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Oaks on Religious Freedom

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4 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

It is a fallacy to claim that an organization teaches or believes anything.  Individual people teach and believe things.  The problem here is that the LDS Church has no revelation or official doctrine supporting these personal racist views, and David O. McKay could find no support for these awful statements.  Anyone interested in a balanced appraisal would know this and verbalize it.

You say some things here that are important.  If it is a fallacy to claim that an organization teaches anything, then the LDS Church teaches nothing.  Only people teach who happen to be members and/or leaders.

I wonder where David O. McKay would look for official doctrine if no person can speak for the church?

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11 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

David O. McKay could find no support for these awful statements.

Lastly - why would Brigham Young need support for his words?  Isn't he supposed to have been a prophet?  Can't he declare what is truth (new revelation w/o scriptural basis)?  Wonder why David O. McKay didn't accept Brigham Young's words...

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7 hours ago, rockpond said:

The text isn’t ironclad.  Nothing taught or written by prophets, seers, and revelators ever is.  There are all kinds of contradictions.  And disavowals. 

You made the claim:  “The LDS Church did not teach that black skin was a curse or that mixed-race marriages were wrong.” 

When it has been pointed out that our scriptures and our leaders did make such claims your response is that they are just individuals, that they are not the Church.  But they are those who have been ordained and set apart to speak for the Church.  

What our Church leaders taught in the past about race was wrong and discriminatory.  And those were the teachings of the Church.  I think it’s critical that we see that for what it was. 

While I agree that what many LDS leaders said was wrong and racist, it is remarkable how quickly you make this blanket claim, which is false.  Only a fair-minded claim that Joseph Smith had a very different notion from his successors is appropriate.  And every time that Brother Brigham is quoted, one must perforce note how vociferously he was opposed by Orson Pratt.  I take sides in that debate, while you deny that there were any sides.

For you, the inability of a sincere David O. McKay to find any revelation or doctrinal support for those racist views is irrelevant.  For me, it is indicative of the powerful influence of racism on otherwise good men.  This was typical of the period and should not surprise any well-informed historian.  The hoi-polloi just don't know any better.

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25 minutes ago, california boy said:

I didn't limit an example of similar excluding from employment because of perceived sin to this one.talk.  You have a whole lifetime of speeches and talks given by Elder Oaks to prove your point that he doesn't just target discriminating against LGBT from employment.  So point us to similar speeches where he advocated discriminating from employment others that are immoral in the eyes of the church.  Cause right now it looks like his typical pattern of targeting only the gay community.

I don't think we do have a lifetime of public speeches on the topic of legislating rights of sinners to use though.  We have a lot of conference talks (which do talk about many different kinds of sins) but the talk that the quote was taken from is very unique in it's scope.  We don't have other talks to compare it to.

And besides that, in the quote above, Elder Oaks didn't advocate discriminating from employment homosexuals (or anyone else).  He said that it would be best not to give a serious sin (in his view) a voice in the media (through employment), which shapes society's views. And don't you agree with the premise behind his words?  Don't you believe that it would be bad for the US if it was giving a vocal voice to anti-LGBTQ individuals in the media, and influencing how society felt about their lifestyle?  Wouldn't you agree that giving such a group a loud influential voice would not be best for our society? 

But if you want to take into consideration all of Pres. Oak's words on politics, law, and religion, and not just this one partial quote, then consider this talk, where he speaks about working to provide protection against discrimination for LGBTQ people as well as religious people, and how laws are not just about protecting the religious and can't just be ignored by the religious.

https://www.ksl.com/?sid=37033080&nid=1284&title=elder-oaks-makes-distinction-between-religious-belief-and-civic-duty&s_cid=queue-16

Some relevant parts-

"Elder Oaks suggested three general principles for a "center path" he invited listeners to walk with him:

  1. Parties with different views on the relationship between church and state should advocate and act with civility
  2. On the big issues that divide adversaries on those issues, both sides should seek a balance, not a total victory
  3. It will help if we are not led or unduly influenced by the extreme voices that are heard from contending positions

As an example of the second principle, Elder Oaks referred to the new Utah law that ensures fair access to housing and employment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people while safeguarding religious freedom.

"In a head-on conflict over individual free exercise (of religion) and enforced non-discrimination in housing and employment, the Utah Legislature crafted a compromise position under the banner of 'fairness for all.' It gave neither position all that it sought, but granted both positions benefits that probably could not have been obtained without the kind of balancing that is possible in the law-making branch but not the judiciary."

He said the U.S. Supreme Court "bowed toward" the third principle in Obergefell, the decision that established a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The majority decision, he said, rejected several extreme proposals for the basis of the decision and "acknowledged the reasonableness of the religious and philosophical premises of those who argue that marriage should be limited to a man and a woman, and assured that the First Amendment will protect religious organizations and persons who continue to teach them."

Guidelines for believers

Elder Oaks then provided some suggestions for fellow believers and others for those with non-religious values.

Believers, he said, should seek to harmonize divine and civil laws. They should not assert the free exercise of religion to override every law and government action that could possibly be interpreted to infringe on institutional or personal religious freedom."

Elder Oaks supported legislation to protect LGBTQ people's right to employment in Utah.  He does not believe that people should be denied employment because of their sexual orientation.  

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28 minutes ago, SouthernMo said:

Lastly - why would Brigham Young need support for his words?  Isn't he supposed to have been a prophet?  Can't he declare what is truth (new revelation w/o scriptural basis)?  Wonder why David O. McKay didn't accept Brigham Young's words...

Revelation is the support for a particular talk. So far as I know (I may be wrong) Brigham never claimed a clear revelation on the matter but tended to appeal to scripture. That suggests misreading of scripture was the basis for his actions. Many point to southern slave apologetics tied to Genesis as the basis for his misunderstanding. He then used those as a basis from which to interpret passages in Moses or Abraham.

As for David O McKay, I think the issue was he couldn't find a revelation on the topic. That's why he didn't accept Brigham's words. He, more than most, recognized that prophets had their own, often flawed, personal opinions.

To the other points of dispute you're having with others, I suspect there's a bit of miscommunication because people aren't specifying what they mean by doctrine. Some people mean by doctrine a descriptive account of what the Church teaches in say talks by officials or in lesson manuals. Others mean by doctrine  a prescriptive account of what is actually a grounded Church teaching. In that case it's what is tied to unambiguous revelation that hasn't been corrected by later revelation. (Here meaning by revelation the text and not the source) Often in debates clarifying terms eliminates many of the apparent disputes.

 

Edited by clarkgoble

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17 minutes ago, SouthernMo said:

Lastly - why would Brigham Young need support for his words?  Isn't he supposed to have been a prophet?  Can't he declare what is truth (new revelation w/o scriptural basis)?  Wonder why David O. McKay didn't accept Brigham Young's words...

With the coming publication of McKay's diaries, we will probably have much better insight into the man.  You innocently ask "why David O. McKay didn't accept Brigham Young's words," but McKay could equally ask why Brother Brigham didn't follow Joseph Smith in matters or race?  Since McKay held the same position as Brother Brigham, he may have gained insights from that experience alone.  He certainly did not believe in the idiotic notion of infallibility of prophets.

In fact, McKay wanted to open missions to Black Africa and to immediately begin ordaining qualified Black African men.  His long time friend Joseph Fielding Smith cautioned him that he should have a revelation on the matter first.  So McKay put that idea on hold and sought revelation.  He was unable to receive such a revelation, and the heavens remained closed to the issue until 1978.  Of course, McKay could have simply declared a revelation of his own make and have done with it, but he was a sincere man, unlike many contemporary figures in public life.  He waited for God to speak.

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29 minutes ago, SouthernMo said:

You say some things here that are important.  If it is a fallacy to claim that an organization teaches anything, then the LDS Church teaches nothing.  Only people teach who happen to be members and/or leaders.

I wonder where David O. McKay would look for official doctrine if no person can speak for the church?

I would imagine that McKay looked to the D&C and other Scriptures.  Those are the authoritative sources of LDS doctrine.  An excellent source of official Church teachings.  Had he been able to find an authoritative revelation on the subject in the LDS Archives, that would also have been a strong influence on him.  There was no such document.

I had a racist roommate at BYU who had a girlfriend that did not have racist views.  So he purchased a copy of Jerald & Sandra Tanner's collection or racist LDS quotations, removed the publication data (he didn't want her to know that it was an anti-Mormon publication), and gave it to her to prove that the Brethren shared his racist views.  He never bothered to present the full story to her.

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26 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

McKay could equally ask why Brother Brigham didn't follow Joseph Smith in matters or race?

This is honestly a very good point. Hadn’t thought about that.

It seems to me that what is taught by “the LDS church” versus what is taught by men who lead the church is very vague and subjective, and can lead to lead to a sense of god-given moral superiority.

There are teachings and doctrine in the D&C that are ignored today, so it’s hard for me to see that the LDS church sees that book as official teachings.

But, after my studies, I still believe that it’s pretty clear when the first presidency issues a statement it’s about as clear as it can be that “the church” teaches it. 

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5 hours ago, CV75 said:

You said:  "The First Amendment protects the rights of church leaders to teach and do what they believe God wants."

To which I added the rights to participate in settling public issues of racism and discrimination through public discourse and other means availed through our democratic republic system, usually using the legislative and judicial routes.

You said: "But, if God tells them to discriminate and have racist teachings/policies... they are still discriminating and acting in a racist manner regardless of what God may he telling them to do."

To which I observed that this is rhetoric. The public / civic definitions of racism and discrimination in legislative and judicial terms are settled over time through compromise in the political system that honors the First Amendment. The same holds for defining religious freedom. Where disagreement in public policy and enforcement remains, the definitions have yet to be determined. In this area of discourse, to indict someone else’s definition as “wrong” is part of the rhetoric and contributes to undermining and seeking control of the system, especially when individuals are attacked as proxies for constituencies within the larger body politic. The latter is something a more extreme or polarized mindset is inclined to do.

Where the Church and many of her members’ position is relatively small in the national debate, and all have the right to speak, and many yet share the same position as the Church and her members, using Elder Oaks as a scapegoat for those who disagree seems pretty small. This seems like the wrong way to effectively participate in fine-tuning how the nation interprets things like racism, discrimination and religious freedom. Character, verbal and physical violence really have no place in a free society.

While I agree that we, as people of faith and members of the Church, have a right to participate in public discourse that doesn't change the reality that leaders of our church have both disseminated racist teachings and discriminated against gay couples.  No fine tuning of the terms is needed to understand this.  The First Amendment gives us the right to believe that these racist teachings and discriminatory practices may have been God's will but it doesn't give us (or Elder Oaks) the ability to claim that they weren't racist and discriminatory.  My noting this observation isn't character or verbal violence.

In the article linked in the OP, Elder Oaks seems to be trying to place organized religions on some kind of moral high ground when it comes to racism and discrimination.  As many have shown here, this isn't the case.  Oaks is on record using his religious beliefs to justify discrimination against a minority (referring to the 1984 document and likely a few others times with respect to the gay marriage battles).

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47 minutes ago, clarkgoble said:

To the other points of dispute you're having with others, I suspect there's a bit of miscommunication because people aren't specifying what they mean by doctrine. Some people mean by doctrine a descriptive account of what the Church teaches in say talks by officials or in lesson manuals. Others mean by doctrine  a prescriptive account of what is actually a grounded Church teaching. In that case it's what is tied to unambiguous revelation that hasn't been corrected by later revelation. (Here meaning by revelation the text and not the source) Often in debates clarifying terms eliminates many of the apparent disputes.

This is a struggle for me. On the one hand, Joseph Smith seems to have opened the door for individuals to find truth for themselves; or in some sense to establish their own doctrine.

On the other hand, there have been enough statements made by church leaders that indicate that what leaders say is prophetic, and hence doctrine. Suddenly, a ‘quote arms race’ ensues when there is ambiguity. We argue over which leader said it, and when, and how, and to whom. Somehow we weigh these issues in an ambiguous decision matrix, and throw in a splash of ‘I’m going to believe what I want to believe’, and try to control others and divide ourselves based on our ‘testimonies’ that we are right, and the other is wrong.

Whew!!!  That was a frustrated run-on sentence! 😊

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1 hour ago, DJBrown said:

Our founding documents and founding fathers maintain(ed) that our "unalienable" rights come from God.  If that is the principle thinking behind our civil rights, that makes the belief in God extremely important, warranting a special place for religious belief.  Take away the belief in God, what happens to our civil rights?  

Many of the founders were Deists and had very differing beliefs about God.  See Thomas Payne's The Age of Reason as exhibit A.  The language of the 1st Amendment seems to read very clearly that government should not privilege religion.  The early Americans came from countries that had religion mixed with government, and they were very sensitive to not wanting that to happen in America.  I don't think you're making a very astute observation about the dynamics at play during this time period.  

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1 hour ago, Robert F. Smith said:

While I agree that what many LDS leaders said was wrong and racist, it is remarkable how quickly you make this blanket claim, which is false.  Only a fair-minded claim that Joseph Smith had a very different notion from his successors is appropriate.  And every time that Brother Brigham is quoted, one must perforce note how vociferously he was opposed by Orson Pratt.  I take sides in that debate, while you deny that there were any sides.

For you, the inability of a sincere David O. McKay to find any revelation or doctrinal support for those racist views is irrelevant.  For me, it is indicative of the powerful influence of racism on otherwise good men.  This was typical of the period and should not surprise any well-informed historian.  The hoi-polloi just don't know any better.

That is incorrect and a false claim about me.  Feel free to retract and apologize. It is very relevant and important to me that President McKay did not find doctrinal support for the past racist teachings of prophets.

What your comments seem to disregard is that while Elder Pratt disagreed with President Young, the prophet and mouthpiece of the Lord was President Young.  It was under President Young's leadership as prophet that the racist policy went into effect.  As the prophet and president he is ordained and set apart to speak for the church.  Do you disagree?

I am certainly not going to argue that throughout Church history there have been those who have disagreed with racist teachings and discriminatory practices.  But the official position of the church for over a century was racist.  Those who taught the racist doctrine prevailed for a time.

Similarly, those who taught discriminatory ideas on gay marriage prevailed for some time and it because the official position of the church as well.  As with many teachings in our church, they change and develop over time.  However, I find it foolish to fail to see things as they really were in the past because they are different now.

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1 hour ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Had you presented a balanced and even-handed look at the racist history within Mormonism, one might say that you were fair and impartial.  You did the opposite.  Why else than motivated by hatred?  Many people hate Mormons and vilify them and their history.  Why do you insist on joining the anti-Mormon dog-pile?  Those who make mistakes need to be called to account them.  I don't mind the criticism, as long as it is reasonable and factual.

Past statements from church prophets and apostles are not factual? Referencing what they said, along with what the essay on race says, in turn, somehow means that I am motivated by hatred toward the church?  I was responding to your claim below:

"The LDS Church did not teach that black skin was a curse or that mixed-race marriages were wrong."

I provided numerous factual statements from prophets and apostles of the church to show that the church did, in fact, teach those things prior to 1978, along with the church's own essay that disavows it as well. Simplying pointing that out in no way means I am motived by hatred toward the church or its members. BTW, I am still a member of the church (not active), so CFR exactly how I am so motivated by hatred. To be clear, I do not hate Mormons, but I do hate any type of racist ideology.  

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1 hour ago, bluebell said:

You stated "maybe people like myself should advocate for not allowing the church to have a voice in society."

Don't you remember what happened to members of the church in California when people started to release financial contributions to support Proposition 8? People's businesses were boycotted, people lost jobs, and others went after the church's tax exempt status (and still are).  Just google "Religion should not have a voice in politics" and you'll get multiple hits on people advocating that.

Arguing for removing a special privilege that religions get (tax exempt status) and leveling the playing field so they are treated the same as every other institution, would not be evidence for discrimination of religion.  It would just remove the special treatment that religions already receive in the tax code.  

I read the first two articles after I googled what you suggested.  The first one was talking about the tax exempt status, which I already just commented on.  The second was talking about unique religious theological positions, and how most people agree that those positions shouldn't be enacted as laws for broader society. 

So far, I'm not convinced that your fear of people advocating for an overt discrimination towards religion, actually holds any water.  It strikes me as similar to the slippery slope arguments that the anti SSM crowd was using, saying that allowing SSM would somehow destroy the family and traditional opposite sex marriage.  An effective fear tactic, but ultimately untrue and unsubstantiated.  

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21 hours ago, rockpond said:

The First Amendment protects the rights of church leaders to teach and do what they believe God wants. 

But, if God tells them to discriminate and have racist teachings/policies... they are still discriminating and acting in a racist manner regardless of what God may he telling them to do. 

And, at the end of the day, it’s up to each of God’s children to decide whether they are comfortable in following what they believe God is telling them to do (and are confident in that belief).  If they decide they are both comfortable and confident, how others choose to characterize their actions isn’t going to convine them to change those actions.

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20 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

Arguing for removing a special privilege that religions get (tax exempt status) and leveling the playing field so they are treated the same as every other institution, would not be evidence for discrimination of religion.  It would just remove the special treatment that religions already receive in the tax code.  

I read the first two articles after I googled what you suggested.  The first one was talking about the tax exempt status, which I already just commented on.  The second was talking about unique religious theological positions, and how most people agree that those positions shouldn't be enacted as laws for broader society. 

So far, I'm not convinced that your fear of people advocating for an overt discrimination towards religion, actually holds any water.  It strikes me as similar to the slippery slope arguments that the anti SSM crowd was using, saying that allowing SSM would somehow destroy the family and traditional opposite sex marriage.  An effective fear tactic, but ultimately untrue and unsubstantiated.  

I didn’t say I feared it. I said that attempts to silence churches and religion in society and politics is already happening, and will likely continue. 

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3 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I didn’t say I feared it. I said that attempts to silence churches and religion in society and politics is already happening, and will likely continue. 

But I don't think this is happening.  I hate to do this, because I typically try to avoid using this mechanism, but I'm going to issue a formal CFR here.  Please give evidence of attempts to silence churches or discriminate against religion.  I couldn't find any using your suggested google search.  

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1 hour ago, clarkgoble said:

Revelation is the support for a particular talk. So far as I know (I may be wrong) Brigham never claimed a clear revelation on the matter but tended to appeal to scripture. That suggests misreading of scripture was the basis for his actions. Many point to southern slave apologetics tied to Genesis as the basis for his misunderstanding. He then used those as a basis from which to interpret passages in Moses or Abraham.

In the context of the Dallin H. Oaks talk, I hope you can see the irony in this. Religious people are supposed to know absolute right and wrong, because they believe in God. And the single person on the entire planet with the best access to God and hence the best access to knowing absolute right and wrong is the Mormon Prophet. But on the incredibly basic issue of racism, the Mormon Prophet gets his information on morality from southern slave apologists.

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9 minutes ago, hope_for_things said:

But I don't think this is happening.  I hate to do this, because I typically try to avoid using this mechanism, but I'm going to issue a formal CFR here.  Please give evidence of attempts to silence churches or discriminate against religion.  I couldn't find any using your suggested google search.  

I recently attended a religious freedom forum here in my city that is sponsored by the local Stakes, the Catholic diocese, and other churches in the area.  They brought in speakers who are attorneys and lobbyists working for religious freedom on behalf of the LDS Church and the Catholic Church.  What was interesting is that at the end of a 90 minute forum, during the Q&A they were asked if there were any current threats to religious freedom that we should be working to avoid.  The answer?  No.  None.  They said the current “religious freedom” battles are all about LGBT and abortion rights.

 

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51 minutes ago, Ouagadougou said:

Past statements from church prophets and apostles are not factual? Referencing what they said, along with what the essay on race says, in turn, somehow means that I am motivated by hatred toward the church?  I was responding to your claim below:

"The LDS Church did not teach that black skin was a curse or that mixed-race marriages were wrong."

I provided numerous factual statements from prophets and apostles of the church to show that the church did, in fact, teach those things prior to 1978, along with the church's own essay that disavows it as well. Simplying pointing that out in no way means I am motived by hatred toward the church or its members. BTW, I am still a member of the church (not active), so CFR exactly how I am so motivated by hatred. To be clear, I do not hate Mormons, but I do hate any type of racist ideology.  

I hate racist ideology also.  The difference between us is that I believe in telling the complete truth about organizations and people, while you do not.  That is immediately indicative of hatred on your part.  That is a defect which you need to overcome.  Your grave sin here is the sin of omission.  It doesn't really matter at all what someone is a member of.  The question is about personal integrity.  Telling the complete truth is just hard for some people.

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1 hour ago, rockpond said:

.................. President Young, the prophet and mouthpiece of the Lord was President Young.  It was under President Young's leadership as prophet that the racist policy went into effect.  As the prophet and president he is ordained and set apart to speak for the church.  Do you disagree?

Of course not.  Indeed, I have been much harsher on racism and other sorts of bigotry in my life than you could ever be, but I also try to be even-handed.  You elevate Brother Brigham, while I see him as flawed by the same sort of flaws many men have.  Joseph Smith likewise emphasized his own flaws, and I accept that humility as a good sign.  Brother Brigham did speak on behalf of the LDS Church, which makes his racist rants and policies all the more distasteful.  As his admirer,  Elder McConkie stated in retrospect, Brigham was wrong.  For some reason the full impact of that fact has not sunk in with everyone.  Unlike Elder McConkie, it didn't take me till 1978 to figure that out, and I was far from alone.

1 hour ago, rockpond said:

I am certainly not going to argue that throughout Church history there have been those who have disagreed with racist teachings and discriminatory practices.  But the official position of the church for over a century was racist.  Those who taught the racist doctrine prevailed for a time.

Similarly, those who taught discriminatory ideas on gay marriage prevailed for some time and it because the official position of the church as well.  As with many teachings in our church, they change and develop over time.  However, I find it foolish to fail to see things as they really were in the past because they are different now.

I find it foolish to fail to see things as they really were in the past simply because policies were changed and then reversed.  I appreciate a factual account of history.  The huge mistake made by Jerald Tanner in the late 1950s was his sole focus on racism in the LDS Church (a pretty normal feature in America during the period he covered), to the exclusion of Joseph Smith's opposition to racism.  He and Elder McConkie were as one in their focus, and Elder McConkie's irresponsible book Mormon Doctrine was a great foil for Jerald.  How wrong they both were.

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1 hour ago, SouthernMo said:

..........................

It seems to me that what is taught by “the LDS church” versus what is taught by men who lead the church is very vague and subjective, and can lead to lead to a sense of god-given moral superiority.

There are teachings and doctrine in the D&C that are ignored today, so it’s hard for me to see that the LDS church sees that book as official teachings.

Still, the LDS Canon of Scripture is normative for the Church, even if what you say here is true.  That is the official nature of LDS theology.

1 hour ago, SouthernMo said:

But, after my studies, I still believe that it’s pretty clear when the first presidency issues a statement it’s about as clear as it can be that “the church” teaches it. 

Many Mormons agree fully with that last statement.  But are you really comfortable accepting the most right-wing view on LDS history and theology?  How is it that you sound just like a TBM?  I should think that being identified with the TBMs would be anathema to you, as it is for me.  I consider them unnatural and brittle in their beliefs.

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36 minutes ago, rockpond said:

I recently attended a religious freedom forum here in my city that is sponsored by the local Stakes, the Catholic diocese, and other churches in the area.  They brought in speakers who are attorneys and lobbyists working for religious freedom on behalf of the LDS Church and the Catholic Church.  What was interesting is that at the end of a 90 minute forum, during the Q&A they were asked if there were any current threats to religious freedom that we should be working to avoid.  The answer?  No.  None.  They said the current “religious freedom” battles are all about LGBT and abortion rights.

 

Wow, thanks for sharing.  A shockingly honest admission on their part.  It all comes back to religions losing their ability to discriminate against certain people or practices and the erosion of this power is upsetting to them.  

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13 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

But are you really comfortable accepting the most right-wing view on LDS history and theology?  How is it that you sound just like a TBM?

Heck no. This is a very good point. I’m just trying to get a grasp of what I’m actually a member of - what I’m actually sustaining?  What are ‘church teachings?’ What is “the church?”  Really not sure I belong or want to be in this club anymore because the dynamic vagueness coupled with living leaders’ authoritarianism that results in quasi-logical coercion because the leaders control the property and ordinances.

There are too many who exclude because of their personal interpretations of what a Mormon should believe, and I don’t want to be part of a group in which the majority don’t like what I believe (or don’t believe).

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