There has been a lot of talk lately from members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who say they sustain the prophet and apostles but at the same time actively speak in opposition to the doctrine of marriage and the law of chastity, and then try to persuade others to dissent. But can one be true to the faith if they are doing this? Is there a such thing as “loyal opposition” in God’s kingdom?
With the issue of promoting same-sex marriage and participating in homosexual activity (or transgender activity at that), we’re not talking about minor disagreements. We’re talking about being opposed to fundamental, core doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ: namely that marriage is only between a man a woman, the doctrine of the body, and the law of chastity. Put these things together and one can see how it creates an impasse and a wall between them and the prophet.
The scriptures are filled with stories of those who criticize Church doctrine or the prophets. Yet this is a significant and increasingly visible problem today because at heart of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the belief and faith in prophets’ and apostles’ ability to lead and direct the Lord’s kingdom here on the earth. This is one of the most fundamental and foundational parts of the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of dissent and opposition, President Ezra Taft Benson said:
As a prophet reveals the truth, it divides the people. The honest in heart heed his words but the unrighteous either ignore the prophet or fight him. When the prophet points out the sins of the world, the worldly either want to close the mouth of the prophet, or else act as if the prophet didn’t exist, rather than repent of their sins. Popularity is never a test of truth. Many a prophet has been killed or cast out. As we come closer to the Lord’s Second Coming, you can expect that as the people of the world become more wicked, the prophet will be less popular with them. (Link)
Some of us have friends and family who experience same-sex attraction or who are in same-sex relationships. Most people are trying to wrap their head around how to navigate it while being still faithful to the doctrine and law of chastity. That’s okay! Right now, it’s important to keep studying out the issue from faithful sources (while noting that there are massive distinctions between faithful LDS blogs and “faithfully dissenting” LDS blogs). Keep trying to align your will with God’s on these issues, and trust the prophet. Consecration usually includes putting our wills and desires on the altar, even when we don’t see the future or a way forward.
However, this is a very different story for those who are actively advocating, writing and speaking out very publicly against the Church and the prophet (but in the same breath say they are still loyal to the Church). The Savior warned us about these duplicitous actions when He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” but “whosoever shall break one of [the] least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be the least in the kingdom of heaven.”4
“And shall teach men so …”
What is the Savior saying here about those who teach others that it’s okay to break commandments? He does not mince words with how he feels about those who lead others astray. And while these words and deeds in opposition to doctrine and standards may well be recorded in heaven, the damage is being done here on earth. The Savior is aware of actions, comments, blog posts, and news articles one writes that works in opposition to the Church. Our Internet activism isn’t only recorded on earth, but it also leaves an imprint in the book of life. Indeed, “angels above us are silent note taking.” (Link) In short, is this what truly following the Savior and His doctrine looks like?
Many prophets and apostles have offered stern rebukes and warnings to those who participate in these kinds of activities. We’ve all seen “loyally dissenting” articles pop up on online or observed comments from people on the hot button issues. They are usually highly emotional and often lack a measure of true faithfulness, correct doctrine, and support for prophets and apostles. If you’ve run across these things, here are few things you might want to consider:
President Ezra Taft Benson: “There will be inroads within the Church. … We will see those who profess membership but secretly are plotting and trying to lead people not to follow the leadership that the Lord has set up to preside in this church.
… One who rationalizes that he or she has a testimony of Jesus Christ but cannot accept direction and counsel from the leadership of His church is in a fundamentally unsound position and is in jeopardy of losing exaltation.” (Link)
Elder M. Russell Ballard: “False prophets and false teachers are also those who attempt to change the God-given and scripturally based doctrines that protect the sanctity of marriage, the divine nature of the family, and the essential doctrine of personal morality. They advocate a redefinition of morality to justify fornication, adultery, and homosexual relationships. Some openly champion the legalization of so-called same-gender marriages. To justify their rejection of God’s immutable laws that protect the family, these false prophets and false teachers even attack the inspired proclamation on the family issued to the world in 1995 by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles.
… “In the Lord’s Church there is no such thing as a “loyal opposition.” One is either for the kingdom of God and stands in defense of God’s prophets and apostles, or one stands opposed.” (Link)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “No true Latter-day Saint will ever take a stand that is in opposition to what the Lord has revealed to those who direct the affairs of his earthly kingdom. No Latter-day Saint who is true and faithful in all things will ever pursue a course, or espouse a cause, or publish an article or book that weakens or destroys faith.” (Link)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks: “Throughout our history we have had members who have criticized the Church and its leaders. … Persistent, public critics punish themselves. By deliberately separating themselves from those who have been called as their leaders, critics forfeit the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord. They drift from prayer, from the scriptures, from Church activity, and from keeping the commandments. They inevitably lose spirituality and blessings.” (Link)
Elder M. Russell Ballard: “When we think of false prophets and false teachers … we often assume that such individuals are associated with small radical groups on the fringes of society. However, I reiterate: there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the Church. … Beware of such.“ (Link)
A few final thoughts:
We’ve all read stories about false teachers and false prophets in the scriptures. While it’s easy and reasonably comfortable to read these things on paper, it’s quite another thing to see this happen close to home. It can be disturbing to hear the duplicitous-minded teach others how to dissent and protest while saying they are loyal to the Church. At the end of the day, I’m convinced that it is impossible to be a “faithful dissenter” or “loyal opposer” to the Church and still maintain deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ and His prophets. It’s the Latter-day equivalent of trying to “serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24; 3 Nephi 13:24).
Going forward (especially as it gets more uncomfortable to be a Latter-day Saint on social issues), we can take this great advice from Elder Ballard:
“Our safety, our peace, lies in working as hard as we can to live as the Father and Son would have us live, in fleeing from false prophets and false teachers, and in being anxiously engaged in good causes.” (Link)