To be disingenuous is to be dishonest. When Benjamin R. Hertzberg published his denunciation of the recent change in LDS policy regarding children living in same-sex households, he twice characterized the comments of Elder D. Todd Christofferson as “disingenuous.” In other words, representing the Church and church leaders, Elder Christofferson was lying. Really? Lying about what? Brother Hertzberg must believe that there is a motive for this policy other than the one described by Elder Christofferson. That’s what “disingenuous” implies to me. As best I can tell, Brother Hertzberg never attempted to pinpoint what Elder Christofferson was lying about. What is the real reason for this policy if not the one offered by church leaders?
Brother Hertzberg’s command of the scriptures strikes me as superficial. He says “the new policy contradicts basic Christian teachings and core Mormon theological principles. Jesus said: ‘Suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not’ (Luke 18:16)”. That’s true. Jesus did say that. But the Lord also said “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). And yet, at a certain time and in a particular set of circumstances, the Lord commanded Nephi to kill Laban.
“And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands” (1 Nephi 4:12).
The commandment given Nephi by the Lord was very hard for him. But Nephi complied because he knew it was the Lord who commanded him.
The Lord has also commanded,
“Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none” (Jacob 2:27).
This commandment from the Lord has been almost universal since Adam and Eve. And yet, at certain times the Lord has commanded otherwise. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and many others have taken multiple wives not of their own choosing, but under commandment from God. In the case of Joseph Smith, the commandment was very hard for him. But he complied because he knew it was the Lord who commanded him.
The fact that Nephi slew Laban does not give other men a license to kill. Nor does the fact that Abraham had four wives give any man a license to practice plural marriage. But when the Lord gives men hard commandments, men of God obey.
Brother Hertzberg, I think, misuses the second Article of Faith:
“‘We believe that men will be punished for their own sins.’ We, sinners all, require access to Jesus’ grace to be forgiven: access Mormons believe is granted through the very ordinances the new policy forbids the children of LGBTQ parents from receiving.”
This is an odd statement on several levels. First, the policy itself is not new at all. It is the same policy – almost word for word – that governs access to church membership for children whose parents are practicing polygamy. I wonder if Brother Hertzberg and others have issued withering public denunciations of church leaders because children of polygamous parents are denied access to the ordinances of the Church? I suspect they have not.
It is true that “we believe that men will be punished for their own sins.” And yet, this scriptural principle is also true:
“Our fathers have sinned…and we have borne their iniquities” (Lamentations 5:7).
We see this principle repeated throughout the scriptures. The children of Laman and Lemuel, for example, were denied access to Jesus’ grace for generations because of the sins of their parents. The children of Laman and Lemuel bore the iniquities of their fathers. You’d think that a high priest in the Church would know that, though the ordinances of the gospel might be delayed for some, for many, of God’s children, ultimately all will have the opportunity to receive the fullness of the Gospel. Church leaders have stated clearly that these children will have their opportunity in due time.
Brother Hertzberg, characterizing the policy as an example of “the authoritarian subservience so prominent in contemporary Mormon culture” continues to wrest the scriptures:
“When we…exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:37).
I see neither unrighteous dominion nor compulsion being exercised by the Church in this matter. That is – may I say? – a disingenuous argument.
Why, I would ask, does this policy applied in same-sex relationships evoke such strong feelings for some when that same policy has been applied in polygamous relationships for many years? The policy as applied in polygamous relationships has the same effect on children, but has gone largely unnoticed. Why? Is the policy regarding polygamous relationships also “unChristian”? To the extent that church leaders have offered explanations for the policy in polygamous situations, have they been “disingenuous”? Is the policy as applied to polygamous relationships yet another example of “the authoritarian subservience so prominent in contemporary Mormon culture”?
In a talk given by Neal A. Maxwell many years ago, Elder Maxwell anticipated our day:
“Discipleship includes good citizenship; and in this connection, if you are careful students of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions—especially when the First Presidency has spoken out—the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. The declarations are about principles, not people, and causes, not candidates. On occasions, at other levels in the Church, a few have not been so discreet, so wise, or so inspired.
But make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters; in the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (see 1 Kings 18:21).
President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had ‘never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional, or political life’ (CR, April 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ” (Neal A. Maxwell, devotional address given at BYU on 10 October 1978).
I agree. Recall those whom Nephi saw in vision who had partaken of the fruit of the Tree of Life, but then
“After they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.
And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.
And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.
And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost” (1 Nephi 8:25-28).
We are at just such a time today. Of those who say they sustain the First Presidency and the Twelve while at the same time calling them “disingenuous,” remember the example of Lehi: we heeded them not.
Follow the prophet.