Processing General Conference: Prophetic Infallibility and Inequlity

A few months ago, as I explained some of my issues with certain Church policies, I was asked:

“Do you believe the prophet and the apostles speak the words of God?”

The honest answer, which I gave with a sigh was, “I’m not always sure.”

General Conference

Do I believe these guys are prophets and inspired men? Sure. Do I think they’re always right in everything that they say? Even from the pulpit? Not so much.

When you know that doctrine and Church policy change on a regular basis, and when you consider the political good times (inside and outside the Church) during the McKay presidency and beyond, it’s hard to feel entirely comfortable with the idea that these men will never, ever lead the Church astray. At the very least, I know many in the LDS Church that, when confronted with the possibility that leaders may come out and say something now that could be completely reversed in anywhere from 20 to 150 years, take comfort in the idea that if you just follow along, you’ll be blessed for being obedient.

While I understand that in theory, it doesn’t really work for me. We’ve been given intelligence and agency. It seems strange to me that the “thinking is done” when one of the higher ups speak, and I derive no comfort from the idea that doing something counter to my conscience will be deemed ok in the end because I did it while following the prophet. And, even if he does turn out to be wrong and Church doctrine/policy/whatever is backtracked, I won’t be held accountable for doing the wrong thing, because it’s on him. Or it’s on God, because God told him so. That’s cool if it works for you. I’m just in a different place with my faith, and it’s hard for me to accept that whole outlook. It’s clearly something I need to work on.

So, probably because of my hangups, it felt like there were a lot of General Conference talks about following prophets and what-not this go. And, in fact, the two that stood out to me most (being back-to-back) were from Russell M. Nelson and Carol F. McConkie. There were some other allusions to obedience and prophetic infallibility sprinkled throughout General Conference, no doubt in response to the current quasi-underground (but kind of public because it’s on the Internet) upswell in dissent going around.

But, yeah, I have a few issues with the idea that fallible mortals are suddenly made infallible. Even the idea that the Twelve + First Presidency act unanimously is tough to swallow when you look at how often many leaders were at loggerheads over matters of policy, priesthood, and doctrine. You get in there, and the subtext is that, sure, there are joint statements of whatever, but how many people had to be browbeaten into acquiescence to make it so? (Of course, this seems much less likely today, since there are fewer Hugh B. Brown-style progressives populating the hierarchy.)

But I try to live as I should, even when I wonder if I belong here, or if another place (or no place) might make a better spiritual home. I try to be (mostly) obedient, although there are just some things I can’t get behind — or even stomach. I think we all have things we struggle with and that we’re working on. I’m working through my issues, and hanging in there, but that’s my main faith issue right now.

Love Elder Holland

At any rate, when I wonder what I’m doing here, I can cling to Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk. Because my goodness, an apostle just checked his privilege, and encouraged the rest of us to do so as well. He talked about inequality and the poor, and how we should be doing more. This was very encouraging to me since, just the week before, I passionately spoke up in Sunday School about how one of the condemnations of our day is that we don’t care for the poor.

I mean, when you look at Biblical exhortations to care for the poor, you see far more of that than you do railing against the gays. There’s also much more about caring for others in our other Standard Works than there is worry about homosexuality, yet we seem obsessed with what those pesky gays are up to, and we’re determined to stop them. It doesn’t seem right.

So it was nice to get a reminder from a General Authority, in General Conference, that we should be acknowledging that many of us benefit from privilege, and that all we have isn’t just due to how awesome we are. And that we should do something about the fact that others just aren’t as lucky. It helps me feel like maybe I do have shared values with the Church.

Yay warm fuzzies. Or something.

What did you think of General Conference? What jumped out at you this time?

2 Responses to Processing General Conference: Prophetic Infallibility and Inequlity

  1. I struggled with it. I just couldn’t get past the pit in my stomach over all the talks that seemed to be geared toward ‘obeying’ & ‘staying in the boat’. I listened to all of the Sunday morning session – and then attempted to watch the Sunday afternoon session, but had to stop and distance myself.

    • It really is a hard struggle for many of us, especially those of us who have a little more trouble conforming. It’s especially difficult when you KNOW that something could change later. It seems like there is an increasing emphasis on the Church as an institution, rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that is a little hard, too.

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