Jan 21

Why do LDS Church policies change?

If truth is absolute, why would Church policies change?  Why would anything in the Church change, for that matter?  Thinking about why this question might bother people, some thought-provoking possibilities have come to mind.  For any who might have this question themselves, I wanted to share a few comments as to why this might occur.  Please note: this is totally and completely my opinion only.  Further, not every possibility listed applies to every situation where something in the Church has changed.

As I present these thoughts, I do so with some foundational beliefs, which I list here:

  • We are on the Earth to learn how to be more like God, as it is our potential and purpose to become as He is.
  • As such, on occasion we must learn to work out the problems, issues, and trials of life on our own.
  • Because of this, many times in our lives, we must make the best decision we know how.  We then present it to the Lord for approval.
  • In other words, just because the Lord knows everything does not mean that He will readily present us with the answer to every problem we have.  We strive to make the best decision we can with the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding we have been given.
  • If that decision is acceptable to the Lord, He may let us know one or more of a wide variety of ways.  Or, should that be the wrong decision, He will also let us know.
  • It is my humble opinion that this is the case for Church leaders, as well.

Sometimes, if a policy, practice, procedure, or process in the Church changes, it may be that the Lord wishes to protect the members or growth of His Church.  One example of this could be the practice of plural marriage.  Many early Church members practiced polygamy, as it was a revelation given by the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Polygamy was met with strong opposition by nearly all the rest of the country.

Many practitioners were pursued by the law after the Edmunds Act of 1882 made polygamy a felony. Being the Celestial law that it is, the requirement to practice polygamy was nonetheless rescinded.  As we also believe in obeying the law, this may have been part of why the practice was discontinued.  In addition, there had been a large amount of distrust of these early LDS Church members by the Federal Government.  This was punctuated by the Utah War (1857-1858) when President James Buchanan sent a military force to Utah.

Had the Church defiantly continued practicing polygamy, I believe that this would have greatly aggravated the already-strained relations with the rest of the country.  Perhaps this would have resulted in further persecution of those faithful saints.  The Prophet at the time, President Wilford Woodruff, received a revelation on September 23, 1890 from the Lord that the Church was to discontinue polygamy.

Did the Lord already know how this would unfold?  Of course He did.  However, he still gives people the chance to accept or reject His teachings to test their faith and obedience.  He also lets us grow and stretch by giving us challenges for us to work out here on the Earth.

Thus, one reason that things in the Church may somtimes change is that the society as a whole may turn on the Church members.  The Lord will then instruct the Prophet to alter policies to protect the development of His Church and its members.  The society as a whole is not ready to accept that particular precept.  Again, this possibility is my own opinion.

As another explanation of why things may change, perhaps it is the Church members themselves that are not quite able to live a given law.  This may have been the case with the Law of Consecration as it was originally given.  It seems to me that the early nineteenth-century era members were unable or perhaps unwilling to live this law.  Because of this, they may have instead been given the law of Tithing as we now practice it.

The Lord’s implementation of the Law of Moses seems to present a similar situation.  Prior to that time, they lived God’s laws as given to Adam and Abraham.  The people that Moses brought out from Egypt could not live that law.  This became clear when they were found worshiping a golden calf.  Because of their inability to remain faithful, they were given a different law.  That became what we know now as the Law of Moses.

There is precedent for the Lord directly changing laws himself.

As an example, consider the fifth chapter of Matthew in the New Testament.  The Lord says that a number of things had been set as the law until that time.  He then revises the requirements of the law.  This may have been to restore them to what they were before the Law of Moses was given.  He changed the requirements of what the people were to do, possibly for their ultimate benefit and to accelerate their spiritual growth.

We could also review the Old Testament account of the Lord requiring Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.  Abraham did everything he was asked to do.  At the last minute, the Lord changed His requirement of Abraham, providing him with a different sacrifice.  One might ask, “Why the change?”

Do you think that the Lord did not know that Abraham would be fully obedient?  I believe He did.  I feel that it could be the case that Abraham needed to learn something about himself.  Perhaps there was a lesson in the experience for Isaac, as well.

Why did the Lord change what He required of His followers in Matthew 5?  Why did he change what he required of Abraham?

The desire of the Lord is to save as many of us as He can.  People interpret things in different ways.  As mortals, we have a myriad of ways that we perceive and assign meaning to things.  Though certain exact steps are required, such as baptism and being sealed in the Temple, the Lord reveals things to us so that we will each understand individually.  We learn this in 2 Nephi 31:3.  The overall goal is that we are exalted, per Moses 1:39.  In that, He will never change.  He may modify, according to what we need, His requirements of us, so that we become what He would have us be: pure, refined, and perfected.

When I hear that a certain number of changes have been made in the Book of Mormon, or to the temple endowment, or to whatever thing, that doesn’t bother me a bit.  We have considered a few possibilities as to why the Lord may rescind a requirement, or change something completely.  If He wants to change something so that we have a greater possibility of being exalted, why would we not rejoice in such a thing?

Jan 14

Recommended Reading: The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister

The Infinite Atonement - Tad R. Callister

The Infinite Atonement – Tad R. Callister

Every so often, I find myself walking through Deseret Book thinking, “I’m sure all of these books are good, but which ones are really great?”  It is at times like this when I really wish I had a list of books that someone had reviewed.  A list of the books that, in their opinion, were the most edifying, uplifting, thought-provoking, and informative.  To this end, I maintain a page of recommended Books and References that I feel fit this description.

In this post, I wish to recommend one book in particular.  It is called “The Infinite Atonement.”  This work holds a place among the best available about the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In fact, Robert L. Millet, the Dean of Religious Education and Professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU wrote the Forward of this book.  In Brother Millet’s words:

“Some things simply matter more than others.  Even some doctrines, though interesting and even fun to discuss, must take a back seat to more fundamental and foundational doctrines.  It is just so with the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  The Atonement is the central act of human history, the pivotal point in all time, the  doctrine of doctrines.  Everything we do and everything we teach should somehow be anchored to the Atonement.

“I trust that the reader will conclude, as I have, that this book is worthy of repeated study, first because it is so well written, but, more important, because it addresses a subject, the subject, that is of everlasting import to every son and daughter of God.”

Brother Millet says it eloquently: Christ’s Atonement is the very most important doctrine to be understood, and this is an excellent resource for gaining a deeper understanding of it.

Here is part of the description from Deseret Book‘s site:

“Using the scriptures and the words of the prophets, Brother Callister explores the Savior’s divinity and the depth of his love for mankind. He explains the blessings that flow from the Atonement, providing insight into the resurrection, repentance, and the gifts of peace, motivation, freedom, grace, and exaltation. He explains the relationship of justice and mercy and the importance of ordinances. Through discussing the effects of the fall of Adam and our individual sins, he reminds us in a powerful way of the incalculable debt of gratitude we owe Christ for his unparalleled offering.”

The multitude of glowing reviews of this book also make a very strong case for owning a copy.  Here are a few:

“This is the most thorough treatment of the atonement that I have ever read. After reading and highlighting passages over the first 1/3 of the book, I realized I needed to read it again with my scriptures open and adding commentary into the margins for future reference. It will definitely be a book that I re-read several times in the future.”

“Callister does an outstanding job of describing the Atonement. My understanding of the Atonement and of the passages in the scriptures that teach of the Atonement was broadened. I especially enjoyed the chapters that explain why the Atonement is called ‘infinite.’ This is a must read.”

“There are LDS classics and it would not surprise me if this book becomes one. It has an excellent chapter on the gifts of the Spirit and the exalting and perfecting power of the Atonement. The gifts are essential for our development. If you understand that relationship, it maps out a journey more thrilling than any other earthly adventure could offer. This is a must read book.”

They go on and on, but are nearly all of the same tone and praise.  Personally, I am so very thankful that I was introduced to this book.  “The Infinite Atonement” is one of those books that you will read many times.  Each time, you will learn something new about the most important topic in the history of the world.

Jan 10

Henry B. Eyring on Keeping a Journal

In the great ocean of printed words and spoken discourses we have available to us, the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have left no uncertainty as to the value of keeping a journal.  Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, related a personal experience in this regard in the October 2007 General Conference.  He said:

“I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.”

– Henry B. Eyring, October 2007 General Conference, “O Remember, Remember”

Who would not benefit from such a practice?  Who would not want to see Heavenly Father’s hand more clearly in their life?  This is one of the numerous gems that have inspired the creation of the LDS Scripture Study project.