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N. Givens on prophetic fallibility


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I don't believe Pres Nelson should have said the November '15 policy was revelation, and then turn around and undo it. If he felt it was from God why would he change it?

Or was he fallible by claiming it was revelation? Or is the word revelation the culprit. Should it be substantiated and used very carefully with our added words. When Wendy Nelson talks about Pres Nelson's night time revelations and how he writes them down, should that revelation be taken more lightly?

Should we take revelation from God to be in varying degrees?

https://kutv.com/news/local/lds-apostle-policy-on-same-sex-couples-revelation-from-god

Edited by Tacenda
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10 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

That would be contrary to our doctrine. Only God is infallible.

Personal experience: A member of the Seventy came to our stake conference some years ago, and during the Saturday evening adult session, he began railing on male returned missionaries with facial hair. He said, roughly, 'You need to maintain the missionary look. You should look like General Authorities. You should look like Heavenly Father and Jes ...'

I'm assuming he had mental images of the Father and the Son appear in front of him at this moment since he froze, eyes wide, for several awkward moments, before resuming speaking by completely changing the topic.

I almost laughed out loud. Instead of teaching the actual doctrine of Christ, he had foolishly chosen to pursue a personal pet peeve, and that choice caused him to stumble.

I suppose I could have ignored everything else he had to say during our conference because of this, but I didn't, just like I choose not to ignore everything the Apostle Peter taught after his rash betrayal of the Lord in the courtyard at the high priest's house. Doing so would put me at odds with the Saviour Himself (Matthew 10:41-42, etc.).

I also don't worry that I'm somehow sinning by sporting a very manly beard. After all, I was encouraged by a General Authority to look like Heavenly Father and Jesus! If that advice was wrong, I'm certain that the Holy Spirit can correct me.

Is there an example of one of the presidents (let's say the last 3) teaching a moral or theological idea that wasn't true? I think that would qualify as a fallible prophet. And I agree with you -- one instance of fallibility doesn't mean the rest of what someone teaches is somehow inherently wrong.

Are members of the 70 considered prophets?

Popes are certainly fallible. They are the successors to St. Peter and, as you point out, Peter did have a couple of problems, too. The only time a pope speaks infallibly is when he speaks "ex cathedra" (from the chair of Peter), and the last time a pope did this was 1950. I think of it as similar to your official declarations. Despite their fallibility, we do give the pope's words and teachings great weight. I can point to teachings by Pope Francis that I think are wrong. The latest was his declaration on the traditional sacraments.

 

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16 hours ago, MrShorty said:

Tacenda has one reference, the other is Pres. Nelson's devotional in fall of 2019 at BYUP where he also said that prophets, even when unpopular, always speak truth.

I agree that this sort of thing is a lot easier in hindsight rather than foresight. However, if I understand what Givens is trying to say, It has to apply to foresight as well as hindsight. If we can only consider prophetic fallibility while looking backwards, it will be difficult to "bake it into" our everyday discernment on current moral issues. My impression or interpretation of what Givens wants to emphasize, is that fallibility is part of our forward looking moral calculus. Yes it is more difficult that way, but I don't think we can entirely adopt a wait and see attitude for every moral conundrum that a prophet/apostle may speak to.

He said, "teach.." not "speak": https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/russell-m-nelson/love-laws-god/ and the context was teaching the Father’s requirements for exaltation in the celestial kingdom:

"In doing so, sometimes we are accused of being uncaring as we teach the Father’s requirements for exaltation in the celestial kingdom. But wouldn’t it be far more uncaring for us not to tell the truth—not to teach what God has revealed?

"It is precisely because we do care deeply about all of God’s children that we proclaim His truth. We may not always tell people what they want to hear. Prophets are rarely popular. But we will always teach the truth!"

There is also a similar context in this one by Sister Nelson: https://www.thechurchnews.com/leaders-and-ministry/2022-02-27/president-nelson-california-devotional-invitations-seek-truth-make-and-keep-covenants-gather-israel-244077

“Today it can be difficult to know who speaks the truth,” she said. “It is my testimony that prophets of God always speak the truth. While many in the world’s great and spacious building convincingly profess that evil is good and good is evil, prophets speak the truth.  While many tout and even celebrate new approaches to, and rationale for, breaking God’s commandments, prophets speak the truth…

“Prophets testify of Jesus Christ. Their sole desire is to help us find and stay on the covenant path that leads back home to our Heavenly Father.”

 

 

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17 hours ago, Tacenda said:

I bet it's in these talks. https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/president-nelson-three-invitations-to-latter-day-saints-california

Today it can be difficult to know who speaks the truth,” she said. “It is my testimony that prophets of God always speak the truth. While many in the world’s great and spacious building convincingly profess that evil is good and good is evil, prophets speak the truth.  While many tout and even celebrate new approaches to, and rationale for, breaking God’s commandments, prophets speak the truth.

“It’s almost impossible to maneuver through the morass of information, and the war of words, that surround us. I cannot imagine that there has ever been a more important time in the history of the world, or the Church — not a more crucial time than right now — to follow the prophets because prophets speak the truth.”

I'm wondering if she meant this in a "lie vs. truth" framework.  I think she might have, due to her contrasting prophets with those in the "great and spacious building that profess that evil is good and good is evil".  It seems like she is comparing and contrasting those who tell lies to achieve their purposes and those who don't.

People can be wrong about something that they believe is true, but that is not the same thing as lying.  Lying is purposeful, with intent.  To me prophets always speak truth in that they do not ever purposely deceive.  

They may be wrong, but they aren't lying to us.

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16 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

In other words, the reception of prophetic counsel must always be conditioned by personal revelation/inspiration and testimony.  It is no good to allow someone else to do your thinking for you.  Only the Holy Spirit can close that gap between the raw message and the estimate of its validity.

As I understood Givens's essay, this is the main point he was trying to make -- that we cannot completely outsource our moral reasoning to prophets/apostles. The purpose of fallibility is to make sure that we retain our personal efforts and responsibility to develop our own discernment and moral reasoning skills.

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19 hours ago, MrShorty said:

This essay by Nathaniel Givens came across my computer a couple of days ago. As this is a central issue in my own faith crisis/journey, I thought I would share and invoke some discussion. https://publicsquaremag.org/faith/gospel-fare/the-importance-of-prophetic-fallibility/

To set up an expectation, from the conclusion:

Givens doesn't even address any example of prophetic fallibility, so the entire essay is speaking in generic terms. One comment I would make here is that, while I might agree that prophetic fallibility should be "baked into" the conversation from the beginning, it is usually not (and I think it gets difficult to bake it into the conversation when our current prophet and his wife insist that "prophets always speak truth")

My summary of the entire essay is that understanding and accepting that prophets can make mistakes is a necessary part of our moral development in this life. I find this a frequent topic that Jennifer Finlaysen-Fife tackles (as a sex therapist, it is often framed in terms of the propriety of sexual activities, but it easily extends beyond that field) where she talks about needing to develop our own moral compasses. In essence, I see Givens's essay arguing that prophetic fallibility is a feature (not a bug) because we need to take our own moral discernment seriously. Certainly prophetic voices can be a part of our moral calculus, but the point of this life is to develop and strengthen our own ability and responsibility to discern right and wrong and choose right. Ultimately, we cannot and should not "outsource" that process to some kind of default "the prophet must be right so I won't wrestle with it." For all intents and purposes, I agree with Givens.

One reaction to the idea, though. If we really believe what Givens is selling here, it seems to me that we ought to be a lot more tolerant of differing opinions and viewpoints within our Church spaces. Someone who comes into Sunday School who proclaims that they don't believe X, maybe ought to be given respect and consideration for making the effort to exercise their moral judgement. We may disagree on the conclusion, but how much of life is supposed to be about reaching the right conclusion and how much is about exercising moral discernment? If it's about being right, then squash the opposition. If it's more about exercising discernment, then let's allow people to exercise their judgement. If they are wrong, perhaps our own experience with the same topic will help them further their quest for truth, or maybe we just need to let God be the One to offer correction in His time, but let people experience the process.

Of course, this usually tends to bring up the question of boundary maintenance -- how much disagreement should the Church tolerate in its public spaces. I don't know how best to balance "let people exercise moral judgement" and "protect the Church from anarchy and embarrassment." It feels to me like we are a bit too quick to protect the Church from embarrassment than we are to encourage people to exercise moral judgement, but that could just be my impressions.

Any other reactions to Givens's essay?

I like his idea of our fallibility being a reflection of "intentional difficulty" and fallibility being the source of undermining the validity of any source and content of spiritual guidance concerning the things of God, whether the be scripture, talks, revelation (personal and from the living prophets), etc.. This life is an intentional test in finding God, brought about by intentional exposure to the good and the the bad we come across.

I think common consent is an excellent principle for deciding upon formal and informal policies and their means of enforcement in both public and private spaces.

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3 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

As I understood Givens's essay, this is the main point he was trying to make -- that we cannot completely outsource our moral reasoning to prophets/apostles. The purpose of fallibility is to make sure that we retain our personal efforts and responsibility to develop our own discernment and moral reasoning skills.

And I would add, the purpose of our fallibility is that we may be humble and receptive to the enabling grace that improves our learning and discernment, and how we go about learning and discerning.

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15 minutes ago, CV75 said:

And I would add, the purpose of our fallibility is that we may be humble and receptive to the enabling grace that improves our learning and discernment, and how we go about learning and discerning.

And prophets get to learn too!

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15 hours ago, Buckeye said:

I think the biggest failing in this article is not the failure to identify specific prophetic failures, but to clearly state whether he’s discussing ‘mistakes’ in general or doctrinal errors.

I agree that, perhaps, Givens should have been more explicit on this. My interpretation is that this is the kind of thing he was trying to address when he talked about the difference between "in theory" and "in practice." But I agree that we ought to make this explicit.

Personally, I think that the disavowall of the reasons for the priesthood and temple ban is a fairly clear indicator that prophets can err in doctrine. Some might say that these were "tangential" (not sure what word fits here) doctrines, and that prophets cannot err in the core, salvific doctrines, so maybe we need to be even more careful when we declare what errors they can and cannot make.

My sense from Givens's essay is that, if we assume prophets cannot err in a given category, then we lose something from our own growth as moral agents. Our full growth as moral agents requires us to assume that prophets can make a mistake at any level, and that even the combined voice of 15 (or more) can be in error. Certainly, who says what and how many agree with him can be part of the moral calculus, but I don't think Givens wants us to completely yield any of our moral agency to an assumption of infallibility at any level.

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12 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

And other people, like my devout black housemate, see the matter very differently. That's part of what Bro Givens has tried to address in his essay.

As I indicated in the OP, how we deal with doctrinal differences in the Church is a huge implication flowing out of the question of prophetic fallibility. If we truly believe that prophets can make significant doctrinal errors, then it seems we ought to be better at tolerating each others' differences of opinions on many topics. I don't know exactly what that looks like, but I think a lot of people feel "squeezed" (I think that was Bushman's term for it) out of the Church because we as a Church body do not know how to acknowledge and cope with their heterodox beliefs.

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1 hour ago, CV75 said:

He said, "teach.." not "speak":

Seems to me like a distinction without a difference.

1 hour ago, CV75 said:

we teach the Father’s requirements for exaltation

Can prophets be in error about the requirements for exaltation?

1 hour ago, CV75 said:

heir sole desire is to help us find and stay on the covenant path that leads back home to our Heavenly Father.”

Perhaps a different way of posing the same question, but, even if completely sincere in their desire, can they make errors in identifying the covenant path?

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11 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

As I indicated in the OP, how we deal with doctrinal differences in the Church is a huge implication flowing out of the question of prophetic fallibility. If we truly believe that prophets can make significant doctrinal errors, then it seems we ought to be better at tolerating each others' differences of opinions on many topics. I don't know exactly what that looks like, but I think a lot of people feel "squeezed" (I think that was Bushman's term for it) out of the Church because we as a Church body do not know how to acknowledge and cope with their heterodox beliefs.

The treatment of Apostasy https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/general-handbook/32-repentance-and-membership-councils?lang=eng seems reasonable to me. Are you referring to less formal, local interpersonal and social dynamics when it comes to non-apostate heterodoxy?

I think a sense of what constitutes reasonable Church participation is found here: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/general-handbook/38-church-policies-and-guidelines?lang=eng Likewise, reasonable expectation for doctrine might be found in 38.8.11 (including the links in https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/come-follow-me?lang=eng) and 38:8:39.

Does this make me a "by the book" kind of guy?

 

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52 minutes ago, MrShorty said:

Seems to me like a distinction without a difference.

Can prophets be in error about the requirements for exaltation?

Perhaps a different way of posing the same question, but, even if completely sincere in their desire, can they make errors in identifying the covenant path?

I think the difference between teaching and speaking is explaining the meaning and application of thoughts, feelings and other mental processes vs. merely conveying sound and data; you can teach without speaking, and speak without teaching.

I think one would have to have a firm sense of what they want, expect or think the requirements of exaltation are before they have a problem with prophets being in error about them. This might get into personality, style and development. For me, in general they cannot be in error because I believe they have the restored keys and my ordinances and covenants are valid and bringing me advancement in happiness. This is why a specific point of doctrinal error, or the potential for such an error, or proofs and arguments that there have been such errors, is not important to me.

The covenant path (which I take to be the “doctrine of Christ” as set for in 2 Nephi 31) is perhaps one of those more specific things concerning the requirements for exaltation (maybe it’s vice-versa) and yet I see no inconsistency between that and in the gospel of Christ as set forth in 3 Nephi 11-12, or in the gospel laws given in 3 Nephi 13-28 or the New Testament. Is there an error in our teachings concerning marriage and female ordination? Not the way it is explained to me in terms of the doctrine and gospel of Christ, which is taught to me with more than spoken facts and data points.

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4 hours ago, teddyaware said:

The following is what President Kimball actually taught on the subject:

Yes, she was wrong about President Kimball.  He was actually the first to ever teach that intermarriage was not a sin, that I can see.  This was a significant change in teaching. 

Quote

On at least three occasions (1847,[48] 1852,[49] and 1865[50]) Smith's successor Brigham Young publicly taught that the punishment for black–white interracial marriages was death, and the killing of a black–white interracial couple and their children as part of a blood atonement would be a blessing to them

Quote

George Q. Cannon
In 1900, George Q. Cannon, first counselor in the First Presidency under Lorenzo Snow, repeated Brigham Young's teachings that if a man who had the priesthood married a black woman, then according to the law of the Lord, the man and any offspring should be killed so that the seed of Cain did not receive the priesthood.[61]: 203 [60]: 78 

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B. H. Roberts
Some other early-20th-century teachings on the subject include the highly influential[67] 1907 Deseret News five-volume book series The Seventy's Course in Theology by church seventy and prominent Mormon theologian B. H. Roberts. In it Roberts dedicates an entire lesson of the first volume to the "Negro Race Problem",[68]: 68  and approvingly quoted a Southern author who stated that a social divide between white and black people should be maintained at all costs as socializing would lead to mixed-race marriages with an inferior race and no disaster would compare to this as it would doom the Caucasian race.[13]: 125 [69] It cited multiple biological justifications such as craniology (phrenology) to defend banning black–white "commingling".[68]: 73–75  Additionally, a 1913 church publication in the church's Young Woman's Journal encouraged young women to maintain white racial purity and health by avoiding "race disintegration" and "race suicide".[15]: 69 [70]

There are the seeds for the white-supremacy problem we see in some corners of the church.

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The apostle Reuben Clark spoke against mixed-race marriage several times in the 1940s, once calling it a "wicked virus."[2]: 66 

First Presidency member J. Reuben Clark told Young Women general leaders in 1946 that, "It is sought today in certain quarters to break down all race prejudice, and at the end of the road ... is intermarriage. ...[D]o not ever let that wicked virus get into your systems that brotherhood either permits or entitles you to mix races which are inconsistent. Biologically, it is wrong; spiritually, it is wrong."[2]: 66 

There is no denying that miscegenation was taught as a sin in the church by many in leadership up into the mid 1900's.  A teaching that was only disavowed recently:

Quote

 

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past...that mixed-race marriages are a sin;  Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng

 

Yes, there is no doubt that prophets are fallible. We need to be careful not to defend this stuff or pretend like it didn't happen. It is critical to our survival and spiritual evolution that we acknowledge the mistakes of past leaders in order to progress in the image of God. 


 


 

 

Edited by pogi
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21 minutes ago, CV75 said:

For me, in general they cannot be in error because I believe they have the restored keys and my ordinances and covenants are valid and bringing me advancement in happiness. This is why a specific point of doctrinal error, or the potential for such an error, or proofs and arguments that there have been such errors, is not important to me.

22 minutes ago, CV75 said:

Is there an error in our teachings concerning marriage and female ordination? Not the way it is explained to me in terms of the doctrine and gospel of Christ, which is taught to me with more than spoken facts and data points.

I wonder if Givens would agree with you here. Maybe what I see in Givens's essay (and the disclaimer I highlighted at the outset) is that it isn't so much about what your conclusions are, but how you came to those conclusions. If we come to the same conclusions as the prophet because we believe "they cannot be in error because...they have the restored keys" without any other thought or consideration, we might be more on the path towards the "robotic" rather than true children of God who have come to their conclusions by thoroughly passing those teachings through our own sense of right and wrong and discernment. I don't really think I can judge your experience with this from simple, brief comments on an internet message board, so please don't think that is what I am trying to do here. Maybe what I see Givens trying to say is that the process seems more important than the conclusions. If so, then should we assume that your experience is "universally" true, or should we expect much greater variability in how people come to truth, and even what truths they come to?

As for the CHI "by the book" references, I find them mostly about maintaining order in the Church organization. Maintaining order usually starts with the assumption that the Church and its leaders are right (an assumption of infallibility??), then draw boundaries around beliefs and behaviors that subvert order, but does not really otherwise address the questions of truth and error in the Church. I think a part of the challenge -- especially if we truly believe what Givens is saying here -- is how the Church ought to deal with those who come to different conclusions, how to draw boundaries. As reasonable as the boundaries in the CHI and Church curriculum are, reasonable is not the same as true.

 

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7 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

CFR on the final three words.

CFR here as well. Where has Pres Nelson stated this as his belief?

Are you prepared to argue that Noah believed all previous prophets were not listening to God because they never built an ark?

I have posted about such things on this board more than once. And as I have stated multiple times in the past, I refuse to believe that the authorised prophets of God are somehow in receipt of less revelation than I am.

  • I was incorrect about President Kimball calling interracial marriage a sin.  That was Brigham Young.  President Kimball just strongly discouraged it.  I am fallible too.

 

  • Here is President Nelson's talk from the October 2018 general conference talk.  You tell me what he was implying about previous prophets use of the term "Mormon".

"Instead, it is a correction. It is the command of the Lord. Joseph Smith did not name the Church restored through him; neither did Mormon. It was the Savior Himself who said, “For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”4

Even earlier, in AD 34, our resurrected Lord gave similar instruction to members of His Church when He visited them in the Americas. At that time He said:

“Ye shall call the church in my name. …

“And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church.”5

Thus, the name of the Church is not negotiable. When the Savior clearly states what the name of His Church should be and even precedes His declaration with, “Thus shall my church be called,” He is serious. And if we allow nicknames to be used or adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended.

What’s in a name or, in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the “LDS Church,” the “Mormon Church,” or the “Church of the Latter-day Saints,” the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement."

 

  • Previous prophets were not commanded to build an ark.

 

  • You are entitled to your opinions just as I am entitled to my opinions.
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9 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

I refuse to believe that the authorised prophets of God are somehow in receipt of less revelation than I am.

I can understand the sentiment. I don't know if I would make it about quantity of revelation, but, in an interesting possible restatement of Givens's point, should we become willing to accept that maybe sometimes our personal revelation is more true than the prophets'? I think, as difficult as this can be, is what Givens is wanting us to consider. In order to truly develop our personal discernment of right and wrong, we have to be willing to consider that prophets might be wrong about something and we might be right.

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7 hours ago, Tacenda said:

I don't believe Pres Nelson should have said the November '15 policy was revelation, and then turn around and undo it. If he felt it was from God why would he change it?

Revelation may be God giving instructions that originated with him or God giving approval of an idea that originated with the one seeking God’s input.

I can see the Prophet or the 15 exploring how to address the issue, believing something needed to be done and deciding to model the response to families led by a same sex couple on the response to polygynous families.  They then go to the Lord to seek his approval for their choice.  He gives it and they go for it.

When God gave permission for Joseph to give Martin the ‘116 pages’, it was a revelation, even if that hadn’t been God’s idea (as clearly shown by his prior refusal).  And between the time that Joseph received permission and he learned that Martin had lost them, no doubt Joseph saw the revelation giving permission as implying that the choice was not only acceptable to God, but a good thing.  Only afterwards he would realize he had been given approval so he could learn a better way eventually. (I am not implying the Nov 15 revelation was similar to the 116 page revelation in terms of the prophets begged God to give them the answer they wanted, only showing revelations aren’t just one type of communication and purpose…iow, not all revelations are a 10 commandment, written in stone, everything settled communication; there are a variety of types of revelation, some of which evolved over time as those given them learned more from their experience with revelation)

I would not be surprised if the November 15 revelation was given because it was better for the Church community for church leadership to learn from experience than to be just told what to do by God…and it helped teach, IMO, the importance of personal confirmation.  Noncontroversial revelations are not going to push people to seek out God on their own.  More likely to encourage habit of relying on prophets to do your thinking for you.

My view of the Nov 15 revelation that imposed the same conditions on same sex couple led families as polygamous couples led families was that during the 3 years before it was changed again, I got the impression from how certain things were said church leadership likely got a great deal of feedback and sharing of experiences from same sex families as well as families that shared custody with a parent in a same sex relationship, sharing and feedback they wouldn’t have received at that level if things had gone on as is.  Sometimes volume needs to be cranked up to make an impact as a steady, unchanging tone gets too easily phased out, ignored.  There was likely a much greater exploration of the meaning and purpose of family and same sex relationships and parenting among membership than there had been before when there was no need to question or examine.  I believed God allowed the first revelation to help leadership and church members have an important learning experience of families, one where I am guessing it was intended to remove at least some of the sense of otherness of families that do not match the ideal or typical Latter-day Saint family.

Edited by Calm
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9 hours ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

I have posted about such things on this board more than once. And as I have stated multiple times in the past, I refuse to believe that the authorised prophets of God are somehow in receipt of less revelation than I am.

Amateur. :) 

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2 hours ago, MrShorty said:

I wonder if Givens would agree with you here. Maybe what I see in Givens's essay (and the disclaimer I highlighted at the outset) is that it isn't so much about what your conclusions are, but how you came to those conclusions. If we come to the same conclusions as the prophet because we believe "they cannot be in error because...they have the restored keys" without any other thought or consideration, we might be more on the path towards the "robotic" rather than true children of God who have come to their conclusions by thoroughly passing those teachings through our own sense of right and wrong and discernment. I don't really think I can judge your experience with this from simple, brief comments on an internet message board, so please don't think that is what I am trying to do here. Maybe what I see Givens trying to say is that the process seems more important than the conclusions. If so, then should we assume that your experience is "universally" true, or should we expect much greater variability in how people come to truth, and even what truths they come to?

As for the CHI "by the book" references, I find them mostly about maintaining order in the Church organization. Maintaining order usually starts with the assumption that the Church and its leaders are right (an assumption of infallibility??), then draw boundaries around beliefs and behaviors that subvert order, but does not really otherwise address the questions of truth and error in the Church. I think a part of the challenge -- especially if we truly believe what Givens is saying here -- is how the Church ought to deal with those who come to different conclusions, how to draw boundaries. As reasonable as the boundaries in the CHI and Church curriculum are, reasonable is not the same as true.

 

Maybe he would agree; I’m not sure I understand him, though!

If the essay is about the importance of process (spiritual teaching and learning) over beliefs and conclusions, the measure of community is in how well we express these conclusions and beliefs (3 Nephi 11:28-30 delineates one fruit of the doctrine of Christ); i.e., whether and how we continue to learn and teach in the holy name we take upon ourselves.

Rather than boundary maintenance, I prefer community maintenance. As long as my common consent comports with those who are more thoughtful and active in their faith than I, they will sustain my participation in the Church. I likewise am not about to contend with those who are less thoughtful and active. When someone contends that the keys are not valid, common consent will correct them even to the point of membership withdrawal if necessary. Maybe a good question is, “When is my learning and teaching becoming contentious?”

I think that spiritual learning and teaching are universal experiences with varying opportunities and outcomes depending on our orientation to (sense of) right and wrong which lead to spiritual discernment (there was a recent thread about the Parable of the Sower). The “universe” is really just the “community,” which when properly maintained invites converts into the fold.

Rather than based on an assumption or expectation of leadership knowledge or infallibility, I think the Handbook is based on an “article” (as in D&C 33:14) that Church order is maintained by common consent, which was documented in these revelations a few months before that. The Handbook refers to the Curriculum, which addresses the questions of truth and error in the Church, including the gifts and methods for learning truth (in this context, truth means doctrinal points and their validity). These policies and curriculum are also reasonable in that they do not dictate or expand religious conscience.

I see no practical difference between holding an exception to common consent of the ward / stake / general membership and having a contrary belief to doctrine. I think members are basically treated the same way, informally and formally. Are we doing this right? Common consent and the Curriculum seem to say so; of course, we are always trying to improve and open to continuing revelation.

A good answer, I think, to your question about a true (doctrinal) way the Church can deal with those who have different beliefs is found in Mosiah 26, and I think this forms the basis for membership councils.

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It just dawned on me that someone might want a compilation of truths that the Church has not accepted, or accepted along the way, demonstrating how the Church addresses the questions of truth and error in the Church. That would be a very interesting thread!

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21 hours ago, The Nehor said:

“And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.”

Though this was revealed by a fallible prophet.

What does "as they are," "as they were," and "as they are to come" mean?

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