By Sharon Lindbloom
15 January 2016
It seems that perhaps the Mormon Church is tired of all the dissention and discussion regarding the Church’s recently revealed policy affecting same-sex couples and their children.
It began in early November (2015) when the Church Handbook of Instructions was changed to include a directive for Church leaders to the effect that same-sex Mormon couples should be regarded as apostates, and any minor children living with parents who are married to a same-sex partner is not allowed to be baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many Mormons (and others) have been upset over this policy and have publicly and vocally disagreed with it. They have been holding out hope that Church’s leaders will recognize they’ve made a mistake and change the policy to be more inclusive of these children.
But last Sunday (1/10/2015) the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Church’s controversial policy is not just the Brethren’s opinion; rather, it is “the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord.”
In an address delivered at the Church-owned university BYU-Hawaii, LDS Apostle Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, explained that members of the Church’s top leadership fasted, prayed, and sought God’s guidance on the issue of now-legal same-sex marriage and how that affects the Church. As reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, following protocol,
“‘The [three-member] First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together and share all the Lord has directed us to understand and to feel, individually and collectively,’ [Mr. Nelson] said. ‘And then, we watch the Lord move upon the president of the church to proclaim the Lord’s will.’”
When Mormonism’s president Thomas S. Monson declared “the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord” on this issue, Mr. Nelson explained,
“Each of us [apostles] during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson.”
Therefore, the policy put in place in November was not merely a decision reached via the consensus of Church leadership; it was (officially) a revelation from God.
This changes everything. Or, at least, the leadership of the Church must hope it does. Because the Church has long taught its members, “When the prophet speaks the debate is over” (N. Eldon Tanner, First Presidency Message, “The Debate Is Over,” Ensign, August 1979).
“Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes, whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the ‘prophets, seers, and revelators’ of the Church is cultivating the spirit of apostasy….It should be remembered that Lucifer has a very cunning way of convincing unsuspecting souls that the General Authorities of the Church are as likely to be wrong as they are to be right. This sort of game is Satan’s favorite pastime, and he has practiced it on believing souls since Adam. He wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to ‘do their own thinking.’…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.” (Improvement Era, June 1945, page 354)
Will this “official explanation of the hotly debated policy’s origin” (as the Salt Lake Tribune put it) mark the end of controversy? Even Mr. Nelson seems to think it unlikely, for as he concluded his address he related an episode from the Book of Mormon wherein “cunning leaders” of dissenters were hidden among the people, being “difficult to detect.” Becoming more and more prideful, these dissenters eventually denied the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Mr. Nelson warned,
“Those same threats are among us today. The somber reality is that there are ‘servants of Satan’ embedded throughout society. So be very careful about whose counsel you follow.”
This has left some Mormons wondering if they themselves are the “threats” of which Mr. Nelson warned. Mormon blogger Jana Riess wrote,
“I don’t believe God is behind this policy. This does not feel like holy revelation from the same God who declared there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female — for we are all one in Christ Jesus.
“By rejecting this policy, are active LDS church members like me, people who hold a calling and a temple recommend, now to be regarded as ‘servants of Satan’?” (Jana Riess, “Mormon LGBT ban was ‘revealed’ to the prophet as God’s will, says Elder Nelson,” January 11, 2016)
Perhaps so. Consider this from a popular LDS website, the FairMormon Blog. As it tackled a question Mormons like Jana Riess wrestle with: “What Should I Do If I Think I’ve Received Revelation Different from Apostles and Prophets?” LDS blogger Gregory L. Smith explained,
“If…we still believe we are being told [by God] that the leaders of the Church are wrong, we are still not authorized to publicly preach or urge a different course of action or teaching…
“We may be taught things by revelation that are true, and for our comfort, but it is still not our place to spread them publicly, or use them to advocate for change, and so forth…
“Beware of false prophets. But, beware lest you become a false prophet.” (Gregory L. Smith, January 11, 2016)
MRM’s Aaron Shafovaloff summed up Mr. Smith’s teaching:
“To make this crystal clear: If the LDS Church teaches (A), and God tells you (A) is false, you are not authorized by God to advocate against (A), and you become a false prophet by doing so. In this case (according to FairMormon), it is the true prophets [who are] teaching falsehood, and the false prophets [are those] correcting it.”
This untenable, upside-down, unbiblical view of true and false prophets is a clear demonstration that controversy in Mormonism marches on.