WBMW

Is it Ever Okay to Deny the Faith?

A Florida pastor, politically aligned with Rick Santorum, has issued a public call for Mitt Romney to denounce The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, due to what he believes is a racist religion. He posits that if Mitt Romney, a Mormon, were to be elected as President, this country would head backward in its progress toward racial equality.

True story.




I've gone back and forth about how I wanted to respond to this story, or if I even would. It's so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day circus of what's happening in the mainstream media, when it comes to the Mormon faith, and so I try to be selective about what I address. I have different criteria for helping me to determine what, I believe, is important enough to then turn around and write about. 

Perhaps you're thinking to yourself right now, "Why all the pondering? This is ludicrous and that pastor needs to be called out! It's a no brainer." Am I right? For some of you I imagine that I am. And, I'll admit that at first glance this, too, was my initial reaction. That's not to say this pastor's actions should be ignored. Plenty are taking care of that, as we speak. 

MormonVoices.com, a source that encourages members to help provide credible information about the Church, online, in response, issued this press release: 

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (March 13, 2012) – MormonVoices today called on Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum to condemn the anti-Mormon comments made by his supporter, and honorary Florida Chairman, Reverend O’Neal Dozier. The New York Daily News and multiple other media outlets have reported that Dozier proclaimed that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon Church, is racist and said that the Church “is prejudiced against Blacks, Jews and the Native American Indians.” He therefore demanded that Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney publicly “renounce his racist Mormon Religion.” He claims that in so doing, he hopes “to foster and maintain good race relations here in America.” 
Scott Gordon, a managing director of MormonVoices, and contributor to the Website Blacklds.org, counters that Dozier’s attacks on the Church do nothing to maintain good race relations and do serious harm to maintaining good religious relations in America. “Dozier’s comments represent a form of religious bigotry that should not be tolerated by any serious candidate for the Presidency of the United States. His comments are either ignorant or are willful misrepresentations for personal or political purposes.” Gordon also pointed out that Dozier’s challenge to Romney seems curiously behind the times, given that the Church’s restriction on priesthood for Blacks ended in 1978 and that today, all men of any race who meet minimum standards of worthiness are ordained. 
MormonVoices also released an article on its website, found at www.MormonVoices.org, clarifying the teachings on race that are found in The Book of Mormon, including the verse,“[The Lord] inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33). The article further quotes the recent Church statement that “unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church,” and the 2006 comments from the late Mormon Church president Gordon B. Hinckley, who declared that “no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church.” 
MormonVoices was created to respond to false or misleading information in the media and is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Fair enough. I can support this position, and alongside of it appreciate other efforts to do the same -- and hope that more will. However, after some thoughtful consideration, I began thinking about how, on a daily basis, every active member of the Church is called upon to denounce their faith. Brother Romney is no different than you or I. The spiritual cost of shying away from what we profess to believe, through covenant, is relatively just as high, and eternally no different. Worldly position does not impress God -- He expects that our actions, as Latter-day Saints, be equal in all circumstances. In The Book of Mosiah, at the waters of Mormon, Alma boldly defines the initiates commitment in the baptismal covenant:

"Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life"           (Mosiah 18:9)

Regardless of circumstance, or the perceived cost, each member of the Church is equally bound to the same commitment, in order to qualify for the blessing of membership within the gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps Mitt could just renounce the Church on this one point, to politically appease his critiques? That way he could remain an active member and advance his political career. After all, we really don't know a lot about the history of Black Mormons in the Church, and seem to be taking a lot of hits lately on this issue. Some might feel that because of this, it is not practical that he should stand 100% by the Church. Besides that, who knows if he really agrees with the Church's position?

But that's not how faithful Latter-day Saints view their relationship with Jesus Christ, and His Church. By the law of common consent, individually, we commit to sustain those called to preside over the Church and collectively this, act of faith, unifies the body of the Saints -- and the work to build the kingdom here on earth. The practice of picking and choosing what commandments and counsel fit within the framework of one's personal worldview, is not a habit that members should subscribe. Instead, we are challenged to pick up the cross and bear it together.

Our vulnerability to deny the faith will come to us individually, most likely dependent upon our specific weakness. A strong testimony of Jesus Christ is what will fortify us even when it is most difficult to remain true -- and if we falter will bring us back.  One can't help but think of the Apostle, Peter, when he denied Jesus Christ and thereafter wept bitterly at the realization of what he had done. The thought of separation from Him, whom he desperately loved, was almost unbearable. Surely when Peter came to understand the power of the atonement, that made reunion with Christ possible, his joy was beyond measure. Once reunited with the Master, Peter became immovable -- one upon whom the Savior could trust.

Our commitment to be immovable is one, like Peter's, that once made will become a sure anchor in our lives and that which will guide us daily as we navigate this constantly changing world. The pressure to shrink in the face of our critics, for what we believe, is now an everyday occurrence. Whether in standing for traditional marriage, sexual abstinence before marriage, the keeping of the word of wisdom, following living prophets, standards of modesty, to name only a few -- as we do so, we are true to the faith and are at one with the body of the Saints.

"Each of us who have made covenants with God face challenges unique to us. But each of us shares some common assurances. Our Heavenly Father knows us and our circumstances and even what faces us in the future. His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, has suffered and paid for our sins and those of all the people we will ever meet. He has perfect understanding of the feelings, the suffering, the trials, and the needs of every individual. Because of that, a way will be prepared for us to keep our covenants, however difficult that may now appear, if we go forward in faith. 
I share with you the obligation to be a witness for God at all times and in all places that I will be in as long as I live. And I share with you the confidence that God can grant us the power to keep all our covenants." Henry B. Eyring


tDMg
Kathryn Skaggs

Recent posts WBMW:

Why Do Mormons Trust Men to Speak for God? 
We live during a time when much of what prophets teach and instruct, which runs glaringly in opposition to mainstream society, for some, becomes a bit uncomfortable -- and to a few, unbearable.

Mormons and Racism: Are Mormons Racist?
I'm not here to defend or debate that this was part of LDS history. Nor do I have all of the answers as to why this was considered church policy for so long. However I can tell you that, today, Mormons are happy that such a policy is no longer in effect, and are thrilled to know that all blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ are equally available to God's children -- and rightly so.

The Significant Difference of Truth
I can't stress enough the importance of developing our testimony of the gospel upon the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon. Not just upon the book, but upon its truthfulness. My experience has taught me that there is a significant difference. In fact, it is the differencethat has the power to enable us to withstand the very real and inevitable buffetings of the adversary.

The LDS Newsroom: Race Relations
"It’s been over 30 years since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began ordaining its members of African descent to the priesthood.

It was a pivotal moment in Church history, with implications not only for members in the United States but for the Church worldwide."


Deseret News: MormonVoices calls for Santorum to disavow pastor
"MormonVoices, an independent organization associated with the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), issued a press release early Tuesday calling for Santorum to "condemn the anti-Mormon comments made by his supporter, an honorary Florida chairman, the Rev. O'Neal Dozier.""

BYU Studies: Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood
"Edward L. Kimball discusses the former Mormon policy of restricting Church members of African descent from receiving the priesthood. He examines the traditional and proposed scriptural basis for the policy, its origin and implementation, and the chain of events that led his father, President Spencer W. Kimball, to seek revelation regarding changing the policy. Black Africans’ interest in joining the Church, the Civil Rights movement, Church members’ changing perceptions regarding the priesthood policy, and spiritual manifestations all contributed to President Kimball’s landmark decision. The article describes how President Kimball went about obtaining the revelation allowing all worthy male Church members to receive the priesthood, how the revelation was spiritually confirmed to other leaders, and members’ reactions when the change was announced."

13 comments :

  1. Oh, how easy it is for religions to decide that some part of their core beliefs is no longer relevant when external pressure becomes too great. First polygamy was discovered to be no longer important when statehood was at issue. Then racism followed when civil rights threatened the ability of Mormon leaders to advance in the secular world. What does this say about the rest of the Book? Either the book is the complete truth about how things should be or it is a pick-as-you-choose of options. It cannot be both. How can the church leaders require followers to abide by the canons of the church today if they may turn out to be optional or even abandoned tomorrow?

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    1. On the contrary, because they were relevant action had/has been taken when appropriate. Never at anytime have the doctrines contained in the scriptures been compromised -- unless they have been interpreted incorrectly by those who think they have.

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  2. Another person made the comment that even the Presidency of the United States is not important enough for Mitt Romney to renounce his religion. If the candidacy or the election is the cost, then he will pay it, and we know that he will. I would rather see someone else as President than know Mitt Romney got it by renouncing his religion. In, say, the past year, I have been making a conscious effort to find things online (like this blog) so that I could find out what people were saying, what they were thinking, and I comment a lot of times on things that are relevant to me. Every time, the most innocuous comments from me have resulted in a hailstorm of abuse from people who were against the Church, demanding that I get informed (by them), and stop spreading lies (according to them), stop worshipping Joseph Smith (because they know that secretly, this is what I do), etc etc. All I can tell them is what you try to do here. Inform. I refuse to be drawn into their angry arguments, which makes them even madder. I had one man pretty much demand that I meet him out in the street (so we could settle it like men?). All I had said was, "Uh, no, sorry, we don't worship Joseph Smith..." He called me every name in the book. I am happy to say that none of my friends has ever said an unkind (or crazy, or bizarre, or stupid, or downright just plain wrong) thing about the Church. My goal, however, is for them to ask. Those who honestly seek will ask, and they will see the truth. It is obvious that so many of the comments you get are from people who just know they are right, and will not be told any differently. They get their information from sources that are not to be relied upon. If you want to know about me, please don't get your information from my enemy! Get it from someone who loves me, for that person will tell you the truth. But whatever you chopose to do, I will not risk my salvation to satisfy you. And you shouldn't want me to.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here, Jane. I sincerely appreciate it. I know how hard it can be, especially online, to share our faith when others can be so oppositional. I think we just need to keep reminding ourselves that many rejected even the Savior when He was upon the earth, and ultimately crucified Him. Those who follow Him today, can take comfort in knowing that He is with us, understands and will strengthen our willingness to ever be faithful.

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  3. Beautiful and well-thought out entry today. I think we all are called on to denounce our faith at one time or another. I have many friends who are so-called "mainstream" Christian and many who are atheist/non-attending. So at one time or another, people ask me "why"? When I comes down to it - it's my decision, which to me is one of the beauties of this faith. You decide. You look to the scriptures, the Authorities, you pray - and you decide.

    Thank you again.

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    1. Beautiful, zillagirl. Choice, led by the Spirit, is powerful!

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  4. I'm in love with your blogs! You basically tell it how it is! I could not stress to you enough how much it means to me as a Latter Day Saint to know that someone out there is speaking up against the ones that judge us so unfairly and putting the FACTS out there for all the world to see! Maybe one day, people will understand and come to know Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father as we do and I will pray every day for that wonderful day to come. God Bless you and thank you so much for addressing these issues.

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    1. Thank you, Crystal. I believe, that "how it is", is about saying what is true and making sure we get that out into the world. I so appreciate your support. : )

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  5. I actually laughed out loud when I read what that pastor said. Wow, he must be really misinformed...

    Also, I am sure you have read this article by Armand Mauss over on Blacklds.org - if you haven't, I highly recommend it. It was actually written in 2003, but is of course very applicable to the climate right now (and says just about everything the Church's press release said).

    I agree with you that we all need to be courageous and be true to our faith and covenants, no matter our public visibility.

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    1. Yeah, it's pretty incredible, isn't it? Thank you for sharing that link. It's a great resource.

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  6. I am new to this writing, but here goes. When i read about what the Pastor wanted Mitt to do, I couldn't believe what he was asking! It made me cry and shake all over(I am still crying while I am writing this). I feel so sorry for the Pastor that he could even think or ask anyone to DENOUNCE any belief that is to do with anybody's belief in OUR HEAVENLY FATHER AND JESUS CHRIST!!! I LOVE THE TRUE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS AND EVERYTHING THAT COMES WITH IT!! THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR WRITINGS. I read them all daily, and now I have written too.

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    1. Patsy - I wish I could give you a bit (((HUG)))! Thank you for your comment. I just love your testimony! We can all be comforted to know that the day will come when everyone will know the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

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  7. Part of the problem with "what do Mormon's believe" - therefore, what should Mitt renounce falls back to the difference between:

    A. Doctrine of the Church
    B. Guidelines
    C. Church Policy

    Unlike most faiths where there is a broad gray area since each preacher teaches more or less whatever he/she wants to, there is very little gray area in the LDS Church - but there is some. Church policies change all of the time based upon current conditions. Whether the Church builds BIG temples or regional temples in any specific area is a policy and it's guided by the need at the moment. Church guidelines (may I drink diet coke or not and still go to heaven) come down to choice given to members. Doctrines are quite different and are those enduring truths that we cling to.

    If Mitt drinks a Diet Coke, can he still attend a church service? Well, yes, he can. And if expresses a preference for Diet Coke - is he repudiating the Gospel? No he isn't. But the world at large doesn't understand any of this and it leads to vast confusion. (I used Diet Coke as a trivial example - I don't know whether or not Mitt drinks Diet Coke)

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