Guest Stand: What “The Church is Making Progress” Actually Means

progress in the ChurchSometimes when our kids are learning to talk, they say things without fully knowing what it means. Our 3-year-old frequently says “why” instead of “because.” She says things like, “Anna goes to school. That’s why she is 5” or “Sarah doesn’t know how to crawl. That’s why she’s a baby.” We smile when she says those things, but we know what she means.

Adults sometimes say things perhaps without fully knowing what they mean. We frequently hear members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) say phrases like, “The Church is making a lot of progress on [fill in the blank]” or “I thought the Church was making progress, but then they said this.” Sometimes we even hear members speculate that “The Church will eventually come around on [fill in the blank with their favorite topic]. Whether these people are talking about the Church and women or the Church and homosexuality or some other topic, this phrase “making progress” means something deeper than the individuals repeating it may understand.

What It Means

Just as we eventually explain to our daughter what her words mean, we would like to explain what the phrase “making progress” in reference to the Church actually means.

As members of the Church, we believe that the Church is led by prophets and apostles that receive revelation directly from God to guide the Church. So we can replace the word “Church” with “prophets” and change our sentence to “The prophets are making progress on [fill in the blank].” Furthermore, members of the Church believe that Jesus Christ is actually the leader of the Church, with mortal servants on earth who carry out His will. Although Church leaders are not perfect, when they speak in an official capacity, they are speaking for Jesus Christ. So to go one step further, we can replace the word “prophets” with “Jesus Christ”. Our phrase now says, “Jesus Christ is making progress on [fill in the blank].” Sounds a little different.

The next question is, “What is the Church making progress toward?” Usually, the individual celebrating the Church’s progress is talking about the Church making progress toward their own agenda. With this in mind, we can completely restructure the sentence in question to say, “I’m so glad that Jesus Christ is making progress toward my way of thinking or my social agenda.” This is what the phrase about the Church making progress actually means.

To put it in today’s lingo, we’re essentially saying, “Whew! I’m so glad that God is finally seeing the big picture that I’ve seen all along. He’s finally coming around!” Sounds pretty sacrilegious, doesn’t it?

Who is Making Progress toward Whom?

With statements like these, members of the Church are asking the Lord to bring His will in alignment with their will—quite the opposite of what the gospel teaches is supposed to happen. Aren’t we supposed to work on aligning our will with His? Is God making progress toward us, or are we making progress toward Him?

The scriptures tell us that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8) and that we should “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). In Jacob 4:10 we are told, “seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand.” So, rather than asking the Lord to see things how we see them, we should be seeking to change our perspective to see things as He sees them.

Jacob also tells us that “when they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not” (2 Nephi 9:28).

President Harold B. Lee taught that “There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life…Your safety…depends upon whether or not we follow the ones whom the Lord has placed to preside over his church” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, pp. 152–53).

As members of the Church, our job is to understand the Lord’s will and align ours with it. We are entitled to seek personal revelation. When Church leaders say things that confuse or bother us, we’ve personally found it helpful to spend a few days pondering and praying that the Lord will help us see His perspective. These times usually turn into periods of great growth for us, as the Lord helps us gain a greater understanding of His will and plan.

After seeking to understand His will more fully, we are able to say, “Wow! WE are making so much progress.”

By: David and Melissa Hunsaker

progress in the Church Melissa and David Hunsaker are from Washington state and Utah, respectively. They both have bachelor’s degrees—Melissa in elementary education and David in political science. They are the proud parents of four beautiful children. Melissa enjoys fulfilling her dream of being a homemaker while David is pursuing a PhD in business management.