Terryl Givens on What It Means to Sustain

Below is a letter Terryl Givens recently wrote on what it means to sustain Church leadership. It is an outgrowth of an actual correspondence between Brother Givens and a friend, and is posted with Givens’ permission. The friend holds strong feelings about recent changes made to the Church Handbook of Instruction and had asked Givens how someone could sustain a leadership that he or she believed had acted in error or unrighteously.


Dear [Friend],

I am glad you followed through with your question. [How can I sustain a leadership that I think has acted in error or unrighteously]. It is one that is on a lot of minds these days. The word sustain only appears in the scriptures once, so I think it is a pretty important moment to infer its exact meaning. D&C 134.5, admonishes us to “sustain and uphold” the respective governments in which we reside. Now notice that we don’t have to like or agree with a great deal that our governments do. But I take “sustain” in that case to mean we support the general framework, share its common purposes, and work for its betterment. To sustain the elected leaders of a government would similarly mean to recognize their legitimately derived authority, and not work to undermine that authority, even if we voted for the other guy (or woman).  So adapting this scriptural usage to the sustaining of our own leaders, I take the same cues. We recognize their legitimately derived authority. (This is made explicit in the temple interview questions. We affirm that they have the priesthood keys to administer in their office.) We pray for them and share their common purpose of building the kingdom, although we may not agree with or embrace their particular course of action at any given moment. But by recognizing their authority, and working within the parameters of kingdom governance to exert our influence on the church’s course in righteous ways, we can be faithful to our covenants even if dubious about particulars, and be true to our consciences at the same time.

I believe, if I can say so, that the way you framed the question shows you are confusing general principles with particulars. You said given a specific policy statement, you have trouble sustaining the leadership as prophets seers and revelators. But sustaining them in their keys and offices never presupposed that we expect their judgment will always agree with God’s–or with ours! That is why we are asked by the Lord himself to receive their words “in all patience and faith.” You have to ask very seriously, why we are admonished to have patience for our leaders. You are experiencing the precise occasion that such words foresaw, and were intended to get you through.

Within the parameters of kingdom governance” is of course a crucial caveat. Our political government is rightly influenced by the exercise of the vote, of town meetings, petitions, ballot initiatives, legislation and constitutional amendments—even civil disobedience when all else fails. That is how democratic societies operate and flourish.  But the church is not a democracy, and what is both effective and appropriate in one system is not in another—in this case in a church predicated on delegated authority from above and a system of hierarchical leadership with vertically distributed keys. So influence needs to be exerted along the lines of section 121, which are divinely revealed principles of righteous influence: “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge.” Obviously, we can only exert righteous influence along those lines if we are part of the institution we wish to shape.

Your brother in the gospel,

Terryl

97 comments for “Terryl Givens on What It Means to Sustain

  1. A fascinating glimpse into Brother Givens’s mind, Marc; thanks for sharing it. On my reading, the most important line in the letter (which makes a lot of reasonable and wise points about governing frameworks and purposes) is this one: “But the church is not a democracy, and what is both effective and appropriate in one system is not in another–in this case in a church predicated on delegated authority from above and a system of hierarchical leadership with vertically distributed keys.”

    I highlight the final clause because that’s where the rubber meets the road. Is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in fact predicated upon the priesthood authority which Givens describes? (Maybe it’s “predicated” upon the gift of the Holy Ghost; that’s what Joseph Smith once said, anyway.) Is that authority necessarily embodied in a system of hierarchical leadership? (Given that the church’s governing structure has evolved many times, and is in any case radically different, both formally and informally, from what it was during its early decades, and yet presumably Givens would not argue that the LDS Church, circa 1830-1890, was not deserving of authoritative recognition, one might logically conclude that the answer is “no.”) Are “vertically distributed keys” present in a plenary fashion throughout the aforementioned hierarchical leadership, and are they, in themselves, sufficient for the recognition of “delegated authority from above”? Questions and more questions, the answers to which will likely determine how well anyway may respond to the rest of Givens’s comments.

  2. I agree with much of Terryl’s perspective on sustaining.

    In the business world, I sustain my leaders without having to be blindly obedient. at times, I give constructive feedback, make suggestions, strongly disagree with a proposed direction. That is how adults in the real world work.

    Disagreeing with others is not a sign of disrespect or animosity. It is the first step in a broader dialogue of ridding myself and the workplace of potential blind spots.

    For those who work for me, I expect the same. If they see something I don’t, I need them to speak up.

    I am confident that I can be mistaken.

    I am confident that sometimes I may not know that I am mistaken.

    Even thought I am confident that many times I am making the right decision.

    I am not really certain why church leaders are so fearful about being wrong.

    I wish they could gain some courage and recognize they are just men, even if they do have a calling from God.

  3. How can I What is my obligation as a member to sustain a leadership that I think has acted in error or unrighteously?

  4. Mostly patriarchal, not hierarchal. How can one operate with persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness and meekness, and love unfeigned in systems not allowing communication if it’s not solicited or wanted up an -archy? It seems like a system for abuse. How is one to ask, to seek, to knock? God doesn’t operate that way with you or me. Why should patriarchs? Maybe the way things were at the beginning of the restoration was more appropriate than it is now.

  5. For some reason, this made me think of the marriage covenant and it as a type of our relationship with the Church (as we know it is a symbol of our relationship to Christ). Research shows that the strength of the marriage can be shown by a few key indicators — the proportion of positive to negative comments, whether attempts at reconciliation are accepted or rejected, whether there is contempt demonstrated, etc.

    I am not sure what about this letter caused that to strike me, but it really seems to me to be a pretty good indicator of sustaining — is our relationship with the Church one that would be healthy in the marriage context? Do we make two negative comments (or more!) for every positive comment, the way unhealthy marriages do? Or do we make four positive comments for each negative one (or more) the way healthy marriages do?

    Do we respond positively when the Church reaches out to us, or do we assume an ulterior motivation or reject the attempt because it wasn’t made in the way we wanted it to be made? Do we treat the Church with contempt when the Church or its leaders do something we disagree with (even strongly disagree with) or do we give the Church the benefit of the doubt?

  6. Just a footnote on the D&C usage: “sustain and uphold” is a legal doublet; i.e., they are synonyms, one of Latin origin and the other Anglo-Saxon. [“Sustain” comes from Latin sub (up from below) + tenere (to hold).] Such doublets developed historically in the transition of law courts from Latin to French to English, and were used to avoid misunderstanding. So when we talk about a last will and testament, the “will” and “testament” are the same thing. Same with aid and abet, by and between, covenant and agree, etc.

  7. In the D&C, the Lord doesn’t say anything about “sustaining” his prophet Joseph. The word he uses is “heed.” D&C 21:4 – “thou shalt give heed unto all his words.” And what is the definition of heed? “Pay attention to; take notice of; give careful attention to.” I think this is a nice counterpoint to “follow the prophet” that has only recently (late 20th century) come into church vocabulary and culture.

  8. Jonathon 5 It would be a pretty unpleasant, and not at all loving relationship where the more powerful partner instructed the weaker partner not to communicate with them just obey any directive they recieve.
    In fact if you do try to look at the relationship between the leaders and the members, it is not a very healthy relationship, and not one you’d want to stay in.

  9. My wife and I had a TR interview in November. The Bishop had no problem even though we explained that we thought the response to marriage equality was wrong.
    The SP would not sign, but did eventually a week later. He had part of Christophersons talk but not the bit saying you could support marriage equality and still hold a TR? HIS PROBLEM WAS SUSTAINING? HE COULDN’T SEE THAT WE COULD BE? Without that talk we wouldn’t have TRs.

  10. While I take comfort in the spirit, posture, and message of this letter and I want so badly to say that it is indeed the answer I have sought, I am sad to admit that the grace I am asked to offer up to my leaders feels absolutely non-reciprocated.

    I do offer them this grace, along with my sustaining voice and prayers in their behalf, but I fear that the response to me, my mistakes, my worries are treated with indifference or in some cases worse: suspicion, and punitive measures.

    There are two reasons for this:

    1. As a woman with concerns, I am told that I am to address those concerns through the proper channels. The truth is, however, there are no safe channels set up in which those concerns can be addressed without calling into question my loyalties to the leadership of the church. There is no place for real discussion. There is only silent isolation or a continued marginalization. I feel that there is some room for certain men in good standing to speak without fear, but even they must be very circumspect in their language.

    2. The handbook policy in question seems to be a backlash against a softening stance towards those whose life choices did not line up with gospel teachings, but who were still being loved and accepted in our communities. The policy seemed to be an effort to remind us that though we preach love and tolerance for all of God’s children, certain behaviors were not to be tolerated. To prove this, these behaviors were labeled as the most aggregious crime “Apostasy”. The children in these situation were to suffer outside the protection of the covenant.

    Where is the mercy, long suffering, patience, sustaining,grace for these people and for their children? Or for those of us who mourn for them?

    I grow weary of feeling pushed towards the fringes when I am a believer with legitimate concerns. I sustain my leaders, I love them and empathize with their struggle to lead and direct this church. But I feel that the institution is growing less merciful and long suffering, less tender, less patient, and more prone to show someone like me to the door of the Kingdom with a “here are your things and don’t let the door hit you on your way out….”

    So much for leaving the ninety and nine to rescue the one….

  11. A few years ago I listened to the 5 hour interview between Terryl Givens and John Dehlin and was quite disturbed at many of their comments. They were both very outspoken concerning the leadership of the Church. So this letter is a little ironic.

  12. How does Terryl’s outspokenness in that interview make this letter ironic? Why doesn’t it make it the opposite of ironic? Why doesn’t it say exactly what you’d expect it to say?

  13. So are you and Terryl Givens saying that we cannot trust that Prsident Monson speaks the mind and will of the Lord.

  14. Great questions, Russel. I think it is probably beyond dispute that the church today operates in as a top down hierarchy. But the real question is whether it needs to. Is that model necessarily something that inheres in the restored church? Joseph said a lot of democratic sounding things, and often acted in a very democratic way, but at other times exercised authority less democratically. Brother Brigham seems to have thought that Joseph was too lenient with dissent and exercised a much more authoritarian way. So was the egalitarianism of the early restoration just a vestige of methodism that the saints had to grow out of to embrace a more kingdom based model of authority, or was it, like consecration, something that we as a people have failed to fully live up to?

  15. Would it be self serving to read what church leaders have said about what it means to “sustain” them? It seems like rank and file members want to dictate what it means to sustain leaders, when it might be more useful to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. (I agree with what Givens says, but would still prefer to read what God’s servants have to say on the matter.)

  16. Terryl Givens probably needs a different way to understand “sustain” than a reference to Mormon submission to secular governments circa 1835, D&C 134:5.

    It looks like that section was “adopted by unanimous vote by the general assembly.” Do Mormons ever do that anymore? I’m no scholar, but I suspect the answer is “No.” We don’t vote. We certainly don’t vote on policies. Why don’t we vote? Because we “sustain.”

    Again, I’m not an historical scholar, but I’m pretty sure Mormons’ lived experience in 1835 (and throughout the 19th century) was not overly concerned with “sustaining” the secular government–regardless of what they said when they adopted Section 134 by “unanimous vote by the general assembly.”

    “Sustain” as far as I understand it means, “I will follow the brethren.” That is the essential message of Mormonism in 2016–obedience, loyalty to those in positions of authority. The moral and psychological conflict for a believing Mormon is whether obedience and loyalty trumps another value, and if so, why? So, if I had Terryl Givens’ ear, I’d probably tell him, the Mormon concept of “sustain” is not really very nuanced or interesting and it doesn’t make sense to look at D&C 134. What is interesting is whether practicing Mormons are willing to continue to “sustain” their leadership, and if so, why?

  17. Observer, I think it undeniable that the Church became less “democratic” over time. Many of the early members didn’t like this and wanted something more akin to a Protestant view of authority – perhaps even seeing organizations like the Methodists as too structured.

    The deeper issue is how to ground our own practices (and whether to criticize existing social practice) I’m not sure how the members in 1835 viewed things is necessarily as helpful there. That is I’m not at all convinced the meaning of the texts is determined as strongly by the understanding of the time as some do.

    To me the mere fact D&C 134 seems a statement of belief rather than a revelation changes significantly how I view it in terms of grounding theology. Which is not to say there isn’t a lot valuable in it.

  18. Maybe a good way to understand “sustain” is to decide what it’s called to not sustain. What does one do when one does not “sustain”? I mean, what is that called?

    Opposed? Not in favor?

    I’m genuinely curious. I attended for many years, but I can’t really remember ever hearing about what it’s called to “not sustain.” For example, there was never a lesson about how to not “sustain” in a respectful manner.

    Does Mormonism have conscientious objectors?

  19. Typically what is done is they are interviewed to see if there is a basis to their concern. If there is then the calling is reconsidered. If not then it goes forward. There was a vote against the brethren’s sustaining as apostles a few years back as I recall. So it’s not that uncommon although I’ve rarely heard of it at the local level. The one case I did hear of was someone who knew something about a called Bishop with a sin that hadn’t been brought up in the interviews. As I recall the Bishop wasn’t confirmed and a new person was called. But that was more than 15 years ago and I didn’t have first hand knowledge of the case.

  20. Clark,

    So at conference if someone said, “I object to so-and-so because he has severe dementia” then you get an interview with your local bishop to explain that?

    Or if someone said, “I object to such-and-such because it is inconsistent with Christ’s teachings in the New Testament” you have a sit down with the bishop?

    Can you think of an example where it would make sense to “object” at conference? Why not just go talk to your bishop?

    I guess what I’m really getting at is what is the opposite of “sustaining the brethren”? Who is that person? What do you call that person? Can you think of a situation where that action would be admirable (or at least not bad)?

    Dissenter? Apostate? Kicking-against-the-pricks Guy? Conscientious Objector?

  21. My understanding is that if you raise your hand to oppose you are interviewed. I’ve no idea by whom. So it’s more akin to the stereotype of a wedding when in the secular ceremony the priest asks, “does anyone object?”

    As for examples when it’d make sense to object, serious sin would be the only case I can think of. As for why you shouldn’t just meet with the appropriate leader, I think that *would* be better.

    To the semantic questions, I confess I have no opinion on what to call someone. Not sure we need a term.

  22. “To the semantic questions, I confess I have no opinion on what to call someone. Not sure we need a term.”

    Maybe so.

    I think it helps to understand what is meant by “sustain the brethren” if we know what it means to NOT “sustain the brethren.” Also, if we can’t think of any situation where it would make sense to NOT sustain, that says something very important.

    For one thing, if we can come up with a good reason to not “sustain the brethren,” then there’s a good chance we’ll find a value that modern Mormons value above obedience and loyalty.

    (Ironic that you would bring marriage up into a discussion of “sustaining the brethren.” One could “oppose” a marriage if one knew that the bride was underage or if one of the parties was already married. Opposition is often a very good check on behavior.)

  23. Observer, I think understanding concepts through looking at oppositions is tremendously helpful. I’m not sure that means their opposites need their own term. If you meant the concepts then I agree.

    The idea of what it means to not sustain is usually wrapped up with backbiting, criticizing, and undermining. (At least in contemporary Mormon usage) As such I think it does give a pretty good idea through its opposition what sustaining means.

    To your final point, I think the marriage example is an apt analogy precisely because of those examples. The equivalent in a Mormon context might be say not sustaining a person’s call to be a primary teacher if you knew they were a sex offender.

  24. So after all of this, can you now feel comfortable about following conventional philosophy of men versus the unanimous decision of the apostles?

  25. I think the the decisions of the apostles unanimous or not need to be verified by the spirit and so far the banning of gays children isn’t looking good.

  26. dan–“please let us know if the Holy Ghost tells you that the Prophet and apostles are wrong.”

    You weren’t asking me, but I will let you know the Holy Ghost confirms that the practice of keeping willing children, with willing parents, from the ordinances of Christ’s Gospel (and all the blessings provided only by such) is wrong.

  27. Jesus precluded a lot of worthy willing gentiles from the gospel–for a time.
    Seems he decides the rules on timing based on each situation, no?

  28. Cameron N., I think your statement about what Jesus did is inadequate to explain the Biblical record. In Jesus’s society of his day, the most religiously-ostracized group among the church were the Samaritans. Jesus, on multiple occasions, went out of his way to include them in his fellowship, which brought him great criticism. He did so even though he specifically told one Samaritan woman that her religious beliefs were incorrect.

    The new handbook policy does the exact opposite: it takes the most religiously-ostracized group among the church of today, gay families, and does everything it can to exclude them—and that’s their entire families, not just gays themselves—from fellowship. So even if you believe gay families are wrong, and that, to coin a phrase, “salvation is of the heterosexuals,” by seeking to exclude them from our community, you cannot look to Jesus as a precedent.

    We’re a missionary church. One complaint, true or not, of many non-Latter-day Saints is that we befriend them just to baptize them. The very best way to tell our members not to have fellowship with gay families is to exclude them from baptism.

    And this isn’t just theoretical: before Official Declaration 2, the church deliberately did not send many missionaries to Africa, because leaders didn’t want to focus on teaching people who couldn’t go to the temple.

    So support 1990s mainstream American culture if you want to, but please don’t say that doing so emulates the example Jesus provided. That’s just inaccurate. Jesus never supported popular culture, nor drew his core philosophies from the world—he drew them from heaven.

    And having lived through the 1990s in the United States, let me be the first to tell you: they were not exactly what I am assuming heaven will be like. I don’t think God is sending revelations saying, “Let’s go back to the ’90s!”

  29. Also, on the topic of the original post, Jesus had a long tradition of opposing what his priesthood leaders said and did, while continuing to sustain them. That we do one does not preclude us doing the other. In fact, I feel letting leader know when they mess up is an important part of sustaining them. Nephi didn’t hesitate to encourage Lehi to do what was right Lehi started murmuring against God. Nathan didn’t hesitate to let David know he had made a big mistake with Uriah. When Joseph Smith had an affair with Fanny Alger, members of the church who knew about it didn’t hesitate to let him know what he did was wrong.

    And for those who talk about tone being important: if we follow Jesus’s example, Jesus called his priesthood leaders the children of Satan. You can’t have much less civil of a tone than that. Jesus called out his priesthood leaders when they were wrong. He did it publicly, all while continuing to acknowledge that they were his leaders and that he sustained them That’s the example he left for us, of what it means to sustain.

  30. So I think Terryl Givens is wrong to invoke Section 121 when saying how we should respond to our leaders. That section is about how those in positions of power and authority should act. If Givens is right, and our church is not a democracy of the priesthood, then that section describes how priesthood leaders with keys should treat general members and non-members, not how the keyless members need to treat their leaders. It seems a distortion to twist it around.

    And are the apostles acting like Section 121 describes? Is it long-suffering, gentle, or meek to arbitrarily cut entire subsets of society off from the covenants of the gospel for 10 or more years, and moreover to do so in secret, in a handbook those affected were never meant to see? Can you be long-suffering when you don’t inform someone ahead of time what you’re planning on punishing them for?

    I think we need to all answer those questions for ourselves. And then, if we feel our leaders are acting like the children of Satan instead of the children of God, we need to say so, publicly. And we do so while still sustaining them.

    That’s what Jesus did, and we claim to be his church, so we should follow his example.

  31. Please enlighten me, is the general opinion amongst this group that the additions to the handbook is not the mind and will of the Lord, but has come from the minds of the Lord’s leaders. Notwithstanding this we should still sustain them, but try and agitate with patience and long suffering to have them change their minds.

    Is this what Terryl Givens is asking us to do? When did we sustain him as the mouthpiece of the Lord?

  32. Several years ago my Bishop taught me all about sustaining while disagreeing, and that a difference of opinion on administration is not indicative of a lack of faith. The Stake President at the time was keen on large group baptisms, because he thought that too much emphasis had been placed on the individual rather than the ordinance. He refused all requests for altering baptism dates and times, with everyone meeting at once in the chapel and then going back to the font ward by ward, even when a ward had several children to be baptized. The chaos of the cattle drive when my oldest was baptized, one of 4 children from our ward and 15 in the stake, made me furious.
    I mentioned this at my next recommend interview, and the Bishop told me of his experience a couple of months later. His mother-in-law was able to visit from Europe for the holidays, but would be leaving before the designated stake baptism day. The Stake President denied his request to baptize his son one week earlier. Did the Bishop go rogue with the baptism? No. Did he agree with the Stake President? Not on your life. Did he raise his hand to sustain? Yes.
    I can and have done the same, love and patience and faith can coexist with disagreement.

  33. Jesus said, “Go, and sin no more…” He also said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…” And, he said, “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away…

    May our God have mercy on us, and may he bless the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and those who humbly try to receive them. May all of us recognize and repent of our sins, whatever they may be.

  34. Where is it written that it is a sin to disagree with the brethren? Where is it written that the spirit will always sustain their decisions with spiritual conformation to each and every member? Rote obedience produces Mobots and magnifies gospel error (see 1949 FP statement on blacks).

  35. Why is it that no one on this blog wants to give a simple answer to a simple question? I refer to comment 36, most comments are unambiguous and skirt round the question. To give a dirsct answer to the last comment (39) from Silfo please read carefully the following from Elder Ezra Taft Benson in the April Conference 1969

    Publishing differences with Church
    Unauthorized to receive revelation for the Church, but I fear still anxious to redirect the Church in the way they think it should go, some of them have taken to publishing their differences with the Church, in order to give their heretical views a broader and, they hope, a more respectable platform.
    Along this line it would be well for all of us to remember these words of President George Q. Cannon:
    “A friend . . . wished to know whether we . . . considered an honest difference of opinion between a member of the Church and the Authorities of the Church was apostasy. . . . We replied that we had not stated that an honest difference of opinion between a member of the Church and the Authorities constituted apostasy, for we could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the Authorities of the Church and yet not be an apostate; but we could not conceive of a man publishing those differences of opinion and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife and to place the acts and counsels of the Authorities of the Church, if possible, in a wrong light and not be an apostate, for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term.” (Deseret News, November 3, 1869.)

    Elder Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1969, First Day—Morning Meeting 11.)

    It is my considered opinion that the OP from Terryl Givens and some of the comments on this post could be considered going against this statement.

  36. It is not as easily dismissed as apostasy when one considers that central to our main narrative (which is repeated in our most sacred ceremony)is an example of one who is using individual thought, agency, and persuasion to convince another to disobey THE WORD OF GOD.

    While we call this beguiling, Eve takes responsibility for her actions and stands before God, as an agent for her actions, and receives chastisement. She also receives praise for her wisdom in seeing what Adam could not in his steadfast obedience and unwillingness to consider any other path. It was because she considered another way that we even exist.

    Do you think that we are offered this as an example on a regular basis by accident? Could it be that Eve is an example of one way we might face latter day revelation and Adam an example of another way? Neither way was without its serious implications and consequences; both ways were essential to the plan. Maybe this is one of the messages we are supposed to understand when we visit the temple and should consider the reasons why we review this narrative over and over again.

    It is amazing to me how quickly people are to condemn others and at the same time surrender their own agency. How is it that we know exactly what the mind of God is? Why is it frightening when we allow for thought, questions, agency? It seems that those who are so quick to condemn might need to increase their faith in the idea that God is in charge and that He will prevail despite the weakness and failings of his children– in fact, He may have even anticipated our actions. I will work out my own salvation. I will not leave it to someone else to do so for me. He has endowed us with free will and conscience. I will not act contrary to either and blame it on another when I stand alone at the judgement bar. He will not accept less from me.

  37. Publishing has changed a great deal since 1969, a blog with comments is not similar to a monolithic argument published in book or pamphlet rather it is a give an take conversation that both sides can freely enter.

  38. Mary,

    I could probably start attending church again if I could sit by you. That is the most thoughtful approach to “sustaining” and … “not sustaining” that I’ve heard. Thank you for taking the time to write out your thoughts.

  39. Silfo,

    What you call a monolithic argument published in book or pamphlet are actually the words of then living annointed prophets seers and revelators, and in the case of Elder Benson spoken in General Conference of the Church. To compare their words with speculations put forward by Terry Givens and commentators on this blog is a travesty. Please answer the question asked in post (36)

    Who should we follow and sustain the Prophets of God or the speculations of man.

  40. You obviously misunderstood my comment Jeff and your question is a false dichotomy, each of us can check the words of the brethren with the spirit and we are free to discuss and debate them because they are only prophetic when acting as a prophet. When exactly is that?

    I will withdraw now to avoid derailing this thread.

  41. OK lets do that, but from your answer I do take it that you accept that the additions to the handbook did not come from the Lord but from the minds of the brethren who were not acting as prophets. Thanks for the clarification

  42. “Who should we follow and sustain[:] the Prophets of God or the speculations of man[?]”

    Jeff, it seems to me that the vast majority here are operating under the idea that they have an obligation to sustain the prophets. The question is not whether we should, but what the process of sustaining entails. I hope that clarifies the discussion for you.

  43. Mary

    It is really interesting that you use mother Eve as an example to further the OP. I disagree though with the permise that Eve or Adam sinned in the garden. She was not chastised or punished for her action. What Heavenly Father did was to tell Adam and Eve the consequences of their transgression.Eve was told that she would bear children through sorrow and pain, Adam was told that he would have to have to work for his food. These consequences were incidental to mortality. What really happened was that they used their free agency to transgress the law for staying in the garden of Eden. This is made clear when modern-day scripture adds the line “nevertheless thou mayest choose for thyself for it is given unto thee”

    To bring about mortality they had to transgress the law, Heavenly Father could not initiate the fall, it had to come of their own free will, there was no sin involved, and of course it was God’s intention that they transgress otherwise the whole Plan of Salvation would have been frustrated. I think that it stretches credulity to suggest that this is an example which explains Givens’s theory.

    I do not consider that I am surrendering my free agency to sustain and accept that our Prophet receives the mind and will of the Lord. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Kingdom of God on the earth today. Jesus Christ is at its head and He directs the affairs of His kingdom. So if anyone disagrees or has a problem with the brethren do not shoot the messendger complain to the one who dictates the doctrine.

  44. Jack of Hearts

    What process do we need surely the called and annointed leaders of the Lord’s Church receive the mind and will of the Lord. What is there to discuss. The only conclusion that I see here is that their integrity is being called into question.

  45. Jeff,

    I never said Eve sinned.

    I sustain the Brethren as Apostles, Seerers, and Reavelators.

    These are the men who quite recently have come out with statements that admit previous generations of church leaders have made mistakes and/or perpetuated mistakes of those who have gone before them. I applaud their faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the grace He offers as well as their faith in the members of this church’s ability to understand that Heavenly Father uses imperfect human beings as leaders of his church. They are humble enough to admit that leaders in the past have made mistakes, but because we believe in an Atonement and in Grace, ultimately all will be made right.

    Adam and Eve are models of two ways members might approach difficult knowledge. Adam chose to push away the possibilities in that knowledge and hold to his course. The consequence would have been a certain reward in and of itself. There would have been some detrimental consequences as well: our life on Earth would not exist as we know it.

    Eve chose to question, explore and transgress. There were dire consequences as well as fruitful ones.

    Forgive me for saying that if one chooses the path of Adam, one surrenders their agency. You are correct in pointing out that it is not a surrending of agency. It is a way of choosing to use it.

    But if there were mistakes made in the past (as our current leaders are happy to admit,) and we have the example of Eve who chose to examine the limits of the information she was given,then I do not see how anyone can call into question my efforts to be accountable for what I am willing to ratify as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I sustain the Brethren and I am accountable for my own beliefs. I hold to the iron rod with my own two hands. I will act in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ– who,by the way, chastised his twelve for mistakes they made during His time with them upon the earth.

    It is not my place to correct the Brethren — just as I wouldn’t have tried had I been present when Jesus was present upon the earth with His twelve. But if I had eyes to see and still followed their lead, knowing that it was contrary to my own conscience, I would be held accountable for my actions. I know that they are Disciples of Christ. I know that they are human beings with frailties. I sustain them nonetheless.

  46. “What process do we need surely the called and anointed leaders of the Lord’s Church receive the mind and will of the Lord[?] What is there to discuss[?]”

    This isn’t a definition of sustain though. From what I’m reading, you’re saying “Sustain our leaders means to sustain them!” which is just a tautology. As you’ve noted, sustaining clearly doesn’t mean rejecting them. Sustaining is also clearly not accepting their actions or statements as infallible; the Church has long repudiated the idea that “when the prophet speaks, the thinking is done.” Where, then, does that leave us? What does it mean to sustain? Can you sustain someone and disagree with them? To what extent? How? That’s the question this post is revolving around; that we need to sustain the prophets seems to be, as I noted, a given for most of those commenting.

    Mary, your parallel with Adam and Eve is fascinating me. Thanks for sharing.

  47. Mary and Jack of Hearts,

    Let me try one last time to get my point over

    The original post was prompted by the following:-

    “Below is a letter Terryl Givens recently wrote on what it means to sustain Church leadership. It is an outgrowth of an actual correspondence between Brother Givens and a friend, and is posted with Givens’ permission. The friend holds strong feelings about recent changes made to the Church Handbook of Instruction and had asked Givens how someone could sustain a leadership that he or she believed had acted in error or unrighteously”.

    Terryl Givens then make the following points

    “We pray for them and share their common purpose of building the kingdom, although we may not agree with or embrace their particular course of action at any given moment. But by recognizing their authority, and working within the parameters of kingdom governance to exert our influence on the church’s course in righteous ways, we can be faithful to our covenants even if dubious about particulars, and be true to our consciences at the same time” ( Is this post one of the ways Givens is exerting his influence)

    “But sustaining them in their keys and offices never presupposed that we expect their judgment will always agree with God’s–or with ours! That is why we are asked by the Lord himself to receive their words “in all patience and faith.” You have to ask very seriously, why we are admonished to have patience for our leaders. You are experiencing the precise occasion that such words foresaw, and were intended to get you through.” ( We sometimes need to have patience to wait to see their fulfillment because many times they are warning of things in the future, and having faith that they are revealing the will of the Lord. Not that they are teaching things which are wrong!!!)

    “But the church is not a democracy, and what is both effective and appropriate in one system is not in another—in this case in a church predicated on delegated authority from above and a system of hierarchical leadership with vertically distributed keys. So influence needs to be exerted along the lines of section 121, which are divinely revealed principles of righteous influence: “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge.” Obviously, we can only exert righteous influence along those lines if we are part of the institution we wish to shape.” (“So influence needs to be exerted” and “We wish to shape” are very revealing expressions)

    It seems pretty obvious to me that the above statements make it clear that Terryl Givens is saying that when he and others do not agree with pronouncements that the Church Leaders make they have a right to voice their opinions and cause doubt in the minds of the saints implying that the Brethren are teaching things which are wrong. This justifies me when I quote from Elder Benson in post 40

    You both say that mistakes have been made by previous prophets (which our present leaders are happy to admit) Please give me authentic chapter and verse where these statements have been made.

    I have complete faith that the Lord will never allow his Prophet to lead the Church astray, and that includes the recent changes to the Handbook of Instructions.

    Hopefully I have made my position clear.

  48. Jeff–

    You have eyes to see and ears to hear or you don’t. I have provided one example here of a doctrine that was promoted by the Brethren for years and now is disavowed. I leave you to seek out others for yourself. I have said all I will say on this topic. It has been fun sparring over these ideas with you. Good luck with your journey of faith.

    “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form”

    https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng

  49. Jeff Walsh, just because people don’t share your opinion(s) on what constitutes apostasy, or how you believe the Brethren were not being truthful when they say that Prophets have not always spoken as Prophets and have made very human mistakes, etc, doesn’t mean your position is unclear. Lack of evident persuasion does not equal lack of clarity.

    October 2015 General Conference was a few months back (and it’s entirely possible you didn’t listen to and/or read all of the talks), but M. Russell Ballard was quite clear on how the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while trying their best, are not and never will be infallible. One quote follows:
    “Too many people think Church leaders and members should be perfect or nearly perfect. They forget that the Lord’s grace is sufficient to accomplish His work through mortals. Our leaders have the best intentions, but sometimes we make mistakes.”

    For more examples of such comments, from a Church-sponsored website, see:
    http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_doctrine/Prophets_are_not_infallible
    http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_science/Joseph_Fielding_Smith_claimed_that_man_would_never_walk_on_the_Moon

  50. Thank you Mary for your best wishes, Of course I have read this. What the Church is saying is that the REASONS that have been given for the restriction placed on the seed of Cain in the past have been disavowed. But no Prophet has said that the ban itself was wrong or that a mistake was made. If Brigham Young had made a mistake in 1852 would the Lord have allowed this to be perpetuated for a further 126 years, I do not think so, not the God I worship It is passed the witching hour in the UK so I will say goodnight.

  51. Jeff Walsh, the fact that you just used the phrase “the seed of Cain” to refer to Africans shows me you need to read that essay again. The very idea that black people are such is one of the things specifically disavowed in that essay.

  52. “If Brigham Young had made a mistake in 1852 would the Lord have allowed this to be perpetuated for a further 126 years[?] I do not think so, not the God I worship.”

    The Lord gave the children of Israel a king because they wanted it. He let Joseph give Martin the 116 pages because that’s what they wanted. Jacob says that the Jews received things they could not understand because that’s what they wanted. It seems to me that God is quite willing to allow what should not happen to happen in order to teach a lesson.

    More pertinently to the OP, you write:
    “It seems pretty obvious to me that the above statements make it clear that Terryl Givens is saying that when he and others do not agree with pronouncements that the Church Leaders make they have a right to voice their opinions and cause doubt in the minds of the saints implying that the Brethren are teaching things which are wrong.”
    I’m not sure you’re familiar with the context here. Givens and his wife travel widely to give firesides to members about how to remain faithful. He and his wife have published two books with Deseret Book, one of which is about how to remain faithful when doubts come. The posted correspondence between a man or woman who wants to remain active (I assume, since they’re interested in how they can fulfill their covenant to sustain Church leaders when they disagree) and Givens, who is trying to help them remain active and faithful. Given all of this, I think the last thing Givens is trying to do is “cause doubt in the minds of the [S]aints.”

  53. Tea

    I never mentioned Africans, Moses 7:22 says of the seed of Cain were black, plus the fact when did the “Topics” become scripture. Are you saying that the references to the curse and the mark spoken of in the books of Moses and Abraham are false? Why did the Lord forbid the Israelites to mix their seed with the Canaanites.

    Following your reasonings what happened to the Canaanites did the whole race die out

    Could I also ask you to reread the Topic and tell me where it says that the priesthood ban was a mistake, What the Church disavows are the reasons for the ban such as preexistence unworthiness not tha ban itself. The Lord imposed the ban and the Lord removed it. The ban certainly did not originate with Brigham Young, he was complying with the restriction which came down throughout time.

  54. “The Lord imposed the ban and the Lord removed it. The ban certainly did not originate with Brigham Young, he was complying with the restriction which came down throughout time.”

    The historical record doesn’t really bear that out. Both Elijah Ables and Q. Walker Lewis were ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood in the 1830/40s. Lewis’ son might also have been. Both Ables’ son and grandson were ordained to the Melchizedek priesthood, and by the time of his grandson that was the 1930s. Some scholars even argue that Joseph Smith was the man who ordained Ables. The ban is clearly not a “restriction which came down throughout time.” Additionally, no man who was part of the formulation of the ban ever claimed it was a revelation from God. The closest we have is Brigham Young in the territorial legislature, but recent discoveries of a shorthand transcription of the speech casts doubt on the accuracy of the record in the Journal of Discourses. The implementation of the ban was also piecemeal and ad hoc. Really good discussions of this can be found in Paul Reeve’s Religion of a Different Color and Russell Stevenson’s For the Cause of Righteousness.

    “tell me where it says that the priesthood ban was a mistake.”

    I’m not Tea, and I haven’t recently read the essay, but if I remember correctly it’s not explicit but is heavily implied. Personally, I think in a few decades we as a people will finally be comfortable with explicitly saying that the ban was not of God. Interestingly, the Lord seems to have told many members that the ban was incorrect in the late 60s and 70s. There’s a really interesting discussion to be had about what it means to sustain our leaders in a situation like that.

  55. Jack of Hearts

    OK You suggest we look at the Historical record so lets do that, consider the following from Joseph Smith himself:-

    Background information on section 58
    “The first Sabbath after our arrival in Jackson county, Brother W. W. Phelps preached to a western audience over the boundary of the United States, wherein were present specimens of all the families of the earth; Shem, Ham and Japheth; several of the Lamanites or Indians—representative of Shem; quite a respectable number of negroes—DESCENDANTS OF HAM and the balance was made up of citizens of the surrounding country, and fully represented themselves as pioneers of the West. At this meeting two were baptized, who had previously believed in the fulness of the Gospel.
    “During this week the Colesville branch, referred to in the latter part of the last revelation, and Sidney Rigdon, Sidney Gilbert and wife and Elders Morley and Booth, arrived. I received the following: [D&C 58.]” (Joseph Smith, HC 1:190-91.

    11231The Lord does not always give reasons for each commandment. Sometimes faithful members, like Adam of old, are called upon to obey an injunction of the Lord even though they do not know the reason why it was given. Those who trust in God will obey him, knowing full well that time will provide the reasons and vindicate their obedience.
    The arm of flesh may not approve nor understand why God has not bestowed the priesthood on women or the seed of Cain, but God’s ways are not man’s ways. God does not have to justify all his ways for the puny mind of man. If a man gets in tune with the Lord, he will know that God’s course of action is right, even though he may not know all the reasons why. The Prophet Joseph Smith understood this principle when he said, … THE CURSE IS NOT YET TAKEN FROM THE OFF FROM THE SONS OF CANAAN NEITHER WILL BE UNTIL IT IS AFFECTED BY AS GREAT A POWER AS CAUSED IT TO COME; and the people who interfere the least with the purposes of God in this matter, will come under the least condemnation before Him; and those who are determined to pursue a course, which shows an opposition, and a feverish restlessness against the decrees of the Lord, will learn, when perhaps it is too late for their own good, that God can do His own work, without the aid of those who are not dictated by His counsel.” (Documentary History of the Church, Vol. , p. 438.) Elder Ezra Taft Benson Conference Report oct 1967 2nd session Afterneoon meeting pp34-35

    From the information given in the Pearl of Great Price it is apparent that Cain is the father of the Negro people. The Book of Moses reports that “the Lord set a mark upon Cain.” Though this statement does not say that the mark consisted of a black skin, it does say at a later point in the record that “there was a black skin come upon all the children of Canaan.( Moses 7:8”) That the Canaanites were the descendants of Cain is evident from the further statement that “the seed of Cain were black Joseph Smith also spoke specifically of the Negroes as being “sons of Cain.”( DHC 4:501) On another occasion, he referred to them as “descendants of Ham,” WHO EVIDENTLY MARRIED A cANAANITE WOMAN AND THUS PERPETUTED THE SEED OF CAIN THROUGH THE FLOOD..
    (Hyrum L. Andrus, Doctrinal Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1967], 400.)

    You say that some scholars claim that Joseph Smith ordained Elijah Ables (Abel) well obviously they did not do their homework :-

    Mar. 3, 1836
    Elijah Abel, a Negro, is ordained an elder and receives his patriarchal blessing from Joseph Smith, Sr.

    Dec. 20, 1836
    Elijah Abel is ordained a seventy by Zebedee Coltrin. Abel was apparently reordained on April 4, 1841.
    (J. Christopher Conkling, A Joseph Smith Chronology [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979], 94.)

    So after this do you still say Brigham Young originated the Priesthood ban? Lets talk sense here would our Heavenly Father deprive temple blessings for maybe millions of his children, just because a Prophet of God made a mistake!!!! Did Joseph Smith make a mistake in letting Martin Harris take the 116 manuscript pages, but then co-incidently centuries earlier Nephi was commanded to make a parallel
    record, just in case. Lets get real it was God’s intention for it to happen.

    I will reply to the bit about the Givens’s tours later, I happen to have been assigned to transport them around when the came to our Stake

  56. Repeatedly the church essay refers to the priesthood ban as a “policy.”

    It also says this:

    “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse,”

    Fairmormon also points out that Brigham Young didn’t present it as a “revelation.” No evidence of a revelation. (Except the 1949 statement by President George Albert Smith referring to it as revelation).

  57. Jeff Walsh, I find it amusing that you completely ignored my comment about your mistaken belief of Prophetic Infallibility, and then dive into the empty swimming pool of the divinity of racism and question what is on LDS.org Funny and sad, I guess. My thanks to Jack & Lois for providing supporting quotes.

    In case one more would help you understand:

    “The justifications for this restriction echoed the widespread ideas about racial inferiority that had been used to argue for the legalization of black “servitude” in the Territory of Utah. According to one view, which had been promulgated in the United States from at least the 1730s, blacks descended from the same lineage as the biblical Cain, who slew his brother Abel. Those who accepted this view believed that God’s “curse” on Cain was the mark of a dark skin. ”

    Based on your other comments about God wanting bad things to happen, I would also suggest further study into the reality of agency and the rejection of predestination. My hope is you would find it enlightening, just as with the links to help you understand that Prophets are people, too.

  58. But the I suppose if you cast doubt and view with scepticism on everything Joseph Smith and the early prophets said you probably have to try find answers from the minds of infallible men!!!..

  59. Here is anothet quote this time from Brigham Young:-

    ” I told the people that if they would not believe the revelations that God had given. He would suffer the devil to give revelations that they, priests and people, would follow after. Have I seen this fulfilled? I have.

    “I told the people that as true as God lived, if they would not have truth, they would have error sent unto them, and they would believe it.

    Deseret News June 6 1873

  60. As this is now veering from the OP, I’m going to bow out after this. Thanks for the correction Jeff. Maybe it was about Ables’ ministerial certificate? I read the books I referenced a year ago or so and don’t have them with me, so I can’t double check. You should really read them, as they are excellent.

    “So after this do you still say Brigham Young originated the Priesthood ban?” Absolutely. Both Joseph and Brigham were aware that black men had been ordained to the priesthood. It’s not until 1852 that Brigham says they shouldn’t be ordained. That’s where things begin to spiral downward.

    “Let[‘]s talk sense here[:] would our Heavenly Father deprive temple blessings for maybe millions of his children, just because a Prophet of God made a mistake!!!!” The Lord seemed pretty comfortable to restricting His word to just the people of Israel, and the Aaronic priesthood to just the sons of Aaron, for thousands of years. Again, as I explained above, I think the Lord has an eternal perspective and a willingness to allow us to reap what we sow. Indeed, your quotation from Brigham Young in 65 illustrates that.

    “But the I suppose if you cast doubt and view with scepticism on everything Joseph Smith and the early prophets said you probably have to try find answers from the minds of infallible men!” The point here is that there are no infallible men (Christ excepted). No one’s saying scholars are infallible, just like no one’s saying prophets are. In fact, that’s the whole problem, and, as you can see from our comments, why we believe the ban was an act of man and not God.

  61. Well I’ll get back to my indexing, it is more productive. After i come back from helping our Zone leaders, hopefully the investgator will be a little more suseptible to the truth. Cheers.

  62. Just to note, the DHC are not necessarily Joseph’s actual words. A lot was ghost written and any historian would tell you to deal with it with care.

    As for errors, it seems God lets all his church have errors. Sometimes he’ll fix it, such as Jesus requiring the Nephites actually mention Samuel the Lamanite a prophet they’d somehow censored from their records. And let’s not get started in the Old Testament. Now as to why he does that, that’s a whole different question.

  63. One correction to the above. FAIRMormon is not in any way “Church sponsored.” It does not receive funding or other such material support from the Church, nor does the material go through Church editing, Correlation, etc. It is an independent group.

  64. Just checking in …

    I’ve read through the comments and skimmed through a bit of Mr. Walsh’s sentiments. There are some very thoughtful contributors on this blog.

    It seems to me that the concept of “sustain the brethren” has been developed in Mormon thought. I suspect it’s even in a lesson manual.

    However,I don’t see much Mormon thought invested in what it means to not “sustain the brethren.” What does it mean to not “sustain the brethren”? (I’m not asking you Jeff Walsh so feel free to sit this one out.)

    As was pointed out above, one can “abstain” (presumably by sitting quietly). Maybe that’s a fair enough option. “Meh. I’ll sit this one out.”

    It seems to me that Mormonism could use some healthy middle ground. Some way to be a conscientious objector. I’d like to see that some day. I suspect dissenters and apostates like me will just have to wait for “the brethren” to carve out some middle ground. :-)

  65. Observer

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, although I was a little disapointed that you only “skimmed through” my comments. As far as the option you mention to “not sustain the brethren” I will sit that one out. Why? because 51 years ago I received a spiritual witness that this Church is the Kingdom of God on the earth, and that its leaders have been called as special witnesses of Jesus Christ. I also received a witness from the same source that the Presidents of the Church speak for the Lord and receive counsel and direction from Him to run the affairs of His Church. On matters of importance they convey His mind and will.

    I accept that the OP was speaking of sustaining even though not accepting, but that is a blanket so large that we need to speak of specifics. In this context do we need a middle road? Either the Lord Jesus Christ is guiding and directing this Church and that His leaders are the mouthpiece for HIm. Or the whole organisation is built on and is perpeuatuating a fraud.My witness tells me that the former is true.

    This said I want to respond to the idea that “absolutly” Brigham Young introduced the Priesthood ban and that all the prophets following him and indeed the Lord Jesus Christ have allowed this “mistake” to be perpetuated for 126 years. So let me ask some questions:-

    1. What proof do we have that Brigham Young was not conveying the will of the Lord.

    2. How do we account for the statements from succeeding Prophets who have enquired of the Lord to ask if the time had come for the lifting of this ban, and each time they have been told “not yet” This would hardly come from One who was helping perpetuate a mistake.

    3a. Faithful members of the Church sustain and accept that the 4 standard works are the Word of God. which includes the Books of Moses and Abraham These not only speak of the fact that the seed of Cain were black but also they were of that lineage that could not have the rights of the Priesthood So the question is was that also another “mistake” this time originating from Joseph Smith.?

    3b If we go along this line where do we stop. Did the BOM come out of Joseph’s mind, did he plagerise the “View of the Hebrews” or pinch his ideas from Solomon Spalding? going on where did all the revelations Joseph claims came from God come from. Once we accept this where do we go? With this kind of thinking we are entrenched firmly in Anti-Mormon territory.

    4. If the priesthood restriction began with Brigham Young why were the Israelites forbidden from mixing their blood with the Canaanites?

    5. Is God a racist by not allowing women to hold the Priesthood?, was he racist when he forbad the 11 tribes of Israel from holding the P/H? The Priesthood is His and he can allow or restrict its conferrence to whom He wishes.

    I could go on, but let me finish by posing some “What If’s”. What if the Priesthood ban was the mind and will of the Lord. What if it was Joseph’s words in the DHC not ghost writers, What if sustaining means believing that Prophets of God were speaking for Him, and not giving their own ideas What if all the apologetic historians and some contibutors to this blog including Terry Givens have got it wrong, and further setting themselves up as giving us the real truth.

    Well as for me and my house we will continue to sustain the brethren, and will continue to listen and hear their sermons in General Conference, and accept they are conveying the mind and will of the Lord, instead of thinking, “Is this coming from God or are they speaking of themselves” OK back to indexing, skim this if you like. Ha Ha.

  66. Jeff Walsh,

    I’m sincerely glad you find meaning in your path. I feel bad if anything I said earlier was condescending. I was wrong to do that. Best of luck on your journey.

  67. Jeff Walsh
    Response to your #1,2 points

    From FairMormon:
    “However, Brigham Young did not present a specific revelation on priesthood or temple restrictions he imposed. A definitive statement wasn’t made by him until 1852 in a legislative, rather than ecclesiastical forum. Governor Young declared “any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain] … in him cannot hold the priesthood and if no other Prophet ever spake it before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it.” Like the Missouri period, the Saints were externally pressured to adopt racial policies as a political compromise. At the time, this was deemed to be the best pathway to statehood.
    Those who believe the ban had a revelatory basis point to these pivotal events as examples of a prophet learning “line upon line,” with revelation being implemented more rigorously. Those who see the influence of cultural factors and institutional practice behind the ban consider this evidence that the ban was based on Brigham’s cultural and scriptural assumptions, and point out that such beliefs were common among most Christians in Antebellum America.”

    FairMormon also points out various church leaders had different views on the ban, some viewed it as revelation, others, like David O’Mckay as “policy,” not doctrine.

    What we forget is that some of the 15 were ready (inspired?) to overturn the ban earlier. Variation in personal “inspiration” is something we don’t discuss.

  68. One of the (many!) comments that I found valuable was the one that asked, “What does sustain actually mean?” and another that asked, “What is the opposite of ‘sustain’ (antomyn)?” So I looked them up.

    Merriam-Webster gave this definition:
    sus·tain (v.)
    : to give support or relief to
    : to supply with sustenance : nourish
    : keep up, prolong

    My word processor’s thesaurus lists these words as rough synonyms:
    Under the heading “Withstand”
    —Bear
    —Tolerate
    —Endure
    —Weather
    —Stand
    —Put up with
    Under the heading “Support (v.)”
    —Maintain
    —Take
    —Hold up
    —Prop up
    Under the heading “Nourish”
    —Support
    —Feed
    —Help
    —Aid
    —Assist
    —Nurture
    — Keep you going
    …etc, (selective; duplicates removed)

    For antonyms, the thesaurus suggested these:
    Under the heading “Sap (v.)”
    —Weaken
    —Drain
    —Undermine
    —Debilitate
    —Reduce
    Under the heading “Deplete”
    —Exhaust
    —Diminish
    —Lessen
    Under the heading “Collapse (v.)”
    —Crumple
    —Fold
    —Warp
    —Bend
    —Cave in
    …etc, (selective; duplicates removed)

    So, with some of those words in mind, I make the following observations:

    1. I DIDN’T see “blindly obey” or “agree with” or “kowtow to,” nor anything like those.

    2. I DID see “support,” “tolerate,” “put up with,” and “nourish,” among others. (BTW, I really like the idea of “nourishing,” “nurturing,” “aid,” and “keep you going” as part of sustaining. Sounds right to me.)

    3. It seems to me that if some of the antonyms apply to your attitudes and behavior toward the brethren (such as “weaken,” “undermine,” or “diminish,”) it would be pretty clear that you are NOT “sustaining” them—regardless of whether you agree with them or not!

    Someone asked about a term for someone who doesn’t sustain. Unless by negation you infer opposition, there isn’t really one, except, perhaps, “indifferent.” However, If you DO mean someone who opposes, here are a few from the thesaurus:

    Under the heading “Detractor”
    —Opponent
    —Critic
    —Disparager
    —Doubter
    —Cynic
    —Skeptic
    —Disbeliever
    —Enemy
    …etc. (from a variety of terms)

    There you go! Take your pick!

    Best!

    Comanche

  69. :Lois

    Thanks you have just made the point that President Young in 1852 was pronouncing the Lord’s mind and will. Does it matter where it was said?

  70. Two comments:

    1. I am open to the possibility that the policy is the will of God. Surely polygamy wasn’t easier for members to accept, but when they sincerely prayed about it, many members went from opposition to supporting the policy. (I once heard that Brigham Young told Joseph that polygamy was “of the devil” or some such remark. Not sure if true.)

    2. Although I don’t support blindly following anyone, I do know that a unified group is more powerful than a deeply fractured and hesitant group. Take from that what you will.

  71. Jim, I see where President Faust talks about sustaining decisions, but I can’t seem to find a description of what that means. Would you care to elaborate?

    Jeff, I’m confused. You’re not okay with a God who allows His children to exercise their agency, make a mistake, and reap the whirlwind because of it, but you are okay with a God who is racist? Especially a God who is okay with black men holding the priesthood and lets some be ordained in the 1830s/40s, but then in 1852 changes His mind? I’m not sure I follow that logic. And I’ll repeat Lois’ point: Brigham Young may have thought he was pronouncing a revelation, but there were plenty of general authorities who came after who disagreed completely. I mean, most notably Hugh Brown repeatedly lobbied the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to change it because it was just a policy, McKay thought it was just a policy, and a committee of apostles in the 1950s concluded that there was no scriptural basis for the ban.

  72. Jack of Hearts There is no need to be confused, all you need is to realise that Satan spins webs of deceit. Builds straw men attempting to destroy the reputations of the Lord’s annointed. He even uses innocent latter-day saints, fooling them into believing that they are doing the Lord’s work by saying it is OK to doubt and lobby the Brethren to change “policies” which they consider are errors.

    The adversary is the master of decett and confusion, he uses philosophers, historians who claim to have found “evidence” in the Church archives which the Brethren keeps away from the members of the Church. Higher thinkers, publishers and “wise men” who claim that Joseph was a con-man, perpetrating a fraud upon the stupid masses of the Church. Joseph Smith, a the 17 year old back woods boy, was warned by Moroni that his name would be had for good and evil throughtout the world. We have only to look what happened in 1837 when 5 members of the 12 left the Church and following this other men who were fooled into thinking that Joseph was a fallen Prophet. Joseph tried to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God, but was led to say:-

    “but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions, they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will b able to abaide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation. I am unable to say, as many are called but, few are chosen. (DHC 6:185)

    Our Saviour met with the same things which we are facing today. Following His “Bread of Life” sermon we read that many of His disciples became disenchanted and turned and walked no more with Him. The same things are happening today.

    As already pointed out Joseph did not ordain any negro to the priesthood and why he allowed the ones who had to retain this we are not told. It should be remembered that not much of private conversations Joseph had with others was not recorded. So to base an argument on negative information to my mind is dangerous. I am sure though that Brigham Young who was the one closest to Joseph would be aware of knowlege he had received To accuse the Lord of changing His mind is laughable, As before already quoted Joseph Smith said that the restriction would not be taken from the seed of Cain until the same power which instituted this removes it. As far as the ones who were “lobbying” for the removal of the restriction, we should remember that they were cousellors to the Prophet, they may have thought that it was time, but they themselves could not do it, only the one who held the keys was able to. This is exactly what happened in 1978. President Kimball received the revelation and the long looked for lifting of the restriction happened. The committe which came to the conclusion that there was no scriptural basis for the ban were quite frankly wrong. It is clearly set out in the Pearl of Great Price.

    I would seriously advise that a rereading of Elder Benson’s Conference talk in October 1967 should be made. Also his April Address in 1965 should be considered where he spoke of people sitting on the sidelines appeasing the enemy and who should stand up and really sustain the brethren instead of lobbying them to change the Lord’s programme.

  73. Jeff: Couldn’t one just as easily say that Satan spins webs of deceit: He builds straw men attempting to make the Lord’s anointed look infallible, when in fact they make mistakes. He even uses innocent latter-day saints, fooling them into believing that they are doing the Lord’s work by saying that bad policies were inspired, when in fact they weren’t. This destroys the faith of those who see the bad policies as bad.

  74. sch: Precisely.

    Jeff wrote, “The adversary is the master of dece[i]t and confusion, he uses philosophers, historians who claim to have found ‘evidence’ in the Church archives which the Brethren keeps away from the members of the Church. Higher thinkers, publishers and “wise men” who claim that Joseph was a con-man, perpetrating a fraud upon the stupid masses of the Church.” Holy cow. Why is evidence in quotes? What historians have access to archives that the Church has closed? And what historians are you reading? I’m talking about faithful members of the Church, like the Givenses, or Reeve and Stevenson who I mentioned above. Or the huge group of scholars who work at the Church History Library, BYU, and elsewhere.

    “To accuse the Lord of changing His mind is laughable[.]” That’s why I’m wondering why you’re doing it.

    “The committe[e] which came to the conclusion that there was no scriptural basis for the ban were quite frankly wrong. It is clearly set out in the Pearl of Great Price.” The committee of apostles was wrong? Just like that? On what grounds? Elder McConkie acknowledged that there was no scriptural basis for the ban in the 1970s. This committee did in the 1950s. Joseph Fielding Smith did in the 1960s. I recommended reading pages 10-14 of the following (https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/BYUStudies/article/viewFile/7325/6974), which lays out the lack of scriptural support for the ban. Really, I recommend reading the whole thing, but those pages especially.

  75. From the document I linked above, pages 10-12.

    “Proposed Scriptural Basis
    Looking for scriptural support, Church leaders found statements in the Bible and the Pearl of Great Price that allowed the conclusion that after the Flood the Pharaoh of Egypt was both black and cursed as to the priesthood, inviting the inference that Pharaoh was cursed as to the priesthood because he was black. The gaps in logic were bridged with supposition.
    • God cursed Cain for killing Abel and placed a mark on him.
    • Cain’s descendants were black. (The mark, therefore, is assumed to be blackness.)
    • Blackness came upon the Canaanites. (They are assumed to be descendants of Cain.)
    • Pharaoh, descended from Ham and his wife, Egyptus, had Canaanite blood. (Thus Cain’s bloodline survived the Flood.)
    • Pharaoh, although blessed by Noah for righteousness, was cursed as pertaining to the priesthood. (Thus denial of priesthood is independent of righteousness in mortality and must derive from a premortal cause.)
    • Some premortal spirits were noble and great (Abr. 3:22). (Thus some premortal spirits were less than noble and great. Without any injustice, these lesser spirits were sent to earth through the lineage of Cain to experience mortality, but without priesthood.[6])

    [6]There were and are, however, holes in this line of reasoning. For example:
    • Cain’s scriptural punishment was personal, that the earth would not yield its strength to his tillage and that he should be “a fugitive and a vagabond” (Gen. 4:12). Nothing was said in the scriptures about denial of priesthood.
    • The mark placed on Cain is not specified and, whatever the mark, it is not identified as a curse, since its purpose was to keep Cain from being killed (Moses 5:39–40).
    • No scripture says that either Cain’s punishment or the mark placed on him would pass to his descendants.
    • Although it is said that Cain’s descendants were black and shunned by others (Moses 7:22), their blackness is not identified as the mark placed on Cain.
    • The scriptures say of the Canaanites that “a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan” (Moses 7:8), and they provide a plausible explanation for the blackness in that they slaughtered the people of Shum (Moses 7:7–8). The scriptures do not identify the Canaanites as descendants of Cain, despite the fact that both groups were in some way “black.” If the mark of Cain were blackness and Canaanites were descended from Cain, as supposed, it does not make sense to speak of blackness “coming upon them” as though it were a new event. Further, there is no reference to priesthood with respect to these Canaanites. Enoch was told not to preach to the Canaanites, but this, too, is in the context of their having slaughtered the people of Shum. Ham’s wife apparently belonged to the Canaanite people (Abr. 1:21–22), because Pharaoh, a descendant of Ham and his wife, Egyptus, was “a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites by birth . . . and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse [of blackness] in the land” (Abr. 1:21, 24).
    • The Book of Abraham speaks of Pharaoh, a king of Egypt, as belonging to a “lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood” (Abr. 1:27). The traditional explanation was that this lineage was the black lineage, but an alternate explanation may be that in a patriarchal society Pharaoh came through a female line, and it was this lineage that deprived him of the right to priesthood. We are told that Pharaoh descended from Noah, through Ham, but his lineage is further described only as coming through Ham’s daughter by Egyptus (Abr. 1:21–25). As Pharaoh claimed a right to priesthood through Ham, he sought to skip the gap in his genealogy, but he could not. In contrast, when Abraham makes claim to priesthood he is careful to trace his own paternal line back to Noah. He says that by his righteous living “I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers . . . even the right of the firstborn . . . through the fathers, unto me” (Abr. 1:2–3). See Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 2d ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), 425–28, 578–87 (see 1st ed. at 134–37).”

    Thus, the priesthood ban cannot be conclusively proven from this text. Additionally, there is no explanation anywhere to explain why black women were barred from the temple during the same period.

  76. Jeff Walsh: I suspect that you may be trolling, but I will take the bait (and try to be brief) because I think that changes in our priesthood policy/doctrine raise very important issues.

    Remember in the movie “The Empire Strikes Back?”: there is that scene where Han Solo and his airship hide from the Empire by “parking” in the ship’s garbage. When the ship gets ready to fly off, it jettisons the garbage.

    When President Kimball announced the new priesthood policy in 1978, he was trying hard to jump into the future, and he hoped that all of the garbage associated with a race-related priesthood ban could be left behind. The racial related garbage was supposed to be left, floating in space, left behind while we jumped ahead. But some of you insist on bringing it back again and again.

    Remember what Elder McConkie said about the new priesthood policy:

    “… It is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.”

    Did you hear that? Forget EVERYTHING!

    Please don’t drag up our old garbage about race and the priesthood. Such teachings does us severe damage, because these teaching encourage us to be racists. Please don’t burden future Mormons with this racial garbage. Leave it behind, and jump to the future.

  77. Jack of Hearts

    The historian I was referring to was D Michael Quinn who was employed by Leonard Arrington as a research assistance for a number of years which gave him access to the Church archives. Following a number of articles he wrote and published critical of the Church he was dismissed. He also lost his Job as a proffessor at BYU the reasons for this can be read in an article called “An Open Letter To D Michael Quinn” by Fred C Collier. Decency prevents me from going into details but they are referred to in this article. Because of this he not only lost his job he also lost his family and he became almost unemployable. He was however recruited by George Dempster Smith the proprietor of Signature Books and became a director of the company They publish his books very critical of the Church and which are eagerly bought by the anti-Mormon brigade. He is the one who claims that he found in the archives material which the brethren are covering up and do not want the general membership to know about. What he does not tell is that along with the faithful history of the Church there is a huge collection of diaries, books and other material which the Lord commanded the Church to collect published by enemies of the Church. (D&C Sec 123). Included in this is evidence of all the atrocities comitted against the Church, articles written by disgraced excommunicated apostates such as John C Bennett, William Law, even some once prominent men in the Church such as Oliver Cowdrey, Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Fawn Brodie, Philastus Hurlbut, Ezra Booth along with Eber D Howe’s book, “Mormonism Unveiled” the Tanners etc. etc. My question is why would the Church be interested in publishing this stuff?

    This is the reason for the “evidence” in quotes. Oh and by the way it was you who said that the Lord had changed His mind, not me, it seems amusing to me that you would accuse the Lord of making a mistake.

    Coming now to your statements that David O McKay supposedly set up a committee to see if there was scriptural evidence for the P/H ban, or was it George Albert Smith who set it up, (see footnote 25) The results of the findings was supposedly overheard by Leonard Arrington or was it Homer G Durham. It all seems like if’s and but’s to me. I would have thought that the findings of this supposed committee would have been documented some where, if so where?. So to base your argument on this is a little tenuous.

    You say that the Bruce R McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith also said that there was no scriptural evidence of the ban. You must not have seen Elder Smith’s book “Answers to Gospel Questions where he definitley quotes the Book of Moses and Abraham and says that this was were the ban was instituted. (Vol 2 ps 175-178. Elder McConkie quoted the same in his book Mormon Doctrine (page 527) So much for there being no scriptural evidence. By the way your last answer to this (Comment 85) to put it bluntly reads like the philosophies of men without much scripture.

    You reccommended that I read Edward L Kimball’s atricle, jsut to say I am quite familiar with it but by choosing some speculations of his to back up your thesis is a little bit like clutching at straws.

    Finally I would rccommend you read Ronald K Esplin’s paper on “Brigham Young and Priestood Denial to the Blacks; an Alternative View”. He happens to be at the head of the Joseph Smith Papers Project so his opinion should carry some weight Toward the end of his paper he says:-

    “Finally, if priesthood denial to the Blacks were taught in Nauvoo councils during 1843-1844, and consequently came to the Church (and in 1852 to the public) through Brigham Young and the Twelve, it would hardly be a new or unknown phenomenon. Many of the teachings and practices formalized during Brigham Young’s administration can be traced to private councils where Joseph Smith taught the Twelve in detail about the affairs of the Kingdom. In fact, it seems far more compelling to accept that possibility, one in harmony with what we know of Brigham Young, and of Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, than to continue to believe–in the absence of documentation–that Brigham Young made a fundamental innovation of his own during those tunultuous years of succession, temple building, and exodus, espeially in view of the fact that the private meetings where Joseph Smith taught the full pattern of temple ordinances (and related doctrines) would have provided the ideal forum and the motivaion for discussing it. We know the early brethren were concerned about priesthood lineage and about who would have access to temple ordinances. Even if Joseph did not raise the question himelf, it is not difficult to envision someone asking about the Blacks and Joseph providing the answer. It is my feeling that the doctrine was introduced in Nauvoo and consistently applied in practice at least by 1843, although it would require additional documentation to raise the possibility from the realm of the probable to the certain.
    (The Historians Corner, BYU Studies, vol. 19 (1978-1979), Number 3 – Spring 1979 398.)

    Like you suggested to me I suggest to you that you read the whole paper.

    It is 0:55 in the morning over here in the UK well past my bed time so I will wish you good morning

  78. stephenchardy

    I have just seen your missive so I will take another couple of minutes to respond. Explain trolling to me was this meant to be insulting?

    I think you need to reread the whole of Elder McConkie’s address to the institute people where your quotation comes from. You have taken his words out of context, What he said we should forget are the REASONS for the priesthood ban, supposing it was because of conduct in the pre-existence. Not that the ban was a mistake. I think that you need to think hard and long before you accuse Brigham Young and the early Church as being racist, this says to me that you have not done a great deal of research into thw early history. It is a little ironic for someone from the US to be preaching to the UK about being racist.

    Just to close I would quote from Edmund Burke in his “Great Thoughts” “The only thing necassary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” I do not pretend to be good but I will not stand by and see the Lord’s annointed prophets maligned. Good Morning.

  79. Jeff: Your testimony of church leaders is clearly sincere and therefore admirable. I thank you for that.

    I do not believe that the priesthood ban was based on sound principles, but was an extension of our racist American society and beliefs. It took us a long time to get past it. It is discouraging to see the same teachings come up again in these days.

    We need to learn to reinterpret our writings about Cain, Ham, curses, marks, blackness and whiteness, and learn to understand them differently so as not to malign people because of the amount of melanin in their skin. Your post said that “some premortal spirits were less than noble and great. Without any injustice, these lesser spirits were sent to earth through the lineage of Cain…” This promotes a view of humanity that I find offensive and counter to God’s plan for all of us. These are teachings that I thought that we had left behind. These are the teachings that reflect the “limited understanding” that Elder McConkie spoke about. Rather than expend energy defending the indefensible, rather than asking our children to look down on dark-skinned people as the children of Cain, rather than suggesting that black (not white) Africans have “lesser spirits,” we should learn to understand these scriptures in a way that doesn’t offend and insult the dignity of all of us.

    It is much, much easier for me to accept that such teachings reflected the uninspired racism of our culture than it is for me to believe in a God that would promote and teach such things. This is the “garbage” that I speak of that must be left behind.

  80. To the administrators of timesandseasons.org. Can you please delete my last comment, just above. I realize after going back and reading the comments that I thought that Brother Jeff Walsh said something, that in fact he did not say. I jumped all over it. In fact, he didn’t say it, and he certainly doesn’t deserve my self-righteous anger. Please if you would, delete my comment number 87. I’ll re-affirm my determination to lurk here, but not post. Thank you.

  81. Let me share a few thoughts.

    I certainly grew up being taught and believing in prophetic infallibility, believing that all (and I mean ALL) general authorities agreed with each other on all points of “doctrine” at all times and across the ages. I am no longer that simple and naïve. Now, I grow frustrated with members who not only espouse those views but who insist that all who don’t hold those views are either apostates or on the express train there.

    I’m new to the bloggernacle, but it has helped me immensely to find so many faithful and intelligent people who view the world and the gospel the way I do. It is the best thing that has happened to me in the last year, spiritually and emotionally. At times when the ultraorthodox do things like label people like Teryl Givens a “tare” and try to separate him out from the wheat, I take comfort in the assurance I have that the Church ultimately belongs to us (i.e. the thoughtful). I’m sure that there will be lots of “correlated milk” dispensed on Sundays for the foreseeable future, and I understand many of the reasons for that. I am glad that meat is available in other places, and I thank many of you for providing meat to me on a regular basis, even though I’m still learning to chew.

    As demonstrated above, it is apparently possible to believe both the Church’s official position today: (“Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”) and to simultaneously believe that some of the theories advanced in the past actually are taught by the scriptures, that the racist ban itself was inspired, etc. I personally think it’s pretty clear that those views are not compatible. I do look forward to the day when all is revealed.

    I don’t pretend to know what the Church’s position on the current “policy” will be decades or centuries from now. It does appear to me that if (and this is a big “if”) the Church at some point comes out and disavows all theories advanced in the past regarding homosexuality, there will be at least some who will continue to argue that the policies themselves were ordained of God even though all of the “reasons” for such policies have been disavowed.

    I hope that it is clear that when we talk about the “priesthood ban” we are using that as shorthand for a policy that was more than that, i.e. a policy which among other things prohibited members of a certain race from receiving saving temple ordinances in this life. Most non-members don’t understand that, and we are not quick to highlight it. In that sense, the modern priesthood ban can’t really be compared to the ancient system that limited the priesthood to the tribe of Levi.

    From a recent article over on BCC by Mike Austin: God cannot speak to people in ways that go beyond their culture’s understanding of the universe. … Let’s look at an easy example of this phenomenon. In Joshua 10:13, we are told that the Lord, at Joshua’s request, made the sun stand still to give a military advantage to the people of Israel. We know, of course, that no such thing could have happened, since the sun does not actually revolve around the Earth. If the sun, appeared still in the sky, the Lord would have to have made the EARTH stand still. But if the writer of Joshua had said that, nobody would have had the foggiest idea what he meant, since, for most of human history, thinking that the Earth moved around the Sun has been a sure sign of insanity.

    We are to the point in history that we can identify at least some of the cultural understandings from the 1800s that may have prevented people from better understanding God. The much harder task is trying to identify the problematic cultural understandings in our day.

    I will say one thing (but only one) in Jeff Walsh’s defense. He’s mentioned that he’s from the UK. I think it’s fair to say that people in the UK don’t see race the same way that Americans do. They simply don’t have the same (troubling, to say the least) history with race, nor are the current day aspects of race as contentious in UK society as they are in US society. That cultural difference probably affects the way some of this is understood.

    Finally, let me share my personal favorite talk on prophetic fallibility. It’s J. Reuben Clark’s talk, given when he was a member of the FP, entitled When are the Writings and Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture? The contextual answer, not obvious from the text itself, is this: When JFS (then the lead apostle) published his anti-evolution book and spoke on the same, his writings and sermons were NOT scripture and Pres. McKay sent JRC to politely “correct” him on that point. The talk itself is a fantastic view of scripture, prophets, and the revelatory process. It’s also helpful when some ultraorthodox tries to answer the question with something like “comments BY made to the legislature regarding the priesthood ban are obviously scripture” or “every time any GA speaks its scripture”.

  82. For me sustaining the prophets brings to mind President Monson holding tightly to the pulpit at last conference on the verge of collapsing – and seeing Uchtdorf ready to help him down after his talk. Like the Exodus 17 example with Aaron and Hur holding up Moses “hands [which] were heavy” so that with the sustaining Joshua could prevail against Amalek. As Brigham Young said in 1874 the saints need to ‘Live so that you will know whether I teach you truth or not.’ Brigham Young went on to express concern that if the saints were “careless and unconcerned,” and “give way to the spirit of the world,” and he likewise were to “preach the things of this world and to accept things that are not of God – How easy it would be for me to lead you astray!” Brigham does not propose a method on how the general council the church The problem with working “within the parameters of kingdom governance to exert our influence” is the incredible slow speed at which changes are made. Chieko Okazaki, stated in her 2005 interview with Greg Prince that when serving as first counselor in the General Relief Society presidency in the early 90’s that they had requested to become participants in the priesthood committees and were turned down. Finally, in 2015 women were added to 3 committees but not the Correlation Executive committee. We’re looking at 20 years to make a change since Okazaki’s request “within the parameters”. In our stake we have 914 young single adults on the rolls, and had a young single adult branch with average attendance of 70 in 2010. Within only 5 years the branch went from 70 attending regularly to 7 attending first half of last year 2015, to only 3 attending by Christmas. The branch had to be closed down. Can we continue to laugh with Givens when he jokes about traveling in the NE and seeing a sign at a local protestant church which invites visitors, with a sign which reads “welcome! Warm seats!” ? Maybe there is something we can learn from Rabbi Sharon Brous.

  83. Brigham does not propose a method on how to implement 107:27, which allows for a general assembly to overturn the decisions “made in unrighteousness” by the higher quorums.

  84. I feel I must disabuse the minds of those who seem to assume that my comments in support of President Brigham Young’s declaration concerning the Priesthood ban, means that I believe that all the brethren are infallible when they speak. This is certainly not what I believe. Joseph Smith’s statement that a Prophet is only a Prophet when he is acting as such tells us that.

    So the real question we should be discussing is to determine when a Prophet is speaking as a Prophet and not assume that sometimes what they say is not the mind and will of the Lord.. Brigham Young himself I believe gave us an answer:-

    “I remembered the words of Brigham Young: Were your faith concentrated upon the proper object, your confidence unshaken. your lives pure and holy, every one fulfilling the duty of his or her calling according to the priesthood and capacity bestowed upon you, you would be filled with the Holy Ghost, and it would be as impossible for any man to deceive and to lead you to destruction as for a feather to remain unconsumed in the midst of intense heat. And then this

    :” I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are being led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give their leaders if they know for themselves by the revelations of Jesus Christ that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know by the whisperings of the Spirit of God to themselves whether their leaders are walking in the way the Lord dictates or not.”
    Elder Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, October 1950, Third Day—Morning Meeting 130.)

    If we were all to follow this advice there would not be any need to have this discussion, we would all sustain the Prophet and accept that he was speaking the mind and will of the Lord.

    Without being impertinant Jack of Hearts did you enquire of the Lord and receive an answer telling you that Brigham Young originated the Priesthood ban or were you relying on what others said?

  85. “Coming now to your statements that David O McKay supposedly set up a committee to see if there was scriptural evidence for the P/H ban, or was it George Albert Smith who set it up, (see footnote 25) The results of the findings was supposedly overheard by Leonard Arrington or was it Homer G Durham.” It’s not supposedly; he did. Both Leonard Arrington and Elder Durham remember hearing that it happened (Arrington from Elder Adam Bennion, an apostle and member of said committee), though they disagree on details. That’s actually a good thing in history; if all the evidence is the same, that’s a lot more suspicious. Using your logic, the varying accounts of the First Vision are evidence for its falsity, which conclusion historians would vehemently contest.

    “I would have thought that the findings of this supposed committee would have been documented some where, if so where?” The Church hasn’t released minutes of leadership and committee meetings in many decades. You’re free to ask them why. I wish they were published as much as the next person.

    “You say that the Bruce R McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith also said that there was no scriptural evidence of the ban.” Indeed. When pressed by Eugene England in the 1960s, Joseph Fielding Smith conceded that there was no scripture requiring a member to believe that blacks were cursed. “I have always assumed that because it was what I was taught, and it made sense, but you don’t have to believe it to be in good standing, because it is not definitely stated in the scriptures. And I have received no revelation on the matter,” he said. Elder McConkie in 1977 gave President Kimball a long memorandum in which he concluded that there was “no scriptural barrier to a change that would give priesthood to black men.” Both men seemed to have changed their views later in their life.

    “By the way your last answer to this (Comment 85) to put it bluntly reads like the philosophies of men without much scripture.” The comment is riddled with scripture. It’s an analysis of scripture. It’s literally a discussion about what scripture says. I can’t do any better than that. Dismissing the analysis by implying it is somehow unfaithful without engaging it or even explaining yourself is a cheap tactic.

    I read Dr. Esplin’s paper. I’m sure it represented his bast thinking at the time, but it has been more than 30 years and we have learned a lot more about early Church history. For example, the paper does not once deal with the black men who were ordained in the 1830s/40s. This includes Black Pete (1831, OH), Elijah Abel (1835, OH), Joseph T. Ball (1837, MA), Isaac van Meter (before 1837, ME), and Walker and Enoch Lewis (Fall 1843; Nov. 1844, MA). These men’s ordinations were known of by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. In fact, another black man, William McCary, seems to have been ordained in 1846 at Council Bluffs, Iowa. Brigham Young met him several times, and when McCary asked about his holding the priesthood, Young referenced Acts 17:26 (“[He] hath made of one blood all nations of men”) as evidence that there was no problem. Given that Dr. Esplin now works with the JSPP, as you state, I am sure that all of this evidence was simply unknown at the time. Its discovery and incorporation into subsequent work makes the 1979 paper sorely outdated now.

    “If we were all to follow this advice there would not be any need to have this discussion, we would all sustain the Prophet and accept that he was speaking the mind and will of the Lord.” No, that’s not what Brigham Young said. If we all followed this advice we would know when the prophet was speaking the mind and will of the Lord and when he wasn’t. By study and by faith I have learned that the priesthood and temple ban was not of God. (Incidentally, that’s another problem that has to be answered: why were black women kept from the temple because of a ban on black men holding the priesthood?) Because of this, ultimately it does not matter when the ban originated. Currently, all relevant evidence that we have points to the ban beginning with Brigham Young and hardening throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But that makes no difference to the witness I have already received.

  86. Jack of Hearts

    I think you are being disingenuous in dismissing Ronald K Esplin’s paper as being out of date, I could say that some of Edward L Kimball’s own paper uses conclusions from Lester Bush and others which pre-date Dr Esplins’ In fact I conclude that his thesis is given as an alternative way of thinking.to the others. If we are being honest Edward Kimball says that there is no firm evidence that the ban originated with Brigham Young.

    You speak of a whole mass of previously unknown evidence which has been brought forward since 1979
    which make Esplin’s paper sorely outdated. I must have missed this avalanche of new knowledge disproving his conclusions. That is of course unless you mean the mass of stuff that has come largely from D Michael Quinn and his fellow Signature Book team. If you are relying on this sort of “evidence” you need to look to the source of whence it came..

    Anyway this ping-pong game that we are playing is getting very boring to me and I am sure to others who are reading it. You are convinced that Brigham Young made a mistake which the Lord allowed to continue for 126 years which deprived many of His children from sacred temple rights. I am convinced that Presidents’ Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were restating the mind and will of the Lord. So lets leave it to see if the Lord in future vindicates His Prophets or not.Have a good day.

  87. Just one last point before I retire, I have observed from many of the comments on this blog a remarkable similarity to conclusions reached by Richard L Bushman and The Temple and Observatory Group. Have you added to the standard works, two new books of scripture “Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism”, and “Rough Stone Rolling”. Or is it coincidence that many of the comments reflect the teachings of these 2 books?.They do a good job of casting doubt into the minds of the unwary. Whereas President Monson has obderved “Doubt never inspires faith” ( First Presidency Message Ensign Magazine July 2013).

  88. “I think you are being disingenuous in dismissing Ronald K Esplin’s paper as being out of date, I could say that some of Edward L Kimball’s own paper uses conclusions from Lester Bush and others which pre-date Dr Esplins’[.]” That would be a valid point, but Lester Bush has updated his work with the passage of time, whereas Dr. Esplin has not, as far as I can tell.

    “You speak of a whole mass of previously unknown evidence which has been brought forward since 1979
    which make Esplin’s paper sorely outdated. I must have missed this avalanche of new knowledge disproving his conclusions.” The penultimate paragraph in comment 93 covers the most salient complications to Esplin’s paper that have come to light. Like I said, if you want the most recent work on the subject, you should read W. Paul Reeve’s “Religion of a Different Color” and Russell Stevenson’s “For the Cause of Righteousness.” The footnotes to the Church’s “Race and the Priesthood” also have some excellent sources (and I note that they reference Kimball’s paper several times, while making no mention of Esplin’s).

    “Have you added to the standard works, two new books of scripture “Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism”, and “Rough Stone Rolling”.” I am truly at a loss here. Neither of these have even been mentioned in this entire discussion. On the contrary, the canonized standard works have been referenced and examined repeatedly.

    “They do a good job of casting doubt into the minds of the unwary.” If quality research and a faithful approach to our history casts doubts into your mind, you might want to reconsider what your faith is based in. Our faith should be in divine perfection, not fallible mortality. My faith has nothing to do with the mistakes of prophets, only that they are called of God. And I know they are. I find it highly unfair that you have repeatedly questioned by insinuation the testimony and loyalty of those who disagree with you. Our discipleship may look different than yours, but that alone is no grounds for assuming that we are somehow less faithful to the kingdom of God. None of us have questioned your faith near as I can tell, so kindly return the favor.

  89. With respect to the policy that seems to have given rise to the question posed to Br. Givens, it might be useful to read about the origin of that policy at: http://www.themuss.net/articles/2016/1/5/mormon-lgbt-policy-prompts-anger-resignations-and-fresh-concerns-about-aged-leaders-1

    The somewhat defensive, scripted interview with Elder Christofferson after the policy was publicized and before the November 13 “clarification” letter made no claim like President Nelson’s of January 10 with respect to the origin of that policy. Perhaps President Nelson’s statement referred only to the “clarification” letter. If so, then it seems it would amount to little, if anything, more than the Lord’s confirmation to the 15 that, yes, the unfortunate policy should now be cleaned up at least to that extent. So far as I have been able to discover, none of the rest of the 15 have made public statements consistent with President Nelson’s comments on confirmation of the policy as the “mind and will of the Lord.” This is in great contrast to the statements made by members of the 12 after the 1978 revelation. Perhaps President Nelson misspoke. Perhaps others’ keeping quiet on the subject is evidence of disagreement (and unwillingness to publicly disagree) and not evidence of agreement. Perhaps that is a form of “sustaining” President Nelson.

    I am grateful that at least President Uchtdorf and Elder Ballard have acknowledged in recent General Conferences that the Church and its leaders have sometimes made mistakes inconsistent with our best principles. So have I.

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