There are 67 thoughts on “A Lengthening Shadow: Is Quality of Thought Deteriorating in LDS Scholarly Discourse Regarding Prophets and Revelation? Part One”.

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  3. In Boyce’s explication of more-than-occasional revelation to the Brethren, I expected him to quote D&C 128: 11: “Now the great and grand secret of the whole matter, and the summum bonum of the whole subject that is lying before us, consists in obtaining the powers of the Holy Priesthood. For him to whom these keys are given there is no difficulty in obtaining a knowledge of facts in relation to the salvation of the children of men, both as well for the dead as for the living.”

    This verse suggests to me that the prophets and apostles who hold the keys of the Holy Priesthood will have no difficulty in receiving more-than-occasional revelations. However, the verse also suggests that such revelations will pertain to “the salvation of the children of men” and not necessarily to every administrative or policy issue in the Church.

    Applying this logic to the priesthood-temple ban, the key question is whether that ban pertained to “the salvation of the children of men” or was it mere policy? Well, holding the priesthood and making temple covenants seem to have an awful lot to do with “the salvation of the children of men”. Accordingly, I believe that the ban was a revealed directive, albeit a perplexing and troubling one.

    As for the tone of the article, it was occasionally strident. However, the article has provoked a healthy discussion, in part driven by that stridency, which is a good thing. These are important issues and Latter-day Saints should be free to speak strongly, even sharply, about them. I sometimes worry that our usual brotherly and sisterly deference and courtesy causes us to let too many things slide.

  4. As Boyce notes citing Joseph Fielding Smith and Elder McConkie, the only fully authoritative and binding revelations are those that have been canonized. Anything anyone says–up to and including a prophet or apostle–that contradicts canonized scripture is invalid. Canonized revelations are rare. Uncanonized, less authoritative revelations are common for both Church leaders and ordinary members. If Givens and Mason were referring to canonized, fully authoritative revelations as being rare, they are obviously right. One can reconcile the claims of Givens and Mason with Boyce’s arguments about frequent revelation by just assuming that they are talking about unofficial versus official revelation. It is worth noting that the priesthood ban was never a canonized revelation. Its rescission is canonized and has fully authoritative doctrinal status.

  5. I have been hesitant to post any of my thoughts seeing how this issues seems to be quite contentious and the comments seem less… based in academics than passion. That being said, I would like to share a few of my thoughts.

    As a matter of preface, I have read much of Givens but only a touch of Mason. I have never read anything by Boyce before. Everything I say should thus be taken with the appropriate grain(s) of salt.

    To begin with, I very much admire the attempts and efforts of Boyce. It seems a very admirable thing to make an argument in favor of prophets and revelation over clay feet and common sense. Heaven knows, I will defend the prophets every opportunity I get because I love them, support them, learn from them, and strive to emulate them in the emulation-worthy aspects of their lives and characters.
    Does the author achieve his goals, however?

    By the end of the article, one thing that seemed somewhat off was the tone. His final introductory note states, “Although it facilitates expression to refer to well-known authors by name, this article is not a study of authors. It is a study of claims.”

    These two sentences stuck in my mind the entire article because the tone at times seemed as if it were the other way around—and that the authors were being criticized because of the views they espouse. My hope is this is either unintentional or only perceived this way by myself. If either of those options are ruled out, I think the article could be strengthened greatly by referring to “the author” or some such language that removes much of the passion in readers who know the authors personally and focuses, in fact, on the arguments.

    The other point I want to address is the extremes of how revelation is describes. (Please note again that I have read very little of Mason and am going off of the Boyce’s presentation.) The author of this article occasionally refers to the fact revelation comes in different shapes and sizes, but the conclusions are always extreme—the grandest of revelations or no revelation at all. Similarly, my understanding of his presentation of Mason is that Mason also does not consider revelation on a graded scale. In other words, when I finished the article it largely seemed that Boyce, Mason, and Givens essentially believed only in all-or-nothing revelation and that Boyce was in favor of virtually all revelation and Mason and Givens were in favor of virtually no revelation. That confuses me because I have not come across that viewpoint in Givens. Additionally, many of the examples Boyce provides in full context deal with Brethren who speak about the reality of revelation in gradation.

    Whether it was the intention of the author or not, I came away feeling the only way to support his argument was to agree revelation always comes in grand manifestations. Since I do not believe that and have never seen a single of the Brethren teach anything but the opposite, it seemed to greatly weaken all the rest of the argument.
    And that is unfortunate because I believe in prophets and revelation, and while I admire academics and the gritty compassion of dealing with people in situations of doubt, I do think we may be drifting too far in the direction of sympathizing most with weakness. For example, in church history I sometimes read works that belittle previous research (for fairly solid reasons) as being hagiographies which they will now replace with honest “warts-and-all” books. But those books almost always seem to come across as “warts-only.”
    To agree with Boyce, that is a dangerous road and one which may not be justified (or at the very least, prove ultimately worth it) for any degree of intellectual honesty. Sometimes we must be wise and hearken to the counsel of the Lord. Sometimes we must accept the weaknesses of our leaders and follow them just as we accept their revelatory realities and accept them. To me, that is life. Good and bad, great and small, glorious and mundane—but consistent throughout.

    Boyce calls our attention to some remarkable, noteworthy, exceptional, unusual, and rare spiritual experiences we are privileged to know about. These experiences are just as real and just as available as using the Spirit and studying things out in our own minds to learn how to become like God—even if we make mistakes along the way. However, the inference of the author appears to be that these kinds of experiences are the rule and not the exception. I cannot think of a single teaching from a General Authority which not only fails to back up this principle, but also does not refute it.

    In fact, while he criticizes some descriptions of the prophets as working by common sense, I argue strongly (and can do so with scriptural and conference sources galore): there are different degrees of inspiration and revelation as well as different gifts by which the Spirit is manifest—including wisdom and judgment.
    If a prophet makes a decision using common sense obtained through years of teaching by the Spirit, how is that not revelation? Or, how is that not godliness? Surely God cannot expect us to live throughout the eternities dependent upon Him to reveal every decision to us face to face? If God does not send angels to do for man what we can do for each other, why would He reveal Himself in glorious ways when He has already taught us how to formulate decisions?

    I’m certain my words are weak here. By saying this, I say also at the same time—prophets of God and members of the Church receive direct revelation in grand and glorious ways.

    Both are true.

    Extremes are unnecessary.

    Boyce continues, “It seems reasonable their capacity would not diminish after being ordained,” referring to revelations to Bruce McConkie and Russell Nelson of their future calls to the Twelve.

    Absolutely true.

    But capacity to receive rare revelation does not change the Lord’s principle of communicating with man. The capacity merely means when the occasion is again proper, similar experiences will of course recur.

    Boyce, however, writes this “is clearly suggestive that revelation is more common than the ‘occasional’ or ‘now-and-then’ revelation.” This again seems problematic. It leaves little room for gradations of revelation or differing frequency. Furthermore, the use of adjective “clearly” is perhaps a crutch to the argument as the evidence he puts forward would more fully support his conclusion if it were proportional.

    Not having read Mason’s work, I do not know if he puts forward there is either strong revelation or no revelation—and that, of course, could immediately invalidate my thoughts. I have just never heard a scholar indicate there are only extremes in revelation. I suspect that just as Boyce did not say there are gradations of revelations but likely believes such is the case, so may Mason also believe there are gradations but come down on the other side.
    (My mind recalls an example by Elder McConkie who taught that the vast majority of us are born again by degrees, but those few who have remarkable experiences like Alma are considered so remarkable that they get written up in the scriptures; conversion is used in this example as a gift of the Spirit, not the sum total of every way the Spirit manifests itself.)

    It is important to recall the words of the Book of Mormon that show Nephi and Lehi (the brothers) “received many revelations daily.” This is an actual reality to which every member of the Church can live for—and live within. But even in this blessed state, I have never known anyone whose every revelation was the kind ‘that gets written up in the scriptures.’

    For that matter, I have never known anyone who can say that of the majority of their revelations.

    At the same time, for those who never have these experiences it is unfortunate and we must be very careful to say there are no miracles just because we may not yet be in a position to witness those miracles.

    Revelation is real.

    Visions are real.

    God is real.

    All are manifest to us, but line upon line, precept upon precept and we seek to prove worthy and capable of handling each new line and precept of knowledge.

    Joseph Smith’s revelations were at times very glorious—but they also required an almost unspeakable degree of expertise knowing the voice of the Spirit in its quieter forms. And while Apostles and members hear voices, see visions, and obtain the word of the Lord word-for-word by His own mouth, it would seem to contradict the Lord’s purposes for growth in mortality by providing for those experiences to be the rule. We are to walk by faith, even though blessed along the way by knowledge—even special knowledge.
    At the very least, Boyce has created an environment suitable for a great deal of debate and I look forward to reading Part 2 and Part 3.
    I just wonder if some of the passionate responses in the comments perhaps reflect a tone that was less suited for this article under the stated purposes?

    My kudos to Boyce for taking on an important topic. My hope that there are some changes in tone and methodology coming down the line.

  6. I find Boyce difficult to believe when he says he wishes to “allow readers to reach their own assessment” then uses inflammatory language and hyperbole such as, “egregious” “unconscionable”, “of course absurd”, “radically mistaken”. Clearly anyone is an idiot who doesn’t agree with Boyce.

    The problem with this paper is that it is so exaggerated it loses meaning. Perhaps Boyce has reached a conclusion opposite of the truth, not noticing that the errors of church leaders seem egregious because they are so obvious it would be unconscionable to overlook them. Some errors are so obvious and so significant that they amount to betrayal. It is hard to imagine any justification for them.

    • Interesting choice of (exaggerated) language to complain about someone else using what you considered exaggerated language. Pointing out what he considers “egregiously,” etc., poor logic or methodology isn’t uncommon in scholarly articles. They simply reflect an opinion that others are free to disagree with. A different approach may have been received differently (I’d have preferred not giving the feeling of personalizing it, though he’s clearly arguing their messaging), but I’m beginning to doubt it.

  7. One of the most difficult challenges for anyone in the Church is to be able to discern between the promptings of the Holy Ghost and the strong, positive, comfortable feelings we can get from our own ideas and our own biases. Some years ago I was discussing this problem with my seminary class and I asked them how they could discern between the two? There was a long period of silence as they each struggled with the answer to this difficult question. Finally one young man lit up like a light bulb and said, “I know! I know! You ask your mum.”

    He was exactly right. That is why the Church is governed by councils and not by individuals. It is common for anyone to be deceived or misled in their thinking that the good feelings they may have about an idea comes from the Lord when in fact it may not. It is less common for a group seeking the will of the Lord to all make the same error. All decisions by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve must be unanimous (D&C 107:47). Prior to their weekly meetings where their decisions are made, these prophets, seers and revelators meet in an upper room of the Temple and partake of the sacrament “that they may always have His Spirit to be with them.” Under this procedure any decision made by these councils can be relied upon to be the mind and the will of the Lord. This includes the decision to withhold the priesthood from the blacks, which remained in effect for over one hundred years of councils of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.

  8. Wasn’t it Joesph Smith who said, paraphrasing, a prophet is a prophet only when acting as a prophet? Not every action taken or word spoken from those we respect as prophets seers and revelators is in their capacity as a prophet. Elder Christofferson drove that point home in a talk in General Conference in April 2012. He even mentioned a talk by Brigham Young in the morning (dealing with Johnson’s Army) that was diametrically opposite to a talk he gave in the afternoon session. Before beginning the afternoon session Brigham said to the effect, in the morning you heard from Brother Brigham. Now you’ll hear the word of the Lord. The point of all this is that we as a people are not less faithful when we acknowledge that truth. Now that said, this humanness about the prophets makes them no less prophets and no less holding mantles of seership and revelation, and it is incumbent upon me in humility to sustain them. As for Brother Boyce’s article, I feel uncomfortable taking one, two, or three quotes of one or two individuals and proclaiming that scholars in general have accordingly lost their faith or are veering off paths of faithfulness. Heaven help me if someone digs up words I’ve said in the past in an effort to label me or use to generalize about a group of people. I’d be toast. I hope to always sustain the brethren. I don’t need them to be perfect for me to do that. I hope to treat my fellow brothers and sisters with charity, even or perhaps especially those whose faith in the brethren is coming up short. Part of my hope is because of the express teachings of the brethren. It’s what they’d want me to do.

  9. I found this article to be nauseating. Boyce repeatedly and flagrantly engages in the very practice he condemns. By extracting statements that make his point and ignoring the vast body of work that refutes is chief arguments, he conveys meaning that is not there. Though I am glad that Interpreter gave a platform and audience for this essay (and the abundance of responses validates its interest), Boyce did not impress me or alter my view that The Spirit is the source of all truth and I am to read, ponder and pray and then do what I am directed. I hope I can have more charity for Boyce than he does for the scholars he targets.

  10. I believe strongly in the principle found in Moroni 10: 4 that we should individually ask God in each case if a given principle is true or not. This is not a circular argument as stated in Moroni, because it implies that even the statement that we should ask God should itself be tried in the same way it suggests- that we should individually ask God if Moroni was correct. I have received my own confirmation with certainty, but others have not.

    Either prophets are infallible or they are not. If they are infallible there is no need for the admonition in Moroni 10:4- we should just follow blindly. But I think no one is suggesting that.

    The central argument here appears circular. Supporting the words of prophets with other words of prophets begs the question.

    One statement by a prophet followed by the words “Thus saith the Lord” is still a statement by a prophet, alleging that the Lord told him to say that. Perhaps that statement is true, perhaps it is not.

    Such statements are still to be tried, in my opinion, by Moroni 10:4 or other similar statements like the founding scripture of the Restoration, James 1:5 which famously declares if we lack wisdom, (which applies to all of us), that we should “ask God” and not one who alleges to be a prophet.

    We should not accept either the Bible or Book of Mormon or any prophetic statement because those volumes assert their own validity, but because God Himself has confirmed their validity to us individually in our own hearts.

    • Thank you! Yes. Someone finally made this point. I would also include the allegory of the seed in Mosiah 32:32-34. Not every word a prophet speaks is the word of the Lord. But every word of the Lord a prophet speaks, is. It is up to us to determine the difference through these provided tests. So if I test the stated counsel from the Lord’s anointed, it’s not because I’m in danger of apostasy, it’s because I’m remaining true to the Devine program of modern day revelation. I would also add that though we may come to know the word of the Lord, we still may not understand it fully, or it may still be a struggle to obey. That is where the patience comes in.

      • Thanks- but I think you meant Alma 32 in case anyone wants to check the reference. And for me, it starts quite a bit before verse 32. But yes I agree fully that that is one of the most important chapters in the Book of Mormon, explicating a Pragmatic view of truth and knowledge. Again it puts forth the notion that each principle must be proven by each individual for themselves without blind obedience, at least in my interpretation. If I am to surrender my God-given agency to follow a human being other than God Himself, I must know that it is His will for me as an individual.

  11. Looks like a lot of the commentators here find criticism of the pet theories of their beloved intellectuals far more concerning than the recent movement to belittle and render insignificant the Lord’s anointed. If the Priesthood ban was just racism roaming about unhinged for well over a hundred years, and the Lord allowed it, what trust could we possibly have in the Brethren on any issue today (and perhaps this is really the kernel of the matter–“the brethren might be wrong, so I’m justified in clutching to my favorite cause that they’ve spoken out directly against”)

    Has anyone else noticed this strange competition going among “believing” LDS scholars to see who can boldly disbelieve more?–like they’re saying to their academic peers, “Look, I know I belong to a backwards faith and all, but, trust me, I’m really a reasonable fella–unlike all the irredeemable rubes that really believe all this old-fashioned junk about miracles and revelation and, god forbid I speak it with a straight face, certainty. No, that’s not me at all! I can quote Steven Pinker or Fawn Browdie extensively if you don’t believe me. And, when the SRHTF, I can bracket truth claims like such a BAMF that it’d make Leroy Brown himself blush (because, as we well know, scholarship isn’t about the pursuit of truth, but rather the framing of all issues in an air-tight naturalistic casing that can only ever lead to one conclusion…’Oh, do not ask, what is it? Let us go and make our visit’!)”

    As a side note, I was just waiting for someone to invoke that old self-serving and utterly asinine “sacrament talk” from Richard Poll, wherein he declared, in no uncertain terms, the innate superiority of “Liahona Mormons” to (the obviously retarded) “Iron Rod Mormons.” I bet you can guess which side Poll, as well as those who lovingly cite him, align with. But don’t worry, they’ll also be the first to chastise others for their uncharity if ever their favorite piano keys are criticized. Notice, the above article specifically criticized the ideas of those in question, not them personally; whereas, the ideas in question make very unflattering and insulting insinuations about folks like SWK and BY etc. But, again, I guess, slandering the Brethren of yesteryear as idiot-racists that clearly led the Church astray is no big deal, just don’t you dare criticize this criticism you intolerant, close-minded bigot-beast!

    I must also have missed the canonization of Givens, Hardy, etc. When did their contentions become “the hide-bound, authoritarian tradition” we are bound to uphold against all sally-forthers and uncomely comers? If you like their books (or adore them personally)– cool beans and more power to you–that doesn’t, however, render them suddenly the infallible interpreters of all things Mormon or some purple robed kings of Beaver Island toward which all our knees must now bow.

    • For someone concerned with belittling, your comment seems to be peppered with it. I think you are missing the tone, tenor, and substance of scholars such as Givens, who are not in a competition to disbelieve more than the next guy, but who have been able to overcome doubt through various methods including taking a scholarly approach to doctrine and culture. These same people are some of the few who are tackling many of the issues and inconsistencies that others (even in leadership) have brushed off for years. That brushing off is even present in this article, which is why it has drawn criticism from those who have been contemplating these issues for years and have been challenged by them. The only argument for infallibility seems to be made by the author and, by extension, yourself. My recommendation to you is to try taking on what you feel is incorrect in this approach, as opposed to attacking your own categorization of it (also known as a straw man).

    • Marvin, I stand in reverent awe of your silvery tongue/pen (or keyboard) and powers of eloquent expression. I would need labor for hours on a few paragraphs just to approach your gift for elucidation. Impressive. May I say “Well done” and woes to “all sally-forthers and uncomely comers!” And cool beans to you.

    • That seems to be a complete misreading of Givens. In The Crucible of Doubt and other books, it is clear that he believes in revelation from God to living apostles and prophets, and in the reality of the Restoration to Joseph Smith. That book and his others works should strengthen the faith of believing Latter-day Saints. Recognizing the challenges of fallible mortals in an intelligent, respectful, and faithful manner is hardly a race to show how much he can disbelieve. Where do you get that notion? And Dennis, what makes you think that errant critique is marvelously eloquent?

      • I am a believing Latter-day Saint, and I have read The Crucible of Doubt and The God Who Weeps. Those books by Brother and Sister Givens definitely did strengthen my faith in the Lord and His Restored Church; so I am a witness that the Givenses’ books can definitely be faith-promoting. I have also read a lot of your writing online, Brother Lindsay, and it has done the same for me.

        I think you and others have done a fine job countering what seems to me to be a weak argument by Brother Duane Boyce. However, based on my own personal experience, I have one major critique of another book by Brother Givens, Wrestling the Angel. One line of the following passage was particularly difficult for me. I include the rest of the passage for context, and because I think it is also relevant to Dr. Boyce’s article:

        “[Joseph Smith’s] prophetic vocation…involved visions, borrowings, re-workings, collaborations, incorporations, and pronouncements, with false starts, second-guessings, and self-revisions. Smith experimented with polyandry, then ceased; he implemented, then suspended a communalistic mandate; he dictated revelations, then subjected them to sometimes substantial, repeated revision. His self-understanding as a prophet included the ever-present sense of his own fallibility, the need for intellectual struggle, an indebtedness to other flawed but gem-laden religious traditions, and inspiration as a continual wrestle with heavenly powers. He saw himself as neither the deluded charlatan of his detractors nor the airbrushed Moses of his latter-day adherents” (p. 40 of Wrestling the Angel in my Kindle edition).

        The line that was difficult for me was, “Smith experimented with polyandry, then ceased.” To me, the problem with that line is that there is no additional information given on Joseph Smith and polyandry in a footnote or anywhere else in the book. Had I not done reading on that topic before I read the book, especially from Brother Brian Hales’s work, I would have had a much harder time with that statement by Givens.

        My conclusion, however, is that whatever anyone speaks or writes, “when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation” (D&C 68:4). Whenever a fallible human being speaks or writes when he or she is not moved upon by the Holy Ghost, it is not any of those things.

        I would also like to add what is taught in the following quotes to that conclusion. They are from Presidents J. Reuben Clark and Harold B. Lee, respectively:

        “[We] should [bear] in mind that [the First Presidency and the Twelve] have had assigned to them a special calling; they possess a special gift; they are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators, which gives them a special spiritual endowment in connection with their teaching of the people. They have the right, the power, and authority to declare the mind and will of God to his people, subject to the over-all power and authority of the President of the Church. Others of the General Authorities are not given this special spiritual endowment and authority covering their teaching; they have a resulting limitation, and the resulting limitation upon their power and authority in teaching applies to every other officer and member of the Church, for none of them is spiritually endowed as a prophet, seer, and revelator. Furthermore, as just indicated, the President of the Church has a further and special spiritual endowment in this respect, for he is the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the whole Church” (President Clark).

        “We can know or have the assurance that they (the Prophet and Apostles) are speaking [or have spoken or written] under inspiration if we so live that we can have a witness that what they are speaking is the word of the Lord. There is only one safety, and that is that we shall live to have the witness to know” (President Lee).

  12. Bro. Boyce takes Prof. Mason to task for saying that the Church occasionally intervenes in Church affairs, and Bro. Boyce then cites a number of General Authority statements reporting that the relationship between them and God is close.

    In the Reed Smoot hearings, Senate lawyers asked President Joseph F. Smith whether he had ever had a revelation. He testified that he had not. In the next hearing, he stated that he wished to correct his earlier statement. He stated that the Holy Spirit was constantly guiding the Church.

    The New Testament provides for bottom-up Church governance. “When two or more [apostles] are gathered in my name, I will be there and will ratify their decisions,” is the paraphrase. The Old Testament describes different kinds of prophetic revelation; the kind Moses received and all others.

    Thus, the NT model is generally bottom-up ratification. But, fire can come from the sky and consume the priests of Baal, at times, or Jesus can appear to Paul. Hence President Smith’s confusion in the Reed Smoot hearings.

    When the Church approved the Manifesto, many in the Church criticized the Manifesto as not stating “Thus Sayeth the Lord” as did many D&C sections. We heard the same argument in the recent controversy over the children of same-sex marriages. Revelation doesn’t generally come as text dictated from a stone.

    I think Bro. Boyce’s perception of what is revelation and what is not seems a little naive — something a Primary student might believe or is told but is contrary to the New Testament model. Is there not room for human error? Is there not room for human freedom of will of interpretation? Did Nathan err when he told David to go ahead and build the temple, and did he err when he reversed himself and told David to wait for Solomon to do it? Did Joshua err when he approved a treaty with the Gibeonites after God told him to wipe them out?

    Peter received his revelation three times to take the Gospel to the Gentiles and to treat the Gentiles no differently than the House of Israel, and then Paul castigates him at the Jerusalem conference for refusing to eat with Gentiles. Is the Galatians account accurate? Or Luke’s account in Acts? Did Peter commit error (Paul calls him a “false brother”) or did Paul get it wrong? Did the revelation occur or did it not?

    We’ve been there in priesthood councils. In bishoprics. Stake presidencies. We can see how the Church works and is guided. It is exactly as Prof. Mason describes it. We are free to choose under the guidance of the Spirit, and Moroni is not necessary for each High Council meeting.

  13. Below is the passage from Givens in chap. 6 of The Crucible of Doubt that Boyce should have considered to understand what Givens’ means when he suggests that D&C 21:4-5 considers the human aspect of our leaders as delegates for the Lord. The following also refutes the idea that Givens’ position ignores the significance of the phrase “as if from my own mouth”:

    Delegation is a sobering, even terrifying gesture on God’s part. To delegate or to deputize, both mean that the person receiving that authority has something like God’s power of attorney; the person’s acts, within circumscribed limits, carry the weight and efficacy of God’s own acts. But surely no human can act with the wisdom, the perfect judgment, the infallibility of God. Precisely so. And if delegation is a real principle — if God really does endow mortals with the authority to act in His place and with His authority, even while He knows they will not act with infallible judgment— then it becomes clearer why God is asking us to receive the words of the prophet “as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.” [Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-5] Indeed, this counsel was part of the very first revelation God gave to the newly organized Church in this dispensation, which should give the warning particular primacy among God’s many counsels. Clearly, the Lord can delegate His authority to a human without any assumption that said human will always exercise that authority in perfect conformity with God’s intentions. From Sunday School teachers to prophets, those with God’s authority to act in His name will, even with the best of intentions and efforts, make mistakes. God has already anticipated the need to overlook His prophets’ human weaknesses; hence His admonition on the day of the Church’s very founding. And so did Joseph himself remind his people: “if they would bear with my infirmities . . . I would likewise bear with their infirmities,” he said.

    However, a different question emerges when it is the action, not the person, that is imperfect. If a bishop makes a decision without inspiration, are we bound to sustain the decision? The story is told of a Church official who returned from installing a new stake presidency. “Dad, do you Brethren feel confident when you call a man as the stake president that he is the Lord’s man?” the official’s son asked upon his father’s return home. “No, not always,” he replied. “But once we call him, he becomes the Lord’s man.” The answer disconcerts initially. Is this not hubris, to expect God’s sanction for a decision made in error? Perhaps. It is also possible that the reply reveals the only understanding of delegation that is viable.

    If God honored only those decisions made in perfect accord with His perfect wisdom, then His purposes would require leaders who were utterly incapable of misconstruing His intention, who never missed hearing the still small voice, who were unerringly and unfailingly a perfect conduit for heaven’s inspiration. And it would render the principle of delegation inoperative. The Pharaoh didn’t say to Joseph, your authority extends as far as you anticipate perfectly what I would do in every instance. He gave Joseph his ring. The king of Spain didn’t say, I will honor your judgments and directives insofar as they accord with my precise conclusions at such a time as I second-guess your every word and act. He signed the viceroy’s royal commission. And after calling Joseph Smith to his mission, the Lord didn’t say, I will stand by you as long as you never err in judgment. He said, “Thou wast called and chosen. . . . Devote all thy service in Zion; and . . . lo, I am with thee, even unto the end.” [Doctrine & Covenants 24: 1, 7, 8]

    So, what does this mean for us devoted disciples of the Loving God? In Farrer’s opinion, God “does not promise [Peter, or Joseph] infallible correctness in reproducing on earth the eternal decrees of heaven. He promises him that the decisions he makes below will be sanctioned from above.” In that view, if delegation has any meaning at all, then God is as good as His word. He honors the words and actions of His servants, sincerely executed on His behalf. Here Farrer gives an interesting reading of Christ’s words to Peter, that what His servant binds on earth, will (then and therefore) be bound in heaven. The words are God’s promise to give His divine weight of authority to the principle of delegation, to stand surety for the leaders He entrusts. (Givens, Crucible of Doubt, Kindle location 1363)

  14. First, I am glad Interpreter published this essay. It allows for a discussion of two contrasting (though not necessarily opposite) cultural points of view. Taken to logical ends, those viewpoints surround questions of prophetic authority and inerrancy.

    Boyce characterizes scholarly arguments with which he disagrees with words like “egregious,” “error,” “contamination,” and “absurdity.” He makes it clear that any clear-headed reading of D&C 21 or rightful interpretation of the black-priesthood issue will fall on his side of interpretation and that many popular LDS scholars have slipped into an intellectually vapid decline in their very approach to these matters.

    I had to do a double take when reading the essay, because it was so ironic. Scholarship is a critical methodology by which one tests claims, examines and deconstructs theories, including the reexamination of “facts” and interpretation of “facts.” Great scholars are able to look at their own cultural prejudices and re-examine facts with these in mind. It is very difficult to do. And yes, many errors are made in the scholarly endeavor.

    When it comes to scholarly methodology in matters of faith, there are many times when there are not sufficient facts to make any beyond-reproach-claims. And that is why it is called faith. Boyce cites dozens of examples of Mormon leaders receiving revelation as proof that such revelation is not infrequent and that it is “from the Lord’s mouth” and therefore right.

    Maybe. I believe so. But citing such examples does not address all the dynamics in play when people of faith might be in error. In any case, scholarly methodology MUST ask a few questions along the way, like “What and where are the examples when leaders do not receive revelation on important things, or ignore that revelation and end up doing wrong things?” Being that such examples are not promulgated in the faith-promoting literature, they often remain unpublished. Still, there is enough published to show that there is no inerrancy among the brethren, and Boyce doesn’t seem to quote any of these things. Hmmm, remember, his argument is about the methodology of scholarship, and not specific truth claims.

    Further, citing a prophet who claims frequent revelation from God as proof of frequent revelation from God via prophets is circular and has methodological problems. It’s that scholarship thing.

    Principally, Boyce uses a text to make his points, showing how the scholars in question are apparently amateurs to the scholarly endeavor. Yet, I found Boyce’s stance to be problematic. D&C 21:4-5 is not as clear cut as Boyce wants it to be. The verses read: “Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his [the Prophet Joseph’s] words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.”

    Boyce says that because the verse declares that the prophet’s words are “as if from mine own mouth” then any claim that they may not be accurate or sage is contrary to the obvious divine authority thus stated. But Boyce’s interpretation is equivocal, resting on an assumption that he delineates in his explanation of the verse. Mind you, these verses have qualifiers. They are addressing the church (as opposed to individuals), someone has to be walking in all holiness for this to apply (is it the prophet or the church? both readings can apply), and that someone has to be walking in faith and patience as the words are given (again, is it the prophet or the church? here Boyce gives his interpretation, which is his interpretation.) Further, this revelation was given at the founding of the church and dealt with Joseph Smith, and therefore does it apply to the principles of the founding and the new directives by the first prophet? Or does it apply to all the words of all the prophets throughout all the church at all times? How we answer these questions will be based off a great many cultural assumptions we have.

    As I see it, one can have a few interpretations of these verses that are not identical to Boyce’s. Given’s interpretation still applies, with certain qualifiers (which I believe Givens actually gives), just as Boyce’s interpretation still applies, given some qualifiers.

    NO discussion in these matters of Mormon priesthood authority, correct revelation, and prophetic inerrancy ever get off the ground these days without discussing the priesthood ban with African descended blacks in the Church. Boyce’s arguments in this regard are circumstantial.

    He cites Kimball as stating the ban was “the Lord’s policy.” This should end the argument for Boyce. But it does no such thing. Kimball’s statement need not be interpreted as actual revelation, but rather his understanding of what the Lord’s policy was. Herein lies the problem with prophetic inerrancy. What happens when one’s understanding of the Lord’s policy, with the best of intentions, turns out to be man-made tradition? Further, receiving a revelation from God, without an explanation, can be like pouring new wine into old bottles, the old bottles being the cultural prejudices the one receiving the revelation has.

    The whole point was Kimball was reassessing what he believed to be the Lord’s policy. But just because he or any other prophet believes a policy to be the Lord’s does not mean that it is (God had to send the Apostle Peter a vision three times until Peter finally understood that the current policy towards teaching the Gentiles was not the Lord’s policy). And in fact Kimball fasted and prayed until he got a revelation that was different than his understanding of the Lord’s policy. In other words, there still is a gray area here that Boyce wants to make black and white.

    In fact, the entirety of Boyce’s article seemed to me to be from that black and white stock of thinking which has caused a great deal of struggle among the faithful (as very problematic episodes in history have come to light) and in which writers like Givens are addressing in a much more nuanced way. You can disagree with Givens, or Boyce, but again this article was about scholarship and scholarly methodology and not about faithful truth claims.

    I do not see the retrograde thinking of scholars like Givens or Hardy via Boyce’s claims, at least as presented in his essay. What Boyce does is show us his own presuppositions in his interpretations, aligns the data along those presuppositions, and then calls people outside of those presuppositions “errant” and “absurd.” Okay. But Boyce’s article was not about truth claims regarding priesthood authority or prophetic inerrancy, it was about scholarly methodology and playing loose with the texts. After reading the texts he cites I am still doing my double-take.

    • “Further, citing a prophet who claims frequent revelation from God as proof of frequent revelation from God via prophets is circular and has methodological problems.”

      It might be, if Boyce were trying to prove that LDS prophets have frequent revelation rather than to prove that LDS prophets perceive that they have frequent revelation. The former would appear to constitute a deductive proof that the LDS Church is what it claims to be; that would be a remarkable thing, and certainly not what Boyce is claiming to have achieved. As I understand it, Boyce is presenting the perceptions of multiple prophets and apostles as counter-evidence to the perception of Seventy B.H. Roberts, whom the scholars cite as if his opinion on the matter were conclusive.

  15. When Patrick Mason spoke at a FAIR conference and made claims about the prophets that seemed, to me, to indicate that he did not believe they were inspired by the Lord, I felt a tremendous disappointment. He is certainly free to believe whatever he likes, say whatever he likes, and publish whatever he likes, but I wondered: if FAIR, of all places, were giving the spotlight to those who essentially argue that the Lord is not currently running the church, then where are the thinking faithful to go?
    Thank you, Interpreter, for having the integrity to publish this piece in spite of its running afoul of popular writers (at least one of whom I know you have previously published). It gives me hope that thought, argument, and faith can still coexist in an online age.

  16. I thought the article was interesting and insightful. I generally agree with brother Boyce’s overall conclusion that the scholarly LDS community at large is perpetuating ideas that may likely be in error. The issues he brought up—an emphasis on prophetic fallibility, the infrequency of prophetic revelations, and the priesthood ban being perceived as an error—are issues that also concern me, but I felt like a somewhat different approach could have been more effective.

    It seems that some in this discussion have felt like Boyce was making personal or uncharitable attacks towards Givens and Mason. I don’t think that was his intent. He writes, “The only question is whether a given important claim is intellectually sound — and if it is not, the reasons it is not. That is the focus of this study.” So I think a charitable interpretation of this piece is to take Boyce at his word. If his approach was in error, I don’t think it was intentionally so.

    Could it have been improved in this area? I believe so. While the aim was to talk about ideas only—which it almost completely did—the tone on at least one occasion did get a little personal. Boyce writes, “If the priesthood ban was really a mistake, as Givens and Mason suppose, it is at least clear that Spencer W. Kimball did not think so, and thus it is inaccurate at best and disingenuous at worst to use his words to further their contention.” Boyce’s choice to speculate about why Givens and Mason were in error (at least as Boyce perceived them to be) seems—by implication—to unnecessarily call attention to and question their moral character in this instance.

    I also think Boyce’s overall approach seemed too absolute. Rather than simply exploring, testing, and then proposing alternatives to Givens’ and Mason’s interpretations, Boyce unequivocally pronounces them as errors and mistakes. And the frequent characterization of these errors as obvious, egregious, and radical sort of gives the whole article a bit of an edge to it. Perhaps it would have been better to simply propose that these faithful and influential writers might be in error on the covered topics and then make the arguments to show why. This alternative approach would probably have done more to engender positive discussion about the issues being raise, and would have avoided the problem of people pushing back against the ideas because of their tone, rather than their substance. I bring these things up, in part, because this is a three part series and I hope that brother Boyce would consider my feedback in his approach to the next two articles.

    As for the specific arguments, it seems that at times Boyce’s analysis suffers from uncertainties in some of his foundational premises. For instance, what Givens and Mason meant by “occasional” revelations is never clearly explained. Do they think that “occasional” entails that revelations are received hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or even in decade intervals? Having a clear understanding of what they intended by their description is a key first step to adequately responding to it. Furthermore, little effort was made to differentiate between spiritual impressions (still small voice) and more powerful revelatory experiences. Lots of quotes were given by church leaders about the frequency of revelation among the church’s highest authorities, but most of those don’t specifically comment on what type of revelation they are talking about. I truly enjoyed the compilation of evidences demonstrating that revelations—whatever their form—are fairly regularly received in the highest councils of the church, but I felt that pitting these against Mason’s and Givens’ claims of “occasional” revelations wasn’t necessary.

    On a different note, it seems that Mason’s and Givens’ interpretation of President Kimball’s “possible error” statement as a “radical misinterpretation” is unnecessary. If the reason for the ban was never explained by the Lord to President Kimball or anyone else, then him speculating that it might have been a “possible error” doesn’t need to be an “absurdity” as Boyce claims. It’s possible that President Kimball firmly believed the ban was given by revelation and yet was open to the possibility of it being an error. That would explain why his statements always discuss it as a revelation and yet in one instance he suggests it may not have been.

    Boyce’s alternative interpretation also seems to have problems. He proposes, “The priesthood ban is the Lord’s policy, but he could change it. If the restriction is due, as Joseph Fielding Smith (and some others) have thought, to error committed in the pre-earth existence, perhaps the Lord could forgive that error and release the restriction.” My first concern is that the term “error” is singular in President Kimball’s statement, whereas the theory suggesting that the ban was due to unfaithfulness in the premortal realm has to do with the potential “errors” (plural) of many individuals. It’s possible to assume that President Kimball was referring to these individuals’ potential unfaithfulness collectively as “the error” but that seems to be an odd way of stating it. I don’t have access to the full context of this quote, but I assume that President Kimball never directly addressed this theory in his letter, whereas he did address the priesthood ban directly. And the location of “ban” immediately prior to the statement of “possible error” makes it an inviting antecedent. I’m not saying I think Boyce is wrong. I’m not sure what to think yet. All I’m saying is that Givens’ and Mason’s understanding of President Kimball’s statement doesn’t seem to qualify as a “radical misinterpretation.” I would like to see the full quote before reaching any firm conclusions.

    The important thing about Boyce’s article is that it presents an important alternative that is often absent in the discussions of many LDS scholars who write on these topics. I, like Boyce, am concerned that members of the church are speaking of the priesthood ban as if we as a people—especially as a scholarly community—are now pretty much certain it was an error. The church has never declared it be an error, and I think the scholarly LDS community would be wise to patiently wait on the Lord for more information before reaching and then promulgating such an important conclusion. I, like Boyce, am sometimes concerned that issues of prophetic fallibility and infrequent revelation are being misunderstood, overemphasized, or misrepresented. And I think that many of Boyce points were quite valid. These issues are important because they are at the core of many a faith crisis. I hope that Boyce’s article at least shows the need for caution and thoughtful reflection whenever we discuss the potential errors of past prophets and the revelatory limitations of current prophets.

    • Thank you for that apt remarks, Dahle. Previously I had thought Boyce’s article was a little uncharitable, but now that I see what you’re saying here, I have changed my mind. I appreciate your very thoughtful analysis.

      Also, your thoughts on President Kimball’s usage of the singular “error” is very insightful. Thank you.

  17. Givens here is slammed for just cherry-picking one phrase in his use of D&C 21:4-5 while neglecting the crucial “as if from mine own mouth.” We are told this is the critical error that leads to an egregious blunder, comparable to the hypothetical extreme error of neglecting the bulk of Wittgenstein’s writing while claiming to provide a comprehensive analysis of the author.

    But has Boyce adequately and fairly assessed Givens’ thinking on this matter? To be fair in evaluating him, should he not consider what Givens actually means and consider the tiny paragraph Boyce attacks in light of its context and in light of Givens’ related works?

    While Boyce is aware of the Crucible of Doubt and cites it from Chapter 6, in that very chapter Givens discusses D&C 21:4-5 in much more details, clearly quoting “as if from mine own mouth” and providing an excellent analysis of what it means in his argument. That analysis based on a solid understanding of the concept of delegation provides a reading that appears consistent with scripture, logically sound, and removes the “absurdity” that Boyce assigns to Given by making “as if” become more like “exactly the same as”, which arguably is a strained reading applied to give an overly harsh result.

    In other words, I think the key argument is flawed and unfairly applied. I hope it can be revised, especially in light of Givens’ more detailed discussions on this topic. He’s not an apostate leading the faithful away, from what I can see.

  18. CAUTION: Read this paper with “all patience and faith”

    An author who takes no pains to include an accurate representation of his opposition is an author who cannot be taken seriously. Boyce makes little to no attempt to include quotations from Brethren of the past which could discredit — or at least disrupt — his sanctimonious train of thought. There are plenty which would do so.

    Also, despite agreeing that the Brethren are not infallible, it seems that he spends an entire paper trying to convince us that anyone attempting to clarify how that infallibility might manifest itself is mistaken and that any claims attempting such clarification should be dismissed out of hand as “obvious” and “egregious” errors. And although he claims to be attacking authors’ “claims” and not authors per say, he advocates their censorship, stating that “respectable and mainstream venue[s]” should not “compound that error by accepting and publishing it, both as if such censorship is desirable and as if publishing is synonymous with agreement (a rather egregious claim, I should say).

    I just find it very, very difficult to read, let alone sympathize, with authors like Boyce who are much too comfortable letting the Brethren do their speaking and thinking for them, especially when only particular Brethren are quoted and even then only when they support their agenda.

    His predilection for (as others have noted) insufficiently —
    and often incorrectly — summarizing authorial claims leads him towards the creation of a neat line of straw men whom he then proceeds to systematically disembowel. I’m honestly left with the impression that Boyce is not at present capable of writing a well-balanced article and so I’m sure this will appeal especially to those Mormons who insist on viewing the Brethren and all that they do and say as infallible whatever the Brethren actually say and do.

    • I read the article as saying that if there really are “plenty” of Brethren whose statements support Mason and Givens, then it would have been those authors’ responsibilities to quote them. Boyce is not making his own argument about prophets for which he must identify possible counterexamples. What he is doing is showing how many obvious counterexamples *they* overlooked in making their own arguments. If there are further supporting statements they could have used, but didn’t, that merely bolsters the claim that their thinking on this topic is not rigorous.

  19. Very impressed. I’m a psychologist, one thing I would add is that this “God only occasionally reveals His Will” argument is that it promotes a distant, and therefore, disinterested God. The God of Spinoza and Einstein is far away and not particularly interested in us.

    The close God, either a strict or a benevolent version, is intensely interested in us, and is willing to intervene frequently.

    We have known for a long time that both a belief in God and attendance at religious services both boost human happiness and longevity. But the distant God doesn’t seem to convey that same benefit. So following this argument that God isn’t that engaged leads to less joy and more alienation.

    Some will “yes but” that comment, but bear in mind, my assertions are based on a broad and deep literature in my field. Perhaps some think God is close but cold and judgmental, and that makes them unhappy. The weight of the evidence is that there are still benefits from seeing God as close, even if rather judgmental.

    Now I never did understand the priesthood ban, never did like it, but I have supported the Church and will always do so. I heard some explanations that didn’t hold up, like the time a student in a 1969 BYU class asked about Elijah Able and the instructor claimed it happened while Joseph Smith was out of town. I went to the library and looked it up and the explanation was false. That was an explanation, and I didn’t believe it, but I assumed there was some reason for the ban. When one asserts it was just an error, that is more like Baal whom Elijah mocked as being asleep or out for a walk, whereas Elijah’s relationship with Jehovah is very close. When I have felt in my own life the temptation to think God is distant, that brings me unhappiness. When I chose to think of God as very close, I feel much better. So this article was wonderful from my point of view, and I think it will bring people more happiness to recognize God as wishing to be close to us and to our leaders.

    • Just wanted to add my thoughts to this a bit and share my understanding and it is this, God is exactly as close as we allow Him to be. If we view him as distant chances are we will place Him at a distance from us. When we view Him as close chances are we will act in ways that will bring Him closer.

  20. I enjoyed this article and look forward to more. I also admire Givens’ work.
    Prophets are human and have made mistakes. One of the evidences of the truth of Hebrew scripture is that they point out the weaknesses of prophets/kings as other ancient civilizations do not. I know Joshua erred in making a covenant with a Canaanite group after being told by the Lord not to. He allowed himself to be deceived. King David was chosen by Samuel under the direction of God but yet committed adultery and murder. We still quote his Messianic psalms. In early Church history many were called but then apostatized; even Apostles. I’m sure that Joseph Smith was not perfect. He was a weak vessel, “…nothing but an ignorant plowboy.”. It is truly a marvelous work and a wonder what God has been able to accomplish with all those weak vessels.

    As for God not explaining. Perhaps it is because we are unable to understand.

  21. Brandt, perhaps i should be more charitable towards such academics arguments, but it is hard for me to be charitable of drift toward error. Doing so turns a virtue into a vice as so eloquently stated by Elder Oaks.
    The First Presidencies formal statement of what a faithful member must believe to be considered such is found in Pres. Clark’s Charted Course of the Church talk. pres. Packer named that talk uncanonized scripture on multiple occasions.
    I worry that these scholars are redefining the word faithful to mean faithless or waivering in faith. Makes me shudder.
    Truly faithful scholars should be well past the early questioning /investigating quest for a testimony and be firm in the faith (as defined by the FP in Clerk’s talk) and know about and love these revelatory experiences Boyce quoted. They should KNOW that prophets and apostles receive revelation and everything Duane points out that entails. That’s algebra, not calculous.
    The article’s points are valid and timely.

  22. This interpreter essay is more like the kind of stuff you’d expect on someone’s amateur grievance blog. I couldn’t get past how badly Boyce misrepresents Givens, and how poorly constructed Boyce’s counterarguments are. For example, Boyce wants D&C 21:4-5 to be about prophetic infallibility rather than authority. Givens does not at all deny prophetic authority. He is underscoring prophets’ authority even though they can err. Boyce might be right that his own reading is correct, but that hardly makes his the only natural reading. In fact, as Nathaniel noted, Boyce has to resort to a very forced reading of the phrase “as if” in order to make it work. When we do not force “as if” to mean “identical” or “the very thing,” we see that it refers to the authoritative status of Joseph’s pronouncements rather than to any inerrant quality they should possess. How, then, is Givens’ reading a distortion? His argument is not hurt at all. Boyce also wants us to conclude that Mason takes president Kimball out of context because he does not privilege a statement of Kimball’s where he states that he does not consider himself racist. However, this statement is from 1963. The one quoted by Mason is about 1978, and does, indeed, indicate that Kimball struggled with his racism, and that he had reconsidered his earlier positions which were based on loyalty to the church’s policy, and evaluated them as racist. Boyce would force us to consider president Kimball as entirely static despite the 1978 revelation being absolutely dynamic and life-changing for him. Boyce shifts his position on prophets back and forth enough to suit various rhetorical needs while all the while avoiding the need to defend the coherence of his views. Boyce simply assumes them. This is like nailing carrots in green jello to the wall. Boyce first holds that to assume prophets make mistakes is as absurd as believing that God makes mistakes. He then concedes that prophets can make mistakes except that these are not really mistakes, only choices between good things, and if there are actual mistakes then they are of no consequence. If Boyce were writing an anti-Mormon piece everyone would be tearing his arguments to shreds. Terryl Givens (and Mason and Hardy) deserves better than this.

  23. The point is that certain named scholars are erroneously drifting from unquestioned belief and faith in prophets and revelation toward less than that–very true. This is done to apease doubters, but also diminishes faith in all who may buy their falacious arguments. Duane’s piece is highly commendable for its forthright expose of error in these modern scholars’ weak and watered down explanations.
    Compare their works with the declarations of truth from special witnesses and the differences, as boyce points ot, are startling.
    I am so pleased to see this posted.

    • I would hope that we read our fellow Saints’ offerings with more charity than I see in the article, or this response.

      As for the named scholars who are “drifting from unquestioned belief,” I am unaware that a faithful Latter-day Saint is required to have an unquestioned belief and faith in anything. On the contrary, if we believe without having questioned (and answered), then we have abdicated our moral agency and negated the heart of God’s plan. Moral agency can be messy, and it leads to different people who express things differently. I will continue to enjoy, and be edified, by Givens’ ideas. If Givens is experiencing a deterioration in the quality of his thought, I hope that I may deteriorate similarly to be able to produce such quality arguments and discussions as he does.

      • Brant: well said. The spirit seems to be perceived by iron rod Mormons differently than by liahona Mormons. It seems that iron rodders are offended by liahona types (of which I’m one) which causes us to be annoyed by them. 🙂 Not only do I think that liahona scholars are NOT leading us to apostasy, I think their spiritual insights are sublime, and I think they actually agree with iron rodders more often than IRs are willing to admit.

        • I personally see the effort to divide people between “iron rod” types and “Liahona” types as being misguided. Both represented the word of God in the Book of Mormon. They are not in contradiction, nor is there any reason to assume they would be. One can be a “Liahona” member and an “iron rod” member simultaneously. In fact, it would be impossible, in my view, to separate the two approaches, at least as it relates to the Book of Mormon’s usage of the two.

      • I agree. While I appreciate Boyce’s identification of certain apparent misinterpretations, there does’t appear to be any value in defending the racial priesthood ban of the church’s past or portraying it as God’s policy. And it is hard to see how Givens or Hardy could be doing such a bad job at their work as is conveyed here.

        Likewise, just because some commenters may not agree with Boyce doesn’t mean they are obliged to do so disrespectfully.

      • I too disagree that rational saints ought to follow “unquestioned belief”; however, I don’t see that as what’s going on this article. Boyce’s point isn’t blind obedience. It is that it has become too easy to recategorize prophets without doing sufficient argumentative work. For example, it might well be true that prophetic revelation really is occasional, but if you want to make that claim as part of an argument about fallibility, you really ought to confront the dozens of public statements about frequency of revelation from the prophets themselves that seem to contradict that claim. If you want to say President Kimball was racist, you ought to include and explain his own statement that he was not. Etc. It’s not about prophets per se; it’s about the observation that certain arguments about prophets are being made without sufficient attention to contradictory evidence.

  24. Just a note on the podcast reading of this article: Even at maximum volume, it is somewhat of a strain to hear it (and I’m amplifying it through a Bluetooth speaker). Just fyi for future podcasts.

    • Thank you for the notice about the volume. We usually check that, but missed it on this one. It has now been fixed.

  25. “This reality would appear to instantiate the general pattern of how the Lord works with mortals: he provides instructions, but he typically does not provide explanations, even to his prophets. To expect explanations, therefore, is to ignore centuries of precedent. This is the message of Elder Oaks, Elder Maxwell, and numerous scriptural incidents …”

    To expect explanations seems to be precisely what that very story–of Adam’s experience with animal sacrifices and the angel–teaches us to expect. After all, it is a story where an angel expressly explains to Adam why he was commanded to offer sacrifices. It is a story where God does precisely what this paper tells us he doesn’t typically do–that is, give an explanation.

    Why would a being who loves us not want us to have explanations, when an understanding that comes from the ability to explain is manifestly essential to attaining God’s level of intelligence? God not wanting to provide explanations would seem directly counterproductive to the endeavor to become like God. If someone claimed that God typically avoided doing things to help us attain other godly attributes, such as the attributes of charity or humility or faithfulness, wouldn’t that seem particularly egregious? Why then should anyone believe that God typically doesn’t want to give explanations, when those are the very things one needs in order to gain an understanding, and when wisdom, understanding, and reason are manifestly essential attributes of God?

    If the thing for parents to do in order to help their children grow and learn and become responsible is to try as often as they can to explain why they do or don’t want their children to do something, why should anyone prefer to believe in a God who characteristically does the exact opposite?

    If God does have a reason for commanding this or that, why not want us to learn the reason? A being like God certainly would have rational reasons for what he commands. This leaves us with two general possibilities concerning what God wants us to know: Either God does want us to find out what those reasons are, or he doesn’t. Again, a being like God clearly would want us to find out–to learn and grow in understanding. If he does, then why should anyone expect to not learn what his reasons are?

    • God sometimes explains things; and sometimes He does not, and sometimes He waits a while to see if we will obey before the explanation. Adam and sacrifice is one of these third categories: Adam was commanded to offer sacrifice, and he did so. It was only “after many days” did the Angel of the Lord appear and explain things, so Adam clearly was doing it blindly for quite some time.

      Why no explanation? Well, likely so God could see if Adam would obey a commandment based on pure faith. After all, Adam had failed that test in the garden of Eden; so God was testing Adam to see if he’d learned his lesson.. and Adam passed with flying colors.

      Job was another person who didn’t get the whole picture. Why did God allow him to be tortured, basically? Why do bad things happen to good people? In fact, the Book of Job never did get around to God explaining why to Job, other than “I am God, so don’t question me.” It took latter-day revelation to get an answer finally.
      Joseph Smith while in Liberty Jail pled for a very long time to understand why. And do we know why the Lord ordered us to enter into polygamous marriages; especially considering all the grief it caused the Church? We don’t know why that law was introduced; nor do we know if we would still be living it save for the US government persecution. Much like we don’t have to obey the full law of consecration because of the inability of the Saints to live the law; so God revoked it and instituted tithing.

      Point is, there’s lots of times God issues commandments He doesn’t give reasons for. We don’t know the date of His return; no one does. Why not? Why has the Lord not chosen to share that date with anyone? I don’t know. No one else does either. We just have to have faith that He will come, on His own timetable, not ours.
      Recall that one purpose of this life is to demonstrate we will have faith in Him, when we don’t know everything. We’ve already proven that we will follow Him if we do know all the answers (our first estate) so part of this life is to show if we will follow Him with but partial knowledge.

  26. Something missing in the discussion so far is the Lord’s formal statement of “mine authority, and the authority of my servants” (D&C 1:6, including the following verses in verses 24-28:
    “These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding. And inasmuch as they erred, it might be made known; And inasmuch as they sought wisdom, they might be instructed; And inasmuch as they sinned, they might be chastened that they might repent; And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high and receive knowledge from time to time.”

    The possibilities and the conditions here are all part of the direct context for much more frequently quoted verse 38, and should therefore, be a part of how we approach and understand it.

    Elsewhere in the Doctrine and Covenants, I notice the word “expedient” as the most relevant guarantee on prophetic behavior. In reading the scriptures, I learn of a God who at times finds it worthwhile to try our faith, rather than resolve all of our problems and frustrations at once. And all of that leads to why I find the definition of “sustain” to be so fascinating and helpful as it pertains to my place in a covenant community:


    1. To keep up; keep going; maintain. Aid, assist, comfort.
    2. to supply as with food or provisions:
    3. to hold up; support
    4. to bear; endure
    5. to suffer; experience: to sustain a broken leg.
    6. to allow; admit; favor
    7. to agree with; confirm.

    The range of meanings, are, I think, what makes the word so appropriate and important for individuals raising their hand to “sustain” one another as members of the same covenant community.

    There are all sorts of relevant quotes in “Brigham Young and the Enemy”
    in “Criticizing the Brethren”
    and in “The Unsolved Loyalty Problem”

    And regarding specific troubling issues, I don’t think any discussion of the Priesthood ban can be worthwhile if it does not include mention of the cultural context described in an important BYU Studies essay by Stirling Adams on Noah’s Curse:

    And of course, this should be placed aside Nibley’s important observations in Abraham in Egypt, regarding the fact that a close reading of the Book of Abraham shows that:
    “Pharaoh’s claim to the priesthood was invalid, because he insisted with great force that it was the patriarchal priesthood of Noah, received through the line of Ham (Abraham 1:25—27). His earthly rule was blessed (Abraham 1:26), but he could not, of course, claim patriarchal lineage through his mother. There is an interesting parallel here with the case of Job, who, according to a newly found Testament of Job, though the most righteous of men and a direct descendant of Jacob or Israel, cannot claim a place among the patriarchs of the line because it is through his mother that he relates to Jacob, while his father’s line, through Esau, was invalid because Esau had forfeited the priesthood.415 Pharoah finds himself in exactly that situation: The male line of Ham had become rebellious, while the female line was not patriarchal.”

    “In Abraham 1:21—27 we certainly see something of that confusion that results from the mingling of patriarchal and matriarchal claims that left the pharaohs forever in doubt as to just where they stood on authority.”

    Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations [the pawt], in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood. Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham (Abraham 1:26—27).

    “Question: Why could they not have it?

    “Answer: Because, as noted, it came through a matriarchal succession, the first pharaoh being “the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal” (Abraham 1:25). Pharaoh was of a more righteous line than the sons of Ham, but daughters do not transmit patriarchal succession. In all of this, please note, there is no word of race or color, though that has been the main point of attack on the Book of Abraham by the enemies of the Prophet.”

    (CWHM 14, Abraham in Egypt, 528, 530)

    It happens that the cultural background and interpretations that that Stirling Adams reviews were the inheritance of the early LDS, NOT their invention. Such thinking colored their expectations and readings, and therefore, had an effect on whether and when they got around to considering the possibility of error and whether and when they sought wisdom, which is exactly the kind of expectation I get from reading D&C 1 when considering the authority of “my servants”, a designation that, also applies to me and my own weakness, with beams in my own eye that often required removal before I could see clearly.

  27. For the question about the Priesthood: for whatever reason, the Lord has chosen to restrict the Priesthood for the vast, vast majority of the Earth’s existence. The seed of Cain were the first to be explicitly restricted, of course, but I’m pretty sure that Enoch for instance wasn’t ordaining people of Japanese or Chinese descent (if they had even heard of the gospel).

    The scriptures in general show that the blessings of the gospel were highly restricted, until Joseph Smith’s time. This was part of the covenant with Abraham, I believe: only his descendants were privileged to have the gospel, at least for several thousand years. It’s a bit unknown as to whether the Jaredites had the gospel or the Priesthood, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t.

    Jesus Himself obeyed the restriction of the gospel to the Jews. Of course, individual exceptions were granted based on the faith of the person in question, but generally speaking the vast majority of humans were not even eligible to be baptized, let alone hold the Priesthood, until Joseph Smith’s time. The Lord commanded Peter to expand to the Gentiles, but I’ve always wondered if the Gentiles were mostly the Indo-European races–Christianity as a whole did not really penetrate Africa or Asia until Joseph Smith’s time.The Lord explicitly allowed the Lamanites to receive the gospel, but even then I honestly don’t know how many Christians there were among the native Americans prior to Joseph’s time.

    So, the Lord does restrict His gospel; and has done so for millenniums. These restrictions have been primarily ethnic based, and the Church itself was based on the Patriarchal system for thousands of years; with blessings predicated on whether you were the firstborn, etc.

    Why? I have no idea. To say it’s racism is wrong, because the Lord is not racist. But it is and was commanded by the Lord. Why was the Priesthood restricted to Levites? Explicit restrictions based on what DNA you were born with. Racist? No. But I don’t know why and the Lord hasn’t chosen to reveal His reasons either. The blacks prior to 1978 were apparently not yet ready or whatever; who knows why the Lord hadn’t extended the Priesthood to them.

    But you know what? They were still better off than the Jews. We still have restrictions on preaching to them; including baptizing them for the dead. The blacks at least qualified for baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the sacrament (in other words, they got to participate in the gospel at the same level as the Law of Moses Jews; without the higher priesthood). Right now, the Jews don’t even get that, with, of course, rare, case by case exceptions. And the Jews are the Lords chosen people! Yet the first shall be last and the last shall be first, the Lord has said.

    Why all of this? It’s one of those things the Lord has not chosen to reveal. But it’s not racism, whatever the reason–of that we can be sure.

    • Vance, you wrote: “It’s a bit unknown as to whether the Jaredites had the gospel or the Priesthood.”

      The Book of Ether has plenty to say about “faith” and “repentance” which are the first two the first principles of the Gospel. Ether frequently mentions prophets, which by scriptural definition must be holders of the Priesthood. The Brother of Jared moved the Mountain Zerin by the power of his voice (Ether 12:30), which could only be done by authority of the Priesthood, and “Ether was a prophet of the Lord” who was shown the vision of the complete history of the world that few prophets have seen.

      You are correct that further details of the Gospel are missing in the writings of Ether but it covers about 2,000 years of history in less than 30 pages and appears to be more of a secular history than a spiritual history.

      You are also correct about the Jews of Israel today. Not only can they not be baptized, they cannot even attend a church meeting in spite of the Lord’s admonition “never to cast any one out from your public meetings, which are held before the world” (D&C 46:3).

      • Hi Theodore, Based on scriptural examples, one doesn’t have to be ordained in the Priesthood to be a prophet. Anna the Prophetess in the NT is one example. Also, we are taught that if we have the faith the size of a grain of mustard we could move mountains. It doesn’t mention Priesthood Authority as a prerequisite to performing the move. I’ve additionally noted that no ordinances are mentioned in Ether, so just want to point out that making an assumption of Priesthood Authority because of the word prophet or of moving mountains is kind of what Bro Boyce is pointing out.

        • Anyone can receive the gifts of the Spirit who has had that gift confirmed upon them by the laying on of hands, including the gift of prophecy, but when we speak of the presiding apostle in the Church (colloquially as “the prophet”) and other apostles, they are ordained as prophets, seers, and revelators holding the priesthood office of apostle, something requiring priesthood ordination, and only the president of the Church is allowed to receive revelation binding on the whole, just to be clear.

        • Maggie, at your suggestion I will explain more in depth. You are correct about the term “prophet” as it is sometimes used. “In a general sense a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost, as in Num. 11:25–29; Rev. 19:10” (LDS Bible Dictionary). It would be in this general sense that the scriptures sometimes refer to a prophetess. “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).

          Applying this general sense to the Book of Ether, where it mentions that there were many prophets among them at various times (Chapters 7, 9, 11, 12, 15), there were many amongst the Jaredites at various times who had the testimony of Jesus Christ. They could not have the testimony of Christ (Messiah) if they did not have the knowledge of the Gospel of Christ. This alone appears to verify that the Jaredites had the Gospel of Jesus Christ amongst them.

          The more particular sense of the word “prophet” refers to someone who is called by God and given authority to speak for Him (D&C 42:39). They are Prophets of God (big P). As “the Priesthood is power and authority of God” (Handbook 2: 2.0). Prophets have His authority and therefore must hold the priesthood. In Ether 7:23 we read, “In the reign of Shule there came prophets among the people, who were sent from the Lord, prophesying that the wickedness and idolatry of the people was bringing a curse upon the land, and they should be destroyed if they did not repent.” These prophets were sent from the Lord and were prophesying of their future destruction if they did not repent. They had to have held the Priesthood.

          There are only two named prophets in the Book of Ether, The Brother of Jared (Mahonri Moriancomur) and Ether himself. The powers these men were given of God can only come to those who hold the Priesthood. The Brother of Jared had his calling and election made sure (Ether 3:13) and was shown the vision of the entire history of the world and commanded to write it (Ether 3:25-27). This is the two thirds of the plates that Joseph Smith, even with all the authority he was given, was not allowed to translate. With all the Priesthood authority we’ve had on the earth from Joseph to our day, we are still not allowed to read what was written by the Brother of Jared. Ether was also a Prophet of God (Ether 12:2) and was allowed to have and to read the complete record of the Brother of Jared, confirming that he also held the Priesthood.

          There was a powerful Prophet of God at the beginning of the Jaredite record and then again at the end, with Prophets sent from God among them at various times in between. I believe that these facts confirm that some Jaredites held the Priesthood and had the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

          As their history of righteousness and wickedness varied greatly their knowledge and testimonies of the Gospel would have done the same. It is probable that through much or most of their 2,000 year history that the Jaredites did not have the fullness of the Gospel but only had a portion of it, as did Israel in the land of Israel between Moses and Jesus Christ. The Book of Ether speaks frequently of faith and repentance, which are the first two principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Although the record does not mention baptism, faith and repentance have no eternal significance without the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. These are the three principles that are administered by the authority of the Lesser Priesthood. It requires the High Priesthood to administer the principle and ordinance of the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. As with Israel, most Jaredites may have been denied this (D&C 84:24-27).

          A side note regarding faith as the power to move mountains. The earth was created by the power of God by the words of God (Moses 2:6). God has power to command the elements of the universe. This is how water is changed into wine, stone turned into bread, dead and decaying bodies are returned to life, etc. etc. Nephi recognized this power when he said, “If [God] should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done. And now, if the Lord has such great power…” (1 Nephi 17:50-51). It is by the power and authority of God that these things are done. “The Priesthood is power and authority of God.” These things are done by the power and authority of the Priesthood. This does not change the fact that all these miracles are also done by faith. In Moroni’s great discourse on faith in Ether 12 you will notice that all those who accomplished great miracles by faith, also held the priesthood. The power of the Priesthood can only be controlled by righteousness and by faith. Faith is the lever to the power of God. It is the actuator of the Priesthood. Those who do not hold the Priesthood can also bring to pass great miracles by their faith, by calling upon God to use His power on their behalf, but they cannot command and control the elements of the earth themselves.

    • Vance, you said, “The blacks prior to 1978 were apparently not yet ready…”

      I hope these quotes will help you reconsider that thought:

      “I am certain that the Church is directed through revelation, believing that at least the most recent Prophets have prayed sincerely about this matter and that if the Lord thought it best to make a change at this time he could get through to his leaders and have a change made. However…I also believe that the Lord does wish a change could be made and that we all bear responsibility for the fact that it hasn’t been made yet.”

      Eugene England, 1973

      “[I believe] the chief deterrent to a divine mandate for change is not to be found in any inadequacy among [those of black, African descent] but rather in the unreadiness of the Mormon whites with our heritage of racial folklore.”

      Armand Mauss

    • You might also consider that the revelation in Acts 10 is actually a reiteration of the Great Comission in Matthew 28.

      In that case, it was not that the waiting Gentiles were unready; it was that the Former-day Saints did not fully understand what teach and baptize all nations meant.

      • Hmm. So while accusing me of treating blacks poorly (the “not yet ready”) bit, you then accuse every white Mormon of blatant racism; necessarily including the leadership.

        I’m sorry, but that sounds a little bit like the recent posts that God really didn’t want polygamy but He had to tolerate it because of the wickedness of the Saints; and that somehow He just failed to mention it to prophets that He regularly communicated with that they were sinning.

        The Lord has zero problems issuing commands His people are uncomfortable with; indeed likely that is one reason for the command is to afflict the comfortable. So this idea that the Lord just had to wait for His people to mature and get over their racism seems wrong; if the Lord was ready He would have issued the command, regardless of how His church members felt.

        Like I said, no one knows the reason for the restriction. Blaming racist Brigham and the bigoted Saints, as well as all the prophets until Spencer W. Kimball, seems wrong. Whether the black people were unready or unprepared, I don’t know. I do know that the Lord started preparing them before the revelation came.

        The Lord has dealt in racial restrictions for a very long time. Blaming White Mormons and accusing them of blatant racism that forced the Lord to deny the blacks the Priesthood simply doesn’t fit with the scriptural pattern of blessings and cursings flowing to many racial and ethnic groups and nations throughout history. The Lord treats the Jews differently–both for good and bad. He treats the Gentiles differently than the Jews; we are lucky that He allows us to be adopted into His people. He treated the blacks differently than the Gentiles; and, uncomfortably, likely the Nephites and the Lamanites. And He has not chosen to reveal why. So speculating that the Lord was anxious to give all salvation to everyone but was held back by white racist Mormons is actually quite offensive, in my opinion.

        • You are entitled to that opinion, but you are reading way too much into my comments. I did not accuse you of anything; I apologize that it seemed otherwise.

          My intent was to offer up a different point of view than “blacks were not yet ready”. I am confused as to why this speculation of yours should be treated as benign and the question, “what if the majority group was not yet ready” should be treated with such contempt. After all, if speculating that one group (blacks) was not ready is not offensive to you why should asking if the other group (whites) was not ready be offensive to you? In the end, if there is such a thing as being fully ready for what God blesses us with, then being ready would be different for every individual within a group anyway, and “we don’t fully know why” is the only answer we have for so many of the purposes of God.

          Nevertheless, there is certainly scriptural precedent for the majority group in the Church not being ready for the Gospel to be preached to certain other people. Let me elaborate a little on the example I cited in one of my earlier replies to your comment:
          As the New Testament plainly demonstrates, the early Christians went through a difficult process adjusting from their lives and views under the Law of Moses to life under God’s Higher Law. Under that latter law, the time had come to teach all nations the Gospel. However, some time passed before the full meaning of that Great Comission was understood and acted upon. But I am so grateful for the humble example of Peter who said, “God hath shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” His view had changed; it had been elevated by the Lord.

          I believe Elder McConkie followed that humble example when he said, “Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.” He also said, “Since the Lord gave this revelation on the priesthood, our understanding of many passages [of scripture] has expanded. Many of us never imagined or supposed that they had the extensive and broad meaning that they do have.”

          Additionally, the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 have approved this statement, “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”

          As far as who is/was a racist, that is not for me to judge, thankfully. I think every human being has espoused racist ideas to some degree and for some length of time. I know I have. In fact, I am still not perfect by any means, but, like Peter and Elder McConkie, I have been blessed to have my views changed and lifted by the Lord. In addition, I doubt any mortal person has been totally perfect in not only his/her views on race but also any other area, generally speaking. After all, we all sin and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). However, I believe there is room to ask questions and discuss ideas without judging each other for all sinning differently (to paraphrase the bumper sticker that President Uchtdorf talked about in a recent conference address).

          So can we keep discussing ideas and asking questions, and set aside personal accusations such as who is or was racist? None of us can cast that stone at anyone else because, whether or not we realize it, the reality is that to at least some degree we all have had and do have racist ideas. In this and all other areas we need God to lift us up to see the world more as He does.

  28. The way the Lord, who is the God and Savior of this world, deals with each of us is one where we look “through a glass darkly” We should try to understand this relationship better but I feel we may not have it right, in spite of our desires. I so appreciate the several occasions where I have felt a clear communication to me about what God would have me do. I have no other good choice but the act on these promptings.

    As to God’s communication with his prophets, here the issue is more nuanced. The Lord would like His Church to help in the best way possible, given the weaknesses of his members, in proclaiming the Gospel, perfecting the saints, redeeming the dead & helping the poor and needy. Thus there needs to be direction which takes into account three things. First, the state of the societies within which the Church operates, those outside the Church . Second, the state of the members themselves, what they are able and willing to do in response to direction. Third, the leaders themselves with their desire for unity but the different perspectives they bring to their callings.

    Thus prophets think, ponder, discuss and pray about what the Lord would have them do in a given situation. The Lord sets limits outside of which he will not allow his prophets to stray. Here D & C 1:24, 38 is pertinent “these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, they might come to understand…whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

    If a given issue is critical we can be sure that what is decided is within the bounds the Lord has set. Does this mean that it is the perfect answer? It may not be possible to give the perfect answer if the world, the saints and perhaps ever the leaders are not able or willing to accept it. However, it is an answer the Lord gives at present, thus is his mind and will for now. My obligation as a member is to seek the Lord’s help in my being obedient to the direction given to his prophets.

  29. I recall a couple of examples that Henry B. Eyring offers about revelation received by the First Presidency and Twelve before his call as an apostle, when he was working closely with them on various tasks. He recalled a review of Church investments in which the brethren directed that they pull out of a particular category of investments that had been performing well. Soon after, it experienced a major reversal. The international broker who dealt with Brother Eyring told him that they were the only major investors who had foreseen a problem, and he wanted to know how they knew.

    Another instance was accompanying apostle Neal Maxwell on his assignment to issue missionary callings to hundreds of young men and women around the world. Brother Eyring recognized a young man who was called to a particular mission, and related to Elder Maxwell the significant connection of the missionary’s family to that nation. Elder Maxwell responded that such “coincidences” are examples of the revelation applied in all the callings.

    I am sure there are many more examples of the regular and pervasive revelation that he saw as he worked closely with the brethren. As a PhD professor of organizational management, he saw inspiration at work in the decisions they made, beyond ordinary human judgment.

  30. Good analysis. Unfortunately, the problematic issue that brought Givens and Patrick to reach for the latter argument is still present. The priesthood ban still looks like a result of 19th century racism (as does the nods to the curses of Cain and Ham found in Moses and the BoA).

    • I’m pleased that Benjamin Seeker brought this up and to learn that I am not the only one thinking it. In 1633 the Roman Catholic Inquisition tried and condemned Galileo for teaching heliocentrism (teaching that the sun was at the center of the Solar System). I suppose one could provide a careful analysis of Catholic doctrine and history and prove that the Church was right to discipline Galileo for contradicting well established Church teachings. However, no carefully worded analysis can change the fact that Galileo was right. The sun really is at the center of the Solar system. Mr Boyce has a similar issue to deal with. A growing body of genetic research over the past decades has established that ALL Europeans have African ancestry as recently as 2000 years ago. So all of the Church leaders quoted in the article were disobeying the supposed commandment by holding the priesthood themselves and giving it to other Europeans, while withholding it from those who “appeared” to be black. Mr Boyce has provided zero evidence that such a priesthood restriction had any basis in physical reality. Certainly truth trumps revelation, regardless of who received the revelation. And the Sun is still at the center of the Solar System.

      “Anyone alive 1,000 years ago who left any descendants will be an ancestor of every European,” the researchers say in an FAQ file about their study. “While the world population is larger than the European population, the rate of growth of number of ancestors quickly dwarfs this difference, and so every human is likely related genealogically to every other human over only a slightly longer time period.”

      • The 1000 year figure quoted above is for ALL Europeans. For North Americans the heritage is more recent. During Harold B. Lee’s presidency, somewhere between 3 and 4 percent of Mormon priesthood holders had black African ancestry as recent as six generations back in their family tree.

        “Researchers at 23andMe looked at the genetic ancestry of about 78,000 customers likely to consider themselves as entirely of European ancestry and found that somewhere between 3 percent and 4 percent of those people have “hidden” African ancestry.The percent of African ancestry is relatively low with the majority of individuals having just 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent – which suggests that those people have an African ancestor who lived about six generations, or about 200 years, ago.”

    • An interesting point, that of the twelve tribes of Israel, only Levi was allowed to hold and officiate in the priesthood. …”That isn’t right Moses!! Thats tribal discrimination!! Tell God I demand a safe space!! Hate crime!!” ..As an Ephraimite, I am still sore about this.
      I agree, to our sensibilities, the ban looks bad, but, in this essay, I learned much I didn’t know. I thought the essay made a very good case that, just perhaps, it did not depend the opinion of church leadership, left to themselves. Very thought provoking. I am extremely grateful to people who take the trouble to pull this stuff together. Thank you Mr. Boyce.

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