Do Mormon members really have the ability to sway God and his anointed?
If the LDS church is truly run by revelation given to inspired prophets that have dedicated their long lives to humble devotion to the Lord, then one would expect them to be very in-tune with God’s will. Mistakes will be made, but the Lord would let them know before the common member, would he not?
(In fact, the doctrine is just that, as stated in OD-1: "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray.")
Recently the LDS church has reported changes in doctrine, policy and interpretation of its history. Four of these are particularly interesting. I’ve commented on two of these in the past, including:
1 – The declaration that the discrimination against black members was unfounded and not doctrinal. The official canon heading language goes:
"Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice."
The press release about this goes:
"It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago...We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church."
2 – The soft-pedaling on how Joseph Smith translates ancient documents, particularly the Book of Abraham. In the past, the church undeniably characterized Smith’s translation of the Egyptian on the so-called Book of Abraham papyri as a direct translation of a book written by the hand of the Patriarch himself. The latest change to the book’s introduction inserts the thought that in fact, it was merely an inspired work, not a strict translation.
Both of these changes come after a near continual (minority) onslaught from a vocal wing of progressive members and ex-members for the church to come clean on the issues surrounding these controversies. The church discreetly listened and, quietly without acknowledging that they listened, made subtle changes or comments to soften former approaches to race issues and claims on Smith’s linguistic capabilities.
3 – A third change that seems to be driven by outside pressure is the changing of how the LDS church views members with same-sex attraction. Until only in recent years, church leaders had expressed a concern that even the mere presence of attraction for the same sex was sin (a lie and of the devil, said they). The current sitting and senior Apostle, Boyd K Packer, has said:
There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just 'that way' and can only yield to those desires. It is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is a convincing idea to some, it is of the devil. No one is locked into that kind of life... Boys are to become men – masculine, manly men – ultimately to become husbands and fathers. ("To Young Men Only")
The LDS affiliated program Evergreen from the 1980-1990s was an example of the mindset. However, due to pressure from 10's of thousands of LDS members, many who have family or friends with same-sex attraction, policy and viewpoints have changed in the church. Pressure from the world at large to accept gay marriage even seems to have spawned a "SSA favorable" (at first glance) website sponsored directly by the church ( http://www.mormonsandgays.org/ ). While the church still backs banning gay marriage, they now admit "the [same-sex] attraction itself is not a sin". This transformation happened in a short few years.
4 – The fourth change I mentioned? Back in January, there was a push by members (especially females) to allow the sisters to pray in general conference. Now, a couple of weeks before conference, the church has tipped its hat at allowing women to pray in its general meetings. Again, pressure from the outside is changing divine (or not divine) policy that has been in-place since its founding.
Why did it take near protests to get the change?
In the past, the issue of racism and of completely fallacious translation has been the sore spot of not just individual protest, but of mass resignations. Resignations of members have increased in recent years. John Dehlin performed far-reaching surveys on ex Mormons and found that the reasons for leaving are not what most members think. The Book of Abraham issue and race issue top the list, as well as issues on the Book of Mormon DNA or other archaeology concerns. The church is listening quietly and seeing that when they leave the response to FAIR or other organizations, it is not satisfying members. They want change, not elaborate discombobulating papers from Daniel C Peterson or Scott Gordon.
The SL Tribune reports that one of the women who led the “Let Women Pray” drive for change, Analisa Estrada, said "It’s the kind of thing that came out of a lot of personal prayers on part of the organizers and the letter writers."
Does this mean that until now Heavenly Father has been waiting to see just how earnestly and prayerfully women wanted to pray in general meetings? Does this mean that the women 183 years in the church’s past were just not earnest enough? It’s not like the doctrine and policies are subject to the whims and pressures of common members, right? Because the LDS church is run by Jesus Christ through his prophet Thomas S Monson.
Anyone thinking a little more about this will realize that most of the controversial changes of the past half-century were due to pressures from below. Members are actually guiding the church now. They have the power because they have voted with their feet and resignation letters. Tithing drops when the members cast against the brethren in quiet foottreads and keyboard pecking. The brethren are listening.
What will the members come up with next? Pants for women at church? Bishops with beards?
Many hope that they push for substantive change that will actually alter the course of the church from its racist, sexist, defamatory and narrow-minded viewpoint; rather than just the appearance the church makes in public. So far, while encouraging, the members aren’t asking (with SSA as an exception) for meaningful change. But give them time. I think there’s a tiger in the mountain west, and it ain’t no cougar.
If members ever do realize the power they have and exercise it, it will be a tipping point. They will find that with that power comes the demise of their delusion that God is in control of the church through the prophet. At that tipping point, more of them will want change because they will realize they guide the church. And so goes the feedback...
...Members will begin seeing that the LDS church is a glass jaw bully.
- Round 1. A small protest changed a small policy on women praying.
- Round 2. A well organized campaign can change celestial doctrine about what couples can be "married in heaven".
- Round 3. Members realize the LDS church has a glass jaw and the leaders are nothing more than blowup punching clowns with sand in their feet.
- Round 4. The members finally realize that the temple worthiness question about sustaining the leaders as prophets is ridiculous.
- And then for the knock out...
Change is on the horizon. Does it bode uncertainy or good tidings?
Some believe it would be better that the LDS church not change and
sink itself in a morass of antiquated views.