Last week’s devotional at BYU by Kevin S. Hamilton made some waves online. I listened to the whole thing and took longer notes I’ll summarize here. I thought I’d find things I agreed with; after all, I’m still IN the church, and I wouldn’t be if I didn’t, like Elder Hamilton, think one is necessary for me and/or want one to be a part of my life right now. To respond to everything in the devotional — there is a lot, I mean A LOT of problematic framing that I believe causes harm — would take a few posts. I want to focus on just the topic of infallibility.
Elder Hamilton’s Why a Church
Elder Hamilton compares the church to a capsule-type pill, with Christ and the atonement being the medicine inside. In the argument he builds: we can only come to Christ & walk with him as we
- receive his authorized ordinances
- make & keep associated covenants only found in his church along the path
- renew those covenants every week & participate in the sacrament
He then goes on to highlight four things he observes today:
- People disconnect Jesus Christ from his church & apostles by saying “I follow the Savior, not the church/apostles.” It is NOT possible. You CANNOT accept Jesus Christ and reject his Church or his messengers. You cannot separate Christ from the Church of Jesus Christ.
- The Lord’s church is one of order. You don’t bishop shop or ward hop. A ward is not about what it can give you, it’s about what you can give.
- Leaders are only human and are capable of making mistakes. While it’s true that we’re all fallible, The safety net for all of us is the unanimous council system that solves the problem. When they speak in unity they speak on behalf of Christ.
- “Be the Change: work to change the church from within.” How does this square with being a humble follower of Christ? The kind of change that makes differences in eternities comes from within, our hearts, minds, and circumstances – we repent and change.
- Some people have found it’s their absolute duty to point out the shortcomings of the church. They feel they’re loyal to the Savior but oppose certain teachings of the church. Oaks has said some who resist prophetic direction call themselves the “loyal opposition,” however appropriate for democracy, there is no warrant for this in the government of God’s kingdom where questions are honored, but opposition is not.” like I don’t support the church’s policy on ______ or I don’t agree with the way the church does ______. Alternative approach: substitute “The Savior” in place of “The Church” and say those statements again. Tells the OT story of transporting the ark of the covenant. The priest who reached out to steady the ark was smitten immediately. Only certain folks have the key to steady the ark. This has obvious modern-day parallels.
Responding to a Trust Crisis
On Twitter I called the substitution and equation of Christ with “The Church” and “Q12” blasphemous. I stand by that — it still turns my stomach to think of worshipping and loving the church and its leaders like my Savior, a member of the Godhead, the only perfect human to ever live.
The simplification of coming to Christ to making covenants only in our church and then renewing them on Sunday!! Even within our church, this narrow view of walking with Christ and coming to Him is … breathtakingly empty! and small? let alone that people are coming to Christ in every nation, land, and people without even the LDS church being a blip in their consciousness! It reeks of exceptionalism and condescension! I can agree that our Church has a special role in the latter days to lovingly administer all of the covenants we’ve been tasked with sharing – and if we don’t get folks in this life we’ll get them in the next. So many of us have found spiritual strength and experiences from folks outside the church (like Richard Rohr, etc.) that help us stay *here, the description that they are not walking with Christ is astounding to me.
I think this is counterproductive to keeping folks in the church. People are not necessarily having FAITH crises, but CERTAINTY and TRUST crises. I thought this was an attempt to stop the bleeding of folks out the door. What folks need is an acknowledgment of the uncertainty, tools to navigate it, and honesty in shortcomings to rebuild trust. There’s an opportunity to help folks manage & navigate the next step of faith …. one that hat holds paradoxes, uncertainty, & complexity simultaneously with faith. So many people want to keep the faith — I have bishops’ wives with LGBTQ+ kids in my dm’s begging for advice because the church is giving them ~nothing! The failure to provide better frameworks & insistence to lean into authoritarianism is staggering. I can’t continue. I have my sanity to keep. There is so much more to say. One thing I realized is this message isn’t for ~us folks who’ve shifted to another perspective of faith and it’s impossible to go back. I realized this talk isn’t for folks like me. It’s for the BYU students who attend devotionals in person and folks who listen at home. It’s for the kind of people who follow The Church News articles and socials religiously. This is inoculation for them. My question is Why can’t we get messages that work for us both?
A Pharoah Framework
For folks like me who feel called to Christianity (and to practice it in the LDS church) it helps to practice discipleship in a community of imperfect folks striving to love and serve your neighbors (sometimes enemies!). I think as LDS members we have a scriptural obligation to try to create Zion here through those actions, and that our covenants aren’t only to Christ, but to each other. I think the sacrament is the most important covenant I make and renew in that effort, and I am making it to Christ & others promising to forgive and seek forgiveness; to mourn and comfort; to serve and bless. We’ve found ways to rebuild and reconstruct a faith that works. What doesn’t work is messages like the above that make us enemies and opponents to folks. And it’s beyond frustrating because there are frameworks they could be using that work for folks in all stages of faith without shaking anyone’s foundation or causing schisms.
I’ll go ahead and lean on work that’s already been done by Terryl and Fiona Givens. In their Book Crucible of Doubt (Deseret Book, 2014), they have a whole chapter on the dangers of hero worship (On Prophecy and Prophets: The Perils of Hero Worship, page 59) and prophetic fallibility called (On Delegation & Discipleship: The Ring of Pharaoh, pg. 71). Nine years ago both of these chapters were incredibly helpful to me in navigating a way to stay. The metaphor they use is that God/Christ is the Head of the Church, the Pharoah. But whenever Pharoah isn’t present in the kingdom physically, he gives his ring to his vizier to be the authority while he is gone. The seal of the ring gives decisions as much weight and authority as if the Pharaoh were there. It does NOT mean that everything the viziers do in his stead is EXACTLY what the Pharaoh would do. In fact, the Pharaoh could be pretty upset with some ways the viziers run things, and if so he’d want to set things right and hold them accountable for their actions when he returns and teach them so it doesn’t happen again in the future. The viziers could never act perfectly in the stead of the Pharaoh in every way, even when coordinating together. As a peasant, I can disagree with policies and anything else the viziers do. If I want to be a part of society I can’t disagree they have the stewardship to make them. I wasn’t given the ring and seal. I can even pray for and love the vizier even though I disagree! I can, though, be myself and share my life and experiences in a way that may help others. I can write blog posts saying “Hey, that noble that went and talked to a bunch of scribes said that I have to consider the viziers as equal to the pharaoh and I think that’s messed up.”
I think this framework could be shared with EVERYONE and it would solve a lot of problems. I feel like not using it increases tensions and divisions in the church. I feel like it pushes folks out and makes it more likely for people with no questions to get pushed out when a decision by a vizier sooner or later causes problems and dissonance. Some may think his message is harmless, that it’s so obviously ridiculous there’s no cause for concern or worry over the messaging. Many felt the same way in 2016, I would hope that January 6 is an indication that we can and should worry about messages that ~will influence folks and divide instead of unite.
If you’re one of the folks in the church you can share the metaphor of Pharoah and Vizier in conversations that come up. On twitter a commenter told me he actually agrees with what Elder Hamilton said and was right. When I explained the Givens’ metaphor he responded positively and said he liked that way of looking at it and sees how it works well. I might not be able to change “The Church,” but one of the principles of the gospel we live by is that we should use our spheres of influence to do and be good.
What do you think? Does the metaphor work?
Kristine has hit the nail squarely in the head. Christ absolutely does not want mindless zombies showing up to church in sweatpants and crocs. He wants intelligent disciples who are able to think for themselves and apply His principles to solve complex problems.
As Kristine points out, a leader cannot always be physically present with the flock. If the flock is composed only of mindless follower zombies, the flock will fall apart and act like raucous Russian Princesses when the leader is absent. On the other hand, a flock of intelligent problem solvers who can think for themselves will apply principles to overcome problems even when the leader is absent.
Is it any wonder that so many young members are leaving the pews to fill up their local honky tonks? It should not be. They have been taught to mindlessly follow their leaders without independent thought. Because they have never developed the skills to deal with significant problems, they head out the door when the leader is absent and follow the neon lights.
Elder Hamilton’s talk goes right back to the “Root Cause” of my difficulties with the church. But instead of addressing the problem, he doubles down on it. On the statement “You cannot separate Christ from the Church of Jesus Christ”, I’ll agree to disagree with you Elder Hamilton. (To be fair, Elder Hamilton may think that my position that the LDS church is one small piece of the Kingdom of God, and not the “one and only path” may be the root cause of his difficulty with the members).
I like the Pharoah/Vizier analogy. That’s largely how I view it. When I am asked, “Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator and as the only person on the earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators?”
My response is “Yes. I acknowledge that they are the ones who get the final say in regard to the operation of the church and church policy. But that does not mean that I believe everything they say and do is exactly what God or Christ would say or do.”
“You cannot separate Christ from the Church of Jesus Christ.” I can. And I would argue that you cannot LIMIT Christ to an organization that 99.8% of the world’s population doesn’t belong to, and that a large portion of the world’s population doesn’t have access to. I believe that the Savior of the WORLD is not so exclusive.
Thanks for the summary and analysis. In addition to the (obvious) problem of substituting Christ with the Church, it is patently absurd to claim that “The safety net for all of us is the unanimous council system that solves the problem. When they speak in unity they speak on behalf of Christ.” First of all, knowing what we know about the seniority system, “unanimity” is a farce. It’s forced unanimity. Secondly, how exactly is that a protection? As if 15 people can’t all be wrong about something? I can think of a lot of things that more than 15 people were wrong about.
As for the analogy, I can see that being useful with orthodox members to build bridges. For me, it’s untenable because I don’t believe in the ring. Or that Pharoah has left us.
@Pantheist is correct. The obvious problem is that the Pharaoh/Vizier (aka viz guys) metaphor is absurd. The viz guys only claim to have authority from God. We give them credibility based on tradition and leader worship. The emperor has no clothes.
I have done enough business consulting to understand the viz guys occupy no meaningful space on the divine org chart. They are not accountable to either their customers or the CEO.
As I have stated before on this forum, there is no need to have a layer of supposed viz guys stand between me and my relationship with God. It is the height of arrogance. We are taught God knows us individually. We can seek guidance and receive inspiration without a layer of self appointed overseers.
Means–even necessary means–should never be conflated with the End.
Thank you for this post.
I like the pharoah/vizier analogy insofar as it acknowledges that Christ (pharaoh) and the viziers (Q15) are *different people* and that it is *not* accurate to replace “Church/Q15” with “Christ” when someone states a personal disagreement with the Church/Q15. Viziers/Q15 will do their best, but they will sometimes say and do things that are contrary to the will of pharaoh/Christ. In other words, the analogy explains quite well how Kevin Hamilton is absolutely *wrong* in equating the Church with Christ while explaining how there can still be some connection between the Church and Christ. It is possible to believe that Christ is somehow involved with the Church without believing that every word or action of the prophet/FP/combined Q15 represents the will of Christ.
That all said, I would like to focus in a little bit on the ring and in which situations viziers are authorized to use the ring. If we’re talking about mostly internal administrative decisions, then yes, a church, like any organization, needs to have administrators, so I’m mostly fine with given viziers/Q15 that sort of power. However, I don’t think the viziers/Q15 should be authorized to use the ring on issues that:
(1) are not really internal administrative decisions–the issue affects normal church member’s lives; and
(2) pharaoh/Christ has never spoken about the issue directly; and
(3) the vizier/Q15 has not received a clear and unmistakable answer from pharaoh/Christ about His will. Note: neither Oaks’ “dust collecting on a windowsill” type of “revelation”, any “non-revelation revelation” Nelson claims to have received, nor a consensus of a super-duper awesome committee of 15 viziers/Q15 constitute a “clear and unmistakable” answer from pharaoh/Christ (15 viziers are just as fallible, and in certain cases even more prone to error, as one vizier) –it has to be much, much clearer and unmistakable than that.
In other words, on a non-administrative issue, in the absence of a clear and unmistakable answer from pharaoh/Christ, the the viziers/Q15 should always fall back on being open and permissive instead of coming up with their own rules, limitations, and restrictions that are all-too-often just based on their personal background, culture, traditions, and prejudices.
Applying this standard, viziers/Q15 were correct in doing things like:
1. Eliminating BSA. Administrative issue.
2. Switching to 2 hour Church. Administrative issue.
3. Updating the hymn book. Administrative issue.
4. Encouraging members to donate and participate in humanitarian causes. Christ taught this.
5. Encourage people converted to Christ to be baptized. Christ taught this.
However, under this standard the viziers/Q15 were wrong on issue like:
1. The temple/priesthood ban. In Kevin Hamilton’s talk, he says he doesn’t know why God had this ban until 1978, but I’m pretty darn sure I do. Christ never told the Q15 to discriminate against black people. This ban was based solely on previous biases and statements of fallible viziers/Q15. In the absence of clear and unmistakable communication from Christ, the viziers/Q15 should never have used their ring to establish/continue the ban.
2. The current ban on LGBTQ marriages/sealings. Again, the viziers/Q15 have not received anything directly from Christ on this. In fact, when Packer tried to refer to the Family Proclamation as “revelation” in his infamous Cleansing the Inner Vessel GC talk (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2010/10/cleansing-the-inner-vessel?lang=eng), the Church made him remove his reference to the Proclamation as “revelation” to just say that the Proclamation is merely “a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow.” Because of the lack of clear an unmistakable communication from Christ on LGBTQ issues, the viziers/Q15 should not be using their ring to enforce bans on LGBTQ people, and instead should be welcoming LGBTQ individuals as fully equal members of the Church.
3. The POX. Nelson’s claim of revelation on this (“clearly and unmistakably”) fails the test for a “clear and unmistakable” answer from pharaoh/Christ, so the viziers/Q15 should not have used their ring to enact the POX.
4. Birth control. Again, this is not an administrative issue, and pharaoh/Christ has not given direction on this issue, so the viziers/Q15 should never used their ring to tell the peasants what to do.
5. Women working outside the home. Again, this is not an administrative issue, and pharaoh/Christ has not given direction on this issue, so the viziers should never have used their ring to tell the peasants what to do.
6. Tattoos and wearing multiple earrings. Again, this is not an administrative issue, and pharaoh/Christ has not given direction on these issues, so the viziers/Q15 should never have used their ring to tell the peasants what to do.
Some peasants/orthodox members may be thinking, “But, but, but…I’m not used to making my own decisions. What can the viziers/Q15 tell me to do?” My reply to that is as long as the viziers/Q15 aren’t receiving “clear and unmistakable” revelation from God, and it appears to me that (maybe with just a few exceptions, but probably not even that) they haven’t been receiving any such revelations for many decades now, they should only be teaching the fundamental principles of Christ’s gospel, teaching people how to make their own decisions based on these principles, and stop using their beloved rings to make all of these unnecessary (and unauthorized) rules.
The Pharaoh & Vizier metaphor isn’t very helpful for me. It strikes me as a bit like the “not secret, sacred” mantra we repeat to stave off discomfort at the apparently secretive nature of temple practice: it exists to wrap the same functional system in a more comfortable connotative clothing without any particular distinction. Mind you, I *do* think it’s possible to elaborate on the natures of secrecy and sacredness in a productive way… but with rare exception, we *don’t* do that, which suggests to me the purpose of that phrase isn’t to refine our understanding and practice but to get people to ignore something that might under normal circumstances make them uncomfortable.
Likewise, it seems to me the Pharaoh & Vizier metaphor exists to mitigate the discomfort from conceptual collapse between fallible human authority and theoretically perfect divine authority… but leave the authoritarian habits and culture around to function the same as they always have for better and worse.
This might be fine if the only difficulty the church were facing was indeed a trust and certainty crisis. That’s arguably a primarily conceptual crisis and could be addressed with conceptual reconfiguration (a category both the Pharaoh & Vizier and something like Hamilton’s address belong to).
The problem is the church also faces functional difficulties. There are ways it’s functioning poorly to lead people to Christ and discipleship, ways in which it’s not functioning as a Zion community… and that’s just in general terms. There are *specific* areas and/or classes of people for which it actually operates destructively, and institutionally the church seems to be at a loss to muster any response other than just-trust-us affirmations of authority like the ones Hamilton showed up to deploy.
Addressing the functional difficulties might well require functional changes rather than more comfortable stories about the way we do things now.
Years ago someone I was dating went through a faith crisis that landed her solidly outside the church in a 6-month stint. I remember one of *her* expressions of the trust and confidence crisis: “Nobody knows *anything*” which is of course the mirror image of certainty that the church teaches us to place in the authority of leaders. My response was: “I don’t think that’s true. I think nobody knows everything, but everyone knows something and if we all talk to each other openly but humbly about what we know, we can know a lot together.”
What if we don’t need a Vizier as much as we need to find each other and aggregate the insights and even revelations happening among us? The Mosiah 18 covenant sure suggests that. We can even make the case for a church in these terms. An institutional church can also be an important vessel for making that happen, and an institution will always need stewards, and those in positions of stewardship will often be in a position to see things not visible elsewhere, and that’s before we get to whatever spiritual gifts may be given to those not only called but chosen. But anybody who’s watched the Lord of The Rings films knows the hazards of too much investment in the importance of the stewards themselves. Managing up can only be half the covenant *at best*. Even *if* we accepted a Pharaoh&Vizier model that would have us managing up to God, God’s image is distributed throughout the faces and hearts of members and humanity at large, each a revelation themselves not to be denied or taken lightly.
@Kristine K. I am delighted enlightened bloggers, including you, are not letting GAs and their talks like this one off of the hook. It is obvious Elder Hamilton, like other church officers, was given a specific topic to address and theme to promote. The pattern can be seen as we look at so many addresses given over the past few years. Also clear is how the Nelson/Oaks presidency is pushing COB hardliners to the forefront of the church. The church is doubling down and tripling down on its entrenchment policies and fundamentalist dogma.
I like your thoughts. Like others, I’m not sure the Pharaoh metaphor completely works for me, but I give you high marks for bringing this thought to bear on the broader ideas you are raising in the OP. You hit the bullseye when you assert the problem isn’t a faith crisis, but rather a trust crisis. Yes! We can never talk about the real issues. There are never answers from authorities that help your friend, the wife of the bishop with LGBTQ children. Authorities simply revert back to old, linear, simple-minded, patriarchal messages.
Despite finding fallacies in Hamilton’s principal argument (and I have to add I am so tired of listening to endless tautologies), the gaslighting and proof texting he engages in is extreme. His message excusing the doctrine of exclusion harms marginalized members of our church–I wonder if he understands that. The church’s defense where it shrugs with a ‘golly, God must have had a reason’ is a gross misrepresentation of the facts and is a lie, and continuing to excuse the church’s racist past harms people in the church today. I’m so disappointed he promoted that false narrative justifying the church’s racism.
I’m sure Hamilton is a nice and well meaning man, but what is so disappointing is his displayed lack of spiritual thought leadership. There is no insight here and certainly no imagination that solves any real problems we face as a religion and followers of Christ in this church. I guess on one level my frustration with these kinds of addresses has given way to yawns. I mean I shouldn’t be surprised. I am glad I listened to his address at 1.5x speed because that is 20 minutes of my life I will never get back which I guess is better than 30.
Back to my thoughts on the church executing a highly coordinated messaging agenda. We have now heard talks reinforcing hardline themes in the RMN/DHO presidency from Elder Holland, Sherri Dew, Clark Gilbert, Kevin Pearson, Kevin Hamilton and Ahmad Corbitt (and Michael Teh echoed the church’s double down theme in an Alpine, Utah, stake conference). I feel like I need to get out my bingo card and see which GA will push these themes next. Long dead is the humility, empathy and more big tent messages we used to hear from Dieter Uchtdorf. How the winds have changed.
I don’t love the Pharaoh/vizier metaphor at all because I have the Pharaoh’s email address and I have asked him if he agrees with how the vizier is running things and he said no. But the Pharaoh gonna have to deal with the vizier himself.
I also don’t like the whole “we’re just peasants and should do whatever the leaders tell us” nope I don’t have to just obey someone who is doing so much damage to others. We have a moral obligation to stand up for what is right even if that means saying that the leaders are wrong.
I don’t think I’m ever going to fully support any gospel messages or metaphors that tell us that we are peasants in the scheme of anything. If I’m a child of God that makes me most definitely NOT a peasant.
We don’t have to swallow every single thing they teach or agree with them in everything. The leaders want to conflate their position with Christ and frankly, they are wrong and prideful to insist that. I don’t have all the answers but I know pride when I see it and our leaders are currently dripping in it. Bednar yelling “I am scripture” is pretty much the summation of how arrogant all the Q15 have become. This is about power and control. Pride goes before the fall, bretheren.
Like others on here, the metaphor (while nice) doesn’t work for me, because (In my case) I’m just not convinced anymore that there is a creator granting authority to middleman.
What are the evidences? Are there alternative explanations? If all the church can muster on behalf of prophetic infallibility, and unwavering obedience is this Hamilton guy- then I’m better off just listening to Dan McClellan, learning how DIFFERENT from us the ancient Christians were, and become actually informed on something.
To think I was one of those fire-side regular-attendees once…
I like options that include charity for all!
“Infallibility kills: it kills the bodies of those marked expendable, it kills relationships with those who dissent, and it kills the souls who suffocate on their own ignorance and privilege. It kills courage, it kills hope, it kills faith, and it kills the kind of historical memory that helps a religious community understand itself and find its next steps toward holiness.”
Brooks, Joanna. *Mormonism and White Supremacy* (p. 111). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
Sorry for coming in late to the comments, folks! after govt homework w the HS senior, potty training and bedtime with the littles, I went axe throwing for the first time and this devo gave me a lot of pent-up energy and aggression I needed to get out.
@aporetic1: I think Hamilton’s talk is a “root cause” with a lot of folks. And I like how you described the temple recommend interview Q: do they have that stewardship/authority to make all of the decisions for the church? Yes sir that’s why they’re there! Sustain doesn’t mean agree w everything, folks!
@Panetheist: this exclusionary limit of only we have true Christianity is going to kill me one day, I swear. “Only we are truly walking with Christ!” Be serious!
@elisapersisted: right? 15 ppl being unanimous means 100% they’re saying what Christ would say and think is a stretch. And later on, he talks about how we all see through a glass darkly … yeah no crap Sherlock, that’s exactly my point — all humans!!
And your & @De Novo’s comment about not believing in a ring exists highlights another issue maybe I wan’t clear here: I see “the ring” as just authority to make decisions for a physical church organization. They’re the guys leading it, they get that job, however it fell into their laps. Whether I think there are just a whole bunch of Christian churches doing good and we have a role to play in that body of Christ … I think there needs to be a panel of folks signing legal docs etc in the absence of God on earth. Now do I think I need them as intercessors between me and Christ? that is entirely a separate topic as to whether they have “the ring.” I think this will definitely be a point of disagreement to non-believing/practicing folks on whether they’re church authorities or not … I think I have a fairly healthy separation between me and the org/leaders so I don’t see much of what they do having anything to do with my discipleship/revelation/relationship w Christ. Idk if that just cleared or muddied the waters more.
@MointainClimber479: I love the distinctions you made. I think things would be hella better if they split administrative and ministerial roles. (tangentially, as a response to the ‘oh so you think women should be ordained, huh?’ line . . is well, unordain some men, ordain some women . . . and mix them up into admin and ministerial positions ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) Your comment reminds me of how after Joseph died none of the Presidents of the church called themselves a prophet, they were President of the Church and the Prophet was Joseph.
@W I think it sounds you’re addressing what should be as compared to what is. I think what we have now is a Vizier situation. I wonder what you’d think about my ideal proposal to split admin/ministerial roles and flattening hierarchies a whole lot more and having ombudsman/feedback divisions etc. If we wanna talk about *ideals* I could go on all day :).
@BigSky I think I remember you from back in my old regular blogging ancient days of yore! I agree it’s suuuper frustrating to watch retrenchment happen in real time. Demoralizing. and it’s going to dissolution a lot of folks. And how you say it’s given way to yawns … yeah. One of the reasons I can’t work myself up enough energy to blog these days (that and the very real time constraints I have!! mostly that!). And his use and example of using the racial priesthood and temple ban was egregious. This is the whole paragraph I had IN the post and took it out for clarity and length:
@kristine a, yes, that version of authority makes sense to me (and maybe I just missed that clarification in the OP, but I think using that analogy with orthodox folks will have them assuming the ring = you stand for God).
That brand of prophet (sure, they have authority to lead *this particular Church*) is how I nuanced temple recommend questions for a while. And then I just really couldn’t. It just got to be impossible for me to say they were prophet, seers, and revelators when I haven’t seen any prophesying, seeing, or revealing. To me that sustaining simply asks much more than “I agree this person gets to be in charge of the affairs of the Church.” But I don’t blame people value having a temple recommend & get through the interview in that way.
@CanadianDude I def should used that caveat of if you’re somewhat believing or trying to make it work in … does the analogy work for ya. obviously there’s a lot of ppl for whom it is much too late to incorporate into navigation
@elisapersisted related a bit to CanadianDude: it doesn’t work for folks who are done making it work right? And once folks who are done making it work pass that line the way they view folks before the line shifts a bit. I have no idea why I’ve stayed for ten years … reminds me a bit of a @sa40test post from a long time ago: it seems the folks who make it work long term feel they have an internal calling to it. I feel a 1000% call to Christian discipleship and it goes back and forth a bit on Mormonism! Depends on the day 🙂
Yes, that makes sense. I don’t have an issue with people who stay – particularly people like you who stay but don’t stay quiet – and also recognize that the framing worked for me until it didn’t, which probably had to do with me being ok with it not working anymore.
@kristine a–The comparison to how only Joseph was The Prophet and the early prophets after him were just The President is a good one. Another comparable situation might be the “single verse ‘prophets(?)” in the Book of Omni. For example, here’s single verse prophet Chemish had to say, “Now I, Chemish, write what few things I write, in the same book with my brother; for behold, I saw the last which he wrote, that he wrote it with his own hand; and he wrote it in the day that he delivered them unto me. And after this manner we keep the records, for it is according to the commandments of our fathers. And I make an end.” It kind of sounds like Chemish was an administrator at best.
I’d certainly say that if all of the Mormon prophets in my lifetime were to record their important revelations into a book of scripture that they would also be single verse prophets–there wouldn’t be much to say other than that they were the top administrator of the Church for a few years. For example, “Now I, Nelson, write what few things I write, in the same book and have about the same thing to say as Monson, Hinckley, Hunter, Benson, Kimball, Lee, Fielding Smith, and McKay. And it came to pass, that all of us prophet-administrators of the 6th decade of the 20th century and the 7th decade of the 20th century, and the 8th decade of the 20th century, and the 9th decade of the 20th century, and the 10th decade of the 20th century, and the 1st decade of the 21st century and the 2nd decade of the 21st century, even until the third year of the third decade of the 21st century after the coming of Christ all only made some minor administrative changes to the Church that aren’t notable enough to be recorded in scripture. Oh, uh…yeah, and I lied to everyone and threw God under the bus when I somehow thought it would be a great idea to hate on gay kids by denying them baptism which is supposed to be free for all who are converted to Christ. And it came to pass, I’m waxing old and need to hand these records unto my best bud Oaks. But behold, something in the back of my mind tells me I ought to be worried about explaining all of that crap I did to the gay kids at the judgment bar of God, especially since I kind of blamed God for it, yet my stiffened neck and my heart which has waxed hard is such a stumbling block to me issuing an apology that I just can’t get myself to do it (and Oaks would literally kill me if I ever tried to apologize). Gulp. And I make an end.”
In any case, when reading both the BoM and the Old Testament, it seems like there have been large periods of time when there were probably some administrators doing their thing, but there really wasn’t anyone doing much prophesying, seeing, or revelating–kind of like all of my lifetime (and probably much longer that that)? I’m actually fine with that–as long as the administrators stick to administrating when they don’t have clear and unmistakable direction from God.
If you are in the borderlands of Egypt (by the Sudan or Israel for example), survival in the desert and working out local situations with your non-Egyptian neighbors will be more pertinent to you and your family then what is happening in Cairo (at least in the short-term).
At that point, it becomes a “legitimacy test” for both Pharaoh and Vizier alike – for them to prove that they are who they say they are. In theory, the level of proof should be the same “whether my voice or the voice of my servants” and all that. If you are out far enough, the influence of the Pharaoh is meaningless /holds little meaning. And the cries of “come back closer to the center of power” may or may not be useful or even possible.
Also, It can be hard to tell whether the “true” narrative being enacted is “Follow Joseph and the Pharaoh in setting aside years of food storage” or “Follow Moses and flee Pharaoh and the false gods”. Coming out of a faith transition myself, I can see the disparity more easily – I can’t tell the number of times that the conversation winds up being a variation of “But he’s Joseph – look at what we are doing and building for the future” and I am saying, “But Moses is that way. Egypt isn’t a safe place for us anymore. That future doesn’t include us and isn’t built for us.”
The insistence on unanimity is why it took until 1978 to remove the temple and priesthood ban. They’ve gotta stop talking about it like it’s a good thing.
Once in fast and testimony meeting, a missionary serving in our ward stood up and said, “I know that President Nelson is the president of the Church,” and I thought,”Yeah, I could bear testimony to that.”
No metaphor is perfect, and I understand the idea behind the Pharaoh/Vizier metaphor, but there is one BIG difference between a Vizier speaking for the Pharaoh and Church leaders speaking for God; when the Pharaoh was away the citizens had no direct access to him. We each have direct access to God and we can have direct communication with Them about ANYTHING pertaining to our lives.
We should never turn personal decision making over to a Vizier, or even 15 Viziers.
I’m not an Egyptologist, but I’m assuming the ring gave Viziers the authority to make administrative decisions, but not personal decisions for individual citizens. The same applies today; the 15 Viziers speak for the Pharaohs in administrative things, but not in individual things. The Pharaohs speak to each of Their children individually whether inside the church or out.
It’s a very sad idea that Elder Hamilton promotes. According to him, the needed organized church delivers the blessings of the atonement to its members. The 99.8% of the rest of the world who are not members of the church are out of luck atonement wise I guess.
On the idea of separating the administrative roles from the pastoral or spiritual . . . it makes me think, would we just get more non-Christian behavior from entities like EPA and Kurton McConkie? It seems to me there just needs to be someone asking, with each financial or legal decision, is this what Christ would do?
I wonder if the parable at D&C 88:51-61 might apply here. There is one field with 12 servants in different parts of the field, no doubt separated from each other, and the owner visits each in turn, an hour each. “And then he withdrew from the first that he might visit the second also, and the third, and the fourth, and so on unto the twelfth. And thus they all received the light of the countenance of their lord, every man in his hour…” This parable is in the D&C, and is for us in our day.
@owen that’s amazing.
A few weeks ago my kiddo went to Sunday school (rare occurrence for him) and the teacher said that if everyone bore a testimony they’d get treats. He didn’t want his lack of a testimony to prevent his class from the reward so he said “I know that the Book of Mormon is a book.”
When I first read excerpts of the devotional in question, my first thought to the idea that the church, not Christ, was from the beginning of time, was: “This man could really benefit from a good Christian Theology 101 course.” I shared that with other W&T bloggers, along with wondering if GAs engage in any kind of theological training when they’re called. One of the other permas replied (perhaps only partially in jest–sometimes hard to tell online, of course), “Our church doesn’t do theology.” Yeah, I get that. Formal theological training outside the bounds of the church was a hallmark of my own RLDS tradition well into the mid-20th century. Fortunately, that began to change, which led to a lot of other transitions leading to where the Community of Christ is today. And I know there are folks here who contend that’s a bad thing. I respect their opinion, but disagree. One of the great turning points in my life was engaging in studies at an ecumenical theological school in Vancouver, B.C., for two years in the late-1970s. I’m proud of the fact that my presence there opened the doors for other RLDS students to enroll and eventually graduate.
If Elder Hamilton wants to stay only within “LDS thought,” perhaps he should re-read the opening verses of Genesis in the JST: creation of the world through “My Only Begotten,” without a mention of the church.
@Joni, I agree with your sentiment. However, there is a potential positive side to requiring the 15 to agree. For example, it seems quite probable that the only reason that the Family Proclamation hasn’t been canonized and isn’t printed in the back of the D&C as Official Declaration 3 may be this insistence on unanimity (maybe Uctdorf and possibly some other hold ups won’t sign off on canonization). The unanimity requirement can slow down good things from happening, but it can also slow down bad things from happening, too.
That said, I agree with Elisa that just because these 15 elderly, white, mostly Morridor raised, wealthy, privileged men agree on something hardly means it’s the will of God. I can’t even fathom how they can stand at the pulpit and with a straight face state that their unanimity equals discerning God’s will. I mean, come on–this unanimity rule–they totally just made that up.
My current calling is in primary. The front of the primary room has 1 picture: a nicely framed photo of President Nelson. The back of the room has several lovely paintings of Jesus Christ. When sitting in primary, all we see is President Nelson, NOT Jesus Christ. This is symbolic to me of the approach that the church is currently taking. The current church leadership has been trying to send the message that we should obey and admire them because they are the boss. That message doesn’t seem to be stemming the tide of people leaving and/or thinking for themselves. The updated message that Hamilton has delivered is: obey us because the church is synonymous with Jesus Christ. This approach feels desperate. It will only reinforce the thinking of orthodox members and will make the atmosphere more uncomfortable for progressives.
You’d think that a church led by businessmen and professionals would have some grasp of how to lead successfully in the modern world.
Here are some quotes about leadership that could really help church leadership with the crisis they find themselves in:
“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” – Ken Blanchard
“In the past a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders must be partners with their people… they no longer can lead solely based on positional power. “
– Ken Blanchard
The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm. – John C. Maxwell
I miss President Hinckley. In many ways he embodied the type of leadership these quotes are describing. He inspired enthusiasm for living the gospel and just trying to be better neighbors and followers of Christ. He was able to laugh at himself and portray a type of humility that I admired. While not perfect, I think that President Hinckley tried to lead by influence, not authority. Most of Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s messages also lift and inspire in the same type of positive way. That’s why he’s so beloved. That’s the type of leadership that I think could more effectively address the crisis the church is in.
@Rich Brown, I appreciate your thought, “This man could really benefit from a good Christian Theology 101 course.” And thank you for sharing your experiences going through theological training.
I wanted to include in my comments an opinion about Elder Hamilton, but reconsidered because I felt it was too ad hominem. I’ll include it here.
When I listed to his talk, one of the first thoughts that went through my mind was, “Another wealthy, former CEO with business degrees talking to me about the church as an organization…and no real religious insight to be found” I understand many former executives who have been called to positions of authority within the church are broadly educated so I need to be careful not to over generalize. But often I feel like if I am not being talked at by a general authority lawyer (sorry @Elisa, I don’t mean to disparage all lawyers [big grin]), I’m being talked at by a general authority CEO…and both groups too often do fit the stereotype and their messages are predictable and lack depth.
I’ve often wondered why doesn’t the church call people like Terryl Givens to be a Seventy? Is it because he doesn’t know international finance or law? Because it sure seems to me like he could make our church more enriching for members based on his thinking and writing. He is just one example of the problem we have because we don’t have enough general authority leaders who can provide more sophisticated and effective religious leadership.
@ BigSky – I think that Chieko Okazaki was a “breath of fresh air” with that depth in part because she had years of training and experience working with children in both being a teacher and being a principal.
I was in a stake with a marital counselor as a stake president. He met with my fiancee and myself before we got married – and he focused on the “rules of courtship” so we didn’t screw anything up in the months leading to our temple marriage. Years later, I wish he had talked about what was really important and what we didn’t really know how to do – how to “fight fair” and advocate for each other, basically. Or told us the one thing we needed to know about children – that having children isolates husbands and wives pretty intensely and that aspect of married life requires more study and accommodations so it doesn’t create traumatic situations.
My current stake has had good high school and middle school teachers in the stake presidency for the last 7 ish years. I actually found them to be helpful and inspiring pre-faith and mid-faith transition (and made a softer landing, all things considered).
@mountainclimber479 — the emphasis on unanimity comes from Doctrine and Covenants 107:27 … the disingenuous side of this is (I fear) that some decisions really AREN’T unanimous (e.g. I’m guessing then Elder Nelson was gritting his teeth when the church leadership approved the “I’m a Mormon” campaign) but are “forced” to be because of “sustaining your leaders / respecting your elders”. I often pray that the Q15 will blessed to receive revelation for the church *AND* have the courage and faith to act on that revelation…
Good point, @Jade. My reading of D&C 107 states that the FP, the Q12, and the Q70 each form their own quorums. All 3 of these quorums are supposedly equal in authority. Decisions of the Q12 and 70 must be unanimous within their own quorum (whether the FP has to be unanimous isn’t so clear to me since the word “either” is used in verse 70, “either” usually just applies to two things, and the previous 2 quorums mentioned would be the Q15 and Q70, but I guess the FP probably needs to be unanimous, too). So…my reading seems to indicate that the FP can make decisions on its own (and it seems like it used to do this a long time ago), but since the Q12 and Q70 have equal authority, they could override the FP (or even take the lead on making a decision rather than waiting for the FP, but I don’t think they’ve ever done this)? And if the Q70 are equal to both the FP and Q12, why don’t they also have to unanimously agree on any action taken by the Q15? It feels like (probably in my lifetime), the FP and Q12 have kind of been merged into one quorum, the Q15, that must be unanimous, and the Q70 has never really wielded the power granted it in D&C 107. So, yeah, there’s D&C 107, and it feels like we kinda follow parts of it, but we also kinda don’t follow other parts of it.
I agree that the Church could be blessed from revelation given to the Q15. The Church could also be blessed by having good administrators that don’t attempt to speak or act in the name of God when they haven’t received revelation. In the absence of clear and unmistakable revelation, the default position should be to be open, inviting “big tent” administrators rather than relying on tradition, culture, and personal prejudices to be restrictive, close-minded, Pharisaical “small tent” administrators.
Doe’s anyone else find the fact that in the Vizier metaphor we are peasants utterly disheartening?
Robert, good point.
I don’t like the metaphor. I am not comfortable with it, and it isn’t an idea the leaders seem to be promoting themselves. They go a lot further.
I have long been uncomfortable with the ideas put forward by the Givens. Not sure why… at this point it feels almost Pavlovian…
@mountainclimber479 wrote ” The unanimity requirement can slow down good things from happening, but it can also slow down bad things from happening, too. ”
It has been my observation that practices like requiring complete unanimity in our quorums and councils tends to make us conservative (not necessarily in today’s political terms, but in the sense that we prefer the status quo and resist change). When you require unanimity (and reasonable agreement between the top councils and the grassroots membership), you cannot change any faster than your most conservative member. As you say, that’s good when your existing traditions and beliefs are good and right and “true.” When change is desirable, however, it creates a very real tension between the conservatives and the progressives.
Even if they don’t call any of our faith’s great theologians, thinkers, or poets into general authority positions, speakers could at least get their input to give better talks!!!
@Robert & @hedgehogwrites — I think the hierarchal metaphor is accurate for what reality is, and not for what it ideally could be. I’m more of a liberation theology. mormon that wants to flatten all hierarchies, but if I’m going to describe what we have … almost all we are is hierarchies. liberation theology doesn’t fit well in lds org bc it wants to abolish tables and reimagine the possible, in practice for active folks it looks liberal: hoping for inclusion at the tables
@joni @mountainclimber479 @jade @mrshorty the unanimity assertion that it makes them more christlike when it actually just makes them more status quo/conservative is spot on. Good insight on the lack of canonization for the FP though. I was at a reunion recently talking to a relative about the race ban and he said he hated when folks use presentism and judge Brigham for just doing what was normal for the day …. and my response was “ok but why were we the last ones out of EVERYONE to hang on to it?” (
@Pilar & @mattMan, sorry your comments just got caught up in the filter–I just saw them
Pilar I completely agree we don’t have to do everything a leader says just because they say it. But I can’t argue with the fact they’re the ones up in the COB in SLC making the decisions, and having accountability for them. THey probably don’t think much about that part seeing they’ve had the 2A and all, huh. I just realized that. I def agree to Christ? I’m beloved. To LDS.org? I’m a membership number on their lists.
@MattMan – yes, that was my point: administratively they decide away. Spiritually, there’s no level between me and Christ.
maybe I’m just so many years into it where my spiritual life doesn’t have anything to do with the official org church except for attending on sunday so I can take the sacrament and be in community so I didn’t clarify the analogy quite as much as I could have.
but most of yall are right: the metaphor fails in several places for a host of reasons.
I think the metaphor does work; Christ uses a similar argument in Matthew 23:2-3. I don’t think the metaphor supports all the conclusions in the devotional. Christ’s argument is much more limited than Elder Hamilton’s (and less flattering for the authority as well.) Christ affirms that the people that “sit in Moses’ seat” are legitimate rulers, but that their works should not be emulated. I think Christ’s instructions squares well with previous comments that one can sustain a leader as a legitimate authority in a particular office, and not support all of their actions. I do think it ironic that Elder Hamilton chose to use Pharaoh as the example of legitimate authority when Abraham 1:25-27 makes clear that ancient Egyptian government was an illegitimate copy of the priesthood.
I find this line of reasoning especially frustrating because D&C 121:41 makes it absolutely clear that asserting ones authority in the priesthood in order to control another is neither possible nor desirable. Appeals to authority at church should work like Godwin’s Law; if your best argument is that you have the authority, you have lost the argument.
Maybe Elder Hamilton has never read Alma 4: 5-10…. clearly in a book written for our day – there was a separation between God/Christ and the church…. The church of God actually, for a time, began to fail in its progress
David, thanks. The parable at D&C 88:51-61 was also given in our day and for our day, as was Alma, and it may describe how the Lord works today. I don’t doubt that the Lord was there with Joseph Smith when he organized the Church. The leaders today are his successors in office, properly constituted. They are they who sit in Moses’ seat today (Matt 23:2), and what Jesus told His disciples in Matthew probably applies to us today. I do not think the Alma 4 quote implicates the leaders in bad conduct; Alma and the leaders “were sorely grieved” at how the members were acting, and the church began to fail in its progress because of the members’ actions–at least that’s how I read these verses. I like the OP’s pharaoh analogy. No analogy (or parable) is perfect in every point, but it makes sense to me. The vizier had to keep Egypt functioning and working until the pharaoh returned. To use another analogy, Denethor, the steward of Gondor, ruled as a king, but he did not sit upon the high throne. Rather, he sat at his seat at the foot of the steps. He had the power to punish, rule, make war, levy taxes, and everything else, and the citizens of Gondor owed him obedience, but Denethor was not the king, for that throne was vacant until Aragon returned to claim it. A loyal Gondorian (Gondorite?) might yearn for the return of the king, but until that return he had to obey the steward, did he not? Which brings me to Daniel Smith’s wise reminder that the priesthood, on which our church government is based, does not rule by power, force, or dominion, but it invites, persuades, and encourages people to make right decisions.
David, thanks. The parable at D&C 88:51-61 was also given in our day and for our day, and it may describe how the Lord works today. I don’t doubt that the Lord was there with Joseph Smith, and Joseph organized a Church. The leaders today are his successors in office, properly constituted. They are they who sit in Moses’ seat today (Matt 23:2), and what Jesus told His disciples in Matthew probably applies to us today. I do not think the Alma 4 quote implicates the leaders in bad conduct; Alma and the leaders “were sorely grieved” at how the members were acting, and the church began to fail in its progress. I like the OP’s pharaoh analogy. No analogy (or parable) is perfect, but it makes sense to me. The vizier has to keep Egypt functioning and working until the pharaoh returns. To use another analogy, Denethor, the steward of Gondor, ruled as a king, but he did not sit upon the high throne. He had the power to punish, rule, make war, levy taxes, and everything else, and the citizens of Gondor owed him obedience, but Denethor was not the king, for that throne was vacant until Aragon returned to claim it. Denethor acted with authority, but he did not claim that he was the king, nor that his stewardship was equal to kingship. A loyal Gondorian (Gondorite?) might yearn for the return of the king, but until that return he had to obey the steward, did he not? Which brings me to Daniel Smith’s wise reminder that the priesthood, on which our church government is based, does not rule by power, force, or dominion, but it invites, persuades, and encourages people to make right decisions.”were sorely grieved” at how the members were acting, and the church began to fail in its progress because of the members’ actions–at least that’s how I read these verses. I like the OP’s pharaoh analogy. No analogy (or parable) is perfect in every point, but it makes sense to me. The vizier had to keep Egypt functioning and working until the pharaoh returned. To use another analogy, Denethor, the steward of Gondor, ruled as a king, but he did not sit upon the high throne. Rather, he sat at his seat at the foot of the steps. He had the power to punish, rule, make war, levy taxes, and everything else, and the citizens of Gondor owed him obedience, but Denethor was not the king, for that throne was vacant until Aragon returned to claim it. A loyal Gondorian might yearn for the return of the king, but until that return he had to obey the steward, did he not? Which brings me to Daniel Smith’s wise reminder that the priesthood, on which our church government is based, does not rule by power, force, or dominion, but it invites, persuades, and encourages people to make right decisions.
Thanks Georgis – agreed that no analogy is perfect… I might be splitting hairs – in verse 7, it speaks to the fact that “many” (not all) of the leaders who were ordained to teach were sorely grieved – not all of them. When I think about the influence of our leaders on the church in the Latter-Days, I suspect at least one factor in this set back was due to some of the leaders influence.
One recent example – President Oaks spoke at the “Be One” celebration about blacks getting the priesthood and noted that once the revelation came, the church move quickly to issue temple recommends, etc. – while some members did not change their heart as quickly – or words to that effect. What was not shared was how long it took the church institution to get there prior to the revelation (somehow the “fallen world got there faster than those with the restored gospel) -or that some of the challenge for members to get there quickly was due to decades of leaders teaching racist concepts as doctrine (which are now disavowed).
To me, this does not mean that the church is not authorized, but that the conceptual “leaders make mistakes” can apply to areas of policy and doctrine that can cause sin. We learned from President Nelson that President Hinkley’s and President Monson’s focus on ‘We are the Mormons” and “Mormonads” as mistakes that caused all of us to help satan win and offended the Lord. “When the Savior clearly states what the name of His Church should be . . . , He is serious. And if we allow nicknames to be used or adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended.”
David, very fair on the Alma citation. And very fair that leaders can sometimes frustrate the leaders’ visions. I do not think that most bishops and stake presidents have provide our youth with the strong and compelling youth program that we were promised after we cut ties with the Boy Scouts. The name issue is fascinating for me, and your mention of Moses’ seat rings loud in my ears. April 1990 on Saturday morning, Elder Nelson gave “Thus Shall My Church Be Called.” Perhaps knowing that he did not have a majority, he spoke about what the Church should be called but did not directly say what it should not be called, except once when he quoted a Sunday School manual “We feel that some may be misled by the too frequent use of the term ‘Mormon Church.’” He continued, “Before any other name is considered to be a legitimate substitute, the thoughtful person might reverently consider the feelings of the Heavenly Parent who bestowed that name.” He also said, without citing the M-word: “Sometimes a nickname is used instead of the real name. But a nickname may offend either the one named or the parents who gave the name.” Six months later in October 1990 on Sunday morning, President Hinckley gave “Mormon Should Be More Good.” Hinckley directly cited Nelson’s talk from six months earlier: “Six months ago in our conference Elder Russell M. Nelson delivered an excellent address on the correct name of the Church. He quoted the words of the Lord Himself: ‘Thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’ He [Elder Nelson] then went on to discourse on the various elements of that name. I commend to you a rereading of his talk.” Hinckley went on to describe why “Mormon” need not be a term that embarrasses us. In October 2018 on Sunday morning, President Nelson gave “The Correct Name of the Church.” What changed? The will and mind of the Lord? Maybe. Or maybe the junior became senior. Wendy Nelson has taught publicly that since her husband became President of the Church, he can now do things that he hadn’t been able to do before. Maybe Hinckley wrong in October 1990, and he and some others needed to die so that Nelson’s thoughts could become truth. Maybe. I am trying to change my speech patterns, perhaps more because he is president and sits in Moses’ seat today, but perhaps less because I am convinced that the Lord is offended. I want to sustain Hinckley and Nelson, and I try to put together and make sense out of all that the Brethren teach. That is not always easy, but the Lord’s way are not my ways. I think that leaders can make mistakes (didn’t Elder Uchtdorf teach that?), and the Lord is not always johnny-on-the-spot to correct those mistakes, perhaps because those mistakes are in peripheral or secondary (or tertiary) areas, and faith in Christ, and living to develop faith, hope, and charity, are what really matter.
The reality for me is that I love “the idea and teachings of Jesus Christ” – and may still even believe in his reality. However, the corporate stench which now permeates “the Church’ and it’s so-called Leaders has become an anathema to me. I loathe it and I generally loathe them; I perceive very, very little of Jesus Christ in them….As for Elder Hamilton, this condescending, puffed up, blowhard…can simply “kiss my a**”; whenever, and how many times he would like.
I really like the fact that members are looking for truth more than the comfort of living with certainty within the bubble of limited knowledge. My background is pretty nuanced. I have a background in mental health counseling and a doctorate in business – with a focus on organizational leadership. As a former member who struggled with serious OCD and anxiety, directly related to LDS fear-based culture (i.e., always warning to avoid bad behaviors with punishment as consequences) I learned that the Bishop or any leader can’t assume dual roles of pastoral helper and organizational manager. Second, it is impossible to have the training and competency to perform well in both of these roles because the competencies of these guys don’t allow for effectiveness. When GA’s like Kevin seek to increase retention levels (a managerial duty), they are primarily concerned with the church. I struggled with serious anxiety and OCD for decades as a totally dedicated member. When I had a major marital problem, leaders handled me like a corporate HR department; policies and compliance with rules were their primary concerns. Changing my behavior was the goal to remain ’employed’. What I needed, and what I believe God would provide for me, was healing; deep emotional healing. I might have been able to save my marriage with proper intervention. I needed what Carl Rogers, the pioneer in client-centered therapy called unconditional positive regard, non-judgment, empathic listening, etc. I needed self-awareness, especially regarding my unknown emotional life. I needed the love of God to encourage me and His grace to shine on me. Instead, I got a Hamilton-like meeting with 3 men who only wanted situational facts regarding my ‘sinful’ behaviors. They were forced to act according to the cultural norms and disciplinary system – these are organizational leadership issues, for sure.
The pastoral concerns or even the awareness to look at these other dimensions of self were missing. The real problem was my emotions and thinking processes that affected my spiritual life big time.
The other thought I have is this – how do followers perceive leaders and what is their experience like? That’s what these managers should be asking because, according to brand experience research, the feelings and judgments of ‘customers’ create intentions to ‘quit’ or ‘stay’. If managers like Hamilton want young people to stay, they need to stop leveraging their power and authority and start listening to ‘customers’. Metaphorically speaking, many former members see the church as ‘Mafia’ – with dire warnings and threats of punishment for leaving. Once in you can never leave. It’s a very disturbing fear that is learned by many followers. Threats of Hell and no forgiveness are abusive and damaging yet they are in LDS teachings and scriptures. It’s gotten better than it was in the Kimball and McConkie years but it’s embedded in the heritage. Stop the Maria tactics, it’s very NOT LIKE Christ.
Covenants made under oaths of threats also need to stop. In fact, that seems to be another innovation of Smith and his Masonic experiences. Nothing like this was ever mentioned in any of the thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament. And, we now know that Solomon’s temple was nothing like Masonic or LDS rituals or purposes. So that whole narrative needs to go too,
I think many former and current members are very tired of all the obvious corporate bureaucratic ‘inward mindsets’ of top leaders who seem more concerned about the organization than the health and well-being of individuals. Not much different than the quiet quitting I see in companies or the great resignation we saw during the COVID era. People are waking up to selfishness, coercion, and manipulation. They want to be authentic and healthy, honest relationships built on trust, not false narratives. Richard Bushman is totally correct – the current narrative perpetuated by church management is not sustainable. It’s not factually accurate. Followers see this as deceptive, misleading, and intended to manipulate perceptions and attitudes in favor of the church and its retention (and tithing).
I love truth and access to accurate information; something church managers controlled for many decades.
The party is over and top executives are dealing with what they have done for a very long time.