LDS Discussions Blog
"The Church Does Not Take a Position (March 5, 2020)
I've been meaning to write a follow-up about the idea of revelation in the church for a while now, but the recent BYU honor code kerfuffle has made it a timely topic and I thought it was a good time to revisit this issue.
One thing that we have pointed out before is that revelation tends to be a confirmation of whatever the leaders previously believed, and this is crystal clear when we look at current prophet Russell M. Nelson. As we wrote about during the "name change," you can see how Nelson's lifelong mission to stop using Mormon turned into revelation the moment he became prophet, which is all the more questionable when you consider that he was rebuked by Gordon B. Hinckley for suggesting it 30 years earlier as detailed in the linked article.
It's the same reason that Joseph Smith's revelations were often aimed to get those around him to do what he wanted/needed them to do whether it was Martin Harris selling property to fund the Book of Mormon, his members to stop questioning his authority when he would get himself into trouble in Kirtland or Missouri, or to get Emma to accept Joseph Smith's polygamous marriages and sexual relationships with other women.
And if you ever need a perfect quote to illustrate this point, I present to you Wendy Nelson's description about her husband once he become prophet:
"He's free to follow through with things he's been concerned about but could never do. Now that he's president, he can do those things."
Think about that for just a second. Wendy Nelson is admitting (unintentionally) that Russell Nelson is effectively just following through on the ideas he has held his whole life, but never had the authority to do. That cuts completely against the idea that prophets receive specific and/or unique revelation from God, but in its unintentional honesty makes every past prophet's ideas and declarations make perfect sense: They were simply implementing their own personal biases in the name of God.
Now if you're wondering how this ties into the church's recent flip-flop on LGBT students at their church owned universities, it's this statement from the church in their new handbook: "The Church does not take a position on the causes of same-sex attraction."
This handbook changed forced the universities to soften their honor code language because the church removed the November 15 policy after just 3.5 years, but the problem is that they want the underlying punishments to be there because this church is still views being gay as a sin whether it's by choice or not. It's a classic case of wanting to have your cake and eat it to.
It's stunning to me how often the church "does not take a position" on important issues whether it's the reasons people are born gay, why the DNA of Native Americans is from Asia when revelations from God claimed they were from Israel, or where the Book of Mormon took place.
And the reason it is stunning to me is that this church told me as a convert that they have twelve men ordained as prophets, seers, and revelators. The missionaries told me how these men spoke to God about the questions of our time, and that these revelations would guide us through our toughest times. I felt a spiritual confirmation of this promise, and I remember believing that they literally spoke to God because that is what I was repeatedly taught. My Sunday school teacher even taught us about the second anointing, and I can say without a doubt that was the most I ever felt a spiritual confirmation during church as he talked about how you would see Jesus in the temple face-to-face if you lived a righteous life.
We're not going to get into the Second Anointing here, but if you ever want to get a good rundown on the issues with it please check out the Tom Phillips interview on Mormon Stories about his experience receiving it and how it is nothing like the church claims it to be.
So back to the line that the church uses often: "The Church does not take a position..."
We see this often whether it's LGBT relations (they actually use this statement both for the "causes of same-sex attraction" and "the causes of people identifying themselves as transgender"), Book of Mormon geography ("The Church does not take a position on the specific geographic locations of Book of Mormon events in the ancient Americas."), and we see variations of this approach in the Book of Abraham or DNA and the Book of Mormon essays where they avoid taking a specific stand on the problematic issues.
There are two problems here. First, the church has taken positions on these issues in the past. The problem is that their positions have been proven wrong with time, forcing them to retreat from old teachings and to now claim they never took a side. This is clear on the ban on blacks for over 140 years, that the Hill Cumorah in New York is the same as the Book of Mormon Hill Cumorah, or even the Kinderhook plates, which they defended as authentic until the 1980s when science proved they were indeed a hoax.
Scientific advancements have long been a problem for the church, because they have proven that God's revelations to Joseph Smith that the Lamanites lived in Missouri are simply wrong. And if God's revelations are wrong, then either God is infallible and inconsistent or Joseph Smith was making it up. Neither option is very good, but the latter is clearly the only rational outcome.
The second problem is a bigger one though - we have twelve men ordained as prophets, seers, and revelators, but they can't reveal anything that is beyond their time or worldview. From Joseph Smith to today, the prophets often get it wrong and do so by injecting their own worldview in the voice of God.
So why should I trust what Russell M. Nelson says when he had to reverse the November 15 policy on LGBT members just 3.5 years later? And, more importantly, why should I believe that Nelson communicates to God when his first big revelation was just rehashing a lifelong vendetta against using the name Mormon?
There are LGBT members who are in pain over the church's policies and doctrines (and many suicides and cases of depression to prove it), and yet no Mormon leader is able to come up with a revelation from God that answers these important and urgent questions? Yet we are to believe that they are getting revelations and continuing the restoration at General Conference with announcements about lowering the mission age, changing the name or the church, and making sure Home Teaching is rebranded as Ministering?
These twelve men could ask why DNA doesn't match what the Book of Mormon claims, why Joseph Smith claimed that the Egyptian god Min with an erect penis is God sitting upon his throne, or how prophet after prophet claimed blacks were cursed, yet instead they focus on issues that are completely arbitrary like allowing women to be a witness to a baptism, dropping the hours of church on Sunday, or the importance of paying tithing even when you can't pay the bills.
It becomes absurd when you take a step back and just look at this without the bias of being a believing member. Just look at the revelations from Joseph Smith (since no prophet since is willing to put theirs to paper outside of a tiny bit from Brigham Young and John Taylor's 1886 polygamy revelation):
The Word of Wisdom revelation not only has rules that defy what we know today, but neglects to tell members to boil water, which would've not only saved lives but been something that other's didn't already know at the time.
After he had already broken the rules in D&C 132, he threatens to "destroy" Emma if she does not accept Joseph Smith's polygamous wives and sexual relationships with young women behind Emma's back
Joseph Smith said "I prophesied, by virtue of the holy Priesthood vested in me, and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that, if Congress will not hear our petition and grant us protection, they shall be broken up as a government... and there shall be nothing left of them - not even a grease spot." (History of the Church VI, p. 116)
We could continue with revelations about the Lost 116 Pages, the retrofitting to the revelations, etc, but the fact is that Joseph Smith often got it wrong and the current leaders today do as well. We're not expecting prophets to be perfect, but when you claim you are speaking for God, you should be more accurate than the average person off the street.
The truth is that the church "does not take a position" because they've been proven wrong on earlier teachings and are boxed in. That's why the church today is trying to soften their stance towards LGBT members while also trying to keep the older members calm who were raised to think that being gay was the choice of a broken, sinful member. They need the public to think they are welcoming as they try to get BYU into the Big 12 and receive federal funding, but they also can not loose their grip on members in the process.
No matter what changes the church makes going forward, they will never be a true church. There are just too many areas where you can prove the church false that we have outlined on this site whether it's the Book of Mormon translation, First Vision, Priesthood Restoration, Deutero-Isaiah, or Book of Abraham.
It's simply not true - there's no other way to put it. And if you were not a believing member and you read this information about another church or group, you would absolutely agree it's the creation of a man because that's the conclusion that experts in science, biblical scholarship, genetics, linguists, etc all come to when they study Mormon history and doctrines.
But if this church ever wants to be "good," it has to cut ties with the fundamentalist rhetoric and doctrines of the past and just admit this church is no more or less true than any other church. That's a process that will eventually happen, because you can only defend the Book of Mormon for so long before admitting that it's a product of Joseph Smith's mind.
I am still a member of record even if I am no longer a believer, and this post sums up why I left the church but will never leave it alone. I will be damned if my child believes that marginalizing gay people and trying to block their rights is righteous while also defending Joseph Smith having sex with teenage women behind Emma's back under the premise of revelation from God.
In the same way you would try to warn friends and family members if they were involved in a pyramid scheme, I will continue to write about the church's truth claims and abhorrent doctrines because I hope it will help other people realize that the evidence simply does not support the church's claims. As a member of record, if anyone from the church has answers to these issues please email me anytime because I would love to have an honest talk about these problems.
If you're an LGBT member, I feel for you. I hope that you can find peace in whatever decision you make going forward, but I can tell you that it's always better to leave an abusive relationship than to stay in it and live by their rules while feeling like you're letting God down.
There is nothing wrong with you because you were born gay, and no 95 year old man who claims this about evolution should be taken seriously when it comes to anything of scientific importance: "To think that man evolved from one species to another is, to me, incomprehensible. Man has always been man. Dogs have always been dogs. Monkeys have always been monkeys. It's just the way genetics works."
These men do not speak for God, which we can prove time and time again. And if they don't speak for God, you have absolutely nothing to fear in walking away and living your best life. The church dangles exaltation over your head to keep you from leaving, but they only hold the power you give them.
The church might not take a position on a lot of troubling issues, but this member of record sure does: The evidence tells us this church is not true, but the church's actions and words tell us that it is not good either. And while Russell Nelson is worried and focused on people calling the church Mormon, he is letting a lot of people suffer with the whiplash of claimed revelations and policies towards LGBT people.
No true prophet of God would let so many suffer while focusing on the most mundane, insignificant problems. And as I've mentioned in other posts about the fact that women will still be subjected to eternal polygamy in the afterlife, no God who would separate families for eternity over being gay is worth your time, money, or worship.
Wendy Nelson said it best when she admitted that now that Nelson finally lived long enough to be prophet, "he's free to follow through with things he's been concerned about but could never do." Just wait until Dallin Oaks has the chance to be prophet after overseeing electroshock therapy at BYU and a lifetime of demonizing and marginalizing the LGBT community. It might get even more wild once that happens, so run while you still can!
We've mentioned on many other posts how difficult it is to take in this new information, and we understand how painful it is to process. Please email us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more resources to learn about these issues or if you are looking for people that you can safely talk to as you continue your faith journey.
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