Defending the restored church of Christ - I created this blog several years ago to provide an alternative to what I saw at the time as a lot of bad "Mormon blogs" that were floating around the web. Also, it was my goal to collect and share a plethora of positive and useful information about what I steadfastly believe to be Christ's restored church. It has been incredibly enjoyable and I hope you find the information worthwhile.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

What life was like for the Mormon pioneers after entering the Salt Lake Valley

(by Ben Tullis 7-24-14)

On June 28, 1847, Brigham Young met with Jim Bridger, famed frontiersman and owner of Fort Bridger. The two men discussed the merits of settling the Salt Lake Valley. Bridger expressed his opinion that growing grain would be difficult in the area, making it unsuitable to sustain a large population.

President Young responded, according to LDS Church News: “Wait a little and we will show you.”
Less than a month later, President Young, sick with tick fever, looked down at the Salt Lake Valley from Emigration Canyon on July 24. Wilford Woodruff later wrote, “While gazing upon the scene before us, he (Brigham Young) was enwrapped in vision for several minutes. He had seen the valley before in vision, and upon this occasion he saw the future glory of Zion and Israel, as they would be, planted in the valleys of these mountains. When the vision had passed, he said, ‘It is enough. This is the right place. Drive on,’ ” according to the Gospel Doctrine manual "Church History in the Fulness of Times."

Three days prior, Orson Pratt, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Erastus Snow, a future apostle, had proceeded down Emigration Canyon and ascended a hill near the entrance of the valley. Pratt recorded: “(We) beheld … such an extensive scenery open before us (that) we could not refrain from a shout of joy which almost involuntarily escaped from our lips the moment this glad and lovely scenery was within our view.” Elder Pratt’s words are recorded on the This Is the Place Heritage Park monument.

Within 10 years, Great Salt Lake City, as it would be known until 1868, was filled with homes, shops and places of worship that the people built to establish a city where they could find peace — but where hardship found them nonetheless.

One of the myths that has prevailed through the years is that the Salt Lake Valley was an arid, barely habitable desert. While the land wasn’t an ideal place to settle, it wasn’t a wild desert, according to Steve Olsen, senior curator at the LDS Church History Library.

“Some of the early pioneers were very impressed by how luxuriant it was, how well watered it was, how much grass was growing here," Olsen said. "That’s not to say they didn’t have to dam up the creeks and create networks for irrigation, but it wasn’t the kind of arid landscape that we often think about.”

“The valley in many ways was pretty much the same (as today) as far as the topography and the geology and (the way) the land form goes,” said Brian Westover, trades coordinator at This Is the Place Heritage Park. “The big difference, of course, is the features that we’ve added since we got down in the valley. One thing, for example, is water. A lot of people don’t realize this, but every one of these canyons that (surrounds) the valley — from City Creek, Millcreek, Red Butte, Emigration, all the way down — had a stream running down it that went into the Jordan River. And all those streams are still there, but they’ve been sent underground in conduits and pipes for the most part.”
The Saints did not have much time to take in the scenery, however. There was a lot of work to do to establish Great Salt Lake City.

“They were starting from scratch,” Olsen said. “If they were going to establish a community here, they had to establish it from the ground up. Hardly any of these people had any experience in doing that. … So they had to build roads, and they had to build irrigation systems and transportation systems and communication systems, and they had to build social institutions and they had to build all these elements … with relatively few resources and with relatively little background experience.”
The first priority after the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived in the valley was planting crops.

“They were very concerned about food,” Westover said. “Back in pioneer days, there was a saying: ‘If you want to have a harvest for winter, corn should be knee high by the Fourth of July.’ And, of course, arriving on the 24th and corn not even in the ground yet, they were very concerned about getting food crops into the fall and winter.”

As it was still summer when the pioneers arrived in the valley, building homes was not as much of a concern, according to Westover.

“One of the first buildings built was a bowery — just basically a shade structure," Westover said. "And they used it for school, for church, for public and civic meetings. … For the most part (the pioneers) just stayed in their tents in the beginning or the wagon boxes until they could start building the initial homes and dugouts. Initially there was a fort at Pioneer Park (now located at 300 South and 300 West), and it had a bunch of small cabins in it.”

The Mormon pioneers were between two American Indian tribes, and it was not clear at first how they would react to the presence of the Saints.

“The whole area had been occupied by a number of different Indian tribes — the Shoshones to the north and the Utes to the south — and the Salt Lake Valley … was kind of a no-man’s land," said Olsen. "It was a kind of shared space that neither claimed for their own. So the Mormons began settling here and it was somewhat fortuitous in that regard because it wasn’t challenging either of the (Native American) settlement areas. That’s one of the reasons why there was relative peace to begin with.”

By July 28, President Young designated the lot where the temple would stand. That spot would be the center point of the city, with every structure, road and private property laid out evenly, perfectly square and radiating from that point.

President Young and other leaders of the LDS Church remained in the Salt Lake Valley a little less than a month before heading back East on Aug. 16 to prepare their families to come to the valley the next year.

After President Young left, Charles C. Rich and John Young organized a municipal high council that directed the building of 450 log cabins and a fence to control the livestock. They also supervised the construction of an adobe wall around the fort as well as a number of roads and bridges, according to “Church History in the Fulness of Times.”

The Saints persevered through provision shortages and damaged crops their first year in the valley. President Young returned in September 1848, and by the end of the year, almost 3,000 Saints had arrived in the valley. President Young wrote to those still on the trail that the Saints had found “a haven of rest, a place for our souls, a place where we may dwell in safety,” according to "Church History in the Fulness of Times."

By 1850, houses and buildings had been constructed and a public works had been established.
“They (created) what we would call public utilities, that is, people who were responsible for damming the water and creating irrigation systems that would water the gardens and the orchards and the farms,” Olsen said. “They would soon create utilities for logging lumber so the access to lumber wasn’t just on a case-by-case basis or was favored to the rich. … Someone would have a use right to control and have access to these resources, but for the purpose of building up the community and not for the sake of becoming personally enriched.”

Two of the more important buildings for the Saints were constructed in the 1850s. The Great Salt Lake Social Hall, built in 1853, was a place where the Saints gathered for concerts and dances. The Deseret Dramatic Association was organized in 1853 and held many plays in the building. The Social Hall was also where the territorial legislature met for a few sessions, according to information on a marker at This Is the Place Heritage Park, where a replica of the Social Hall can be found. Remnants of the original foundation can be seen at the Social Hall Heritage Museum at 51 S. State Salt Lake City.

The second building was the Deseret News building, constructed in 1850. The publication allowed LDS Church leaders to communicate with Saints who had settled other parts of Utah and the surrounding states.

“Very soon after the Saints were established here, they created the Deseret News, (and) that was as important as any other network or system or institution that was established here,” Olsen said. “If you’re building the kingdom of God, and the members of the kingdom of God are spread out in a variety of different places, you have to have ways of keeping in touch with everybody. And the newspaper was, in part, for that purpose. … It was as a communications network for the kingdom of God.”

“(The pioneers) were isolated here in the community, so there were two functions of (the newspaper),” said Bob Folkman, a printer at the replicated Deseret News building at This Is the Place Heritage Park and president of the Sons of Utah Pioneers. “(The first was) local communications between the leaders, whether the government leaders or the church leaders — which were initially the same. … And the other is just that there was no other reliable source of news in the community. … There was some need to have a connection to what was going on in the world other than just word of mouth.”

While other pioneers traveled and settled areas in California and Oregon, the LDS pioneers were different in that their motivation was building the kingdom of God on the earth.

“When you’re with people you’re committed to by covenant … you can’t discount the value of religion bringing this thing together,” Olsen said. “So, there was just this amazing commitment they had to one another, even though often they didn’t share the same language (or) the same background. But they did share the same religion, so that was the glue that held them together and encouraged them to collaborate and share and sacrifice and do all those things that actually enabled them to succeed here where other people would not have.”

In only 10 years, the pioneers, through hard work and determination, had built a growing city with homes, shops, churches, farms and schools, and an area where they thought the Saints could live free from persecution and interference.

But in May 1857, U.S. President James Buchanan, after believing reports from anti-Mormon politicians, ordered federal troops to march to Great Salt Lake City to put down a supposed Mormon insurrection. After months of delay, the troops marched through Great Salt Lake City on June 26, 1858.

One of the soldiers marching with the troops, John Rozsa — who later joined the LDS Church — wrote, “The city lies in a very nice place at the foot of a hill … (and) is quite big and is built in good style. The houses are built of dobies and there was nice gardens around them … but nevertheless they look just like a dead city. … On arriving in the city we found only a few (men). The houses were locked and the windows nailed up, and all the people had fled south.”

The Saints had abandoned their city in case of problems with the soldiers. The few men left in the city when the troops marched through held torches and were prepared to burn the entire city to the ground if the troops did not abide by an agreement not to disturb the property.
The troops did abide by their agreement, and the Saints were able to return to the city they had founded almost 11 years earlier.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

KSL's Religion Today for April 2014

April 20th - Did the Resurrection really occur?

April 27th - The history of the Bible

Millennial Star post about priesthood

Tracing the Priesthood

Tracing the formation of the Priesthood in Mormonism is not an easy task. Dates get confused, concepts change over time, offices are added or refined, and duties are not always clearly delineated. Like all institutions, the organization was not fully formed on the first day. However, in order to get a correct understanding of how the modern LDS Church works, the history of its authoritative structure must be explained. Joseph Smith wrote, “There is no salvation between the two lids of the Bible without a legal administrator. Jesus was then the legal administrator, and ordained His Apostles” (TPJS, pg. 319). Doctrine and revelation are of no value if the proper leadership is not in operation.

Historians start talking about Mormonism with the First Vision of Joseph Smith, where he witnesses God and Jesus Christ in a grove of trees after a day at work on the family property. Next in line is the vision of the Angel Moroni, with the eventual translation and publication of the Book of Mormon. Essential as these two events are for tracing what would be called Mormonism, it is the development of Priesthood that makes it of any importance. This more than anything for believers gives it purpose and meaning. The “Great Apostasy” is the loss of authority that the “Restoration” regains. The Priesthood is the Power of God to officiate in the ordinances of Salvation, and regulate the government of the Church.

During the process of translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and his scribe Oliver Cowdery ran into the concept of authority to baptise. They questioned how anyone would be given the authority to baptise others. Joseph Smith stated, ““We still continued the work of translation, when, in the ensuing month (May, 1829), we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us,” to the Aaronic Priesthood (JS-H 1:68). Oliver Cowdery later wrote they were, “ordained by the angel John, unto the lesser or Aaronic priesthood, in company with myself, in the town of Harmony, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, on Friday, the 15th day of May, 1829,” in a preface to a book of formal blessings.Having been given the Aaronic Priesthood, the two baptised each other in the Susquehanna River before returning to the duty of translation.

The Aaronic Priesthood ordination would only be the beginning of Priesthood confiral. John the Baptist promised more power would be given them by other messengers. Generally speaking, a higher priesthood having the authority to give the gift of the Holy Ghost would be bestowed on them. This promise was realized when the angels Peter, James, and John ordained them to the Melchizedek Priesthood on an unspecified date. The missing date has created a level of confusion amplified by possible differences between how the Priesthood was first understood and now.

There are a few theories for when to date the Melchizedek Priesthood ordination of Joseph Smith. The closest to the official version is sometime between May 15 to May 31, 1829. A letter dated 1829 by Oliver Cowdery reflects D&C 18:9, “I speak unto you, even as unto Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with that same calling with which he was called.” Joseph Smith in the History of the Church, 1:61–62 states about the above revelation, “The following commandment will further illustrate the nature of our calling to this Priesthood, as well as that of others who were yet to be sought after.” It is argued no one can be an apostle unless they have the higher priesthood. By at least April 6, 1830, the Melchizedek Priesthood had to have been conferred, the argument continues, because the Church couldn’t be organized without it’s authority. The revelation of church government read during the official organization of the Church, known as D&C 20, clearly states Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were called of God as Apostles. Joseph the first and Oliver the second Elders. These positions again are considered part of the higher priesthood.

Other arguments state that it wasn’t until later, perhaps up to June 1831, that members of the Church were first ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Richard Bushman writes that Joseph Smith and others claim it was the first time that priesthood was introduced. He dismisses the explanation it was only the High Priest office. The writings are very specific in naming it the Melchizedek after the Order of the Son of God. He also speculates that perhaps Joseph Smith didn’t fully understand that differences between the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. the Prophet didn’t realize Peter, James, and John had given to them already (JS:RSR pgs. 157-160). The problem with his theory is that the language is not as precise as he claims. Joseph Smith stating the authority was, “conferred for the first time upon several,” doesn’t necessarily mean all for the first time. Even if other records interchange High Priesthood with Melchizedek Priesthood, that doesn’t mean the two are the same.
Another problem is that perhaps up until at least 1835, the offices were of more taxonomy importance than the two levels of Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. It started with elders, priests, deacons, and teachers. Elder, for instance, really could be just an Elder and High Priest the Melchizedek Priesthood without reference to the authority they might be under. More importantly would be the duty and authority each position held. Apostle could have been at first a general name for witness of God. Later other offices were introduced with more definition and expansion of duties. A series of revelations combined as D&C 107 solidified the two tier groupings of offices. They could now be found under either the Aaronic or Melchizedek Priesthood, consisting of lower outward ordinances and higher spiritual blessings.

The offices of the Priesthood have and can continue to change. After the 1960s, the high priest quorum president was placed under the Bishop’s authority rather than Apostles. In effect they became a ward rather than stake office. Another relatively recent change has been the function and placement of the office of the Seventy. It has always had a problematic relationship up until 1986 with where it fit in the organizational structure. At times they were apart from and others combined with the high priests. Eventually they went from a ward level administration to General Authority status along with the Twelve Apostles.

Paul explained in Ephesians 4:11-16 the purpose of so many offices:
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
There is a work to be done. The Church needs the Priesthood and its offices to bring about Zion. No changes can be done without strict consent from the God who gave it to mortals. The people who are given the Priesthood may be imperfect, but the offices demand respect. A testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith insists on the same for the Priesthood and Church that he was called to organize. The Saints have not been perfected and therefore there is the same need for Priesthood offices. No one can take this honor unto themselves and must be authorized by those who have authority. That authority must be traced back to Joseph Smith who got it from John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John who got it from Jesus Christ who got it from God the Father.

For a more detailed examination of Priesthood, see here, here, here, and here(make sure to read all 12 parts).

Millennial Star guest post on recent excommunication

Hammering the Table

This is a guest post by Michael Davidson, who says he is an active member of what may be the most geographically expansive branch of the Church in North America. He is a father, husband and attorney. He spent yesterday, Saturday, June 21, 2014, driving up the northern peninsula of Newfoundland in search of icebergs and moose. Plenty of both were seen and captured photographically.

When the facts are on your side, hammer the facts. When the law is on your side, hammer the law. When neither is on your side, hammer the table. I have no idea who first said that, but this is advice almost all trial lawyers have heard at one time or another. As an experienced trial advocate, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to do each of these, and each course of action is perfectly acceptable in our system of justice. Courts are great places in which everyone has a shot, even those who have no basis in law or fact to expect success.

This leads me to the increasingly tragic saga of Kate Kelly and her little club. As most readers of this will know, Ms. Kelly’s attendance has been requested at a disciplinary council to be held this evening. She has publicly stated that she has no intention of appearing, though a gaggle of her supporters will be appearing at the Church in Virginia in her stead. Ms. Kelly herself will be attending a demonstration in Salt Lake City instead, to protest the Church for her bishop’s decision to convene the council in the first instance.

Instead of attending, she submitted a personal statement signed by herself, a legal brief drafted by Nadine Hansen and a circular file worth of anonymous statements in her defense. Having reviewed each, or at least as much as has been made available online, I am not terribly moved. She can’t argue the facts, as they are not in dispute. Ms. Kelly concedes in various statements this last week that if they are merely going to ask whether she had done the things she has been accused of, that there is no defense. She can’t argue the law, because the law condemns her. She continued to preach her doctrine of gender equity long after she had been warned to stop by her stake president. The definition of apostasy is clearly met here and there is no defense to it. So, she hammers the table, as does Ms. Hansen.

Ms. Kelly’s defense consists of three pages of biographical exposition followed by a page of defiance. She lists all the ways in her life that she has acted as the perfect little Mormon girl. She cites her missionary service, marriage in the Temple, and devotion to BYU as indicators that she is loyal to the Church and could not have committed apostasy, because of all the gosh-darn Mormon things she has done in her life. This is silly. It’s akin to a bank robber who was caught red handed defending himself in Court by providing a list of all the banks he hasn’t robbed. Even if we accept as fact that she was not engaged in activities that would fit the definition of apostasy in high school does not mean that she isn’t engaging in apostasy now.

In the final page of her missive, she warns her Bishopric that they need to be careful because if they punish her, they’ll also be punishing “thousands of Mormons who have questions and concerns with gender inequality in the Church.” She points to the large numbers of supporters she has recruited into her little club as potential victims of any discipline that may be meted out. This should be a counterproductive argument. Ordain Women is the vehicle of her apostasy, and demonstrating just how successful she has been in gathering a following (based, at least in part by her claim to be a faithful, temple recommend holding, member of the Church) only further drives home the need that the Church take some action. If she had merely written an article for Dialogue and thereby exposed her ideas to literally dozens of people, it would have been different, but Ms. Kelly’s reach is far greater than that, and the need for correction is accordingly increased.

She then doubles down and directly states that she will not be complying with the conditions imposed by the stake president as a part of her probation. This, in and of itself, is damning and more than adequate cause to justify excommunication if the Spirit directs that outcome.

Ms. Hansen does not do too much better. She attempts to apply legal principles to the defense of Kate Kelly and attempts to question the council’s jurisdiction, impartiality, adherence to procedure and due process, etc. None of these arguments are persuasive, because US legal precedent simply isn’t controlling in a disciplinary council.

She does point out that the method for delivering the summons to the disciplinary counsel was not followed, and suggests that this is fatal to the proceedings. This is hogwash, as those rules are set forth to ensure that the subject of the disciplinary council received adequate notice of the council. I think that all of us can be sure that Kate Kelly did indeed get the letter, though it would be interesting whether she read it before sending it to the New York Times, or after, or at all.

Ms. Hansen then goes on a bit of a jury nullification argument. Knowing that the Handbook and the facts condemn Ms. Kelly, she argues that this bishopric should ignore what the Handbook says on this subject and decide on a “no action” outcome of the hearing. Good luck with that. I’m guessing those brothers will be pretty careful to follow the Handbook’s guidance on this matter.

Based on a review of the written materials that will be put in front of Ms. Kelly’s Bishop, I would expect an excommunication. I’m not a betting man, but if I were I would put my money on that outcome. There is no contrition, there is no submission, there is nothing except a promise to keep doing what she has been told constitutes apostasy. My experience with such councils only confirms this expectation.

Having said that, I find no joy in this. I find it tragic. There is nothing that I would like to see on Monday morning is the news that the OW website had been removed from the web and that Ms. Kelly was able to avoid any further discipline. I’m not holding my breath.

Millennial Star post about recent excommunication of LDS dissident

Beware the Leaven of the Dissidents

In response to recent disciplinary actions by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, supporters of those being disciplined have complained that the charge of apostasy is inaccurate because, they assert, the individuals and the organizations created by them have not taught any false doctrines or acted in opposition to the prophet or the Church.
They insist that all they are doing is asking questions. So, what false doctrine can they possibly be teaching?
This is my attempt to answer that important question.
At the outset, let’s immediately dispense with the notion that “asking questions” is always unambiguously innocent and unassuming.

Most people understand that questions can be asked not just to acquire information but also to manipulate or oppose. This is abundantly clear in the scriptures. Many of the the questions posed to Jesus or the prophets came from pharisees, lawyers, scribes and others whose intent was not to learn but to control either Jesus or the perception of Jesus by others.
There is a difference between looking for answers and asking questions to which you have already decided the answer.
So, it isn’t enough just to say, “we’re only asking questions.” You can be teaching false doctrines and opposing church leaders by asking questions. The motivations for asking, the underlying assumptions behind the questions, and the manner in which the questions are asked are all essential information for evaluating what kind of questioning is happening.
And it is often in the underlying assumptions behind the questions and actions that we find the false doctrines that are being taught. You can be selling a particular viewpoint even if it is not always explicitly stated.
We spend so much time arguing about the issues and questions on the surface, when the real point of controversy is in the underlying framework upon which the questions and interpretations are predicated.
The false doctrine that underpins the actions of dissident groups is a conceptual model of the Church, its authorities, and its operation that is incompatible with the model that the Church and its authorities teach about themselves.
The teachings of the highest authorities of the Church throughout the history of the Restoration present a remarkably consistent model of what the Church is, what prophets are, and how the Church is meant to operate.
Rather than attempt to summarize the model here, I refer you to the extensive selection of teachings from the prophets themselves in the official Teachings of the Presidents of the Church books linked in my previous post:
This conceptual model of the Church is the doctrine of the Church that dissident groups disbelieve, reject, and oppose.
They offer instead a competing, alternative model for the Church.
I won’t attempt a comprehensive description of this alternate model either. It can be readily discerned in the many online conversations and blog posts that dissidents write in defense of their actions and their doctrine. Some common points of this doctrine include: that they don’t see the church or the church leaders as their superiors; they see them as equals, or even inferior because the leaders are “old” and behind the times. When there is a conflict between what they apprehend to be God’s will and what their church leaders are saying, their own view of God’s will always trumps what the prophets say. They emphasize the fallibility of priesthood leaders and repeat a common liturgy of perceived errors by past church authorities to justify rejection of current teachings. In their model, being made to feel loved and accepted trumps order, obedience, and authority.
I am not going to argue the merits of these two competing models here. My views on the subject are well established. Dissidents see the framework the Church teaches as a form of idolatrous leader worship. I see the framework they teach as a dangerous form of spiritual anarchy that leaves them open to deception by false brethren and by false spirits. I have previously written at length about the intersection between prophetic authority and fallibility in defense of the doctrine of the church and the authority of the prophets and apostles.
The point is that by their actions these groups are teaching a doctrine of what the church is that is contrary to what the church teaches about itself.
I invite you to thoroughly read the selections of teachings of the prophets to which I previously linked, as well as all of the sermons delivered by the Apostles of the Church in the General Conferences of the last decade and beyond. Take a good look at what they have said and what they are saying and the model of what the Church is that they teach. Compare their teachings to the things that dissident groups are saying in their forums and blog posts and facebook pages.
They are not the same. The models are different. The doctrines are different.
It is up to you to decide whether you believe the doctrine taught by the prophets and apostles or the doctrine of the dissidents.
You know that I support, trust, and follow the authorities of the Church. I hope you will join me.

Priesthood blessings equally available to all, LDS leaders say in new statement

(by Tad Walch 6-28-14)

The Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement Saturday about priesthood in the church, church service, questioning and apostasy.

The three-paragraph statement, posted Saturday morning on, said:

"In God’s plan for the happiness and eternal progression of his children, the blessings of his priesthood are equally available to men and women. Only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices. All service in the church has equal merit in the eyes of God. We express profound gratitude for the millions of Latter-day Saint women and men who willingly and effectively serve God and his children. Because of their faith and service, they have discovered that the church is a place of spiritual nourishment and growth.

"We understand from time to time church members will have questions about church doctrine, history or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.

"Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine."

The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are the two presiding quorums of the LDS Church. They meet as a council once a week in the faith's Salt Lake Temple.

The statement comes at the end of a week in which media attention focused on the decision of an LDS bishop in Virginia to excommunicate Kate Kelly for action he said “has threatened to erode the faith of others.”

Kelly — the founder of an activist organization known as Ordain Women, which advocates the ordination of women to the LDS priesthood — learned she was excommunicated on Monday following a disciplinary council convened by the bishop.

Saturday's statement is consistent with recent teachings from LDS General Authorities regarding the role of questioning, doubt and priesthood authority within the LDS faith.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the church's First Presidency, spoke at a recent LDS general conference about the honest search for truth through questioning.

"In this church that honors personal agency so strongly, that was restored by a young man who asked questions and sought answers, we respect those who honestly search for truth," he said. "It may break our hearts when their journey takes them away from the church we love and the truth we have found, but we honor their right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, just as we claim that privilege for ourselves.”

In the church's most recent general priesthood meeting, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, noted the doctrinal bounds LDS leaders act under with regard to sharing priesthood ordination and authority.

"But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood,” he said.

Elder Oaks said that although they are not ordained to the priesthood, LDS women already act with the authority of the priesthood in their church callings.

"We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their church callings," he said, "but what other authority can it be? … Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.”

Elder Oaks made those remarks during a meeting that was the subject of a direct action protest by Kelly and the Ordain Women group.

A national survey of Mormons found that 90 percent of Mormon women oppose the ordination of women. The percentage rises to 95 percent among LDS women with a high religious commitment.
Saturday's statement by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles contributes to public understanding of apostasy in the LDS Church.