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Rameumptom Watch: Thoughts from the Cheap Seats

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)

rameumptom1

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.

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16 Comments

  1. A friend of mine once said that one of the great things about Mormonism is that no matter what your opinion is, you can probably find a quote from a General Authority to support it. That said – here’s my favorite on the subject:

    It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teaching of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine. You cannot accept the books written y the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation

    • In seeing variations of this statement being attributed to a number of different sources. Near as I can tell, this was actually said by Samuel A. Richards, an apostle who wrote this in “Times and Seasons.” But Joseph Fielding Smith may have said it, too.

  2. This all may be moot with the updated clarifications to policy today but…

    I think you are caught up too much on this “punishment”.

    Were the other 11 tribes of Israel “punished” because only the Levites could hold the priesthood?

    Again I refer you to Matthew 10:5-6. Were the Gentiles “punished” because the gospel wasn’t (and thus the ordinances and priesthood) were withheld from them for a time?

    The 2nd article of faith that you are referencing was written specifically about the idea that we are born sinners. it was in response to the catholic teaching of original sin. In Mosiah 13 we are told that God is a jealous God and visits “the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third & fourth generations of them that hate me”.

    The Book of Mormon references “traditions” in both positive and negative ways. I highly recommend this article from the ensign: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1972/11/the-traditions-of-their-fathers?lang=eng

    No matter how supportive same sex parents may be they will teach by example certain traditions that are in direct conflict with DOCTRINE (not policy).

    Consider the following three purposes of disciplinary measures:
    1.To aid the transgressors’ repentance
    2.To identify unrepentant predators and hostile apostates and thereby protect innocent persons from harm they might inflict. “But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people” (3 Ne. 18:31).
    3.To safeguard the integrity of the Church

    The Apostles have to juggle spreading the gospel and safeguarding the integrity of the church. Doctrine v Policy.

    No one is ultimately being denied salvation or the ordinances of the gospel. There is no punishment here.

    • “Were the other 11 tribes of Israel “punished” because only the Levites could hold the priesthood?”

      An apples-to-apples comparison, since we’re talking about baptism, a universally necessary saving ordinance, would be more akin to kicking an innocent Levite out of Israel altogether and telling them they can’t come back until they’re 18.

      That would clearly constitute punishment.

      “The 2nd article of faith that you are referencing was written specifically about the idea that we are born sinners. it was in response to the catholic teaching of original sin. In Mosiah 13 we are told that God is a jealous God and visits ‘the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third & fourth generations of them that hate me'”

      You are correct that the 2nd Article of Faith was written specifically to address the false doctrine of original sin. It has also been consistently interpreted by prophets and members alike to mean that while we won’t be punished for Adam’s transgressions, we won’t be punished for anyone else’s, either. That’s rock solid doctrinal ground.

      As for “visiting iniquities” down to the fourth generation, that seems to have reference more to that fact that sins have generational consequences, and parental sins tend to inspire children to sin, which perpetuates a generational cycle of sin. Surely this scripture doesn’t claim that God will refuse to accept the righteous repentance of someone who seeks Him despite the iniquity of their parents.

      “No one is ultimately being denied salvation or the ordinances of the gospel. There is no punishment here.”

      Children are being denied the opportunity to have the Gift of the Holy Ghost, the Aaronic priesthood, and full participation in the church throughout their adolescence, regardless of their personal worthiness and solely because of who their parents are. That’s punishment, all right.

      • I respectfully disagree based on “where much is given much is required” and they would not be able to truly do what is required.

        From the priesthood manual the duties of a deacon include: “Warn, expound, exhort, and teach, and invite all to come unto Christ.” I think it’s a punishment to ask a 12 year old boy who holds the priesthood and thus the authority to teach others the law of chastity and that marriage is between a man and a woman as the proclamation on the family states yet turn a blind eye at home. You are asking them to live a double standard. You would punish them with this extra burden.

        I realize that this is one of those issues that will not be resolved to the satisfaction of all unfortunately.

        • We ask that of children in the church all the time, rasberre, as many of them are raised in environments hostile to church standards. In those cases, the Church can provide a spiritual anchor that allows them to deal with the strife at home. Why would you not want children who have to live with that hostility to have the Gift of the Holy Ghost?

  3. Is this really a thing in the church? The notion that children of parents in a same-sex relationship are worse at making their own moral choices? More than children of parents who are guilty of any other type of sin (except polygamy)? And as a result they should be barred from receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost until they reach adulthood? These arguments just tend to make me feel worse and worse about the state of affairs. All is not well in zion.

    • If anyone is saying that, they’re wrong. If I understand Elder Christofferson correctly (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/handbook-changes-same-sex-marriages-elder-christofferson?cid=HP_WE_11-11-2015_dPAD_fMNWS_xLIDyL1-B_), the thinking is as follows:

      1) The family unit is the most important unit in the gospel.
      2) Minor children should not be put in the position of having to choose between their families and the church.
      3) To prevent this conflict, minor children who live with same-sex parents cannot be placed on the records of the church, or baptized, and must be of legal age to receive these or subsequent ordinances.

        • Jim you are not the first i have heard to mention this. Also i have heard people throw out there not only active parents but recommend holding parents.

          • I see that the squirrels are hungry this morning. To further address your point, I think that in cases of apostasy where the type of apostasy impinges on the marriage covenant, the church handles the children differently. I’ll venture to guess that it has to do with the way the children are raised to view marriage, and that the Brethren want to be sure that they are aware of the consequences of the decision to join the church.

  4. The people who feel comfortable with this are the same ones who, when a policy or law (within any organization or country) supports their ideals, say, “If you don’t like it, leave, No one is forcing you to be here.” Yet when a policy or law goes against their own particular set of beliefs, would never apply that same statement to themselves. Indeed, they vehemently oppose such an idea, and defend their right to speak out, to protest, and to try to affect change.