An interesting, ongoing discussion is currently underway at the Feminist Mormon Housewives blog site. Begun by blogger fMhLisa exploring rebellion as a virtue (e.g., civil disobedience toward racial discrimination), the ensuing comment discussion has evolved into a consideration of modern revelation and rebellion in the LDS Church, including the treatment of rebels within Mormon culture. Responding to a previous comment, fMhLisa wrote:
…really more to the point I was trying to make is just the general distrust and comfortable vilification of rebels that is practiced in Mormon culture. (comment #15)
This led to a comment by Quimby:
…I am hopeful…that this is one of my ward’s many strange quirks, and it is not representative of the church as a whole; but in my ward, if you happen to disagree with any one of about four High Priests – even if you have scriptures and prophetic teaching to back you up – you are bullied either into submission or into tears. Blind obedience to these four men and their backwards ideas is enforced by the vocal majority, and of course they justify it by saying they know God’s will better than you do, so if you disagree with them, you’re rebelling against God. (#17)
A follow-up comment expressed a wish to be able to take concerns in the LDS Church to the writer’s “hierarchal leader,” but wisdom would dictate otherwise. Bored in Vernal wrote:
Quimby’s ward is not so different from the ones I have attended. And I find it very sad to say that even in the cases when I have felt a spiritual prompting to push the envelope, I have not rebelled, because I value my Church membership and I am scared. (#33)
Other Latter-day Saints on the blog express their hopes that they, as individuals, would have the courage to stick with any convictions they might develop via personal revelation or conscience, though these principles may be contrary to pronouncements from Church leadership. Tom wrote, “…let the consequence follow, whether it be shunning or church discipline or whatever” (#28).
First quoting another comment (#21), Steve M. contributed this thoughtful observation:
You can call it “the party line” or “the official position of Church leadership” or “God’s word” or whatever, but to embrace and celebrate individuals’ claims to revelation that are incompatible with and contrary to official Church doctrine and policy would be to undermine the very foundation of the Church: revelation from Christ to prophets and apostles. There are churches that embrace each person’s individualized truth. The Church of Jesus Christ isn’t, and never has been, one of them.But since that revelation is coming through humans, it is necessarily imperfect. This is evidenced by the fact that in the Church’s short history, numerous apostles and prophets have contradicted one another.
To illustrate: It’s now standard practice to teach that Adam and Heavenly Father are separate beings, but there was a time when that assertion contradicted what the President of the Church was teaching. Brigham Young taught that acceptance or rejection of the Adam-God doctrine “will either seal the damnation or salvation of [men]” (Journal of Wilford Woodruff, April 9, 1852). Men like Orson Pratt were vocal in their opposition to the doctrine, and Brigham Young responded that it would “destroy him if he does not repent & turn from his evil ways” (Journal of Wilford Woodruff, March 11, 1856). Yet, in a matter of decades, the Church had abandoned the doctrine that Orson Hyde was rebelling against.
So how do we view Orson Hyde? As a near-apostate? I mean, he directly contradicted the President of the Church, who was claiming revelation from God, right? But his view of Adam and God was more in line with what the modern Church teaches than Brigham’s view. In the context of modern Mormonism, he would be considered more correct than President Young. While he was considered a rebel at the time, it seems that history has vindicated him.
So what are we to do if we find our conscience in opposition to what the present authorities are teaching about some issue? Force ourselves to accept something with which we disagree? I don’t think that’s the way to go. I mean, can we safely assume that, in another 25, 50, or 100 years, General Authorities will still be teaching the same thing? If Church history is any indication, then the answer is no. Today’s heresies might be tomorrow’s doctrines.
As for myself, I’ll stick with my own intuition, spiritual experiences, and conscience. (#24)
This is the same thinking that has led to so many schisms in the LDS Church. Though Mormons are often quick to say that Mormonism has done away with spiritual confusion, this is not the case. In its relatively short history, the Restoration has produced hundreds of churches and groups based on “intuition, spiritual experiences, and conscience.” Many are holding on to yesterday’s doctrines, which today, according to the LDS Church, must be rejected as heresies.
It seems that Mormons are between a rock and a hard place. If a Mormon receives personal revelation (for which faithful Mormons have earned the right), if that revelation is contrary to “official” teaching, what is he to do? If he chooses his personal revelation (“intuition, spiritual experiences, and conscience”), he puts himself in a state of rebellion against God’s chosen representatives. If he chooses the official teaching, he puts himself in a state of rebellion against what he understands to be God Himself. It’s a tough call.
Late LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wasn’t at all helpful in clarifying the proper course of action when he counseled,
We will be judged by what we believe among other things. If we believe false doctrine, we will be condemned. If that belief is on basic and fundamental things, it will lead us astray and we will lose our souls….those at the head of the Church have the obligation to teach that which is in harmony with the Standard Works. If they err, then be silent on the point and leave the event in the hands of the Lord. Some day all of us will stand before the judgment bar and be accountable for our teachings. And where there have been disagreements the Lord will judge between us. (Letter from Bruce McConkie to Eugene England, February 19, 1981, 7-9)
No wonder Bored in Vernal is scared.