Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thoughtful Dissent

Long time, no blog. I am going to attempt to post a little more often.

The one or two of you that happen to read this probably know that I am LDS. A common theme in our church is "obedience"; obedience to God, obedience to civil laws, obedience to church leaders, etc. I ran across some interesting quotes recently that relate to this topic. The following was printed in the Ward Teachers Message of June 1945:
"When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan--it is God's plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God."
I recently read an editorial in the BYU student newspaper on the California Prop 8 issue (anti-gay marriage initiative) that included a paragraph strikingly similar to the one quoted above. I dare say that if one was to read this quote in a gospel doctrine class, many members would nod their heads and mumble "amen". Several would probably enthusiastically endorse it. I wonder how many would get uneasy? Interestingly, the quote in 1945 caused a bit of controversy. Then-church-president George Albert Smith was asked about the quote by a leader of a different church in Salt Lake City. I found President Smith's response to be both fascinating and reassuring. Here it is:

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Office of the First Presidency
Salt Lake City, Utah
December 7, 1945

Dr. J. Raymond Cope
First Unitarian Society
13th East at 6th South Street
Salt Lake City, Utah

My dear Dr. Cope:

I have read with interest and deep concern your letter of November 16, 1945, in which you make special comment on "a short religious editorial prepared by one of your (our) leaders entitled "Sustaining the General Authorities of the Church'". You say that you read the message with amazement, and that you have since been disturbed because of its effect upon members of the Church.

I am gratified with the spirit of friendliness that pervades your letter, and thank you for having taken the time to write to me. The leaflet to which you refer, and from which you quote in your letter, was not "prepared" by "one of our leaders." However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.

I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts. The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings. This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow.

The Prophet Joseph Smith once said: "I want liberty of thinking and believing as I please." This liberty he and his successors in the leadership of the Church have granted to every other member thereof. On one occasion in answer to the question by a prominent visitor how he governed his people, the Prophet answered: "I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves."

Again, as recorded in the History of the Church (Volume 5, page 498 [499] Joseph Smith said further: "If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way."

I cite these few quotations, from many that might be given, merely to confirm your good and true opinion that the Church gives to every man his free agency, and admonishes him always to use the reason and good judgment with which God has blessed him. In the advocacy of this principle leaders of the Church not only join congregations in singing but quote frequently the following:

"Know this, that every soul is free
To choose his life and what he'll be,
For this eternal truth is given
That God will force no man to heaven."

Again I thank you for your manifest friendliness and for your expressed willingness to cooperate in every way to establish good will and harmony among the people with whom we are jointly laboring to bring brotherhood and tolerance.

Faithfully yours,

Geo. Albert Smith [signed]


At 10:04 PM, Blogger R. Jeffrey Davis said...

Welcome back to the blog world. I can agree with your point and I could further add Elder Oaks talk that he gave last April. At the end of the talk he specifically addresses this blind obedience and how it relates to our testimony

At 9:17 PM, Blogger lamarrsjones said...

Wow It's about time you fed the monkey. He was about to stop mess'n with the keys. I like the little blog..... i'm going to use it in my lesson tomorrow..


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