President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said the following in the 183rd Semiannual General Conference of the LDS Church:
To be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles or doctrine.
That is all well and good. But what should happen when we think a leader has erred?
This subject came up during a recent review by Julie M. Smith of a book titled: The Crucible of Doubt. The reviewer’s only complaint about the book was its discussion on LDS leadership:
The one note that fell flat for me was their [Terryl and Fiona Givens] chapter on responding to situations where “God’s appointed leader propounds what is an error” (p74). If I am reading them correctly, they argue that when God delegates authority to certain individuals, they then enjoy “God’s sanction for a decision made in error” (p76). In other words, a leader may err, but God still “honors the words and actions of His servants” (p76).
Smith then wonders whether God really supported the LDS Church’s racist ban against blacks.
J. Stapley commenting of Smith’s review states:
I’d agree that the governing quorums hold legal and divine authority to govern the church. I’m less inclined to think that God ratifies all they do.
Along with J. Stapley, I share your [Smith’s] disquietude regarding the Givens’ apparent assertion that we should “honor the words and actions of [God’s] servants” even when they err. Such a notion has an Orwellian quality to it that I cannot reconcile with the gospel principle of agency.
The Givens on BCC then clarified their point:
Those leaders who strain to fulfill God’s will in “sincerity” of heart will find themselves sustained by God in their authority. Their decision are to that extent “honored” by the Lord, in that he does not as a general rule revoke their keys when they err. Prophets who err continue to possess the keys of their office.
The Given’s further explanation doesn’t do it for me. Okay, prophets err. So what are we to do about it?
I’m 69, and I’ve lived through the conservative, literal-Bible takeover of the LDS Church leadership. It seems unlikely that this takeover was 100 percent supported by God. I’ve lived through phony church histories, baseball baptisms, racism, and continued discrimination. Was I supposed to support pre-1978 LDS Church leaders and their discrimination against blacks? How was I to protest? Stay active and keep my mouth shut?
What is the mechanism for dealing with leaders who error? Until the Church comes up with some viable mechanism for handling member input or dissent (other than talk to your bishop), it’s going to be stuck with a lot of frustrated members. For instance, members who believe that gay marriage is okay and that women should have a much stronger voice in the Church.