Apostasy & Islam: Compare & Contrast

by: Hedgehog

June 19, 2014

We’re not the only religious faith undergoing scrutiny from within and without on the topic of apostasy and what it means to us individually and collectively. The case of Meriam Ibrahim sentenced to death for apostasy in Sudan has rightly received international attention.

Meriam’s case was recently discussed in the wider context of what apostasy means in Islam on the BBC radio 4 programme Beyond Belief, available online. Presenter Ernie Rae met with Naima Khan from the Inclusive Mosque Initiative; Abdullah al Andalusi from the Muslim Debate Initiative; and Sadakat Kadri: author of Heaven and Earth: A Journey through Shari’a Law and barrister who has done work for international human rights organisations. There was an inset interview with self-confessed non-believer and blogger Imtiaz Shams.

The events of the past week led me to listen to the programme again, and to ponder the differences and similarities in the dynamics that can lead to accusations of apostasy.

So what is the Islamic definition of apostasy? There were differing views expressed.

NK: I would call it the renunciation of ones beliefs. And in an Islamic context that would be a belief in the oneness of God and the prophet Mohammed as the last and final messenger. So apostasy is renouncing those beliefs, and in a legal sense it’s to declare them publicly.

AA: Well in short apostasy is defined or better defined in modern language as treason or sedition against a community and state and it encompasses many reasons including treason against the beliefs when backed up by sedition.

SK: Well apostasy does constitute the renunciation of God… It’s also been understood as rebellion against the constituted authority, the constituted religious authorities of the state.

Similarities: There does seem to be an attitude amongst some portions of the LDS membership that disagreeing with current leaders is tantamount to treason or rebellion, and that that is what constitutes apostasy.

Differences: Current leaders in Islam do not have the status of prophet. Mohammed was the last and final, so whilst open disagreement with interpretations of Mohammed’s teachings might constitute apostasy, disagreeing with current leaders over may be less of a problem. Certainly, none of these participants seemed at all chary about sharing their views. Not an attitude I’ve ever observed amongst those representing the LDS church in interview, sadly: who appear to be presenting the party line rather than saying what they think. We don’t tend to label those who simply lose their beliefs as apostate.

What does the Koran say?

ER: …The verse that I know is that “there is no compulsion in religion” Abdullah. That’s pretty unequivocal.

AA: Yes, it’s talking about compulsion, but apostasy, or the law against apostasy or against treason I think it’s better translated, is not to do with compelling people, nothing to do with compulsion. It’s about protecting a community of believers or state based on a belief from attack or sedition or from someone helping enemies attack that state. It’s about protection. It’s not about compulsion at all.

ER: So you can’t compel someone to believe in Islam, but neither can you compel someone to continue to believe in an Islam to which they were once committed?

AA: Yeah. Of course. You can’t compel anyone to continue to believe because belief is not a matter of anything that can be controlled by compulsion. It’s down to the choice of the individual person.

ER: Is there anything in the Koran that suggests a contradiction to that verse that says there is no compulsion in religion?

SK: Well there are verses which are considerably more bellicose… what the Koran doesn’t do is say that anyone who renounces apostasy is punishable on this earth. What it says is that they will face a great punishment in the hereafter.

ER: Abdullah?

AA: …the hypocrites, of those people who have secretly apostated but then it talks about what they.. how to treat them, depending on what they do. …Well here’s what it actually says “if they leave you alone and do not fight you and offer you peace, God does not offer you a way against them”. But before that it talks about if they do want to fight you then you have to seize them and obviously punish them.

And the Hadith?

ER: I want to move on to the Hadith, which is the traditions of the prophet, authenticated sayings that were not part of the Koran but were written down perhaps a hundred, two hundred years later. Is there anything in the Hadith, Naima, that would justify the death sentence for apostasy?

NK: I don’t think there’s anything that justifies it, I think there are definitely Hadith that say that apostasy is punishable. Whether you can use those to justify trialling people because they’ve renounced their faith, I don’t agree with. I don’t think that’s fair.

ER: Can you give me an example of something that says that you can execute somebody for apostasy?

AA: As I said the translation is the problem as to the word apostasy. In this modern day, it just means you leave your religion, whereas back then it was treason.

What justifications do we have in scripture? The couple I’ve seen flung around the bloggernacle the most are the one about plucking out the offending eye or severing the offending limb up against valuing the whole body.

What role does history play?

ER: OK. Let’s deal with this treason issue, because it is all about context Sadakat, it’s all about a small community, recently formed, living in Medina, feeling under threat. Now, just explain to me why apostasy or treason, in those circumstances might be thought punishable by death.

SK: The prophet relocated from Mecca to Medina in around the year 620, which is the first year according to the Muslim calender. For the next 10 years, there was a struggle between the people of Mecca and Medina, and then in the year 630 according to the Christian calender the Muslims were victorious. They conquered Mecca, and the rest of the Arabian peninsular effectively submitted to Islam. Then two years after that the prophet died. And a number of the Arab tribes people who had previously submitted to Islam renounced their allegiance to Islam and at that point the early Muslims of Medina and now Mecca waged a series of wars against them known as Wars of Apostasy. And they were bloody wars which eventually ended up in a Muslim victory. But because they were so seminal to the early history of Islam apostasy has occupied a very very important role in the DNA of Islam ever since.

AA: Yeah but a lot of those tribes, they didn’t actually leave Islam they still believed in it, they just said we don’t recognise the authority of a Khalif, a successor to the prophet Mohammed, a political successor to Mohammed not a theological successor.

SK: There are historical –

AA: And, and…

SK: – debates about it. The sources are very scant for the seventh century.

AA: Of course but Khalif Abu Bakr who was the one who took over from the prophet Mohammed in political leadership of the Muslim community said that if, that they refused to pay taxes to him, and if, any tax they gave to the prophet Mohammed they should also give to him, basically, so it was about issues of accepting and recognising his authority as a successor, as a political leader. It wasn’t an issue of they just changed their religion, but they also.., most of them challenged the authority of the state.

ER: What you seem to be suggesting is that apostasy was seen as a political and not a theological crime. It was a threat to the small fledgling state of Islam, and was regarded as treason. Therefore anything that threatened the community was punishable by death.

AA: It wasn’t just about the context. In essence, treason is treason no matter how secure the state is, so if I go to the United States today and I commit an act of treason just because the United States is very powerful and secure, it doesn’t mean that they won’t punish me for that. So if I was an American citizen that was.

ER: So, so the issue Naima would appear to be, it’s not about belief, it’s about politics and about safeguarding the state.

NK: Yeah. And I think that the examples that Sadakat gave are really great for this because he talked about in the early stages of Islam when the Islamic community was just establishing itself. And then also much later on when they were victorious in Mecca and so it was much stronger. And your question Ernie was why might it be thought that apostasy was this massive deal. I think when you’re dealing with any group trying to establish themselves, trying to establish an ideology as something superior to what already exists, something that is challenging what already exists then you want to protect that as much as possible. So in both situations when you’re just starting out in a very small group, and when you’re established with armies, this kind of understanding of apostasy or treason it makes sense to view it as a huge deal, a huge threat.

Similarities: Well it seems like early Islam also faced a succession crisis of sorts. The drawing of firm boundaries would seem to have been important. There were arguments about money.

Differences: Tentatively, in Islam the tussles are described as wholly political (though that may not be entirely clear from this distance in time) whilst for LDS early struggles were both religious and political, engaging both believers and non-believers.

Looking at parallels between the early struggle and modern times:

ER: Are there any parallels to be made between the early days of Islam and our modern world in the sense that is apostasy the same kind of offence now as it would have been then?

NK: I think so. I think that we’ve talked a lot about Islam and Muslims historically as kind of an empire growing and conquering. And I think that that mentality is still very very relevant in discourse among Muslims today. So the idea of protecting something that is, that can get one salvation if you like, is at the forefront, and Abdullah drew a really good distinction between the state and the grass-roots sort of discussion. I think it’s actually very similar on the ground. People are talking about, what does it mean to be a disbeliever and how dangerous that is for an established Muslim community. State-wise, it’s not the same discussion at all.

It’s at this point in the programme we get to listen to the interview with Imtiaz. Of Pakistani descent he grew up in Saudi Arabia. His parents were devout Muslims, but even as a 7 year old child Imtiaz recalls feeling uncomfortable with some of the religious teachings he was reading, but didn’t think about it too much.

IS: …there’s not one single moment for me where I thought OK that’s it. You have to kind of flip the question around. Why was I still Muslim? I was Muslim because I believed that there was a miraculous nature of the Koran.

As he grew older the dissonance increased, and when his family moved to Britain he came out as an unbeliever. The family dynamics that resulted would probably sound familiar to many LDS families and their family members who have left the faith. Relationships are strained. Initially he felt very isolated, but as is also the case with those who leave the LDS community, found support via the internet, and participated in building an underground support community. He is careful to remain extremely respectful of the beliefs of his many Muslim friends, and ignores the threats of keyboard warriors. He believes it would have been easier to apostatise in Saudi Arabia, having met many who have left the faith, but who have lived there all their lives. Perhaps this would be the Muslim equivalent of the jack Mormons I’ve heard live in Utah (never having been to Utah, or met anyone of that description, I couldn’t say, but it sounds like it to me). Imtiaz suggests it was harder to leave his faith in Britain.

IS: …I’ve known more openly apostatised people in Saudi Arabia who are relatively open about that within their community, not publicly of course than people in Britain. Because over here there’s a lot of historical narratives around them v. us, you know, and actually coming out here I think would probably be harder for me in my very immediate circle. But obviously, if I was to openly say I’ve left Islam, like I do, definitely in Saudi Arabia it wouldn’t be a good thing to do, it would be much more dangerous for me.

ER: So what you’re saying is in Saudi Arabia you can leave Islam as long as you don’t do it very publicly, as long as you don’t give overt offense.

IS: Exactly. The Saudi friends that I had, it doesn’t bother them so much. While here, I’ve had much more of a reactionary thing, where people will actually try to call me up and say ‘what the hell are you doing?’ But, while there’s more of a reaction there isn’t so much the threat of lets say gaoling or death or things like that.

Similarities: Clearly there’s a distinction here between being open about beliefs or lack of beliefs amongst those who know us, and being public about non-belief. Being public in Saudi could get you a gaol or death sentence, but being open amongst friends and colleagues doesn’t appear to be a problem. I think the LDS church also makes that distinction in most cases. Though I do have some concern that local leaders may be unclear on precisely where they can draw that line.
We also have those narratives of them v. us. I remember it being instilled growing up in Britain, us against the evil world. I rather fear instilling that narrative is the focus of youth events such as FSY (formerly EFY).

Differences: There are no LDS theocratic states. You aren’t going to be flung in gaol or executed. The worst that can happen is to be removed from the records of the church. For those who don’t believe that’s no punishment. For those who believe but are yet found to be guilty, it’s a bitter pill to swallow nevertheless.

What did the panelists make of the interview?

NK: I think Imtiaz is talking about the reaction that he had from his community, and it actually makes a lot of sense to me that in Saudi he would get a better response from his community than he would here. Here I think that we very much pit ourselves against mainstream society in an unhealthy way and an influence from previous generations, people who came here in the 60s and 70s as adults. I think that they really tried to hold on to what made us Muslim in this context, and apostates don’t help with that at all. In Saudi I feel like it’s different. I feel that the laws that they want to be established are established, that there’s an expectation that people will generally conform to those laws even if they choose not to believe, therefore it’s not such a big deal. Here, it’s like really trying to retain something that apostates challenge by leaving.

ER: And yet I imagine that he couldn’t have done an interview like that in Saudi Arabia.

SK: I doubt very much whether he could have safely done an interview like that in Saudi Arabia. But I agree with Naima about what’s happened with the Muslim community in this country and in the West generally. I’m old enough to remember the 1970s and 1980s and it’s really only since the 1990s that the very visible manifestations of Islamic identity, that are so common on the streets of cities in England today have re-emerged. The Muslim dress, the way in which communities will stick together. Integration is no longer the aspiration, communal identity is the aspiration. And it’s for fear of losing that communal identity that the anger against apostates has grown so much.

AA: …it’s not an issue of being angry or not. What you find in many different faith communities, where someone leaves them, everyone generally kind of either feels sorry for them or feels that there’s something wrong about this person, that made them leave their faith community or even national identity, depending on the situation.

ER: Naima

NK: I think also potentially it’s kind of a relief if somebody is going to do things that the community don’t consider to be Islamic enough or Muslim enough, that they do so while not calling themselves a Muslim. I think it’s more of a challenge to practice what you feel is Islam in a community, and still call yourself a Muslim in a community where people say no don’t do that in the name of Islam don’t call yourself a Muslim if you’re going to be like that.

Similarities: Those comments caused me to wonder. Was taking questions to Salt Lake the LDS equivalent of going public in Saudi Arabia? Is there a fear amongst church leaders as the church becomes increasingly more global that a communal identity is being lost? What is the value of a communal identity?

Differences: A religious community that believes in continuing revelation is by definition a community in which communal identity in terms of identifying beliefs is not static.

So what about Meriam and Sudan?

The overwhelming agreement of the panelists was that the sentence should never have been passed, she should never have been tried. She was first accused of adultery on grounds that her marriage to a Christian was invalid and then of apostasy, on the basis that her father was a Muslim. She, however, had been abandoned by her father whilst a young child and raised as a Christian. She was a Christian, not a Muslim, and however unfair the laws governing interfaith marriage and apostasy might be, ought not be accused and tried of either.

NK: As far as I’m aware this is a real tragedy for freedoms, both intellectual and religious. And I think there’s a lot there to do with sexual ethics. I think that the fact that the charge of adultery was brought against Meriam Ibrahim before apostasy is hugely significant and I don’t think this is an issue of religious justice.

ER: Because it does seem that most of these cases that we hear about, that become public issues, basically relate to the position of women and how they are treated Abdullah.

AA: Well no. We hear cases from Iran of men who were sentenced to, under apostasy laws, Iranian apostasy laws. And they’re men right. No one ever says this is an issue of the treatment of men in the middle east as men, so I don’t think necessarily it’s the sex per se, but rather in Sudan I think the law’s unfairly applied in her case. Completely unfairly applied. She wasn’t even Muslim to begin with. And she wanted to marry someone of Sudanese descent of whom the Sudan has had political issues with for South Sudan. So in this case it she was probably due to someone breaking the cultural taboos of a country because her father happened to be Muslim, but that’s not valid a reason Islam to sentence someone to apostasy.

ER: But it gives Islam a very bad name in the eyes of the world because the ostensible reason for why she was convicted and sentenced to death was that she had dared to marry a Christian. And she had apostatised, despite the fact that her father, who was the Muslim element in all this had left her at a very young age and she was brought up a Christian.

AA: Yeah. I mean it gives Islam a bad name if people use the word the name of Islam in the wrong way, which the Sudanese government has done. Rather, the Sudanese government has just found an excuse to kind of prosecute for the cultural taboos but we have to be very clear. She was never a Muslim. And so this whole case should have been thrown out from the get go, but..

ER: Would it have made a difference if she had been a Muslim?

AA: Marrying a Christian guy is not a case for apostasy anyway.

ER: Sadakat?

SK: Yeah. I think it’s too easy to say this has got nothing to do with Islam. Of course I believe that Islam has got some very very important merciful traditions and those are the traditions that should be focussed on. But the fact is that in Sudan this isn’t an isolated case. It’s a very rare case but there’s been a prosecution for apostasy before, where a 76 year old man was hanged in 1985 for apostasy. He was a political opponent of the ruler of the country at the time and religion was being used as a pretext there. There have also been other notorious cases, there was Gillian Gibbons who was threatened with imprisonment with lashing for blasphemy because she called a teddy bear Mohammed. There was also the case of Lubna Hussein who was threatened with flogging for wearing trousers. It’s often used as a pretext and it’s often used against women.

AA: Those cases are to do with the Sudanese government and not Islam, unless you’re trying to say the Sudanese government is Islam.

Given the reactions to the whole ‘Wear Pants’ event, as well as the more extreme responses to the current situation however, is now the time to be grateful there is no LDS theocracy? The discussion on gender continues, but as it veers away from apostasy temporarily I’m not covering it here.  Suffice it to say, that the point about men judging women has been made in the case of Kate Kelly. To continue:

AA: …what I do think is that there are legitimate problems to do with oppression. These governments are not Islamic governments, they are post-colonial secular hybrid governments. They have more secular laws than they have Islamic laws.

ER: They see themselves as Islamic governments.

AA: I don’t know. They give the justification under Islam to prevent people from uprising against them, but they are very much far from Islam, and they fear Islamic opposition as much as western governments probably.

ER: Sadakat?

SK: But the problem is that they do see themselves as Muslim governments and people come out in their thousands on occasion to demonstrate in favour of executing people for example in the name of Islam. Now I of course don’t believe that Islam does mandate that. Just as you don’t. But ones not looking at this with a clear eye, if one says that religion has nothing to do with it at all. Corrupted versions of religion do have something to do with it. And corruption full stop has something to do with it as well. Sudan is the fourth most corrupt country in the world according to Transparency International. The judiciary is well-known to be corrupt. I’m not saying anything about the judiciary in this particular case but there is a real danger that this woman isn’t going to receive justice, just as no one is going to receive justice.

NK; The place of religion that Sadakat mentioned, and also you said Ernie, about this giving Islam a bad name I think that’s really relevant because the way you framed it makes Islam sound like a brand, and I think that that is very much how governments such as the Sudanese one are kind of thinking of it. I think that that also has ramifications in the UK as well.

The comment about branding, and seeing religion as a brand was food for thought. Branding seems to be very much at the fore of LDS strategy over recent years. Concerns about bad press were expressed. The Islamic opposition that’s feared could be both from the more liberal and more conservative camps; the cries that such actions are not truly Islamic, but the form of Islam presented corrupt. While I would in no way suggest that Sudan and the LDS church are equivalent, I have seen accusations of corruption leveled by some towards the LDS church, and accusations that processes are not being followed in these proceedings. Greater transparency is one of the requests some members are making.

  • What do you make of the parallels and differences observed between LDS and Muslim attitudes?
  • Are there things we can learn?
  • Naima was asked whether she thought apostasy law was still relevant in today’s world, and replied: “No I don’t at all. I think that even historically it’s been an example of manipulation and I don’t think it has any place in a contemporary setting.” What do you think?


In closing, whilst we think, ponder and pray on the events of the past week, for Kate, John, and others, for their and our leaders, let’s not forget Meriam. Currently residing in a Sudanese prison with her two young children, one only a few weeks old, and who seems set to remain there until the baby is two years old, when in the absence of clemency or repeal, she faces death by hanging.

*This post was re-edited 20 June 2014.

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20 Responses to Apostasy & Islam: Compare & Contrast

  1. Mormon Heretic on June 20, 2014 at 3:26 PM

    Hedgehog, this is an interesting post, and I think it is good to be reminded of similarities in other religions. From the lack of comments, I gather that as LDS, we’re more focused on ourselves and people that we are more familiar with, than some stranger in Africa.

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  2. Hedgehog on June 20, 2014 at 11:47 PM

    MH, I’ve noticed a tendency to insularity amongst members at times, which I think is unfortunate. I do believe there are things we can learn form those in other faith traditions.

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  3. New Iconoclast on June 21, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    Mormonism suffers not only from a lack of perspective but also from some confusion of vocabulary, as has been pointed out before. False doctrine should more properly be called “heresy,” not “apostasy,” but since we’re not a sect with clearly defined creeds and doctrines outside a few basics, “heresy” is an iffy term. I would go so far as to say that you can teach false doctrine as long as you don’t argue that Church leadership is wrong. It isn’t necessarily “OK” to do so, but it’s been done. The trouble comes when a source regarded as authoritative counsels against that teaching and it continues anyway.

    The changing/changeable nature of doctrine due to continuing revelation and an open canon also makes defining apostasy problematic. When your prophet has been dead for more than a thousand years, it’s pretty easy to point to his writings and indicate discrepancies with action and belief, which can seemingly be agreed upon by most Muslims despite the internal divisions of Islam. A church like ours, in which we ostensibly receive ongoing communication from on high adapted to our situations, both as individuals and as a church, must needs approach the question from a different perspective. Hence Joseph’s famous statement, “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, “Thou shalt not kill;” at another time He said, “Thou shalt utterly destroy.” This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted–by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.

    The trick, of course, is to figure out what God requires – and there, as Hamlet might well have agreed, is the rub. A certain amount of faith in the leadership of the institution would seem to be necessary, otherwise we end up fragmenting like the original Christian church and we’re hung out to dry waiting for the next Joseph Smith. However, we’re also asked – commanded, actually – to search for our own confirmation of truth.

    Certainly we as a people have traveled too far down the secular road of trusting our gut feelings and valuing any opinion as long as it’s sincere, evidence be damned. That’s not searching for truth, it’s searching for validation; people who do that are likely to find what they seek.

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  4. Hedgehog on June 21, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    I think we have the same confusion over the definition of apostasy as observed in the Muslim panelists NI, where perceived loyalty can be a factor. Perhaps as result of experiences in the early church.

    I agree on the differences an open canon and continuing revelation can make. I do think that makes a level of transparency all the more important, precisely because such trust is required. I was reading recently that it was only in the 50s/60s that the President of the church (possibly a blog comment somewhere) became ‘the Prophet’, as opposed to that appellation referring solely to Joseph Smith. It caused me to wonder whether in some alternate universe, the Muslim situation may have been more closely mirrored, had such a practice continued and the prophetic nature of the first presidency lost from the discourse instead. I think the biggest difference there is likely the concept of Priesthood and keys, which doesn’t appear to have a corollary in Islam, to my knowledge.

    You may be right in that members today are putting too much trust in gut feelings and getting validation rather than confirmation, but I don’t think they can altogether have sole blame for that, when the teaching of how we obtain that confirmation can often leave much to be desired, and feeling the spirit conflated with emotional experience generally. Looking back I now view much of the visual media used in seminary as emotionally manipulative for instance,and of very little help when it comes to seeking the spirit.

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  5. Mormon Heretic on June 23, 2014 at 6:20 PM

    Well, there is some good news! Meriam’s conviction has been overturned: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2014/0623/.U6iBfS4fJG4.facebook

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  6. Hedgehog on June 24, 2014 at 12:37 AM

    Yes! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-27979782
    You beat me to it MH (your link appears not to be working however).

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  7. Hedgehog on June 24, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    Re-arrested at airport: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-27998881

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  8. Mormon Heretic on June 24, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    This is so sad. She had freedom for one day, and then tries to flee the country and they arrest her at the airport. Wow, I guess it could be much worse for Kate Kelly. This is so unbelievable.

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  9. New Iconoclast on June 24, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    Re. #4, Hedge, I’m glad you found my comment helpful, and I’m grateful for the way in which yours expanded on a couple of things. I think in particular that the concept of PH and keys, and a leader or leaders holding them, is a – well, a “key” difference. (Sorry.) :) That meant that there was some form of divine recognition of authority that existed independent of Church leadership (PH), as well as the authority to lead the Church (keys). [Note: I’m not trying to be pedantic, I’m thinking out loud, as it were.].

    So those who followed the 12 were, in effect, Mormonism’s Sunnis, whereas LDS Shias coalesced much later around the claimed anointed successor, JS III; the mainstream church tended to work more by common consent and voted for Brigham with their feet, while also recognizing the (keys) authority of the 12, while the dissenters waited for the anointed to see the light and take the mantle.

    FWIW, I don’t know that the Church would operate a lot differently today if Brigham Young had decided to let the whole thing continue to operate under the direction of the Quorum of the Twelve. Certainly he exercised more direct, individual authority as Quorum President (1844-47) than most Presidents of the Church have as President, since. However, somehow/somewhere, it was decided (I say carefully in the passive voice) that one single President, prophet, seer and revelator was needed to stand at the head. I’m not sure if it’s true that the President of the Church was “never” referred to as “the prophet” prior to the 1950s; I don’t go back that far. (It was a comment on another blog, BCC or FMH, because I saw it too.) But they have always been sustained as such.

    I think your point about feelings and testimony are well-taken. I’m not a terribly emotional person; I’m pretty sure the rush of the Spirit I call my testimony didn’t come from me. But I know others who cry at the drop of a hat, and I don’t know that they can be that Spirit-drenched all the time. I also don’t think that every 20-something in the rush of physical attraction is necessarily felling the Spirit, or at least that spirit. I fear that, mistaking that wave of warmth and tears for the Spirit every time (no matter how often we’re warned that the “burning in the bosom” isn’t always a burning and isn’t always the same for everyone), we work hard to create that feeling rather than working hard to bring the Spirit. The end result, unintentional though it may be, is the emotional manipulation you point out. It turns out to be propaganda, even if it is in a good cause.

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  10. Hedgehog on June 25, 2014 at 2:23 AM

    MH, Yes. I was shocked. Latest reports say she and her family are being held at the airport still. And this action required 40 security personnel? Really?

    Thank you for the conversation NI. Interesting sunni/shia comparison, especially given the close associate v. family member argument. I’m glad you pointed that out. Today’s Shia attitudes seem to me to more closely reflect the more conservative elements amongst LDS today “the Shia see their ayatollahs as reflections of God on earth” (See more at: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/05/economist-explains-19#sthash.dwvCYhOq.dpuf)

    “I’m not sure if it’s true that the President of the Church was “never” referred to as “the prophet” prior to the 1950s”. Maybe not, but I do recall reading somewhere a good while ago that Brigham Young made no claim to be a prophet, rather said he didn’t regard himself that way. Or something to that effect. If I understood it correctly. And that’s not to say he might not have changed his mind about that.

    “It turns out to be propaganda, even if it is in a good cause.” Yes. We’re brought up with this well-intentioned media, told this is what the spirit feels like, and here we are. There’s also another danger: those looking back, recognising the propaganda as propaganda, and rejecting everything.

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  11. Hedgehog on June 25, 2014 at 3:54 AM

    Update: Now held at Khartoum police station accused of forging travel documents. South Sudan embassy say they are genuine.

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  12. New Iconoclast on June 25, 2014 at 8:28 AM

    Re. #10, Hedge, I see that I was probably incomplete in my previous comment. Comes of thinking faster than I can type. I can probably do almost anything faster than I can type. :)

    About Brigham and prophecy, it’s pretty easy to take him out of context. He was a rambling speaker, and he must have been quite interesting to listen to in person. I think I know the quote you refer to, and I’ve seen it clipped and parsed a number of ways. In 1858 he said,

    “I do not profess to be a prophet. I never called myself so; but I actually believe I am, because people are all the time telling me that I am. I do not boast of that. I say that every man and woman who will live their religion, be humble, and be dictated by the Holy Ghost, the spirit of prophecy will be upon them.” (JD 5:176)

    In an 1864 talk, Brigham did say,

    I have never particularly desired any man to testify publicly that I am a Prophet; nevertheless, if any man feels joy, in doing this, he shall be blest in it. I have never said that I am not a Prophet; but, if I am not, one thing is certain, I have been very profitable to this people. In the providence of God he has placed me to take charge of his flock, and they have been abundantly blessed under my administration. I did not desire to be their shepherd; but the great Shepherd of all the sheep placed me in this position, and there is no man on earth can truthfully say aught against the dealings of the leaders of this people with the Latter-day Saints. We have blessed them with the blessings of life and salvation—the blessings of this life, and of that life which is to come, for the Kingdom and the greatness of the Kingdom under the whole heavens must, sooner or later pass into the hands of God’s people. (JD 10:339)

    This is not all to “prove” that he was or was not a prophet like Joseph, or that he was called to lead the Church – his authority to do so was established to my satisfaction, or I’d either be a Restoration Branch Reorganite or an unaffiliated agnostic. Those two quotes do two things: first, they show that Brigham didn’t really deny being a prophet; second, I do think from the first quote that as early as 1858, the members of the Church seem to have been referring to the President of the Church as a prophet. Whether or not that would have been used in conversation as we do (sometimes but not always) today – “the prophet says” as opposed to “President Taylor says” or “President Monson says” or “President McKay says” – is, I think, largely irrelevant. The blog poster you and I both read was trying to subtly say that the Church has been re-emphasizing or establishing an authority for the President of the Church which somehow didn’t exist prior to the 1950s, and that is simply not the case. He’s always been in charge. I don’t think there’s always been the same level of what I think of as “giggly fan worship,” but that tends to be a natural reaction in times of stress and social upheaval, kind of like the uptick in cop- and firefighter-worship since 9/11 in the US.

    I note that President Monson doesn’t habitually refer to himself as a prophet. I suspect that this is more a function of modesty than a lack of faith in his calling. He does raise his hand to sustain himself, as every president has done since Joseph.

    I wonder if there are “more conservative” and “less conservative” Sunnis? Our church certainly does seem to be having its own Sunni/Shia split, at least in attitude. You’re right about the rigidity of thinking we see in some elements. “Roma locuta est, causa finita.”

    The Reorganized Church/CoC has since had another Sunni/Shia split of its own as they’ve left the line of Joseph as an institution, and branches have broken away who are still looking for, or in some cases have found, a Smith descendant to lead them. An interesting dynamic to observe from the outside.

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  13. Hedgehog on June 25, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    Thanks for those quotes NI. They make a lot more sense in the broader statement. I’d always thought it was rather odd that he’d have been emphatic about it.

    There are certainly “less conservative” and “more conservative” Muslims in Britain. The majority of Muslims in this country are Sunni, though that didn’t seem to matter so much 30-40 years ago. (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/06/27/shia-and-sunni_n_3510862.html)

    I take it from your Latin quote, you are perhaps attributing some of split to extreme conservatism driving out more liberal believers?

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  14. New Iconoclast on June 26, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    I take it from your Latin quote, you are perhaps attributing some of split to extreme conservatism driving out more liberal believers?


    I do think we see some of the same mindset in the modern LDS Church, with those who repeat that old ’40s canard (repudiated by George Albert Smith): “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done.” It certainly does seem to closely echo Augustine’s famous statement about papal supremacy, does it not?

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  15. Hedgehog on June 28, 2014 at 12:00 AM

    Freed again. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-28050753
    She won’t be able to relax until she’s been able to leave the country though.

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  16. Hedgehog on June 28, 2014 at 12:09 AM

    NI, well it does…
    Though I gather there is some dispute as to what Augustine meant by the statement. ie. referring to a particular debate, rather than a general principle, and whether or not it has been taken out of that context and used over-generally by those who do wish to make that point. In which case it might be likened to the footnote on OD1 about the prophet never being permitted to lead us astray.

    Though when coming across things Augustine said or did I do tend to find myself thinking he has stuff to answer for (as do we all of course, though he was particularly influential).

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  17. New Iconoclast on July 14, 2014 at 7:58 AM


    Late to the party, I just found this in the back files at BCC and found it an interesting addition to what we’ve said here regarding BY and what it means to be a prophet.

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  18. Hedgehog on July 14, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Thanks for that NI. Interesting read.

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  19. Mormon Heretic on July 24, 2014 at 1:58 PM

    I am happy to see that Meriam is out of the hell-hole of a country Sudan, and is now in the United States: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/christian-meriam-ibrahim-meets-pope-francis-after-escaping-sudan-n163681

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  20. Hedgehog on July 25, 2014 at 2:36 AM

    Brilliant news. Thanks for that MH.

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