I take for the text of today’s sermon, an address by President Spencer W Kimball, in October General Conference, 1978, General Priesthood meeting. When first I heard this lecture, I was a student at BYU, surrounded by over 30,000 priesthood brethren, young and old, at the Marriott Center Arena, on campus. I don’t remember if the president was there in person, or if this was a satellite projection. (I’m thinking he was present however, as in those days the Marriott Center was used a lot for major addresses and gatherings, like the priesthood session, because the old tabernacle was tiny in comparison and of course, the Meganacle, the Great and Spacious Building, hadn’t been built yet.) In either case, the talk was live, and inside the Marriott with its 30,000 priesthood holders young and old, the effect was palpable. It seemed as if the stadium itself was cringing, begging silently for President Kimball to cut short his pondering on the subject, before it got too close to putting a damper on the imminent state holiday just days away: the opening of deer season.
“Don’t go there! Please! No, not now!” rang the mental panic of this consecrated, but by now very unsettled mob in its silent screaming ’round the amphitheater.
President Kimball started out with a casual, warm and fuzzy, typical conference-talk-like salute to the recent “Women’s Conference,” possibly the first of the BYU women’s conferences or perhaps the first “Women’s Session” of General Conference. He proceeded to meander disarmingly into some preliminary praising of our sisters, wives, mothers, women in general, and then took a hairpin turn, and veered, nay, darted, inexplicably, jaggedly, and utterly blindsiding, yay and verily, dumbfounding his gathered posse of LDS brethren into this piercing observation:
I read at the priesthood meeting at the last conference the words to the verse of the song years ago, “Don’t Kill the Little Birds,” with which I was familiar when I was a child growing up in Arizona. I found many young boys around my age who, with their flippers and their slings, destroyed many birds.
In Primary and Sunday School we sang the song:
That sing on bush and tree,
All thro’ the summer days,
Their sweetest melody.
I remember that my predecessor, President Joseph Fielding Smith, was a protector of these feathered and other wild life creatures.
While President Smith at one time was in the Wasatch Mountain Area, he befriended the creatures from the hill and forest. He composed four little verses as follows, and opposite each he drew a little picture. Of the mountain squirrel first, he wrote:
This is little Chopper Squirrel
Up in the mountains high.
He begs us for some grains of corn,
With thanks he says goodbye.
[By now the stadium was physically shuddering, because as he noted, President Kimball had already given a preview of his sentiments on the matter at the last conference in April of that year, but now it was six months later, the deer hunt was upon us, and he obviously had not finished expressing his feelings on the matter of “bloodlust” as he’d previously characterized hunting as he’d alluded to the killing of wildlife.]
Then he came to the deer:
This is little Bambi Deer
Who comes to the cabin homes.
She licks the salt we feed to her,
And on the mountain roams.
And then the birds:
This, our little feathered friend
Who sings for us all day.
When comes the winter and the cold,
He wisely flies away.
Now, I also would like to add some of my feelings concerning the unnecessary shedding of blood and destruction of life. I think that every soul should be impressed by the sentiments that have been expressed here by the prophets.
And not less with reference to the killing of innocent birds is the wildlife of our country that live upon the vermin that are indeed enemies to the farmer and to mankind. It is not only wicked to destroy them, it is a shame, in my opinion. I think that this principle should extend not only to the bird life but to the life of all animals. For that purpose I read the scripture where the Lord gave us all the animals. Seemingly, he thought it was important that all these animals be on the earth for our use and encouragement.
President Joseph F. Smith said, “When I visited, a few years ago, the Yellowstone National Park, and saw in the streams and the beautiful lakes, birds swimming quite fearless of man, allowing passers-by to approach them as closely almost as tame birds, and apprehending no fear of them, and when I saw droves of beautiful deer [feeding] along the side of the road, as fearless of the presence of men as any domestic animal, it filled my heart with a degree of peace and joy that seemed to be almost a foretaste of that period hoped for when there shall be none to hurt and none to molest in all the land, especially among all the inhabitants of Zion. These same birds, if they were to visit other regions, inhabited by man, would, on account of their tameness, doubtless become more easily a prey to the gunner. The same may be said of those beautiful creatures—the deer and the antelope. If they should wander out of the park, beyond the protection that is established there for these animals, they would become, of course, an easy prey to those who were seeking their lives. I never could see why a man should be imbued with a blood-thirsty desire to kill and destroy animal life. I have known men—and they still exist among us—who enjoy what is, to them, the ‘sport’ of hunting birds and slaying them by the hundreds, and who will come in after a day’s sport, boasting of how many harmless birds they have had the skill to slaughter, and day after day, during the season when it is lawful for men to hunt and kill (the birds having had a season of protection and not apprehending danger) go out by scores or hundreds, and you may hear their guns early in the morning on the day of the opening, as if great armies had met in battle; and the terrible work of slaughtering the innocent birds goes on.
“I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he needs them for food, and then he should not kill innocent little birds that are not intended for food for man. I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possesses animal life. It is wrong, and I have been surprised at prominent men whom I have seen whose very souls seemed to be athirst for the shedding of animal blood.” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939, pp. 265–66.)
[Emphasis mine, but no, really that’s how the prophet delivered it. With unmistakable emphasis. And he didn’t leave it at that. It wasn’t just a passing thought or personal observation. This was a repeat performance, targeted to the most likely Mormon culprits of wildlife slaughter, and at this point it had become truly uncomfortable for a coliseum full of 30,000 hunters, young and old, and a state full of Mormon outdoorsmen eager to get into the fields and canyons and start killing wildlife, repeatedly, and in large numbers, specifically including all species of which were systematically being included in the prophet’s condemnatory address. Had I not been there, I was would have never realized that moment of crisis in Mormondom. I had no dog in the fight. No horse in the race. Was not, still am not a hunter. I was and remain just an observer. Back then, new to my Utah Mormon Odyssey, I was learning as I went. Thinking however, that this was not really going over well, I sat back and waited faithfully for the prophet to start massaging back out of it. Yet, President Kimball just kept driving home the point, and all the throng around me could do was squirm and sit quietly, hoping for it to end soon.]
One of the poets stated in this connection:
—and I might add there also, because God gave it to them, and they were to be used only, as I understand, for food and to supply the needs of men.
It is quite a different matter when a pioneer crossing the plains would kill a buffalo to bring food to his children and his family. There were also those vicious men who would kill buffalo only for their tongues and skins, permitting the life to be sacrificed and the food also to be wasted.
When asked how he governed so many people, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”
We look to the Prophet Joseph Smith for proper teaching. He said once: “We crossed the Embarras river and encamped on a small branch of the same about one mile west. In pitching my tent we found three massasaugas or prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, ‘Let them alone—don’t hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.’ The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger.” (History of the Church, 2:71–72.)
Now, there are many apocryphal stories arising out of this conference talk, all up and down the Wasatch Front, of tearful, burly Mormon men and boys who put away their rifles, shotguns, and gave up hunting deer and duck, quail and partridge, and blowing away wild animals and woodland creatures in general. But statistically, it didn’t seem to make a difference in the statewide game management system. And some year later, my soon-to-be-wife and I were at the Springville Drive Inn Theater, waiting for the classic Cold War Era Clint Eastwood flick, FireFox, to spool up on the screen, coming back from the snack shack with dubious popcorn and flat soda pop, when an 8-10 point buck with a big bush-like rack sauntered nonchalantly down from the side of the mountain, strolled directly across the arc light of the projector trying to get me to go buy popcorn, with a doe and two fawns casually tripping behind. “Now they’re just taunting us,” I heard somebody say, from the deep rows of pickups and gun racks arced around the proscenium, half of them miming kill shots as the deer family traipsed through the spotlight and made their exit somewhere off into the night.
(I say the Wasatch Front, meaning, what the professional arm of Mormon facilities management and PR entities now call the “Pioneer Corridor” meaning all along the actual Wasatch Front up into southern Idaho, and down into Arizona/Nevada. This new label is due to trying to hide the fact that all current FM employees are soon to be replaced with Emcor or other “Campus Based” facilities management/houskeeping subcontractors under the new “Integrated Facilities Management” scheme, or “IFM.” Oh yes, yes it’s true my Utah brothers. The “Pioneer Corridor” has only been spared becoming the first conversion zone for political reasons, like mass desertions from the membership rolls and riots in the streets, or some very heated fast and testimony rants and so forth. But the East Coast is already gone, the West Coast is scheduled for this year, and the Midwest north and south is only spared for lack of facilities concentration, but this only for another year or two. But I digress.)
Some years later, around 1985, I found myself back in my more-or-less home state of Minnesota, in a small town called “Lake Wobegon.” Well, that’s a lie, but it’s more truthful than anything Gary Keillor ever made up. (He was from the fairly large city of Anoka, never lived on a farm, never knew a Norwegian bachelor farmer, and was of Scottish Presbyterian background.) The town most similar to Keillor’s fictional construction in the vicinity, in reality was called “Buffalo,” with a great lake and historic downtown waterfront area, county seat of Wright County. We had a full ward by hook, crook, and creative attendance counting. And I had just been called (as an outsider really) to teach elder’s quorum, freshly back from “Zion,” facing a group which consisted in large part of rural Minnesotans who’s worship of the deer opener, duck, goose, quail, grouse, snipe and whatever else was shootable, not to mention a massive worship of fishing season, probably exceeded the Utah bloodlust for freshly killed wild critters by a factor of 10.
It was fall. The deer opener was again, a few weeks away. And the lesson was the boilerplate admonition to “Follow the Prophet” because, “he will never lead the church astray.” It was a litany of quotes from prophets making statements about following themselves, based entirely on their own history of self-defending statements over the course of massive changes in various revelations during the early years of the restoration, even if they directly contradicted the last prophet who also said he’d never lead the church astray. This remains a common theme in official LDS teaching, even though, as the official statement on Race and the Priesthood admits, Brigham Young and every successor did indeed lead the church astray on the issue of Race and the Priesthood until 2012, if nothing else.
Or, as now counselor in the 1st presidency, and my old BYU president, Dallin Oaks once said, I think tongue in cheek, “It is wrong to criticize leaders of the church even if the criticism is true.”
(He fleshes out that thought here: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1987/02/criticism?lang=eng)
At any rate, I was in that frame of mind to mess with my brothers in the Buffalo elders quorum at that particular moment, I had no deep historical connections with any of them, so I put their conceptualization of what it truly means to “follow the prophet” to the acid test. I thought I’d see what happened if I stopped being a kid in all things LDS, and just spoke up. I read the above little birdie sermon, and then posed the question: So what if President Kimball had gotten up in conference this October and cleanly closed the door on the subject of hunting? What if he’d came straight out and said deer hunting and wild bird hunting in this day and age is pointless and bloodthirsty? Would any of you be hanging up your shotguns and rifles and staying home this season?
Nope. Not even willing to entertain the notion. That was pretty much the answer I got. My rural Minnesotan Brethren were not in the mood to philosophize.
“Why not?” I prodded.
“He wouldn’t say that, that’s not what he meant.”
“But what if he did say that and that was what exactly what he meant this time.”
“He wouldn’t. It’s not a commandment.”
“What if he said it was a commandment. Or a revelation from God?”
“But what if the prophet says otherwise. The Latter-day, current prophet. What if he says, this is a new dispensation, a new day of enlightenment. All unnecessary bloodshed is wrong. We should all become vegetarians. Fish, fowl, all animals, especially in the wild are now a needless killing of God’s creatures.”
“That’s false doctrine!” Came the increasingly desperate and vehement rebuttals to a theoretical question that by definition couldn’t be rebutted. You can’t rebut an hypothetical.
“But would it be false doctrine if the prophet said it was a new revelation? Would you accept that? Even if it meant eating tofu and soy burgers?”
“He didn’t say that. And he wouldn’t.”
At any rate. I found my brethren fundamentally incapable of humoring a “what if” proposition even simply for the sake of a doctrinal or philosophical debate. The bottom line I discovered, seems to be the institutionalized, hereditary sort of LDS mentality of paying fervent lip-service to following every syllable that spills from any given “prophet’s” lips at any given time, at any meeting or event, official or unofficial, or even just ordering lunch or making a shopping list, as if it were directly from the mind and will of the Almighty, while simultaneously reserving the right to ignore even generations of canon and tradition if that specific bit of “prophetic” utterance personally doesn’t fit your longstanding American, Utah based Mormon world-view about manly pursuits and End Time, Apocalyptic bunker scenarios.
Orrrhhh…. on the other hand, as the decades come full circle, I find the same to be true if you’re a bunch of cheerful Mormon leftists, all too happy to throw the generations of embarrassingly Constitutional, American boosterism fundamentally incorporated into LDS doctrine and history, if, (as I have only recently discovered,) some black-ops, smuggled YouTube video of some big LDS authority at some venue out in the field, seems to support your “progressive” political world view that we really ought to ban all firearms from civilian use, repeal the 2nd Amendment, and begin the wholesale confiscation of all the personal firearms in America.
If it please the court, I will show relevance. Follow this:
Now, my people came from Norway and Denmark to the US in the waning 1800’s, (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, pretty much all the same deal in terms of “nationality,” but that’s a long story about Scandinavian politics and history.) They were very independent and politically active, and for example, built farmer’s co-ops the church eventually copied and ET Benson promoted as model systems when he was Secretary of Agriculture in the Great Depression/Dustbowl days. They also founded the Farmer Labor Party in the upper Midwest/plains states of the United States of America. They only very reluctantly decided to associate with the “Democratic Party” for national election purposes, in part because at that time, and for another 60 years or so, and generations before that, they were the party of the KKK. My people, were the first to sign up for the “Minnesota First Volunteers” and ride down there when the Civil War broke out, kick ass and take names and win that war.
That’s not much of a “Right Wing” heritage. I consider myself a “classic liberal,” or “Jeffersonian Democrat,” or “Libertarian” in political orientation. So, imagine my surprise at this showing up on my Facebook Messenger app:
Hey Royce, I’m blocking you on social media. You know I almost left the church last week right? It’s because conservative Mormons have been harassing me on social media. Nowhere in LDS sites does it suggest that if you are Mormon, you have to be conservative. I’ve noticed people have been putting politics over doctrine and the gospel, and I couldn’t stand it. I contacted Bishop XXXXXXX, and told him how you called me a red hick idiot. I am blocking you for my sanity. And because this is in God’s and Bishop’s hands. I hope you pray and heal your clearly angry heart.
Chat Conversation End
Let’s just examine this. First of all, don’t know her, don’t know she almost left the church, and really, why would I? This Facebook message came out of the blue for all I knew, from one “Bannana Carp.” (Fake name. Just for laughs.) As far as I can tell there’s only one post I replied to which she quotes incorrectly, yet it was so disconcerting it drove her insane. (I contend a very short drive.) Worse yet, here tremendous influence and testimony with my bishop has now condemned me to church discipline, eternal Hell and damnation.
I searched for this sister on Facebook, hunted my timeline for the offending post, searched for her membership in my LDS groups, especially my ward group, and she was a complete non-entity. As she was in the process of “blocking” me, she’d also apparently scrubbed her entire presence on any social media connected to me and the ward, or Facebook. To date then, I have no chance of going back to see whatever it was I wrote that might have driven her over the edge. As I have alluded, I vaguely remember commenting about some hillbilly teacher having kids walk out because she berated them for speaking Spanish in class, and scolded them for not speaking “American.” That seems to be the post in question.
My point in rebuttal to the following video and comments accompanying it was there might have been any number of valid reasons for demanding English in an English speaking country, in an English speaking classroom, especially if it was an English class for example. And we have no idea what was going on before the video starts, or if they were cursing their teacher in Spanish, shouting or conspiring in a secret code or what. The phrase I used was directed at this teacher, suggesting that her comments may sound like “redneck hick idiocy” but she’s probably not entirely out of line.
So much for Banana Carp’s reading comprehension. I wasn’t addressing her at all.
I found a “Harrison Carp” on my local ward site, (Yeah, fake name, still fair game though.) but nothing connected with anything I’d posted anywhere to help decipher who or what this “fellow saint” was going on about or if this was indeed “Harrison’s” wife. So this is the Messenger post I sent to who I believe was her husband:
You’re apparently new to my ward and you have the same last name. So… Who is Banana Carp, why is she on my timeline in the first place, why is she claiming I’m a conservative, why is she claiming I’m part of some Mormon conspiracy harassing her on social media because I guess she’s a self-identified “liberal,” why is she crying to my bishop about leaving the church because of all the persecution she’s getting, claiming I’m calling her names, why would I be allegedly calling her (don’t know her) a “red hick idiot,” because unless she’s a schoolteacher who threw some Spanish speaking punks out of her classroom on some fake news video, the closest I’ve come to that phrase in the last day or two was “redneck idiocy,” in regard to the teacher’s rant about the military not fighting so they can speak Spanish in class and they should speak American? If this is your wife or family member, she’s got some serious problems if she’s this bent out of shape over a Facebook debate, and it’s got nothing at all to do with me. She can block all she wants, but that’s her problem not mine. Maybe I should just post this whole thing on the ward web site to clear the air? She’s not left me any other options really. She’s already spreading lies around the ward. In any case, I don’t see anything in your posts that come off as SJW based, I can’t access that post or her to verify her claims, and frankly am not sure what she’s on about. It’s a bit egocentric to imagine she’s uniquely persecuted by a dark conspiracy of Mormon harassers in the first place. That’s bona-fide snowflake territory. It’s pretty chicken-poop to message me a big private rant and go crying to my bishop telling him lies about stuff I never wrote to a person I don’t even know, and then block me so I can’t even reply. Seriously chicken-poo. (Epithet cleaned up for the Mormon audience.) Sorry if you’re not related. Even sorrier if you are I suppose. Get her some help. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6CbE4VncPM
Some couple of weeks later I walked into a Gospel Doctrine class where she, as I believe her to be, was bearing testimony about being enlightened by some diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia (not actually the current vernacular in the loonie bin industry, under DSM-5) and how that helped her understand mental health issues better. Apparently she’s a masters candidate in psychology or something close to that, which only proves my observations as a psych aid and psych tech, wrestling lunatics at the Utah State Hospital in the mid-80’s in the “therapeutic community,” that professional psychiatrists/psychologists/social workers get into the industry because they need to validate their own totally f’d up family and personal lives.
I have well over a thousand Facebook friends and discuss dozens, scores of topics with hundreds of people all over the internet every day. One random post from Banana Carp is nothing to me, one threat typed out for a few seconds like many others–however much it threatened her sanity, sanity which she confessed in Sunday school was not in her possession anyway it seems. I did however, through my wife, I find out what was really going on. This sister had long been on the ward web site and Facebook pages of ward members, posting politically based “gospel” rants with great abandon, most of which were promoting gun control and 2nd Amendment theories about a certain black market video from YouTube, that was secretly shot in Las Vegas this year, of President Russell M Nelson addressing a gathering of youth, and allegedly taking a political stance on “gun control.”
I’ll include another link just for security and validity:
Turns out this self-confessed resident ward schizophrenic had been promoting the above “hot” “undercover” video for weeks, fomenting ward dissension, and openingly challenging members of my ward and Latter-day Saints in general, to “follow the prophet” and pass oppressive gun laws and eradicate the 2nd Amendment. My wife had followed these comments with a wince, but other than that, I would not have been able to discern the subtext of this frantic sister’s PM and thus would have missed the background of the entire debacle, and simply gone on despising her as an idiot and a coward for without good reason. Now I completely understand. If you’re paranoid, everything is about you I suppose.
But let’s just have a look and listen to what this off-the-cuff video actually says about current LDS President Nelson: Was Parkland the result of “men passing laws that allowed guns to fall into the hands of those who should not have them”? Well no. That’s the most ignorant, er, uninformed assessment I’ve ever heard. To date, there were some 69 laws and intervention points where the FBI, local sheriffs, child protective services or others could have swooped in and prevented this. 4 deputies stood outside and picked their noses while the slaughter continued and actually never went in. Some neighboring cops arrived eventually and strode past them as they hung outside and didn’t even follow as they went in.
Obama era philosophies enforced a policy that paid schools and law enforcement to under-report “black” arrests, thus to look “fair,” incentivized them to just skip all arrests on minor offenses and ignore even the basic reporting of minor offenses or suspicions or just weird activity, which clearly contributed to the tragedy. The kid was never flagged as mounting trouble, in spite of repeated episodes of clear warning that he was about to go off. 69 and probably more times, at least twice by the FBI and repeatedly by local law enforcement. This kid, this young loonie went through all the background checks required. His record was clean. But mostly, this was far worse than it would have been because 4 local deputies given cushy political jobs by a Democratic apparatchik sheriff who rewarded them for their support in his election, sat there and let this lunatic shoot kids down for 6 minutes instead of moving in and stopping it when it first began.
If President Nelson is claiming Brigham Young, and Joseph Smith are wrong, that the Constitution is not divinely inspired, that this nation, this continent, is not set apart for the restoration of the gospel, that the Founding Fathers were ignorant white a-holes and the 2nd Amendment didn’t really protect us from anti-Mormon rioters who were beating off and killing Mormons at the polls at Gallatin, or that “Zion” used thoughts and prayers alone to repel Johnston’s Army from the conquering of Utah, or that the US “government” was sufficient protection for Mormon freedom of religion coast to coast, that the Nauvoo Legion was just a scary, uncivilized bit of arrogant Mormon rebel bluster, that Joseph Smith was an apostate, fallen prophet when he armed his golden city with rifle, sword, canon, and all the weapons of war, and that governor Ford and his mob militia, the Carthage Regulators who killed Joseph Smith, was just a fine and dandy organization to protect LDS rights under the Constitution, that the “Utah Wars” in Missouri and Illinois and Utah, were just Mormon treason they should never have had arms to wage, and that blocking Johnston’s army from invading SLC by highly organized militia and guerrilla warfare under force of arms, was treacherous un-Americanism, well then, our new LDS president needs to read a book or two. Maybe take a walk across the street and look at the pepper box pistol Brother Joseph died firing, dropping a man with every shot, downing 4 in self-defense, only falling short of a full six due to 2 misfires.
Maybe president Nelson isn’t familiar with the notion of a “citizen’s militia.” Or its importance. Maybe he’s never read the US Consttution, or has forgotten its doctrinal significance. They have been in that valley, a very long, long, long time. Maybe it’s good that the “prophet” should get out more to speak at places like Vegas. As long as you as a Latter-day Saint realize, if he burps, it’s not scripture.
More on “prophetic” infallibility…
The Prophet Joseph Smith himself is quoted in Documentary History of the Church as admonishing us that prophets are mortal men with mortal frailties, so that “a prophet (is) a
prophet only when he (is) acting as such” [History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Period I, History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, by Himself, edited by B.H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1902-1912), 5:26]. The complications in identifying which directives from Church leaders are to be understood as binding on the Saints were extensively addressed by President J. Reuben Clark in a lengthy Church News article of July 31, 1954. See the reprint of that article, “When are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 12:2 (Summer 1979), 68-81. Applying all of this to Brigham Young’s 1852 declaration in a political forum (the Utah Legislature), despite his citing of prophetic authority, leaves us with an interesting quandary, considering that today’s Church leaders (at least since 1969) have clearly retreated from Young’s ideas on race, priesthood, and many other things.
Here we must have in mind–must know–that only the President of the Church, the Presiding High Priest, is sustained as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the Church, and he alone has the right to receive revelations for the Church, either new or amendatory, or to give authoritative interpretations of scriptures that shall be binding on the Church, or change in any way the existing doctrines of the Church. He is God’s sole mouthpiece on earth for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the only true Church. He alone may declare the mind and will of God to his people. No officer of any other Church in the world had this high right and lofty prerogative.
So when any other person, irrespective of who he is, undertakes to do any of these things, you may know that he is not “moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” in so speaking, unless he has special authorization from the President of the Church. (D.C. 90:1-4, 9, 12-16; 107:8, 65-66, 91-92; 115:19; 124:125; D.C. 2:477; 6:363).
Thus far it is clear.
But there are many places where the scriptures are not too clear, and where different interpretations may be given to them; there are many doctrines; tenets as the Lord called them, that have not been officially defined and declared. It is in the consideration and discussion of these scriptures and doctrines that opportunities arise for differences of views as to meanings and extent. In view of the fundamental principle just announced as to the position of the President of the Church, other bearers of the Priesthood, those with the special spiritual endowment and those without it, should be cautious in their expressions about and interpretations of scriptures and doctrines. They must act and teach subject to the over-all power and authority of the President of the Church. It would be most unfortunate were this not always strictly observed by the bearers of this special spiritual endowment, other than the President. Sometimes in the past, they have spoken “out of sum,” so to speak. Furthermore, at times even those not members of the General Authorities are said to have been heard to declare their own views on various matters concerning which no official view or declaration has been made by the mouthpiece of the Lord, sometimes with an assured certainty that might deceive the uninformed and unwary….
There have been rare occasions when even the President of the Church in his preaching and teaching has not been “moved upon by the Holy Ghost.” You will recall the Prophet Joseph declared that a prophet is not always a prophet.
How shall the Church know when these adventurous expeditions of the brethren into these highly speculative principles and doctrines meet the requirements of the statutes that the announcers thereof have been “moved upon by the Holy Ghost”? The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are “moved upon by the Holy Ghost”; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest….
But this matter of disagreements over doctrine, and the announcement by high authority of incorrect doctrines, is not new.
It will be recalled that disagreements among brethren in high places about doctrines made clear appeared in the early days of the Apostolic Church. Indeed, at the Last Supper, “there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest”; this was in the presence of the Savior himself. (Luke 22: 24.)
The disciples had earlier had the same dispute when they were at Capernaum. (Mark 9:33; Luke 9:46.) And not long after that, James and John, of their own volition or at the instance of their mother, apparently the latter, asked Jesus that one of them might sit on his right hand and the other on his left. (Matt. 20:20 ff.; Mark 10:35 ff.)
This matter of precedence seems to have troubled the disciples.
There were disputes over doctrine. You will recall that Paul and Barnabas had differences (not over doctrine, however), and, says the record, “the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other.” (Acts 15:36 95.)
Paul had an apparently unseemly dispute with Peter about circumcision. Paul boasted to the Galatians, “I said unto Peter before them all ….” (Gal. 2:14.)
Peter, replying more or less in kind, wrote: ” . . . even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (II Peter 3:15-16.)
This same question regarding circumcision became so disturbing to the Church that “the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter,” in Jerusalem. Paul, Barnabas, and Peter were there and participated in the discussion. The Pharisee disciples stood for circumcision of Gentiles. James delivered the decision against the necessity of circumcising the Gentile converts. (Acts 15:1 95.)
So, in summary. Whatever President Nelson was on about in Las Vegas in an underground video is irrelevant. That’s one of the reasons underground videos are banned by official church policy relative to any visiting general authority. But apart from the gun control issue, President Nelson did take a definite stand in favor of universal amnesty for illegal aliens. And that is a political directive coming directly from the church’s highest authority. For some reason, it hasn’t resonated in or out of the church as much as his apparent condemnation of current gun laws and the “evil” men who allow crazies to get guns, in his “inspired” opinion. Unfortunately, on both issues, the “official” church news page and media liaisons have given a strict “no comment” reply.
It’s tough being a Mormon sometimes. It would be nice to have a litany of rules and memorized dogma to just mindlessly follow from an organizational standpoint. But that’s sort of what Mormonism was created to eradicate. On the one hand, “Never Mind all that Stuff About the Negro.” Happy to eradicate 160 plus years of that and write it off as “folklore” and “speculation,” as Jefferey R Holland called it in 2006. You can look that “policy” change up on the church web site and you can see and hear and read multiple reiterations of it from general authorities. It’s an official “policy” statement signed off by the First Presidency, in which they officially throw Brigham Young and anyone after him under the doctrinal bus, saying clearly that they were wrong on the matter.
That, is a “change” in doctrine, or that, is “new doctrine” or that, is a clarification of doctrine. (Even if they want to pretend it was never “doctrine,” just a “policy” change.) That, is what it looks like when the Brethren want you to learn, teach and preach a new thing.
On the other hand, no, President Russell M Nelson did not condemn the AR-15 or convict the nation of deliberately passing laws to enable gunshops in their desire to be handing out “assault weapons” willy nilly to nutjobs. That was one ad-libbed line in a speech in Vegas that was never meant to be recorded, published or broadcast. That’s not even close to “doctrine.” It’s not any closer to “policy” either. It’s just a throwaway sentiment.
But don’t take my word on it. We have Dieter F Uchtdorf:
Some struggle with “unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past,” Uchtdorf explained. “We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of church history — along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable and divine events — there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.”
“To be perfectly frank,” Uchtdorf said, “there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles or doctrine.”
God is perfect and his doctrine is pure, he said, but human beings — including church leaders — are not.