By Eric Johnson
Posted June 14, 2022
Imagine if a media representative from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints phoned me one afternoon for a personal invitation to interview 17th President Russell N. Nelson! All I would need to do is bring my impromptu questions–she insists I would not have to give them to the president’s office in advance–with a guarantee that he would answer in an honest fashion with no spin allowed. (OK, I know this is wishful thinking, but humor me!)
This would be quite the invitation. I need to make my questions short and to the point without a sarcastic, angry, or belittling attitude on my end. (This I promise.) These would need to be real questions, not powderpuff inquiries.
What would you ask? I have decided to offer 10 questions that I legitimately would love to ask and get reasonable responses. Here it goes:
- President Nelson, thank you for meeting with me today. Our American culture has become more secular-minded and less God-fearing during the past few years, I think you will agree. Let’s take the issue of homosexuality and alternative lifestyle choices, for example. In 2021, your apostle Jeffrey R. Holland spoke on these issues at BYU in 2021 and seemed to be clear that your church does not agree with these behaviors. Yet there were protests in the streets of Provo by Mormons the day after he spoke. Many of your members believe that an LGBTQ+ lifestyle is now moral and they don’t seem to care what you think. My question is why doesn’t the president’s office make the same type of statement(s) that Mr. Holland did? Or do you believe there will come a time when your church will endorse homosexual behavior as a freedom of choice issue? (Follow up: How do we know the church will not change its position on the homosexual issue as it did in 1978 when the doctrine prohibiting Blacks from holding the priesthood was overturned?)
2. In 2018, you made it clear that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should not be called by nicknames, such as “Mormon” or “LDS,” and that the religion should not be referenced as “Mormonism.” You said that Jesus is not happy when these terms are used. Do you believe this was Jesus’s view before you made this policy? Or did He come up with this rule out of the blue? (Follow up: If these terms should have always been considered wrong, do you think previous leaders–including Gordon B. Hinckley–were in error by encouraging these nicknames (i.e., The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, mormon.org, “I Am A Mormon” campaign, etc.)?
3. Do you believe the lands where the Book of Mormon events took place are in North America (the Heartland model)? Or do you believe these are in Central America? (Follow up: Why does your church not come out with a statement indicating which theory is the best possibility?)
4. You seemed to be surprised at the April 2020 general conference when, in your opening talk, you said you stood “in an empty auditorium” and “little did I know . . . that speaking to a visible congregation of fewer than 10 people would make this conference so memorable and unforgettable for me!” It appears the COVID pandemic took you by surprise. Does this mean you were given no indication as God’s prophet that this crisis would shut down the world–including four different general conference public gatherings–for about two years? (Follow up: Why did God seem to give such specific information about upcoming catastrophes to the Old Testament prophets, including Isaiah and Jeremiah, but apparently not to modern prophets?)
5. President Nelson, all of the Old Testament prophets were “blue collar workers.” The disciples of Jesus were normally everyday kinds of folks, such as fishermen–with the possibility of Matthew who was a tax collector. Why does the church today only have professional businessmen, doctors, law professionals, and school presidents but no blue collar folks in the ranks of the apostles? (Follow up: Why are there no schooled theologians, church historians, or scriptural scholars with doctorates who belong to the Quorum of the Twelve? Note: None of the top 15 leaders of the church have any formal theological education.)
6. Many Latter-day Saints assume that you and your fellow general authorities are not paid for their service. Would you please tell us, sir, if you receive remuneration for your services? (Follow up: Actually, it’s fair if you do receive wages (or “living allowances, if that’s what you prefer to call it). But why do you allow your membership to think that no church money–their tithing dollars–is spent on your living expenses?)
7. Speaking about money, there has been much criticism of a “secret church account” that some believe contains as much as $100 billion in investments. That seems to be a lot of money for a tax-exempt organization to hold just for a “rainy day.” This money doesn’t seem to be helping your people or anyone else, for that matter, and there is no precedent for such a large sum with what we read in the Gospels or Acts in the New Testament. There are some–I am one–who thinks your church ought to be more forthright with how much money it brings in along with the church’s expenses. Would you consider opening up your financial records, as you once did in earlier days? If not, why not? (Follow up: Is there any plan to ever pay bishops for their hard work, as so directed by D&C 42:73?)
8. You have now announced 100 new temples in just 5 years, a record in such a short amount of time. In fact, you have been the president who has announced more temples than any previous president. Some of your buildings seem to be redundant, such as the one in Ephraim, UT when another temple is only a few miles away. The total population in Sanpete County is only 30,000. Why are you constructing temples at such an unprecedented rate? (Follow up: When do you think you will have enough temples to meet your needs?)
9. You have said you believe that you get revelations from God at night. Could you please explain the process of how you receive those revelations? (Follow up: Since your church possesses the seer stone used by Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon, have you ever used this stone yourself to see if God could speak to you through it? If not, why not?)
10. You were married to two women for both time and eternity in your life: Dantzel White (who passed away in 2005) and then Wendy Watson whom you married the following year. I’m guessing you expect to see both of them in your celestial kingdom. If so, when you get to this kingdom, how will you prevent showing favoritism of one wife over the other? (Follow up: Would you be open to adding more wives in the next life?)
OK, I’m ready for that phone call from Salt Lake City now.
Perhaps you have a better question than one of mine. If so, would you please write me ([email protected]) and give me your question. Perhaps I can add it to this list?