Today’s Guest Post is from Bruce Nielson.
I had a long conversation with a Mormon friend on the internet in which he said something that got me curious how members of the LDS church would answer or react to certain question or questions. I am going to ask the questions using language as clear as I can, which requires the language to be a bit more blunt than you might normally want. But I do not feel it’s an unfair or unclear question as worded:
Does the LDS Church’s magisterium (i.e. what LDS members call “The Brethren”) teach that the collection of all religious or priesthood authorities (or equivalent) of all religions in the world can be split into two broad categories?:
- A single priesthood authority that is Divine, namely that of the LDS Church.
- All other religious authorities of all other religions, which are man-made.
If you answer ‘YES’ to the first question (i.e. CAN be split into those two broad caregories), here is the follow-on question:
- Does this mean that the LDS Church’s magisterium teaches that there is a sense in which the President of the LDS Church (i.e. what they call “The Prophet”) is not only the prophet over all LDS church members in the world, but even non-LDS members?
If you answer ‘NO’ to the first question (i.e. can NOT be split into those two broad categories), here is a follow-on question:
- Has the LDS Church (or rather the magisterium of the LDS Church, or “The Brethren”) ever in its history taught that their Prophets are infallible?
Important Note: It’s well known that Mormons believe other religions have truth in them, God inspires their leaders at times, and God respects or even accepts their authority in some senses or areas. The questions have been carefully worded to not imply that the leaders of the church teach that “all other churches are fully man made and non-divine in any sense” or anything long those lines. The questions are carefully worded as best as was possible to ask about if you understand the LDS Church Leaders as teach there is a qualitative difference about how they view their priesthood vs that of other religions and if that difference is or isn’t split solely by the boundary lines of the LDS Church.
Note: Please read the whole rest of the post so you won’t mistakenly break the experiment by not following the rules. It is VERY hard to ask or answer questions like this with minimal ambiguity and the explanations below should help you understand the intent of the questions and what the rules are for how to give an answer.
Points of clarification:
- This is not intended to be a trick question. It is supposed to be as straightforward and obvious as it seems. So don’t over think it or attempt to read anything into it beyond the most obvious reading/meaning or you will likely be perceived as answering differently than you intend.
- There is no doubt that with some clever thought and careful interpretation, you can answer these questions any way you wish. (As can be done with literally any question and answer.) That isn’t the point of the test and directly violates #1. Simply answer which ever way is ‘best’ or ‘most accurate’ or given the two options of Yes or No.
- Because Yes / No answers are always a little uncomfortable due to the loss of nuance, you are free (and in fact encouraged) to then go on and nuance your answer however you see fit so as to not be misunderstood.
- But please do not insist on rewriting the questions first before answering or refusing to answer the questions at all and instead start commenting. The Yes / No response is imperative to reducing certain kinds of ambiguity or misunderstanding. If you do not do that, you will likely be perceived as answering differently than you intend.
- If you really and truly cannot see that either Yes or No is a better answer, then you may then answer ‘I cannot answer the questions as currently worded’ and then go on to explain why. However, I want to emphasize again that this is not a trick or trap question and even an answer of ‘I can’t…’ — no matter how much nuance you put into it — is likely to be perceived differently than you intend because of your refusal to pick a best answer. You are far more likely to be correctly understood if you follow the rules I am laying out. Still, ‘I can’t’ is an answer open to you if you really don’t see a ‘best’ answer of Yes or No.
- Some have commented that the questions, to them, have a bit of a bite because they are put more straightforwardly than some would want for fear that it would be misunderstood by a non-LDS person. That is why I’m offering you a chance to give nuance afterwards. But there honestly was no better way to word the question that wouldn’t have led to ambiguities that would ruing the whole experiment.
- This is also why I can’t allow you to rewrite the questions first or not give a Yes / No (or Can’t) answer first.
- This question is solely about those alive and mortal today. So it was not intended to ask anything about, say, the modern church vs the primitive church.
- I am not asking what you personally believe about the LDS Church and its authority. Nor is it a question about what you think members as a whole believe in comparison to what the magisterium teaches. It is not even a question about what LDS scripture teaches on the subject except in so far as it might relate to the modern teachings of the LDS Church. This is specifically a question about what the leaders of the Church teach today.
- Because of the above point, this question is open to non-LDS people to answer as well, though in that case you need to state in your answer that you are non-LDS. I will be assuming you are LDS if you don’t state one way or the other. However, if you are non-LDS and don’t know the answer, please don’t answer at all.
- Given the above explanations, you should answer preferably either ‘yes’, ‘no’ based on which is the ‘best’ or ‘most accurate’ answer. The ‘I can’t answer as currently worded’ option is for if you really just can’t figure out how to answer it ‘best’ as currently worded. The option to add nuance after the answer is meant to allow you to feel comfortable that you aren’t being held solely to only the Yes/No.
- However, the experiment will not work if it isn’t obvious that you primarily intended a Yes or No and I have to guess which you are closest to after the fact. If I have to do that, I will just remove the answer and not count it. That is why I will remove comments that don’t take a definitive stance as Yes/No or ‘I cannot answer as currently worded and here is why…’
- You must answer both questions. (Some leniency on this if you just seem to have forgotten. I’ll then ask you to give the second answer.
- This is not a trap question. A trap question is one that doesn’t allow you to fully nuance your answer. You are being encouraged to do so once you’ve given your best answer first.
Please put your answers into the comments below. Feel free to add whatever thoughts you have on the subject or explanation that you feel needs to go with your yes/no answer. Part of what I’m looking for is how people will perceive the questions being asked, so feel free to even just tell me your feelings about the questions being asked. (i.e. are they simple, complicated, tricky, good questions, stupid questions, etc.) However, a simple “1. Yes, 2. No” or whatever is fine too and you don’t need to make any further comments.
Rules for Posting: All answers should start with “yes/no/can’t answer as worded.” Then you can elaborate. To enter the conversation, I want to be sure everyone is on the same page. I am okay with discussion about the answers (and even criticism of other people’s answers) if and only if you first answer the questions yourself as per the rules above.