Junior Ganymede
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For Those Who Disagree

January 29th, 2017 by MC

Image result for kirtland safety society

What’s the right way to act when you disagree with the Church?

I’m not asking this question because it’s some sort of novel situation I find myself in. Far from it. Who doesn’t have disagreements with the Church? Even with the prophets, dead or living? Even with (*installs lightning rod*) the Word of God itself as recorded in the scriptures? There are thousands of pages of scriptures, conference talks, Church policies, Sunday School lessons, half-remembered anecdotes from your batty old aunt about how they used to run things in the pre-war M.I.A., etc. The odds that you could thoughtfully ponder all that and not find some points of honest disagreement are astronomical.

Instead, I ask the question because there seems to be a certain model of disagreement with the Church that involves protests, marches, podcasts, Facebook memes, etc., often demeaning the leadership of the Church, nearly always demeaning any member of the Church who disagrees with the disagree-ers. I’ll try to stay as non-partisan about this as I can, but these sort of disagree-ers tend to draw both their views and their methods from movements that are alien to the Church.

Despite having political tenets which would cause these hip Mormons to cross themselves and splash me with holy Asparagus water (“It’s great for your skin”), I feel genuine sympathy for them. It isn’t easy to disagree on major issues with the church you attend, especially our Church. Not because Mormons are any more closed-minded than anyone else, but we do believe the Church to be led by living prophets. It’s difficult to walk the tight rope of “the Church doesn’t tell people how to think” and “the Prophet knows the mind and will of the Lord.”

There are some who give up, on the premise that staying in the Church and following its leadership even where it conflicts with their own views would harm their integrity or sanity. Well, I may not be the sanest or the most (integral? integrated?) honest person. But I have to say that I can contemplate continued fealty to the Church, even while I disagree with it, with perfect equanimity.

Here are some tips:

  1. Recognize that disagreeing with the Church and its leaders doesn’t put you in some unique situation that no faithful member has ever confronted. Read the scriptures, for crying out loud! Paul once reproved Peter “to his face” for, essentially, taking the wrong side in the great “Jews v. Greeks” divide of the early Church. Gal. 2:11-14. Peter was the head of the Church at the time, and Paul was a recent convert. It’s fine to disagree, but don’t kid yourself that you are the first, or the only, to do so. There are millions of Church members; the chances are quite good that somewhere out there is a much better disciple than you with much more meaningful disagreements. A non-negotiable, my-way-or-the-highway stance isn’t a sign of integrity, but of pettiness.
  2. Admit you might be wrong. Elder Holland describes this as “doubt your doubts.” Or as Oliver Cromwell said (with apologies to our monarchist brethren), “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.” That is, if you find that you simply can’t conform your belief or your position on some issue to that of the Church, you should at least entertain the possibility, however remote, that you got this one wrong and the Church has it right. Again, let’s play the odds: You have a LOT of beliefs about the world. The chances of every last one of them being right are pretty remote. You must be wrong about something; why couldn’t it be this? Just the possibility of being wrong is crucial, because it is humbling.
  3. “But what if I’m right?” Fantastic! Can you imagine anything more satisfying than getting to the Celestial Kingdom and having these arguments settled in your favor by God Himself?You think I’m kidding? You don’t think I could ride that adrenaline rush of “I was right, God said so” for a millennium at least? It’s like you don’t even know me.
  4. Hold onto what you know. You have at least some testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel, do you not? Let your prayer be that of the desperate father who said to Jesus, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
  5. Don’t be a stumbling block. If you feel yourself adrift, it is not only unwise but immoral to drag others into the current with you. That doesn’t mean you should never voice your disagreement. It means, to steal a tenet of 1st Amendment law, that you should restrict the “time, place, and manner” of expressing that opinion. Sunday School is for instruction, not ax-grinding. Don’t let your points of disagreement dominate your thoughts and feelings about the Church. Don’t let your kids see you griping if you have ANY aspiration of not being the last Mormon in your family line. And above all…
  6. Don’t speak ill of the Lord’s anointed. Whatever else may be said about the prophets and apostles, we know that they were called by God to the position, and you were not. And if you can’t bring yourself to at least accept that much, you can always start your own church. I hear Colorado City is lovely in the springtime.

But you may want to consider what you’d be missing out on.

Joseph Smith was a prophet and an imperfect man, as are all prophets save one. He made mistakes, and one of his biggest blunders was the creation of the Kirtland Safety Society. It was a frontier bank that met all of the industry standards, which is to say that it was a disaster. Many members of the Church lost their savings, and left a Church led by what they saw as being a fallen prophet. If you had questioned Joseph Smith’s creation of the bank, you would have been proven all too right.

But supposing you had left the Church? What did you miss? You would never have learned of the doctrine of saving ordinances for the dead. You would never have seen miracles follow the Saints across the plains, nor would you have seen the desert blossom as a rose. You would not have been able to look down from heaven, and see young missionaries with your family name on their black name tags preaching the gospel to all the world.

There aren’t many things in the world that beat the feeling of being right. But I wouldn’t mind being wrong for a while if it meant all that.

Comments (3)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: , , ,
January 29th, 2017 02:35:58

January 29, 2017

Those Kirtland notes must be quite valuable now. It would be handy to have a drawer full of them.

January 29, 2017

Similar to this article on how to keep from getting hurt in a church:


I might tweak the advice in that non-denominational article to better fit the LDS paradigm, but the smart reader should be able to figure it out.

el oso
January 29, 2017

Yeah, the panic of 1837 was no picnic in many parts of the USA. Looking back with our 20/20 hindsight, there is no big shame in a demi-bank failure during the wild swings that hit the economy in the 19th century. By the time the saints were in Utah, they had improved their general banking skills and the local currency stayed afloat better. They also could prevent outside speculation better being separated from most of the country by significant natural barriers.
For painful issues, some need to discuss the problem with someone. I feel quite confident that discussing the issues that you disagree with the church on with your local leaders will generally be beneficial. People who bring up these issues confidentially and who do not publicly upbraid the leadership are usually heard with compassion and love. I have seen healing occur with this model.

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