by Sharon Lindbloom
16 September 2021
LDS apostle Dallin Oaks, a member of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently recounted an experience he had thirty years ago. In the church’s official magazine, Liahona (August 2021), President Oaks wrote,
“The wife of a prominent Protestant minister came to my office. For many years she and her husband had served the Lord with great diligence in a Christian ministry. Now she wanted to join the restored Church, but she had a reservation.
“She came to ask me why she had to be baptized when she had already been baptized a Christian by her minister husband, who had baptized many people in his congregation. She asked, ‘Are you telling me that my husband didn’t have any authority to baptize all those people he baptized?’” (“Authority, Ordinances, & Preparation,” Liahona, August 2021)
Clearly, though this woman was not LDS, she at least partially understood Mormonism’s doctrines on priesthood authority, and perhaps also the church’s assertion regarding the complete apostasy of the Christian church. What she suspected President Oaks was telling her is exactly what Mormonism teaches — that all authority to act in God’s name was lost from the earth shortly after the deaths of the biblical apostles and, now, after being restored to earth, that authority is found only in the LDS church.
The woman’s question put President Oaks in an uncomfortable position. Full disclosure would require him to give an honest answer affirming that her husband’s life’s work in the ministry was devoid of God’s blessing and authority. But that’s not what President Oaks told her. Instead, as he tells the story,
“’No, I am sure your husband had authority for those baptisms,’ I replied. ‘He had all the authority his church, his congregation, and the laws of the land could give him. He used that authority in baptizing, performing marriages, employing persons for the physical needs of his church building, and appointing persons to participate in its worship services. We don’t question that authority, but we want you to know of a different kind of authority: the power God delegates to mortals.’”
Though President Oaks went on to explain that LDS baptism differs from Protestant Christian baptism, his reply to the question asked by the minister’s wife obfuscated the truth. “I’m sure your husband had authority for those baptisms,” he said, “We don’t question that authority.” This answer must have placated the woman, for she and her husband eventually joined the LDS church where they remain “faithful members” today.
President Oaks’ soft-soap reply to the thorny question asked by the wife of the minister is troubling. Did he really think she was asking whether or not her minister-husband had been authorized by his elders or his congregation to baptize (in other words, was “baptizing” included in her husband’s job description)?
Or did President Oaks think the minister’s wife was questioning whether her husband had broken the laws of the land by baptizing and conducting marriages? Surely not.
Here are a few authoritative LDS statements on the issue that speak more directly to Mormonism’s doctrines than the soft-soap reply offered by President Oaks:
“Let me explain, when I use the term ‘corrupt’ with reference to these ministers of the gospel, that I use it in the same sense that I believe the Lord used it when he made that declaration to Joseph Smith, the prophet, in answer to the prophet’s prayer [during the First Vision]…When I use the term ‘corrupt’ I mean, as I believe the Lord meant, that they have turned away from the truth, the purity of the truth, the beauty of the truth, and have turned to that which is false. A false doctrine is a corrupt doctrine; a false religion is a corrupt religion; a false teacher is a corrupt teacher. Any man who teaches a false doctrine, who believes in and practices and teaches a false religion is a corrupt professor, because he teaches that which is impure and not true. That is the trouble with Christianity today. It is not true.” (Hyrum M. Smith, Conference Reports, October 1916, 43)
“…all other [non-LDS] churches are entirely destitute of all authority from God; and any person who receives Baptism or the Lord’s supper from their hands highly offend God, for he looks upon them as the most corrupt of all people …The only persons among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who have authority from Jesus Christ to administer any gospel ordinance are those called and authorized among the Latter-day Saints.” (Orson Pratt, The Seer, 255)
“Presumptuous and blasphemous are they who purport to baptize, bless, marry, or perform other sacraments in the name of the Lord while in fact lacking his specific authorization. And no one can obtain God’s authority from reading the Bible or from just a desire to serve the Lord, no matter how pure his motives.” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 494)
“Since the Church with its authority and power has been caught away from the earth, the great mother of harlots with all her descendants has blasphemously assumed the authority of administering some of the sacred ordinances of the gospel. They have blasphemed the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, by using it without authority in their ministrations. They have dishonored the name of Christ, by calling their powerless, apostate, filthy and most abominable churches, the Church of Christ. The whole Romish, Greek and Protestant ministry, from the pope down through every grade of office, are as destitute of authority from God, as the devil and his angels. The Almighty abhors all their wicked pretensions, as He does the very gates of hell.” (Orson Pratt, Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, No. 2)
These are pretty strong words. According to LDS prophets and apostles, not only did the Protestant minister in President Oaks’ story have no authority to baptize, the minister was also guilty of a multitude of serious sins — “wicked pretentions” that God abhors.
Perhaps President Oaks didn’t need to lay out all of these details when answering the minister’s wife, but when she asked, “Are you telling me that my husband didn’t have any authority to baptize all those people he baptized?” the short and truthful answer would have been “Yes. That is what I’m telling you.”
President Oaks probably didn’t want to offend the minister’s wife, nor did he want to say anything that would make her change her mind about joining the LDS church. So instead of answering her direct question with a direct reply, he soothed and persuaded her with flattery – he employed the very definition of “soft-soap” which eventually led to the Protestant couple’s conversion to Mormonism.
President Oaks’ less-than-honest reply to the minister’s wife was not a unique event in the LDS church. The idea that the ends justify the means, that it’s okay to shade the truth if it means achieving a desired outcome, is an aspect of Mormonism that is fairly common – and spiritually dangerous.
Investigators, be aware – and beware.
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