Some of you are aware that Elder Oaks and church historian Richard Turley made a special trip this weekend to Boise, Idaho to try to resolve questions of faith apparently prevalent in that area. You can listen to the presentation made by Elder Oaks and Brother Turley by clicking here.
I’ve listened to the presentation in its entirety and will just summarize some of the main arguments made which I’ve paraphrased or quoted below. I make some comments in parentheses following the emboldened points:
- For apostates “It’s always, ‘I have a better way than the current leaders.'” (Apparently Abinadi, Lehi, Alma , John the Baptist, and Jesus were apostates by this definition because they disagreed with church leadership. Thank God Jesus believed He was “the Way” and was willing to show us His better way. Did Joseph Smith seek to provide a better way than the churches of his day?)
- Some people say that Brigham Young didn’t hold keys to have authority over the church? ‘Answer – Well then who had them!? If he didn’t then there was no authority on earth.’ (I don’t find this answer very satisfying – it’s as if to say “Because we claim authority, then we must have it. This shows me the church is unwilling to consider another narrative even though other possibilities may be more accurate and might just help us better understand God’s plan for us. I wish Elder Oaks had addressed the controversies surrounding the succession in more detail. If the argument is Brigham had the keys all along then why take 3 1/2 years to make Brigham President? If Brigham always had the keys then why did he say “We’ve lost the keys…” when he heard Joseph was killed, followed with “Oh wait, the 12 have the keys”? If the 12 had the keys, then why didn’t they transfer them to Brigham, or ordain him? If the 12 had the keys, wouldn’t it be important that the 12 unanimously sustain BY? And then ordain him? John Taylor and other apostles opposed BY succeeding Joseph. Does that matter? Addressing the authenticity of section 110 added many years after Joseph’s death, addressing why Emma and Lucy didn’t believe BY to be fit to succeed Joseph, discussing how BY in the beginning argued the succession belonged to Joseph III and that anyone coming in as president would do so as caretaker until Joseph III was old enough… So much more that should have been discussed in my opinion. This is a really important issue for people struggling with their testimonies as it pertains to keys.)
- The idea that the current prophet has strayed and needs to be replaced is a tool that Satan has always used. (And yet it is Jesus who teaches us to beware of false prophets and to judge whether a prophet is true or false by his fruits. When Apostle Lyman committed adultery/bigamy as a “prophet” for 18 years before being caught and excommunicated and Spencer Kimball replaced him in 1943, were those who replaced this prophet using a tool of Satan? The church now conveniently disparages Brigham Young regarding his views on race. Is the church using a tool of Satan by suggesting BY strayed on this issue? To argue that a “prophet” is infallible is an issue for many people in and out of the church, myself included.)
- It’s okay to not see the Savior in this life. Those who teach otherwise are using a common technique deployed by apostates. It’s great to want to see the Savior, but it’s not necessary. (I wish Elder Oaks had used a single scripture here to justify his statement. The Book of Mormon seems to strongly disagree. How is this desire apostate? Doesn’t such a question deserve more attention rather than just saying this is an apostate technique.)
- Modern apostles are called to witness of the name of Christ. Not a personal witness. Witness His name is to witness of the plan of Christ. (A little confusing.)
- Of course Apostles are also witnesses of Christ as are all members of the church because we have the Holy Ghost. (So how is their witness any different than most members if at all?)
- Today we are counseled to not tell people that we have witnessed Christ. Otherwise people can put it on the Internet and that will violate Savior’s commandment to not cast pearls before swine. (One of my biggest issues with the church is this endless back and forth, double speak… Have you seen the Savior or not? If you have, and don’t want to have sacred things mocked, I respect that. But if you have NOT seen the Lord and yet clearly lead us to believe you have by providing these kinds of responses, then when members read LDS history and find that LDS prophets generally aren’t seeing the Lord, this becomes a significant stumbling block. Frankly it makes people feel like they’ve been lied to. It seems fair to say that likely not all the 12 and 70 have seen the Lord. So why don’t more of them tell us they have not rather than lead people to believe they have?)
- Following someone other than Lord’s servants is a sign of apostasy. (Why not following someone other than the Lord is apostasy? Again, provide some scriptures here please.)
- When you follow false prophets; when you are on the road to apostasy, you are on the wrong side. “I know about being on the wrong side. One time I sat on the wrong side of the cow when I was milking it.” — Elder Oaks
- If we stay with and follow the current leaders of the church we will receive salvation and eternal life.
- The number of our latter-day temples is a sign of the truthfulness of the church.
- “Reasonable questions are okay, doubts are darkness.”
- Apostasy is chaos. The example of the pharisees of Jesus’ day was used to suggest that these apostate leaders pointed to Abraham as their father. (I think a better example would be to say that Jesus’ apostasy from the Jewish Church was viewed as dark and chaotic by the wicked men who did not realize they were apostate).
- “They are not to teach their own doctrines. They are to teach from the scriptures…further they are to teach church articles.” (I’m not sure what Elder Oaks intends here, but if it is to say that we should teach the General Conference edition of The Ensign or The Handbook of Instructions, over the Scriptures, I’d have to disagree.)
- The Lord’s principle of order is… church led by prophets, authority comes from prophets, prophet voted for and sustained by members, teach what prophets tell you, come in by gate known to prophets, not some secret gate. (The only gate I’m aware of that matters is the one where He employs no servant.)
I’ll be interested to see what others’ thoughts are on this special Boise meeting and the contents of the presentation. I find it interesting that the efforts of the church do not seem to be to reclaim those they consider apostate, but rather only seem intent on preventing others from leaving. If the effort was to reclaim those they’ve lost they would do so with patience and persuasion without calling them preposterous and apostate and other names while not addressing their sincere concerns. I know many good people who do have faith in the Restoration, in Joseph Smith’s mission, in The Book of Mormon and The Pearl of Great Price, who are looking for reasons to stay in the church. I think not digging deep to make more compelling arguments is short-sighted.