In the October 2013 session of General Conference President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “[T]o be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine. I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.”
This was a rather bold admittance. While it was not exactly new information that God’s people are imperfect, including His prophets, apostles, and other leaders, it was still quite a thing to state in the middle of General Conference when we were supposed to be receiving council and revelation from these men and women.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the greater part of the 20th and 21st century, you will know that the church over the years has faced criticism from external, and internal, individuals or groups for practices, principles, and doctrine. In fact, I can think of no point in time, Genesis to now, where someone was not critical of God or his mouthpieces. Now, what President Uchtdorf said is true, there have been mistakes made in the past, and I’m sure that more will be made at some point or another. However, we should not take this knowledge as an excuse to challenge the doctrine of God to conform to the world’s standards.
Continuing Revelation in God’s Time
As members of the LDS church, we accept the idea of continuing revelation, or the concept that things will change over time as the Lord needs them to. Line upon line, precept upon precept, our knowledge of the gospel will grow. We can see this chronology over time, and should understand that with increased knowledge and light, certain commandments, practices, and rules will change. Some practices will change because they were wrong, and the Lord will not let something incorrect stay within Zion. Some things may change because they were needed at the time, but now are no longer pertinent. And some things are doctrine, established even before the world was, and are unchanging. I do not claim to always know which ones are which, but I do know that the purest form of the gospel will eventually be practiced within the Lord’s time.
Now, sometimes we may begin to demand changes be made on our own time. While raising questions is perfectly normal and healthy, demanding that the Lord fit what we believe to be right, no matter how well meaning our intentions, is wrong. When we sustain the Prophet, we sustain him as the Lord’s mouthpiece. Not occasionally. Not when it’s convenient. All the time. I understand that this may be difficult sometimes, especially if you feel very strongly one way, but eventually you have to ask yourself, “Do I believe this man is, in fact, a prophet of God? Do I believe that God is just and fair and all things will work according to His will?”
Often times, our belief is that we know better, that our timeline is truer than the church’s, and by extension, the Lord’s, but we must remember to keep an eternal perspective. There are a lot of things we take on in faith, and we know that Heavenly Father “has yet to reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
Recently, I had a discussion with a friend and we were speaking about a certain current practice in the church. She asked if I thought that is really how things will be in the eternities. My response was, “If it changes, or if I get to the other side and am informed that things are really different, and the world was just not ready, it won’t shake me. But equally so, if that is eternal doctrine, something we will always live by, I will be just as accepting, because I know that our eternal salvation, our joy, is what God cares about, and therefore no law in the eternities will take away from that.”
In February of 2014, I burst into internet notoriety by publishing a highly critical article entitled “Modest is Not Hottest.” I was very vocal about the fact I felt certain concepts of modesty and it’s purposes were unhealthy and damaging to women, and men. While most people’s response was positive, some were very negative, and told me I shouldn’t be questioning the church in public. But, that would not be the last time that I voiced my concerns with certain aspects of “Mormon culture.”
While I do not claim to be perfect at this, there is a vast difference between questioning culture based on doctrine, and challenging doctrine based on culture. I believe, whole-heartedly, that for the church to thrive, we must be actively critical of ourselves, or else risk falling into pharicitical practices.
With many often watching us like a hawk, just waiting for some mistake to come up and pounce on, I understand the desire for some to say to the outside world, “All is well in Zion.” But we cannot think that maintaining some perfect facade will somehow solve real issues within the church membership. As I said before, questioning things is healthy, but to do so effectively, we must understand doctrine. After all, when Christ challenged the Pharisees, He did so with scripture, not with current Roman culture.
Faith in God
In the end, our questions may lead to changes within the church. After all, the Lord doesn’t just give us everything. We are required to ask. But some things will not change. Some things are not meant for now, or even for this life. And some things are eternal, permanent, unchanging. When It comes right down to it, I must reiterate the words that Nephi spoke. “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”
The gospel of Christ is one of faith. It is one that will require us to push ourselves to grow. But I have a testimony that “this is [His] work and [His] glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” I know that Heavenly Father will move heaven and earth for our good, but also that He has a more complete picture of what our good is. And I know all wrongs will be made right and that which is unclear will be made clear at the judgment seat of God.