I would guess than almost everybody reading this post today has made a convent in the Temple to ” avoid all evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed” But what does that really mean? What is evil speaking? And who is the Lord’s anointed? Lets break that down and see what we can come up with.
First, what is evil speaking? There are only two places in the scriptures where the words “evil Speaking” come up. The first is Ephesians 4:31 “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.” If you click on the topical guide, lds.org will give you the word “slander” for evil speaking. I looked at about 20 different translations, and only the KJV uses “evil speaking”. Almost all the other use “slander” So it comes as no surprise that the only other place that “evil speaking” is found is D&C 20:54, given Joseph Smith’s penchant for using the KJV and its language for all his writings.
So the word evil speaking means to speak slander of somebody. The defenition of slander is
Also known as oral or spoken defamation, slander is the legal term for the act of harming a person’s reputation by telling one or more other people something that is untrue and damaging about that personInvestopedia
Notice that evil speaking/slander means to say something untrue about a person. What does NOT fall under evil speaking is disagreeing with somebody, or telling somebody they are wrong, or that they are making a mistake. If you say your bishop is cheating on his wife, and he in fact is not cheating on his wife, that is evil speaking/slander. If you say the bishop is wrong for calling Brother Smith as the Gospel Doctrine teaching, that is not. Saying Pres Oaks is anti LGBTQ is not evil speaking or slander.
So now that we’ve figured out what evil speaking means, lets look at who the Lord’s Anointed are. I think the average member thinks that it is our leaders. The Old Testament has ten places with the phrase “Lord’s anointed”, and it always is in reference to a leader, as kings and priested were anointed as part of their coronation/ordination in those times.
In the temple, everybody sitting in the “company” has been anointed in a previous ceremony. So one could argue that all temple endowed member are the “Lord’s Anointed”, and it has nothing to do with leaders as it did in the Old Testament. All it means is we shouldn’t speak lies about our fellow church members.
But maybe when Joseph Smith or Brigham Young added it to the Endowment ceremony, they were referring to the Second Anointing. If this is the case, then the Lord’s Anointed is only the top General Authorities, and a few others. But I’m going to reject this definition, since the membership does not know who has the Second Anointing, so why would God require members to covenant something that they don’t know who it applies to?
In conclusion, when we covenanted to avoid evil speaking of the Lords Anointed, we promised not to speak lies/slander about fellow endowed church members, including leaders. We did NOT promise or covenant to refrain from disagreeing or even criticizing our local or general church leaders. There may be other commandments or handbook instructions we are violating (see Mary Ann’s post from a few days ago here) when we criticize our church leaders, but we are NOT breaking a temple covenant.
Who do you think are the Lord’s Anointed?
Image by Robert Fotograf from Pixabay
Bill has raised an important issue here. Speaking I’ll of Church leaders is reaching epidemic proportions among the younger members of the Church.
Young members today are taking the slander Bill speaks of and are making it an art form. They take any issue they disagree with and don’t just disagree, they attack Church leaders with all the slander and libelous speech they can muster. They don’t want the guilt of hearing that what they are doing is wrong and they think attacking the leaders will take away the guilt.
There is no call for this sort of dishonest attack that imputes false motives to leaders. The leaders genuinely care for the members and want what is best for them. If members want to ignore this counsel and live their lives frolicking like caffeine-fueled Russian Princesses, then I suppose they will do so. But leave the slanderous attacks against the leaders out of it.
This question has been manipulated to keep the power people in control.
This question needs to be re-examined from another angle. Were we not all annoited in the temple?
Did the upper decision makers get a special annointing? I suspect most decision makers below SP have not got second anoiting.
So anytime the leadership speaks “evil” of other members, they are breaking the covenent under that definition. I have seen and heard this many times in leadership meetings and within the leadership group.
Please think about this perspective as outline by bishop bill and share with others so they are not manipulated with this question.
I think the legal definition of slander (harming someone’s reputation by speaking something about them that is untrue) is too narrow for the LDS use of the term “evil speaking.” I would point in the direction of seditious libel and seditious speech: any utterances bringing the government into contempt or disrepute, whether those utterances or true or not. I think LDS leadership thinks any speech or writing by an LDS that brings the Church or the leadership into contempt or disrepute is “evil speaking,” *especially* if it is true. And they give such reckless truthspeakers plenty of material to work with. [I’m not endorsing seditious libel as the standard that should be applied, just pointing out that’s the way they think.]
Likewise with the term “the Lord’s anointed.” I’m guessing if you polled GAs and local leaders, they would think that term applies to (get ready for it) GAs and local leaders. They’re not particularly concerned with accurate biblical exegesis. In the modern world, that term might properly apply to the English sovereign or, by extension, the US President. That’s not really where we want to go with the term. So modernly within the Church that term is applied at times to just the sitting President of the Church and, by extension, prior Presidents, and other times it applies, as noted, to all priesthood leaders, right down to a branch president in some dusty corner of North Dakota. [Again, I’m not endorsing that view, just saying that’s the term is used to refer in the modern Church.]
The Church is really good at repurposing and sometimes entirely redefining Bible words and KJV terms.
Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude, in Los Angeles. And even if he’s a lazy man – and the Dude was most certainly that, quite possibly the laziest in Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the runnin’ for laziest worldwide.
Since you do not like living in the present and have such a disdain for the present generation, I have sent a time machine delorean to your front door, programmed to 1955, where you can be in a decade where you would hopefully be more content. Happy voyage.
Faith: please don’t take the bait from Mr. Charity. He’s just trolling here.
Everyone: In 1986 Dallin H Oaks said the following: “It’s wrong to criticize leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true”
I’ll leave that quote here without further comment other than to ask : do you you apply this in any other area of your life?
So I googled “Russian Princess” and I guess it’s a Tik Tok meme, or maybe a modern band, or both. So, for someone who decries modern youth culture, JCS seems to by hyper aware of their latest trends. Makes you go “hmmm..”
As for the OP, my interpretation of the evil speaking clause has been the same. Basically it’s a recommitment to not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Agree, Josh, tho I’m deeply, deeply ashamed to admit that he gets me every time with “crocks” “7-11’s” “Dairy Queen” and “honky-tonks”
I really don’t think that the God I worship has a problem with people speaking truth to power, which is what Mr. Oaks hates when he says it is wrong to criticize church leaders even if it is true. I want to ask him who died and made him God. No, if church leaders need criticism or correction we are evil not to lovingly offer such correction. But when our leaders get all offended that anybody “lower” than them dare to voice disagreement, it shows exactly that they are not “the Lord’s anointed” that they think they are. They are public figures and as such are going to get loads of criticism. It is their job to listen to that criticism and decide what is valid and what is John Charity Spring running his mouth again. Just like us crock wearers need to look at criticism and see if there is really anything lazy about wearing shoes that do not tie and are actually wide enough for our feet. Sorry, but that is the nature of being a human being, especially if one is a public figure. People, even and especially leaders, need to handle criticism and determine if it is true and valid and then be willing to change our behavior accordingly. To think oneself above criticism is to declare oneself to be perfect and sorry but Mr. Oaks doesn’t qualify.
But we as members of the church need to make sure before we criticize that the criticism is true, necessary, and valid, unlike the way JCS talks about crock wearers. Which is just bitching about something he knows little about. He thinks young lazy people wear crocks because they are to lazy for tying shoe laces. And doesn’t understand that great grandmothers wear them because they are the only shoes that don’t hurt their feet.
So, I think what God is talking about in condemning evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed is speaking untruths about anyone in an unkind way. Do not bare false witness against your neighbor. Period. And when church leaders try to use it to avoid valid criticism, they are exercising unrighteousness dominion.
If I am to be loyal to leaders, I expect them to be loyal to me.
The Lord’s “annointed” are those who are in periphery of the Spirit. It’s about proximity, not personalities or appointments. So when an institution surveils the beliefs and loyalty of its constituents with the aim of accusation, it is demonstratively more interested in controlling behavior and shaping conscience, than it is in serving those whom it surveils.
(It sets up an internal mechanism of accusation: annointed against annointed in trials over conscience and loyalty). That we have departments dedicated to sifting through our own congregation’s media for evidence of “apostasy” is the greater abomination.
It seems fair to criticize the behavior of leadership, and it also seems fair to criticize the institution that administers the Gospel to the congregation/church. Scriptures record as much. If the intent of criticism is to remedy, cleanse, or purify–a little salt in the wound is good for healing. But too much salt damages. Salt alone will ruin the Wedding Feast.
Seems as though the GA’s have let “we the members” elevate them to their present status. Begins just like the “judge syndrome” when we rise or are told who we should “stand” for because we have been told it shows respect. Since early church days, this has been going on when people would gather on South Temple to see if they could catch a glimpse of a GA going to lunch.
I also have been present to hear a Bishop berate a ward member in a counsel meeting.
I guess I just dont like the pedestal they and we have created along with the idea THEY are above reproach, and we have all seen how the “here a word there a word ” game is being played….make a do over General Conference talk …define what constitutes revelation now days.
Who invented the word “evil”? Maybe we should all tend our own gardens and keep them weed free first. Do we need to be commanded in all things?
I’m in full agreement with Anna. I don’t see how the “Lord’s anointed” would not include those who were just anointed in the temple. However, it’s kind of an unhelpful injunction. You don’t have to go to the temple to know that spreading untrue stories about others is against the gospel, whether they were anointed or not. That feels like Christianity 101 to me.
As far as the meaning that every lowly District Leader on a mission would like to apply (that you have to do what they say, no questions asked, and no talking back), well, we already have a pretty authoritative argument on that one in D&C 121:
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned
Truer words were never spoken–I believe all of us here have learned by sad experience just how authority goes to people’s heads and then turns them into the worst.
I think a liberal interpretation would be to be kind to leadership and acknowledge that the job is hard. And to look beyond the faults. Indeed, I look beyond JSjr faults because I truly love his theology. The only difference between now and then (I mean the whenever then) is now we can see the sausage being made because it is historical.
For example, I think that the turning of the Church into evangelical Christianity is probably not a wonderful thing. But, hey, it is their Church, not mine.
So, from the leadership’s view, if we point out all of their faults and failures, present and historical, it will damage the Church and slow the growth. If you think the Church helps people, then the criticism of the leadership is keeping the Church from helping so many more. Therefore, SHUT UP!!!! :))
I agree with Bishop Bill’s interpretation and I try to share that whenever I hear people start to self-censor lest they say say something that could be considered disagreeing with a GA. (Which is indeed what I think a lot of people assume this means – so they are both totally expanding the definition of “evil speaking” and totally limiting the definition of “Lord’s Annointed”.). People generally are pretty receptive to the more-correct interpretation.
I prefer Juanita Brooks‘ statement in her preface to her book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. While professing her allegiance to the church, her book was nevertheless critical of both local and general Church leaderships’ handling of the tragedy. She faced a lot of opposition from some high-level Church leaders who did not want the book published. Delbert Stapley and Legrand Richards of the Q12 wanted to excommunicate her. David O. McKay told them to leave her alone.
Brooks said, “Only the truth is good enough for the Church I love.”
Dallin Oaks, that notorious pastel liberal, several years ago stated that the passage of the years had proven Brooks’ interpretation of the MMM to be correct.
I wish we had a similar attitude today. Sometimes, the biggest sin one can commit is to be right. It is too bad that it can take so long to recognize the truth. The Church is not unique in having this difficulty, but it depressing that this tendency of human nature also exists in the Church.
In the meantime, I pray a lot and look forward to the day when uttering truth will not be construed as evil speaking against the Lord’s anointed.
There’s evil speaking, but in the internet age there’s also just a whole lot of speaking. Everyone has a story and should be free to tell it. The criticism that some leaders want to squelch is lifted out of people’s lives in the church. Some tellers are more charitable and frame things well, but many aren’t so skilled or are too damaged by their experience.
The problem that I see is that we have trouble separating “speaking evil of the Lord’s annointed” (whoever that is), and “declaring something prior generations of members/leaders believed/taught to be wrong.” I just finished reading Mason’s Planted, and he talked some about this in the In Patience and Faith chapter. It seems to me that whenever we try to say some past teaching was wrong (“racism is wrong, the curse of Cain or valiance in the pre-existence stuff is wrong”), too many of us take offense on behalf of those who believed those things (like Brigham Young) and begin to defend the character of the past leaders. I often feel that we need to be better at separating the teaching from the teacher so that we can get at truth without always needing to tiptoe around leaders’ fragile egos (or the fragile egos we ascribe to past leaders).
SVBob says that the church helps people, therefore we harm people by pointing out real problems in the church, and we should shut up about the problems. But what he and many others don’t get is that the church also harms people, and they have every right, and I think an obligation to point out how they were hurt. Does SVBob really think that in 1970, that black members of the church should have kept quiet about how much it hurt not to be able to be sealed as a family? We would never have arrived at a correction to bad doctrine if that had been the case.
And Ruth points out the fact that much criticism of the church comes from people’s experiences in the church. People need to voice those bad experiences, and the church needs to look at some of the things it does that honestly hurt people. People get offended because the church acts in offensive ways. And of those offenses the church needs to repent. Sure, it is individuals that offend, but when those individuals have the power to make their offensive attitudes into church doctrine and policy, then those individuals who are teaching false doctrine and making false policies need to repent. And, yes this need to repent goes all the way to the top as our leaders are not perfect and do make mistakes. And anyone, especially top church leaders who think they don’t make mistakes is part of the problem. The refusal to consider any criticism is simply a refusal to repent. Not who I want in a prophet of God.
I know this sounds harsh, and I don’t mean it to, but in order for people to think this church is of God, the organization needs to be made up of people who WANT to see their mistakes so they can correct them. This attitude that the church needs to *look * good, therefore people should not point out ways that it *isn’t* good, well that is no way for it to BE good. That is the way to be a whited sepulcher. Which when the church hides sexual abuse, rather than holding offenders responsible, it is just pretty on the outside and ugly inside.
And Thanks, Angela for quoting scripture that points out what I am trying to say. Refusing to listen to criticism is not “love unfeigned” but is unrighteous dominion.
*The* Lord’s anointed is the Messiah, the Christ — it’s what the title means. But, Benedict of Nursia advised monastics that “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me (Matt 25:35).” You don’t really know who has received their second or even their first anointing, and you don’t know what stranger may be the Christ for you today. Would it ever be safe to say that some person is *not* the Lord’s anointed and that evil speaking of them would therefore be okay?
“When exposing a crime is treated as committing a crime, you are being ruled by criminals!” – Edward Snowden
The idea that we cannot expose error means that we are living in an echo chamber.
I love the idea that “the Lord’s anointed” might include more people than church leaders. But I think Dave’s comment in particular is spot on. Who was Brigham Young thinking of when he wrote this? I would say he was thinking of himself. He didn’t want to hear any back talk from the men he presided over, and *certainly* not from the rank and file. And I’m guessing most members today would agree with this interpretation.
I think Dave’s point about what constitutes “evil speaking” is also spot on. It doesn’t have to be false for Brigham Young, or church members today, to consider it evil speaking. It just has to be something that gets in their way.
I think this has to be interpreted, too, in a broader context of the church demanding utter submission and refusing to hear any feedback at all from any but perhaps sycophants among local leaders. The message couldn’t be more clear: “We’re running the church, and your job is to shut up and follow.”
My compliments Bishop Bill. Great topic and narrative. In an effort to be a decent human being and to live nobly (as much as possible) I do think it is important to not “speak evil” of anyone; and to be as respectful as possible. Unfortunately, there are times when trust has been given too freely, or one’s faith, support and loyalty has been misused or discarded. When this occurs, I think it is entirely appropriate and healthy for one to stand tall and speak “truth to power”; and/or those who think they have “power”.
I thought y’all might enjoy reading a letter that I wrote to a dear friend last year (who is still very involved with “the Church” – Leadership Callings etc.) I think it’s one of the most sincere, heartfelt things I’ve ever written:
I hope my note finds you and your family coming out of a great Holiday Season; and are now looking forward to a happy and productive 2019.
Well, where do I start?
xxxx, before I launch into the core reason as to why I’m writing today, I’d like you to know that I’ll forever be thankful to you for what you’ve done for me (and my family) over the course of almost 25 years. I’m personally so grateful for the opportunities you offered to me and the support you freely gave; which allowed me to excel and have a “really great run” for so many years. This period of time represents some of happiest times for me personally and for our family – and some of the most productive. Our shared hard work and efforts provided a means whereby my children were gifted a great springboard into life.
I will always honor and love you for the friendship, kindness and goodness you’ve shown to me.
Last fall, you reached out to me with an invitation to get together for lunch. The term you used at the time was “Let’s Talk”. My experience with xxxx tells me that a “Let’s Talk” invitation is quite a bit different than “Hey good buddy, I’m missing you; how about getting together for a sandwich and getting caught up?” While I freely acknowledge that this assumption may be wrong, my emotional reaction at the time is a direct reflection of how much I’ve changed in the way I view the world, the LDS Church, people in general, large organizations and many other things.
As a young man I was full of hope, idealism, faith in the basic goodness of people and a core belief that the world is basically “God’s garden to sow”. (I suspect that a majority of people have felt this way at some point in their life) and then life experience inexorably starts to chip away. For me, this kind of thinking and belief was burned away long ago; and it’s simply not coming back. My trust of people, and organizations, is very, very limited and is no longer freely given.
Anyway, this leads me to a paradox – with which I struggle. Here I have a dear and valued friend, who has blessed my life and helped me – and has freely given of his friendship – and yet I hesitate getting back together with him, for I know that there are certain things (which frankly are very triggering to me) that I have no desire to discuss or re-open. For if I do, the tight ball of fury, which still exists deep down in my gut, and which I’ve finally (after years) gotten under control, may flare and be directed at him; even though much of its’ source has nothing to do with him.
xxxx after being thrown away 10 years ago, it has taken a long time – and honestly – a great deal of pain for me to rebuild my life; my self-esteem, my confidence, my sense of self and purpose, my sense of humor and frankly (a sincere desire to live). Of course, my path was not entirely set by all of us being tossed out of the company to which we had given so much. However, when combined with long-term unemployment, significant financial harm and the soul grinding experience of trying to hold everything together – with little hope….let alone almost 30 years of raising and managing a severely Autistic child…I’ve arrived at a place where there are certain things I will do and things I will not do.
xxxx I love you. You’re like a brother to me and I’m forever in your debt. However, I will not discuss The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its doctrines, its practices or how I now feel about these things. I’ve done all I can to maintain some semblance of a belief in God; and to that I cling. I do stay fairly engaged with the Church primarily to “keep the peace” and to support my family and extended family. I acknowledge, respect and admire all that you’ve done within the Church; your callings, service and responsibilities – and the work you’re now doing in the Temple.
With all sincerity of heart, I’m asking that you don’t feel it your responsibility (spiritually or otherwise) to broach these topics with me. And, please do not bear any kind of testimony to me; for frankly I can do that as well (or better) than most people. I now find that when people do this to others (without invitation) it feels condescending and to a degree offensive.
From my heart, I so hope I’ve not offended by sharing these very private feelings with you. Honestly, I wanted to be candid rather than to continue to ignore these things and allow the distance to increase.
Please know that I’d truly love to get together as old friends, have a sandwich, reminisce on the good times and good friends and simply laugh. If what I’ve shared with you makes this kind of meet up uncomfortable or less than attractive, I understand.
You have been, and forever will be my friend.
Love you, bro
Wow. It was worth the time to read your letter. So well stated. Thank you for sharing this. I would guess it expresses the feelings that many of us experience.
If criticism related to LGBTQ+ issues, polygamy, woman’s role in the Church, etc. is “evil speaking,” then I am guilty.
Reader: Thank you for your kind comment. Much appreciated.