In the wake of the terrorists attacks in Paris, there is a call for Muslims worldwide to purge the violence and extremism out of Islam. I agree that they should, but I realize it is difficult task, that would be like asking all Christian Faiths to unite and get rid extreme Christian sects like Westboro, as much as we’d like to. But as a Mormon community we can personally and collectively bring Mormonism much closer to Christ’s truths which are undeniably a ‘good news’ centered around his greatest commandment—LOVE.
Presently in Mormonism there is a feeling among Mormons that individual members have no say in their church or how it is practiced here on earth.
I assert that that the church is yours. You have a right to speak up for what you know to be truth within your church. In fact, you have a duty.
Many would say “No, the church belongs to Christ”. Those are people who have a poor understanding of Christ’s life. Christ was tried and crucified because he alienated his ecclesiastical leaders due to their obsession with power, control, obedience and ritual. Jesus created a church for his followers and he gave it to them. He never encouraged blind obedience. He encouraged active engagement. It was a church for them, for their community. It was a church that embraced the lowest of the low. It embraced the slaves and the despised. It was a church that recognized the divinity in each of us. It was a church that taught people to exercise their spiritual gifts.
Joseph Smith also set a similar example. He too was forced to question the authorities of his time. He used the same spiritual gifts that are promised to each of us, to find out God’s will for him. He then set up the church with these guiding principles—that “all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith.”
Common consent doesn’t not mean rubber stamping every edict that is brought forth by leaders. It implies an active engagement, and depends on the collective consciences and spiritual witnesses of its members.
Ask yourself who was more righteous in the 1970’s—the saints who felt the fundamental injustice of withholding the Priesthood from African Americans and spoke out against it, at great risk to their standing in their community? or those who accepted the policy blindly, allowing obedience to trump truth and justice.
To all of you who care about the unjust and cruel treatment of LGBT people by the church, you can have an impact. In fact you have a duty. You must do what is right and let the consequence follow. You can’t ask somebody to make your decisions for you. You can’t turn your conscience over to another agent. We didn’t fight the war in heaven to submit our agency and our consciences to anybody—not a loving leader, not even Jesus Christ! Christ led the fight in the war in heaven against that. He doesn’t want you to deliver your decision-making to another. He didn’t want that then and he doesn’t want that now.
This is the real challenge. Live your religion as God tells YOU to live it. Don’t submit to the decisions of another unless the Spirit and your conscience specifically tells you that you should. Don’t live in fear of losing your membership or temple privileges when you are doing God’s work. God is your judge. No man is. If you allow yourself to be held ransom by their dominion over you, then you are voting for the same plan that Christ defeated in that great war, where we earned the right to learn through free agency.
Some will call this apostasy. Remember Galileo. He was forced to renounce truth or face death. He chose to recant his truth and I won’t criticize him for doing it. However, I will hold in high esteem those who refuse to rebuke their truth. Galileo was never guilty of apostasy. His crime was questioning his leaders by speaking the truth. Isn’t that what Christ would have us do?
The church never claimed that its leaders are infallible. We have seen them make mistakes. We have seen them change course. To say otherwise is denying truth that has been observed in our own lifetimes, especially the correction the church made in 1978 thus bringing it to a higher level of godliness.
None of us alone can make decisions for the church body. We do require leaders to do this. However, each of their decisions is subject to our scrutiny. We know the leaders have been wrong in the past. The church leaders are wrong again any time they ask you to accept something they say in blind obedience. Brigham Young and Joseph Smith both preached this. Our personal revelation is the foundation of our testimony. Having a spiritual witness of the Book of Mormon or the truthfulness of the gospel never implies that every single question is resolved. The spirit can’t possibly bear witness that our leaders are infallible, because that would make liars of them, as they have already assured us that they are not. The truth is, our leaders depend on the people, and we are letting them down when we follow them blindly. It would be a dangerous situation if a people follow a leader blindly, because any leader can lead them astray—after all, even the leaders never lose their agency. Prophets have fallen. Leaders have fallen. Church leaders have made mistakes. Even this is part of the plan that we chose to follow in that great pre-mortal war.
None of this makes the church any more true or false than it is. Every member of the church discerns right from wrong even now. However, there is a pressure to conform, and to submit to the will of the majority. There is also a risk of social ostracism or marginalization. A situation has arisen among us that resembles the Pharisees of Christ’s time. His strongest criticisms were reserved for them.
The only people in Mormonism who can really live according to the dictates of their own consciences are those who are willing to “do what is right and let the consequence follow”. They are those who are won’t let their temple recommends be held ransom, or even their membership. They are those who will find their own sacred groves if temple privileges are denied them. They are those who will speak their truths openly. They are those who will not let the attitudes of the majority dissuade them from attending their wards, and teaching others by word and by example, even if they are marginalized. They are those who will inspire others to speak the truth. They are those who will fight for their religion. They are those who are the real saints. They are those who will shine Christ’s light, and will reflect Christ’s love. They are those who will watch out for those who are cast aside in our wards and communities. They are those who will offer a refuge to the downtrodden. They are those who will be persecuted for Christ’s sake.
Some of them will be cast out. Some of them will heed the call to serve Christ in other communities, or will do so after being driven out. But many of them will carry on, and carry Christ’s cross, and speak their truth, and inspire others to do the same. They are those who will carry forth the tradition of the Lamanites who refused to bear arms when they committed to Christ. They are also those whose daughters and sons will make up a new army for the Lord, just like the Sons of Helaman.
Speak out. Speak your truth. Don’t let any leader force you out. Stay if you can. Stay if you are called. The church is yours. You will save lives. You will be the voice of Christ’s true teachings. You will save the church so it can build God’s kingdom.