Submitting to Authority: A Virtue

October 3, 2013

We don’t hesitate to submit to internet agreements, but we do to authority.

A lot of what I read on the bloggernacle seems focused on finding areas for improvement in church culture and leadership. I myself often get caught up in this critical approach. At times, my testimony has been shaken as I’ve seen how far the church seems from my own arbitrary standards of what I think “the true church” should be.

However, in the last few years, I’ve stopped playing this game of trying to decide whether the church is good enough, or true enough for me. Instead, I found a key which strengthened my testimony and my ability to coexist within a culture I sometimes find at odds with my own liberal perspectives. The key is submission to the divine authority of a purposefully imperfect church.

Today’s guest post is by Nate.

The Church Stands In For God in the World

Most of us would agree that submission to God is fundamental. But submission to a church? I grant it may sound a bit cultish, like putting our trust in man not God. D&C 1:16 says “every man walketh in his own way, after the image of his own God.” I believe this verse describes the democratic idea of religious freedom in today’s world. Most people can probably find a church or belief system that reflects whatever they happen to think is right. They can find “a god” to submit to. But in the end, that god is no more than the god of their own imagination, god as they happen to think he exists. The God of Mormonism is different. He reveals Himself to us in His peculiarities, through a prophet, and we are asked to take it or leave it. There are some things about the Mormon God that I find puzzling and even a bit embarrassing. But that is not for me to judge. That is how He revealed Himself to me through His prophets, so I’m stuck. The trial for me is to drink the divine cool-aid I’ve been given.

Submission to a Divine but Imperfect Church

Apparently this saying isn’t uniquely Mormon.

If God had made His Church as self-evidently perfect as He truly is, there would be no need for faith. That kind of church would be wondrous, reflecting the glory of His diverse creation and everyone would clamor to get in, just as they clamor to vacation in beautiful mountain ranges and on exotic beaches. But God purposely makes His church peculiar and difficult to believe in: “a rock of offense, a stumbling block, a stone the builders reject, a strait and narrow way.” God calls “the weak and the simple” to be His rulers. Paul tells us “the foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of men.” God admits that Joseph Smith has weaknesses, and commands the church to “bear with him.” God allows the churches He establishes to become defined by the narrow peculiarities of those He calls to establish them. Thus the modern LDS church and its doctrine is very much defined by the strange experiences of Joseph Smith and his personality and cultural influences, just as the Old Testament church was very much defined by the personality and culture of it’s prophets.

The point of being a member of the Church is not just to help improve or “fix it.” The point is to bear with it, for the church exists both as a help, and as a trial in and of itself for it’s members. I call it the “Divine Stockholm Syndrome.” Stockholm Syndrome usually refers to the acceptance of an abusive relationship. God is not abusive, but He gives us trials that sometimes seem difficult to comprehend. Job learned this lesson and said, “thou he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” God calls the weak and simple, and sets them over us, which can sometimes be a sore trial. Those who follow and submit to their priesthood leaders in their weaknesses often claim to have learned great spiritual lessons from it, as Brigham Young did at Zion’s Camp, as Wilford Woodruff did after the Kirtland Safety Society collapse, and as Levi Savage did as part of the Willie Handcart Company.

What about Unrighteous Dominion?

Submission does not mean that we always agree, or must obey everything a priesthood leader tells us. We may disagree, the leader may be uninspired in a particular case, or may be exercising unrighteous dominion. If someone has exercised “unrighteous dominion” do we still have to submit to them? D&C 121:39 is often used to justify criticism against church leaders. I think this scripture should instead be used scripture to examine our own hearts rather than as a “test” to question the virtue of others. The true spirit of submission means that we sustain and bear our leaders up in their weaknesses. We struggle with them, even argue with them privately if necessary, not to undermine them, but to try to come to an understanding. I don’t believe that unrighteous dominion qualifies us to revoke our own sustaining of a particular leader. If that were the case, almost everyone would loose their authority, as “almost all men” have a problem with unrighteous dominion, according to Joseph Smith.

Submission is Not Blind Faith

Some might argue that submission can easily become blind faith. This is true. Brigham Young had this to say about it:

“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation.”

Submission should follow personal revelation. If we have felt the Lord tell us “come follow me” (or “come follow my servants”) then that is the only reason why we should follow. That path may take us to some strange places. When Jesus preached cannibalism in the Bread of Life sermon, “you must eat my flesh and drink my blood” most of His disciples left Him. Listening to some of the things our modern prophets have said, it’s easy to see why many people would leave today as well. But like the apostles of old who didn’t leave Jesus, even when He seemed a bit crazy, I try to remember the initial voice I heard, the “come follow me,” and it helps me get past things I disagree with or don’t understand.

Time to Rebel Against Authority

There are times to rebel against ecclesiastical authority. We revere the Protestant reformers for fighting against apostate Catholic authority. Jesus rebelled against the apostate authority of His day. Indeed, the recent excommunication of Denver Snuffer brings up the idea that perhaps our own church is in a state of apostasy and thus in need of reformation. But that is a very bold claim to make, and I doubt if it is justified simply because we feel our prophet was uninspired to exclaim “Let’s go shopping!” or something of that sort. My experience is that priesthood power is alive in the current church. I’ve heard my leaders speak and I’ve felt the Holy Ghost confirm their words. Regardless of the times when I might disagree or see imperfections, I still honor and submit to their authority.

Humility is Not Possible Without Submission

A final point I would like to make is that submission to authority is the very definition of humility. We can submit to our own beliefs and values, whatever they happen to be. But that would simply be pride in our own views, as justified as we might feel in those views. However, submission to someone who claims to have authority over us is true humility. It demands that we bend to them, that we change, accommodate, and obey something that does not come naturally from our belief set, but from an outside source. That is humility.

This fact offers the liberal even more hope than the conservative. A conservative naturally aligns himself with orthodoxy. Thus for the conservative, there is a danger that his allegiance is simply a reflection of his own natural veiwpoint, “the natural man.” But when a liberal aligns himself with orthodoxy, this indicates a state of submission towards something that is unnatural to him: true humility.

Questions:

  • Do you agree that submission to authority is an important aspect of the LDS church?
  • Does “unrighteous dominion” give us the right to revoke our sustaining vote?
  • Is humility before God possible without submission to His earthly authorities?
  • Can we disagree with or criticize our leaders while still sustaining or submitting to them?

 

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47 Responses to Submitting to Authority: A Virtue

  1. dba.brotherp on October 3, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    I am confused when you say, “Submission should follow personal revelation.” then say “Regardless of the times when I might disagree or see imperfections, I still honor and submit to their authority.”

    It sounds like you are arguing that it is better to do what you are told, even if it is wrong, than not to do what you are told. Or am I misunderstanding you?

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  2. dba.brotherp on October 3, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    To answer your questions:
    1. It is taught as an important aspect.
    2. Yes
    3. Yes
    4. I don’t think sustaining an submitting are the same thing. You can disagree while sustaining but you can’t disagree while submitting.

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  3. The Other Clark on October 3, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    I think this might be the most faith promoting thing I’ve read on this blog in a while.

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  4. Howard on October 3, 2013 at 4:15 PM

    Excellent article Nate! Submission should follow personal revelation. Yes indeed! And if you receive personal revelation opposing submission as many did regarding the ban on blacks and later prop 8?

    We have an invitation to seek and a promise that we can receive personal revelation. It doesn’t just land in our laps gift wrapped, it takes practice and work to achieve, we must invest time and set aside the world in order to receive it. Ignoring this part of our responsibility places us in that state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that BY warned us against. Blind submission shouldn’t be considered a litmus test for who is faithful but rather for who is stupid.

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  5. Howard on October 3, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    …brings up the idea that perhaps our own church is in a state of apostasy and thus in need of reformation. What is the threshold for apostasy? Is there one? Isn’t an “imperfect” church an admission of some slight state of apostasy? Wasn’t the ban on black fiasco apostasy? If not apostasy shall we call it ecclesiastical malpractice? Or ecclesiastical negligence? Or if you happened to be black at the time maybe ecclesiastical manslaughter?

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  6. Hedgehog on October 4, 2013 at 1:27 AM

    I was somewhat disturbed last sunday school lesson to be apparently the only person concerned that a) that it’s when God’s serveants are speaking God’s words that it’s as if He were speaking himself, and b) if we do our due diligence in seeking personal revelation that the words are indeed God’s words it can easier for us to then follow through on those instructions.

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  7. nate on October 4, 2013 at 4:27 AM

    dba.brotherp, regarding your second comment, I never hear the words “submitting to our priesthood leaders.” Rather, I hear “sustaining them.” However, I use the word “submit,” because I think it captures the idea that the church stands in for God in the world. We wouldn’t say, “we sustain God,” we would say, “we submit to God.” It’s stronger, and it evokes a greater sense of humility before His church. I think you can still disagree with your leaders while submitting, it’s just that you feel in some sense that you are “under their authority,” as part of what could be a trial of faith.

    It’s like any other job, where you have superiors. In your secular job, you may disagree with your boss, and in rare cases, you may disobey him, if you think he is doing something illegal or the like. But you recognize his authority. I don’t think it’s any different in the church. In a way, we should consider our leaders like our bosses. It’s not exactly like that, but for those like myself, who are inclined to find fault, I think a little more of that kind of thinking would help us understand our role within the church as underlings in the priesthood heirarchy.

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  8. ji on October 4, 2013 at 4:31 AM

    It is far different in the church. In the secular world, we have jobs and supervisors and employees production goals and so forth. We must never think of a priesthood leader as a boss, or a priesthood holder as an employee. We are all brothers, neighbors, fellow citizens.

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  9. nate on October 4, 2013 at 4:47 AM

    Howard, when is a church in a state of apostasy? Good question. The ecclesiastical abuse of the priesthood ban originates with Brigham Young. Brigham Young made a lot of mistakes, but it is clear that the Lord blessed the church under his hand, and I still consider his sermons the greatest of any prophet of this dispensation. I don’t know about you, but I feel he was a prophet of God, and that he retained his priesthood inspite of his mistakes.

    If he had ordered Mountain Meadow, would that be the threshold for apostasy? Maybe, but in my opinion, even then, no, because I still feel God’s power in the church today and don’t believe it could have been lost, even with a murderous prophet in it’s past.

    As humans in a critical, scientific age, we easily jump to fault finding and doubt. So I think we need to set the bar for apostasy really high, in order to compensate for our overly critical age. Religion needs to be viewed with more faith, and less scrutiny. That is the nature of religion. God bears with us in our weaknesses, and I think He bears with His church with great deference and mercy.

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  10. nate on October 4, 2013 at 4:57 AM

    Hedgehog, I’ve struggled to interpret the scripture “whether by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” My personal interpretation is that God “adopts” the words of His servants as His own (more or less.) He gives them lots of leeway and trust when He gives them authority. It’s like when he told Nephi in the Book of Mormon, “command whatever you want, rain, or famine, because I know you will not ask amis.”

    So I ascribe some of the weaknesses in our leaders to God Himself, who wants the weaknesses there as a trial, who cultivates an appearance of “the foolishness of God, over the wisdom of men.”

    It’s a bit like the authority God gives to imperfect parents. Parents may be subtily abusing their children inspite of their best efforts. But that is the plan, and God sustains their authority, and demands that children “honor their parents.” Part of the plan is that parents screw up their children, in addition to helping them. That’s life. It’s no different in the church. Part of the plan is for leaders to screw up and be a trial for their flock.

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  11. Howard on October 4, 2013 at 6:35 AM

    The ecclesiastical abuse of the priesthood ban originates with Brigham Young. Yes, then LDS prophets and the church perpetuated the abuse by submitting to it rather than challenging it. It was not corrected until it was challenged from outside the church! Is this what God wants? I have a strong testimony that it is not what God wants and BY himself warned against this. Our prophets need to return to the grove with Joseph’s innocence, sincerity and faith and they need to follow Moses’ example of inquiring of the Lord for church members.

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  12. dba.brotherp on October 4, 2013 at 7:31 AM

    Nate said @ comment 9, “…I still feel God’s power in the church today and don’t believe it could have been lost, even with a murderous prophet in it’s past.”

    Maybe I am misreading but this sounds like you are saying that it’s the institution that matters. Don’t we argue that we are the restored true church because of the way people acted and changed doctrine after Christ died? If the institution matters, why have a restoration?

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  13. Howard on October 4, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    BY and the ban on blacks demonstrates that significant error can creep into our doctrine and practice. Quite submission facilitates and reenforces that error. As time goes on more error creeps in and submission facilitates and reenforces that adding it to the first. If it were to continue it would eventually create a second Great Apostasy and long before that we would arrive at the point that the church ceases to have much relevance.

    So how is this to be prevented?The comforting and wishful folklore belief often repeated; “the Lord stands at the head of this church” and what? micromanages it? was rebuffed by SWK’s comments about revelation. So where does the correction come from today if not from outside the core of the church or completely outside the church? If not from activism? If not from questioning? Wouldn’t it be better to cooperatively bring this discussion into the fold? Shouldn’t it be taking place among the brethren themselves? Can it given the company man, nepotism, seniority method of succession? No it cannot!

    We are generally designed to hold a steady course but we are an open loop organization that shuns the critical feedback necessary for highly accurate closed loop navigation.

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  14. Howard on October 4, 2013 at 8:17 AM

    Where is our Liahona? Is it really pointing toward City Creek Mall?

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  15. Hedgehog on October 4, 2013 at 8:34 AM

    Nate, I really don’t think I’d go as afar as to say he adopts their words. Not at all. I agree leaders are given a lot of leeway on the other hand. And we’re all mortal and make mistakes, so certainly I wouldn’t be arguing every little nitty gritty point. People have different ways of doing things, and it doesn’t always matter. But, I think there are times when we need to be able to ask if other perspectives have been considered. Whether that’s at a local level, or otherwise. I think can be part of sustaining.
    I’m getting a tad nervous by posts that seem to be, to me, fetishising submission and obedience (Nathaniel Givens recent post over on T&S springs to mind) as ends in themselves.
    I like the seeking personal revelation route. And sure, some things don’t matter. It’s just a different way of doing something, which causes no harm. But some things do cause harm, and then I think we do need to speak out, hopefully as guided by the spirit, because ultimately we are responsible for our own actions. I don’t think it is fair to any leader to abdicate that responsibility.

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  16. hawkgrrrl on October 4, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    “Do you agree that submission to authority is an important aspect of the LDS church?” Loyalty has a long and tortuous history in the church, particularly something that leaders have demanded, starting with JS. Personally, I think it’s a questionable viewpoint. When a leader demands loyalty or you will be excommunicated, that person is also stating that no opposing viewpoints need be considered. That is not a very wise course. Even as recently as Chad Hardy’s excommunication for the racy missionary calendars, he was asked “the loyalty question” (if Pres. Monson asked you to stop making the calendars, would you?). He said he wouldn’t for two reasons: 1) he had a business partner whom he had been holding in check who would do far worse if he did, and 2) it’s not a reasonable request. I don’t actually think Chad Hardy was right or that either of his reasons were right (he was profiting from the missionary image directly, so he introduced the blurry line between commerce and church, IMO).
    “Does “unrighteous dominion” give us the right to revoke our sustaining vote?” We can ‘sustain’ by opposing. In the UK, the party not in power is called the loyal opposition. We could learn a thing or two from that notion, esp given the US govt shutdown this week. But yes, you can revoke your sustaining of a bad person. You owe it to the church to not support a leader who is abusive or hurting children, for example.
    “Is humility before God possible without submission to His earthly authorities?” This is a tricky one. You have to bear in mind the caveat that we need to be wary of our own ability to see our motives and views clearly. In reading about the religious history of England, there were many Catholics and Protestants who were martyred who on their death swore loyalty to the queen (Mary or Elizabeth) who had ordered their death. Is that humility? I’m not sure where humility ends and duty begins.
    “Can we disagree with or criticize our leaders while still sustaining or submitting to them?” We have been cautioned not to accept everything we are told (by BY no less) without seeking our own personal revelation. We should be engaged in studying things out in our minds or we are not very good Christians. We should be intentional in our obedience, not mindless automatons.

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  17. nate on October 4, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    Hawkgrrl, great points, and I’m glad you brought up the example of those the queen executes swearing aligiance to her on the chopping block. It’s the spirit of Job, ” though He slay me yet will I trust in Him.” Monarchists and Catholics understand the value of submitting to authorities who represent God on Earth. But this submission is not without struggle, even unto martyrdom.

    Hedgehog and Howard have suggested that perhaps an attitude of submission would be simply rolling over when we see wrongs perpetuated. But I think an attitude of submission can include sharp disagreement.

    The problem is that we give up on our leaders. We decide they are wrong and take our complaints to the public square to denounce them. It is better to go to them and try to help them understand our concerns, to write heartfelt letters. To petition and petition and petition, till either our heart can change, or we come to an understanding. The pattern is set in the parable of the importunate widow, who is finally given her way, just to be rid of her pestering. This is the example Jesus gave to us to follow. But the widow did not start a coup against the king, or write letters to the Tribune complaining about him. She didn’t undermine or question his authority or justice. On the contrary, by continually petitioning, she demonstrated her subjugation to him.

    We are their flock. They need to hear our bleating or they will not know we are hungry. Our leaders sometimes don’t understand. They think the flock is there just to obey them. But the flock is hungry and needs protection. We must come to them in our vulnerability. We must cry out for help.

    But we don’t reject them as our shepherds and think we could do better, or leave the flock. We accept that we are sheep, they are the shepherds. That I believe is the correct spirit of submission. It is not to roll over, but to cry out in the hunger of our spirit.

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  18. nate on October 4, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    “We are generally designed to hold a steady course but we are an open loop organization that shuns the critical feedback necessary for highly accurate closed loop navigation.”

    Good point Howard. This is unfortunate, but true. However, agitation, in my opinion, simply makes the loop more closed and defensive. Changes in the priesthood ban happened long, long after political agitation had been pressuring the church to change. Perhaps it would have come sooner if the members had petitioned relentlessly through priesthood channels, not outside agitation?

    I don’t know, but in the end it doesn’t matter. It is part of the inspired trial of being in an imperfect church.

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  19. dba.brotherp on October 4, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    “The problem is that we give up on our leaders. We decide they are wrong and take our complaints to the public square to denounce them. ”

    I think this is true sometimes but most of the time, from what I have read, people have tried going privately to the leader and the public square is the last resort. In our church, there really is no channel for one to complain to a higher authority. Perhaps, this is why the public square route is taken so quickly.

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  20. nate on October 4, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    Dba.brotherp says “Maybe I am misreading but this sounds like you are saying that it’s the institution that matters. Don’t we argue that we are the restored true church because of the way people acted and changed doctrine after Christ died? If the institution matters, why have a restoration?”

    I think it’s the authority that matters, not the doctrine, practices, or the faults of leaders. The Catholic Church is the only other church that claims exclusive authority of its priesthood. I would be a Catholic if God asked me to be one, or revealed that the Pope was His prophet, no matter how much corruption I know existed.

    There was need of a restoration, but not because Joseph Smith decided it was needed because the doctrine had been changed. God told Joseph Smith to restore the church, and Joseph Smith restored it in the madness, beauty, and honesty of his spirit. It is a weird church. It is not descended from heaven in perfect form like Athena from Zeus’ head. It’s NOT a restoration of the doctrines of the early church. It is ONLY a restoration of the authority of that church.

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  21. tomirvine999 on October 4, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    There is yet another path although it should only be used in extreme cases…

    My family and I once experienced repeated instances of unrighteous dominion from multiple levels of ward and stake leadership. I reached a point where I could no longer fully support my ward and stake leaders. Yes, I even wrote heartfelt letters to them. But I did not use the public square option because that would have only made things worse.

    Our solution was to move into another stake where we were accepted and had no further problems.

    Sometime afterward, our former stake was disbanded and the wards were absorbed into another stake.

    To say that one could unilaterally release himself from submission to a given bishop or stake president while still maintaining temple-worthiness is both false doctrine and outright blasphemy, but we found a way.

    Coincidentally, when we moved into our new ward, I was called to be a high priest, and my wife and I were called to be temple workers. None of these blessings would have come to us had we remained in our previous stake.

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  22. Howard on October 4, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    If you write a letter to “Salt Lake” on your own, your letter will never reach the brethren and you will soon be in your Bishop’s office explaining yourself and learning how it’s actually YOU that is wrong, not the church. If your letter is one of many it may have some affect but think; how did your letter become one of many with no letter writing campaign? How does a letter writing campaign begin without activism? Finally can you really imagine President Monson with a suggestion box under his arm heading to his Thurs. temple meeting with the brethren so they can answer these issues for us? I can’t.

    Really, the current agitation system is a time saver for them because it collates, summarizes and prioritizes issues for them, then they can respond or not while retaining plausible deniability.

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  23. hawkgrrrl on October 4, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    “It is better to go to them and try to help them understand our concerns, to write heartfelt letters. To petition and petition and petition, till either our heart can change, or we come to an understanding.” Just to echo what others are saying, it used to be that you could write letters and they would be read and heard, but that was done away with decades ago. Even if your letter does get to a GA, it will be read and responded to by a secretary, not by the man himself. The feedback will not be sent upward. If you write a letter to COB, expect it to come back to your SP who will chide you for steadying the ark. So, there is no feedback loop other than the public forum. I agree it’s a flawed system, but it’s also a good system in that leaders can take a passive role in reading what people are discussing and then they can take credit for whatever ideas they have for change because they weren’t directly petitioned. Likewise, it demonstrates to investigators and the disaffected that open discussion is valued and accepted (or at least winked at). We still have freedom of speech.

    Do I personally really hope for change? Nothing that dramatic because the filter it must go through is tightly woven. We are given a crumb like girls going on missions at age 19, then told one miracle is enough and quit asking. But having these discussions helps me reconcile my continued involvement despite a lot of cognitive dissonance with the direction policies have headed during my lifetime.

    “I don’t know, but in the end it doesn’t matter.” I agree with this, but I suspect for a different reason.

    “It is part of the inspired trial of being in an imperfect church.” Cut the word inspired, and I agree. I don’t think this is the part that’s inspired. I do think submission is probably the only recourse we really have in life with most organizations we belong to, including being citizens of the United States. Calling that “inspired” seems far too optimistic and requires more theory of mind than I possess.

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  24. Howard on October 4, 2013 at 6:31 PM

    You know there’s something else. Members are hesitant to speak up because most of them fear church discipline somewhere in the backs of their minds. Imagine, they fear their own church! The September Six were actually excommunicated 20 years ago and there have been a few since. It has a chilling effect on “free speech” but bloggernacle anonymity does offer some insulation from that.

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  25. Hedgehog on October 5, 2013 at 3:38 AM

    Nate: “Hedgehog and Howard have suggested that perhaps an attitude of submission would be simply rolling over when we see wrongs perpetuated. But I think an attitude of submission can include sharp disagreement.”
    I don’t think that’s quite what I said.
    How precisely would be voicing your sharp disagreement whilst submitting?
    I am wondering if our disgreement is more one of semantics and tone associated with the word submission. You seem to view it as something to be enjoyed, whilst for me it is sometimes a necessary evil.

    Tom’s action (#21), is something I have observed in some wards, at a ward level, where those wards, under a particular bishop have proved a test of endurance. Easier done where moving costs are lower and stake/ward boundaries smaller however. It comes to something when members feel the only way to survive is to move house, and indicates to me there ought to be some sort of channel open to listening to problems/difficulties.

    Since hawkgrrrl mentioned politics I’ll also point out that these days governments appear to welcome petitions as a means of highlighting which are the big concerns of the people – it cuts through the layers, and goodness knows there are enough layers to cut through in the organisation of the church.
    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/
    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/‎ (will be functioning when you’ve agreed a budget….)

    “We are their flock. They need to hear our bleating or they will not know we are hungry. Our leaders sometimes don’t understand. They think the flock is there just to obey them. But the flock is hungry and needs protection. We must come to them in our vulnerability. We must cry out for help.”
    Petitioning certainly helps get our voices to the ears at a higher levels, without the muffling of bureaucracy. Bleating to an individual can work better at a local level, but frankly I would hope adults could talk openly face to face about problems without having to indulge in games of subservience etc. I’m tired of playing games.

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  26. dba.brotherp on October 5, 2013 at 7:39 AM

    Nate,

    Thank you for your clarification. You said, “I think it’s the authority that matters, not the doctrine, practices, or the faults of leaders…. I would be a Catholic if God asked me to be one, or revealed that the Pope was His prophet, no matter how much corruption I know existed.”

    How do you reconcile that statement with D&C 121:36-37, “That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.”

    “That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”

    It appears that authority is withdrawn when corruption is taking place. If this is so, why would God ask you to be apart of an organization that is corrupt? (Please understand I am NOT saying Catholics are corrupt or that the church is corrupt.)

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  27. Troth Everyman on October 5, 2013 at 8:14 AM

    Loyal dissidence. Oh to have that become a main-stream part of LDS culture. Sign me up!

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  28. nate on October 5, 2013 at 8:16 AM

    Hawk and Howard, I am aware that my suggestion that we complain only through priesthood channels is probably not very effective, and maybe agitation, as Ordain Women calls it, is more effective. Maybe it is appropriate in some cases. But my question is: at what cost? I think these issues often become a distraction from what could be a more peaceable and productive walk with God and His church. They threaten to become the mote we perceive in the church’s eye, without allowing the church, in its imperfection, to be the mirror we hold up to ourselves, which I believe is one of its most important roles. Instead, we become fixated on areas where we think our leaders are less inspired, and overlook the spiritual progress that could come through humble submission to them as God’s representatives on earth.

    Hedgehog has a great phrase: “indulge in games of subservience.”

    I actually think this is a very important game, but the art of it has been lost in our selfish, self-indulgent democracy. Japan understands it. But Americans crossed the seas to escape subservience, and embrace Thomas Jefferson’s non-Biblical, Hellenic idea that we are created equal and endowed by God with inalienable rights. I don’t believe God gave us any rights. He gave us undeserved grace, and man gives us rights. Jefferson was wrong. “We are slaves to Christ” Paul says.

    Democratic egalitarianism may work more effectively in running modern, earthly governments, but it is not the order of heaven, nor is it the order of nature, nor is it the order of the church. Early Mormons revered the US Constitution for one reason: it offered protection for them to engage in theocratic games of subservience to Gods and prophets, without interference from mobs. But todays Mormons revere the Constitution because they think it is actually superior to a righteous heavenly monarchy with prophets at the head. Like the demanding citizens of a democracy, they subject their prophets to the same criticism they heap upon their long-suffering politicians, complaining about gerontocracy and conservative views.

    I’m as liberal as anyone here, and a big fan of secular humanism and the separation of church and state. But in my religious life, I value the inspired experience of submission and reverence to authority, even to those who I disagree with. God save the Queen, and Long live the prophet!

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  29. nate on October 5, 2013 at 8:29 AM

    dba.brotherp, good question. The simple answer is that I disagree with Joseph Smith about “amen to the authority.” If a priesthood man performs a baptism, I don’t think the baptism needs to be redone simply because of his penchant for unrighteousness dominion. Bread broken at the sacrament table by teenage wankers is still sacred. I think Joseph Smith probably intended for the scripture to be used by priesthood leaders to question their own hearts, not to be used as a test to question the authority of others.

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  30. dba.brotherp on October 5, 2013 at 8:37 AM

    Nate,

    A prophet is a prophet only when he is acting as a prophet. But a queen is a queen no matter what. I think those are important differences. Not everything that comes from the mouth of a prophet is the word of God. In the case of Ordain Women the prophet has not said anything. So how can Ordain Women’s actions be construed as criticism of a prophet?

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  31. MH on October 5, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    “Early Mormons revered the US Constitution for one reason: it offered protection for them to engage in theocratic games of subservience to Gods and prophets, without interference from mobs.”

    What???????

    Every heard of the Haun’s Mill Massacre? Didn’t Joseph and Hyrum die at the hands of a mob? Wasn’t Bishop Partridge tarred and feathered in Missouri? Didn’t we give up polygamy as a concession to the government, showing we were more subservience to the government than to God and prophets? The constitution offered absolutely no protections in practice (in principle maybe, but not practice, and the Supreme Court ruled anti-polygamy legislation as constitutional.)

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  32. Howard on October 5, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    Nate wrote: But my question is: at what cost? I don’t believe the cost is very high. There are a dozen or so controversial historical and doctrinal issues the church needs to creditably address plus the questions of women and gays? And what else? Not much! So once this backlog is cleaned up the on-going issues will be pretty minor and church leadership will be tuned up to the new standards. The biggest issue has been opening a forum for free discussion and that hasn’t been as traumatic as the shift in power occasioned by printed Bibles being made available to commoners. It won’t topple the church to share power and divine access with the membership including women and gays.

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  33. Howard on October 5, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    The ban on blacks fiasco demonstrated that we were at least in part a church of biased people being lead by a least a few biased prophets. Submission locked us into this formula for far too long and secular enlightenment driven agitation was required to lead our otherwise blind prophets out of this mess. Yes the Lord uses imperfect people to move us ahead, what other choice does he have? But if you don’t do your own self examination you cannot grow out of your biases, others who claim to have grown out of their’s should not be silenced rather they should be engaged to determine if they actually see something we missed. Prophetic revelation is so rare it is almost nonexistent today instead being replaced by inspiration and worse group inspiration. Inspiration is far more man than God, far more bias than not! What’s wrong? Our prophets need to engage God in the way Joseph did to become Prophets!

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  34. nate on October 5, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    Howard, I like your arguments, particularly because you seem to have a positive, optimistic attitude towards activism, spiritually untroubled, unlike so many others whose testimonies seem on the brink as they confront these issues.

    But I disagree strongly with your characterization of our latter day leaders as lowercase prophets, as opposed to Joseph Smith, an upper case Prophet.

    How do you know they are living below their prophetic privilidges? Did God tell you? How do you know what God has told them? Maybe God is telling them that protecting the status quo is their mission. Maybe He tells you something different because you are not a typical member, and its what you need to hear. Just because you have some kind of gnostic spiritual knowledge you don’t hear expounded by the Brethren doesn’t mean that their brand of defending the faith doesn’t happen to be exactly what God intends for a majority of the present membership. God works in mysterious ways.

    I couldn’t bear to be in the church if I really thought that what we hear in General Conference represents the fullness of the gospel. But I can accept it as “the foolishness of God.” And I can revere those who dish it out as true prophets. And I can come out of my shell of mysticism to serve in this church in practical ways with people not as screwed up as I am by my education and pride. I don’t doubt your revelations as true revelations to you, and secret knowledge, but I don’t think it gives you a right to question the revelations of others, even if they contradict your own.

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  35. Howard on October 5, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    Nate,
    Sum all the revelation spoken by all the Presidents of the church since Joseph to what Joseph spoke. How does it compare? Arent revalators supposed to reveal?

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  36. Hedgehog on October 5, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    Nate, After your last few comments I think it is pretty clear that our differences are more than semantic or tonal.
    You might want to take a read of Hawkgrrrls post on passive aggression. My husband is Japanese, and he really appreciates straight-talking. Japan is difficult to negotiate when no-one is willing to actually say what they mean. Levels of passive aggression are also high. People will agree to do something and it never gets done. This makes for an environment where it can be very difficult to achieve anything (Japanese politics mostly looks like one ineffectual prime-minister after another). It is also a country where a person needs to be forever aware of their status and position in relation to everyone else, which is exhausting in and of itself. I’m more than happy to work with leaders in my callings etc., but, I will say what I mean, I expect my perspective to be given some consideration, and if can’t do something, then I will say so too.
    Now, I can appreciate what Elder Soares just said in the Saturday Morning session. You however, are sounding somewhat deranged to me, with your emphasis on the foolishness of God. That or simply stringing a line for the fun of it.

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  37. nate on October 5, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    Hedgehog I have family in Japan too, and so I can certainly appreciate what you are saying about passive aggression and the frustrations of lack of straight talk.

    I think there is a tradition in our early church of frankness of speech. And that is something that probably would be good to cultivate alongside appropriate understandings of status and authority.

    My own emphasis on submission is personal, given that my own perspectives are so far removed from the Brethren, “deranged” as you say, that I really have no choice but to embrace the dissonance as part of the experience.

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  38. Howard on October 5, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    I do believe there is something important to be learned from submission, since I enjoy easy access to the Spirit my submission is to God or to our leaders after spiritual confirmation.

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  39. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 5, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    Reminds me of twelve step literature.

    BTW ” It doesn’t just land in our laps gift wrapped, it takes practice and work to achieve, we must invest time and set aside the world in order to receive it” — too often people seem to not be willing to put in real time and effort.

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  40. […] women’s attempt to attend the meeting garnered various reactions: Admonitions to submit to authority, a list of open questions that give a very strong whiff of being rhetorical, sweet stories […]

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  41. fbisti on October 6, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    Pardon me if something in this vein has already been submitted–I don’t have the time right now to read all the comments…

    The essential reason why “sustaining’ (the definition of which can surely be debated) is an eternally true principle: the Church is an organization/community of people working together for the benefit of all. As volunteers, who take “turns” being in leadership, it is essential to the success and well-being of the organization/community that we support (not necessarily agree, but just not publicly work against) our leaders and their decisions/actions. Otherwise the O/C would dissolve (or at least be very much less effective in our lives).

    To justify and revere the principle of sustaining requires nothing more than that. We don’t have to posit, let alone believe, that God is the origin. If He is the origin of this principle it is because He understands its truth and necessity. He didn’t create any eternal truths. He has certainly learned them and applies them, where He is the source, with a thick coating of hyperbole that basically sounds like “because I said so.”.

    With a confident belief in the value and eternal truth of such principles I can, for example, sustain a leader that I know is neither inspired nor practicing righteous dominion in a particular instance.

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  42. Howard on October 6, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    As volunteers, who take “turns” being in leadership, it is essential to the success and well-being of the organization/community that we support (not necessarily agree, but just not publicly work against) our leaders and their decisions/actions. This is a great point! However it’s important to realize that the logic here does NOT extend to the brethren who have become full time players for life.

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  43. Jared on October 6, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    Nate–

    My experience in the church has confirmed what you wrote, “the church exists both as a help, and as a trial.”

    This point mirrors my experience. I’m not a big fan of some of the things about church meetings. I deal with inner murmurings on occasion about the three hour block. This can intensify if the prior Sunday was especially unrewarding. I usually encounter inner murmurings on Friday or Saturday, but by the time Sunday morning arrives I’m looking forward to church.

    This isn’t a problem submitting to authority as much as it is my native dislike for routine. Maybe it is an undiagnosed attention deficit thing.

    Thank goodness for callings. They for the most part are a three-hour-block remedy or cure, that is, unless the calling doesn’t fit.

    Years back, I was called to be a financial clerk. This extended the three-hour-block to a five hour block, in addition to that, I wasn’t interested in any aspect of the calling. I’ve always been a teacher.

    But I decided to buckle down to my unwanted calling, submitting to authority, and to my surprise I started to enjoy the calling. Not as much as teaching, but enough to serve the Lord. About 5 years into the calling, I found myself being drawn to the internet and ended up in the bloggernacle. The fact I wasn’t teaching at church created a void in my life that brought me to blogging.

    I feel that this was by design and that the Lord hand is in it. When I read my patriarchal blessing, blogging fits nicely into it.

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  44. Will on October 6, 2013 at 8:01 PM

    I absolutely loved conference. All members of the first presidency and the 12. All gave great and inspiring talks. Awesome. Feel totally refreshed.

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  45. Hedgehog on October 7, 2013 at 1:13 AM

    As someone who has both endured and server to the best of my ability in a great many callings I haven’t enjoyed, I liked your comment Jared.

    I certainly don’t disagree that church can be a trial Nate, and I am still here so…

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  46. Hedgehog on October 7, 2013 at 1:17 AM

    *served. Still half asleep!
    In my case it was years of not being able to attend GD class (mostly spent in primary), and the 18 months I did get to go to RS being primarily the Gospel Principles course that drove me to the internet.

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  47. Mary Bliss on October 8, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    Part of the challenge of “submt” as it is used in the New Testament (“Submitting yourselves to each other in the fear of God”, for example, in Ephesians 5) is the Greek meaning of the word translated as “submit”

    It is difficult for many English-speaking persons to grasp the subtle yet important distinction between middle and passive voice in Greek verbs just by reading the definition, and yet we think in ways that the Greek verb forms express. For example,a person may teach–an active verb. And one may be taught–a passive verb. But a person may also teach himself or herself by careful listening, discovering, reasoning, learning. In that sense, the person is both subject and object of the action. That is what the Greek middle voice expresses, a voluntary action by the subject of the verb upon the subject of the verb.

    Now, it would be possible in Greek to tell a person to subject someone else (though Paul never did so); and it would be possible to describe someone as being subject to another. But one cannot tell another to be subjected, any more than one can tell someone to be learned. However, Paul used the word “hupotasso” in the middle voice. This way, he was requesting that we voluntarily, willingly, actively be subject to other members of the faith. The form he uses is the form, hupotoassomai,. Since it is asking for something that is voluntary in nature, “be subject to” is an awkward translation at best. Hupotassomai means something like “give allegiance to”, “tend to the need of”, “be supportive of”, or “be responsive to”. Perhaps the best translation of hupotassomai is found in a German translation of that word, sich unterstelle, “to place oneself at the disposition of”.

    It can be understood to refer to an ability to value another’s dreams and hopes as much as your own, and an ability to rejoice in their successes and to sorrow with them in their failures, and the ability to get one’s own ego out of the way as part of one’s charitable response.

    With that definition of submitting, then yes, I believe it is a virtue.

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