Friday, April 1, 2011

General Conference

I attended a regional stake conference broadcast a while back (just a few short weeks after the LDS general conference wherein Boyd Packer let his true feelings for homosexuals show through) where Dieter Uchtdorf spoke. As I listened to Dieter Uchtdorf give a pleasant talk about tolerance and the need for love of everyone (including those we may not agree with or understand) I couldn't help but wonder how perfect some of the things Dieter said were and how they were designed to calm the waters of the uproar by supporters of the LGBTQ community (of which I am now a supporter). It seemed his words were very carefully crafted and seemed to come from the church PR department instead of the good ol' boy pilot that Dieter is. Thinking about how careful everything was worded made me wonder if the general authorities actually write their own stuff all the time or if sometimes their talks (along with some or all of the content) are "suggested" (or, at the very least approved) by a PR person. This seemed like a very real possibility to me at the time, but I haven't really thought about it much since then.

What got me to thinking about it again, was the recent blog post by Cognitive Dissenter (found here) that talked about the recent general YW meeting address by Henry Eyring wherein he selectively quoted Brigham Young about how he thought so highly of the virtue of YW. The question brought up by CD was whether or not Henry is aware of all the other crap BY had spoken over the years that would seem to nullify any credit we should apply to Brigham as a stalwart supporter of the females.

The assumption by CD was that Henry must be aware of it all and that he is therefore active in his deception by only presenting the version of history (or quotes by BY) that is faith promoting and whitewashed in his remarks. I guess I would like to think that the deception is not so active on the part of the "Lord's anointed", but I guess I might be naive.

Of course, I don't have any inside scoop on whether or not the ga's write their own stuff or not, but it would be interesting to be able to get a definitive answer on this question to be able to say with absolute certainty that the deception is really as deep as I fear it is.

On the other hand it is hard to think that people like Dallin Oaks and Boyd Packer who make statements like the following are not in on the gag:

Dalin Oaks said, "My duty as a member of the Council of the Twelve is to protect what is most unique about the LDS church, namely the authority of priesthood, testimony regarding the restoration of the gospel, and the divine mission of the Savior. Everything may be sacrificed in order to maintain the integrity of those essential facts. Thus, if Mormon Enigma reveals information that is detrimental to the reputation of Joseph Smith, then it is necessary to try to limit its influence and that of its authors."
- Apostle Dallin Oaks, footnote 28, Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith: Psychobiography and the Book of Mormon, Introduction p. xliii

Boyd Packer said, “You seminary teachers and some of you institute and BYU men will be teaching the history of the Church this school year. This is an unparalleled opportunity in the lives of your students to increase their faith and testimony of the divinity of this work. Your objective should be that they will see the hand of the Lord in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning till now.”

“Church history can be so interesting and so inspiring as to be a very powerful tool indeed for building faith. If not properly written or properly taught, it may be a faith destroyer.

“There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not.”

Some things that are true are not very useful.

“That historian or scholar who delights in pointing out the weaknesses and frailties of present or past leaders destroys faith. A destroyer of faith — particularly one within the Church, and more particularly one who is employed specifically to build faith — places himself in great spiritual jeopardy. He is serving the wrong master, and unless he repents, he will not be among the faithful in the eternities. ... Do not spread disease germs!"
- Boyd K. Packer, "The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect", 1981, BYU Studies, Vol. 21, No. 3, pp. 259-271

So my question is, are Dallin Oaks and Boyd Packer aware of those things that are not faith promoting that they are discouraging others from pursuing? I would have to assume the answer is yes, since they are warning people about it.

So should we be lovers of truth or lovers of a cause that we should work to uphold regardless of the toll on our integrity? According to these dudes we should work to support a cause and just ignore integrity apparently.

So let's take that idea and try to apply it to government. By following that advice, only things that are useful (or helpful in getting people to be patriotic) should be revealed to the public. So wouldn't it be a shocker of the magnitude of Richard Nixon's Watergate affair if it came out that a US president was on record as saying that some things that are true are not very useful and that was their philosophy? Is there a difference between the standard we apply to political leaders and leaders of the church? Why the difference?

This idea is one that is also brought out in the book by Robert L. Millet called "Holding Fast: Dealing with Doubt in the Latter Days". This book, written to those who may be experiencing doubts about the legitimacy of the church or its claims, made me literally sick to my stomach. Even though Robert starts out by outlining the shocking story of doubt that Mother Teresa experienced, it falls back on the primary reason for keeping the faith and not doubting in the supremacy of the LDS church as being that one should not have in their mind to disappoint one's family by leaving the church. He admonishes those with doubts to think about the harm it will do to those that believe if you leave the church.

Maybe this is a good enough reason for some to stick it out, but I need more. By that same logic, if I am in an oppressive and controlling cult, I would get the same reason not to leave from there as well. They would say, "Think about how sad everyone here will be if you leave! We love you. All those others that lie in wait to deceive don't have your best interests at heart." Only thing is, they actually do. Those others, outside the cult, want you to be free to make your own happiness instead of blindly following along with somebody else's plan for your happiness. Why people cannot see this continues to amaze me to no end.

I wonder how much I will get to the point where I feel the need to yell at the t.v. during general conference this weekend. Of course, maybe if I don't bring it up I'll only have to endure the two sessions on Sunday...and maybe even for those I can find something better to do.

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  1. I don't understand this black and white thinking regarding Brigham Young. Can he not have had greater understanding of some matters than others? Why do someone's failings nullify everything they've ever said?

  2. Hi Retief, Thanks for reading my blog. Black and white thinking about Brigham Young stems from the profession that he was a prophet of God by the LDS church. It seems to me to be a slippery slope to say that one speaks for God at some times but speaks as a man at other times. However, this is how some reconcile offensive statements made by Brigham with the teaching that he was called of God to lead the church in his day. The problem is determining the difference between when he was speaking for God and when he was speaking as a man.

    This dilemma is only made more acute when placed in the context of church teachings that following the prophet is the ultimate demonstration of obedience to God. In order to please God, LDS are taught that they should be strict in their obedience to the teachings of the LDS prophets. The problem I am presenting here is that absolute obedience to Brigham Young in his time would have meant treating women and blacks as inferior (along with those that did not practice polygamy) and believing that Adam was God the Father.

    While it is not appropriate to label someone as all good or all bad in the political arena based on a select few wild comments uttered during one's life, I do believe it is appropriate when attempting to determine authenticity as far as whether or not they absolutely represent (and convey) what God would truly want people to do.

    On the other hand, I also understand that my feelings now are tainted by the rigid dogmatism I am trying to overcome from my past. There is probably a lot of room for some middle ground here, the problem is I am still much too bitter to be able to see it.