Update 9/7/18: On Friday, September 7th, Facebook user Michael Benjamin reported that President Nelson’s quote about the exclusion policy is being removed from this year’s Doctrinal Mastery Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Teacher Material. The quote has already been removed on the website version of the document, replaced with a quote from President Nelson’s April 2018 General Conference address, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives.” The document has not been changed in the Gospel Library app or downloadable PDF form, though that is anticipated soon.
This year’s crop of seminary students will learn about how prophets receive revelation by studying the creation of the November 2015 exclusion policy. In the new Doctrinal Mastery Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Teacher Material, seminary teachers are instructed to share President Russell M. Nelson’s January 2016 statement during the Prophets and Revelation lesson (Part 1). In that, Nelson explains how leaders came to embrace the exclusion policy as the divine solution to a “thorny problem.” (It’s even suggested that teachers print out the statement so students have their own hard copy).
I’m assuming that seminary teachers will also explain how this monumental revelation was revealed to the rest of the Church. Not by special announcement or via general conference. Nope, modern-day revelation is revealed by people leaking updates to secret handbooks on social media, followed by the scrambling of Church leaders and public affairs responding to media inquiries. Welcome to the latter days.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time someone has tried to put Nelson’s exclusion-policy-as-revelation statement in the seminary curriculum. As I reported two years ago, Nelson’s statement initially appeared in the Doctrinal Mastery New Testament Teacher Material when the Doctrinal Mastery program was brand new. Within a few months, that statement was removed as well as statements indicating the temple and priesthood ban was divinely inspired. If you compare the two screen captures, you can tell that the current 2018 instructions and questions surrounding Nelson’s statement is based heavily on the redacted 2016 material (Segment 6, shown below).
But, realistically, what did curriculum writers have to work with? President Oaks recently shared in general conference the “revelatory process” whereby the brethren developed the Family Proclamation, but a year-long revelation-by-committee isn’t very exciting. There’s a really cool account by Elder Bruce R. McConkie on how the brethren received a confirming witness for the June 1978 revelation, but that’s a private document that MormonLeaks obtained via ethically questionable means. The brethren are notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to how they receive revelation. President Dallin H. Oaks once explained to a group in Boise that church leaders keep spiritual experiences close to the chest because, with modern technology, private statements can be broadcast to the world. They don’t want to “cast pearls before swine.” Of course, the only reason I know of Oaks’ explanation is because someone leaked a recording of that meeting online.
However, there is a bright side to Nelson’s statement popping up in the seminary curriculum. Just as students will see in their study of the Doctrine & Covenants and Church history, revelation comes from provocation (Ordain Women likes President Hinckley’s wording of “agitation”). The brethren wrestle with “thorny” issues, prompting their looking to the heavens for solutions. Nelson indicated that this was the case for the 2012 missionary age-change, which is not something I realized when President Monson made the announcement. It seemed to come out of the blue, but clearly church leaders were trying to fix something.
Question: What do you think about seminary students basing their understanding of prophetic revelation on the exclusion policy?