Personal Revelation (or Inspiration) and the LDS Church Leadership

Julienna Viegas-Haws, in an op-ed piece in, gives her definition of a progressive Mormon as one who is less likely than traditional Mormons to believe in:  “obedience to authority above personal inspiration” and “the unquestioned authority of the leaders of the LDS Church.”  Thus, I assume, she is not a believer in the phrase “once the prophet has spoken, the thinking is over.”

The issue of obedience was recently kept in the forefront when LDS leaders penned an official letter to be read to the adult membership reiterating the Church’s stance on same-sex marriage.  I suspect that a fair percentage of the members disagreed with either the tone of the message or the message itself.  So where does that leave “progressive” members?  And to be perfectly clear, I disagree with both the tone and the message of the letter.  It sounds like it was written by a lawyer and not by an inspired group of religious leaders.

Robert Kirby, also writing for, commented on the LDS letter:

I never assume that being in charge automatically makes anyone right.  So as long as I have a mind, I’m going to make it up myself.

Agreeing with someone just because they’re in charge is the best way I know of to prolong whatever it is that they may have gotten wrong.  And let’s be clear about that–no group of human beings, regardless of how special they believe themselves to be, ever gets everything right.

So where does personal revelation or inspiration fit into this discussion?  Many of us feel that the LDS leadership is wrong on the issue of SSM.  Can both the leadership and “progressives” be right?  I don’t know, but I feel comfortable with my opinion.  I don’t know if I’m inspired or not.

I’m old enough to remember the “black priesthood ban” fiasco.  I silently disagreed with the ban and was happy when for it was lifted in 1978.  The “same-sex marriage” ban seems hauntingly similar.

While I may have been silent prior to 1978, I can’t be silent now.

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12 Responses to Personal Revelation (or Inspiration) and the LDS Church Leadership

  1. shematwater says:

    This reminds me of Aaron and Miriam. Because they had had personal revelation, and even revelation relevant to the entire congregation, they stood against Moses and ridiculed him for marrying an Ethiopian woman. What happened to them? Well, they both were thoroughly lectured by God and Miriam was struck with leprosy for a week. (Numbers 12)

    It is always a dangerous game when we try to put our own impressions above those who have been specifically called to lead and reveal the Lord’s Will.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      Shem, As I’m sure you remember, the OT doesn’t hold much weight with me, except as literature. As scripture, it has little value. I prefer the NT. So referencing an experience involving Aaron, Miriam, Moses, and an Ethiopian woman is a bit of a yawner. I admit, I’m a “cafeteria” Mormon. I’m selective about what I choose to believe. Hopefully, I won’t get leprosy.

      I had lunch today with my niece who is gay. I had 3 of my grandchildren with me. The children love her. I love her. She’s no threat to “traditional” marriage. I wish only happiness for her. To discriminate against gays is wrong. Luckily the younger generations are increasing accepting of SSA/SSM.

  2. IrishLDS says:

    “The “same-sex marriage” ban seems hauntingly similar”
    This is just not true. And for several reasons. For example, in relation to the priesthood ban:
    1. At least one previous prophet had sought to end the ban and had been told, “Not yet”.
    2. It was commonly known that the ban would end … eventually.
    3. Although some vague scriptural precedents can be found for temporary priesthood restrictions there are many more scriptural references to the fact that the priesthood would go to all nations prior to Christ’s 2nd coming.
    4. The restriction was ended by revelation.
    In relation to same-sex marriage – no scriptural reference can be found to support it. There is absolutely no promise within the church that this ban will end within the church! The prophets are definitely not seeking revelation to put an end to this “ban” within the church.
    Supporting civil same-sex marriage is entirely different – although the prophets and apostles (especially last conference and with the letter) have been very clear about where they stand even on this civil issue.
    BTW, the NT, the BoM and the D&C all quote from and comment on OT scriptures and prophecies. I think you need to reconsider whether you need to regard it with more weight than literature.
    Finally, in fairness, you admit to not knowing whether you are inspired or not. In the absence of a claim to revelation – I think we should jointly seek our own independent witness and seek confirmation of the position of those ordained as “prophets, seers and revelators”. True, they are not right about everything – but it is equally wrong to assert that they are wrong about the most important things.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      Hi IrishLDS, While no comparison or analogy is perfect, the black/LDS one is better than you give it credit for. For example, both are essentially civil rights issues. In both cases, the scriptural basis for the discrimination is weak or non-existent.

      I have problems with the Garden of Eden, Tower of Babel, talking donkeys, the destruction at the time of Noah and Sodom and Gomorah, the Great Flood, salt pillars, being swallowed by a big fish, etc. Referencing mythology is fine as long as we understand that it is mythology and not historical reality. The OT is neither a science text nor a useful historical text. The god of the OT is much sterner and more capricious than the God of the NT. I prefer the loving God of the NT.

  3. IrishLDS says:

    I disagree about the scriptural basis of opposition to the practice of homosexuality … let alone SSM. I know that some of the texts are re-interpreted as being opposed to rape or non-consensual sex but that is not convincing for each NT text. The real problem, however, is that neither homosexual behaviour nor SSM have scriptural SUPPORT like the priesthood extension did. Plus the prophets are NOT seeking to allow it. THEY have proclaimed their opposition to it (e.g., the Family Proclamation). There was no equivalent oppositional statement from them regarding the priesthood restriction.
    Scripture contains myth but we need a means of distinguishing between the literal and figurative that allows for the possibility of miracles while also preventing us from being gullible. Do you have a good rule of thumb? For example, do you accept the miracles of the NT? Or only ones that are scientifically defensible (which would those be)?
    The God of the NT was sometimes stern and the God of the OT was sometimes soft – maybe they are the same person? Hence the benefit of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Moses in reducing the theological transition.

  4. rogerdhansen says:

    You have asked the important question about the OT. How do we distinguish between “literal and figurative”? I would argue, that we don’t need to. There is nothing in the OT that is critical to our salvation.

    As for the NT, much of it was written well after the fact (sometimes centuries). I don’t need the miracles to believe in Christ. Others do.

    What is real religion? What is real Christianity? Let’s concentrate on the important items and leave LGBT issues on the sideline; they are nothing but a distraction.

    • IrishLDS says:

      You tell me that I’ve asked the most important question in regards to the OT but then tell me that the answer is irrelevant because we don’t need the OT anyway. Make up your mind.
      I would say that there are some critical items in the OT – the covenant God made with man, the scattering (and promised gathering) of Israel, and the prophecies that center on the Messiah. The reason other scriptures pick up OT language is often because they are explaining what is meant, using it as an illustrative evidence, or announcing its fulfilment. Hence, they are often treating portions of it as important, inspired and literal.
      If you don’t need miracles to believe in Christ, I would question whether you genuinely “believe” in him. What is there to believe otherwise – that he lived or taught ethical truths? The resurrection is fairly fundamental to believing in Christ and it is clearly miraculous.
      If you are substituting an ethical or social gospel for a genuinely theological or doctrinal one then you can say that there is nothing exclusively in scripture that is critical for our salvation. The ethical principles can all be found elsewhere. It seems that you are leaving out the most “important items” in “real Christianity” so no wonder you are distracted.

  5. IrishLDS says:

    sorry that was a bit direct. I suppose what you meant was that the literal aspects of the OT are not critical to our salvation. I disagree, as you can see. I might disagree with you about which parts I view as non-literal too, it appears.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      I don’t find any of your “critical” elements in the OT to be critical. They can certainly be found elsewhere. There is important literature in the OT (Job, Ecclesiates, and Proverbs) but much of the behavior and message definitely raises questions. Think about the Book of Leviticus. And the OT is overly long; the longest of the 4 LDS scriptures. Life is too short to parse through the OT.

      I’m not sure why you need all of the miracles to believe in Christ and His message? I don’t believe the miracles are “the most important” part of Christianity.

      All Mormons, to a certain extent, are cafeteria Mormons. We each have our individual faith. Viva la difference.

      • shematwater says:

        Sorry, but I do not believe we are all cafeteria members. That concept refers to the picking and choosing of doctrine, not to the differences that exist in the unessential theories.

  6. rogerdhansen says:

    Think about it Shem, we all have different ideas about how to keep the Sabbath Day holy (a point of emphasis in the Church this year). Some watch (and even play) football on Sunday. Some don’t turn on their TVs and instead read scripture. Some help their neighbors (actually doing physical labor). Some are forced to work to support their families. Keeping the Sabbath Day is different for every person.

    How do you love your neighbor? Who is our neighbor? What is our responsibility? Is it only to our Mormon neighbors or is it to all neighbors. Each of us has a different opinion.

    God is flesh and bone. But what does that mean? Does he still need to eat 3 meals a day? How literal is that body? How limiting is it?

    When it comes to the details (and even some basic doctrines) there is a variety of views and opinions. On minor issues like LGBT rights there is a variety of opinions. I suspect that the membership is split about 50/50. Half supporting the Church position and half wondering why this issues matters.

    We all have to pick and choose, a la cafeteria.

    • shematwater says:

      Most everything you mention would be the unessential theories, and thus would not fall into the context of the phrase Cafeteria member.
      Such is the case on speculating about the nature of Christ’s body. It is unimportant and the doctrine goes no further than to say that he has a glorified perfected body. Anything beyond that doesn’t matter, and the church doesn’t really care that much what one believes in that regard.
      On some of the other points you mention we get into more essential areas, and those who would rationalize the actual doctrine away to make room for their personal opinions would be Cafeteria members. However, to say that everyone in the church does this would be wrong.

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