This article, hot off the press at the Salt Lake Tribune: “LDS apostle vows support for social-justice groups — as long as they’re not undercutting the Constitution.” The article summarizes remarks by Elder Quentin L. Cook to faculty at BYU-Provo on Monday, August 24, 2020. Here is a quote from the article:
“We all support peaceful efforts to overcome racial and social injustice. This needs to be accomplished,” Elder Quentin L. Cook told faculty at the church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo. And he urged his listeners to “be on the forefront of righteously repenting and following the counsel of [LDS Church] President Russell M. Nelson, who asked us to ‘build bridges of cooperation rather than walls of segregation.'”
Sounds good. Now for the sort of. Again, quoting from the article:
“Some, intentionally or not, are trying to undermine our country’s founding history and the United States Constitution,” Cook said. “Whether by intention or by myopia, both effects are regrettable. … My concern is that some are also trying to undermine the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights that has blessed this country and protected people of all faiths.”
Of course, he added “We need to protect religious freedom.” He also defended Brigham Young from the charge of racism and claimed that, in responding to criticism, “We are certainly among the least aggressive in defending ourselves against obviously untrue and/or unfair criticism.” You might think he is suggesting all criticism of the Church or BYU is either untrue or unfair, but the article adds, paraphrasing Elder Cook: “When church or BYU administrators do not respond, it does not mean the criticism is justified.” He is not really addressing the question of what criticism might be justified and how the Church should respond when criticism is justified. Most likely by labeling the justified criticism as unfair and unjustified.
Elder Cook threw in one more encouragement to take social justice issues seriously:
Knowing the faith’s history of being marginalized and persecuted, he said, should give members courage to stand with the marginalized today, ‘to bear one another’s burdens,’ to ‘mourn with those that mourn,’ and ‘comfort those that stand in need of comfort.’
The LDS Newsroom also posted a summary of Elder Cook’s remarks. From the Newsroom article:
“A principal purpose for me today is to encourage you in your efforts to bless and guide the rising generation, to correct falsehood and matters taken out of context in a loving and kind way,” Elder Cook told faculty in a prerecorded message streamed during the first day of BYU’s annual university conference.
And here’s a fuller quotation for the qualification to the support for social justice. Religion is apparently never part of the problem.
“Some, intentionally or not, are trying to undermine our country’s founding history and the United States Constitution,” Elder Cook said. “Whether by intention or by myopia, both effects are regrettable. … We all support peaceful efforts to overcome racial and social injustice. This needs to be accomplished. My concern is that some are also trying to undermine the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights that has blessed this country and protected people of all faiths. We need to protect religious freedom. Far too many have turned from the worship of and accountability to God.”
So here’s the question: Does the Church support civil rights and social justice? Or do various qualifications amount to the opposite? Think, for example, of the claim that it is okay to have questions or doubts in the Church … as long as you don’t share your doubts in Sunday School or with others at church on Sunday. So it’s not really okay to have questions or doubts unless you convincingly pretend you don’t have them. Maybe the Church supports civil rights and social justice in theory … as long as you don’t put it into practice by doing anything like marching and shouting about current problems, or pointing out ways that former LDS leaders or current LDS policy falls short of the ideal or even the reasonably achievable.
I really value neutrality generally from the Church. I don’t want the Church talking about political issues, social issues, personal issues, etc. Just focus on Christ and Christianity. But unfortunately, given the Church’s history and background with respect to its treatment of women, blacks, native Americans, and LGBQs, I don’t think neutrality is good enough anymore.
The Church is much more concerned about pornography and the traditional roles of family members than it is the social justice of the groups I mentioned. That is clear based on what the GAs talk about and what they don’t talk about in General Conference. You would think we’d hear more about looking out for the marginalized in society. But you’re more likely to hear about poor widows than abused minorities (think President Monson). And I always wonder: how many poor widows are out there that really need our attention relative to these other groups?
I read and enjoyed Reza Aslan’s Zealot and found his argument for ‘Jesus as revolutionary’ compelling. The Romans reserved crucifixion for crimes against the state, which says a lot about how Rome viewed Christ, especially since there’s little chance they ever saw him as anything more than an apocalyptic Jewish preacher among many apocalyptic Jewish preachers. And that’s the thing. Christ hung out with the wrong people, advocated for the dregs of society, openly criticized commercialism and societal hierarchies. Those aren’t the actions of someone who wanted to preserve the norm. Would Christ have said, “My goal is to peacefully change how Rome treats Jews.”?
I like for church leaders to teach correct principles, and then to let the members govern themselves. I really wouldn’t like the idea of church leaders using their positions for social-justice-warrioring, and trying to draft me because I belong to his or her stake, ward, quorum, or other grouping. It seems better to me when each member is anxiously engaged in a good cause of his or her own free choice.
I am not so sure that the church is squarely on the side of social justice. They most certainly weren’t in the ’60s. They are a little more today. Their stance on immigration is certainly more liberal, to the chagrin of many more conservative LDS. On the George Floyd murder, they were slow and cautious to speak up, but eventually sort of coming around.
In the question posed at the end of his post, Dave B. asks whether adding “various qualifications” amounts to the opposite, vis—vis the Church’s support (or lack of support) of civil rights and social justice.
The mindset behind the question concerns me, because it seems to me that it assumes that civil rights and social justice are rights that conflict with those outlined in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, and the concerns articulated by Quentin Cook about religious freedom.
I would be very happy if my interpretation is wrong.
The concept that people cannot have Freedom A while also enjoying Freedom B is fundamentally an attempt to limit do-called “lesser” rights. The problem is, who gets to decide which are the “lesser” rights that should be limited? Anyone who feels that they would like to, or are qualified to, decide that issue, is someone who is comfortable with telling other people what they have to do.
Color me libertarian. I don’t like attempts, whether on the Left or the Right, to tell me how I should live my life. I prefer to make that decision, myself. This applies to both politics AND religion. I joined the Church at the age of 22, because I wanted to. But it is I who will continue to define just HOW I will be a Mormon. Not the self-appointed right hands of God who like to tell me what I have to do or believe to be a good Member, whether so-called TBMs or Progmos.
The reason we have the Bill of Rights and the Constitution is to provide a framework for a civil society that is composed of various groups to maximize individual liberty fir all in a non-chaotic way. If we set aside the Bill of Rights and the Constitution in the pursuit of civil rights and social justice, then we lose something very precious.
The American experiment in freedom is founded on another document, the Declaration of Independence: we hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that to ensure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
So I will continue to support efforts that make our society more just, humane, tolerant, and inclusive, AND that maximize individual freedom.
We are literally children of God. Individuals. We are members of groups, and groups all too often treat other groups badly. But when I account to God for my life, He will judge me as an individual.
No matter how many zeroes you place after a 1, ultimately, they are still zeroes.
“[E]ventually sort of coming around” is the perfect summary. Thanks for that, John W. The Church’s pace of change is slow, but it is real. Things are different now than they were in the 60s. The word “pornography” appears much less frequently in conference talks now than it did when I was a youth – and I’m in my early 30s. It’s not surprising that change is slow, given that Church leaders tend to be old, culturally isolated, and socially and politically conservative. It’s a recipe for cultural molasses.
Yes, in the meantime, people get hurt. Many leave. Tragically, some commit suicide. For those people, I am devastated that our leaders are not better informed, more compassionate, more open to revelatory change. But things are getting better, bit by bit, and I am glad about that. And (whip out the calculus) the rate of change appears to be accelerating. I just hope the second derivative of change stays mostly above zero. Otherwise, I think too many will decide to leave, creating a feedback loop that slows or reverses change.
I understand that many members don’t want their church to advocate for social justice concerns and I would imagine many would echo ji’s libertarian ethos. My question is this: If you don’t want the church to advocate for BLM, why is it okay to jump in the deep end on Prop 8? What both a non-existent advocacy of civil rights in the 60s and a full-throated opposition to gay marriage have in common is that both deal with the church’s desire to do exactly what it wants up to and including boundary maintenance with regard to certain groups that shine a bright light on doctrinal and historical problems. The catch all for that boundary maintenance now is ‘religious freedom’ because nothing calls people of a certain mindset to the barricades more effectively and rapidly than ‘[insert modifier here] freedom.’ I get it. Freedom from fear and want is antiquated; freedom to dislike those guys over there is all the rage.
And Ji, ask Helmuth Hubener how your approach worked out for him. On just a few issues, leaders’ silence = their complicity.
As pointed out by Jaredsbrother and others, the church will speak out and become active in the public sphere when it considers something to be a “moral issue” (like Prop 8). Historically, what are these so-called moral issues the church deems worthy of using its political and public voice for? Here are a few that come to mind: anti-LGBT, traditional gender roles (ERA), Word of Wisdom (Prohibition, Utah alcohol regulations), state-run lotteries, and of course pornography and anything to do with sex. There have been small statements here and there about racism and treatment of immigrants – but not important enough to be incorporated in curriculum or significantly expounded on in a general conference address (Elder Kearon’s talk on refugees was a notable exception).
What does this tell us about the church’s morals and how they compare with the teachings of Jesus and the OT prophets? One might expect the temple recommend questions and treading the “covenant path” – those things that represent the pinnacle of church membership – to be concerned with having the highest moral character. But they are concerned with boundary maintenance, institutional loyalty, a food code, paying tithing, and of course sexual sin. Jesus was not very kind to religious leaders who put rules above the welfare of people: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.”
And how do we as a church measure up to Isaiah’s great social-justice injunction?: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” Based on what I hear in church and what is taught by its highest leaders, I think we fall far short. The virtues we value above all others – obedience, testimony, sexual purity – have their place, but omit the weightier matters of justice and mercy taught by Jesus and the OT prophets in my opinion.
The problem I see with the church being quiet on politics is that they are not starting from a neutral position. The regular members already believe the church is ultra conservative. Partly this is due to its position on gay marriage, discrimination against women, and interpretation of statement on abortion as pro life. And to history.
And from this position silence says, you are right we are ultra conservative, you could not possibly vote democrat. Example from comments on voting on meridian
“This is all good advice to follow good principles. However, for those who may not be aware, Marxism is the antithesis of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Marxism is professed anti-Christ. According to Karl Marx, existing society, including religion and families, must be destroyed, and then his followers can “stride through the wreckage and create a new society.” Couple this with the fact that Marxists have totally permeated the Democrat Party. This is not a theory nor an opinion, this is plain fact. November 3 is the most important election in American history since the Civil War.”
I can not get anyone to explain what the democrats are advocating that is marxist? Is it universal healthcare, addressing climate change ( while you have unprecidented fires, and consecutive hurricanes)is it social justice?
So this statement is positive. Sad he could not go unconditional. How does social justice for poor and minorities undermine the constitution, or bill of rights, why did he have to add this?
Being ultra conservative is part of being a “good” member.
I am just confused about what Elder Cook means when he says he supports social justice as long as it doesn’t undermine the US constitution. How does social justice undermine the constitution? Can someone give an example? I really can’t think of any.
I’m always a bit befuddled and confused when church leaders insist that civil rights must be balanced with religious freedom, or in this case, the Bill of Rights. This has been going on for a long time. The church surprisingly came out in support of an anti-discrimination measure in Utah, but only when It included exceptions for religion. In past years the church has opposed hate-crime legislation on the grounds that it would upset the balance of religious freedom. Whuuuut?
And this headline: “LDS apostle vows support for social-justice groups — as long as they’re not undercutting the Constitution.”
First off, I don’t think it accurately summarizes cook’s comments, which refer specifically to the bill of rights. That aside, protecting the Constitution doesn’t require us to limit civil rights. Now, I love the Constitution, but it’s far from perfect, and never was. And many civil rights movements have aimed to improve the Constitution. How about that three-fifths compromise? And the right to vote?
I have wonder what freedoms are enshrined in the Bill of Rights that Elder Cook wants to protect from social justice warriors? I have my guesses, but the church leaders generally won’t say it outright. What civil rights must be denied to others so that Elder Cook can be comfortable that our other freedoms will be maintained?
It’s all doublespeak. I mean, Trump undermines the Constitution. So maybe he was somehow making a super veiled pointed about that?
It’s troubling, disorienting, and, in the end, very unhelpful that the ‘mouthpieces’ can’t use words more precisely. Most of what we hear is so vague that it almost means nothing. Might as well listen to the same thing over and over again on repeat. You won’t get any wiser from it.
You are very uncharitable in likening me to the Nazi murderers of Helmuth Huebener. But he did right, exactly what I wrote. He did not wait for his church leaders to tell him what to do — he acted on his own on a matter that was important to him. Good for him.
Others Who Downvote,
You need to think a little more, and read what I actually wrote. If church leaders start social-justice-warrioring, maybe for a while the old stake president might have the members out marching for his favorite cause — then, the new stake president will have us out marching for his favorite cause on one Saturday, and the bishop will have us out on the next Saturday for his favorite cause. Maybe you like the idea of being sheeple, but I don’t. I would rather advocate for causes that are important to me. Church leaders should teach correct principles, and then let the members govern themselves, as the Prophet Joseph Smith said. It seems better to me when each member is anxiously engaged in a good cause of his or her own free choice.
Ji, I also resent being drafted into political issues by my ward / stake. So imagine my discomfort living in California during Prop 8 and getting signed up for anti-equality demonstrations and door-to-door campaigning.
Neutrality may be a good thing (it also may not – certainly there’s some value to the idea that churches should advocate for the least among us). But whatever you think of the merit of neutrality, the church simply cannot pretend to be neutral. It’s not.
Yes, yes, ji … correct principles … self governance … but be warned, if you interpret those principles in a way that either embarrasses the church or threatens GA authority, woe unto you. Sam Young feels protecting children from inappropriate questions of a sexual nature is a correct principle. Mike Quinn thinks accurate and truthful history is a correct principle. Denver Snuffer thinks legitimate authority to carry on the work of Joseph Smith is an important and correct principle. Byron Marchant thought it was a very correct principle to protest the denial of temple blessings to those of African descent. They are all excommunicated. Correct principles wielded with independence are a double-edge sword.
@Bryce Cook, beautiful. Reading the NT last year in come follow me was pretty confronting in terms of how distant the church seemed to be from what I was reading. I don’t think it’s hard to see a lot of social justice in that book. I think it’s hard not to.
Elder Cook’s talk reminds me of Elder Bednar recently talking about covid-related threats to religious freedom. Neither really specified the threat to the constitution or religious freedom. It seems more like a caution against aligning to closely with the left. Or something. Honestly I don’t know. They are scared but they don’t know of what so they just throw that out there.
And sorry everyone for the prop 8 reference I made before reading all the comments, which covered it quite well. Just have PTSD from that era :-).
I love being a member of the Church. We have so many good things to be thankful for. But I am not as willing to give a pass to those that upheld the Priesthood Ban for over a hundred years. And those that called the Civil Rights Leaders communists.
My guess (and it is just a guess because I think Cook was purposely vague) is that Church leaders have no problems with black lives matter so long as it doesn’t damage Church property or vandalize BYU statues. But they really want to preserve religious freedom (aka right to discriminate against gays) and want to keep this as a bill of rights/constitutional issue.
The comment was purposely vague so as not to ignite LGBT backlash. It’s the same type of language they used in the 1970s about race issues, which they now have mostly accepted how after previously intense opposition.
The Church was part of the race problem for generations. Now they want to pretend their past institutional racism never happened, and further want to place ridiculous vague constraints on present-day social justice advocacy. All the while seeking protection for their “right” to continue discriminating against other classes of people (LGBTQ, women). Elder Cook further wants to suppress the unpleasant parts of history and only teach the whitewashed faith-promoting version. And Brigham Young was only a “product of his time”, but prophets still speak the mind and will of God and must be obeyed. That is one stinky multi-layered onion of hypocrisy.
Elisa, I too am having some flashbacks of 2008 and the dumpster fire that was Prop 8. It pretty much turned the members of my ward against each other, pushed several families out of the Church completely, and the ward was disbanded the following year.
@jack sorry to hear that. My ward was conservative so the vast majority supported. And that was what was so crazy – people would literally just sign you up for stuff assuming that you were on board. I had a few quiet conversations with people about “is this right?!?” But that was it.
(I’d respond completely differently now. But I didn’t have the maturity at the time to be confident in my own views since they conflicted with the prophet, and didn’t have the courage to speak up either. I very much regret that. Never again will I surrender my conscience like that.)
Ji, I would not want the church to actively organise members either. I think all they should do is advocate for the issues of justice, equality, equity (which Christ did). I think we may be talking past each other on this.
I do not see a problem with religious freedom. Usually churches are excluded from discrimination legislation, but it will become less and less acceptable to discriminate.
ji, when it comes to racial justice you don’t want the church to go out a “social-justice warrioring” like 15-26 million people in the US and throughout the entire world with many churches rising swiftly to condemn obvious racial injustice, but simply teach correct principles and let them govern themselves. What about when the church leaders tell members in California to donate money and time out knocking doors in favor of Prop 8? Boy they really let members just govern themselves when it came to rallying against gay marriage. I can just see and feel all the non-damage same-sex marriage has done to the family since its legalization. By contrast, consider the fact that the average net wealth of a black household in the US is $17,000 vs $170,000 for a white household. Those SJWs all have bees in their bonnets and are making much ado about nothing.
For those of you disagreeing or arguing with ji, what exactly are you disagreeing about? What is it about the church “should teach correct principles, and then let the members govern themselves” that you don’t like? Are you really disagreeing with “It seems better to me when each member is anxiously engaged in a good cause of his or her own free choice.” Do you want the church deciding what causes you should support rather than deciding for yourself?
John W, it seems that you really didn’t read what ji wrote at all. He didn’t write that he doesn’t want the church to go out social justice warrioring, he wrote that he doesn’t want the church leadership organizing members around causes of the leadership’s choosing. He wrote that members should support causes of their own choosing. And what about Prop 8? Wouldn’t you agree that would be contrary to what ji is advocating?
I agree with ji and I also don’t want the church organizing members around political or social causes. I’d rather support or not support what I choose. Sure, it would be great if the church only supported and organized members to support causes that I support, but I know that would not be case. Since I can’t choose which causes the church supports, I would prefer that the church be neutral and not actively support any causes.
I’m so tired of these libertarian ‘thinkers’ that either can’t or refuse to acknowledge that there’s a real world out there and that the Church already does plenty of intervention in all sorts of issues (see huge legal involvement for starters). Nobody’s talking about talking away your ability to do good. We’re talking about what is already happening and how to best align the church with Christ’s focuses. Get out of your ‘theoretical’ happy place and actually engage with practical matters for a few minutes where some invisible hand hasn’t done and won’t do the things you claim it will precisely because we live in an economic society that encourages it selfishness (and which your political ideology encourages.)
Besides, could they please start placing that Joesph Smith quote in context of what he actually did as a leader? I mean, talk about a disconnect! Time to put such terrible rhetoric and thinking to rest when it comes to these sorts of discussions. Talk about lazy.
Thanks for the comments, everyone. Great discussion.
josh h, first comment: “I really value neutrality generally from the Church. … But unfortunately, given the Church’s history and background with respect to its treatment of women, blacks, native Americans, and LGBQs, I don’t think neutrality is good enough anymore.” Neutrality is the right stance, given the diverse political views of the membership. But in practice neutrality is what the leadership says when they don’t want to get involved; when they do want to get involved, suddenly neutrality has no relevance.
ji, always nice to have your input and commentary.
Bryce, I agree the Church’s view of what constitutes a “moral issue” is really, in practice, just selecting issues of institutional concern to the Church. I’ll bet every single African American views civil rights issues as a moral issue. Bryce said, “One might expect the temple recommend questions and treading the ‘covenant path’ – those things that represent the pinnacle of church membership – to be concerned with having the highest moral character. But they are concerned with boundary maintenance, institutional loyalty, a food code, paying tithing, and of course sexual sin.”
Jack Hughes really hit the nail on the head with this: “The Church was part of the race problem for generations. Now they want to pretend their past institutional racism never happened, and further want to place ridiculous vague constraints on present-day social justice advocacy. All the while seeking protection for their “right” to continue discriminating against other classes of people (LGBTQ, women).”
At some point, intentional vagueness turns into incoherence. When Elder Cook associates “overcoming racial and social injustice” with “undermining the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights,” he is speaking incoherently. There is no clear connection between those things. He needs to explain himself if he wants to be understood.
(I have been unable to find the full text of his speech, so I’m using the quotes from the Church Newsroom’s story about the speech. It’s possible that the Newsroom has mangled it.)
We can speculate all we want about what Elder Cook intended, but I think the best reaction to this is just to give him a pass. He had a bad day with this speech. If he wants to clarify it that’s great. Otherwise, I figure it’s impossible to follow advice that doesn’t make sense.
@loursat that’s true. He’s human. But the Q15 should know how every word they speak is analyzed and relied on. They encourage that. So they have a huge responsibility to speak carefully.
Loursat, I don’t think that happens. Every public utterance they make goes through a gauntlet of reviewers. They know what they’re trying to achieve.
I don’t think I’m letting anyone off the hook by saying that it’s a bad speech. I’m just putting things in perspective. When a speech is indecipherable, better to call it that and move on. It doesn’t seem useful, trying to interpret a speech that doesn’t make sense. If the speech turns out to have some enduring significance, then we can take it up later. I’d just rather not make a big deal out of it if I don’t have to.
jaredsbrother, step back for a moment and listen to yourself. That’s some weird paranoia. Elder Cook is one of the most senior decision makers in the church, but you’re making it sound like he’s beholden to someone else (“they”) who approve and coordinate his every utterance to make sure it conforms with “their” perfectly conceived agenda. I doubt it.
From my point of view, it’s okay that these guys fall short sometimes. It reassures me that we all don’t have to be so uptight in the process of discipleship.
I plead guilty to being one of those libertarian “thinkers” that Brian is so tired of. Placing the word “thinkers” in quotation marks is a standard debating tactic to show contempt and to delegitimize a viewpoint that one dislikes. The further assertion that libertarian “thinkers” can’t or refuse to acknowledge that there is a real world out there, is patronizing. It is precisely because of the “real world out there” that I am libertarian. I have experienced 60-plus years of people who claim to know better than others what others should do with their lives, and who try to get power to make sure that others do what they want: D&C121 puts thus well, when it notes that it is the disposition of almost all men to exercise unrighteous dominion, as soon as they get a little power. This applies to Church leaders, to you, to me, and to our political leaders on the left and right.
I lived 18 years in Germany immediately after WW2, and grew up with the devastation caused by a “utopian” system, among people who either attempted to come to grips with, or avoid acknowledging, the awful things that their country had done. I lived 14 years in authoritarian and totalitarian countries in Asia. All the awful things done (and I personally lived through many of them in Asia) were gussied up with high-minded proclamations of the “common good.”
“Get out of your ‘theoretical’ happy place and actually engage with practical matters for a few minutes,” indeed! This statement oozes even more contempt, and I have learned by my sad experience, both in the Church and the larger world, that it is reflective of an authoritarian mindset that wants to accomplish goals, and is not too scrupulous about the methods used.
I should be happy to engage in a civil, reasoned discourse on libertarian beliefs, because my beliefs are not set in stone, and have changed as I grow older. That is why I enjoy following W and T, because it helps me re-examine, refine, and even change my beliefs.
I do not know if that will happen, since the “dis” of libertarianism was long on invective and short on actual engagement of ideas. If there is any answer, I guess I’ll know if it is worthwhile pursuing such a discussion.
Thank you for your consideration.
Loursat, it is neither weird nor paranoid. That corporations establish highly professional PR departments to control messaging is not paranoid. The idea that the leaders of the church pass public statements among themselves and through PR leaders is neither weird nor paranoid, and it is well established. The leaders of the church get a pass sometimes as older, white men who (aw, shucks) maybe just had a bad day. I, for one, don’t believe it, and I also don’t believe in conspiracy theories or shadowy cabals. The church is a large, very wealthy corporation with revenue streams and an image to protect. I think most decisions are made, most public statements made, with those concerns in mind. Of course, in my view the church IS a corporation, not really a religion. Perhaps that colors my thinking.
One question: Have you paused to consider that the goal may have been to say nothing of substance? That making a ‘statement’ on public protest to appear thoughtful and concerned to the faithful without saying anything of any significance might have been Cook’s objective? You might call the idea of that paranoid. If you think organizations don’t do that, I’d probably think you naive.
Taiwan, I’ll refrain from listing my own life experiences, but perhaps you’ve misunderstood the thrust of my argument. I was referring to the very libertarian idea of “Teach the people correct principles and let them govern themselves,” which Joseph Smith supposedly said. That claim ignores all sorts of contemporary, relevant, contextual reality, some of which I mentioned above. Not to mention the fact that JS didn’t really do that. It’s a throwaway line that many people have built a religion out of. Finally, the “dis” was no more, no less an engagement than those who’ve so happily come along to proclaim the idea as the cure all without acknowledging the reality about which we find ourselves in, ie. an apostle actually said stuff about it and the Church has an enormous history of being involved and not just ‘letting people govern themselves,’ despite anyone’s wish for it to be so.
jaredsbrother, Thanks for backing off of “Every public utterance they make goes through a gauntlet of reviewers” and allowing room for things like the POX, the errors of curriculum writers, misstatements and misleading summaries by PR, and extemporaneous remarks of GAs like BKP’s Oct 2010 general conference gaffe’s, and rhetorical exaggerations (common) including “Prophets are rarely popular. But we will always teach the truth!” — failing to add “as we understand it” and “except when we prefer to keep silent” or “except when we don’t know the whole story” etc.
jaredsbrother, your follow-up comment is closer to being reasonable, but you’re not there yet. The church is run by men, corporate or not, who get some things right and some things wrong. A bad speech can be just a bad speech. This was a bad speech. Even if “they” were trying to misdirect all of us by saying nothing of substance, they did a bad job of it. They need to hire a better “highly professional PR department.” Still just a bad speech.
@Wondering the POX was 100% intentional and reviewed by many people including lawyers. PR likely also intentional of frequently foolish and misguided. And I think “prophets are always right” is also quite intentional.
Loursat, Wondering, you’ve read things into my earlier post that were not intended, which is understandable. The internet. These things are not mutually exclusive. Public addresses can go through a battery (but not a gauntlet?) of reviewers and mistakes (or what appear to be mistakes to some) still occur. It’s called group think, and I cannot imagine a more group-think scenario that a religion commenting on public events. Errors are not evidence of comments denied a thorough review process.
Elisa, Yes, the POX and its botched roll-out were intentional on the part of some, but probably not the Correlation Committee which reportedly did not review it, perhaps not on the part of President Monson who reportedly may not have been “all there,” and perhaps not on the part of some of the Q12, allegedly surprised by it, had not opportunity to discuss it, and may have voted to sustain President Monson’s ill-considered “OK” and the then president of the Q12 rather than actually supporting the policy. A couple apostle-proponents of the POX and some lawyers just didn’t seem to me to be a “gauntlet of reviewers,” especially when the normal channels of review are by-passed. It is often difficult to determine whose intention to attribute to an organization.
Wondering, your pontifications on the matter do not jive with the reality of the POX. See President Nelson’s comments on it (in the newsroom), and then, again, after they reversed course.
Not pontificating. Also, don’t believe some of what RMN has had to say about the POX. (I suspect you don’t either.)
DB, you wrote:
“it seems that you really didn’t read what ji wrote at all. He didn’t write that he doesn’t want the church to go out social justice warrioring, he wrote that he doesn’t want the church leadership organizing members around causes of the leadership’s choosing. He wrote that members should support causes of their own choosing. And what about Prop 8? Wouldn’t you agree that would be contrary to what ji is advocating?”
Ji wants us to accept the church as an organization that preaches correct principles and lets us choose how to apply them and that stays out of political and social causes. On the issue of same-sex marriage, the church did anything but. It is well documented that leaders pressured members to engage in activism and give money. On racial justice, could it have hurt the church to have been more quickly vocal against George Floyd’s murder? Could it have hurt the church to issue a formal apology for past racism like other churches have? Oh no, that would be throwing a bone to the dreaded Social Justice Warriors who are against freedom and what is right. Ji needs to rethink how he has worded his comments. Stop the dumb jabs at the so-called “SJWs” and take into consideration the church’s open activism against gay marriage.
Wondering, that’s the million dollar question I’ve neither figured out how to fully answer, nor what my response to that answer might truly mean!
If Church leadership is really serious about racial and social justice, the following needs to happen immediately: (1) Rename the administration and law buildings at BYU-P. And rename anything witb ETB ‘s name on it. (2) Issue an apology for past racist actions including the Priesthood/temple ban, segregation at Hotel Utah, embarrassing statements by GAs etc. (3) Develop a long-term plan to dramatically Increase humanitarian efforts and investments in black Africa. (4) Publically disavow the curse of Cain/Ham in General Conference and in Church mass media (T&S is still discussing it). The Church needs to develop a longer-term plan to root out racial prejudice. Time for action guys.
Hmmm, Well, I disagree it’s a real threat, but here’s where they (conservatives like Cook) see the conflict, IMO. They want to be sure the Church can continue to discriminate against women, LGBT, and not be beholden to affirmative action goals on race or other protected classes. This is already a “right” that churches have. Religious freedom is already protected by the constitution. The Church is trying very hard to expand the rights that religious institutions have to 1) secular institutions owned by religions and 2) any individual who wants the right on the basis of their belief to discriminate against others. It’s morally reprehensible, IMO, but that’s where the GOP is heading, and the Church is apparently willing to go there. With statements like this, the Church can have its cake and eat it too. On the upside, most Church members aren’t willing to go as far as most Evangelicals to try to claim these types of “rights” in their personal lives. The Church mostly wants to protect its own “rights” at places like COB and BYU to discriminate, rights that are not at risk, but they are rapt with attention at the dog whistles and fear-mongering of the GOP.
The catch is that people who face discrimination are the real victims here, but religious people can feel as though they are the victims. It’s pretty galling.
@Angela agree, and that’s also why they are not specific because it sounds pretty bad when you put it that way, i.e., truthfully and candidly.
“Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves”. Love the concept. They are just short on teaching correct principles. They toss out something vague in terms of principle but are very specific when it comes to their desired outcomes: male leadership (institutional and familial), hetro-normality, very conservative social/political stances, etc.
And as has been pointed out – where do they spend their money. That makes a specific outcome-based statement.
Govern yourselves – and reap the consequences if you choose something other than what we want you to.
John W – I’ve read ji’s comments again a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t misreading and I stand by what I wrote. You say that ji wants us to accept that the church teaches correct principles and lets us choose but that’s not in what he wrote at all. I don’t know ji so I don’t know his true perceptions or intentions any more than I know any other internet commentor’s except what I can decipher from what is written. What he did write is that the church should teach correct principles and let the members choose; he did not write that the church teaches correct principles and lets the members choose. Those are very different.
Time to bring the missionaries home – I don’t think they are equipped to discuss social justice, especially in light of sports stoppages that are now happening.
See comments by George Hill, Donovan Mitchell, LeBron etc re: Kenosha.
I would guess most American missionaries are currently serving in the U.S.
“You say that ji wants us to accept that the church teaches correct principles and lets us choose but that’s not in what he wrote at all”
OK, let’s unpack what ji wrote line by line:
“You need to think a little more, and read what I actually wrote. If church leaders start social-justice-warrioring”
This phrasing clearly reveals that Ji has an axe to grind against those emphasizing racial and social justice issues, who are typically liberal on the political spectrum. The term “Social Justice Warrior” is a really nothing more than a snarl world mostly employed by conservatives, libertarians, and the alt-right as an expression of disdain for liberal-minded folks who like to talk about oppression against minorities.
“maybe for a while the old stake president might have the members out marching for his favorite cause — then, the new stake president will have us out marching for his favorite cause on one Saturday, and the bishop will have us out on the next Saturday for his favorite cause”
So if the First Presidency and Q12 take a stronger stance on issues related to racial and social justice, then lower-ranking leaders are going interpret that as license to mobilize their congregations behind a variety of different causes? This makes no sense. Lower leadership seems to act overwhelmingly in tandem with higher leadership. I’ve never seen a significant divide between lower and higher in my 40 years as an LDS person.
“Maybe you like the idea of being sheeple, but I don’t.”
So asking leaders (not stake presidents but the FP/Q12) to take a stronger stand on racial and social justice issues amounts to members being “sheeple”? Leaders play a crucial role in guiding opinions on important issues and have a responsibility to speak up on important matters. Here, by saying the highly charged word “sheeple” ji engages in more snarl tactics. Now two jabs. A stronger indication that his comment is not worth serious consideration.
“I would rather advocate for causes that are important to me.”
Having leaders speak up prevents you from doing this?
“Church leaders should teach correct principles, and then let the members govern themselves, as the Prophet Joseph Smith said.”
Here is the question. Is ji saying “should” to mean that they don’t and aren’t following Joseph Smith’s counsel? Or is he saying “should” to reaffirm that that is what the leaders already teach and that they shouldn’t do as the OP and other commenters suggest, which is speak up more on racial and social justice as other churches have done. Based on the context of what he has said, I suspect he means “should” in the latter sense. Also, what about Prop 8, ji? What about Prop 8? Are you willing to say that members were acting as “sheeple” then?
“It seems better to me when each member is anxiously engaged in a good cause of his or her own free choice.”
Again, having leaders speak up, which is what spiritual and moral leaders should do on important occasions, let alone the occasion of horrific police brutality which led to the largest protest in US with 15-26 million taking to the streets to protest, is not depriving members of the ability to engage in matters of their own choice. It is simply helping to direct congregations’ opinions and actions on important matters.
Just so everyone is aware, their is a video of Elder Cook
I admit that I don’t keep up with things very well so I don’t know what actual religious freedoms are at risk.
“We need to protect religious freedom. Far too many have turned from the worship of and accountability to God.”
The quote above is attributed to Cook and appears near the end of this article. I may be reading too much into the quote but I wonder whether Cook is expressing concern over losing religious freedom or whether Cook is expressing concern that religion may be losing influence over people and interpreting that loss of influence as a loss of religious freedom.
If people are turning away from worship that’s not an indication that religions are losing freedom, it’s more of an indication that religions are losing relevance in society.
I don’t buy Cook’s statement that BY was a “product of his time.” BY is/was reputed to be a so-called “prophet.” Had BY been listening to God or reading the NT, he would have known that God is love and condemns hatred in all its pernicous forms—including racism. BY went out of his way to institute a religiously-based system of hatred against African-Americans, claiming that they descended from Cain and were cursed and therefore barred from the priesthood. The Mormon Church has caused untold harm with that doctrine and continues to do so in other ways such as portraying Jesus as a white man. That Church needs to repent and apologize to African-Americans.
And often Fred they are loosing their relevence because they abused their religious freedom, and tried to extend it to forcing their views on others, or/and covering up their sins.