The Church released a statement concerning the DACA debate.

Take a moment to read it for yourself; the post will be here when you return.  🙂

As a military analyst this is somewhat outside of my specialty, though I have tons of experience with people using selective proof texts to support their position. That is why I wanted to post this now, and then see radical right wingers try to explain away the church’s support for some kind of path to citizenship. I know it will happen because I found that people with the desire will minimize or maximize the statements, scriptures, and talks to their own benefit. (Some of them do it to such an extent that the church has to issue a clarification.) I’ve seen it from every political persuasion so I’m not just attacking one side, though it was a conservative that blatantly ignored the church statement on immigration back in 2011 that crystallized this concept for me.

Because I’ve noticed it for so long, it still happens, and it will likely happen this weekend, I’m re-posting something I wrote in 2012 that illustrates an example of an annoying radical libertarian that beat people over the heads using quotes that agreed with him, but minimized the statements of prophets that disagreed with him.  While its not the same exact subject, it’s important to be aware of the filters through which we understand, apply, judge, discount, or change the words of LDS officials. (For bonus points it also expresses my annoyance with a particular blogger that happened to be a complete jerk this week. Some things never change I suppose.)

With 6 years of hindsight I would change a few things about the post, such as making the prose a bit stronger, clarifying a few ideas, addressing the authoritative status of newsroom statements (which are higher than most think), and discussing the likelihood of Christ having pr guy if he lived today.  I also address a slightly different topic so where necessary you can change the nouns to “hard line anti-immigration” or “radical no borders liberal,” but the main point remains timely and applicable.

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A short time ago I wrote about the duplicticty of the anti war critic. I argued that when the prophet agrees with their political views the critics mistakenly attach too much weight to that statement. Then they use those words as a cudgel with which to beat their opponents. When a prophet does not agree with them, they use various qualifiers to negate their words. These include arguments that they are only speaking as a man, speaking under the cultural influence of the day, or simply giving their non-binding opinion. While this sounds disrespectful towards a prophet, the last reason is actually the correct approach as outlined by the church. So critics proof text their favorite quotes which agree with their political leanings, and then apply an inappropriate amount of weight to them. They take their cherry picked arguments and beat their opponents over the head with them. And they cast aside their words when they don’t agree.

With this summary you should be able to gather why I disagree with large parts of this interview here. Boyack sponsored a billboard called war like people and his words are a  classic example of cherry picking non-binding quotes to support a political agenda.

But in the interview Boyack also makes it clear in answering question 9, and in comment 7, that he uses prophet’s words that support his viewpoints, and ignores those that don’t. (If you haven’t already, please take a moment to see the answer 9 and comment 7 for yourself.) This is a word for word example of the duplicity of the antiwar critic.  Church doctrine resides in the scriptures and official proclamations. Statements outside of that are well considered opinions and not binding on the church, especially political opponents.

The problem comes when Boyack wants the freedom to ignore church council based on “circumstantial” statements, but then sees the need to cherry pick quotes in his warlike site, and in his foreign policy views and books, so he can then castigate those with whom he disagrees.

While Boyack is simply the most current example, this happens all the time. So I will summarize my feelings on the matter below:

1. I feel it is inappropriate to proof text a prophet’s words to support your political position. Anti-mormons use Brigham Young quotes to say all sorts of things that don’t represent Mormon doctrine. Yet antiwar quotes get a different treatment from some people. Randi Bott used words from past prophets and was soundly censored by the church. President Kimball said:“Please avoid, even by implication, involving the Church in political issues. It is so easy, if we are not careful, to project our personal preferences as the position of the Church on an issue.”

2. It is even more inappropriate to question the spirituality of those that disagree with your proof texted position. (I call people wrong all the time, but I’ve never called anybody names or personally attacked them. Although Geoff B. at the Millennial Star is sure tempting me.)

3. The problem is compounded because the church has clearly specified where doctrine comes from; it is not from a smattering of talks or isolated statements from past pacifist prophets.

4. The prophets have, at the very least, contradictory positions on warfare. So what ends up occurring is something I call “prophet bashing”, where people take their various proof texted positions and proceed to beat each other the head with them. (I borrow the term from “bible bashing” that occurs so frequently on a mission.) So you have people who take the GAs that agree with them, like Clark from the 30s and 40s, while explaining away those that don’t, such as Hinckley from 2003, and vice versa. I feel this is not a behavior that loving Latter Day Saints should use against their brothers and sisters in the gospel. Again, it is extremely inappropriate to declare a position buttressed by your reading of non-doctrinal texts to browbeat and label your opponents as unrighteous.

5. Since the standard works proclaim doctrine and isolated talks do not, I focus on the former. It is a major reason why I have a website devoted to the study of the warfare in The Book of Mormon.

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Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for those minimizing and maximizing statements.

What do you think of the church’s statement?

Does it change your views, why or why not?

Now that you are older and hopefully wiser, are there any moments you regret but want to share anyway about prophet bashing?

Did you ever see that billboard in Utah Country? Was it as annoying as it seemed?