Dear Reader,

A Latter-day Saint who believes that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders are authorized of God doesn’t necessarily accept whatever the church puts forth as “gospel.” On the contrary, anyone who wants a better church tomorrow really ought to speak up today. We aren’t potted plants. Let's face it: Theological malarkey will continue to thrive in the church if members say “amen” to it all.

That is the main reason this site exists.

It also exists because I want to encourage wavering Latter-day Saints not to leave the Lord's restored church merely because of its flaws and the errors of its leaders.

Each article is listed below with a title, short synopsis and a link. They were written by Steve Warren (bio below). Articles by others may be added.

Keep the faith.

Steve Warren
West Valley City, Utah

“God is actually trying to create a much more profound relationship with us. We can only do that if we are actually wrestling with issues at hand.”
--Fiona Givens

Christ moves closer to us as we move from dogma toward truth.

Steve Warren was raised in Heppner, Oregon, and has lived in Utah for 44 years. He attended Ricks College for two years, served a mission to Colombia and Venezuela, and graduated from BYU in 1973 with a degree in communications. He and his wife, JaNiece, have two sons and a daughter. He wrote and published Drat! Mythed Again, Second Thoughts on Utah in 1986 and was a copy editor at the Deseret News from 1988-2008. He wrote and printed 100 copies of a novel, Beyond the Finish Line, but has yet to find a real publisher. (2018)
Knowing, believing, seeing Insights into our borderline dysfunctional LDS relationship with the word “know.”

Pathway to heaven The Scriptures show one sure way to return to God’s presence: possess a heart that pleases him.

Obedience gone awry Strictly following the prophet is an excellent idea—at least as long as he’s right.

Falling short, staying put Living prophets constantly err, but that’s not a good reason to leave the Lord’s church.

What in the world? Certain strange features of the Book of Mormon add to its credibility.

Some kind of miracle Fiction. An invitation to speak in sacrament meeting begins a Utah couple’s wild ride.

The cross = victory The cross is a worthy, positive symbol because it reminds us that it is the dying Christ who saves us.

Pilate tried Jewish religious leaders sought to kill Jesus; Pontius Pilate sought to set him free, so let’s give the man a break.

Father, Father, Father Why do we repeat the name of Deity so often in prayers these days?

Witnesses Multiple witnesses provide a compelling reason for anyone to ponder the claims of Mormonism.

Who is God? The Book of Mormon and other scriptures clearly teach that Jesus Christ is God and that Heavenly Father is God the Father.

In the beginning If we didn't allow speculation and guesswork in lessons on the Creation and Adam and Eve, classes would be really short.

Short takes Brief quotes, comments and reflections on a variety of gospel topics.
A few heresies... that would make for a more interesting sacrament meeting.
Oopsy-daisy 40 foul-ups by top LDS authorities.
Appreciating Christ

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Falling short, staying put

In a church that teaches following the prophet is always right, it is hardly surprising that some good people become disillusioned when they learn that prophets, past and present, make their share of mistakes—including mistakes on doctrinal matters.  Still, I believe that we should never allow errors by top leaders to become our reason for leaving the church.  I have four reasons for feeling this way.

First, the Scriptures show that fouling up—sometimes in a major way—happens even to holy men.  Consider the following examples.

LOT— The brother of Abraham visited with angels and is called a “just,” “righteous” and “godly” man (2 Peter 2:7-9), but he undoubtedly was never a candidate for Old Testament Father of the Year because he offered up his daughters to the men of Sodom for sexual purposes.  He later got both daughters pregnant when he was drunk and out of his mind (Genesis 19:31-38).

MOSES—Jethro told the Lord’s anointed in no uncertain terms that he was taking the wrong approach to governing Israel.  Rather than getting all defensive or creating a PR department to help him drag his feet for years before doing anything, Moses simply admitted he was wrong and changed his behavior.  Not long afterward, he received the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 18:13-27)

DAVID—This hero of Israel, who the Lord refers to as “a man after his own heart,” (1 Samuel 13:14) committed adultery and facilitated the killing of a good man to cover his sin.

JONAH—After the prophet flatly rejected the Lord’s command to go to Nineveh, he paid for it by becoming a central element in perhaps the biggest fish story of all time. (Jonah 1,2)   Finally, he showed up in Nineveh and incorrectly prophesied its swift demise.  Alas, when the people repented, Jonah felt no joy at their newfound righteousness.  Instead, he became “very angry,” apparently because the Lord’s decision to spare the city had caused him to look unprophetic. (Jonah 3,4)

PETER—The chief apostle so displeased Jesus on one occasion that the Lord said, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me.” (Matt. 16:23)  Peter’s shortcomings also were revealed in his water-walking, his cutting off of an ear and in his denying of Christ.

PAUL—Was “a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious” to Christians before he became one of them.

LEHI—The first prophet in the Book of Mormon narrative saw many visions but also “did murmur against the Lord.” (1 Nephi 16:20)

ALMA—Before becoming a great prophet, it appears he might have been an even worse sinner than his buddies, the sons of Mosiah, who were said to be “the very vilest of sinners.” (Mosiah 28:4)

MORONI—Pertaining to this faithful Nephite military leader, Alma writes:  “If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever.” (Alma 48: 17)  Nevertheless, at the height of his powers, this man of God repeatedly invokes the name of God in a letter that is judgmental, threatening and so uninspired as to be entertaining.  (Alma 60)

Second, some errors are simply part of the growing and learning process of mortality that applies to everyone, including prophets, seers and revelators.  The fact that a prophet is still alive and functioning in his office can be viewed as prima facie evidence that he’s still making mistakes on a regular basis.  Currently, the senior member of the Twelve is appointed president of the church, a tradition that assures that the position is occupied by an elderly man who must deal with physical and mental challenges associated with the aging process.  (Perhaps there’s a better way. See Dana Haight Cattani’s excellent article, “A Dignified Transition: Emeritus Status for Apostles,” in the Spring 2014 Sunstone magazine.)

Third, rather than leave the church because of a leader’s error, let’s simply recognize that the church doesn't belong to its leaders.  It’s the Church of Christ.  We are his disciples.  He expects everyone to be invested in moving it forward.  For some, that may include advocating change.  Leaders who fail to utilize available resources—including listening to sincere people who disagree with them—will be more inclined to make mistakes than those who are open and receptive.  For those who advocate change and find themselves ignored, patience and persistence become significant virtues.

Fourth, sustaining and supporting church leaders is a lot like sustaining and supporting anyone else in our life.  If our father or mother err, we don’t leave the family.  When a spouse, friend, neighbor, co-worker or boss messes up, we don’t end our relationship with them (unless the foul-up is so grievous that we have no other option).  By exercising patience toward the shortcomings of others, we find ourselves on firmer ground when we seek the Lord’s patience toward us.

Our best approach is to follow the example of faithful black members who remained in the church before the 1978 revelation on the priesthood.  They simply recognized that the church of Christ does not cease being the church of Christ because its prophets foul up. They also recognized that God eventually provides guidance to his authorized leaders even if the enlightening moments often do not come until well after others have pointed out the need for change. And, as Frances Lee Menlove's grandfather taught his family: “Even though Church authorities sometimes act like jackasses, the Church has a way of righting itself.”  (From The Challenge of Honesty)
The inevitable question

A problem with pointing out that LDS prophets often err is that it raises the inevitable question:  If you Mormons are led by someone who messes up just like the leaders of other churches, why do you say your church is the Lord’s?

First, let’s consider several wrong answers to that question.

We are not the Lord’s church because of our remarkably fast growth or any other statistical measure that makes us look good. (Frankly, for every positive statistic out there, there’s also a negative, even if they don't show up in the Ensign.) Besides, some other churches are growing faster.  And fast growth should be expected in any church that stresses proselyting the way we do.  Interestingly, with current full-time missionaries at the highest levels in history, the church’s annual growth from 2013 to 2015 fell to the lowest rates since the 1940s.  Lack of proselyting success has even caused a shift in focus among missionaries away from traditional conversion efforts, with more time now devoted to member reactivation and humanitarian service. 

And, our family, family, family focus doesn’t make us more true than other faiths. Too-high rates of divorce, suicide, prescription-drug overuse, white-collar crime and porn addiction prove that members of our LDS families have challenges.

Lots of other differences—the Word of Wisdom, beliefs about the Godhead and our eternal destiny, tithe paying, first-rate humanitarian programs, temple work, etc.—also don’t mean we are the true church, although they do provide food for thought.

Also, even though we believe in the visions and manifestations to Joseph Smith and others, it could be argued that the reality of those events does not mean that the restored church remains the Lord's church today.  After all, a key tenet of our faith is that apostasy does indeed occur.

Instead, the key to why the restored church is the Lord’s church may be contained in words written by Joseph Smith and Elias Higbee about their 1839 visit with President Martin Van Buren. 

In our interview with the President [of the United States], he interrogated us wherein we differed in our religion from the other religions of the day. Brother Joseph said we differed in mode of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. We considered that all other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (italics added)

In my view, the Lord in a quiet, almost imperceptible way, claims the restored church as his own by manifesting the Holy Ghost on an expansive basis ranging from the most humble but believing LDS home to the highest leadership council.  The Spirit seems in particular to be very present among the Lord's followers in times of trouble or despair. Certainly, people of other faiths also experience the various ministrations of the Spirit, and it is true that unrighteous behavior separates all of us from the Spirit.  But I believe that it is in the authorized church of Christ that the gift of the Holy Ghost abides in the broadest way, affording mortals the best hopes of moving close to Christ and of experiencing peace here and now, and of finding a path toward salvation (see “Pathway to heaven” on this site).

It is the presence of the Spirit that explains how the church, as noted earlier, “has a way of righting itself” after errors are made.

It is common to sense the serene influence of the Spirit in various LDS settings, such as sacrament meeting, even when something goes wrong or a speaker is giving a dull message.  It’s as though the Spirit says “this church, despite its failings, is still the Lord’s authorized, restored church, and this place is indeed the appointed house of the Lord where humble seekers can feel his presence.”

As noted earlier, the presence of the Holy Spirit doesn’t shield prophets from error.  Although we believe Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of  God, he made serious mistakes before, during and after the translation.  But in spite of those mistakes, we believe that he remained the Lord’s authorized servant.  In pondering why the Book of Mormon is key to setting this church apart as the Lord’s, we would do well to consider the words of Oliver Cowdery, who wrote nearly the entire book as it was spoken by Joseph Smith:  “If you, my hearers, will walk by its light and obey its precepts, you will be saved with an everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God on high.”

I believe that everyone must discover for himself how to follow Christ.  But if those few words by Cowdery are true, they convey vital messages about Joseph Smith and the church he established. They also help explain why the Spirit is readily accessible in the church.

Related articles: Obedience gone awry  Oopsy-daisy

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