Activism and the LDS Church

Recent events, especially the movement of “Ordain Women”, has caused me to seriously reflect upon the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints and it’s administration.

Let me state a few things before assumptions are made:

  1. I don’t have any fundamental problem with women having the priesthood, in fact it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if someday that revelation was given.
  2. I am well aware of the huge role women play in the church. I have watched all of my leadership efforts absolutely pale in comparison to my counterparts with names like Eva, and Heather, and Mariana.
  3. This post won’t deal with all things “inequality”, but we will get to that in another post.

So what is this post about? What are we talking about here? We are simply talking about activism and the LDS Church.

What do I mean when I say “activism in the church”? It’s really quite simple actually. It is the efforts of groups of members of the church to put pressure on church leadership through the tactics usually employed in the political arenas. Protests, social media campaigns, traditional media campaigns, speeches, petitions, “walk ins”, and other such activities all fit into the definition of activism.

Activism is a powerful tool, it’s been used to do much good in the world. It’s also been used to do much evil in the world, though we don’t usually call it activism in those cases. Activism definitely has it’s appropriate place in the political arenas of states, and man made organizations. But we aren’t talking about the entities of mankind – we are talking about the Church of God. We are talking about the church whose head is Christ. Christ, the Savior of the world, the creator of all things, the very God of heaven and earth.

I expect the first response to this will be: “But the church of Christ is lead by imperfect men, who are not infallible”. This is a good point. But let us talk about what that means. We know that the leaders of the church are imperfect humans, we know that they are allowed mistakes, but we also know that God will not allow them to lead us astray. So where do we draw the line? Do we get to decide when the brethren are just being imperfect, and when they are leading us astray?

Recent activism in the church has called for the ordination of women to the priesthood. And don’t be mistaken, this is full on activism. It is protests, walks-ins, stand-ins, social media, traditional media, speeches, and websites – it is activism in every sense of the word.

But let us go back to this line that we are drawing. This isn’t a small thing we are talking about. We aren’t talking about where to put a temple, or what to include in the Sunday School manual, or what the age of missionary service is. We aren’t even talking about something more serious, like who the leaders of the church auxiliaries will be, or even what the programs in the temple will be like. We are talking about the very power to act in the name of Christ. The system by which Christ directs His kingdom here on earth. It is hard to imagine something more important to the administration and leadership of the church than this subject. Yet we believe that the leaders are not in tune with the will of God on the matter?

We believe that they know what should be included in the temple ordinances.

We believe that they know what to say at conference.

We believe that they know where to send our child on his or her missionary service.

But we don’t believe that they understand how the priesthood should be administered?

We believe in prophets, seers, and revelators, but we don’t believe that they are actually seeing or receiving revelation?

We believe this is the church of Christ, but we don’t believe that it is being administered according to the will of Christ?

We believe that Christ can come to His house to direct the prophet, but we believe that for some reason He hasn’t done so – and thus He needs our help in pushing the cart along?

Christ needs our pickets and protests? Christ needs our Facebook page and websites? I am sorry, but He doesn’t. As He has proven in the past, Christ doesn’t even need the church – the church is for our good.

In addition to all of this, we also believe that the already spoken words aren’t enough? We need more?

What happens when we get more instruction from the brethren? What happens if we get what we are asking for: If the prophet announces that he has specifically prayed in the temple concerning the matter and has received revelation that the priesthood will not be extended to women? What then?

Do we say “Thank you.” and pack up? Do we shut down our campaign, and delete our websites? Do we admit that our actions have caused division in the church, that we were wrong, that we now accept the word of the Servant of the Lord?

Or do we raise our banner higher, and make our voices louder? Do we make our lines at Temple Square longer? Do we do more interviews, and write more website articles? Do we push harder to receive the answer we desire? Do we, in fact, believe that we are dealing with the unjust judge?

What if, on the other hand, the prophet announces that the priesthood will be extended to women? What then? Are we then satisfied?

I doubt that the technical change of the priesthood being extended will actually be enough. Technically women have the same rights in the workforce of America. Technically the civil rights movement ended almost 40 years ago. But we still see debates about and problems with inequality in those realms. So do we continue to campaign? And if so, when do we stop? When there are 50% female bishops? When there are 50% female stake presidents? Or how about when we have our first female president of the church – is that the finish line?

And do we really expect Christ to call leaders in the church according to the precepts of our activism?

When does our social and digital stoning of the prophets end?

The church can’t be lead by activism. Bringing awareness of things that should be considered, is a different story (and a future post). But, when the church begins to be led by activism it is no longer the church of God, but instead just another church of man. The possibilities of what different interest groups could call for are endless. And when the brethren are constantly tormented by the cries of mortal man, how will they ever have time to hear the revelations of eternity?

And let us remember the real significance of our particular cause. We call the church imperfect when it suits us, but then we expect it to perfectly cater to our specific needs and wants. But in all honesty the brethren’s priority list most certainly doesn’t match ours. They lead a worldwide church of 15 million members, over hundreds of countries and countless social, political, and cultural conditions.

What about the needs of the members in the Ukraine, the members in Argentina, the members who have suffered in the Philippines over the last year! What about the millions of members whose annual income does not match the amount of money our families spent on movies and popcorn last year? So while we sit here in the comfort of our American indulgence, let us remember those whose only good thing is the gospel, and let us try to remember that our cause might not actually be at the top of the priority list!

I am sorry that your political views, social expectations, or particular cause isn’t exactly matching up with what you see in the church right now. I really am sorry, I wish I could just fix it for you – I really do.

However, in reality, the church does not provide perfectly personalized care. Local leaders try to do the best they can – but they are mortal too. The fact is, that the only personal, perfectly customized, care available in this world comes from Christ. Our relationship with Him, our ability and desire to call upon Him and use his atonement. And even then, with the perfect succor of Christ – we don’t always get exactly what we want.

When we try to guide the church we very likely miss the mark. And are so likely to ask for something we really shouldn’t have. Despite our best intentions, despite our kind hearts, despite our hopes, we are – and listen carefully – also imperfect. Only one can steer the helm at a time. With too many trying to right the ship, the ship will only sink – dashed upon the rocks. I prefer Christ to be my helmsman.

It would be amazing if the church could be everything to everyone. But churches who attempt such feats are fractured and scattered – and still don’t accomplish it. It would be wonderful if everyone always felt perfectly comfortable, it really would be. But the church isn’t salvation. No, it is just a temporal organization placed on earth to help us towards salvation if we will allow it to do so. Remember, there are no “mormons” and “non-mormons” in the Celestial Kingdom – there are only Joint Heirs with Christ.

Perfection of the church in this world is not the goal – perfection of ourselves through Christ, in the life to come, is. Whatever the condition of our hearts, Christ is our solution.

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Luke Hopkin

Father, wilderness addict, Mormon. I believe that we don't give the gospel of Christ the credit it deserves, it is much more effective, deep, and personal than we often realize. I believe in principles of faith, in doctrine, and in revelation. I hope to bring new insights, and a voice for truth, to the conversation. @lukevhopkin
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  • M.H.

    Awesome. I have started so many times to sit down and write my thoughts on this very subject, and maybe one day it will make it further than the jumbled thoughts my journal, so first of all, kudos for even taking time to share your heart on the matter! Secondly, I agree. Wholeheartedly.

  • Dani

    Remember Martin Harris? Remember Oliver Cowdry? How did things work out for them? There are those of us who understand that the blessings of the priesthood are just as much ours as our husbands! That the priesthood blessings are contingent upon FAITH. I do not believe in following blindly, but when you as individual are getting a different answer in prayer than the Prophet of God…it is NOT him who is misinterpreting the promptings of the Spirit. This I can promise you. I am sorry, but this is pride. You can read about these exact things in the scriptures and God NEVER changes His mind. NEVER. When I think of all the good these women COULD be doing with their time and energies. Do these woman just have WAY too much time on their hands? I can barely get my Visiting Teaching done, how would I get Home Teaching done too? I have NO desire for the priesthood as it is there to help my husband learn the things that are not a part of his divine makeup…and how I love to see him get to have with our children that same bond that I do as he performs blessings and ordinances for them! What a wonderful memory for them. I never had this with my father so I am grateful my children do with theirs, and WHY would I be SO incredibly selfish as to take that AWAY from him? I could NOT agree more with what you have written. AMEN!!!

    • Julia Ann

      Both Oliver Cowdery a Martin Harris died in full fellowship of the church. How did things work out for Joseph Smith?

      • Frank Paraboschi

        Things worked out well for Joseph. He died a martyr and is exalted. I suggest you read John Taylors words on Joseph in the Doctrine and Covenants. You’re comment is either foolish or unfinished.

      • Julia Ann

        Let’s see, Joseph Smith died because he could no longer hide the fact that he was trying to juggle his illegal marriages to about 30 women, most of whom Emma had no knowlege of, and many while the women were married to other men, who were conveniently serving missions at the time.

        Were John Taylor’s words in the D&C written before or after he was married to a girl 60 years younger than him.?

        How do you know Joseph was exalted? Did President Brigham Young say that after explaining “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness?”

      • Erik

        Pearls before swine Frank! It isn’t worth arguing with Julia Ann. She definitely hasn’t looked to the right source to get her answers.

      • Julia Ann

        I guess I have just been called a swine. By the “Right Source” you mean the water down version of LDS History that I was fed as a child ? Did Joseph not marry without Emma’s knowledge? Did John Taylor not marry a girl 60 years younger? Did Brigham Young not say how cursed Black People were? Did Joseph not send the husbands of his wives (Yes that is Bizarre) on missions?

    • Elti

      If God never changes his mind, then why the changes to things like polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, the cut and style of the temple garment, fundamental changes to the temple ceremonies, etc.? Where these truths not ready to be revealed or are they changes? Also, how would you having the priesthood take the opportunity of administering to your children from your husband? What about the women who never get married or who are widowed or left by their husbands and wish to administer to their children? Must they always depend on their home teachers for blessings and baptisms? Also, why give such a rabid response? If these women (and men) are wrong, why judge their intentions or the use of their energy or time? Why not just attend to your wifely duty of being subservient to your priesthood-holding husband? You see, I can be mean and condecending too.

  • Courtney Beardall

    Good Job. Thanks for writing this. We ALL need to look at our role in the Lords plan. We all have enough work to do if we will stop complaining and just do it. My role may be different than my bishop’s (thank goodness) but it is still important and mine to do. I have every blessing that I need to accomplish the work that is mine to do. You do too.

  • OW-OK

    I’m okay with someone opposing OW as long as they’re respectful about it. I’m undecided about certain aspects of it myself. But I don’t think you can so easily write off their concerns by saying:

    “We are talking about the very power to act in the name of Christ. The system by which Christ directs His kingdom here on earth. It is hard to imagine something more important to the administration and leadership of the church than this subject. Yet we believe that the leaders are not in tune with the will of God on the matter?”

    How do you reconcile what you’re saying there with the fact that for over 130 years, church leaders were not “in tune with the will of God” when it came to blacks and their ability to participate in the “administration and leadership of the church?”

    Acknowledging what I would consider an irrefutable fact about church leaders—that they occasionally get major points of doctrine wrong doesn’t need to shake your testimony. But it may reframe some of what you’re saying about the role of the church in our lives. Perhaps we were never meant to just take what we read in the scriptures or hear from the prophets and just follow it blindly. Perhaps when we say that we can pray to God about these things and receive a personal witnesses, we should actually mean it—and not tack on the unspoken caveat, “as long as the answer you get is the same as the prophet’s.” I realize that what I’m saying may sound like blasphemy to some, or excuses for picking and choosing the commandments I want to follow. But I don’t think we were ever supposed to remove ourselves from the process of continuing revelation. In the end, the atonement is a personal thing between you and the Savior. So it makes sense to me that the gospel itself may be more personal than we may have ever considered.

    • Luke Hopkin

      OW-Ok, you are correct in saying that the gospel is a very personal thing. The atonement is the most personal gift we will ever be given, and the gospel is the fact the Christ has performed the atonement. However, the church and the gospel are not synonymous. The church is a vehicle for delivering the teachings of the gospel, and administering the gospel ordinances. The church can’t do that effectively if it is splintered. divided, and left with out direct leadership. “Revelations” coming from various sources in the church would quickly lead to such lack of structure.
      Saying that the leaders were not in tune with the will of God relating to blacks and the priesthood is an assumption of ones opinion and nothing more. Why such was the case, simply hasn’t been revealed.

      • Julia Ann

        Which are you saying: That God really is racists and used his prophets to promote the racist agenda, or that he allowed his prophets to mislead the people and say it comes from him, “The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord” George Albert Smith

      • Luke Hopkin

        I’m not saying any of that. Some of it sounds pretty absurd. All I am saying is that you can have that opinion if you want, but just remember it is an opinion. There is nothing in any of the documentation, history, or revelations that gives the answer to why it was. President Young made the promise that one day they would have all of the blessings of the priesthood, and that was later fulfilled. God restricted the priesthood in Moses’ time also. Strangely we never make that connection.

      • Julia Ann

        I think the church made it pretty plain that the Policy on the Priesthood was pure racism.

        or for statement made by the church:

        The talk where President Young made that promise he also said, “a man who has has the Affrican blood in him cannot hold one jot nor tittle of preisthood;” The church didn’t use that quote for some reason in their statement. Link here:

        I’m sorry to keep commenting but your remarks show the nature of the Church that we are led to believe. They have controlled our knowledge of the history for so long and excommunicated anyone who questions their narrative. What did that piece of parchment really say? Not the Book of Abraham.

      • Luke Hopkin

        Your link to the news article is about your link to the article on the church website. So let’s skip the columnist’s narrative and her use of the word racism and go to the original – which I have read several times since the day of it’s posting. It does a nice job of lining out the events in the church and the events in America that are related to the issue. But it never says “this wasn’t revelation, it was just a bunch of racism”. So lets read it for what it says.
        Also the quote from President Young with “jot and title” doesn’t change anything. Sure it sounds kinda funny by today’s standards, but fits with in the announcement of the restriction of the priesthood.
        I have my own ideas about the parchment, but it doesn’t change the fact of the truthfulness of the book. We can always say things like “well where are the plates?”. The truth remains.

      • Julia Ann

        It never says, “this wasn’t revelation, it was just a bunch of racism” because the church leadership can’t admit that they “Led the Church Astray”. The unsigned 4 page statement that the church burried in their website, was (in my opinion) a technical way of saying, “Brigham Young was racist and the church kept up the tradition” I found more than 20 news organizations that read it that way.

        Elder McConkie said horrible, horrible things for years and then said, “Forget Everything that I said”. and yet remained an Apostle. So why do I need to watch 10 hours of General Conference when I have no assurance that the words of the apostles aren’t any more accurate? The answer is that I have a the Holy Ghost and a brain and the ability to decifer truth for myself. I refuse to just say, “The Apostles or the Prophet says it so I will follow” President Uchtdort’s talk in October said that church leaders are not perfect.

        I’ve enjoyed the mature discussion, but I must move on. Good luck in your pursuits.

      • nisha

        I have recently had questions about “the parchment” I too have my own ideas but would like to hear yours if you dont mind

      • James Hansen

        I must reply after reading your statements and agree with much of what you say but the question i have is that if you have the Holy Ghost and a brain and the ability to decifer truth for yourself and don’t need or believe what the LDS Prophets say is true then why have anything to do with the church period? I don’t get it, why all the discussion and drama when you can walk away and never look back. You obviously don’t agree with the foundations and history of this church so why stay? It’s kind of like a person staying with an abusive spouse when the only way they can move on and heal is to get away from them and rebuild thier lives to the plan they want and can grow and improve with.

        A lot of these comments seem like me argueing with my children why brockli is so nasty when they like the taste and i don’t. I can plead my case forever but it doesn’t change the fact that they like it and i don’t.

      • OW-OK

        Luke, how do you square this statement from an official letter from the First Presidency in 1949:

        “The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality…”

        With this statement from 2013:

        “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life.”

        It’s impossible to say that you believe both statements are true. To read the church’s most recent statement on race and come to any conclusion other than that the ban itself was a terrible mistake, takes a very selective reading. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a gotcha game. I’m a believing, practicing Mormon. But I don’t think it does us any good to pretend these very real issues don’t exist. Women who feel like there might be more opportunities in the church than they are currently being offered are not without precedent when it comes to a group of people being denied the priesthood and later having it extended to them. And given our history, they are not wrong to wonder if they can trust the words of the prophet at face value. If they’ve prayed about it, and received a personal witness that their activism, as you call it, is not evil, then who am I or you to tell them otherwise?

      • Luke Hopkin

        You are digging for bones that don’t exist. The document starts out with the statement “MAY BE understood”. Another way to say this would be “is possibly understood”. The next statement is “nope, that wasn’t the answer” so first it was that “this could possibly be the answer” and now it is “nope that wasn’t it” – it really isn’t as contradicting as you are making it seem. It is definitely not two opposing official revelations of the church.
        But lets take your logic and apply it fully. What you are saying is that these two statements prove that prophets can be wrong. And not just wrong in offering a doctrinal explanation that turns out to be inaccurate or assumed, but that they can be wrong in anything. Including, as I stated in the original post, quite possibly the most important thing related to the administration of the church on the earth.
        So because of this, it is appropriate for us to use activism tactics to put pressure on the brethren concerning a view that we personally have. And this is ok, as you said above, since we aren’t sure if we can trust the prophets because they have been wrong in the past.
        But the application of this logic can’t stop there. Lets keep it moving. As I stated before it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the priesthood is extended to women in the future. Lets imagine the day that the prophet stands at the pulpit and issues the statement “ordination to the priesthood will NOW be extended to the female members of the church”. But we’ve created our own paradox – because how can we now trust the prophet? I mean, he has been wrong before – right? We’ve already established that we don’t “trust the words of the prophet at face value.” So maybe he is wrong about extending the priesthood? If they were wrong about restricting, then they can be wrong about extending – right?
        By taking this step we have now turned the church into a political arena. We follow the prophet when we agree with him, and when we don’t agree with him we stage protests and start campaigns to let him know that we think he is wrong. The church has now just become a church of man.
        In this case it is even worse because we are talking about the activism of a significant minority. As of today, the Ordain Women Facebook page has just under 3,000 likes. Now we can’t expect that number to include everyone in the group. So lets multiply that by 10. Lets say they have 30,000 supporters. That is .2% of the total population of the church. NOT two-percent. but point-two-percent. But because of the effects of activism it would seem like the issue is much larger in scale. The way the media portrays it, the fact that the group has had a statement issued by a church spokesman, and even the fact that Elder Oaks addressed the issue in conference all make it appear that the issue is being brought by a much larger group than it is.
        So by following your logic we are proposing to change the office of the President of the Church into a politically influenced office, and the Church of God in to a church of man that has to respond to the activism of a fraction of 1% of it’s total population.
        THIS is why the church can’t be led by activism. There are thousands of causes out there that could pretty easily get .2% (and actually less in this case- really about .02%) of the population behind it with the right people leading the cause. All of this would lead to confusion and a constant circle of arguing and debate. It would probably lead to actual political divisions in the church – think “party politics” being applied in the church. Quite frankly the thought makes my stomach turn. I’ll take the Church of God and a true prophet over that situation any day.

    • Elti

      Wow. Love the way you were able to put this into words. Your last paragraph describes exactly how I have been feeling lately.

  • Julia Ann

    Let me begin by saying that I AM a believing member of the church and I AM NOT a supporter of the Ordain Women Movement. Having said that, it is clear that the church has a history of subjugating women. Joseph Smith married and had sex with women before Emma knew about it. Polygamy… nothing else needs to be said.

    When President John Taylor married a girl nearly 60 years younger than him, was that ordained of God?

    Clearly the church today treats women far better than in the 19th century but does the Sunday School president really need to be a man? Don’t you think a women would be able to enter names into the membership program? I have been in wards were the bishop asked women their opinion on lots of issues, as well as in wards where the Bishop would notify the Primary President who would be her teachers and was not interested in her opinion.

    My biggest contention with your message was that the President of the Church cannot lead the members astray. I think it is ironic that President Woodruff made that quote while lying to the government and the church membership that polygamy would end and then allowed plural marriage to continue in secret for another 13 years.

    The church has recently acknowleged that for 120 years the policy forbidding men and women of African decent the privileges of the Temple and the Priesthood was not one of revelation but racism. So 10 Prophets of god clearly did lead us astray. President Grant’s statements in 1949 were as racists as anything I have ever heard in my life.

    One more thing, we have become so Brain – Dead in the church when it comes to disputes. Even Joseph Smith allowed for real sustaining in the church. Remember the sustaining vote of Sidney Rigdon as a counselor? The membership voted against the wishes of the prophet. I’ve been a member of the church for nearly 60 years and I have only seen a negative vote 1 time in my life. Really?

    The Ordain Women’s Group have made a small difference. President Oaks talk last week is one indication of that. Change in the church moves slowly. We don’t live in a time or environment that is patient.

    Compassion on both sides is essential. Communication on both sides is essential. Since the church does not allow any form of dissension, those members who feel slighted will seek other ways to express themselves.

    • Luke Hopkin

      Julia, watch for an upcoming post about gender equality in the church. I don’t know what it will say entirely because it’s going to take some serious work for me to get it written, but I promised I would so I will.
      As for the individual grievances you have brought up against the prophets, I am not sure that I will be making any judgments towards President Taylor’s marriage, or Joseph’s bringing forth of polygamy, or what political maneuvering President Woodruf was involved in with a government that had already been outright hostile to the church. As has been stated before: we each need to develop our own testimony of the prophets and decide what that entails. I personally do not believe that the church has been lead astray, and I am thankful for the steadiness that prophets of God give as they strive to lead the church.

      • Julia Ann

        Luke, sorry about the harsh nature of my comments. I shouldn’t comment when I’ve had a bad day. As a church, we are sadly naive, and the narrative for 150 years has been one of unquestioning belief. Unfortately the internet and a generation of brilliant and articulate young people has made it difficult to continue ignoring the truly troubling (for me) aspects of our history. I had been a member well into my adulthood before I knew anything about racism, the Book of Abraham, Baseball baptism, polyandry or Zina Young. I served a mission and sent a son on a mission preaching that polygamy had ended in 1890. If the church is going to continue to grow, we will all need to repent.

      • Luke Hopkin

        I am sorry you’ve had a bad day. I hope tomorrow is awesome for you. I don’t pretend to know everything about church history, I am no historian. I know plenty, and all is not pretty, and I am ok with that. I’ll learn more and it won’t all be pretty and I am ok with that. it is nice to have more at our fingertips, that’s for sure. For both the beautiful and the not so beautiful. The awesome news of it all is that regardless of anything else that happens, has happened, or will happen – the atonement remains to guide, protect, and strengthen us.

    • Elti

      Julia Ann,

      I agree with you. It seems that any sort of questioning within the church is viewed as dissension and a lack of faith. You articulated it well when you said that the internet as well as many brilliant minds have brought up some legitimate questions. It’s not about having a lack of faith. For example, my testimony concerning the Book of Mormon, the temple, the priesthood, the atonement, are all firmly cemented in my life. But, sometimes I have questions that the typical pat on the back and “have faith, brother” don’t dispel. I’d rather hear what the brethren have to say about it instead of searching my answer out on the internet and seeing what the rest of the world things. But, when all is quiet from Temple Square?

      I also agree that compassion on both sides is vital. There are issues that are dividing the members of the church. Unfortunately, those who stand on the other side of certain lines are met with such disdain that they are deciding to leave or at least distance themselves from the church instead of trying to stay and communicate. I hope we see a change to this type of “all or nothing” thinking in my day. One can only hope.

  • Julia Ann

    Sorry to keep commenting but your photo at the top is of the Wisconsin State Capitol where men and women were protesting in 2011. It is a far cry from the few hundred women and men dressed “in their Sunday best” to attend the Priesthood session. No signs were allowed. Don’t embellish.

    • Luke Hopkin

      Not a comparison, or representation to Ordain Women, Julia. The post is about activism which I comment can be an very good thing in the political arenas. It’s simply a picture of activism. I specifically chose not to use any of the pictures from the events on Temple Square because I assumed the individuals involved may not want their picture on this post. On the other hand I did see comments from supporters of the event, OW members or not I do not know – heck I don’t even know if they were members, that were calling for an event that would be more like the one above.

  • Julia Ann


    With a day’s thinking and a much calmer attitude I wanted to write a few thoughts that might give you my perspective on your intended discussion of activism. Because of the hierarchical nature of Mormonism, people who have serious and genuine areas of concern feel that they have no place to go for answers and thoughtful discourse within a faithful environment.

    For example, the “race issue” in the church is a deep concern for many faithful LDS members. So where does one go for counsel and advice? I went to my Bishop and my Stake President and neither knew a single thing about recent church statements and were frankly incredibly naive about any related history. They said, “in 1978 everything got better” pray, have faith, etc.

    For many that works and I’m thrilled for those whose testimonies are that strong, but for me and I believe, more and more of our young people that is not enough. So where do we go next?

    I read the recent statement on Race and the Priesthood, but to be honest it sounds like a legal brief. In a sentence or two, how can it be summed up? a. God made the policy, man made up excuses for the policy, which we now know are wrong? b. Imperfect men made the policy and imperfect men continued the policy and now we know it is wrong. c. some other option.

    In many ways the Church is a public relations juggernaut. But here they fell short. If every major news organization considered it an admission of racism, but you and others, don’t see it that way then it wasn’t clear enough.

    Now to get back to the discussion of activism. If intelligent articulate people see legitimate reasons for change, where do we turn? If we have legitimate reasons to have doubts, where do we turn? Unfortunately in my opinion, in today’s world we go to the internet, and if you Google, “Race and the LDS Priesthood or Post Manifesto Polygamy” Which are legitimate issues, (in my opinion) the stuff you will find is harsh. So people become more worked up.

    I was told recently that I should only seek answers on the web site. Well that has next to nothing about these things. (There is almost no recognition of Joseph’s Plural wives for example) I asked about accessing FAIR and FARMS and I was told if they are not official church sites then to stay off them.

    So in summary (Really) I have no place to go. I’ve been “censured” asked by my bishop not to comment in Sunday school or RS and to stay off all the web sites. If anyone on Earth needed wisdom it is me. (James 1:5) I’ve prayed and fasted and walked hundreds of miles thinking, and none of this has gotten easier. So I create an anonymous account and ran into your post. This all frustrates me but I remain calm, but for others, their frustration turns into activism.

    P.S. I do wish you’d consider changing the photo. I’ll bet most people think that photo is from the Ordain Women “protest” and it was not remotely like that.

    I appreciate your calm and thoughtful remarks and advice. Your faith helps sustain me.

    • Luke Hopkin

      Julia Ann,
      Just for what it is worth, I would encourage you to enjoy what is on FAIR and FARMS. Of course with that little technical caveat that it is not cannon. I have enjoyed many of their wonderful videos, blog posts, articles, etc.
      The church could spend a lot of time publishing all kinds of details and research about past church history, but lets face it: they have to try hard enough as it is to teach us that porn is bad and we should read our scriptures. It would seem unwise for the church to give us a bunch of historical material. Not because it could potential blacken the church’s eye from time to time, but because the vast majority of us don’t even read the sunday school lessons.
      I think with the race and the priesthood article the church was being very specific to just give details. No excuses, no apologizes, and no revelation. It is just details surrounding the subject. Because, admittedly, we don’t know what all was in play or in the Lord’s plan.
      I very quickly, maybe too quickly, mentioned that bringing awareness is not a problem. The problem is when we give leaders ultimatums, disrupt events, intentionally act against specific direction from church officers, etc. It’s those activism tactics that is were we are getting into a dangerous area. The first “pants day” that was held I didn’t see as activism. I went into PEC that morning with a real concern and desire to make sure out sisters felt loved and appreciated. There is a difference. Awareness is probably harder and slower, activism is more appealing because it gets attention real fast and the papers love it.
      Also what do we expect from the leaders? If we don’t understand some historical event related to the church that sounds kind of iffy in our minds – we expect an official statement on it? That’s going to be a lot of official statements. What we really need is deeper relationships with Christ, the historical events are fun and interesting and important, but they most certainly won’t lead to salvation. I think the brethren try to focus on fostering those relationships with Christ.
      So sometimes “it got better, pray, have faith” might be a dismissal but it might also just be a leader who has members who are dealing with abuse, addictions, major sins, and so on – and that leader is just a person too.
      Here is how I handle my questions. I study them out from legitimate sources, realizing that for even major historical events that are well documented – “history” is a fluid thing. I make sure I am studying my scriptures at least as much as I am studying something historical. I let myself calming spend time pondering and learning more. I have not always come to a perfect conclusion but I have also never had anything damage my testimony. Stretch it a bit? Sure, damage no.
      Something that I have found that actually bothers me more, is that (as you say) we’ll go onto the internet and have discussions with people we have never met, that may or may not be who they say they are. But I can’t remember that last time that I sat down on the couch at church and had a deep meaningful gospel discussion with my friend. For some reason we just don’t talk as much as we should. I think this would be really helpful.

      • Elti

        Perhaps the reason why we don’t talk to our friends or close acquaintances about these things is because we’re afraid we might be viewed as doubting Thomases or dissenters from the ranks? You never know when a sincere question could land you in front of a council of your peers.

      • Meredith Cooper

        Luke, I think that you have misunderstood the purpose of Ordain Women. President Hinckley was asked the question in a public interview (found here: “Could the policy denying
        priesthood to women be changed, much like it was for black men?” and he responded, “Yes. But there’s no agitation for that.”

        Ordain Women is the agitation for “that.” That’s not activism. It’s simply heeding the call of the Prophet of the Lord to ask for the Priesthood in faith.

        Think about prayer – each and every one of your arguments could be applied to why we shouldn’t pray. Seriously, just change the word “church” for the word “Lord” in your post. When you do so, it will become clear why you don’t believe what you are writing – and you will fundamentally understand where Ordain Women is coming from.

        And we know who teaches us not to pray – and it’s not the Lord! Now, I don’t believe that you are anything like nor influenced by the adversary, but it’s worth noting. The Bible Dictionary teaches (in the second-to-last paragraph): “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them.” That is the fundamental premise of Ordain Women – securing the blessings of the priesthood that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.

        Full disclosure: Like you, I will also not be surprised when the Lord reveals his permission for women to hold the priesthood.


    • nisha

      From time to time, I find something that I can’t come to terms with about gospel teachings. Blacks and the priesthood, as you mentioned, is one of them. I’m a doctor and as such put a lot of weight into things that can be proven. The problem with the gospel and history, are one requires faith, and the other is written from a point of view – example Hitler from the U.S. point of view or Germany point of view. The point is, you get stories or perspective, but not necessarily truth, compound that with the internet in which you can post just about anything you want, and it all gets fairly confusing. Sometimes I do like to rock the boat a little in relief society, but when faced with gospel conundrums, I can’t rely on my “science” mind, I have to rely on the holy ghost. When I am researching polygamy, blacks and the priesthood etc… I spend as much time immersed in my scriptures as I do on “anti Mormon” literature. Especially scripture that focuses on the teachings of Christ. I weigh the way I feel when reading each as the juxtaposition is much more apparent when I read them in sequence. I also review my journals as there are times in my life when I received an answer through the holy ghost that can not be denied. When I read with the holy ghost in mind, especially with a remembrance of a time when the answer was clear, I come to peace with the principle even if my mind can’t find an exact answer. As for the current articles topic, women and the priesthood, I don’t have an issue feeling unequal as I feel the blessings of the priesthood every day, but I think when we believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, these are issues we talk about with those we can trust, we do are research at home, not with pickets and posters. We either except the gospel and the leaders or we don’t. We don’t get too change “policy” for the church of God, through the actions of men/women.

      • Julia Ann

        The “all or nothing” approach to the LDS church is not working for me. I feel the spirit and believe the Gospel is true, but I can’t allow myself to blindly follow every word that is spoken. The other problem with that approach is that if one thing is proven wrong, the assumption is that it all falls like a house of cards. I was almost 50 years old before I was told that the “Book of Abraham” had nothing to with Abraham. Is it better to teach our young people the truth about our history in a faithful setting or have them read about it in what you call anti mormon literature or web sites.

      • Elti

        Again, I completely agree. Just because we may have issue with one thing doesn’t mean we think everything else is false. Or, just because one thing might be wrong doesn’t mean everything else is wrong as well. I know that faith is important, but when someone has a legitimate concern about something in the church’s history, wouldn’t it be better to talk about it instead of ignoring it? Wouldn’t we be far better off facing those aspects of our history instead of trying to sweep them under a rug or justifying that “they new what they were doing”? I believed blindly my entire life. But now that I am starting to ask some questions–things that are really troubling and unsettling–I’m met with, “Well, just have faith.” What if Joseph Smith had have “just had faith” that there was no true church and that any one would suffice? Sometimes you have to know the truth so that the truth can se you free.

      • nisha

        I agree we should never follow anything blindly, but search it out with our hearts, minds and spend time going over them. I guess everyone is different but in a gospel that preaches modern revelation I have to believe it all or none. Either Joseph saw God or he didn’t, either the prophet is or isn’t a prophet of God. This doesn’t mean to follow blindly, not question or hide issues in the churches past. If a religion doesn’t claim to have modern revelation, but relies on interpretation of scripture I could more easily believe in the mistakes of men, but to claim it comes from God in my mind it either did or it didn’t

  • Delirious

    What bothers me most about activism in the church is that it disrupts the peace and reverence of those who are there to actually worship. Although someone may feel that a woman wearing pants to church to protest doesn’t disrupt anything, they should know that the women wearing dresses are feeling many things. The women wearing dresses are feeling concern that their children might be negatively influenced by this public display. They are feeling anger that a few women are campaigning for something that they themselves don’t want! They are feeling concern that these women might be on the road to apostasy. And the brethren and feeling unsure of how to handle the problem. They are probably also feeling dismay that this is done in a reverent church setting. With all of those feelings swirling around, I can assure you that everyone involved is having a hard time feeling the spirit. And this kind of activism can escalate. First is involves women wearing pants and ties to church. Next it will involve gay male members wearing dresses to church. Or perhaps it will involve another faction sitting backwards in church to protest certain doctrine. Activism should be done outside of church, not on church grounds. The separation of church and state goes both ways. People complain that religious people try to force their religion on to government. But when they try to force their political views (and yes, I view this as strictly political, led by women whose motives are more political than religious) on to the church, there is no difference. I do not buy the argument that it is an effort to open a line of communication with the church. The line has already been opened, and they have already received their answer. Any further activism should be viewed as acts of apostasy.

  • Ron_Madson

    This entire post presupposes one very false and spiritually unhealthy belief, i.e., that a mortal man, even one who holds the office of Presiding High Priest could not err or lead those who have placed their trust in him “astray.” That is simply unsupportable doctrine on so many levels and history has confirmed that reality over and over again. Joseph Smith understood that IF the people of this church placed their trust in any man, including one who holds the “office” of Prophet, that they would in fact be deceived and led astray. He read Ezekiel 14 at the first general conference of the church word for word and later read it to the Relief Society and explained that if we looked to “prophets” as the final source of truth rather than direct revelation from God that we would in fact be deceived. The D&C outlines a form of governance that does not place all confidence in the presiding high priest who can in fact be removed from office if need be. What the OW movement is doing is a very, very conservative movement in that they are requesting that the Presiding Elders inquire of the Lord and then tell them what is or is not God’s will rather than inquiring of themselves directly and letting their voice and conscience so govern them. Church governance is founded upon “voice and common consent in ALL things” and not to have any one mortal man, no matter his office, be the final word.

    • I believe the intended message is that the Lord will not allow his church as a whole to be led so completely off the path. I believe he makes allowances for mistakes because we are imperfect mortals.

    • Luke Hopkin

      I don’t propose that he can’t err in anything at all, but that he WILL lead the church correctly for it is in God’s interest that the church be lead correctly – and it is his very calling. And as you say he can be removed from office for it is “better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” But that is the Lords job not ours. Ezekial 14 does not contradict this post at all. It is simply stating that the prophet is not the source of salvation, we all know this. Think of Noah who was “perfect” but his entire generation was still lost. Not because he was “wrong” or in “err” but because we all reap our own condition by our own actions.
      Section 26 gives the Law of Common Consent as this: “And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith. Amen.” Note that is says “common consent” and not “common initiative” and that we are “receiving” both implying that the initiative comes from another source – that source most often being the prophet (D&C 1:38). But this also illustrates what I said in another comment: because of the effects of activism it would seem that extending the priesthood to women is a major issue in the church. Yet its supporters count for only a fraction of 1% of the population of the church. That is very far from common consent. If the cause was presented for common consent right now there would be a distinct lack of consent.

      Here is a great write up about Common Consent

    • Luke Hopkin

      I don’t propose that he can’t err in anything at all, but that he WILL lead the church correctly for it is in God’s interest that the church be lead correctly – and it is his very calling. And as you say he can be removed from office for it is “better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” But that is the Lord’s job not ours. Ezekial 14 does not contradict this post at all. It is simply stating that the prophet is not the source of salvation, we all know this. Think of Noah who was “perfect” but his entire generation was still lost. Not because he was “wrong” or in “err” but because we all reap our own condition by our own actions.

      Section 26 gives the Law of Common Consent as this: “And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith. Amen.” Note that is says “common consent” and not “common initiative” and that we are “receiving”, both implying that the initiative comes from another source – that source most often being the prophet (D&C 1:38). But this also illustrates what I said in another comment: because of the effects of activism it would seem that extending the priesthood to women is a major issue in the church. Yet its supporters count for only a fraction of 1% of the population of the church. That is very far from common consent. If the cause was presented, as it stands, for common consent right now – there would be a distinct lack of consent.

      Here is a great write up about Common Consent. It includes a great quote by Elder Packer ” We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see”.

  • Tom Davis

    I think we tend to forget one thing all to often and easily. I see myself doing so as well. All of this discussion we seek, and all of these answers we seek from other men are not what we have been led to believe where we should turn for answers.
    From as far back as I can remember I was always counseled to turn to the scriptures and Heavenly Father for answers.
    “Have faith” does not mean to blindly accept. “Faith” is a word of action. Joseph Smith had faith and what did that faith lead him to do? He turned to the scriptures and then separated himself from the world and then turned to Heavenly Father.
    We also fail to realize the true depth of the atonement that The Savior provided for us. That atonement also means we do not need to go through life with feelings of doubt/confusion. Those are feelings of suffering, not of joy, and Christ paid that price already.

    Do we have faith that we can turn to our Father in Heaven with any of our questions?

    Do we have faith that He will council with us as one of this believed children and answer our prayers/questions?

    Do we have faith to lean on that same atonement to calm us and help us be at peace in difficult and or confusing times?

    Do we know that Lucifer knows our weaknesses better than we do and that he will try to use those against us to make us suffer and doubt and rock our testimonies and faith?

    The church was not set up with a network of people to provide full support to every and all of our questions. We do have Bishops and leaders we can council with. Ultimately though, we must seek our answers from the source as that’s where our testimonies are built and established and not off of the words of man (though they can be enlightening and comforting.)

    So do you need a Prophet to give you the answer to your reason to activism, or do you truly believe that the Heavenly Father can answer those questions for you?

    I think that is why we are counseled to have faith, because it makes to turn to and establish/strength our personal relationship with our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ. We will then be at peace that His church is being guided and directed as it should be at this time.

    No one was ever able to give me a testimony that the Book of Mormon was true scripture, and I never had that true testimony for myself until, as a missionary in training at the MTC, I took that question/burden to HF on my knees, in sincere prayer, after study, and only after several nights of asking/demanding for an answer did I then get a personal witness of my own.

    There is no time and no place where one can feel more loved than when feels the arms of this Father in Heaven wrapped around them in a loving embrace know at that point knowing of His love for you because He has given you an answer to something that has troubled you and now you can move on in peace with a sure testimony. We should always remember we should call Home to talk for our Father regularly and in times of need as there in no better source for answers.

  • Randi

    I have spent much time thinking about this subject over the last week… praying, pondering, reading and praying some more. I admit that I see the arguments on both sides of the table and my heart aches for these women who want more. But, after all of my searching, the answer I came to could have been written up as a duplicate of what this man wrote. I don’t know if the priesthood for women is in God’s plan. There are certainly things in the early history of the church that would suggest such. I also cannot argue with these women raising the question… because if we do not ask, how will we ever gain knowledge? What I do have an issue with is the social activism that casts disparaging light on a church that these women profess to love. I do believe that there has to be a line between asking and searching for the answers to questions that are deep in our hearts and then trusting when the answer comes and it is contrary to what we want. Hopefully some calm can come to this situation and we, as church members, can love those who ask the questions as they go through this process!

  • ClifftonBeach

    “but we also know that God will not allow them to lead us astray.”

    yeah, as evidenced by the revelation on the priesthood not coming until 1978, and said revelation *needing to come at all*.

    “We are talking about the very power to act in the name of Christ. The
    system by which Christ directs His kingdom here on earth. It is hard to
    imagine something more important to the administration and leadership of
    the church than this subject. Yet we believe that the leaders are not
    in tune with the will of God on the matter?”

    It wouldn’t be the first time, as I’ve already alluded to. They don’t come out and say the previous policy was a mistake, but they do say they don’t know why it was there and it is gone now. I imagine we’ll hear something similar if they ever change their policy towards women

    If 1978 is anything to go by, change will come after they’ve made it clear they aren’t bending to pressure from outside (and inside) so it can be construed as revelation and not giving in, but which will end up being a bit of an albatross even after the change, due to how long it took

    • Julia Ann

      The more I read and think about the “Negro Policy” the more I realize that is wasn’t just racist… it was pure EVIL. As a church we go on and on about all the “saving ordinances” required for exaltation and yet for 140 years we forbid men and women and children of African decent to participate in them. This wasn’t just about leadership, it was refusing the them to enter the temple and participate in the blessing of the temple. Unbelievable ! It was EVIL.

  • Len Biz

    This is the problem when gender roles become blurred or misinterpreted by society.

    Women are NOT inferior in the church. They have different roles…and these roles are not “greater or lesser” than priesthood roles. That is a common, yet misguided, notion.

    All too often, it is the individual members of the church who place a “greater than or lesser than” value on church roles and callings. Somehow they believe that being a bishop is “better” than a nursery worker. Or a relief society president is somehow better or more worthy than a librarian. Even being the Prophet is not “better” than a Sunday School teacher. All roles are necessary for the spreading of the Gospel, so for male or female members to succumb to political ploys is truly disheartening.

    This activism is the unfortunate by-product of pride. Nothing more, nothing less. It is typical human nature to create dissension by claiming “inequality.” Inferiority complexes have a devastating effect on humans.

    Everyone has a role in the church. All roles are equal in the Lord’s eyes. What He is looking for is whether you magnify your role/calling. If the Lord came down to all these activists and said, “Why are you comparing yourself to your neighbor?”, how would they answer him?

    • Julia Ann

      Do you really believe that? Women are not inferior in the church? Then why are NO real decisions made by women? Why can’t women touch money? Why do men decide if you get excommunicated or not? When the nursery leader gets released they don’t have a special sacrament meeting and have her bare her testimony. We have pictures all over our church of MEN: Pres. Monson, Joseph Smith, First Presidency, Jesus, not a single picture of a woman. Why do we have to confess our sins to men? The Middle of the Ensign has the pictures of about 100 mostly white men. When the boy scouts need money the bishopbric passes out cards with a donation amount. The young women have to cook a big dinner. Keep dreaming !!

      • Len Biz

        Different roles does NOT mean inferior.

        Boy Scouts? Really? Why is it Nursery and youth have HUGE budgets, while Scouts rely on donations and service projects?

        You are worried about young ladies having to wait until 19 to go on a mission? Wow…why is that soooo terrible? A whole year longer than the young men!

        You are worried about photos of women? Why…are you an egomaniac?

        Bringing up the failures and shortcomings of church members (past, present, or future) accomplishes what? The church is not a museum of perfect spiritual people…it is a hospital to help the imperfect!

        Why do you confess to men? You confess to church leadership…once again, different roles. Women have just as important of a role as men do…your problem is that you compare yourselves to others because the inferiority complex is an individual trait. Instead of comparing yourself to others or believing that some roles are somehow more important, perhaps you should simply be thankful for YOUR role…which is every bit as important in God’s eyes.

        Pride is why you feel like you do. It’s pretty plain to see.

      • Julia Ann

        I will let your statement stand as written. You supported my arguments better than I could have.

  • Julia Ann

    Once again, please note that the photo at the top is of the protests at the Wisconsin State Capital in 2011, not as the author is trying to get you to believe of the women who were at the General Priesthood Session eariler this month.

  • Kendra

    Julia Ann and the other commentators, may I refer you to a speech given by Dean L Larson at the Oct. 1987 Gen. Conference. Looking Beyond The Mark.

  • eastofeden

    Thank you for writing this. These thoughts have been swirling in my head, but I had no idea of how I could ever express them.

  • tnt01

    Do they understand how the priesthood should be administered? Have you not read the extremely racist comments made by both prophets & apostles in the past, some during general conferences? The Church also just recently released a formal statement admitting that not allowing blacks to hold the priesthood had nothing to do with revelation, but was purely racist feelings from past Church leaders. So, yeah, I’d hope people don’t just accept whatever they hear about anything.

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