Why You Can’t Be Loyally Opposed to the Church

Free stock photo of person, woman, apple, hotelThere 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?

Free stock photo of hands, reading, magazine, newsMany 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)

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34 thoughts on “Why You Can’t Be Loyally Opposed to the Church

    1. Angela Fallentine Post author

      Great question. I’m glad you asked. First, we know the First Presidency issued this new policy. Is it then unreasonable wonder if the dissenter who is writing/speaking publicly against something the First Presidency unitedly issued is, at least in some way, against the prophet? At least in some measure? I mean, it really has to come down to whether or not one believes in prophets and apostles ability to lead and direct the Lord’s kingdom here on the earth. If members don’t agree on this fundamental aspect of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we’ve got a problem that really goes deeper than simply saying one wants dissent against a policy and not a doctrine. If we can’t even agree on the fact that the prophet leads and directs this Church, there can’t be a productive conversation going forward. So I assume for most active members of the Church, you at least have to start with the basic premise that prophets speak the mind and will of God.

      In reading the 2010 Worldwide Leadership Training when they put out the new 2010 Church Handbook of Instructions, Elder Oaks gives some insight into how policy is made and there is inspiration and revelation involved. Policy is simply a way to establish the practice of doctrine – not some separate or competing thing. Programs are ways to administer the goals and benefits of the kingdom.

      1. Ric

        How do we know it came from the First Presidency? I know Elder Christofferson and the First Presidency both addressed/clarified it, but IIRC, neither claimed where it came from or who actually wrote it. Did I miss a statement somewhere?


        1. Angela Fallentine Post author

          The First Presidency wrote a letter about it (signed by all members of the First Presidency) and issued a statement providing additional context. It’s posted on LDS.org.

        2. AuMiner

          It is in the handbook. Nothing gets into the handbook that has not been reviewed and approved by the 1st Presidency. I have seen some people throught my life try to ignore the handbook justifying themselves by saying that it written by some mid-level Church employee or at best, a small group of general authorities acting independently of the prophet. In reality, this line of thinking is just a clever way of rejecting the prophet. Some follow this line of reasoning on their own, others encourage others to follow with them. One is a form of personal apostacy, the other is a suibtle form of organized apostasy

        3. Heather MArkham

          All policy and procedures officially produced by the church are sanctioned and signed by the first presidency of the church. Throughout history, some policies may have changed in procedure, but fundamental principles and commandments for which they are based have remained the same. In some cases, the purpose may not have been clear to all, but certain policies have both protected those affected and provided ground for many to have faith and seek answers, or to weed out those who would otherwise be disavowed. The Lord asks for faith, and obedience in order to receive promised blessings through covenant keeping. He expects complete obedience, not partial compliance. The atonement covers sins we reject and if we are holding on to any vocally or in proxy for others, we lose that blessing of sanctification for ourselves.

    2. Susan

      I sometimes disagree with policy, but I still sustain those who are in that position to make policy. It is their call to make not mine.

  1. Graton Gathright

    I think honest discussion between members about how they really think and how aspects of the Church and gospel honestly resonate or don’t is part of the process of each of developing wisdom and sound judgement. Church leaders and members are not infallible and none of us claims otherwise. We are each called to be thinking and feeling and our community is enriched by the unique perspectives of each. Cheers!

    1. Angela Fallentine Post author

      I agree–especially when we develop wise and sound judgement that lead us to the truth. The interesting thing that people who are opposed to the Church or a doctrine seem to do first is to focus on the fallibility of Church leaders (discredit the messenger so the message loses its power). Politicians do this all the time to one another. So while we know they are human, it is their callings that are divinely mandated. Since the prophet is the only one who can speak the will and mind of God, we can be assured that he won’t lead us astray. I know it’s so basic and so simple, it’s really such a fundamental part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    2. Jenifer

      I believe Nephi offers us the correct way to approach a church doctrine or policy we don’t have a testimony of. We take it to the Lord. Then we will not be deceived. Laman and Lemuel would not ask if what their father said and did was right, they just rebelled. We are to think for ourselves. But when it comes to how to run the Lord’s Church, the correct procedure is to turn to is Him. We don’t have to agree or understand. It’s the Lord Church, run by His prophet. Our choice is to either follow the prophet or, as Laman and Lemuel did, rebel and turn away, or in this case, rebel and take as many with us as we can. The audacity that we can tell God how to run His Church, His kingdom, is staggering. That doesn’t mean we don’t have questions or concerns. It means that we seek answers or at least peace to know that while we don’t understand, we can trust God not to lead us astray.

  2. Rachelle Hills

    Very well said. I remember when then Elder Benson made his comments in General Conference – there was much discussion about them during the ensuing weeks in our ward. It’s too easy to say “Was he speaking as a man or as a prophet?” You are only deciding if you are going to follow the prophet- the Lord has already decided he’s a prohet. We have been warned that in the last days even the very elect will be deceived, it’s already happening!

  3. Rob

    Even if a prophet speaks as a man and makes an error in how he places his words and whatnot, I’d rather follow him in spite of that than spite him and follow another teaching. Which do we want to answer for…following the prophet even when it seems to us that he made a mistake or not following the prophet when God shows us how he didn’t make a mistake after all?

    1. Angela Fallentine Post author

      I’ve never been led astray by following the prophet. Not once. It’s simple faith, and I’m okay with it 🙂 Look at everything taught from President Monson. Is there anything he has said to lead the members of the Church astray? I sincerely doubt anyone will find anything like that.

      1. Jeff

        Agreed. I think I saw a previous comment about someone saying but what if they do lead us astray? My answer is that you’re looking at it the wrong way folks and it sounds like some almost gleefully want the prophet to be wrong on gay marriage so they can say SEE we told you! It’s almost like some want to treat the prophets guilty until proven innocent. This isn’t a trial and they aren’t on trial. We are.

  4. LaReina

    I would add Matt 23:29-34 on dealing with living prophets (note that some are “criticized”), the danger of apostasy Joseph Smith discusses, “Teachings of Joseph Smith:
    Losing confidence in Church leaders, criticizing them, and neglecting any duty required by God lead to apostasy.

    “I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.” TLP JS, lesson 27.

    AND, this discussion is missing the crucial element, that we shouldn’t trusty blindly, and as such the Brethren have repeatedly said this summer: “we encourage all members to study the doctrine of the family”, especially if you’re having trouble with this new policy (btw, Kimball said for purposes of obedience, there’s no difference between doctrine and policy).

    It follows, then, that the discussion, especially at church but ideally always, should revolve around trying to understand this policy as it relates to the fundamental doctrines of the family in the plan of salvation, and that that is enlightening and purposeful conversation all can participate in, helping those “weak” in this area to become strong, rather than a variation of the “loyal objector v. just believe like me” conversations that are much less helpful.

    There is a brand new institute class devoted to the family starting January that all Institutes are expected to offer, this is also a great resource for further development and discussion leading to understanding.

    1. Nathan H.

      Well said, LaReina. I’m reminded of James 1:5-6:

      5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
      6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

      Likewise Moroni 10:4-5:

      4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
      5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

      In situations like this where we ask ourselves some flavor of the question “is he speaking as a man or as the prophet;” it falls to us to study it out in our minds, then take our knees and inquire of the Lord in faith, humility, and with real intent. The sticky point of the process is that this means we need to be willing to heed the witness of the Spirit even (perhaps ESPECIALLY) if we don’t like the answer we receive. Failure to take this step, or second-guessing the result is an open invitation for us to be deceived by people and powers that do not have our best interests in mind.

  5. Benjamin

    If it comes to choosing to follow the Lord or follow his servants, I will follow Him. Every. Single. Time. The reason so many of us are so hurt and confused by this new policy is not because we doubt the messengers, but because the message stands in stark contrast to the revealed word of the Lord in multiple places in the scriptures. If we doubted the messengers this would not cause so much hurt and heartache.
    In Luke 18 we are taught “15. And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” The Lord makes no exception. If you were there that day, would you have followed the disciples, or would you have followed the Lord? As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

    1. Angela Fallentine Post author

      Hold on a second … I’ve seen this going around in the echo chamber of the progressive/liberal circles. It’s a new twist on the old philosophies we see laid out in the Bible and Book of Mormon. Modern prophets and apostles are one of the most essential, basic and fundamental aspects of the LDS Church.

      Prophets and apostles carry the title “special witnesses of Jesus Christ to all the world.” A fundamental part of the restoration of the gospel is modern prophets and apostles who speak the mind and will of God. I will admit that this mindset is a very clever way to undermine the prophets, though.

      From LDS.org: “The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are ordinary men in extraordinary callings with divinely mandated responsibilities. More specifically, “The fundamental responsibility of prophets, seers, and revelators, all of whom bear apostolic authority, is to bear certain testimony of the name of Jesus Christ in all the world. This basic call to be a special witness of His name has remained constant whenever Apostles have been on the earth.”

    2. Will

      Moroni 8:5 “there have been disputations among you concerning the baptism of your little children.”
      The rest of the chapter clarifies that “those without the law” are “alive in Christ”. “He that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing-” (v.22)

      Policy is modern-day implementation of eternal doctrine.

    3. DarlaG

      I find it odd that dissenters are so quick to grasp at this one straw (“but the children!”), yet they ignore the “go and sin no more” points of Christ’s & his ancient apostles’ teachings, who spoke very clearly about sexual issues. The conscious choices of the parents to live a lifestyle well outside of Christ’s teachings on sexual morality is what is keeping the ordinance work from these children- temporarily- not the policy of the church. The children are welcomed at church, and will be welcomed to “officially” join when they can live their own lives outside of those of their parents. They are not alone in having to delay certain blessings because of one issue or another.

      Dissenters expect the church to step on the muddy, slippery slope of reasoning about this issue with zero consideration as to what would be expected next, then next, then next. The old story about the camel in the dust storm begging to put “just” his nose in his master’s tent comes to mind here; and we all know how that ended. It was never about just his nose, and neither is this. Using children as human shields is nothing new, but the blame and responsibility never seems to fall on the shoulders of those pushing the little ones to the front of the battle lines.

      You note that, “If we doubted the messengers this would not cause so much hurt and heartache.” Following the Lord is never easy when one is divided between the world’s teachings and His, but it seems there is much doubt circulating in certain spheres. Following the Lord will cause hurt and heartache if the preference is to pick and choose which of his teachings are easiest to follow, then to scream and cry about the harder things. Of course, what is easier for some is harder for others, and vice versa. We all, every one of us, have our own “thorns in the flesh,” but I don’t expect Christ or His church to make an exception for mine.

      As an aside, when I first read about the handbook change, my very first reaction was, “Well, duh!” The next thought was, “Exactly how many fully active gay COUPLES do we have in the church that would be bringing kids to be blessed or baptized?” The answer is unknown to me, but if it is greater than 10, I’d be shocked…and curious to know exactly what flavor of the LDS church they’ve been attending. Perhaps one where the Family Proclamation has been put in a bottom desk drawer somewhere or where Christ’s teachings have been replaced with the philosophies of man? Love and tenderness cannot take a back seat to how we reach out to others, but tolerance is not the same as acceptance, and doctrine and teachings should not be altered to allow for various and sundry lifestyles that the world has decided are ok.

  6. Frances Bass

    The Lord has stated He will not let the Prophet lead us astray. Thus what the prophet says as a matter of policy or commandment is of God. I testify that Thomas S Monson is the Prophet of God and he will not lead us astray. Saying we can have open discussions on what the prophet says; yes if you are seeking the truth of his words and want to understand it but to try to persuade others to doubt and dissent can be cleverly inserted into conversations so we need to be careful and always think whether the Holy Spirit is present and if he is not then it is best to end the conversation.

  7. Sarah

    I might also liken this policy clarification by the Presidency to the Book of Mormon. Mormon 8:17-“And if there be faults they be the faults of a man. But behold, we know no fault; nevertheless God knoweth all things; therefore, he that condemneth, let him be aware lest he shall be in danger of hell fire.” So there you have it, all mankind is imperfect, no question about it, but what comes from the prophets come from God. Even Moses wasn’t good in speech, so God had his brother, Aaron, speak for him. Does it lesson the teachings of Moses? Certainly not. There are many stories of truth in the scriptures that directly relate to our day.

  8. Scott Hinrichs

    A friend of mine is earnestly struggling with the church’s new policy right now. He’s not trying to lead anyone astray. He’s trying to sort out what he honestly feels is the right thing. Although he does the standard things we all should do to bolster faith, faith has always been a challenging thing for him. I believe that individuals like my friend need to be approached with compassion. The same approach that helps new members of the church ought to apply. As Pres. Hinckley said, they need a friend, a calling, and nourishing by the good word of God much more than they need chastising.

    Sadly, some that have declared that the Brethren are wrong on this issue merely seem to be upset that the policy is making their social life challenging. Each of us occasionally faces crossroads where we must decide whether to loyally follow the counsel of God’s chosen servants or to choose something that pleases us more. I pray that each of us will chose to follow Christ when those challenges arise.

  9. Colin Mangham

    Angela, thank you for laying bare this issue of “loyal dissent”. It certainly is not the Lord, the Church, nor the prophets who are on trial here. It is us. We must humble ourselves and exercise faith and a willing heart and mind, or, set ourselves up as somehow knowing more than the prophets, and becoming selective in our consecration. It is tragic that this latter path if pursued to its end leads one ultimately out of the church, figuratively or literally. This is the first time I have seen your web site. I am going to share it with others.

  10. A. Kent

    Angela, thank you for this article. As a gay Mormon myself, I know where I stand. I stand by the teachings of the Savior, and I know that He speaks through His servant, President Monson. However, I must stress that this is a decision I have to make every single day. There’s nothing simple about it; yet its simplicity is there, and it is beautiful. Either you believe in God, or you don’t. It’s true that a lot of things aren’t black and white — or at least as black and white as they used to be — but some things are.

    Was it blind faith when Abraham offered up his son, Isaac? Was it blind faith when Alma returned to Ammonihah, Nephi built a ship, or when Samuel the Lamanite returned to Zarahemla, knowing full well that the people were going to try and kill him? No, it was not. And this isn’t. Nephi sums it up beautifully when he says, “I know [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the truth of all things.”

  11. Candice

    A. Kent, I don’t know you, but I love you for being so faithful. I think I could safely speak for many, many people when I say you are amazing and courageous and will be blessed for your faith. I needed your faith and strength and I needed to your comment. You give me courage and hope. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being faithful to the Church. When most members hear this from those who are gay, we are all ready to stand a little taller.

    You said something really powerful here: “However, I must stress that this is a decision I have to make every single day.” I absolutely love this and you are exactly right.

  12. Kara

    Thank you for this!! You put into words and sited from the Prophets how I’ve been feeling. Thank you 🙂

  13. Chris Taylor

    Thanks for this faith promoting article, Angela. I especially appreciated the comments you found by Elder Ballard that are so on point.

  14. Robert

    I think there is some confusion among many with this policy. As faithful members we are often accused of hatred. I learned from a wise stake president that there is a difference between the words “associate” and “affiliate.” We can and should associate with those with same gender attraction–even those who are living together or are married. We can still love them and be friends with them. We are cautioned, however, with affiliating with them which means we support and agree with their teachings or behaviors that are contrary to those of the Church. All of us will have occasion to associate, but we can cross the line of loyalty and faith when we affiliate, and either verbally support or physically support protests, demonstrations, and mass resignations against the Church.

  15. Mark

    Thank you Angela. What a thoughtful, direct, and striking compilation of words and truths you’ve brought us. President Benson’s words in the fourth paragraph are stunning in how accurately they describe this situation, and I imagine a number of situations yet to come. What a comfort it is to know where to turn for truth, and to know that when I struggle with revealed truth the Lord is there for me to come to Him and work with Him to more fully understand.

    Patience, humility, long suffering are all ingredients if we wish to understand the mind and will of God. Demands, threats, and even clever logic will never be a substitute for honest, earnest, humble pleadings and trust that in time our wise Father will help us understand why He does what He does.

  16. Tom Goudie

    There was a dissenting letter that the opposing newspaper published that was interesting. The writer pushed the idea that it would be a great idea to stop paying tithing until the brethren came around, instead paying that money into fast offerings instead. My first thought was…. Will a man rob God? How can someone think that they are being loyal to to Lord while encouraging their brothers & sisters to break a commandment?

  17. Bill Reynolds

    Call me a sheeple, people. I’m okay with that. My testimony is strong enough that I have chosen to put ALL of my trust that these men are truly acting on behalf of the Savior. It all comes down to whether or not one has a testimonyt. I have no doubt they are prophets and apostles. I also know that everyone on the planet has an opinion and none of us are really very smart in the scheme of things anyway. Who do you trust? I trust them–100%.

  18. Jake Lee

    I enjoyed the blog post and thank you for it. I only have one comment:

    I don’t believe we should feel “more uncomfortable to be a Latter-day Saint.” If we are truly converted we should feel more COMFORTABLE knowing living prophets and apostles lead us through modern revelation from God in a world of continuously changing moral values. While at times it may be difficult, it should never be uncomfortable.

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