Saturday, February 27, 2016

“We called God for a comment, but he hasn’t returned our calls.”

The Latter-day Saints Church has been upsetting some of its members. Last fall a policy was issued from the church saying that members in same-sex marriages are “apostates” and their children cannot be baptized until they are 18 (Mormon kids are normally baptized at age 8), and then they can be baptized only after repudiating their parents’ homosexual lifestyle. The Church, which fought same-sex marriage for years, then ultimately lost to the Supreme Court, has come off as vindictive. And that was after a period immediately following the decision where they sounded (almost) conciliatory to gay Mormons. Some members, gay and straight alike, feel betrayed.

This caused a thunderstorm of emotion and upset for those Latter-day Saints. There were some demonstrations held, and there were members speaking to local TV news, voluntarily and publicly resigning from the Church.

In the LDS Church this kind of protest causes a lot of consternation on Temple Square. The Church is not in the business of arguing its beliefs, nor engaging in debate with its members. Devout members are there to believe what they are told. As the quote from the LDS magazine, The Improvement Era of June, 1945 says:  “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.”

This has always seemed very ham-fisted to me. Substitute “government” for church and it sounds like what would come down from the leaders of a totalitarian political regime.

After a few weeks of protest the Church issued an edict to silence the dissent. They went to the revelation card. This is from an article on the process they claimed they used to come to the decision to make apostates out of same-sex couples, and forcing repudiation from their children:

Quotes from “Mormon gay policy is ‘will of the Lord’ through his prophet, senior apostle says” by Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 23, 2016:
“After same-sex marriage became legal in several countries, including the United States, the LDS Church's top 15 leaders wrestled with what to do, weighed all the ramifications, fasted, prayed, met in the temple and sought God's guidance on the issue.
“. . . That led to the Utah-based faith's new policy regarding same-sex Mormon couples — that they would be labeled ‘apostates’ and that their children would not be allowed baptism and other LDS religious rites until they turn 18.
“‘Each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation,’ [Russell M.] Nelson, next in line for the Mormon presidency, told the faith's young adults in the first official explanation of the hotly debated policy's origins. ‘It was our privilege as apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President [Thomas S.] Monson.’”
“Nelson explained that revelation from the Lord to his servants is a sacred process.
“‘The [three-member] First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together and share all the Lord has directed us to understand and to feel, individually and collectively,’ he said. ‘And then, we watch the Lord move upon the president of the church to proclaim the Lord's will.’”
The way it is explained sounds much the same as another about-face in Church policy, when in 1978 the ban on black people holding the priesthood was reversed.

Here is an official LDS Church version of the 1978 revelation on allowing the priesthood for people of African descent:
“According to first-person accounts, after much discussion among the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on this matter, they engaged the Lord in prayer. According to the writing of one of those present, Bruce R. McConkie of the Twelve: ‘It was during this prayer that the revelation came. The Spirit of the Lord rested upon us all . . . From the midst of eternity, the voice of God, conveyed by the power of the Spirit, spoke to his prophet. The message was that the time had now come to offer the fullness of the everlasting gospel, including celestial marriage, and the priesthood, and the blessings of the temple, to all men, without reference to race or color, solely on the basis of personal worthiness. And we all heard the same voice, received the same message, and became personal witnesses that the word received was the mind and will and voice of the Lord.’”
Neither of the explanations of these changes says that God appeared to the Apostles or First Presidency. And no reporter can ask for God's phone number. It seems that God is never around to answer questions when we need a statement or a clarification.

There are Mormons who claim the President of the Church (known as “Prophet, Seer and Revelator”) meets regularly with Jesus in a room in the Temple. But the Church leadership is careful not to spread that kind of talk. They “feel the spirit,” they don’t claim God approaches with a flaming sword and makes a proclamation. The stories about meetings with God and/or Jesus go back to Joseph Smith and his First Vision, which is pictured in this official LDS Church painting of the “event”:

For an American-born church, this depiction makes God and Jesus into Caucasians, and American-looking to boot.

There is also a story of Lorenzo Snow, Church President from 1898 until his death in 1901, meeting Jesus in the Salt Lake Temple. That story may have been the genesis for a comment I read on a Facebook posting about the Church’s new policy on gay married couples being apostates, as “I trust President Monson, because he talks to Jesus every day in the Temple.”

At the time of the 1978 change in granting the priesthood to black people, most Mormons believed that black people were cursed with a black skin by God. It was what was taught, and a belief held, even though it is now claimed it was never from God. A couple of years ago the Church released an official explanation that it was a policy put into place by Brigham Young, who was following the racial prejudices of the era. So why petition God to remove the policy?

We shall have to see whether 40 years from now there will be another “revelation” in regards to the policy on same-sex marriage apostasy.

No comments: