LDS Leaders often frown on popular speakers. Why is that? In our next conversation with Dr. Margaret Toscano, we’ll talk about how popular speakers create a problem for leaders who might not be so charismatic. She thinks this lack of charisma leads to other movements, such as Denver Snuffer’s movement that has broken off from the mainstream LDS Church over the past few years.
Margaret: One of the big problems in any organization, and the church basically has done this by kind of downplaying the charismatic. You see this in the church, I don’t know how this is manifest now, but I remember when I was young, which is long time ago, that they were always afraid of the popular church speaker. George Pace. Remember George pace at BYU? Did you ever know about that?
GT: No, I don’t think so. Paul Dunn is the one that comes to mind.
Margaret: Yes, but he was a church leader. But even so, that’s frightening. What if you have somebody who’s more interesting and spiritually powerful than the Prophet of the church?
GT: That’s a problem.
Margaret: It’s a problem. So let’s not encourage that. Most of your listeners probably don’t know. We’ll get into this little tangent. George Pace was a very popular religion teacher at BYU. He emphasized having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and spiritual experiences and transformation. The church saw him is very dangerous. He had a huge following. He wrote a book. At church education, he was the most popular speaker. Everybody wanted to hear him. Well, Bruce McConkie, who is sort of the predecessor of Boyd Packer, did not like that and gave a talk. He did two things. I’m not sure I have my facts right, but he did something to curb–basically, I think that Pace was threatened, of losing his job if he didn’t sort of walk away from all of that.
GT: Start speaking poorly?
Margaret Or not speak, and not publish. [It was] kind of what I was threatened with, not publishing, not speaking. You can lose your job. He’s not the only one that happened to, again this. There’s a lot of history lost, right? Then Bruce McConkie got up and he gave a talk about the danger of having a personal relationship with Christ, which of course, on one level, you kind of laugh and think, how can that be bad?
What are your thoughts about popular speakers? Do you agree with Margaret?
We will also try to tackle the question as to whether the Relief Society was intended by Joseph Smith to be a priesthood quorum. Margaret describes an answer to prayer, in which she found historical records describing Joseph Smith starting the Relief Society and organizing the women as a quorum of priestesses. She describes how Joseph Smith’s theology of priesthood are larger than we have today. We also discuss the Community of Christ revelation in 1984 in which women were ordained, just like the men. Is that what Joseph Smith had in mind?
GT: Do you think that Joseph would have advocated for women to be ordained as a Priest, Teacher, Deacon, Elder, Apostle, Bishop? Is that what his plan was?
Margaret: I mean, who knows? I think that his theology justifies that. I want to go back to the Relief Society. So in those speeches in Nauvoo, he told the women that he wanted the Relief Society organized according to the order of the ancient priesthood, and that their organization was a priesthood organization, they were essential for the church being in the right order. The church could not be in the right order without the Relief Society as a priesthood organization. I think he says that clearly. I mean, you can always argue whether it’s clear or not. But that’s my interpretation.
Do you think Joseph intended the Relief Society to be a quorum? Has the Relief Society’s spiritual growth been stifled?