Yeah, me again. I left this blog untended for months on end, and now I can’t shut up. Sorry about that.
Members of my church are responding to this new policy change in a host of different ways, and several have thought it appropriate to post links to messages prepared by two of the most beloved leaders the Church has ever had: Gordon B. Hinckley and Neil A. Maxwell.
President Hinckley wrote a First Presidency message for the July, 1990 edition of The Ensign titled “A City upon a Hill.” In it, he warned that we were in the midst of “a great sifting time” as the divide between the standards of the world and the standards of the Church continued to grow wider. The saints were to be tested as to which side they would choose. President Hinckley went on to say that “the time [of sifting] is here,” meaning the test to which he was referring was taking place in 1990, when these words were spoken, and long before any of the issues in the 2015 policy were being actively considered by the general membership.
Elder Maxwell’s talk making the rounds is titled “Meeting the Challenges of Today.” It was an address delivered at BYU in October of 1978, just months after the revelation that extended all priesthood and temple blessings to black members of the Church. The focus of the speech is on the tension generated when religious opinions are offered up in the public square. It warns of a growing “irreligious imperialism” infecting political discourse and counsels members to follow the First Presidency rather than embrace the secular trends of society at large.
There is nothing in either speech with which I disagree. I heartily endorse both messages without qualification, and they are certainly worth your prayerful consideration.
What I find troubling is that so many seem to think these speeches are uniquely applicable to the situation in which we now find ourselves. Because they really, really aren’t.
Consider that neither message is speaking about division within the Church, but, rather, the great divide between Zion and Babylon. The counsel is to leave the world and join the Church. Those members who, like me, oppose this policy have already done precisely that. We made our decision and have decided to follow the prophets. The reason we find this matter so troubling is not because we long to adopt the standards of the world, but because we find this policy inconsistent with gospel principles that the prophets have taught and continue to teach.
To claim we are not following the prophet now is to claim that prophets have repudiated the Second Article of Faith, which teaches the beautiful doctrine that we will be punished for our own sins and no one else’s. Certainly this principle remains at the core of our doctrine. For generations, primary children have been asked to memorize these words and repeat them in sacrament meeting. That practice continues to this day.
So should I follow the prophet when he tells me that we shouldn’t punish anyone for anyone else’s sins, or should I follow the prophet when he tells me to punish an innocent child by withholding the Gift of the Holy Ghost and the Aaronic Priesthood from them throughout their childhood and adolescence because of someone else’s sins?
President Hinckley and Elder Maxwell spoke of choosing between the ways of the world and the prophets of God. Yet our current situation calls us to choose between two diametrically opposed messages given to us by prophets of God. How, then, are these talks/articles in any way applicable to our current circumstance?
The clear implication by those who cite these two articles/speeches is that those who are struggling are the ones being sifted out, and that those who accept this policy without reservation are the ones who can smugly and self-righteously pat themselves on the back for passing the test. Who would take comfort in that at a time like this? Who would watch those of us struggling and rejoice that the Lord is purging His church of the faithless rather than reach out to us in charity and love?
This calls to mind the story of the Rameumptom in the Book of Mormon, which tells of a group of people who would stand on a massive elevated platform and rejoice that the Lord “hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell.” (Alma 31:17)
I find it deeply depressing that some seem to delight in the spiritual misery of others, especially when those others are desperately trying to follow the Lord according to the dictates of their own consciences. As Latter-day Saints and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can, and should, do far better than that.