Criticism and Standing up for Truth

Criticism

Before proceeding, I need to repent.  In past blog posts, in my exuberance I have said some things which could be legitimately construed as unnecessary or unChrist-like.  I have now gone through all of my posts and have attempted to remove such offenses.  I am clearly not perfect and ask those whom I’ve offended for forgiveness.

This does not mean I do not still have concerns or that I won’t share them on this blog.  But, I will attempt to do so in a way that is constructive and more thoughtful.  I have updated my Why Anonymous page as well to reflect some of these same feelings.

Sharing my honest concerns on this blog has been a very humbling and interesting experience.  I’ve connected with many people and have been overwhelmed with responses, comments, and support for the most part.  It’s been a great blessing.  Numerous people have said how helpful it has been to discover that other active members of the church, even leaders in the church, also share their concerns about some of the decisions being made.

This process has also caused me to more deeply ponder the question: Is criticism always wrong?

I received this comment recently from someone whose view I think is very common in the church.

“I find it so sad that you feel the most productive way to express your concerns are anonymous blog entries that all seem pointed at fault finding those mortal, imperfect men who are doing the best they can to do what the Lord would have them do, and lead the church… “

Here’s my response to this comment generally:

I’m not sure what the future holds for blog post topics, but yes, this individual is correct that the few essays I have written are critical of some of the decisions being made by the leadership of the church.

So when do you speak up in opposition in the church if you disagree?  When you may disagree with decisions, expenses, teachings or interpretations by those who are the stewards of church?

Let’s take some extreme examples.  Let’s say you live in the time of Brigham Young and disagree with his doctrine of blood atonement.  You feel strongly that this teaching may lead to disastrous consequences.  Maybe even the loss of life.  What do you do?  Same question on polygamy and abuse of authority in that regard?  Blacks and the priesthood?  Do you just sit idly by and say nothing?

Fast forward–what if you had firsthand information that Paul Dunn was embellishing stories years before he was caught?  That Mark Hoffman was a fraud and his Salamander Letters were forgeries?  That an Area Seventy was a bigamist for 7 years before he confessed and was excommunicated?  Do you “find fault” with your leader who others may think is “doing the best he can” or do you just show “empathy” and let everyone do their thing?

Or on the other side of the argument let’s suppose you are being taught by Korihor (Alma 30).  He’s teaching you how to “manage the creature.”  He’s eloquently teaching you what he sincerely believes to be true doctrine.  Let’s suppose something not confirmed in scripture that should not change how we treat his message: Let’s say he’s a CES teacher.  Should you take notes, enjoy yourself, get a copy of his signed book, enjoy the refreshments, and not look to judge or criticize this teacher’s message?  By specifically ascertaining and discerning its faults? 

The church of course expects us to be critical of such false non-LDS, or non-leader teachers, and will even threaten members with church discipline if one associates with those whose teachings oppose those taught by the church.  But what if the teachings that go against the doctrines of the church are being taught by those in the church, even its leaders? 

Interestingly, I recall reading in the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions from a decade or more ago that “speakers who primarily entertain, with only casual reference to the gospel, should not be selected” to speak in any church setting.  Do we follow this counsel in the church today?  Do our general conference messages and church talks focus on Christ, the restoration, and the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon?  Or do we mostly share a lot of stories (“primarily entertain”) and offer endless platitudes (i.e. philosophies of men) that we hope will make for great post conference marketing material?  Book covers, t-shirts, mugs, pins, baby onsies, posters, etc?  I wish I was exaggerating.  Here’s a fraction of what comes from one such conference talk:

Live it Love it

If only my words were so popular and powerful.

A very thoughtful blogger recently wrote about the apparent difficulty of distinguishing between today’s sermons and quotes from those of other interesting people.  Church magazine LDS Living has made it into a fun trivia game.  This blogger also noted that strangely President Monson has not born testimony of the Book of Mormon or of the prophet Joseph in his last 69 General Conference talks. 

Paul Dunn

Paul H. Dunn’s Talk from April General Conference 1987. Did his talks help or hurt faith? Ought his record to have been challenged sooner? Is it wrong to question the words the church calls scripture?

We teach we should cease to find fault “with one another”:

Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.  (D&C 88:124)

But are we taught we should never find fault at all?  In one’s teachings?  In one’s interpretations of doctrine?  In one’s harmful actions?  Again, the question — is all criticism wrong?

Many years ago, as a brand new missionary in a foreign country far away from home, I found myself in an apartment with three other elders.  One of them was the branch president as well as our district leader.  Within a couple weeks I sensed this missionary was acting perhaps a bit inappropriately towards a sister they were teaching.  She was married and had two kids.  Her husband had been baptized a month previously and was (and still is) one of the best people I’ve ever known.  It appeared to me that this branch president, district leader, missionary (i.e. my leader) had a slight crush on this man’s wife.  Maybe I was wrong.

Following a prompting, I wrote of my concerns to my mission president.  Upon reading my letter he immediately called me on the phone and chastised me for finding fault and being judgmental.  “Elder ‘Jones’ is one of my best missionaries and as a ‘greenie’ you should be learning from him instead of criticizing him!”

I was taken aback.  8 months later this missionary was exposed and excommunicated for what he did 8 weeks after my letter to the president.  The act of adultery could have been prevented and this dear family just might still be together and in the church if the mission president listened to the same spirit I was trying to listen to.  Was I wrong to speak up?  Was I being wrongly critical of my leaders?

Now I understand that not all issues may be as obvious or as serious as an immoral or dishonest act.  In my case, I’ve criticized the church thus far for making a movie, for its emphasis on social media and marketing, for its use of our tithing contributions and for other practices I am not sure are inspired.  I’ve given the church and the brethren my honest feedback.

Why do so many in the church believe it is wrong to be critical with decisions being made by the church?   Especially given that we are also taught to stand up for truth and to gain our own testimonies when presented with teachings.

I think our fear of speaking out stems from, in large part, a well-known and oft-quoted statement from Joseph Smith:

I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 156-157.)

I’ll be honest, this quote used to always make me think twice if I ever found myself disagreeing with a leader.  I have been rebuked by some in my life for challenging an idea or when I’ve tried to persuade a leader to an different viewpoint.  As an example I had a bishop once tell me:

“You need to learn right now that no one will ever do anything good unless you assign them to do it!”

I was his young new counselor and I feared that this approach might offend some in the ward and possibly chase people away, which it was doing.  I thought my job as his counselor was to “counsel.”  I guess I was wrong.  When I tried to counsel or advise my bishop in a loving way, I was rebuked and told I was on the high road to apostasy.  I was reminded that the bishop has the keys and his decisions are not to be questioned.  And when it is followed up with other commonly used quotes such as this…

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.  (Source of quote here)

…the members in the church learn to stay silent so as to not encounter the wrath of an angry God.  But ought this to be so?  Is this true doctrine?

Not long ago I discovered that these particular quotes and others like them are examples of incorrect doctrine and/or have been taken out of their proper context.

In the quote from Joseph Smith for example, it turns out that when you read the full context,  the Prophet was warning apostles and seventies and leaders in general that “when they rise up in the church” (in its ranks) and “find fault with the church” (its lowly lay members), they (the leaders) are on the high road to apostasy.  What a difference this makes!  (See Dialogue Journal article)  And yet this quote has been used to teach the exact opposite intended meaning for many years.

The other quote “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done” reflects the thoughts of many leaders from 1945 (when it was issued by the presiding bishopric of the church in the Improvement Era) to the present.  In my view, it’s simply incorrect doctrine.

The statement was so troubling to a local non LDS minister at the time that he wrote a letter to President George A. Smith.  President Smith back peddled and gave a much different response than what had been stated by the presiding bishop.  (See here)  But the idea of a leader speaking and the thinking being done has remained a common theme in church leadership ever since.  (See The Debate is Over, N. Eldon Tanner as one example) It’s now more carefully crafted in the idea that “whether they speak or God speaks it is the same.”  This is another misapplication that you can find others have commented on.  Here is an excellent article on this topic.

What if we apply the church’s own standard to today?

Perhaps we should appeal to today’s leadership that they have no right to overturn “established doctrines” of the past.  Aren’t doctrines supposed to be eternal?  Immutable?  Brigham Young taught that it was our priesthood duty to kill a man of African descent on the spot who courts a white woman or to kill an apostate (see wikipedia Blood Atonement).   It could be argued that the leaders have already spoken on these issues.  “When they give direction” as Brigham did, it should be our duty as members to disobey any current teaching opposing Brigham Young.  The prophet spoke and the debate is over!  Right?

Wrong.  But, of course the issue has been clouded with more erroneous logic about “living oracles” and “living prophets” being more important than dead ones.  Forget that all the while we are taught that none of them can lead us astray, the Lord won’t allow it (See Elder Ballard’s talk this last conference).

With all due respect, if the prophets and apostles “can’t lead the church astray” why does the church now “condemn” Brigham Young and all other prophets for what it now declares to be false doctrine?  How does condemning Brigham Young and correcting other prophets’ teachings of doctrines prove the Lord’s leaders can’t lead people astray?  Hundreds of other examples of prophets and leaders contradicting one another could be mentioned here.  President McKay and Apostle Mark E. Petersen found what they thought to be 1700 doctrinal errors in fellow PSR Bruce R. McKonkie’s Mormon Doctrine.

Mormon Doctrine

All the best examples of how we can or should stand up for truth are in the scriptures.  The example of Lehi teaching against church leaders (“the Jews”).  The examples of Isaiah and Ezekiel.  The examples of John the Baptist and Jesus.  We forget sometimes that our own church is an example of someone having gone against his leaders of the day.  Joseph even stood up against his own parents in refusing to be baptized in any of their churches.  To their credit, they respected his agency.  Thankfully they did not exercise unrighteous dominion against their “wayward” son and allowed him to disagree with church leaders and find fault in their teachings.

I love the example of Captain Moroni who, although slightly uninformed, spoke his mind against his leader Pahoran.  This is a good example since it is said of Moroni:

Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men. (Alma 48:17)

And yet in this instance Moroni’s criticisms turned out to be somewhat unfounded.  A leader can make a mistake after all.  If Moroni can, I assume Brigham Young and President Monson can as well.  The majority or all the twelve, I assume, can.  I think it is in the program.  It’s a doctrine that is predicated upon the agency God gives to man, and hence the reason we do not trust in the flesh and ought to speak up for truth at all times and in all places.

Pahoran was no whimp.  He was a powerful man.  He certainly could have made a case against Moroni to his stake presidency for the denigrating language found in Moroni’s blog letter.  But, no, Pahoran responded the way any man of God should:

And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free. (Alma 61:9)

Pahoran did not lecture Moroni about being on the high road to apostasy nor did he misjudge Moroni’s intentions and take personal offense.  And don’t tell me that if Pahoran had been the president of the church, it would have been entirely different.  Men like Moroni and Pahoran don’t vacillate and change their character depending on the situation nor do titles effect their integrity.

Men like them seek not for power, but to pull it down. They seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of God.  (Alma 60:36)

I believe now more than ever, it is our duty as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to righteously judge between truth and error.  Finding fault with a man’s teaching, no matter who the man is, and offering our criticism is neither contrary to doctrine nor apostate.  In my view, silencing a person through excommunication is exactly what Joseph was trying to warn the leaders of his day not to do when they rose up in power in the church.

If we believe that any human or any set of humans can’t lead us astray, we simply do not read the scriptures.  There is scriptural precedent, despite so many who argue to the contrary.  Do we assume Nephi’s quotations of Isaiah, discussing Ephraim and Manasseh and the Last Days, in the most correct Book on earth, written as a warning to the Gentiles who are under condemnation for not taking it seriously (D&C 84:55), have nothing to do with us or what may happen in the future in the church?

The ancient, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail.  For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.  (2 Nephi 19:15-16)

I pray for our leaders and for the members of our church.  I think I speak for many active and sincere members, who sustain the brethren to righteously live up to their callings, although they may at times disagree with what they say or do.  We criticize because we love and because we care.  Too many good people are now being cast out because they choose to share these concerns.

The church recently excommunicated a woman who merely linked to her husband’s blog,  These were faithful and good members of our church.  I read the blog in question and I find no evil in this man’s heart or in his teachings.  Yet, his family is now cut off.  He and his wife are the parents of 7 children.  Intentionally voting to end their eternal union, simply because his views were seen as overly critical, in my view, is a very tragic representation of why we must speak up for truth and not fear sharing our thoughts.  Lives are at stake.  This practice must stop.

I for one cannot sit back and say nothing.  I wish for such powers to be pulled down.

 

37 thoughts on “Criticism and Standing up for Truth

  1. Adam T.

    Bishop Anon:

    You do not have anything to repent of. Speaking the truth is never a sin.

    1 Nephi 16:2

    2 And it came to pass that I said unto them that I knew that I had spoken hard things against the wicked, according to the truth; and the righteous have I justified, and testified that they should be lifted up at the last day; wherefore, the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.

  2. tundraboar

    Truth stands on its own, regardless of it’s source. And Truth must be recognized. Those who attempt to hide Truth and limit others from seeing truth must be chastised, particularly when they take these actions in order to promote themselves or others who are acting contrary to Truth. In particular, I was recently reading about Samuel the Lamanite in Helaman 13-16. He spoke Truth. And, just like Christ, he was cast out and the attempted to kill him for continuing to stand up for Truth. As he is speaking to the Nephites from the wall, I found several verses (13:12-14) particularly concerning when we consider how this presages what we are seeing around us today. Verse 14 is particularly chilling.

    12 Yea, wo unto this great city of Zarahemla; for behold, it is because of those who are righteous that it is saved; yea, wo unto this great city, for I perceive, saith the Lord, that there are many, yea, even the more part of this great city, that will harden their hearts against me, saith the Lord.
    13 But blessed are they who will repent, for them will I spare. But behold, if it were not for the righteous who are in this great city, behold, I would cause that fire should come down out of heaven and destroy it.
    14 But behold, it is for the righteous’ sake that it is spared. But behold, the time cometh, saith the Lord, that when ye shall cast out the righteous from among you, then shall ye be ripe for destruction; yea, wo be unto this great city, because of the wickedness and abominations which are in her.

  3. rockwaterman1

    Tundraboar,
    Samuel’s words in verse 14 which you quoted should give us considerable pause in light of the fact that lately the Church has been casting out many of the righteous from among her.

  4. ShawnC

    One is not baptized into a church. Baptism is simply following the example of Christ. The church may “confirm” someone and speak words that add them as a member of record, but baptism does not do that.

    The casually referring to scriptures thing you refer to I think was a statement read over the pulpit and not in the handbook?

    best,
    ShawnC

  5. Jed

    Thank you for your thoughtful, scripturally-based responses supporting the idea of pushing back against bad ideas, Anonymous Bishop. I was alarmed recently to read that not only has Ezra Taft Benson’s heretical Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet speech been repeated several times in General Conference but it is featured in lesson 11 of next year’s Priesthood/Relief Society manual. What the heck? Asserting infallibility for the president of the Church™ removes his agency and places him higher than God. That will never work. It smells like a modern version of the drunkards of Ephraim. Corbin Volluz has a great essay on the speech over at Rational Faiths. http://rationalfaiths.com/fourteen-fundamentals-falsifying-prophet/

    One of my takeaways in teaching the Old Testament in Gospel Doctrine this past year is that apostasy in ancient Israel almost always spread from the top down. IT was the kings and prophets that led the ordinary folks in whoring after pagan gods. While we don’t have to choose between Yahweh and Baal, we still might find ourselves following well-meaning but confused leaders into dead ends that offer something less than salvation. Jesus Christ is the gate keeper and he employs no servant there. To honor a human being above Jesus Christ is to put our trust in someone that cannot succor us, save us or perfect us.

    If you’re interested in remaining in the Church™, writing anonymously is a good idea, Bishop. Some poor drone at the COB has probably been assigned to figure out who you are so a hunter-killer team like the one that took out Adrian and Tasha Larsen can excise you as well. Personally I hope you stay.

  6. Kathryn

    Anon Bishop

    I believe it all comes down to intention. There is plenty of criticism out there that is intended to destroy. Then, there is criticism, to correct or to encourage change. Perhaps the word “criticism” lends to a negative connotation and “assessment” or “evaluation” may be a more appropriate word for what is being discussed here.

    Where would be today if the founding fathers had not recognize suppression and arraigned against it? Their intent, or motive was to have their King see the error of his decisions and make the necessary changes to allow the Colonists to continue to maintain their God given rights.

    After much deliberation and communication back and forth between the King and the Colonists, with no change or compromise, the decision was make to separate, even knowing that it meant war. They originally had much loyalty to the throne and wanted to stay connected to their Mother Country, if corrections were made. It did not work out and I’m grateful for their wisdom to stand firm.

    I see that criticism, assessment, evaluation to correct is used by parents to guide and direct their family. Yes, sometimes that criticism is meant to, and does, destroy children. But, for the most part, parents have their children’s welfare in mind for improvement and happy lives.

    I see no difference in evaluating decisions, and the course of action the Brethren are taking than was used by the founding fathers…. because my intent is for correction. I see departure from original source (scriptures) and the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and would like to see that adjusted.

    I admit, I do not see the entire picture as the Brethren do and if I did, I may conclude their decisions are inline with Christ centered goals. In the meantime, I have to rely on the whisperings of the Spirit when I cannot reconcile obvious conflicts in what I know to be true based on scripture and Joseph’s teachings.

    The first conflict for me was when the Church took their stance on supporting the Boy Scouts and the gay issue. I thought for sure they would excuse themselves from the program and start their own. Their decision has put young men at risk and made Scout leaders much more vulnerable. My son, who was a deacons quorum adviser, resigned his position shortly after the Church made their decision. He said it was opening the door for unintended consequences and he did not want to be there when it happened.

    The second conflict came when the Mall was opened in Salt Lake and I witnessed the extravagant construction and the immodest ads. It does not represent us well. On top of that, the “killing fields” for sport that the Church owns, which accommodates the wealthy, blew me away. Since that time, I have been evaluating more and more policies and conduct which seem amiss, and it has not set well with my heart.

    I love the gospel and the Church organization. I have no problem following and sustaining the Brethren when their wise counsel helps me on my path toward Christ and salvation. I just want questionable decisions and changes in doctrine and ordinances to be reconsidered.

    Like you said in the post, if Brigham can be in error, so can the leaders of today. That is not a criticism but a logical observation, partly based on the revised point of view of the Church concerning some of the ideas and decisions Brigham made.

  7. CS Clark

    It’s a wicked and perverse generation; a hardened and a stiff-necked people who “will not find fault with [their prophets].” (Hel 13:27-29)

  8. KiwiAussie

    Bishop Anon.

    I am a first time commenter on your blog (or any blog). So here goes.

    I for one have not found your posts to be critical. Thought provoking, challenging and even questioning, but not critical. I agree with Adam T that ‘the wicked take the truth to be hard’. If truth is indeed what one is seeking, then I believe none should be offended as I personally find nothing untoward in your posts.

    As far as questioning or holding to account of supposed authority, I often think of counsel given to Oliver Cowdrey in D & C 6:19 “Admonish him in his faults…”. True, it does go on to say that Oliver should accept admonishment himself, and one could argue that the counsel was given specifically to Joseph and Oliver. However, I believe the principle of this counsel applies today and those in ‘authority’ should ‘accept admonishment in their faults’. It is, I feel, a system of checks and balances.

    Just my own thoughts and feelings and not intended to cause offense to any. Still learning and growing on my journey.

  9. Bishop Anon Post author

    Thanks for the great comment KiwiAussie! 🙂 We are all in this together, trying to figure things out are we not? I think your reference to D&C 6:19 is outstanding. I plan to study it further. Thanks again!

  10. Adam T.

    The words of Samuel are included in the Book of Mormon because they are specifically directed to the members and leaders of the modern Church (TM). Read Helaman 13:

    24 Yea, wo unto this people [members and leaders of the modern Church (TM)], because of this time which has arrived, that ye do cast out the prophets, and do mock them, and cast stones at them, and do slay them, and do all manner of iniquity unto them, even as they did of old time.

    25 And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.

    26 Behold ye [LDS members] are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you [members and leaders of the modern Church (TM)] and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.

    27 But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity [as Heber J. Grant said, “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.”]; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.

    28 Yea, ye [LDS members] will lift him [the self-declared “prophets, seers and revelators”] up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.

    29 O ye wicked and ye perverse generation; ye hardened and ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light?

    We are indeed lead by the “drunkards of Ephraim.”

    Isaiah 28

    1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!

  11. Richard Tong

    Some very good points, I had to sit back and watch after terrible decisions were made by my bishopric a few years ago. I lost my wife and home as a result and will probably never own a home of my own again. I highly recommend reading from the doctrine and covenants manual about those who try to steady the ark section 85. I was very tempted to steady the ark at times but a wise experienced priesthood holder advised me to wait on the lord, so I did. The lord did his work and those leaders that caused me so much pain I have learned to love again.

  12. Bishop Anon Post author

    Great points Jed! I can’t believe either that the Fourteen Fundamentals will be taught this next year! I assume no historical context will be given whatsoever either.

  13. Jed

    You’re correct in guessing there is no historical context for the lesson that incorporates Benson’s Fourteen Fundamentals speech, Bishop Anon. To the contrary, the lesson includes both President Woodruff’s assertion that God will never let the president of the Church™ lead the members astray and the same assertion made by President Grant made to young Marion Romney. The lesson muddies the waters nicely in mixing the call to prophetic infallibility with a number of scripturally-supported points. God help us.

    https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-of-presidents-of-the-church-ezra-taft-benson/chapter-11-follow-the-living-prophet?lang=eng

  14. George Bell

    You say you criticize the brethren because you love them? Do you really love Pres Monson and & Bednar for example and how are we to know that? I see no evidence of love for either in your posts.

  15. Elti

    Bishop Anon,

    I know your plan is to one day shed your anonymity and place your real name on your blog posts, but I would make a humble appeal for you to reconsider this. A comment above stated: “You know that eventually you’re going before a council, yes? It’s not if they find you it’s a question of when you reveal yourself.” If this is what you feel you need to do, then I support you. However, I feel your anonymity lends you a farther reaching influence than you imagine. We all have former bishops. You could be any number of former bishops who any one of us had. This gives you a sort of omnipresence that would disappear the moment you let slip your name. As your name proper you are one man. As an anonymous former bishop you are a symbol. You’ve been in that inner circle and seen how things work from the other side. Your insight is invaluable. So, for what it’s worth, I vote you keep your anonymity.

    Warmest regards.

  16. dangermom

    The Restoration is an ongoing process, and we hope to find more truth and get rid of untruth all the time. So I don’t expect to find perfect accuracy and truth in the Church today, and less in the past; we probably won’t get that until, what, the Millennium maybe? I am confused by a few of your examples, though. Some are apposite; some I find a little odd. “Mormon Doctrine,” for example–I seem to recall that even at the time the Twelve didn’t approve of the book and McConkie just published it anyway; it’s always been criticized and controversial. My husband and I have joked that it’s a pretty ironic title.

    I find your top graphic confusing; I remember it as a 1980s Mormonad aimed at teens that said “Gossip: don’t pass it on” –it was about teens saying nasty and untrue things about one another, not about criticizing the authorities. I guess you adapted the image, but I’m uncomfortable with pretending that was a real Mormonad.

    With the popularity of Pinterest and making cute graphics, a lot of creatively-minded people are going to produce a lot of cute stuff based on the latest conference talk. It’s not quite my taste (I’m not on Pinterest) and it’s not yours, but I feel kind of weird about criticizing the members of the Church because some of them like to produce cute graphics. Perhaps you and I could go into the business of producing cute graphics with quotations from Joseph Smith! Maybe the King Follett sermon! That would be cool. 🙂

  17. Gary Gibson

    Not to worry, Jed. Adrian and Tausha’s influence has only been amplified since their excommunication. I’ve seen it first hand. It is a wonderful and beautiful thing to watch. There continue to be people disaffected from the church work their way to the gospel of Christ.

    I expect the same for the Anonymous Bishop after he is excommunicated. It won’t matter a hill of beans on his influence.

    A funny thing happens when a group of people get together to study the scriptures without any other desire than to seek the truth, without any fear of what some leader will bring upon them. It touches their hearts. They feel the Spirit. They are moved to feel God’s love. They are moved to repentance.

    Gary Gibson

  18. Bishop Anon Post author

    I appreciate your question George. I agree that I’m not citing many examples which necessarily demonstrate my love for the brethren. I could certainly share a lot of examples showing my affection for those I know, specifically those in my ward whom I know very well. But I think it’s a mistake to assume my critical observations mean I don’t love them or care for them personally. I think most of us are critical of those we love. If I’m critical of a bad decision made by my child or by a parent. It doesn’t mean I don’t care. I think it’s quite the opposite.

    I want to make it very clear that I’m not sharing my disagreements to condemn or accuse any particular individual in any way. I pray for these men that they may be inspired. I hope and think they often are. I wish them every happiness and every ounce of peace and joy in their lives. But when I think they are wrong and it matters, I now feel compelled to speak up. I can’t totally explain why.

    If I and others don’t speak up, then who will? Is that sustaining them? To say nothing? Am I sustaining my brother, if when I think he’s wrong, I say nothing? I am trying to repent of any approach I have taken that deviates from my desire to effectively and humbly seek and promote truth, and to oppose and discourage error.

    The truth is, I feel love in my heart for God’s children. I feel compassion and perhaps sadness, but not anger. I seek mercy for me and my loved ones and I seek the very same for even my enemies.

    Thanks for your comment my friend.

  19. thompsoncd

    You asked why I found the “anonymous” thing troubling, here is why.

    First, I don’t know you or your situation and so I know it’s unfair of me to make assumptions about why you do what you do. But before I can fully consider your words and your sincerity, I must make certain judgements about you. Namely:

    You state you are a Bishop, this is intended to lend credibility and give stature to your views.

    If you are not a Bishop, you deceive your readers and cannot be trusted.

    If you are a Bishop, then this means you are Clark Kent by day and SuperMormon by night. During the day you presumably raise your right arm to the square and support the Church and the leaders, but by night and only under the cover of anonymity do you criticize and reveal your true feelings.

    Either way, if you’re Bishop or not, it’s troubling.

    Cole

  20. Bishop Anon Post author

    You can see my Why Anonymous for more info on this. I think some measure of skepticism is healthy. Abinadi saw a need to remain anonymous at one point. I’m certainly no Abinadi, but the church is clearly not showing its openness to those who speak up with their concerns. Those who know me, know of my concerns. I tactfully share them often, even when I teach in church. Interesting, I find that many people in my ward agree with my concerns.

  21. Log

    BA,

    I note that neither Ezekiel nor Lehi, to name two, spoke according to their own interpretation of things in what it pleases many to term “criticizing the Brethren” or “criticizing the Church.” They declared the word the Lord had given directly, face-to-face, something I’m not seeing frequently, if at all, among those who have a problem with the manner in which the leadership executes their stewardship.

    2 Peter 1:20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. (NIV)

    Since people die, spiritually, when we get things wrong about the things of heaven and they believe us, ought we not stay silent until we have knowledge, which is gained by revelation through continual prayer and well-doing? Does not the potential for harm through hasty speech outweigh the gratification of the ego through accusation?

  22. Anonymous Reader

    Overall, excellent post Anon Bishop. However, there is one minor point I take issue with. The quote from Joseph Smith: “That man who rises up to condemn others…that man is in the high road to apostasy” (Chapter 26, History of the Church (volume/page marker 3:385) https://byustudies.byu.edu/hc/hcpgs/hc.aspx), please take a closer look at the context of that quote and reconsider how you are using it.

    Joseph prefaced his words just prior to saying those words as follows:

    “O Ye Twelve! and all Saints!…”

    His train of thought from that introduction to the warning in question is one fluid and connected idea, per the word “key”. He was clearly talking to all the Saints when he is talking about the danger of apostasy due to “finding fault with the Church”. He clearly meant that to be a prohibition against publicly finding fault with him, or publicly criticizing the direction the Church was taking.

    While it is true that the overall speech in 3:385 is directed specifically to the Twelve (this is made clear on page 383), he broadens his audience just before issuing the warning about apostasy. For this reason, I think that Paul Toscano’s assertion in his Dialogue article is not careful in this regard (although I think his article is powerful and inspired overall).

    In the end, my conclusion is that Joseph Smith was mistaken in his assertion about apostasy. Rising up and finding fault with the Church is not a harbinger of personal apostasy: such a correlation does not exist and is not an “eternal key” of truth. The scriptures are full of “fringe” characters who rose up and found fault with the people of God (“the Church”), because the Spirit impressed them to stand their ground and speak truth to power when the people of God weren’t living up to their covenants. Such critics did not commit apostasy, they were true to the end (Samuel the Lamanite, Abinidi, Lehi vs. King Zedekiah and the mainstream Jewish culture, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Alma the Elder vs. King Noah, etc).

    I think that Joseph was overly sensitive to criticism, and he taught mistaken doctrine about it. One reason that he was prone to imperfection in this matter: the kind of criticism he received was often tinged with murderous and violent overtones, and it often involved intentional lies or unflattering exaggerations by those who were bent on doing him harm and destroying the fledgling organization he was trying to hold together. He had to manage crisis after crisis, had to deal with many officers in high positions whose words and actions threatened to tear the Church apart and destroy whatever tenuous unity existed. He very much wanted the relentless train of crises to subside, and at times he mistakenly taught that strict obedience to the top mortal leaders and zero criticism of them was the way to achieve that peace and stability. It was a natural and carnal impulse on his part, a craving for easy answers, a silver-bullet doctrine or “key”. It did a lot of harm, because those who came after him aggressively championed his “strict-obedience-to-leaders” idea (for example, see https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/chapter-27). To his credit, he also taught good doctrine on this point on more than one occasion (see quotes below).

    The righteous criticism that is being spoken from the city walls by people like yourself is the kind of criticism that needs to be spoken. Thank you for your willingness to give your insights and testimony to the world –please keep up the good work.

    The unity that currently exists in the Church is largely artificial. Carnally pleasing doctrines like “follow the prophet” rule the day. However, I think that the tide is slowly turning towards individual responsibility. One day, when more Saints have woken up due to reading websites like this one (and Pure Mormonism, etc), we will have a spiritual coming of age, and the majority will begin to expect and demand leaders who teach spiritual self-sufficiency rather than spiritual subordination.

    One day, a critical mass of active members will hopefully begin to vote in opposition against anyone who preaches “follow mortal leaders”. This signal of non-confidence will rock the leadership to the core and will hopefully motivate them to repent. Either that, or God will replace them, once enough Saints are awake to merit it, with leaders who are awake and who understand the principle of spiritual self-sufficiency. This is how the law of restoration works: we get the leaders we deserve. At present, the majority of the Saints deserve leaders who teach spiritual subordination, because the majority is guilty of spiritual subordination, so we have blind leaders in that regard (the blind are leading the blind).

    One day, the following teachings will achieve primacy and we will have leaders who champion these truths (you and others like you are the tip of the spear in returning these teachings to their rightful place):

    “You must work through the Spirit. If that leads you into conflict with the program of the Church, you follow the voice of the Spirit.” (Elder Seymour B. Young, First Quorum of the Seventy 1882-1924).

    “Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a President; if you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support will be gone; but if we lean on God, He will never fail us. When men and women depend upon God alone and trust in Him alone, their faith will not be shaken if the highest in the Church should step aside”. (George Q. Cannon, First Counselor in the First Presidency, Deseret Weekly, 43:322, Mar 7, 1891).

    “We have hitherto acted too much as machines, as to following the President. I will confess to my own shame that I have acted contrary to my own judgment many times. I mean hereafter not to demean myself, to not run contrary to my own judgment. When President Young says that the Spirit of the Lord says thus and so, I don’t consider that all we should do is to say let it be so.” (Elder Orson Pratt; see Conflict in the Quorum ​by Gary James Bergera, 2002).

    “If we have presidents or apostles or anybody that we do not like, let us vote them out, and be free men, and cultivate and cherish in our bosoms the principles of liberty.” (President John Taylor, 7 October 1872; “Discourse,” The Deseret News Weekly, volume 21, number 48.)

    “And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out.” Mark 9:46, JST

    “President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 237-38).

  23. Bishop Anon Post author

    I apologize for the delay in posting your excellent comment. I’ve been away from my computer for a few days. I’m enjoying studying your comment and will respond in more detail shortly.

  24. Rebecca

    One. The church cannot end an eternal union or marriage between 2 people through excommunication or any other means (as referenced in your last paragraph). Only God can do this.
    Two. Do you ever wonder how many priesthood holders still have their priesthood? There is so much unrighteous dominion going on on so many levels. As we know in D and C, you lose your priesthood for that. With those unjustified excommunications going on, I have to think anyone that had a hand in it, or anyone that knew of it and didnt stand up against it probably no longer has that priesthood. That would include the people who heats the trial in the stake all the way up to most GAs and the prophet. God is no respecter of persons. They need to stop talking about pornography every priesthood seasion and start talking about the myriad of ways that make you deserving of losing your priesthood with God. Repent repent.

  25. Anon

    This subject is yet another false teaching, meant to led people astray to not speak up about evil & wrongdoing. Silence in the face of evil or falsehood, is evil.

    Christ himself commanded us to keep an eye out for and identify and warn others about the faults, errors and evils of false prophets and false teachers (wolves in sheep’s clothing) and all churches. He himself was very critical of the church leaders of his day. He knew how every church was and would be today filled with false prophets and falsehoods. So he told us to be continually looking for such and to speak out about it.

    Only false prophets don’t like to be called out on things and thus they tell people to not judge them or speak ill of them, etc.

    This is just another of the many ways the Church proves is just another apostate church and does not follow Christ and never has.

    How many falsehoods or evils does it take to make an apostate church or a false prophet?

    It seems like no one studies or believes the words of Christ, but only the words of men.

  26. jeffthesavage

    Bishop Anon,

    Have you read President Monson’s last talk about being strong and of a good courage? Apply these words to yourself, keeping in mind the specific testimony he bears at the end. From the article:

    “Said President J. Reuben Clark Jr., who for many years was a member of the First Presidency: “Not unknown are cases where [those] of presumed faith … have felt that, since by affirming their full faith they might call down upon themselves the ridicule of their unbelieving colleagues, they must either modify or explain away their faith, or destructively dilute it, or even pretend to cast it away. Such are hypocrites.”1 None of us would wish to wear such a label, and yet are we reluctant to declare our faith in some circumstances?

    The call for courage comes constantly to each of us. Every day of our lives courage is needed—not just for the momentous events but more often as we make decisions or respond to circumstances around us. Said Scottish poet and novelist Robert Louis Stevenson: “Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats for you and no crowds shout your name.”

    Catastrophic conflicts come and go, but the war waged for the souls of men continues without abatement. Like a clarion call comes the word of the Lord to you, to me, and to priesthood holders everywhere: “Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.”13 Then we will be, as the Apostle Peter declared, even “a royal priesthood,”14 united in purpose and endowed with power from on high.15
    May each one leave here tonight with the determination and the courage to say, with Job of old, “While my breath is in me, … I will not remove mine integrity from me.”16 That this may be so is my humble prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, amen.”

    Are his words a plea to those of us with open eyes to stay true to the Lord’s course, always acting in love towards another (his other talk)? He is, no doubt, aware of DS and others. This was the moment to ‘rise up’…but instead he promotes courage and love. Could his eyes be open, but he be commanded to preach, as Isaiah:

    “And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,”

    Jeremiah hated his calling. What if this is Tommy’s?

    PS-Thanks Anonymous Reader for your insightful comment.

  27. Izzie

    Bish,

    Very solid indeed. Thank you so much for how you put the post together. Just excellent.

    If I hear (and I have at our ward the last time I was there a few years back) the ’14 Fundamentals’ talk being used to chastise someone, I’m going to to go nuts.

    Why doesn’t anyone seem to know that Pres Benson wrote that BEFORE he was the Pres of the Church (TM) and that Pres Kimball chastised him for that talk in front of the 12, and he was made to withdraw it and apologise…if I remember correctly.

    The ’14 Fundamentals’ was considered apostate then, yet, considered scripture now.

    Go figure!

  28. Ozzy

    Rock solid BA. I am glad you fixed the furnace, I’d rather give my tithing to the fast offerings fund than to the tithe fund. Also, “the church” doesn’t ask for tithes the way the Prophet Joseph explained the law of tithes so I’d have no problem half of my tithes and move them to fast offerings. My wife is letter of the law so it won’t happen but I would if it didn’t cause me some serious issues with her.

  29. Owyhee cowboy

    Great piece, thanks for links,and quotes put in context.Very important.
    It makes you wonder were it is all headed?

    There are a few accounts in the Book of Mormon of how the “church”,
    not the Nephi nation as whole, gets sideways internally.
    This seems to be lost on the general membership.

    I don’t think most members read the book anyway>
    Look how many miss the consistent theme of “enforced priestcraft” A.K.A. Order of
    Nehor in the book of Alma.”and if it were to be enforced by the sword it would be…..”

    It gets chocked up to television evangelist,and the likes.Not the civil servants/Gov-Co.

    But is Father O’malley making me pay for neighbors kid school loans?
    Is Pastor Bob holding a gun to my head and making me pay for unconsitional
    wars?

    Did the Marlboro man force me to take his product?
    Joe Camel or Jack Daniels force me to pay through deficit spending
    interest free car loans farm subsidies?

    You get the idea.

    We are in bondage and don’t even know it.

    Everyone go back to sleep. Its ok,trust me

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