William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Does The Church Cave Into Pressure From Man?

A poll asked the following questions:

Did the Church cave to pressure when it outlawed polygamy?
DId the Church cave to pressure when it allowed all men to have the Priesthood?
Are there Scriptures that support the banning of some races from the Priesthood?

And the author of the poll posed the question:

"Over the past week both sides of the Homosexual argument have talked about weather the church caves to pressure from the world. I personally don't believe that the church does. However, those for the SSA crowd site that the church caved to pressure on Bigamy and on giving all races the Priesthood.

I don't know if we are ever going to win the argument that the Church didn't cave to pressure on Polygamy. In my opinion that is the strongest argument that the church did cave in order for Utah to get statehood. That one I think you have to take on faith.

I'll admit I'm a young person, and was only 5 when all races were given the Priesthood. So I having grown up in an era where it was the norm, I've never looked for evidence to support the idea that some races should not be blessed with it. I am wondering for my own edification how this was justified.

Is there equal amounts of biblical evidence for the restriction on the Priesthood, as there is against Homosexuality?

It is my opinion that a revelation from God revoking his condemnation of Homosexuality would be a major conflict with the scripture, and therefore will never happen. However, if there is sufficient biblical evidence to support not giving all races the Priesthood, I am in a bit of a quandary."

To which I responded:

Although the poll is certainly not worded perfectly, I selected "Yes," "Yes," and "Yes." But let me explain. There is overt caving in, and there is indirect caving in. Overt caving in would be something like the prophet saying to himself, "Boy, there sure are a lot of opponents of polygamy, and the opposition is threatening the well-being of the church. Therefore, whatever else I personally believe on the matter, it is clear that it is in the best interest of the church to ban polygamy to eliminate the opposition." But there is a much more subtle way of how the same result may be reached. The controversy about the issue could have prompted the prophet to do something he might not otherwise have done: seriously contemplate the subject, study it out, and sincerely ask God for an answer, casting out as much as possible the prejudices which the prophet may have previously held. And the prophet in considering everything might be more receptive to a true answer from God than he was in the absence of the controversy.

In the examples of both polygamy and priesthood ban, it was more likely this second variety of "caving in." From what I can tell, Spencer Kimball was very afraid that lifting the ban would be perceived as bowing down to the will of man, and he wanted to satisfy himself that the revelation to lift the ban was a genuine revelation from God.

There is a very notable common thread between the manifesto and Kimball's official declaration: both of them are worded in such a way as to imply that the former practice was God-inspired, and that God calculated the revelations to come at a specific point in time which was only coincidentally related to the associated controversy which formed the context of the "revelation." In my opinion, it is very misleading to imply that the context had nothing to do with it. I think it strains plausibility to assume that Woodruff or Kimball would have preached the same revelations if there had been no controversy on the two subjects. That is not to say that either Woodruff or Kimball lacked sincerity of belief that the revelations were genuine and from God; it is only to point out that the absence of public controversy can foster an environment in which critical though and fair consideration of issues languish.

One final thought: although I give Woodruff and Kimball the benefit of the doubt concerning their sincerity, I am disheartened that so many conservative LDS seem unwilling to extend the same courtesy to me when it comes to the conclusions I have reached concerning various LDS doctrines/policies/practices, accusing me instead of picking and choosing among doctrines depending upon my own self interest. I feel that the changes in my views are very similar to the circumstances which faced Woodruff and Kimball- it's not that I simply changed my views because it suited my own purpose; it's that the discord in my own life created by the doctrines prompted me to study, ponder, and pray, and consider the possibility that the assumptions I had previously embraced might be wrong. And I believe I have reached my conclusions in good faith with every bit of sincerity that Woodruff and Kimball had.

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