Is it OK to disagree?

If you’ve read my previous blog post, you’ll be quite aware about how open I am in my support of same-sex marriage. I’ve felt this way for a long time, but have only been very open about this with others in the last few months, and this has made me question why I kept this to myself for so long. We are a very correlated church – we all use the same manuals, have the same lessons and read the same church published magazine, and whilst this has the advantage of ensuring uniformity in teaching, it shouldn’t be allowed to be extended to uniformity of belief and opinion. The church is naturally conservative and so are it’s members, and being a liberal, I am aware of that and am completely accepting of it. I have no problem being in the minority. In fact, being a Mormon is all about being in the minority. A recent survey found that 23% of Mormons ‘Favour’ or ‘Strongly Favour’ same-sex marriage:

Gay marriage support amongst Mormons is lower than almost all other denominations, but much higher than I expected.

I was quite surprised it was this high, but also really pleased that there are a significant number of members who I side with on this issue, despite feeling like the only one at times. All too often though, the remaining 77% struggle to accept that some people can be fully active in the church, yet hold an opinion which is contrary to theirs. The key issue is how far we should legislate our own beliefs, something I am strongly against.

The recent General Conference highlighted another issue that comes close to the heart of this disagreement. Obedience. We are told time and time again as members to be obedient to the commandments. This can easily be extended to obedience to church authorities and leaders. There is an adage in the church that “when the leaders speak, the thinking has been done.” The actual full quote is even more demanding:

“When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.” – Improvement Era, June 1945. 

My problem with this is fairly rudimentary; how can anyone swallow this when there are clear mistakes that have been made in the past. A brief list would have to include the salamander letter, priesthood ban, post-1890 polygamy, failed business ventures using tithing money, blood atonement, Adam/God doctrine, 1982 worthiness letter, slavery support, fees for ordinances, denial of evolution and encouraging attempted cures for homosexuality. Plenty more things could have been included in this list, but the point is the same. A quick scan of church history shows a catalogue of errors and mistakes that have been made by Apostles and Prophets, some in matters of business, but others in matters of doctrine and policy. I’m not naive to think that ‘the church never changes’, but faith can be shaken when looking at this list.

I’ve reached the conclusion that LDS leaders have made errors in the past, they continue to make them today, and they will make many more in the future. They are good men, trying to do the best they can. Their life and world experiences are very different to mine, and maybe it would help in the future if the leadership of the church was more diverse than the current mould (old, white, conservative, American). I listen carefully to their advice, tally it with my own beliefs, opinions, feelings and views; and then accept what I believe to be true. They have more hits than misses, but for me, the biggest miss of this decade will be attempts to legislate against homosexuals rather than accepting that we can co-exist in families that are equal under the law, but different in physical form.

I heard a phrase once, I cannot recall where from, but it rings very true on this issue:

Catholics believe the Pope is infallible, but they don’t believe it.
Mormons believe the Prophet is not infallible, but they don’t believe it.