not only in prophetic statements but also in our ability to identify “really” prophetic statements. My point was simply that our criteria for prophetic authority CANNOT be “whatever it is that I happen to think is right as independent of the source of the claim.”

    I don’t think that this means that our own sense of what is moral or reasonable plays no role. I am not trying to expel conscience from the picture, but only to point out that it simply cannot function by itself as a theory of authority or prophecy. To fall back on the legal analogy (and I am affraid that my intellectual poverty means that law is about the only analogy I have), the fact that a judge’s policy preferences play some role in adjudication does not mean that adjudication and legislation are the same thing.

  28. August 2, 2005 at 3:39 pm

    Looks like Mark said it better and earlier than me!

  29. August 2, 2005 at 3:41 pm

    That’s what I figured. The verb /ratsach/ does not mean simply to kill, but to murder someone with malice aforethought. The law of Moses explicitly provides for manslaughter, crimes of passion, and non-premeditated killings and even killing when God delivers someone into your hands.

    I’ve read several cogent arguments that Nephi was not violating the LoM when he killed Laban. See here under 1 Nephi 4:9. I know Ben McGuire has argued against Welch’s interpretation of the LoM in favor of his own, but I don’t think his paper is available anywhere yet.

    In any case, it is reductionist and simplistic to assert that Nephi was breaking one of the 10 Commandments.

  30. August 2, 2005 at 3:46 pm

    I actually meant 1 Nephi 4:10 on that page, not 4:9.

  31. manaen
    August 2, 2005 at 3:47 pm

    I enjoyed all the comments above. Some scattershots:

    * SSM = ?

    * My soul-search issue was, as I posted in “Interracial Marriage,” the pre-1978 racial restrictions of the priesthood. I never gained a sweet, burning sureness such that I rejoiced in that doctrine/practice. However, I did know that the Church is true, that I wasn’t who the Lord wanted to handle it, and somehow that this would be resolved in time. I did rejoice when that time came much sooner than I’d expected.

    * An issue that I expected to wrestle was the pending presidency of Ezra Taft Benson. I foresaw him as a red-baiting hawk that would be fanatical about the BoM and planting gardens. I still remember the moment in early-morning seminary when I was struck with the realization that if he did become the prophet, I wouldn’t be the one to call him and I’d better remember who would call him. Well, he became the prophet, he did tell us to refocus on the BoM and to plant gardens, and during his actual presidency I was glad that I hadn’t said much about my other worries.

    * I’ve been learning that there is much more growth from the tough issues by asking “What can/should/do I learn from this about our true nature and about God?” and using that to shape my views than by seeking to use my (current) views to shape the Church/prophet/God.

    * D&C 101:3-5 says that everyone who is to be sanctified must be tried as was Abraham. That used to bother me greatly. Then I realized that it means God wants to develop everyone to the level at which we will succeed in that trial. Ester Rasband’s example of the box under the bed in “Confronting the Myth of Self-Esteem” captures this.

  32. sova
    August 2, 2005 at 3:54 pm

    Julie in Austin,

    1.I am just wondering what type of behavioral model this creates in followers of this kind of thinking…
    “If you mean obedience-when-you-don’t-see-a-logical-reason-for-it, then, yes, it is that.”

    I do not want to lower your “answer” to the question, but it is almost the typical Parental obedience argument, when Parents invoke the “Because I am the parent reasoning.”

    Where exactly does the individual make choices that are allowed to deviate. Here, you run into the situation where we are told–yes, you can pray about it, but if you do not feel good about what the Prophet said, you are wrong.

    2. A correlated point is a question about what type of behavioral model does an individual consult in the future?
    When you invoke such a because-I-am-in-charge reasoning, you leave the person empty when it comes to making future decision? I understand that individuals are still able to consult their reason and the Spirit, but if they do not see and understand the process as the Prophet does it, how is this learning to occur?

    I understand that there are many prophets in the scriptures who are somewhat opaque about their reasoning process, i.e. Abraham, but I think those are not the models for contemplative decision-making–models which people need…

  33. gary
    August 2, 2005 at 3:56 pm

    Ben S.: Moses. I know you have something cooking–I look forward to it.

    Mark B.: I agree with you when you say that it is inescapable that one of the imperfect intermediaries is ourselves. When you state that it takes a lot of faith to live up to the “but if not” standard, I think there are two concepts embedded in this statement. First, I must have faith that the grossly imperfect me has correctly understood God’s will. Second I must have faith in God. I sometimes think that having faith in God is the least of my problems. Having faith in my ability to discern God’s will is much more difficult. I think it is possible that other potential Shadrachs, Meshacs and Abdnegos might stumble, not because they lacked faith in God, but because they did not trust their own conclusion that God really did want them them to fry.

  34. Jud
    August 2, 2005 at 3:59 pm

    No insightful comment–just really enjoyed the post. Very refreshing.

  35. alamojag
    August 2, 2005 at 4:08 pm


    The problem is that God himself has used the “because I am in charge and I know what’s best” reason. That was essentially the reason given to Job, and was also essentially the reason given to Joseph Smith in D&C 122:7-8 ” …[A]ll these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”

    I remember that June day in 1978. I was attending my first baptism as a missionary. It was the only time I ever saw my mission president (a heavy-set man) dance.

  36. August 2, 2005 at 4:11 pm

    (Reposted and expanded slightly from above)

    I figured it was Moses and the 10 commandments. The verb /ratsach/ in “thou shalt not kill”does not mean simply to kill, but to murder someone with malice aforethought, premeditated killing. Many modern translations have shifted to “You shall not murder.

    I’ve read several cogent arguments that Nephi was not violating the LoM when he killed Laban. See here under 1 Nephi 4:10. I know Ben McGuire has argued against Welch’s interpretation of the LoM in favor of his own, but I don’t think his paper is available anywhere yet. (I haven’t reread these for a while, but I think I’m accurately conveying the general idea.)

    Regardless of whether god actually told him to (as (I believe) Nephi clearly did not plan it ahead of time and did not “hate” Laban, and so could have fled to a city of refuge. The relevant passage here is Exo. 21:12-14. . Nephi did not lie in wait, and God explicitly delivers Laban into his hand… I don’t want to rehash others’ arguments or thread jack. Too much, anyway.

    The short response is that it is reductionist and simplistic to assert that Nephi was flagrantly breaking one of the 10 Commandments.

  37. August 2, 2005 at 4:12 pm

    Broadly speaking, this scenario raises a clash of moral duties. Based on her own moral views of the issue, Sister Jones would be inclined to opposed Prop 22. But if she also views following the counsel of the Prophet as a moral duty, that might direct her to support Prop 22. So this isn’t a simple question of doing the right thing, it is trying to reconcile conflicting versions of “the right thing,” or ranking different moral duties. So of course there will be some hand-wringing; there is no “win-win” choice to be made in such a situation.

    Of course, some would see the sense of obligation to follow the Prophet’s counsel on this mixed moral-political issue as one of organizational loyalty rather than moral duty. In other words, it might be depicted as a clash between one’s sense of moral duty (opposing Prop 22) and simply following an organizational directive seemingly opposed to one’s moral sense. If that is the reason one decides to join an organized LDS campaign against an initiative one would otherwise oppose on moral grounds, I think it’s the wrong decision. If you conscience is really the light of Christ and, following it, you would oppose Prop 22, that should end the moral inquiry. Even if the light of Christ has nothing to do with it, one should probably follow one’s conscience in such matters.

  38. August 2, 2005 at 4:14 pm


    Your discussion is why prophets and GOd do not command in all things. There are tons of decisions upon which one gets very little to no divine input. Thus we have areas where we can learn obedience and places where we learn to make our own choices and do the best we can.

  39. kodos
    August 2, 2005 at 4:15 pm

    I’m perhaps a little surprised that so many people would find the opposition to gay marriage to be “illogical.” I don’t think any of us is really smart enough to predict with any confidence what effects, good or bad, gay marriage will have on the institutions of the family and society more generally. In such a situation, it would certainly be helpful to have an all-knowing God to tell us what to do.

    The whole issue, it seems to me, is how much faith we have that this recommendation really comes from God, rather than from the prejudices of our leaders. In the past few decades we have seen a gradual but substantial change in how the leaders talk about issues of homosexuality. A reasonable observer might conclude that the views of the leadership are likely to continue to change. Given this history, how much faith can we have that the current position comes from God and not from the judgement of men?

  40. August 2, 2005 at 4:16 pm

    Dave, sounds like in your world we don’t really need prophetic counsel. What exactly are those watchmen on the tower doing up there if our conscience is such a wonderful guide to truth?

  41. Steve Evans
    August 2, 2005 at 4:23 pm

    Julie, my question wasn’t meant to be accusatory. As you and others have indicated, I think that this Prop 22 situation is an interesting case study in what obedience is all about. Those who put the sign on their lawns (while they would privately wish the measure to fail) are clearly obedient. But to what? A divine commandment? Organizational loyalty, as Dave suggests?

    Can we fairly draw analogies to Church history and say, the old chestnut of polygamy? We read of many early practicioners who did so contre-coeur (my favorite French word!), against their own wishes. But this was a commandment coming straight from the Prophet…

    I am interested in the consequences of such obedience: are we blessed for following counsel that is not in fact divine? Would we be blessed for following some crackpot idea of the Bishop’s? Would we be punished by God for not following our leaders’ directives, even if such directives had nothing to do with our salvation? Fun stuff.

  42. Nate Oman
    August 2, 2005 at 4:23 pm

    “Even if the light of Christ has nothing to do with it, one should probably follow one’s conscience in such matters.”


  43. Kirsten M. Christensen
    August 2, 2005 at 4:31 pm

    Ben said: :”In any case, it is reductionist and simplistic to assert that Nephi was breaking one of the 10 Commandments.”

    It’s very helpful that the Law of Moses spelled everything out so carefully on this nasty issue of taking life, although it is worth bearing in mind that what Moses brought down from Sinai states only the rule, not the exceptions, which apparently came in later packagings. So, at least if his surprise and ‘shrinking’ at the Spirit’s direction is any indication, Nephi himself seems to have initially _thought_ that he was breaking _something_ that he had previously always held to be right, which would have had a good chance of being the sixth commandment, I would guess.

    Nephi’s dilemma is Julie’s dilemma to some degree, and is at the heart of what many are talking about here — that feelings of morality or justice that stem from our life’s experience (“never at any time have I shed the blood of man”) can co-exist with “constraints,” to use Nephi’s word, from the Spirit. Nephi resolved his (with unsettling speed, it might seem to some) in a continued conversation with the Spirit. That’s how you do it. Nephi’s resolution takes just a few verses. Ours might take a few years. And ours might be mediated by a prophet. But it’s the same process.

  44. D. Fletcher
    August 2, 2005 at 4:39 pm

    I said I would never post to this site again, so I guess I lied.

    Julie, I’m sorry to tell you, it’s a cop-out. Being obedient in this case can’t be compared to Abraham and Isaac, because it is actually easier than using your own judgment and common sense. “I’m just doing what God and the prophet have asked,” is tantamount to “God has given me permission to be intellectually lazy.” And in addition, you and your family will be “safe.” It’s called rationalization.

    Blind obedience takes more effort, perhaps even enduring some pain.

  45. August 2, 2005 at 4:40 pm

    Frank, the watchmen on the tower preach the gospel and run the Church. Those activities have a powerful influence on the moral views of the membership, so obviously their activities are not pointless or irrelevant. But their preaching doesn’t provide unique solutions to all political or moral questions. Even on a question as strictly moral as plural marriage in the 19th century, members were entitled to make their own decision. Many members who could have gone polyg chose to stay monog on moral grounds and were not disciplined for it. But then, maybe Mormons under the free and open society that was 19th-century Utah had more personal freedom than Mormons under the conservative regime of the 21st-century Church. ;-)

    Nate, I should hardly have to explain why individuals ought to follow their own moral conscience rather than give in to organizational directives that conflict with their moral views. If not, why bother with the redundant concept of morality? It would just collapse into one’s diligence in following organizational directives. [Note: I’m not saying no organizational directive has moral force, although if it does it is plainly of a different sort than conscience or personal morality; it is just unclear which ones do and which ones don’t.]

  46. Nate Oman
    August 2, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    Dave: I guess that I am just confused by the various iterations of morality that you are drawing. It seems to me that there is some distinction between institutional demands that you see as having moral force and those that you don’t see as having moral force. Or are you saying that institutional demands never have independent moral force? It seems to me that conscience is one among multiple potential moral sources of moral authority, and I really don’t see why it ought to act as some sort of a trump. So frankly, yes I do think it is something that requires some explanation. I am not abyssimally stupid or completely morally depraved, and I don’t find your claim self-evidently true. I am not saying that you owe me or anyone else some sort of a justification, only that your claim is hardly res ips loquitor.

    Frank: I think that Dave’s answer to your question is something along the lines of “yes.” As I read the response, Church leaders have sociological influence but no particular moral authority. Suffice it to say, that I see this as a hopelessly impoverished concept of prophecy.

  47. greenfrog
    August 2, 2005 at 4:56 pm

    Julie in Austin queried: I cannot think of any scriptural or Church history precedents where speaking out against the position of the Church has been condoned by the Lord (Anyone? Anyone?)

    Well, there was that Jesus guy. His actions apparently weren’t exactly endorsed by his Church leaders.

    But he seems to have turned out ok, in the end.

    Same for Martin Luther.

    And maybe Heinrich Huebner.

    Oh yeah — and Galileo — sort of.

    But does that really matter? Why should we prefer an organizationally-supportive resolution of the conflict between conscience and authority? Will the organization think we made the right choice? How can it? Should we expect an organization ever to endorse rejection of the organization’s authority?

    The harder question is whether a position is right despite the consequences associated with the organization’s opposition to it. If it is, then shouldn’t we be willing to suffer — even gladly — the consequences associated with choosing the right?

  48. Rosalynde Welch
    August 2, 2005 at 4:58 pm

    It seems like we’ve got two true things being said here:

    Prophetic counsel doesn’t mean anything if conscience always overrides it.
    Conscience doesn’t mean anything if prophetic counsel always overrides it.

    The problem is that both prophetic counsel and conscience construct their authority as absolute and comprehensive (you’ll find all sorts of quotes saying they’re not, of course, but when push comes to shove, they both assert pretty unconditionally). If there were a systematic way of imposing checks and balances on the authority of each or both, or if each would restrict its authority to certain well-defined realms (public v. private, for example) we’d have a solution.

  49. August 2, 2005 at 5:09 pm

    Dave, let me get this straight- you are comparing putting a sign on your lawn to taking a second wife? You must be some kind of lawn care fanatic. And since some members refused to take a second wife and weren’t excommunicated then we should not worry about following the prophet? There are things that are right to do, even if not doing them does not result in Church discipline. Following the prophet often falls in that category. William Law refused to take a second wife, as did William Marks. Both of them fell away from the Church largely over polygamy.

    And as for “the watchmen on the tower preach the gospel and run the Church.” Is that all they are to do? In that case, doesn’t the Church’s position on moral issues fall into the category of running the Church? And aren’t we part of the Church when baptised?

    If moral issues are off limits, where exactly is this restriction on prophetic authority laid out? And why do the prophets not seem to be aware of it? President Hinckley doesn’t seem to know about it, nor did ETB or SWK. Certainly Heber J. Grant didn’t know about it when Prohibition came up.


    Jesus, Martin Luther, and Galileo rebelled against apostate churches. Are you saying the LDS Church has gone apostate?

  50. greenfrog
    August 2, 2005 at 5:12 pm

    Jesus, Martin Luther, and Galileo rebelled against apostate churches. Are you saying the LDS Church has gone apostate?

    I agree with you regarding the condition of the churches Jesus, Luther and Galileo attended. But that’s a pretty easy conclusion after the fact. Moreover, it’s a necessary conclusion if we are to honor them for their decisions. The harder course is the one each of them took, without the benefit of hindsight.

    Are you saying the LDS Church has gone apostate?

    I don’t think I did say that. Why do you ask?

  51. Kirsten M. Christensen
    August 2, 2005 at 5:18 pm

    Frank asked: “Jesus, Martin Luther, and Galileo rebelled against apostate churches. Are you saying the LDS Church has gone apostate?”

    I don’t know what Greenfrog is asserting. But Martin Luther believed, at least initially, that the church he served (Catholic) could still be God’s church _and_ contain elements worth questioning or reforming. On some basic level, that’s where most of us are coming from (with the major difference, of course, that Martin Luther knew his leaders weren’t inspired, and we grapple with what our leaders say _because_ we believe them to be inspired and want to follow them, even if it doesn’t always make sense to us.

  52. lyle stamps
    August 2, 2005 at 5:25 pm

    So, to be simplistic (and possibly repetive):

    What happened to the natural (wo)man? If we are to submit our will to God’s…that doesn’t include our conscience? Frankly, I’m fairly libertarian in political philosophy, and my conscience tends to agree. However, the results dont’ square with what the Church asks of its members. So, do I jettison (in part or whole) my libertarian conscience?

    re: Prohibition. Me and Nate both studied this somewhat in a poli sci seminar at BYU. My question: are there any published accounts, or private accounts by friends/family you know of, regarding how members treated this issue? Obviously, many of them voted for it despite a Prophetic plea not to. Did they grapple with this issue also? Or is our generation just a little “different” (for better or worse)?

  53. August 2, 2005 at 5:30 pm

    “with the major difference, of course, that Martin Luther knew his leaders weren’t inspired, and we grapple with what our leaders say _because_ we believe them to be inspired”

    Kirsten’s comment pretty much wraps up what I am saying. Julie was not asking if the Lord ever wanted us to defy religious authority generically. She was asking about rebelling against the Lord’s Church. Had Martin Luther been proposing radical reformations of the LDS Church, I can’t say I would be on his side.

    Greenfrog, the reason I ask is because all the examples you gave are of apostate churches, and as you point out, their apostasy was essential to why we think it was okay to defy them. Since we don’t think our Church has lost the authority to speak on behalf of God, those cases are not useful to the question of how to behave towards the Lord’s anointed. They would be useful if we thought the Church was apostate.

  54. Aaron Brown
    August 2, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    Much of the discussion in this thread is assuming a scenario where (1) the Prophet gives us a directive; (2) We find that directive “illogical” or impossible to understand; and (3) We choose to have faith that the Lord has his reasons for giving us this directive, even if we don’t understand them. But suppose the Prophet actually explains his reasoning in detail, and that reasoning strikes us as prima facie ridiculous. Does it still make sense to say “Well, God has his reasons, even though I don’t understand them” in this instance? After all, surely we DO understand them, since the Prophet has just told us what they are. Does Julie’s course of action make any sense in this context?

    Put another way, if the Prophet said “Members of the Church should do X,” and we just don’t understand the importance of X, or find X illogical, I can see following his counsel anyway. But if the Prophet says “Members of the Church should do X BECAUSE of Y,” and Y strikes us as ridiculous, what is one to do? I can understand saying “The Prophet speaks for God, so I must be mistaken about Y.” I can understand saying “The Prophet must be wrong about X, because he’s obviously wrong about Y.” What I don’t understand, in this context anyway, would be the claim “We should do X, even though it seems illogical and we don’t understand why.” Surely we DO understand why. The Prophet just told us. So Julie’s course of action strikes me as unavailable as an option.

    Aaron B

  55. August 2, 2005 at 5:37 pm

    “Nephi cut off Laban’s head in direct violation of a commandment issued by God’s prophet”

    That’s weak sauce, gary. Aside from the good point that Ben makes about the possibility that he wasn’t even breaking the LoM, he was a prophet doing something that would alter the course of history.

    I think Rosalynde puts the dilemma well, but I would contend that – Biblical exceptions aside – the conscience and prophetic commandment are simply not contradictory. Is there ever a time where God, in personal revelation to an individual, will say, “Don’t listen to the prophet on this one. He’s got it all wrong. Thank goodness you’re the only one who’s really listening to me.” Even if the prophet has said something that is not necessarily inspired, the commandment we have been given is to follow the prophet.

    It seems to me the point of deliberation here need not be whether or not a prophetic utterance is divinely mandated, but whether the utterance constitutes commandment or a sort of general counsel, of which the prophets themselves admit there are many exceptions.

  56. Jack
    August 2, 2005 at 5:38 pm


    If “choosing the right” isn’t following divine counsel, then I don’t know what is.

    Also, your examples of those who acted against the religious norms of the day holds up only in the narrowest sense. If we take the Book of Mormon as an example of the tension between the “Galileo’s” and the religious norms, then what we have are little episodes of prophets tearing themselves away from a fallen church/society followed by long, long stretches of time wherein prophets are trying to keep people from tearing themselves away from a righteous religious establishment.

  57. D. Fletcher
    August 2, 2005 at 5:45 pm

    My only quibble with Julie’s choice/post is that she is obeying against her better judgment. Truthfully, if the Prophet has said, we must oppose same-sex marriage or whatever, then it is our duty to pray, seek guidance, and know that he is right. And then support that viewpoint whole-heartedly. And if we can’t know the truth of his viewpoint, I see no choice but in upholding the opposite. I don’t think we can have it both ways, and I don’t think the Lord would ever make us choose between obedience and our own conscience. The Abraham example has always been very troubling to me, but I have to remember: it’s the Old Testament, and we believe in modern-day revelation.

  58. August 2, 2005 at 5:45 pm

    Frank (#49), you won’t score any points for misconstruing a clear analogy. My point was this: If 19th-century members could make their own choice on an issue as clearly moral and as clearly defined as participation in plural marriage, 21st-century members should be free to make their own choice on a matter as muddled (in the sense that is it at least half political) as supporting a California proposition. Furthermore, California members weren’t simply asked to put a sign on the lawn. In my stake, members were asked by stake leaders (at a special fireside at the SP’s home) to contribute substantial amounts to the Prop 22 effort, and were given phone lists of eligible voters to call and “get out the vote.” So I think you are just underinformed on the fact side of the discussion.

    I don’t think that being “part of the Church when baptized” makes us something like enlisted soldiers in the LDS Army subject to following orders from up the hierarchy. That’s a popular view with some LDS conservatives, of course, and even leaders sometimes talk that way at times, but it is unscriptural and unfounded. That’s just not the way the Church runs. What about “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves?” What about “no power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by longsuffering, by gentleness and meekness ….” I don’t think those are just PR statements made to fool the Gentiles, they actually describe the proper model of church governance.

  59. lyle stamps
    August 2, 2005 at 5:46 pm

    Perhaps relevant is Tanya’s post on Consecration, at that other blog, which to me suggests that consecrating one’s will answer’s Julie’s dilemma

  60. Nate Oman
    August 2, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    Rosalynde: I think that you put the issue to starkly. It seems to me that that have some notion of prophetic authority, you need to have cases where prophetic counsel trumps conscience because it comes from the prophet. This needn’t mean that the mere existence of cases where conscience trumps makes the notion of prophets vacuous. Rather, as I see it, you cannot say that conscience ALWAYS trumps prophets and have robust concept of prophecy. In other words, a theory of prophecy doesn’t have to explain why the prophet always trumpts conscience, but it must explain at least some cases where the prophet trumpts conscience.

  61. lyle stamps
    August 2, 2005 at 5:50 pm

    D: A fine point.

    Querry: Wasn’t Abraham a latter-day Saint vis-a-vis earlier Dispensations; and thus also receiving modern (for his day) revelation?

  62. August 2, 2005 at 5:57 pm


    We are all free to make our own choice. I absolutely agree. I don’t think anybody here disagrees. I am not talking about what can be demanded of us. I am talking about what we willingly give. I am not talking about coercion. I am talking about obedience.

    You seem to be under the impression that because some Church members did not enter into polygamy, that they were A-OK with God. How could you know this? All we know is they weren’t excommunicated or disciplined. Well great, but how does that exempt us from following the prophet in fulfillment of our covenants?

    Lastly, I am still curious about where you get the scriptural basis for saying what prophets can’t ask of us. And why doesn’t GBH know his role better than you know his role? And why cannot the prophet “teach us correct principles” about marriage and government?

  63. Rosalynde Welch
    August 2, 2005 at 5:59 pm

    Right, Nate, and the question is: in which cases, and why in those cases, does it? You’ve suggested that prophetic counsel always trumps conscience *when we’re sure that the prophet is speaking as a prophet.* I’ve suggested that this is far too unstable and subjective a principle, and I’m wondering if there’s some other standard or principle we can try out instead.

  64. Kevin Barney
    August 2, 2005 at 6:21 pm

    I’ve sometimes wondered what, as a pragmatic matter, I would have done were I in Julie’s shoes. (Thankfully the issue hasn’t arisen in this way in Illinois where I live.) I definitely would not have allowed a “vote yes” sign on my lawn. What I’m less certain about is whether I would have allowed a “vote no” sign. I’m not sure.

    But what I would really hate if it came to it was the constant need to resist all of the arm twisting and public calls for support in priesthood opening exercises and so forth. That would be very difficult for me. But I think I would do it. So I probably wouldn’t get on a public soap box out in the world and advocate for a position, and I wouldn’t intentionally advocate within the church itself, but I would advocate in my own defense to the extent people tried to brown beat me into supporting this cause with which I disagree.

  65. August 2, 2005 at 6:22 pm

    Frank (#62), if we both agree that every member is free to make their own choice and that leaders teach what they believe to be correct principles, then it seems we also agree that members should listen to those principles, form their own conclusions about proper moral conduct, and act accordingly. I think we just disagree on the range of resulting opinions that can emerge from that process. Maybe geography has something to do with it.

    As for limits on the topics the President or other GAs might address, sure, they can say anything they want to. There are regular disclaimers issued over the pulpit (as official statements) that the Church takes moral stands but does not tell members how to vote, which gives members a justifiable expectation that if LDS officials later tell them how to vote on a candidate or issue, they are out of line. Leaders have been very good at following that policy when it comes to not endorsing specific candidates or political parties. Specific issues and referendums, however, are both moral and political, and the Church, since the 70s, has taken a very active role in some of these campaigns. It is a controversial area, I admit. Sounds like a new thread to me: What, if any, are or should be the limits of official (or unofficial) LDS involvement in specific-issue political campaigns?

  66. A. Greenwood
    August 2, 2005 at 6:28 pm

    “What, if any, are or should be the limits of official (or unofficial) LDS involvement in specific-issue political campaigns?”

    And who are we to decide? When the Prophet decides that I’m his Prophet, I’m sure he’ll let me know.

  67. August 2, 2005 at 6:36 pm

    FYI: I actually was living in CA during Prop 22, so I’m not sure how much geography matters.

    What I am arguing about is this claim:

    “If you conscience is really the light of Christ and, following it, you would oppose Prop 22, that should end the moral inquiry. Even if the light of Christ has nothing to do with it, one should probably follow one’s conscience in such matters.”

    where you seem to suggest that prophetic input is irrelevant to this moral choice. It sounds like you are saying that we should do as we think right solely in consultation with some internal compass (conscience) and that after that consultation there is no more information to be had from the prophet..

  68. Kingsley
    August 2, 2005 at 6:47 pm

    Homosexuality has been consistently condemned in scripture and sermon since the beginning; seems like one of those “political” issues where you’d expect the Church to get involved rather than otherwise. The rarity of such involvement, and the fact that the full weight of the Fifteen is always behind it, makes refuge in D&C 121 difficult for me. Someday, hopefully, the Church’ll gore a sacred cow of the conservatives and a similar soul-searching will occur in that camp. In the meantime, Julie’s beautiful and disturbing “Blood on the Doorposts” imagery goes down deep.

  69. A. Greenwood
    August 2, 2005 at 6:57 pm

    The Church already has, Kingsley. (wink)

  70. Julie in Austin
    August 2, 2005 at 6:58 pm

    Re #31–Did anyone ever answer your question? SSM=same sex marriage

    sova wrote, “I do not want to lower your “answer” to the question, but it is almost the typical Parental obedience argument, when Parents invoke the “Because I am the parent reasoning.””

    I think “Because I am God and I said so.” is reason enough.

    sova wrote, “Here, you run into the situation where we are told–yes, you can pray about it, but if you do not feel good about what the Prophet said, you are wrong.”

    I think it is a little more complicated than that. For example, I can envision some Saints praying and realizing that God doesn’t want them active in the SSM business. Perhaps a number of Saints will be encouraged from on high in their efforts to *promote* SSM, perhaps as an opportunity to test whether the rest of us will judge them. I don’t know.

    D. Fletcher in #44–

    Welcome back. I missed you. Can you please tell me which part you think is a cop-out, because I want to engage you on this but I’m not sure where you were headed. To me, a copout would have been an automaton-like “I support SSM but now that the prophet speaks the thinking has been done, therefore I oppose SSM.” said, of course, in a robotic voice. I obviously put a lot of mental energy into this, so nothing felt easy enough to be a copout.

    Re Aaron B. in #54: Your scenario is fascinating. I think, for me, I would need to be careful to pray about X and Y separately, because I can envision situations where X is correct even though the prophet has messed up in his reasoning (the Y). This, incidentally, is how I feel about 98% of what I hear from the general membership about the WoW. True principle, hideous reasoning.

    Re D. Fletcher in #57: Perhaps I wasn’t clear. I got enough light and knowledge on SSM to feel that the Prophet is right, I just have no clue what the reasons are, and the reasons I hear from my fellow Saints don’t impress me much.

    Re #68, “Someday, hopefully, the Church’ll gore a sacred cow of the conservatives and a similar soul-searching will occur in that camp”

    ooooh, let’s all pray for that!

    Oh, and Kirsten, there’s either something in the air or it is a 7 year old thing: last night during FHE (after the flannel board!), my 7yo asked out of nowhere, “But don’t all of the people in other churches think that their church is the true one? So how do we know that we are right?”

  71. Kingsley
    August 2, 2005 at 7:02 pm


  72. JKS
    August 2, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    I love Ester Rasband’s book. I think the box under the bed is the same thing we’re talking about. Putting God first.

    I think there are many times we feel inspired to do something, or not to do something, without knowing the reason why. Sometimes the reason becomes clear later, sometimes not.
    God knows things that we do not. Sometimes his reasons are beyond our comprehension having to do with the future, or an overall bigger picture.

    Aaron B,
    I don’t understand why you think Julie can’t confused about the reason why. I don’t know exactly what the letter said, or what local church leaders were told in this case. But even if the First Presidency gave a reason, i is easy to see why there might be unanswered questions about that reason. I guess I’d like to see the official church statement.

    I also have a seven year old (she’s my oldest) and I wonder too how to explain everything there is to explain. SHe only has a couple more months before baptism, and it is overwhelming to think of what exactly I want to teach her, yet I can’t pack all 34 years of experiences into sentences that a 7 year old can really relate to.
    For myself, I think I have a more all or nothing view of the gospel than you do. Your posts are difficult for me to relate to on some levels. This gospel requires everything, it isn’t a pick and choose type of religion. Isn’t there a quote about religion requiring everything to be worth much?
    Anyway, if I believe in certain key things then I have a testimony of the gospel and I have a testimony of it all. But I am also aware that I have been blessed with this knowledge and many do not have the advantage of that blessing. I also know that the church is for imperfect people and that my spiritual understanding is nothing compared to where someday, in the next life, it will be.
    But I have to wonder, if you believe in the Book of Mormon or the First Vision (which I assume you do) why everything else is a struggle? But I guess if even the basics of Mormonism, or even Christianity is a struggle, yet you still choose to stay in the church, I greatly admire your determination to find your answers.
    But with my own experience and testimony in mind, I plan to say to my children, “I know the gospel is true and Joseph Smith was a prophet, and Brigham Young was a prophet and Pres. Hinkley is a prophet. So if the prophet of the Lord asks me to do something, even if it seems hard, I will do it. That is what putting the Lord first means.”
    I do not need to apologize or necessarily explain away the contradictions, even though I am tempted to. It seems like there should be reasons for things. But when I explain the WoW, for instance, I think it is more important that they learn to obey it because God asked us to, than to obey it because of nutritional or health reasons.

  73. August 2, 2005 at 7:26 pm

    Frank, no, prophetic input is not irrelevant. I said (#65), “members should listen to those principles, form their own conclusions about proper moral conduct, and act accordingly.” And, as I noted earlier (#45), prophetic GA input has “a powerful influence on the moral views of the membership, so obviously their activities are not pointless or irrelevant.” So plainly I’m giving plenty of weight to prophetic counsel in how individual members form their moral views.

    On the other hand, I think your unhappiness with my view simply turns on the fact that it gives some moral autonomy to individual members. It may not be immediately evident, but it seems to me like your view of things actually denies any moral choice by individuals. Sure, they can make choices, as long as they accord with what GA leaders tell them to do, except that’s just a fancy way of saying that individual moral views carry no weight at all: they are irrelevant. To refute that, I’d ask you to offer a factual scenario where you think a member would be justified, on moral grounds, in choosing a course of action at odds with what some GA states in a talk or conference.

  74. DavidH
    August 2, 2005 at 7:40 pm

    “So if the prophet of the Lord asks me to do something, even if it seems hard, I will do it. That is what putting the Lord first means.”

    I agree with this statement, with the caveat that I will do it, even if it seems hard or contrary to my previous understanding of moral principles, if the Holy Ghost has confirmed to me that the Church leader is speaking for the Lord on the matter.

  75. August 2, 2005 at 8:40 pm


    If your view is not my restatement of it then I am not worried about it. If youa re giving “plenty of weight to prophetic counsel” than I am fine with it. I thought you were saying that one should never obey for obedience’s sake. That obedience to prophetic counsel was not a part of the mix.

    As for moral autonomy, we have more than enough moral autonomy in the broad swath of things in which there has been no prophetic counsel. Thus I don’t even need to worry about a loss of opportunity to decide what is right and wrong. I get tons of such opportunities.

    And why am I so concerned about moral autonomy for its own sake? My goal is to develop a moral sense that is exactly the same as God’s. My goal is to do as God would have me do. The first principles are not “develop your own unique moral vision”, they are faith in the Lord and obedience to the commandments. Thus the key to the gospel is doing as God tells us, whether we understand or not. Now clearly God gives me opportunities to develop my sense of right and wrong, so it is a good thing. But once again, I am establishing that it is good based on what God does, not on something independent of Church doctrine.

    Furthermore, I think the far more relevant problem is not failure to do things on moral grounds, but rather a simple failure to do what we all agree is right– like missionary work or charitable acts or what have you.

  76. August 2, 2005 at 8:46 pm

    Kingsely: “Someday, hopefully, the Church’ll gore a sacred cow of the conservatives and a similar soul-searching will occur in that camp”

    Julie: “Ooooh, let’s all pray for that!”

    Russell: You mean like when modern prophets condemned the economic inequality and social stratification which the free market creates? Except it’s not just conservatives who consider that a sacred cow…

  77. Kingsley
    August 2, 2005 at 8:58 pm

    Economics: subtler than sodomy and not claimed exclusively by one side or the other.

  78. JKS
    August 2, 2005 at 9:15 pm

    “there’s either something in the air or it is a 7 year old thing”

    Our oldest children are the same age, 7. It really is a new phase of teaching our children, isn’t it? They have experienced life a little bit and are mature enough to “discuss” things a little more.
    We get children when they are too little to remember what we say. We should use that time wisely to practice talking with them because they won’t remember our awkwardness!
    It is overwhelming and exciting and surprising. You definitely need to think on your feet, but the more practice I get, the more confident I feel.

  79. Jack
    August 2, 2005 at 9:22 pm

    Subtle–in the sense that sodomy is like a bull in a china shop while economic inequalty is giant elephant in the room.

  80. Ben H
    August 2, 2005 at 9:39 pm

    Hm. I am with DaveH. I am not too sympathetic with Rosalynde’s call for a system of publicly stateable (that’s what you seem to be calling for, anyway, Rosalynde) checks and balances. Ultimately I think we can only fall back on the Holy Spirit, and if the Holy Spirit has told me someone is a prophet, I figure I’m bound to follow his counsel, when he presents it authoritatively (as evidently they (the fifteen) did in the case of Prop 22) unless the Holy Spirit tells me otherwise. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God,” etc. I don’t see that we have any recourse but to God if we have doubts about what the prophet says.

    I don’t buy the idea that the light of Christ is one’s conscience. Conscience really is too vague, and too mired in the frog’s-eye view of human judgment and experience. Show me the scriptures that say conscience is the light of Christ, and then I’ll buy it. In the meantime, I rely on the Holy Ghost.

  81. Kingsley
    August 2, 2005 at 9:44 pm

    Well said, Jack.

  82. August 2, 2005 at 10:24 pm

    Russell, I also think the criticism of the MX Missile under Reagan was a hard blow for many conservatives.

  83. Commenter
    August 2, 2005 at 10:33 pm

    If I say one thing in public, and do another in private, purporting to believe a kindly octogenarian and truly thinking something entirely different in my heart, am I not a double-minded man? And is not a double-minded man unstable in all his ways?

    My conscience wins out all the time, hands down. People have believed–at the insistence of prophets and other supposedly wise men–that certain races were better than others, men lived on the moon, a great fish swallowed a man and spat him out again, and that the earth is no more than 6,000 years old. I don’t care who tells me rubbish. If it’s wrong, it’s just wrong, and I’m not going to turn off my brain just so I can raise my hand to the square.

  84. August 2, 2005 at 11:07 pm

    The free market is perfectly compatible with the Law of Consecration and unbounded acts of charity, limited only by one’s stewardship/property.

    The MX missile thing is the only one I can think of that fits the bill, but there are probably others.

  85. Rosalynde Welch
    August 2, 2005 at 11:08 pm

    No, Ben, I’m not calling for anything like a fully transparent and rationalized system of checks and balances, just groping toward a theory of authority that can accomodate both prophetic revelation and personal revelation (or conscience, whatever you want to call it.) The Holy Ghost works as a convenient black box for the problem—put the dilemma in here, and get your answer out the other end—but it’s so opaque and inconsistent a solution that it’s not very satisfactory theoretically (at least not for me). (I’m not saying that personal revelation via the Holy Ghost isn’t effective in people’s lives, of course, just that it’s not effective in a theory of authority.)

  86. Ben H
    August 2, 2005 at 11:30 pm

    Okay, Rosalynde, but I’m not sure what the middle ground would be like that you are looking for between the “black box” solution of the Holy Ghost and a transparent and rationalized system of checks and balances (TaRSoCaB?).

    I do think it is progress to substitute the Holy Ghost for a notion of conscience. At least the Holy Ghost is God. Conscience is much too subject to social construction and distortion, and we don’t have a theological basis to trust it. It is not transparently obvious how to know when the Holy Ghost is speaking to one, or how to know when we have understood him (her? it? can anyone point me to a passage of scripture that uses a gendered pronoun to refer to the Holy Spirit?) properly, but at least there is a particular person whose say-so is completely authoritative for anyone. And this preserves the principle of obedience, which an appeal to conscience does not seem to do.

    Also, even the prophets appeal to the Spirit as the source of much of what they teach, authoritatively. The tongue of angels, etc.

  87. greenfrog
    August 2, 2005 at 11:40 pm

    I don’t buy the idea that the light of Christ is one’s conscience. Conscience really is too vague, and too mired in the frog’s-eye view of human judgment and experience.

    For obvious reasons, I had to respond to this.

    Show me the scriptures that say conscience is the light of Christ, and then I’ll buy it. In the meantime, I rely on the Holy Ghost.

    Ok. I think that both the scripture you request is found here, as is the reason for us to care most deeply about choosing the right, no matter what. (And, of course, the textual origin of this blog’s nominal ancestor…)

    D&C 88

    3 Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.

    4 This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;

    5 Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son—

    6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth;

    7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.

    8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;

    9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;

    10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.

    11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;

    12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—

    13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.


    33 For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.

    34 And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same.

    35 That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.

    36 All kingdoms have a law given;

    37 And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom.

    38 And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions.

    39 All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified.

    40 For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things.

    41 He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.

    42 And again, verily I say unto you, he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons;

    43 And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the earth and all the planets.

    44 And they give light to each other in their times and in their seasons, in their minutes, in their hours, in their days, in their weeks, in their months, in their years—all these are one year with God, but not with man.

    45 The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.

    46 Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand?

    47 Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.

    48 I say unto you, he hath seen him; nevertheless, he who came unto his own was not comprehended.

    49 The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not; nevertheless, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him.

    50 Then shall ye know that ye have seen me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you, and that you are in me; otherwise ye could not abound.

  88. Ben H
    August 3, 2005 at 12:12 am

    greenfrog, though I always enjoy reading these passages, I think it would be more helpful if you quoted less and explained more how you see these passages as addressing the question. There are lots of references to light and Christ and the Spirit in here . . . Okay, Christ is the light of the world, but that by no means shows that our consciences are authoritative. Verses 4-7 above seem to be saying that the Holy Spirit itself is the light of Christ. That is fine by me. It doesn’t say anything about conscience. Verse 50 says that Christ is a light in us. Fine. Still, I don’t see any indication that that is conscience. I think it is the Holy Spirit.

  89. Ben H
    August 3, 2005 at 12:19 am

    Again, Moroni 7:15-19 talks about the light of Christ, but either equates it with the Spirit of Christ, or asks us to judge things by whether they lead us to Christ and goodness or not. This doesn’t seem to be conscience, either. Does SSM lead people to Christ and goodness? Seems like that is just what we have debated endlessly on this blog. It’s a good standard by which to judge things, but again, its verdict on many points is not transparently evident.

  90. Heather Bigley
    August 3, 2005 at 12:34 am

    wow. you guys are crazy. i love it. all this bickering and politely couched “go-to-hell” has inspired me to pray more. about everything. stuff i thought i’d already decided about, even.

    anyway, i feel like the personal is political, as so many radical feminists before me (even though i’m a materialist-communitarian feminist with liberal leanings). so all that deeply personal counsel we receive on how to live our day to day lives, I see as highly political stuff—and it makes me chuckle whenever we trot out the “the church will never tell us how to vote” position, as if politics only extended to the voting booth. which brings me to two different questions—-

    a) what does the “we don’t support gay marriage” proclamation mean exactly in my daily life, surrounded as i am by friends who are gay and partnered/married and who are raising children?

    b) what will happen if Mitt Romney runs for president in 2008? (i don’t think, by any stretch of the imagination, that the church will tell us to vote for the dufus, but just think about all the mud-slinging that will happen—a lot of it aimed at the church and its policies).

  91. Dee
    August 3, 2005 at 2:50 am

    [ADMIN NOTE: This comment has been deleted for violating the ground rules of the discussion. As a reminder:

    Note: For those who have problems with the obvious, I’ll specify that this post is not the place to hash out whether opposing SSM is a good thing. But don’t fear: there’s plenty of places where you might do that. Try here or here or here or even here and, hey, what about here and don’t forget here and, oh, this would be a good place, but there’s also here and even here and . . .]

  92. alamojag
    August 3, 2005 at 9:59 am

    When I read the posts that say “If only the prophet would explain his reasons…”, I think of the counsel last General Conference about gambling. The prophet gave his reasons, each of which was summarily dismissed in a post here on T&S. Poor GBH–that guy just can’t win.

  93. August 3, 2005 at 10:04 am


    I agree that sometimes we don’t listen to reasons when they are given, but I am confused by your anecdote. Offhand, this is the post I know of about gambling here at T&S. Adam certainly did not dismiss the reasons. He pointed out how gambling appeals to counterfeits of good things.

  94. alamojag
    August 3, 2005 at 10:09 am

    Your are correct, Frank. My memory is faulty–it wasn’t the post itself, but comments in the post. Mea culpa.

  95. annegb
    August 3, 2005 at 10:15 am

    “wow, you guys crazy” Stick around, hon. We haven’t argued about women working or holding the priesthood for awhile.

    I was totally opposed to the MX missile project. I passed leaflets, I got signatures on petitions, the whole nine yards. Loud and proud did I yell my opposition.

    Then the prophet came out in opposition. Boy, did I get a cold chill down my back. Because I thought, “what if he was in favor?” Thank God I didn’t have to make that decision.

    If the US were to try to pass a law allowing SSM, I would keep my mouth shut, one of my best friends has lived quietly and well with her female companion for many years. But I would vote against it. Not with hate, but with the belief that marriage is ordained of man and woman.

    If it passed, I would also keep my mouth shut. Ultimately, God is in His heaven and all things will work out.

    On the other hand, my friend, who I’ve talked about before, and her companion, are two of the best, kindest, honest people I know. They are happier together than a lot of my heterosexual friends. I no longer see this in terms of black and white. Again, I leave this to God, who I am not.

  96. Jack
    August 3, 2005 at 11:55 am

    I agree with Ben H. on the difference between “conscience” and the Light of Christ. I certainly believe that the Light of Christ can inform our consciences, but it seems to me that they are probably separate for a couple of reasons. 1) The idea of agency becomes problematic if we don’t have a sacred space within ourselves wherein we (ideally) are completely free to wrestle with our own decisions. And 2) History seems to prove that much evil has come about because of people acting in accordance with their consciences.

  97. D. Fletcher
    August 3, 2005 at 1:07 pm

    Hi back, Julie!

    You’re not doing anything wrong — I was out of line when I called it a “cop-out.” More than most, you have thoughtfully considered your own conscience, as well as the Prophet’s words. But it just makes me so sad, that the Church (and not just the Church, but most of the world) have marginalized gay people so much that they don’t even think it’s appropriate for them to marry each other. It’s a very sad world, and even sadder when we have to follow the Prophet’s words against our own judgment. I can’t think of any other issue where this is so complicated and so personal. I don’t think coffee is particularly sinful, but it doesn’t hurt me (or anyone else) to follow the Word of Wisdom and not drink it. But when you’re deciding not to help gay people marry each other, you’re deciding to hurt them, to hurt other people’s chances and choices for happiness. And it doesn’t affect you at all — it’s not like you’re tempted to have a same-sex marriage yourself. So, in this instance, obedience to the Prophet’s words is an easy choice to make, because it only affects others, not yourself. Very sad to me.

  98. Wilfried
    August 3, 2005 at 1:47 pm

    As usual, I’ll try to add a little international dimension to the topic. As far as I know, in other countries the Church has not involved itself in similar opposition or support to political propositions with a moral dimension (are there perhaps exceptions?). Which means that members abroad are not (yet) confronted with the dilemma Julie describes. But I can imagine what kind of heartrending choices it could imply if the Church decided to do the same elsewhere as in the U.S.

    Indeed, SSM has been accepted in Belgium (second country in the world after the Netherlands) a few years ago. Very few people raised a voice against SSM in parliament, not even the Christian party who voted in favor. The ones opposing it were from extreme right wing, commonly accused of racism and discrimination. Church members would not want to be identified with them. What kind of image would the Church have gained if it had made a public statement against SSM in Belgium? I am not sure about it myself.

    At the time, SSM was news, the first married couple made headlines in the popular press. Then the whole matter fell into oblivion. People feel there are more important matters to deal with.

  99. Nate Oman
    August 3, 2005 at 2:15 pm

    Rosalynde: In actual practice, I think that what we do to identify authoritative statements is to view prophetic pronouncements against a background of history and theology. We then use this background to interpret the authority of a statement based on its overall fit with what we see as “the Whole of the Gospel.” This is an exceedingly messy solution, since it means that a debate about any particular statement ultimately will turn into a debate about everything. Hence, I don’t really see this as some sort of intellectual methodology for generating correct answers. Rather, I see it is something that can structure the debate in ways that don’t degenerate into a simplistic dicotomy of obedience v. conscience. I have no doubt that this method will produce a host of false positives, ie treating as authoritative what ought not to be treated as authoritative, and false negatives, ie rejecting as non-authoritative as what ought to be treated as authoritative. I don’t see that we have much of an alternative, and it seems to me that rather than asking questions about perfection we ought to ask questions about comparative advantage, ie does this approach work better than alternatives even it it is admittedly flawed.

    I don’t think that the traditional ways of managing the role of conscience, e.g. public v. private or belief v. action or religious v. secular, etc. are really going to work very well for us. First, it seems to me that Mormonism begins with a rejection of such dualities and asserts that ultimate unity of religious life. Second, the idea of conscience as having some autonomous religious realm seems to me to be a basically protestant creation that is fundamentally unsuited for a religiousity that is defined in collective and hierarchical terms. In this sense, Mormonism is too Catholic (big rather than little c) to borrow solutions for protestantism.

  100. b bell
    August 3, 2005 at 2:49 pm


    I would wager that the church is to small in Europe to matter in the SSM debate. In fact I would argue that no Christian church has much impact in Europe at all. Europe has “moved on” past Christianity. The new religion of Europe will shortly be Islam.

    I know that in New Zealand the church did not get involved politically with SSM. The members there were mostly in support of SSM from what my Kiwi friends tell me.

    How do active members in Europe regard the LDS traditional view of Chastity? I am wondering if the LDS in Europe have a different view than most of the LDS people in the US. I would make a serious argument that what I have read on T&C regarding SSM that the contributers in T&C are far more liberal than the average member on SSM. It is a rare event to hear a member contradict the Church on SSM This would not surprise me based on the culture of Europe regarding sex.

  101. Rosalynde Welch
    August 3, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    Nate and Ben–thanks for engaging me on this issue. I get the feeling that you both think I’m arguing to enlarge the domain in which conscience prevails, and if two such intelligent readers could draw that conclusion, I must have been exceedingly unclear. On the contrary, I’m skeptical of conscience conceived as a transcendant moral agent (even though I’m enduringly interested in the ways in which it is invoked as such), and I’m even more skeptical that it occupies any robust position in a Mormon worldview for some of the reasons you suggest above, Nate (although conscience is not a wholly Protestant construct—but you can be forgiven for thinking so, since that’s how the traditional Protestant intellectual historiography of the rise of the West has framed it). As Ben suggests, the notions of the Light of Christ and personal revelation, as inchoate as they are, are far more deeply embedded in Mormon thought (Ben, you might recall a little paper I gave on this at SMPT!) than is conscience.

    The problem with your approach, Nate—namely, comparing an individual prophetic utterance with the sweeping fabric of history and word–is that, while it works well enough as a way of reading history, it seems to me almost useless in managing present-day dilemmas. To know whether something Elder Bednar says today, for example, is authoritatively prophetic, we will have to first see where the currents of history drift: only then will we be able to see whether Elder Bednar’s (hypothetical) statement was an aberration or a real shift.

  102. Wilfried
    August 3, 2005 at 4:03 pm

    B Bell, thanks for the comment. I certainly would not state that, on average, Mormons in Europe are more liberal or that they adopt looser norms as to sexuality compared to members in the U.S. People are converted and get baptized because the high norms of the Church appeal to them. They pass temple interviews like any one else. They preach and live the law of chastity, some struggling with it just like in the U.S. Of course, among the members, you will find varieties of more fundamentalist and more liberal ones, again just like in the U.S. But ‘liberal’ should not always be seen as prone to disobeying the commandments, but as refusing fanaticism. Living both in Belgium and Utah, I personally would even say that I find more tolerance and wisdom in Utah than in some of the small mission branches where members survive thanks to an immense, often radical dedication.

    But what is perhaps true is that Europeans have a different perspective on what really matters in the public sphere, as a normal consequence of the culture they live in. I believe that many people here have a hard time understanding why American members make such a fuss about SSM. They see it less as a fundamental moral problem, but more as a social and practical one: two people (who live together as a ‘family’) want to have a contract assuring the same rights as married ones. Even if people may find the union strange, even immoral, they are hesitant to infringe on the rights of others and be accused of discrimination. So, they say, let it be, and let’s move on to much more important matters: environment, war and peace, poverty, third world, health care…

  103. Kirsten M. Christensen
    August 3, 2005 at 4:17 pm

    JKS asked of me: “But I have to wonder, if you believe in the Book of Mormon or the First Vision (which I assume you do) why everything else is a struggle?”

    Everything else isn’t a struggle. Haven’t meant to give that impression. Some things are, but they are mostly internal (and occasionally external, when, say, I blog about them or discuss them with friends). For much of my life I felt no struggle. I felt utterly sure of everything. Really. I remember feeling so sure of what I knew and believed that I felt no concern whatsoever when a Sunday School teacher once earnestly asked our class if we would be prepared to meet God if we died that day.

    Then certain experiences changed my utter sureness of certain things, and simultaneously solidified my sureness of other things, including that this church is the place the Lord would have me “work out my salvation with fear and trembling.” I’m not as comfortable as I used to be. I’m also not as cocky. I am certain that my questions have deepened my reliance on the Lord and my belief in his Church. Struggle is a very positive term for me now. It certainly wasn’t when my questions began, in large part because I had never been aware of anyone else’s struggles, so I felt utterly isolated. I also had already served a mission and been endowed, so I was not prepared for the depth of the challenge to my faith that my experiences brought about. The isolation I felt required that I turn to the Lord, but it also nearly drove me out of the church. When I have been open about the fact that I have had questions or about specific questions themselves, it has always been in contexts where I felt that information would be constructive, even edifying to someone else.

    That’s the balance I hope I can strike with my sons — not to make my questions theirs, but to let them know that questions and testimony, struggles and faith, actually make very powerful and fruitful partners.

  104. b bell
    August 3, 2005 at 4:20 pm


    That is really great to hear that LDS members seem the same to you on basic chastitiy. I am however very disappointed to hear that European members do not see the struggle over SSM to be important. I see it as acceptance of Sin and an accomodation with the wicked values of the world. Doctrines of men etc. Your comments about being perceived as advocating discrimination sound like lack of courage.

    Do you see more tension between the social norms in Europe and the LDS European members? In other words is the gap in values much larger between the average European and the LDS European members then between US LDS and non LDS.

    In the stuggle over SSM the LDS side finds itself in the majority with the rest of the country in opposing SSM. Large majorities in even liberal US states have voted to ban SSM. Including CA which made the opening comments in this thread about a friend in CA seem silly to me. She must have lived in a really liberal college town. Polls consistently find overwhelming numbers of the US are opposed to SSM. Hence most LDS people feel very comfortable opposing it. Only on some of the LDS blogs have I ever heard anybody voice an objection to the church’s stand against SSM. I have heard from many LDS friends from CA who were proud of the churchs efforts in passing Prop 22

    I like to hear your comments in T&C and look forward to more.

  105. Jack
    August 3, 2005 at 4:24 pm


    As much as I admire and respect you, I just have to say that maybe we Americans are still naive enough to have not given way completely to the post-sixties notion that the individual is the ultimate arbiter of morality.

  106. Nate Oman
    August 3, 2005 at 4:30 pm

    Rosalynde: I don’t think that what you describe is necessarily a limitation. You simply point out the fact that one might be wrong about one’s interpretation. This, however, hardly seems like much of a critique. It certainly doesn’t mean that the approach is useless. If you give me a body of case law and present me with a difficult new fact pattern, I can read the cases and offer you my opinion as to what the state of the law is and how it applies to the fact pattern. No doubt, I will often be wrong, and courts may rule the other way, or subsequently abandon much of the caselaw on which my analysis rests. It hardly follows from this, however, that I am engaged in a useless exercise. Fortunately for me, lawyers keep getting hired even though they sometimes turn out to be wrong.

  107. Wilfried
    August 3, 2005 at 4:39 pm

    Jack, thank you for your kind reaction, but you seem to interpret my comment as what my personal opinion is. That would be a mistake. I was only trying to answer a question in general terms, explaining how many people feel. And I would add that millions of Europeans are also ‘still naive enough to have not given way completely to the post-sixties notion that the individual is the ultimate arbiter of morality’. You said it brilliantly.

    B Bell, thanks for the answer, but we should not have this thread move to a discussion of SSM as such. The topic is about challenges to conscience and still be obedient. Your interesting question on the gap of values will require some time and thinking to answer properly. One of the main problems I already see is that it is very difficult to talk about “Europeans” in generalized terms when it comes to values. E.g. accepting or rejecting SSM has been different in various countries. Keep reading!

  108. Wilfried
    August 3, 2005 at 4:52 pm

    B Bell, just one more clarification – which shows how quickly misunderstandings can arise in these discussions. You wrote: “I am however very disappointed to hear that European members do not see the struggle over SSM to be important.”

    I had said: “But what is perhaps true is that Europeans have a different perspective on what really matters in the public sphere, as a normal consequence of the culture they live in.” I meant by this Europeans in general, not specifically Church members. Rest assured… !

  109. Jack
    August 3, 2005 at 5:08 pm


    I see that now. My apologies. Still, I think there’s some truth in what I said, inspite of the teeth in my comment.

  110. Jack
    August 3, 2005 at 5:17 pm


    Forgive me for letting that cat out of the bag, but that little editing job you did on your comment (#107) in response to me only shows how sensitive you are to the feelings of others. And if that’s what comes of being European then damn my own “American naivete” if it prevents me from being as good a christian as you are.

  111. b bell
    August 3, 2005 at 5:17 pm


    Ek verstand alles. Toitzens!!

  112. Kirsten M. Christensen
    August 3, 2005 at 5:39 pm

    I’ve been wanting to ask you, Julie, to clarify why you see the story or image of blood on the doorsteps as the most apt one for the issue you raise in this insightful post — the issue of obeying the prophet even when a commandment seems “illogical” or contradicts other beliefs one might have. Your friend, Sister Jones, apparently did something that seemed illogical to her by putting up, against her will, to some degree, a sign that church leaders wanted her to post, and she was later frightened, and, it seems from your description, mortified, when her action was widely broadcast. So are we to understand that she hadn’t really meant it — that she was just trying to obey? Why wasn’t she as whitefaced and trembling about the sign in her own yard _before_ the picture appeared in the paper? I’m just trying to understand her. I’m also curious what it is about her action, or the issue of following the Church’s lead on this SSM proposition that makes it “our generation’s equivalent of blood on the [Israelites’] doorposts”? I’m just wondering what I’m missing about either story.

    You cited the initiation of the Feast of the Passover as one of many scriptural examples in which “the prophets ask the faithful to do illogical things. Sacrifice my own son? To what end? Blood on the doorposts? Why?” Others have commented on the use of the word “illogical.” I’ll add my thoughts, since I’m not sure “illogical” is the best description for the actions for either Sis. Jones or the Israelites. At least in the case of the doorposts, I don’t think it was illogical to the Israelites, since the Lord was pretty darn clear why he was asking them to smear their doorposts, and immediately so, at the time of the commandment to Moses. Or, to use the terms from earlier comments on this thread, he gave them both the X and the Y simultaneously:

    Exodus 12:13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.

    Moses repeats this explanation of the commandment when he passes it on to the children of Israel:
    Exodus 12:23 For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.

    He even tells them how to explain the Feast of the Passover henceforth:
    26/27: And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses.

    What could be clearer?

    Outside of this story there’s obviously no inherent connection between red doorposts and surviving a massacre, so in this sense it may well be considered an illogical commandment. But I don’t think that’s the meaning for illogical you intended, is it? It seems you meant “disagreeable,” or even “unclear.”

    When Moses earlier prophesies to Pharoah of the coming slaughter of the firstborn of Egypt, he says that the children of Israel will be utterly spared so “that ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel.” (Ex 11:7)

    I wonder if perhaps that “difference” is the most relevant part of the blood on the doorposts story for our discussion — the difference of being blessed, set apart–favored, in Nephi’s words– due to obedience to the Lord through his prophets. (1 Ne 17:35). The blood marked them, and ultimately saved them. That seems to be waht motivated Sister Jones to ‘mark’ her own house with the sign–the belief that following the prophets can save us. I’m not sure.

  113. Kirsten M. Christensen
    August 3, 2005 at 6:05 pm

    Let me clarify that by my final comment I meant that “I’m not sure” if that’s what Sister Jones meant by her actions.

    Also – my apologies for typing “doorsteps” when I mean “doorposts.”

  114. Ben H
    August 3, 2005 at 6:08 pm

    Right, Rosalynde, I remember your paper and meant to be agreeing with the major thrust of it! as I understood it at least. I mentioned conscience because someone else did, and you expressed your doubts about conscience as an arbiter, and I was clarifying how what I advocate as an arbiter (the HG) might seem less dubious to you : )

    So, do you want something less opaque and private? Talk to me about what the middle ground between the Holy Ghost as arbiter and a TaRSoCaB might look like . . .

  115. Julie in Austin
    August 3, 2005 at 6:55 pm

    D. Fletcher wrote, “So, in this instance, obedience to the Prophet’s words is an easy choice to make, because it only affects others, not yourself. Very sad to me.”

    D. Fletcher, I can assure you that it was not an easy choice to make.

    Kirsten, your questions are interesting. I don’t want to put words in Sister Jones’ mouth, but this is what I think was happening: she had done it somewhat reluctantly (I think?) and perhaps wanted to minimize her involvement as much as possible, and then there it is: on the front page of a small town newspaper, where her (and her husband’s) coworkers would be asking them about it over lunch and know that they were part of those “intolerant” conservative nut cases. I think the analogy of the blood on the doorposts might have resonated with her simply because she, like the Hebrews, had been asked to clearly mark her home to indicate which “side” she was on. The marking–in both cases–seemed (to her) embarrassing, possibly leading to physical danger, etc.

    It resonated with me for basically the same reasons. It helped me to get past wanting to be convinced by compelling *reasons* that SSM was something to be opposed and accept that SSM was something that the prophets had commanded against, and that reasons (at least for me) may not be forthcoming, any more than, perhaps, the Hebrews could see any rational basis for putting blood on the doorposts.

    Incidentally, I did literally end up with lamb’s blood on my doorpost once, but that’s another story.

    As for your citations, yes, a reason is given. So in that sense, perhaps to some of the Hebrews, it wasn’t illogical. But can’t you see some of the Hebrews saying, “What’s up with the blood? Is that really what the Lord wants us to do? Or is that just Moses spouting off? And it doesn’t make any sense–surely if we make our allegience to Moses known, Pharoah’s men will finish us off before the destroying angel has a chance. How’s blood going to stop a destroying angel, anyway? And how will it separate followers of the true God anyway–I bet a bunch of our pagan neighbors will mark their doors just to be safe–so this will never work.”

    I do think that where you end up–with Sister Jones’ realization that whatever social (or even physical) consequences she would suffer for the sign, she had taken them on because she had ‘marked’ her house as the Lord wanted her to.

  116. Kirsten M. Christensen
    August 3, 2005 at 7:08 pm

    Good points, Julie. Thanks, as always, for thoughtful responses.

    You didn’t mention whether or not you put up a sign in your yard. It’s not really important. I’m just curious –what other actions in this case would have sufficiently counted as “marking one’s house” as the Lord wanted. In my case, I would hope that my willingness not to publicly oppose the church would have been a sufficient marking.

    It’s been an interesting discussion, needless to say.

  117. JKS
    August 3, 2005 at 7:47 pm

    Thank you for clarifying. I think I understand a little better now.
    My mother was open about her own struggle to find answers during her teenage years. She told me that a Sunday School teacher she greatly admired had told her if she ever had doubts, to keep going to church. It was out of respect for that teacher that she stayed in the church searching for answers, and she did finally gain the testimony she was looking for and was extremely grateful that she had not left the church when searching for those answers because she would never have found them.
    You learn so many things by example, and I naturally expected the same type of experience. But I, of course, had a completely different experience.
    How old are your sons, by the way? My children are 7 (girl), 5 (boy) and 1 (girl).

  118. Julie in Austin
    August 3, 2005 at 8:06 pm


    Ironically, it took me almost until the election to reconcile my own feelings, so we had no sign and I didn’t do any phone calls or house-to-house visits. I did vote for it; I wouldn’t have otherwise. Had I reached my conclusion sooner, I suppose I would have been more involved.

  119. August 3, 2005 at 9:16 pm

    In my own life I have had no trouble following what seem to me to be merely what you call “illogical” commands, but I have yet to reconcile the Abrahamic sacrifice that I feel was asked of me.

    That sounds so painful. My heart went out.

    f you mean obedience-when-you-don’t-see-a-logical-reason-for-it, then, yes, it is that. But if it weren’t, we wouldn’t have a category labelled ‘obedience,’ would we? We’d just call it ‘following your best judgement.’

    I loved that comment.

    Russell: You mean like when modern prophets condemned the economic inequality and social stratification which the free market creates? Except it’s not just conservatives who consider that a sacred cow…

    I was thinking more of the condemnation of wanton hunting, or the endorsement of gun control that we’ve gotten.

  120. Lisa B.
    August 3, 2005 at 11:04 pm

    Ben H: You asked “can anyone point me to a passage of scripture that uses a gendered pronoun to refer to the Holy Spirit?” (#86). The BD does not specify gender. I have read that the original language makes the Holy Spirit feminine–or uses feminine forms. I do not know if this was theological or merely linguistic, but I believe it is both (theological and linguistic).

  121. August 3, 2005 at 11:19 pm


    If the Spirit of the Lord is the Holy Ghost then 1 Nephi 11 does use gendered language to refer to him (verses 1-12). I can’t think of a more reasonable interpretation of who the Spirit of the Lord is, unless it is the Lord in spirit form. But I don’t think that fits the context as well.

  122. Ben H
    August 4, 2005 at 12:19 am

    Frank, uh, that is a difficult point you raise. Seems like there are a lot of variations on this sort of language. Spirit of God, Spirit of the Lord . . . surely these are (a) holy spirit(s); how do they relate to “the” Holy Spirit?

  123. Kirsten M. Christensen
    August 4, 2005 at 1:35 am

    JKS — My boys are 7 and 4. Great ages, but 4 is definitely easier to please, I’ve discovered. Everything’s fun to a four year-old; many things are already dorky, embarassing or exasperating for seven year-olds, as I discover almost daily. It’s always an adventure.

    Your mother’s experience of having questions and staying to find her answers does resonate with me. The fact that she shared it with you while you were growing up I find wonderful. I would have loved hearing a story like that when I was struggling myself.

    Perhaps my parents never really struggled with their testimonies, but if they did, they didn’t share many of those struggles with me. I utterly admire and benfited from their unity with one another and God, and their devotion to the Gospel and the Church, but they were, for better or for worse, the last people I felt that I could talk to when my doubts threatened to overcome me. I’m pretty sure that I underestimated their ability to support me as I struggled, so maybe I should have opened up more to them. I was just always able to give myself the answers they had always given me, and since those answers weren’t working for me any more, I just kept things to myself. Ultimately, though, talks or no talks, it was their example of devotion–the sheer routine they had lived and taught of going to church each week and genuflecting twice daily–that pulled me through. I will ever be grateful for that.

  124. August 4, 2005 at 9:39 am

    Ben, yes but reading the passage, it seems to me to not fit as well for the Lord. Nephi never acts as if he is talking to God like the Borther of Jared does. And Spirit is capitalized as if it were a name. And the Spirit is replaced by an angel– so apparently this Spirit is different than an angel. And the Spirit talks about God as another person– not as himself. And in Chapter 10, Nephi reiterates several times that he wishes to know as his father does- by the power of the Holy Ghost. And in verse 1 he speaks of being caught up in the SPirit of the Lord- which is a strong indicator for the Holy Ghost. So all in all I think the Holy Ghost is the best fit.

    Also – John 14:26 uses gendered male language for the Holy Ghost (though perhaps that is interpolation by the translators). The newish guide to the scriptures liberally uses “he” in referring to the Holy Ghost. It also notes that the Holy Ghost is sometimes called the Spirit or the Spirit of God. The Bible Dictionary gives no gender, but does say that the Holy Ghost is sometimes called the Spirit of the Lord or the Spirit.

    I found a couple passages in the BoM that use “it” instead of a gender. Perhaps in those cases they were implicitly referring to the power or gift of the Holy Ghost.

  125. Mark
    August 8, 2005 at 12:12 pm


    I really enjoyed this post, thank you for your thoughtful approach. I’m not sure how much anybody is interested in bringing this thread back to life, but here are my thoughts, such as they are.

    This topic is interesting to me because we had a similar ballot iniative in my state this year. The bishop read a letter from the pupit encouraging members to take part in the political process. During the week, somebody must have asked how, exactly, the church wanted us to vote, because on the Sunday before election day, the bishop again read the letter verbatim and then stated explicitly that the church was not in the business of telling members how to vote. Since there appears to be such wide variation in how local leaders approach this subject, I don’t think we should be surprised or alarmed if the rank and file members themselves come up with a variety of ways to respond.

    Julie, in #6 you stated “…But if it weren¡¯t, we wouldn¡¯t have a category labelled ¡®obedience,¡¯ would we?“. That is a fair point, and it works well rhetorically, but don’t you think it works just as well in reverse? If all there is to it is obedience, why do we have a category labelled ‘personal revelation’?

    Nate, Ben, Rosalynde, Jack, and probably others – To the extent I understand what you are saying about the difficulty of defining what conscience is, I agree with you. But I think the discussion ended with us being too dismissive of conscience, especially for a religion that states, in the Articles of Faith, that we claim the privilege of worshipping according to the dictates of our own conscience.

    Nate #99, said “… I don¡¯t see that we have much of an alternative, and it seems to me that rather than asking questions about perfection we ought to ask questions about comparative advantage, ie does this approach work better than alternatives even it it is admittedly flawed.” Nate, I think you put it perfectly. Our church is often very pragmatic, and appears to operate on the inductive theory that what works is probably what is best.

    Kingsley said in #68 “…Someday, hopefully, the Church¡¯ll gore a sacred cow of the conservatives …” I’d like to suggest that it already has, on this very topic. Consider the following statements, all taken from an article in the October, 1996 Ensign by Dallin Oaks, entitled Same Gender Attraction:

    We encourage Church leaders and members to reach out with love and understanding to those struggling with these issues. Many will respond to Christlike love and inspired counsel as they receive an invitation to come back…

    These communications surely show the need for improvement in our communications with brothers and sisters who are struggling with problems¡ªall types of problems. Each member of Christ¡¯s church has a clear-cut doctrinal responsibility to show forth love and to extend help and understanding. Sinners, as well as those who are struggling to resist inappropriate feelings, are not people to be cast out but people to be loved and helped…

    All should understand that persons (and their family members) struggling with the burden of same-sex attraction are in special need of the love and encouragement that is a clear responsibility of Church members, who have signified by covenant their willingness ¡°to bear one another¡¯s burdens¡± …

    I guess I am suggesting that many of us, including me, haven’t done a very good job of following Elder Oaks’ counsel. In fact, we mostly just ignore it. It is so easy, almost too easy, to follow counsel when we agree with it. Write a letter to the editor opposing gambling? Sure! Put a sign in my yard opposing SSM? You bet! Make a special effort to love, understand, and encourage gay people? Huh? And I don’t think we can let ourselves off the hook with the excuse that we don’t know anybody who is gay, any more than we can excuse ourselves from member missionary work with the lame explanation that we don’t know any non-members. Look at the verbs Elder Oaks uses — reach out, extend help, improve communication. I think it is fair to say that homosexual people experience loneliness and isolation to an extent that heterosexual people can only guess at. And, as Elders Oaks said, we have an obligation to to bear one another¡¯s burdens. Too often, we just wind up being one another’s burdens.

    Finally, Julie, in #13 you said “been condoned by the Lord (Anyone? Anyone?)
    Julie, you already rate pretty high on my esteem-o-meter. Please, please, please, tell me that you used that phrase because you are a Ferris Bueller fan! You will go up at least another 10 points!

  126. Lisa B.
    August 9, 2005 at 9:07 pm

    Frank & Ben: A book called “The Dark Side of Christain History” claims “The [Nicean] council eliminated the image of father, mother, and child, replacing the Hebrew feminine term for spirit, ruah, with the Greek neuter term pneuma. The trinity was now comprised of the father, the son, and a neuter, sexless spirit.” (somewhere around pg. 19) I would guess that had some significant effect on the KJV. Hmm… perhaps “abominable” isn’t so far off after all.

  127. Julie in Austin
    August 9, 2005 at 9:21 pm


    I didn’t see your comment until now. You wrote, ““…But if it weren¡¯t, we wouldn¡¯t have a category labelled ¡®obedience,¡¯ would we?“. That is a fair point, and it works well rhetorically, but don’t you think it works just as well in reverse? If all there is to it is obedience, why do we have a category labelled ‘personal revelation’?”

    In this case, I did not have a personal revelation that went contra the church’s teachings. In fact, I felt strongly that I was not to oppose the Church on this one. So for me, in this case, there was no conflict. In other cases, well, I have nothing to say about that ;)

    I _really_ like what you say about Elder Oaks’ comments. In fact, as a seminary teacher during all of this, I was concerned that the students in our liberal town would face pressure to support SSM. What actually happened was that their peers were the ones talking about hating fags, and we encouraged our students to stand up for the rights of gays and lesbians.

    Mark–Guilty as charged. In fact, during my last hospital stay, I got to prop my hour-old baby up in the bed next to me and we watched Ferris Bueller–the Saturday afternoon movie special!

  128. August 9, 2005 at 11:11 pm


    The passage in first Nephi, though, seems reasonably clear on gender.

  129. Mistranslated Correctly
    August 10, 2005 at 12:41 am

    Biggest problem with the “blood on doorsteps” analogy is that Moses presumably told people the dire consequences of not obeying. In the case of SSM, our Church leaders have just told us what to do without explaining the why to us.

  130. August 10, 2005 at 10:35 am

    “An angel will destroy you” is not typically considered a detailed answer to a theological inquiry.

  131. Lisa B.
    August 10, 2005 at 11:46 am

    Frank, I agree that the “Spirit” is identified in Nephi in male language. I think it is really striking that no other passages of scripture have been cited that identify the Holy Spirit as male, and I still believe that the Holy Spirit is female.

  132. b bell
    August 10, 2005 at 11:54 am


    Curious about this topic. Do you have any references from the scriptures or the teaching of church leaders on this topic? Would love to hear why you think the HG is Female.

  133. Lisa B.
    August 10, 2005 at 12:10 pm

    Do I want to open this can of worms? Well, guess I already have. No, I do not have clear cannonical sources for this, and certainly no church leaders’ statements. It is a personal belief that has formed slowly over a long time beginning with a discussion I read in a Catholic publication about this idea being present in the early Christian church but gradually erradicated by the church hierarchy. Also harmonious with (Mormon and scriptural) descriptions of the workings and characteristics of the Holy Spirit–nurturing, comforting, an abiding presence. These fit matriarchy more closely than patriarchy to me, as defined by the church, the proclamation, the scriptures. It is not an idea I would introduce in a church setting, and perhaps would not have even in a public setting such as this but that Ben asked the question here.

  134. b bell
    August 10, 2005 at 12:14 pm

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  135. August 10, 2005 at 12:22 pm


    The fact that in Hebrew, spirit is a feminine noun seems no more important, offhand, than that girl is neuter in German (das madchen). Spirit as a substance is neuter, but any person’s spirit has a gender, and that gender is not always female, even if the noun is a gendered one.

    The Egyptians (I think) had this Mother-Father-Child Gods thing going on. The early Christians may well have borrowed that in the beginnings of the apostasy. The fact that some second century Christians believed something is not, in and of itself, a particularly good sign that said doctrine is true.

    The account in Nephi is the only passage that describes the Holy Ghost as an actual encounter. Thus it is not merely describing “in male language.” Nephi says that the Spirit of the Lord was a spirit in the form of a man, whom he saw and spoke with. This is well beyond what we have in any other passage of scripture. I know of no other comparable description of the Holy Ghost in holy writ. Perhaps your insistence that the Holy Ghost is a woman is more about your personal preferences than about doctrine?

  136. Jack Sprat
    August 10, 2005 at 12:26 pm

    Apparently, many ancient Israelites worshiped both El and his wife Asherah–something that later generations denounced (either by the Deuteronomists, including King Josiah–or if you believe that biblical history before the exile is unreliable–the more recent view–than by Greek influenced Judeans a couple hundred years before Christ). Lots of good references on the council in heaven online now. Some ancients thought the godhead to include Father, Mother, and Son. Not too far from there to HG being female?

  137. Jack Sprat
    August 10, 2005 at 12:31 pm

    More ideas on female Holy Ghost here and here. Considered to be female in the Unification Church as well.

  138. Jack Sprat
    August 10, 2005 at 12:34 pm

    And there are other interpretations about who Nephi actually saw…needn’t be THE Holy Ghost.

  139. Lisa B.
    August 10, 2005 at 4:18 pm

    Frank–No insistence here. I said it was my personal belief.

  140. Pam Andersen
    August 10, 2005 at 5:57 pm

    In response to the question/comment that someone was not aware of any prophetic or scriptural account of where the members were allowed to question the church….In the early days of the church comment consent was standard operating procedure. Each member was allowed to vote. They were not silenced for an opposing vote. We no longer enjoy this privledge now. If we were to cast an opposing vote on say, the new stake president or Ward Primary Pres., we would quickly be whisked into an office and have our membership challenged. See scriptural accounts:

    “No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church” (D&C 20:65). and…”All things shall be done by common consent in the church” (D&C 26:2). Also read: “business by the voice of the people” (Mosiah 29:25-26). Then do an internet search to get back-up historical information.

    Next thought – there are those that say that ancient records indicate that Abraham actually performed the sacrifice of Issac and that Issac was brought back to life by the “ram” in the thicket – in real similitude of the Atoning Sacrifice and the resurrection. So it makes sense that when we are tested and think that it is over and that we lost and the Lord did not save us, perhaps we need to be patient just a little bit longer. I have not personally read the supporting documents but it is something new to ponder upon.

  141. b bell
    August 10, 2005 at 6:05 pm

    “They were not silenced for an opposing vote. We no longer enjoy this privledge now. If we were to cast an opposing vote on say, the new stake president or Ward Primary Pres., we would quickly be whisked into an office and have our membership challenged”

    Not always true. If you are not a crank and you object you will be taken seriously and the PH leaders will listen to your concerns.

    saw a SP get released after some members objected with valid reasons once.

  142. Pam Andersen
    August 10, 2005 at 7:40 pm

    How long ago did this happen?

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