Thursday, March 22, 2012

On Mockery and Name Calling

There was an interesting discussion yesterday at BCC about "Teaching Lesson 6, ‘Sustaining Those Whom the Lord Sustains’ p.1." BHodges has segregated the Chapter 6 George Albert Smith quotes into "Quotes while serving as President" and "Pre-presidency Quotes." My participation in the discussion began with a simple question and eventually included four more comments.

I'm publishing all five of my comments below, along with a few comments from the BCC crowd. You are invited to read what I had to say in an environment free from caustic mockery and name calling, then point out any lapses in logic on my part. This post contains at least a dozen links to the original BCC conversation. So if you have the stomach for mindless sarcasm you are welcome to join the discussion over there.

R. Gary Says: (comment #37)
March 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm

"The first header said 'pre-presidency quotes,' but it was supposed to be quotes while serving as president."

After current FP/12 approve quotes to be in Teachings of Presidents of the Church, what's the difference?

J. Stapley Says: (comment #39)
March 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm

R. Gary, that is a fascinating question. I'm assuming from the phrasing of your question, that you don't think that there is a difference. What is it about being published in a manual that renders the context of a precise teaching of no consequence?

R. Gary Says: (comment #40)
March 21, 2012 at 6:24 pm

The name of the manual? Its publisher? Its stated purpose?

BHodges Says: (comment #42)
March 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm

After current FP/12 approve quotes to be in Teachings of Presidents of the Church, what’s the difference?

The FP/Q12 approved the manual, and I suppose that includes the footnotes with dates in them. In this instance I'd imagine they didn't check up on the original sources or else they might have noticed that a particular quote was taken out of context in a confusing way. Regardless, the citations with dates are there in the manual. Why not take them into consideration since they're in the manual?

(Also, a prize goes to anyone who points out the reason why such a distinction might bother R. Gary, based on his hobby horse of anti-evolutionism.)

R. Gary Says: (comment #43)
March 21, 2012 at 7:47 pm

BHodges: Apparently, you didn't get the memo.

At one time, the Church did make a careful distinction between the teachings of a Church President and the teachings of the same man before he became Church President. Apparently, you didn't get the memo about that policy change.

The Style Guide for Publications of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1972 (second edition 1978), Section 13, gives instructions on "Proper Use of Latter-day Saint Titles." Regarding the title "President," the Guide says:

13.1 "Members of the First Presidency of the Church and President (and Acting President) of the Council of the Twelve are addressed as 'President.' "

Regarding retroactive application of titles, the Guide says:

13.11 "When a General Authority is quoted or mentioned in a story, he should be referred to by the title he held at the time of the statement or event."

Accordingly, in the 1978 edition of Gospel Principles Chapter 39 on Chastity, Spencer W. Kimball was referred to as "Elder Kimball" even though he had been, since 1974, Church President.

By contrast, the 2009 edition of Gospel Principles demonstrates a policy change regarding retroactive application of titles for Church Presidents. The 2009 Chapter 39 now says "President Kimball" even though the quoted material was published in 1969 when he was still properly addressed as "Elder Kimball."

The same policy change was apparently in place for the 2007 MP/RS manual where more than 80 quotations from his 1969 book are published by the Church as Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball.

Apparently, the difference between what is taught by the Church President as President and what was taught the previous year by the same man is no longer significant in Church published manuals. In the examples cited above, Spencer W. Kimball's teachings are all President Kimball's teachings whether published before or after he became "President."

P.S. There is an Introduction in each of the ten Teachings of Presidents manuals, with instructions for MP/RS teachers. I can't find where it says to teach from the footnotes.

BHodges Says: (comment #44)
March 21, 2012 at 7:56 pm

LOL @ arguing the style guide is inspired of God.

Can you find any instruction not to teach from the footnotes? (specifically, by pointing out the actual dates!)

You crack me up, R. Gary.

BHodges Says: (comment #45)
March 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Referring to presidents of the church in the president manuals as "President" is almost certainly for simplicity's sake. I'll say "almost" in order to avoid any sort of R. Gary dogmatism. So as to avoid annoyingly switching between elder and president all over the place in the manual.

Remember how Elder Ballard said we aren't "Mormons," then there was mormon.org? Maybe things aren't as clear-cut as you desperately want them to be, my friendly friend.

R. Gary Says: (comment #49)
March 21, 2012 at 8:34 pm

BHodges: Nice deflection. Do you really think anyone besides yourself reads "inspired" into the Style Guide quotations?

The practice of the Church constitutes the official interpretation of the Church's policy. The '70s manuals were consistent with the Style Guide as seen in the 1978 Gospel Principles manual. The new manuals are consistent with a changed policy as seen in the 2009 Gospel Principles manual and in the Teachings of Presidents series.

I'm sure you can speculate as to the reasons for the policy change as well as anyone else can speculate. But the policy changed.

Regarding mormon.org, do you mean Russell M. Nelson's talk, "Thus Shall My Church Be Called," (Ensign, May 1990)?

It was President Gordon B. Hinckley who changed that policy in, "Mormon Should Mean 'More Good'” (Ensign, Nov. 1990).

Mormon.org came later. And I think Elder Nelson had no problem following the latest counsel from President Hinckley in preference to his own former counsel that was updated by Hinckley.

Ardis E. Parshall Says: (comment #51)
March 21, 2012 at 8:45 pm

R. Gary: I saw some "no parking" and "loading zone" signs in the underground Church Office Building parking garage recently. As Church publications and official Church policy, those signs were personally approved by an apostle or member of the First Presidency, right? My question is, is the yellow striping, which conveys meaning but without the use of actual text, likewise inspired?

Left Field Says: (comment #52)
March 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm

A deacon in my ward happens to be a future president of the church. I'm keeping careful record of everything he says so his inspired words can be properly cited. You'll be pleased to know that he has rescinded that annoying "one at a time" clause in Section 132:7. Joseph famously said that a prophet was only a prophet when he is speaking as such. Now we know that a prophet is a prophet even before he becomes a prophet.

R. Gary Says: (comment #54)
March 21, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Ardis: It is very likely, if the yellow lines happen to be painted on brick paving, that they are inspired.

Left Field: Was your deacon sustained by the Church in October Conference as one of the "prophets, seers, and revelators"?

Cynthia: Suppose Elder Nelson's May 1990 talk is reprinted by the Church after he becomes Church President (it could happen)?

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Defending Mormonism by Attacking Mormonism. (Is that even possible?)

Margaret Blair Young teaches writing at BYU. Yesterday, she wrote a blog post that attacks Mormonism by strongly criticizing certain teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the center of her attack is an LDS.org "Study by Topic" article, "Priesthood Ordination before 1978," which outlines the current position of the Church on that topic. Margaret's blog post takes issue with the following section of the Church's article:

“Ever since biblical times, the Lord has designated through His prophets who could receive the priesthood and other blessings of the gospel. Among the tribes of Israel, for example, only men of the tribe of Levi were given the priesthood and allowed to officiate in certain ordinances.”

(LDS.org > Menu > Study by Topic > P > Priesthood Ordination before 1978)

Prior to being published at LDS.org, this article was approved by the LDS Church at several levels, including the First Presidency.

The Newsroom statements

Two and a half weeks ago, on Feb. 29th, the LDS Newsroom issued two statements about racism (see here and here). The Newsroom speaks for the Church. Both statements contain these words "it is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began." These words are seen by some, including Margaret Young, as a repudiation of the Church's teachings in "Priesthood Ordination before 1978."

But is that true? Has the Church repudiated its own article?

Both of the Feb. 29th Newsroom statements condemn racism past or present "by individuals," but neither of them condemns "the Church" on anything, past or present. Specifically, the LDS Newsroom has NOT condemned the Church's article on "Priesthood Ordination before 1978."

Usurping apostolic authority

Margaret Young argues openly that the "Study by Topic" article uses...

"...one of the three myths we must abandon: the false analogy of the Levitical priestly assignment with the exclusion of all of African descent. Not equivalent."

As far as I know, the Lord has called the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, not Margaret Young, to tell the Latter-day Saints what "we must abandon."

Margaret's current post may be a lot of things, some good and some bad; but it is definitely NOT defending Mormonism. Her post attacks Mormonism regarding its position on "Priesthood Ordination before 1978."

Yesterday, she wrote in a comment that Hugh Nibley "was a well-regarded intellectual in his time, but he had no authority to speak for anyone but himself." Does Margaret Young think she does?

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Monday, March 05, 2012

Minding God's Business

Last week's Washington Post article about the Mormon priesthood ban quoted BYU professor Randy Bott. The LDS Newsroom responded with not one, but two statements (see here and here), both of which condemn "racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church."

One of the two statements adds this warning from President Gordon B. Hinckley's talk in the April 2006 General Conference:

"No man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church."

Not satisfied with the Church's response, Kevin Barney published a blog post at BCC titled "Thinking Strategically about a Ban Disavowal" wherein he said this:

"We can either defend the racist statements and practices of prior church leaders, or we can defend and protect the Church itself as an institution.... Our focus simply has to be on fostering the best interests of the Church NOW. And in my judgment, a disavowal would best serve those interests."

In an early comment, Matt W. suggested that Gordon B. Hinckley had already disavowed the ban:

"I’d have thought President Hinckley’s statements were such a disavowal, but they apparently were not detailed enough nor absolute enough." (Comment #14; emphasis added.)

Matt would have us believe that President Hinckley's target audience included his predecessors and the restriction they upheld for more than a century. But this conclusion requires Matt to disregard what President Hinckley said when asked whether the restriction was wrong. He answered:

"No I don't think it was wrong."

Not by any stretch of the imagination was President Hinckley's 2006 talk a repudiation of previous Prophets or the ban they enforced. That is not what President Hinckley was trying to say. But Matt takes a few of the President's words out of context and creates a meaning Hinckley never intended.

As with Hinckley, so also the current Newsroom statements. They are not directed at the priesthood restriction itself. They are directed at those individuals who would presume to explain what God has not revealed, that is, why the restriction existed. I believe this includes ALL explanations, including accusations of racism among pre-1978 Church Presidents.

In a later comment on Kevin's post, blogger Ray claims he "can read a repudiation into the Church’s latest statement quite easily." (Comment #46.) Again, Ray doesn't seem to care what the Newsroom press release is actually trying to say. He just sees a few words he can take from the press release and to which he can assign his own desired meaning. In doing this, Ray is forced to disregard the Church's article on "Priesthood Ordination before 1978," which has been posted at LDS.org for a number of years and which contains this paragraph:

"Ever since biblical times, the Lord has designated through His prophets who could receive the priesthood and other blessings of the gospel. Among the tribes of Israel, for example, only men of the tribe of Levi were given the priesthood and allowed to officiate in certain ordinances. Likewise, during the Savior’s earthly ministry, gospel blessings were restricted to the Jews. Only after a revelation to the Apostle Peter were the gospel and priesthood extended to others (see Acts 10:1–33; 14:23; 15:6–8)."

At this point in the discussion, we hear from Matt again:

"One thing we should definitely do is start by removing the following content from our website and institute manuals." (Comment #47.)

Matt then quotes the paragraph I cited above on "Priesthood Ordination before 1978," along with the first paragraph in the chapter on Official Declaration 2 from the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (Religion 324 and 325) found at Institute.LDS.org.

The web article has NOT been removed and the manual has NOT been rewritten. And we will all just have to face the likelihood that God's authorized apostles and prophets are very much aware of the Church's web content and Institute manuals.

In 1974, Church President Spencer W. Kimball was asked by the press about the priesthood restriction. He said:

"We are under the dictates of our Heavenly Father, and this is not my policy or the Church’s policy. It is the policy of the Lord who has established it."

Five years later, looking back to the 1978 priesthood revelation, President Kimball said:

“Those of us today who are sustained by you as prophets, seers, and revelators came to feel in the spring of 1978 much as the early brethren did when the revelation came to the effect ‘that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs ... and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel’ (Eph. 3:6). This was a thing, Paul said, ‘which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit’ (Eph. 3:5). (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball.)

David O. Mckay has been quoted as saying it was a "practice, not a doctrine, and the practice someday will be changed." Yet we find the same McKay saying the restriction was "not something which originated with man." And so it goes, back through the administration of Church Presidents for more than a hundred years.

Speculative theories about why the priesthood restriction existed have been condemned by the Church; the restriction itself has not. And I think those who are clamoring for an apology or a repudiation from the Church should stop minding God's business. He most likely doesn't need your help on this one.

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