Wednesday, December 29

Spiritual Paradox: the 4th Day of Christmas

I like to have all the right answers. But today a guy asked me a question that made my blood run chill. "What would you do if God commanded you to find a husband?"

I told him I honestly didn't know, and the conversation shifted to safer topics. I tried to convince myself that God couldn't do such a thing, as it went against everything I had ever known to be true. But in the back of my mind I wondered about my unanswered question. What would I do? As I thought, I realized that my question was about more than just gay marriage - it cut to the core of living life by the Spirit and following counsel received by prophets. What would I do if the Spirit prompted me to do something contrary to the teachings of the prophets - anything at all? It may never happen. But it has - Nephi was commanded to kill Laban. Abraham was commanded to kill Isaac. And black men were prompted to ask for the Priesthood before the Lord had made it possible. God could prompt me to do anything at all. What would I do?

I know that God will answer any personal question with a personal answer... and so this afternoon I asked Him to help me answer this one - if not for me, for anyone who feels torn between promptings of the Spirit and the teachings of the prophets... torn between wanting to follow God's personal counsel, and knowing how to follow it.

The first thing that came to mind was the importance of knowing the voice of the Spirit. Even the devil can appear as an angel of light... so my first step would be determining if the revelation truly came from God... and would involve a whole lot of fasting, prayer, scripture study, temple attendance, blessings, and meditation.

If the answer still held, and God still prompted me to move forward, I'd go on to the next step. Elder Uchtdorf's talk on divine lines of communication this conference emphasizes that all revelation and truth can and must be reconciled using two lines of communication. That is why we have two lines - so that, in difficult situations where issues are unclear, we can receive revelation from multiple sources.

So I would check using the Priesthood line - talk with my bishop, stake president, and anyone else who could receive revelation on my behalf. I'd explain the situation honestly and sincerely, and ask them to pray and confirm what I had learned from God.

If my Priesthood leaders confirmed what came through the personal line, then I would go forward with faith. If they did not, then suddenly I would be faced with a spiritual paradox. The Spirit tells me to do one thing; the leaders of the Church tell me to do another. Which do I follow?

This is the heart of the matter - do I follow God or His Church?

As I thought through this question, I was reminded of the many talks this conference that referenced the 14 truths about the prophet. Among them, the prophet can speak on any topic... and the prophet will never lead the Church astray. Ultimately this question, and my ultimate loyalty, hinges on one question - whether the Church is truly God's Church, and whether Thomas S. Monson is His prophet. Because if the Church is true, and Thomas S. Monson is a prophet, then what he teaches is true... and the Church has the authority and responsibility to guide how I live my life to enable me to receive salvation. In that case, the right thing to do will always be within the bounds that the Lord has set through His prophets. And if the Church isn't true? Then I have a much bigger problem.

I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet... and I know the Church is true. I've asked, and God answered me... and so I know that God will never lead His prophet astray, and that His prophet has the authority to receive revelation on my behalf. So what would I do? I would continually check the personal line of revelation and do what the faithful black members of the Church did as they waited for the Priesthood. I would follow God's commandment to me as far as I could within the doctrine of His prophets... and then I would wait for God to make the next move.

But my waiting wouldn't be for the Church to change - it would be to receive guidance in my own life to do what was right, paired with a willingness to submit to all His commandments, and prayers for God's oracles. Maybe He would change doctrine... and maybe He would change the commandment He gave me...

Commandments aren't always given with the express purpose of keeping them. I would try to look beyond His commandment and understand its purpose, since God gives me commandments to teach me critical principles of the gospel. In the scriptures there are examples of commandments the Lord never intended His children to keep. Abraham was not commanded to kill Isaac so that Isaac would die; he was commanded to test his faith and prove to himself that he would follow God in all times and in all places. That didn't change the commandment, though... or the requirement for Abraham to be completely willing to follow God no matter what. In my own life the Lord has often given me directions that seemed confusing or strange, only to change directions again in the future.

And so perhaps the commandment was given, not to be fulfilled, but to point me in the direction the Lord needs me to go, today, in order to accomplish His will. Maybe having the goal in mind to keep His commandment would enable me to be a better missionary and share the gospel, or motivate me to become a better person as a whole, so that God could give me more direction.

Ultimately, if God commanded me to do anything against the doctrine of the Church, and I knew the prompting came from God, then I would follow His commandments. I'm grateful to know that the Lord has called a prophet today who speaks to God on my behalf... and that the onus of receiving guidance from the Lord is not mine alone. I would follow the promptings the Lord had given me as far as I could within the guidelines set by the prophets... and then wait and pray to see what God did next in my life - if He changed the doctrine and commandments of His Church, wanted me to simply wait and learn patience, or if He turned me in another direction once I had learned the lessons I needed to learn by moving forward.

It all comes back to that - if the Lord has established His Church as an authority here on the Earth, and if He is guiding the Church through a modern prophet, then I can and must follow the teachings of the prophet to the ends of the Earth, for, in God's words, a prophet's teachings are the words of the Lord, and the prophet is given the ultimate authority to receive revelation in my behalf. If he is a true prophet, then his counsel, as the authoritative voice of the Lord, will always be the ultimate will of the Lord in my life. With that knowledge, I have a lens to see how to follow God's commands in my life.

Thank Heavens for answers to prayers... what began as an awful question became an opportunity to learn an important principle for my life. Whenever I receive any commandment from the Lord, I will do my best to follow it and all the commandments God has given - melding my prompting within the bounds that He has set through His prophets. I will follow Him with faith, and He will take care of the rest.

I forgot one sort of important part. At the moment I realized I would have to wait for God to give further direction - either to me or His prophet, I wondered how that would work. The answer - "You don't receive doctrine for the Church... and so that is not your concern. Keep my commandments, follow the prophet, and I'll take care of everything else."


  1. Whether President Monson is a true prophet or not is indeed an important question. In my opinion, some of the lines of reasoning that you use in your post above are predicated on two assumptions that are common in the Church. The first assumption is that there are only 2 answers to the question of whether so-and-so (today, Pres. Monson) is a prophet of God, or whether some other doctrine is true or false. Actually, in the case of a prophet's "truthfulness", there are at least three possible answers to that question: yes, no, and partly. The second assumption implicit in your line of reasoning is that if one believes to be true one component of a set of theological beliefs, then all other tenets belonging to that set of beliefs are also true. For example, we've often church refrain, 'if Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God, then the Book of Mormon must also be true'.

    In my opinion, those two assumptions make a lot of difference to a person's faith and reaction to the Church. Examining the assumptions is important, but Church culture gives little attention to their examination.

    I am personally not convinced that either of those assumptions are necessarily true. They might be, but it seems unlikely. First, few questions in life have only 2 possible answers. For example, few scientific outcomes are solely the result of one or another factor. Important causal factors can often be identified after study of a given problem, but answers are often complex and causes are numerous. Furthermore, most scientific "truths" are applicable to particular scales in time or space or particular perspectives. Newton's laws are "true" for planetary motion, but fall apart for phenomena at the atomic level. Thus, Newton was not necessarily a true physicist or a false physicist - he was brilliant, but was only a partly true physicist. Moving on to people, few choices we make in life probably consist of only one right and one wrong path. There might be numerous career choices one might make that would provide an income and personal growth. Again, no person is completely sinful or completely righteous, actually we all fall somewhere in the middle.

    The second assumption is that all of the doctrines in Mormonism, as far as the question of their truthfullness is concerned, are inextricably linked. This is like saying that because one dish served by a certain cook at dinner (the one dish that I've smelled, tasted, experienced and eaten) is delicious, all the rest must be delicious too. That could be the case, but too much salt could also have been added to one of the dishes. In the case of the Church, there is no a priori reason that all of the doctines must be accepted together or rejected together. Joseph Smith may have been divinely inspired with respect to some doctrines, but he may have been influenced by 19th century culture, assumptions or prejudices with respect to other doctrines. The Book of Mormon may contain many spiritual truths, but it may not be historically true. In no other realm of life - science, politics, psychology - do the majority of people feel compelled to either accept or reject the whole lot. Mormonism is curious in that culturally, it asks people to take the whole deal, 100%.

    I think that both of these assumptions above come from a tendency in the Church to dichotomize many phenomena: truth/error, Zion/"the world", morality/immorality, male/female. For me, those dichotomies represent a perspective that is fundamentally rooted in antagonism and which gives inadequate attention to the complexities of life. I am not arguing that dichotomies cannot exist or that they do not provide some benefit, but I think that they often only reveal part of the story and that they can be given too much attention.

  2. As a follow up to my post about assumptions, I also should note that I appreciate your thoughtfulness on this blog.

  3. Anonymous:

    I agree. There are inherent assumptions in my argument. But, in my perspective, they're pretty logical.

    1st: Whether doctrines are true, and whether President Monson is a prophet. Saying that the world is not white and black gives color and complexity, but, in my mind, also discounts our ability to apply principles to certain situations. If you look at a gray piece of paper, it is composed of thousands of black dots on white paper. Is the paper white or black? It's gray - and so the right question in that case would be, "Is this (relevant) portion of the paper white or black?" When you get close enough to a problem, choices always either lead you towards God or away from Him - seventy good choices for a career lead you towards Him; seventy immoral ones lead you away. Sometimes all the choices are good choices. With that perspective, the question of whether President Monson is a prophet includes the implied question of whether he has the authority to pronounce doctrine on this topic, and whether that doctrine is true - which in this case would mean universally applicable. The more global question of if he is a true prophet is like asking if the paper is completely white... and, while it may only happen rarely, I've asked God that question, and I believe that President Monson is a true prophet.

    2: The second assumption is implicit because it is a Church doctrine. "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God." If the Church, as composed by its doctrines, is completely true (meaning that each individual doctrine is universally applicable when correctly applied in the correct context) then, by definition, the doctrines of the Church are universally applicable in their respective contexts. And yes, the Church does claim 100% - which means that at least that claim is black or white. Either the Church is 100% true, or it is less than 100%. Either what President Monson teaches, on this subject and others, is always the word of God, or it is only sometimes His word.

    I agree that dichotomies can sometimes obscure complexity, especially when they are used in stereotypes. But carefully constructed investigations, like asking God if the (teachings of the) Church is (100%) true, allow us to receive large-scale answers to guide our search for truth. It's like asking if the paper is white. It may be white, it may be black or gray. But if it is white, even if white papers are rarer than rare, knowing it is white gives me a wealth of information, and means i no longer need to make correlative assumptions. Again, it comes down to the same question. I've asked the question to know if President Monson is a true prophet or not - whether everything he teaches as the will of the Lord is, in reality, the will of the Lord. While it may not be probable, I know he is a true prophet - which by definition means he cannot lead the people of God astray.

    Thanks for your comment.

  4. I can see why you would be prompted to start this blog, and for now, keep it alive...

    You put so much thought into the questions you ask the Lord! I am sure that is how He wants us to be when we approach Him with our problems, whatever they may be.

    I am amazed at how well you have tackled such an issue. I have been confronted with the same question, What if God asked med to do something contrary to the Church's standards? And never had a better answer than, "That wouldn't happen!" Yours is definitely better, so thank you!

    Thank you, especially, for even showing us that we can take such matters to the Lord. I sometimes just tell Him, "Can we just have the Second Coming NOW!" ;)

  5. WOW, This is a very interesting topic. In fact my husband tried to use this argument when he left the church. He said, "What if the Holy Ghost told me the Church is NOT true, but told you it was true?" I echo many of the apostles of the last Conference that is not possible. Truth is truth, and it is eternal. It would be impossible for the Holy Ghost to tell me that Gravity is not true.

    I want to add my solemn testimony that the Plan of Salvation is real. It is built on the sacred foundation of procreation between a man and a women; to act in Gods name as our Creator.

  6. The interesting thing to me is how people will try to prove or dissprove the gospel using only logic. One thing I have learned in my life is that logic can be shown over and over in any circumstance, but that doesn't always convince someone of anything. If you (poeple in general) are looking for a testimony and using logic only, you will fail. If you are looking to prove to others that thier testimony is false using only logic, you will fail. Logic is definantly important when finding truth, but it is not the only tool. The spirit does not speak to us in a logical way (at least what is considered logical in an earthly sense). The spirit speaks to our soul, it reaches us on a deaper level then logic ever will. That is why members of our faith do not just throw away our testimonies over a simple case of what is logical and what is not. Remember at one time all the logical people in this world thought the world was flat, they thought men would never fly and it was imposible for a virgin to become pregnant. All things that are now known or are scientifically possible. God knew those things were possible from the begining of time. Man's knowledge of Science and Logic change often and rapidly, but simple Faith in God has not changed.

  7. Part 1:

    Hey GMG,

    First I would like to offer a brief correction, The talk in question was from Elder Oaks, not President Uchtdorf. And in reviewing the talk (linked above) I found this line quite appropriate to the discussion:

    "The personal line is of paramount importance in personal decisions and in the governance of the family. Unfortunately, some members of our church underestimate the need for this direct, personal line. Responding to the undoubted importance of prophetic leadership—the priesthood line, which operates principally to govern heavenly communications on Church matters—some seek to have their priesthood leaders make personal decisions for them, decisions they should make for themselves by inspiration through their personal line. Personal decisions and family governance are principally a matter for the personal line." (emphasis mine.)

    Perhaps we are interpreting Elder Oaks' talk differently, but in reviewing the whole thing the general principle is on the use of both lines with the preeminence given to the Personal line and a caution against using the personal line to shun "organized religion". This line establishes what I am talking about:

    "Relying entirely on the personal line, they go their own way, purporting to define doctrine and to direct competing organizations contrary to the teachings of prophet-leaders. In this they mirror the modern hostility to what is disparagingly called “organized religion.”

    This appears to be a caution against relying upon the personal line with total rejectance of the priesthood line to the point at which we define Church Doctrine or create our own organizations or Church's. As that is not the subject of the question, nor does it come into play in the answer I think that the Personal line takes dominance. As further proof of this I submit the following quote from another of Elder Oak's talks The Dedication of a Lifetime:

    "If you feel you are a special case, so that the strong counsel I have given doesn’t apply to you, please don’t write me a letter. Why would I make this request? I have learned that the kind of direct counsel I have given results in a large number of letters from members who feel they are an exception, and they want me to confirm that the things I have said just don’t apply to them in their special circumstance.


    "If you feel you are an exception to what I have said. As a General Authority, it is my responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.

    "The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this same thing in another way. When he was asked how he governed such a diverse group of Saints, he said, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves” (in John Taylor, “The Organization of the Church,” Millennial Star, Nov. 15, 1851, 339). In what I have just said, I am simply teaching correct principles and inviting each one of you to act upon these principles by governing yourself."

  8. Part 2

    Given the additional perspective that these are both Elder Oaks' words and not a different GA or Apostle saying something different, I feel that it is clear that the Personal line is meant to be used for clarifications to times when you are an exception. The question posed to you is just such a case and, per Elder Oaks, should not be brought within the Priesthood line individually but only in as much as it does not make you affected by organized religion and seek to define Church-wide doctrine or establish a new organization.

    As to the 14 truths of the prophet I think it is important to take a look at the context of the original talk from which this conference did quote so often. The talk was given by then Elder Benson on Tuesday, February 26, 1980 at Brigham Young University. The Church released the following statement in May of 2007 to clear up what is doctrine and what is not:

    "Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted."

    Then Elder Benson's talk on the 14 truths is a "single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion" and thus would constitute a "personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church." Thus we need to look at the context of the address. After he gave that address, President Kimball even counseled Elder Benson against those things and it led to Elder Benson making a statement to the full quorum of the 12.

    Sure, it was quoted in General Conference this year, but it was taken without the context that the Church says is needed for "single statement[s] made by a single leader on a single occasion".

  9. Part 3

    I do not doubt that Thomas S. Monson is a Prophet of God. Your statement "In that case, the right thing to do will always be within the bounds that the Lord has set through His prophets. And if the Church isn't true? Then I have a much bigger problem" does not logically follow that belief. As I pointed out above, The difference in Personal line and the Priesthood line are used for completely different purposes. Brigham Young in Journal of Discourses 1:78 states:
    "Let us be kind to each other, and cultivate the spirit of peace, and seek diligently to know the will of God. How can you know it? In matters pertaining to yourselves as individuals, you can obtain it directly from the Lord; but in matters pertaining to public affairs, His will is ascertained through the proper channel, and may be known by the general counsel that is given you from the proper source." (emphasis mine)

    Your own conclusion/edit you state that the answer was "The answer - "You don't receive doctrine for the Church... and so that is not your concern. Keep my commandments, follow the prophet, and I'll take care of everything else."" I feel that that perfectly encapsulates the need to follow the Priesthood line, but that is only half of the source of revelation. As has been said countless times, the Personal line is meant for personal experiences not for the doctrine of the Church. The question presented to you was not about doctrine of the church but instead about your personal life.

    If we were to apply the same guidelines you set above to examples in the scriptures then Nephi would not have slain Laban, Abraham would not have taken Jacob up the mount in the first place. Your point made early in the post "That is why we have two lines - so that, in difficult situations where issues are unclear, we can receive revelation from multiple sources." I believe misunderstands the principles of the two lines. Two different sources of revelation present separate revelations, some for the Church and the public, and others for the Personal. I recognize that this was an academic experiment or a hypothetical situation, but the answer you have given gives me concern.

    Thanks for reading this long post and I hope to hear a response soon.

  10. David -

    Thanks for catching the link to Elder Oaks' talk, and for your comments. Ultimately, my allegiance lies with God. The covenants I have made to support and sustain the Church were with Him - not with anyone else - and are representative of my allegiance to His will. If He asks me to do anything, I'll do it. The point of the post was determining how to interpret and follow personal revelations based on doctrinal principles already taught by the prophets - not trying to find a doctrinal basis to not listen to or follow the promptings of the Spirit. If the Lord told me to do anything - sacrifice Isaac or kill Laban, even if it meant losing my dreams or exile forever from my homeland, the only righteous option I would have would be to follow the commandment received from the Lord.

    What the Lord reveals to me as His will is His will in my life - even if I don't completely understand it. And if it ever happens that He asks me to do something that I don't understand, as has happened in the past, I have faith that the prompting that comes will also come with the gifts of the Spirit - peace, hope, understanding. The Lord and His guidance have never led me astray, and He never will. Wherever and however I can, I will follow the teachings of the prophets. But if I end up being an exception to the rule? Then God Himself, if I am truly listening and following His counsel by the Spirit, will help me to make whatever choice is ultimately right.

    Thanks again for your thoughts.

  11. GMG,

    I guess that this paragraph from your OP had me confused:
    "Ultimately, if God commanded me to do anything against the doctrine of the Church, and I knew the prompting came from God, then I would follow His commandments. I'm grateful to know that the Lord has called a prophet today who speaks to God on my behalf... and that the onus of receiving guidance from the Lord is not mine alone. I would follow the promptings the Lord had given me as far as I could within the guidelines set by the prophets... and then wait and pray to see what God did next in my life - if He changed the doctrine and commandments of His Church, wanted me to simply wait and learn patience, or if He turned me in another direction once I had learned the lessons I needed to learn by moving forward."

    From my interpretation of that and other conversations we have had via email, I must have misinterpreted that to be that you would Follow the contradictory revelation as far as possible while still staying in the guidelines of the Church, Not the other way around.

    From the bold statement above it seems that you would hesitate to follow the Lord's command until you were either prompted and guided further by Him and that guidance seems to take the form of either a change in the commandment or a a change in the Church-wide doctrine. Your response to my comment seems to indicate otherwise.

    This section worries me as well: "and then wait and pray to see what God did next in my life". We know, all too well the stories of those who hesitated to do the Lord's command. Jonah in-particular comes to mind. What would we have if Nephi continued to hesitate and didn't slay Laban in the time-frame that would have allowed him to remove the body and take his clothes? What would happen if Abraham had hesitated for a few days? Would he have been as blessed?

    I am reminded of James 1:6 that predicates wisdom upon unwavering faith. I guess my question is this: Yes or No, if The Lord told you to marry a husband (and you knew it was from God) would you fully commit yourself to that path?

  12. This is a thoughful discussion; I wish that my elder's quorum discussions had a little more intellectual heft to them like this...

    After thinking about this exchange some more, I think that there is third assumption that is germane to your original post. That assumption is that when we (as mortals) receive a spiritual prompting from the Holy Ghost about some topic, that we will actually interpret the scope, scale and applicability of that prompting correctly. In other words, the assumption is (or could be) that there is a direct translation between the spiritual communication we receive and the subsequent thoughts in our mind. Suppose in prayer that I receive an impression that God exists. Because I have accumulated several decades of knowledge about religion, science and lots of other miscellaneous things, I might quickly translate that impression into a belief that God, with such-and-such gender, such-and-such disposition, and such-and-such character now exists. But perhaps all the original divine communication was intended to convey was simply that God exists. In every day life we extrapolate things all the time. (My boss, said such-and-such so she must not think I'm doing a good job right now...) In spiritual matters, interpretation can be affected by our own set of pre-existing beliefs, our own limited experiences and knowledge and our own personal biases. Where does that leave us? ...well, with less that pure knowledge. It means that the "personal" line of revelation is valuable, but tenuous. Unfortunately, we need the personal line of revelation to (1) get personal revelation about personal items and (2) to get personal revelation about the veracity of the Prophet so that we can let him speak for the Lord to us on all general matters. So, as I'm sure you'd agree, the clarity of our spiritual eyes is paramount. Where we might disagree, perhaps, is in our degree of trust in that clarity. I'm personally not confident/faithful/believing enough to trust that I am necessarily interpreting spiritual communications correctly.

  13. I think that seriously questioning these 3 assumptions (none of which I believe are really that tenable, if we apply what we know from every day experience) and being open to the possibility that the Church is not 100% true, has at least 4 benefits. (1) We are liberated from being defensive as a people. I think that if we look carefully, we'll see a lot of defensiveness in the Church. Some members handle that better than others. Many of us are uncomfortable with certain older Church practices and beliefs (polygamy, etc). Some are also uncomfortable today with how the Church has handled homosexuality and same-sex marriage. So there is the potential to be defensive. If one feels free to state (at least internally) that "Maybe denying blacks the priesthood until 1978 was a mistake", then I think that the tendency for defensiveness in
    our culture diminshes. (2) A second advantage of being willing to accept that some Church teachings may not be totally true, or may have limited applicability (recall my points about Newton in my first comment), is that it lessens the internal mental tension that can sometimes arise between religious tenets and conclusions reached by reason (mainly science). Thus, if I feel that President Monson is a prophet (an inspired leader), but don't believe that I must as a correlary accept every other part of historical and current Mormondom, then I am free from believing the more irrational appendages of our religion. (3) Reinterpreting these 3 common assumptions can create a space in which a member of the Church can focus on gospel basics. If we feel compelled to accept 100% of Church doctrines, many of us have to do some mental gymnastics. We feel compelled to do things like putting hard questions "on the shelf", defend older policies (like polygamy) that we don't have a strong testimony about, etc. Any such efforts to deal with these appendages take energy away from the basics, which are the reason that I think the vast majority of us are attracted to the church in the first place. (4) Abandoning that idea that all doctrines of the Church are inextricably linked (i.e., that a testimony of one doctrine must imply that all related ones are true too), enables us to examine each doctrine one at a time. Well, this is hard work. Thus it may not be popular for some. But this gradual growth in the end probably leads to more
    confidence in divine communication than a single spiritual event from which we draw the conclusion that all of Mormonism is true.

    Happy New Year.

  14. David -

    I asked God again for the answer to your question. This was His response to me.

    Marriage is a Priesthood ordinance that takes place by the power and authority of God, as performed by God in the case of Adam and Eve, thereafter given to His servants on the Earth. In our day, marriage takes place in holy temples. It is an ordinance that has been revealed by God through His prophets as being between man and woman. There is no ordinance of marriage between man and man.

    Commanding me to marry a husband would, as God has taught, also require Him to prepare a way whereby I could righteously keep that commandment and inherit all the blessings of exaltation. In this case, since marriage is the exalting temple ordinance, that would entail changing the doctrine of the Church on eternal marriage, exaltation, eternal families, the law of chastity, and the divine and eternal roles of gender, then also changing each of the temple ordinances - washings and anointings, the temple endowment, and the temple sealing ceremony. 

    Doctrine in general has been changed to best teach principles of the gospel to God's children according to their circumstances - the Lord gave the Law of Moses to prepare His people for a higher law. The Spirit gives direct guidance in areas where doctrinal applications are currently unclear, to His prophets (Abraham & Isaac), or in urgent situations of great importance (Nephi & Laban). But, while instructional material in the temple ordinances has certainly changed through time since being given to Adam, the core portions of the ceremonies have remained immutable since they were received from God... and cannot be changed. At the heart of each step of the temple are countless direct references to the final and exalting step - marriage between man and woman.

    But these are general principles... and you wanted a personal, specific answer given by the Spirit. Here's the specific one.

    I have a personal relationship with God. I can ask Him anything - from where I put my keys to questions about life and the eternities. I'm not perfect, and my everyday communication with Him is not face-to-face... but as my relationship has progressed the answers I receive have become clearer in my heart and mind. Sometimes the promptings of the Spirit are soft - and leave me room for interpretation and application according to my own knowledge... and in recent years more and more have become clear enough that I see a picture indicating the location of a family member's lost set of keys, or hear words already clearly composed into what He wants to say. 

    God will never command me to marry another man. I know, by His words etched in my own heart as I prayed for guidance this week, that the doctrine of marriage between man and woman is eternal. It will never change. Marriage between man and woman is essential to God's eternal plan for the salvation of His children. Gay marriage isn't part of His Plan.

    So what would I do if, tomorrow, I were prompted to find and marry a husband... and if I honestly and sincerely believed the prompting to be from God?

    I would never follow the prompting. I would seek the Lord in earnest prayer, study the scriptures, cultivate the Spirit, and fast to know His will for me in my life. I would do everything in my power to come closer to God so that I could hear and understand His voice... but I would never follow the prompting to find a husband. In the words I learned today, that prompting would never come from my God.

  15. Anonymous:

    Your final assumption helps me realize how we are on the same page, but talking about two different subjects...

    I question everything I learn. Everything. My teachers in school had love/hate relationships because I rarely believed, at least immediately, what they taught me. It had to fit in the mental schema I had created, and it had to fit perfectly before I would say that I could understand it. It's the same way in the Gospel. I'm not sure if you read my post on dinosaurs... but it matches your own thought - that listening to the Spirit, and not trying to apply gospel principles far beyond their original intention, enables us incredible freedom.

    So when I say that I've prayed to know the Church is true, it's far more than just the feeling I had in my youth. It's the struggle and the knowledge and the clear personal revelation that has come.

    As far as being able to hear the Spirit, I can only speak for myself. And, for whatever reason, God speaks to me with a clarity that amazes me. In my life I am guided sometimes with directions so clear that... I'm not really sure. I've only recently learned (in the last few years) that the way God communicates with me isn't the same as with others. I think it may be a gift that, for whatever reason, He expects me to use to bless the lives of others... and in countless ways He has spoken to me... from telling me exactly what to do or say, to explaining a difficult doctrine clearly, to letting me know the minds and hearts of the people I teach. Individual experiences are too sacred to share here in a public forum and I've shared them with some of my friends who read GMG and don't know who I am... but if you send me a personal (even anonymous) email I'll share one with you. But that is definitely a difference between us if you can't yet understand. I'm not close enough to hear everything, but the Lord speaks to me enough that I know His voice.

    For me, knowing that the Church is true doesn't have to entail that every action taken by the people in the Church has been ideal. The "Church" - to me - is the combination of essential and authoritative knowledge, powers, and ordinances necessary to bring me salvation. Everything that isn't essential is just an appendage. I think that your word of the Church also includes every policy, procedure, and person... which are often mortal interpretations of divine principles. We're on the same page there. I've worked with Correlation. I've seen committees put together handbooks. And while there is a ton of inspiration and the Lord is ultimately in charge, what we create as men is often imperfect... and relies on the Spirit to testify and teach. Even Book of Mormon prophets spoke of their inability to write words with the clarity they desired - and so the Lord makes up for our weakness.

    Ultimately, I think your assumptions relate the importance of turning to God and having a personal relationship with Him - just as David's question did. As we turn to God and become more able to hear His voice, we can rely less on assumptions, or the testimony or explanations of others, and have our own personal spiritual experiences that teach us the truth of the Gospel, step by step, line by line, precept by precept. True knowledge doesn't come in an instant. It may be planted with a sincere prayer and the answer that yes, this is the right direction to go and the Church that He established, but it has to be cultivated and applied throughout the rest of life and into the eternities. Nephi said it pretty well - after we have entered the gate of the beginning of knowledge and have been baptized? We must press forward.

    Thanks for your comments. I'm glad that you enjoy the discussion. And maybe you should think about being the factor that raises your Elder's Quorum. Read the lesson beforehand, come prepared, share your thoughts, encourage others to do the same.

  16. GMG, part 1

    Instead of answering my question directly you created a 6 paragraph rationale for holding firm to your current beliefs while rejecting the premise of the question. I would still like an answer to my question, but I will still address the points you brought up.

    First off, you are not taking into account non-temple marriages and instead combining both temporal and eternal marriages. So your statement would be correct if you said "Temple Marriage is a Priesthood ordinance....". The other thing you miss is that the ordinance of marriage HAS changed over time. Currently the Family Proclamation which you quote later [also, not revelation, only a guide] states "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children." This statement is only an affirmation of the importance of marriage between 1 man and 1 woman, it is in no way establishes exclusivity to marriage between 1 man and 1 woman. In 1787, there was a sizable block of delegates who were initially opposed to the Bill of Rights. One member of the Georgia delegation had to stay by way of opposition: "If we list the set of rights, some fools in the future are going to claim that people are entitled only to those rights enumerated and no others." The Family Proclamation doesn't state that Gay Marriage is against God's plan, or that marriage between 1 man and 1 woman is the only marriage ordained by Him. We know this because the Lord has also ordained marriage between 1 man and many women (see Joseph Smith and Brigham Young). Thus the Family proclamation doesn't deny marriage to same-sex couples.

    You state: "Commanding me to marry a husband would, as God has taught, also require Him to prepare a way whereby I could righteously keep that commandment and inherit all the blessings of exaltation." I may sound a bit like Richard Nixon here, but When God tells you to do something that means it isn't a sin. By definition it can't be. If God can marry Adam and Eve without a temple, does He all of a sudden lack the power to do the same for a same-sex couple while there is a temple on the earth? You seem to be limiting the power of God to the Church only when he has worked without it for millennia. Given the 9th Article of Faith we know that the Lord knows much more than the Church. All of the knowledge in the church might come from Him, but that doesn't mean the Church possess all of the knowledge of the Lord. After all, there are many mysteries of God yet to be revealed. God's Will, will always encompass more than the Church's until the millennial reign of Christ at which time they will start to become equal in knowledge. Joseph Smith stated that if the Brethren knew what he knew that they would all leave the Church. I think then, that there is clearly a whole lot more that we don't have and a whole lot more than we know and so your concept that the Church's ordinances trump the Lord's will is really scary.

  17. Part 2

    Doctrine has been changed for myriad of reasons. the Doctrine of Polygamy wasn't changed to teach a principle but to allow the Church to grow in an environment hostile to polygamy. If you doubt that then look at the 3 members of the Quorum of the 12 who are currently practicing polygamy in their re-marriages since their wives died. The practice of polygamy still lives on even if the mortal facet has changed. The Doctrine of the Blacks and the Priesthood did not teach a general principle, but was a fundamental change int he understanding of the Church which caused the famous statement by Elder McConkie that everything he had said about the blacks was now wrong. Please add to the list of questions to answer, What would have happened if Abraham had looked at the doctrine and knowing that murder was wrong, not taken Isaac to be murdered? Also what would have happened if Nephi had looked at the law of Moses and seen that Murder was wrong and he NOT have killed Laban? In my view and understanding of the many examples in the scriptures, when the Lord issues forth a commandment to you, you do not hesitate or fit it into your understanding of current doctrine you verify that it is the Lord and then obey his command with exactness. Again, your statement "the core portions of the ceremonies have remained immutable since they were received from God... and cannot be changed" scares me because you are doubting the omnipotence of God. TO say that something received from God can't be changed would be laughable if I didn't know you were that convinced of it and so it scares me that you attribute more power to an organization that produces imperfect results (by your own admission) as opposed to Elohim, the perfect embodiment of all that is good. This, like our transparency conversation earlier, baffles me that you can hold such a viewpoint and have such a relationship with the Lord.
    You state that "the final and exalting step [is] marriage between man and woman" and again you assume exclusivity. But lets play this little thought experiment. In opposition to my remarks on exclusivity your best response is going to be the concept that if Gay Marriage was exaltable then why did we not have any knowledge of it before hand. Now while I would argue that a lack of knowledge doesn't mean none was ever given, my main point would be this: From the beginning of civilizations and recorded history there has been male-on-male sex. You can find it in every civilization throughout time from the Indus river, to Ur the city of light, from Greece and Rome to England. But the concept of a sexuality that this is a "core characteristic" has only come about in the past roughly 100 years. The last revelation concerning homosexuality was 4000 years ago. In a church that is established to receive revelation for our time and often has on things as mundane as the number of earrings one should have in each ear why has their been no revelation addressing the completely new concept and phenomena that is the sexuality component of homosexuality as opposed to the sex part of it? Why has God not given a revelation to the Church regarding the appropriate path for those who, through direct of indirect action, the Lord created as Gay? Could the answer to that question be that until such a time as it would not effect the growth of the Church both in the US and abroad (as with polygamy) the Lord gives direct revelation and commands to his Gay children that, while not in line with the Church's knowledge are in line with God's by the very nature of His command? Is He not bound when we do as He says?

  18. Part 3

    Skipping the next two paragraphs of your response I now address the paragraph beginning with "God will never command me to marry another man." The statements "the doctrine of marriage between man and woman is eternal. It will never change. Marriage between man and woman is essential to God's eternal plan for the salvation of His children." I have no problem with except for your belief that again they create the exclusivity of your next statement, "Gay marriage isn't part of His Plan". Where has their been official revelation from God that "Gay marriage isn't part of His Plan"? Are you claiming doctrine for the Church based on your personal conversation with God? I wouldn't think that you would be but at the same tiem that is what it appears to be in the lack of that revelation being given through the Prophets as Divine Revelation.

    Your next two paragraphs, your conclusion, scare the dickens out of me. What you are saying is that if God commanded you to do something, and you KNEW it was from Him, and it went outside of the teachings of the mortal institution of the Church but, by definition inside the bounds and teachings of God, you would NOT follow God. If an Angel of the Lord came and told you that you needed to marry a husband and you shook his hand and had physical proof that he was a messenger of the Lord that you would ignore his command. That if God and Christ appeared to you and God said "GMG, this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased" and when you asked him what you should do he told you to marry a husband, that you would not do so. It scares me to death because if this is what you would do, what about the leadership of the Church? Are they as paralyzed by previous precedent to not accept new commandments? Are they, like you, saying "A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible" and not listening to God's commands and thus, while not leading us astray, are not leading us forward into the more knowledge that we know exists?

  19. I don't think you understood my answer, David. I asked God Himself what I should do if He commanded me to find a husband. The answer that He gave me, with the instruction to pass it on, was that He never would, because gay marriage isn't part of His Plan.

    I don't have the authority to proclaim doctrines for the Church. But that doesn't change the fact that He spoke to me, just as He will speak to all men who ask Him in faith.

    The original answer He gave me was based on general principles - and with that answer I asserted that I will always follow God's commandments for me in my life, and that my ultimate allegiance is to Him above all other authorities.

    The second answer was specific, and based on personal revelation. An angel will never appear to me, shake my hand, and command me to find a husband. God Himself will not appear to me and tell me to find a husband. The Spirit will never prompt me to find a husband. Why? In God's words to me, God will never tell me to find a husband because gay marriage isn't part of His Plan - for me or for anyone. If God was willing to answer my prayer, He will answer anyone who continually seeks with a sincere heart, unwavering faith, and real intent. So if I feel what I think is a prompting from the Holy Ghost and it tells me to find a husband? God has told me that He will never give that prompting. He does not lie. If I get a prompting that God has told me He will never give, then the prompting would not be from God. Because it wouldn't be from God, it follows rationally that I should not follow it.

    As far as official Church doctrine on gay marriage, in the Church Handbook of Instructions it states the following under the heading for same-gender marriage:

    "As a doctrinal principle, based on the scriptures, the Church affirms that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. Sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Any other sexual relations, including those between persons of the same gender, are sinful and undermine the divinely created institution of the family" (bold emphasis added).

    This is doctrine. Essential means, by definition, something that is absolutely necessary. The prophets have taught that the Plan of Salvation is not general, but individual. Hence, it is logical and doctrinal then to say that an absolutely necessary (essential) part of the Creator's Plan for the destiny of each man (as one of God's children) is marriage to a woman, and vice versa. Any sexual relations outside of legal and lawful marriage between man and wife, including those between persons of the same gender, are sinful.

    My answer to your question is the one that I received when I asked God. I believe in Him. I'm not afraid to follow Him, anywhere He takes me, or to speak His words, even if it means I'll lose readers, esteem, or friends. I've seen dark roads in the past, and through it all He has been with me. I know He is omniscient and omnipotent - I've seen His power in making the earth and heavens bow to His will. I've felt it as I gave blessings and called upon Him to grant miracles, and as He has opened my mind to look into Heaven and understand the mysteries of the eternities. I've watched as He has clarified doctrine and expounded the meaning of scripture in the council meetings of leaders of the Church, and as He has answered my personal prayers for direction in my own life. I've heard Him speak to me and to the multitudes, answering my prayers word-for-word through the mouth of His prophet. I've heard His voice, felt His love, and seen visions and dreams of His will for mankind. I know Him as my Father, my God, and my Friend. He is perfect and unchanging, and I serve Him alone. And, in His words to me, this is the answer to your question. God will never tell me to find a husband. Gay marriage isn't part of the Plan.


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