Thursday, August 30, 2012

Following the advice of Brigham Young

When I was first at BYU, Spencer W. Kimball gave a talk that stayed with me ever since.

He worked off Brigham Young's comment "I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for them
selves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security." and implied that blind obedience would lead us straight to hell.

This post reprises that, in the best of ways. reprises it.
The post fits well with:
The leaflet to which you refer, and from which you quote in your letter, was not “prepared” by “one of our leaders.” However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.

I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts. The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings. This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow.

The Prophet Joseph Smith once said: “I want liberty of thinking and believing as I please.” This liberty he and his successors in the leadership of the Church have granted to every other member thereof.

On one occasion in answer to the question by a prominent visitor how he governed his people, the Prophet answered: “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”

Again, as recorded in the History of the Church (Volume 5, page 498 [499] Joseph Smith said further: “If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.”

I cite these few quotations, from many that might be given, merely to confirm your good and true opinion that the Church gives to every man his free agency, and admonishes him always to use the reason and good judgment with which God has blessed him.

In the advocacy of this principle leaders of the Church not only join congregations in singing but quote frequently the following:

“Know this, that every soul is free
To choose his life and what he’ll be,
For this eternal truth is given
That God will force no man to heaven.”

Again I thank you for your manifest friendliness and for your expressed willingness to cooperate in every way to establish good will and harmony among the people with whom we are jointly laboring to bring brotherhood and tolerance.

Faithfully yours,

Geo. Albert Smith [signed]
This letter can be found in the George A. Smith Papers (Manuscript no. 36, Box 63-8A), Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah. More detailed information on this topic can be found in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19:1 (Spring 1986), 35-39.


Glenn Thigpen said...

If this idea had been carried out, the Mountain Meadows Massacre would never had happened.

Stephen said...

Or, if they had thought on Brigham Young's instructions not to harm them, they might have gotten better personal guidance.

White Man Retarded said...

This is an excellent point. The older I get (now 40, still going)my "testimony" grows more based on Spiritual promptings rather than "just based" on GA counsel, although the genesis of all faith is based on a desire to believe the words of prophets. What led me to where I am now, and I consider my testimony now to be the strongest in my life, is the seemingly conflict between teachings of prophets and GAs now and in the past. I think Joseph Smith's quote regarding a prophet is only a prophet when acting in the office (paraphrasing) and stating prophets are men with weaknesses (see Nephi) has helped broaden my understanding and my recognition of my reliance on the Spirit in all things.