Clarifying an Important Point

Clarifying an Important Point December 31, 2014

Dear Friends,

I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity that the Patheos site provides to discuss some of the important matters those of us interested in Mormon studies currently face. Since I’m primarily concerned with historical criticism and the Bible, I don’t usually address the topic of LDS apologetics in a public blog. However, a variety of public posts have been made as of late with charges of “secularism” that have led to some concerns. Because these claims have affected individuals both professionally and personally, I felt a need to write a public post that offered an alternative perspective, and to do so in a way that shows how to help LDS youth in an age of increased secularism and information accessibility.

As is always the case, however, once one post is made, responses are given, which creates a need to continue the discussion. As important as these issues are, that’s something that I have neither the time nor the inclination to pursue long-term.

It’s important to me personally, however, that I am very clear regarding a specific matter that William Hamblin has posted. Citing my entry, Hamblin states that I believe that Church leaders are wrong about homosexual marriage. I need to state emphatically, however, that my post NEVER makes that assertion. I completely support LDS leadership on this and every other topic.

Then taking a comment from my post out of context, Hamblin claims that I “advise” that we should “remind youth that [Church] leaders have made mistakes in the past and that if [liberal Mormons are] correct, that supporting same-sex marriages is the correct moral path, then the Church will eventually make changes similar to those related to the Priesthood ban.”

Hamblin’s post gives the impression that I encourage advising youth generally that Church leaders may be wrong on this matter. I don’t believe that, and I have never done so in my life. When read in context, my post does not make that assertion. I was addressing how one might counsel youth who are considering leaving Mormonism because they have come to support same sex-marriage as the morally correct position to hold. I was not, as Hamblin’s post suggests, advising that we counsel all youth along those lines, nor did I suggest or even imply that Church leaders ARE, in fact, wrong.

Imagine that we’re not talking about “youth” in general, but instead your son, daughter, or grandchild; that he or she is leaving the Church over this issue. As a believer in the truthfulness of Mormonism and the blessings that come by living a life in accordance with the inspired counsel of church leaders, wouldn’t you do everything possible to help your child continue attending Church and receive the blessings of the Gospel in her life? I hope that what I have offered might be of some help to a father, mother, or grandparent facing this dilemma.

It is essential, however, not to separate one point from the list I provided in my post (the way Hamblin does) and miss the larger argument. I wasn’t suggesting that those who come to a moral conviction that something Church leaders advocate is wrong and who are considering leaving Mormonism should simply remain patient until the Church changes. My point was that the person should be encouraged to continue exercising faith and patience until either he or the Church receive further light and knowledge on the matter. This course has worked in the past for those who opposed the Priesthood ban.

But together with this point, when counseling youth on the verge of leaving Mormonism, we should advise them that they need to be humble and to recognize that they may be wrong on this matter and Church leaders correct. I explained that we should help them recognize that part of being spiritually minded is remaining open to the reality that we’re not always correct in our moral convictions. As I pointed out, we should remind them that we need prophetic guidance to act as a guide by which we can question our own assumptions.

I want to help struggling members stay in the Church. And I believe that this is a more effective way to approach this specific challenge than to paint the person into a corner where she must choose between her Mormon faith and her moral convictions. I hope that what I offered will help a father, mother, or grandparent working with this issue.

Friends, let us have discussions on these important matters so that we can help one another. But in so doing, it is essential that we do so with love and charity, never twisting each other’s words to mean something that they don’t. I hope that this post makes clear that I made far different points than the ones Hamblin suggests.

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