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282: Elder Oaks, Common Consent, And Un-Canonized Doctrine

Elder Oaks gave a talk this past week that raises for me several questions. Here are the things he seemed to have said and my questions that follow. Remember it is Elder Oaks himself who stated that “Questions are honored” and so I hope you will do just that by taking them seriously. Also, Elder Ballard said gone are the days when we bear testimony or say don’t worry about it as a way to avoid serious concerns. So I am hopeful you will either address my questions or if you are unable, that you will see that they are forwarded up the ecclesiastical ladder until someone is willing to honor my questions. I also hope you will sense that if these questions can not be addressed that it is possible there is something illogical about the teaching being imposed. I am open to having misunderstood Elder Oaks and I am open to gospel answers that are backed by scriptural principles and doctrine.

He seems to have taught
1.) It is our doctrine that a man married to a woman legally and lawfully is the only appropriate marriage in the gospel
– How do we reconcile that concept with the fact that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff were all illegally and unlawfully wedded to their wives?

2.) That for thousands of years marriage has been between a man and a woman.
– How can we take seriously such a definition when the Church itself broke the traditional definition of marriage but instructing people to enter polygamy and going so far as to impose that only by disobeying the world and its laws and entering polygamy may one achieve salvation.

3.) Elder Oaks seemed to impose that Gender being eternal is doctrine.
– How do we explain Intersex people with both sets of genitalia, How do we explain androgen sensitivity syndrome which has a human with the DNA of a man (XY chromosomes) while at the same time the fetus inability to process androgen appropriately has the person presenting physically as a female and in some cases even able to give birth?, How do we explain transgender? Was an intersex person both male and female in the premortal life? will they have both genitalia in the post-mortal life? will a xy chromosome man who presents as a female be a man or a woman in the hereafter?

4.) Elder Oaks seemed to impose the Proclamation as Doctrine to which a latter-day saints faithfulness will be gauged.
– There seems to be a process to put forth the mind and will of God in a way that Latter Day Saints are bound to it and for us to see the ideas as doctrine. That is to put forth the teaching for a vote of common consent before the membership and then to canonize it. A Latter Day Saint can not be held to every statement a leader makes nor can a person have any teaching imposed on him as a litmus test of faith without that teaching being presented for common consent. For example Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual ” Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints”. “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” has never be presented for common consent nor has it been canonized. Any unique teaching in it not corroborated by canonized scripture accepted by Common consent can not be used as a litmus test to decide faithfulness. Notice the Church itself only a few years ago did not like this kind of imposition and even altered a leaders words to prevent it.

In October 2010 general conference President Packer stated the following

” Fifteen years ago, with the world in turmoil, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the fifth proclamation in the history of the Church. It qualifies according to the definition as a revelation and would do well that members of the church to read and follow it.”

The published version now says:

“Fifteen years ago, with the world in turmoil, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the fifth proclamation in the history of the Church. It is a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow.”

Also consider ““All that we teach in this Church ought to be couched in the scriptures. It ought to be found in the scriptures. We ought to choose our texts from the scriptures. If we want to measure truth, we should measure it by the four standard works, regardless of who writes it. If it is not in the standard works, we may well assume that it is speculation, man’s own personal opinion; and if it contradicts what is in the scriptures, it is not true. This is the standard by which we measure all truth” (“Using the Scriptures in Our Church Assignments,” Improvement Era, Jan. 1969, 13).”

Also consider “In the Church, canon refers to the authoritative collection of sacred books of scripture, known as the standard works, formally adopted and accepted by the Church and considered binding upon members in matters of faith and doctrine.”

5.) Elder Oaks seemed to impose that a marriage vows must be honored with complete fidelity.
– Can we address how that plays out in Joseph’s relationship with Emma. He lied to her about polygamy, he had relationships with women without telling Emma, and some of these relationships were sexual. How do we contrast Joseph behavior with the imposition that one’s marriage should be honored with complete fidelity? If we are going to hold people accountable should we not be willing to discuss the prophet Joseph’s behavior? (Even the LDS.ORG essay says “Emma likely did not know about all of Joseph’s sealings.” – is that fidelity to Emma?)

6.) Elder Oaks seemed to impose that the Church seeks to protect the sanctity of marriage by upholding the traditional definition and that we are at odds with a world that seeks to change the traditional definition.
– In light of our early practice of polygamy where the world was trying to uphold the traditional definition of marriage and it was us as a faith that was seeking to amend and alter that definition is such an argument rooted in hypocrisy?

7.) Elder Oaks seemed to impose that the doctrine is that marriage is for “multiplying and replenishing the earth”.
– How do we contrast that with the Church teaching in the LDS.ORG essay “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo” that “Sealings for time and eternity included commitments and relationships during this life, generally including the possibility of sexual relations.”? Which means some marriages were likely not intended to be sexual hence Joseph wasn’t marrying for the doctrine to multiply and replenish the earth with some of his wives. So how do we reconcile that?

Am I bound to what a single leader teaches if it is not in the standard works? Am I bound to see the proclamation as a guide or is it now an un-canonized doctrine that was never put forth for common consent?


29 thoughts on “282: Elder Oaks, Common Consent, And Un-Canonized Doctrine”

  1. The tone is quite angry, and fill of vitriol.
    Most members of the church won’t listen or take heed of your points over that which Elder Oaks stated (for better of for worse).

    Then again most members of the church slept through that talk, and now your actions bring more attention to it.

    It would be nice if we could have face to face with the leadership of the church that didn’t involve just the youth, but included the adults as well.

    Don’t count on Elder Oaks listening to this podcast much less answering any of your questions.

    Hopefully history can teach us a lesson in this regard as well as others.

  2. These are great points and thank you for being brave enough to write and send them up the leadership ladder.

    One point I would add in addition to the nontraditional marriages of modern LDS leaders: the biblical practices/doctrines on marriage also contradict the PoF and Oak’s talk.

  3. I noticed that Bednar also quotes the Family Proc.

    This made me wonder if their bringing up the Family Proc frequently is a process of “grooming” the church membership into accepting the Family Proc as canon.

    Just wondering out loud.

  4. The interesting thing is that the LDS Church and all their leaders have never considered forbidding divorce. Really the Catholic Church has a position that is much more in line with the family proclamation…that of not recognizing divorce. Why is the LDS Church so adamantly forbidding anyone from gay marriage but there are really few if any consequences to members who divorce. I see this as a big inconsistency.

    1. It would be so nice if we could simply minister to and love those who enter into homosexual marriage like we do with those who divorce. Divorced mormons are allowed to remain in fellowship with few if any restrictions even if their life is now not part of the “ideal” put forth in the Family proclamation. Why can’t we do the same with gay marriage…even if you want to accept that it isn’t the path we are taught to take…it is a path nonetheless that people do take…just like divorce is a choice people feel compelled at times to take. Let’s minister to and love and ACCEPT our brothers and sisters the way they are. If we keep condemning and rejecting we will end up rejecting everyone as none of us lives up to the perfection called for by church leaders.

  5. I consider your points well taken Bill. Elder Oaks’ talk ripped open old wounds for many as well as causing new wounds. There is great irony in speaking of the Family Proclamation in a way that will inevitably cause pain and conflict for many LDS (and ex-MO) individuals and families who are trying to get by and “make it work” during the reality of life. The usual unapologetic doubling down against LGBT+, less than “ideal”, childless (by choice or medical reasons), unmarried, etc., etc. families is disappointing. Where is the love? Where is the ministering to those with heavy burdens? Where is healing to be found? Not from Elder Oaks and, by extension and example, not by the institutional church. His talk broke my heart and bruised my soul. Thank you for helping me. It’s important to know that I’m not alone in feeling this way.

  6. Elder Oaks is following the lead of President Nelson.

    If President Nelson can make the November policy revelation by announcing it two months after it was leaked, Elder Oaks can make the Family Proclamation revelation by announcing it twenty-two months after it was written.

    Both Nelson and Oaks are engaged in political maneuvering to make the church’s stance against gay marriage (and the children of gay parents) written in the stone tablets of revelation so they cannot be changed in the future.

    At least that’s my take on it.

    Great podcast, by the way, Bill!

    You have stones, man!

    1. The Bible is the final word not the opinion of man. Joseph Smith repented of his sins which washed those sins away and we remembered anymore Joseph Smith did not take those with them to his grave I’m assuming so we can’t hold those against him or judge him Only God can judge him and if we rely on profits of the past and their agencies the things that they’ve said or the things that they’ve done even for the apostles the Quorum of the 70s or anybody else’s word without reading the Bible then we are fools because the Bible is the last word in all things the Bible says to study to show thyself approved a Workman who needs not be ashamed rightly dividing the word of God

  7. Bill

    Good points! This was troubling, to be sure. Clearly the Proclamation was drafted in order to submit it as an attachment to an amicus brief in the gay marriage litigation. Now the slow creep toward status as a “revelatory” document. But because it is, at its heart, a legal document, it is written with careful legal language. For instance, look carefully at its language: “We further declare that GOd has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” It does not talk about “only one wife.” It is carefully written to allow future (or even retrospective) consideration and implementation of plural marriage. This language allows that that as long as “man and woman” and lawfully married, a man might marry another woman, as long as it is lawful. We just read it (and it is expounded on by the GAs) in the context of our current monogamous structure. Just a thought.

  8. If we are looking for the kind of logic and consistency Bill applies then we are barking up the wrong OAK TREE. sorry couldn’t resist.

  9. Bill,

    I appreciate your passion in presenting this podcast and write-up about Elder Oaks’ talk. I think there needs to be a distinction however on what the church perceives as doctrine and policy changes that are introduced or canonized by Common Consent, vs. our twice a year General Conference sessions where the church is lead in an illogical sustaining of church leadership. I hate to see you spend time, energy, and logic on an organization that has moved way beyond Common Consent.

    Even though D&C 26 introduces the church to the Law of Common Consent, it was created in 1830, at the beginning of the LDS organization. As the church grew in membership, and Joseph Smith’s interpretation of his Prophetic Leadership role grew, he wanted and demanded more power in his leadership position. His ability to call down Doctrine and Covenant worthy revelations were a way to improve his leadership and power status as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator over everyone. The Law of Common Consent was probably more valid as a policy in 1830 for a few hundred members. However in 2017, it is totally irrelevant with 15 million members.

    I am in my mid 50’s, and I don’t recall a time when the twelve apostles or first presidency (The Top 15) ever asked the body of the church for consent to do things. We have lived for the past century under an organization that thrusts downward any new policy or doctrine based on the Common Consent of the top 15 leaders. In the case of the “revelation” in 1978 allowing blacks to hold the priesthood and to have access to all temple ordinances, it was delivered as an announcement that the Lord “revealed” this as a change in church policy. There was no Common Consent.
    When compliance to the Word of Wisdom became part of the Temple Recommend interview, it was not presented as Common Consent. When the announcement came out in November 2015 that any same gender Mormon’s living together in a legally married union were to be considered apostates, it was not by common consent. When that same policy change banned children living within the home of same sex parents would not be eligible for baby blessings, baptism, or Priesthood advancement, that was not by Common Consent.

    When the Temple Endowment ceremony changed from signs and tokens depicting how you are to kill yourself to a watered down version of an old Masonic ritual that doesn’t include suicidal actions, that was not by Common Consent. When the Church decided to become one of the largest land owners in Florida, that was not by Common Consent. When the church decided to invest billions of dollars in the City Creek Mall near Temple Square, that was not by Common Consent. I think we can see a pattern here, that the church doesn’t care what members think about these things, and certainly doesn’t require their consent.

    The Top 15 sit in their Ivory Tower and come up with these doctrines and policy changes and only ask that we “Sustain” them in General Conference…and pay our tithing. That is sufficient to advance the work of the church. I refer you to the article written by N. Eldon Tanner who was in the First Presidency in 1979. He wrote the “First Presidency Message” in the Ensign Magazine in an article called, “The Debate is Over.” Take a look at this message and compare it to the message from Elder Oaks’ talk from last weekend about the church’s view on homosexuality.

    These messages continually bypass the saving grace and atonement of Jesus Christ. In order to be saved, or in Mormon terminology, to achieve the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom, we have to accept all the messages of the inspired Top 15 in order to know what God wants us to do in order to gain that highest Celestial Kingdom Tier.

    Without the Top 15 (according to the Top 15), we are lost and unable to know what God wants us to do in our lives. From N. Eldon Tanner’s article above it states, “It is foolish to suppose that men can be left to their own devices and accomplish what God intended for them.” This is his way of saying, do whatever the Prophet and Apostles tell you and you can then know what God has in store for you. Otherwise you are lost and will suffer spiritual death.

    It has taken me a long time to understand that these men (The Top 15) do not represent me. They don’t represent my family situation with a gay daughter. They do not understand that I will choose a loving relationship with my daughter over their insistence that I worship them and their BS policies and doctrines. I continue to stay involved with the church at a minimal level in order to preserve my 34-year marriage to a True Believing Mormon. If I speak out or share my true feelings, my marriage will come to a quick end and will disrupt an otherwise great family with kids and grandchildren. My children have all decided to leave the church at the end of high school. They are happy, content, building lives for themselves based on dedication to family and the love that is created within that group. My personal proclamation to my family is short and easy. Love each other. Treat each other with respect and help each other through the trials of life. If that buys me a ticket to spiritual damnation, I will gladly take it.

    For now, Elder Oaks can go pound sand. The church is facing some difficult days ahead as more and more people come to understand how ridiculous their message is that this is the one and only path back to God.

    PS: I would love to hear an episode on this talk by Radio Free Mormon!

  10. Bill,

    I can genuinely feel that you, and several others on this thread, feel significant pain regarding this talk. However, I’m not sure you really want “answers” as you subscribe above, per se. This seems to be a MacGuffin to your main point. If we are both to be intellectually honest, you vehemently disagree with his stance (and the rest of the Twelve) that the Proclamation to the Family is not of God. That is not the type of “question” that Elder Ballard and others describe, and we both know it. The point of this thread is to decrease faith in priesthood leadership over your strong objections to the Church’s stance on several issues. It is broadcast to a like-minded group that offers sympathy and additional judgmental comment threads about “traditional” members and “Elder Oaks-like” leaders. Sympathy is a wonderful and addictive oasis, but only a way station and not the destination.

    Giving answers to any of our questions is not the job of bishops, Elders Quorum Presidents, Stake Presidents, or the Twelve. It isn’t the job of Home Teachers, or any other lay member of the Church. It is the covenant of members of the Church to carry that burden WITH you, love you, help you to feel the love of God, correct and counsel at times, and hold you up as you seek for peace, further light, help, and comfort (Mosiah 18:8-10). It is my duty and pleasure to get answers to my questions from the Holy Spirit, not someone’s obligation TO me. Some answers may come in the source of logical threads that are air tight, but have usually come for me in feelings of peace. They have NEVER come when I have set myself against the Lord’s servants, no matter how much I disagree with their bedside manner, delivery, sanctimonious nature, or my own personal feelings about an issue.

    If you want answers to your questions, I believe you know what you need to do. If you are agitating for change or want to embarrass priesthood leaders and others that do not feel as you do, then peace may not be what you are seeking. My prayers and love for you as you seek for your own answers.


  11. You can’t compare the two. Polygamy was pretty much the norm in the past and among different cultures, and still is the norm in many parts of the world. It still involves marriage between male and female (not as God intended) but as biological evolution “intended.” It propagates survival of the species. It involves the insertion of the penis into the vagina, not the anus (which is contrary to nature whether performed by a man on a man or a man on a woman). There is no historical and cultural precedent for same-sex “marriage” (as opposed to relationships). Bill Reel is not stupid, but he is sure hoping his audience is. Hence the straw man arguments. Oh, and BTW, is is legal in more progressive countries for men to have sex with and marry teenagers (before you bring up the “JS and BY were pedos” argument). In fact, the more liberal, leftist ad progressive a country is, the lower its agent of consent for sex and marriage is likely to be – most progressive EU countries are in the 12-16 bracket; whereas the backward US is more like 17-18.

  12. Raising your voice and speaking with indignation, pride and anger does not make your point any more truer or persuasive. On the contrary, it does the opposite. A good lawyer could tear you to pieces on a witness stand if you were trying to prove your points in a court of law.

  13. Correction: I reread the Proclamation and realize I dropped an article in front of “man” and “Woman”. It should read:
    “…solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

    This still gives them room to fit this into plural marriage because a man can marry a woman. And then do it all over again with “a woman.” Very deliberate verbiage.

  14. I question if common consent is actually a real process anymore, since the original church was dissolved by the U.S. Government following the passing of the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887.

    The articles of incorporation of the 1920’s replacement organization, known as The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints specifiy that the corporation can do whatever it wants with its property without consent from the members.
    “…this corporation shall have power, without any authority or authorization from the members of said Church or religious society, to grant, sell, convey, rent, mortgage, exchange, or otherwise dispose of any part or all of such property.”

    All Church published materials (doctrines, records) are owned by wholly church-owned Intellectual Reserve Inc, as intellectual property.

    In that case, it is quite possible that common consent is at this point, merely a relic from a previous religion, as the modern church is free from the old legalities of defining doctrine placed on the Late Corporation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and places the process into a realm reserved for businessmen.

  15. A common fable where I live is that the Proclamation of the Family came out “of the blue” ie God revealed it to the leaders without any precipitating event–which supposedly underscores its divine origin. However we know that it came out shortly after gay marriage became an issue in Hawaii. Leaders don’t say anything to disple this fable–though, to be fair, they may not be aware of such beliefs circulating among the membership. Though even if they were aware it wouldn’t benefit them to dispel the fable.

    A couple of other points:
    Exaltation refers to one attaining the highest ranking in the celestial kingdom–which has 3 levels also. So one can qualify for the celestial kingdom but not exaltation.

    I can imagine Oaks explaining that God dolls out “line upon line” so that rules are different at different points in time. Additionally, Oaks has said elsewhere that he teaches to broad audiences and that one may be certain “exceptions”
    to a guideline/rule what have you.

  16. Bill, I would agree some a few comments I have read, with regard to the intensity of the podcast… you get a bit “emotional.” And you and I have had a few fun discussions on FB, where we don’t seem to be able to be on the same page or “bridge.” BUT…

    Your podcast on Jesus and the True and Living Church and this one… I have to say, you pretty much poked holes all over the place and I have to agree with you here, you put up a very good case. And can’t see a rational, logical member to continue to believe our leaders are inflatable. Our history continues to light up many “shadows” and testify the opposite!!

    FYI: I was sitting with a handful of gay men about 6 rows from the Conference Center pulpit for this talk. We all felt the Conference Center go cold. Even the couple in front of us was looking at each other like, “what is he saying…” the wife, was shaking her head at times too. They looked like Millennials…. While I do not take your view that the church might collapse in some not to far distant time, if it doesn’t change, I mean, common, look at the Catholic Church, pqetiphilia, rape, rampant homosexuality among the priests, etc. They are still a billion strong. With that as a possible model I can’t see the church falling a part that fast.

    I guess that is the closest I could come to a prediction… but even then, I rather not. I will just be a fascinating observer!

    We live in a specular, fascinating time! Hold on to your hats, it’s gonna be a bumpy decade!

  17. Based upon reviews in ATF, I avoided listening to this talk by Elder Oaks because I knew it was going to make me mad. As a progressive Mormon myself, I can’t handle this type of rhetoric anymore. But I chose to listen to this episode as a way to hear Oak’s words with some sanity (from you) built into it. Thank you for being so direct with your comments to Elder Oaks. I surely hope that he hears what you had to say.

    What makes me cringe is the fact that so many of my TBM ward members will hear this talk and double down on their adherence to it because he was basically demanding that they do so. Without context of where and how this “revelation” came to be, someone who supports it full-heartedly can actually do some damage to others who don’t fit the mold.

    I loved how you pointed out the paradox that polygamy has with the proclamation. “In paradoxes, truth is made manifest.” So where does the truth lie in this one?

    God bless you Bill! Thanks for being a loud voice in the progressive arena.

  18. Christ’s Law of Common Consent has been so bastardized and is now coerced today to the point that it is pointless. THAT can no longer be of any positive value, or make anything binding upon the saints, including a bogus form of “the Word of Wisdom.”

    If any one among us opposes by the uplifted hand to something that does not jive with Jesus they are a “witch” a blasphemer and must be disciplined, ostracized, punished, burned at the Stake (Center), cast out, cast off.

    That is not of Christ, but of the pharisees – Saint’nism, the other brother’s plan… Is this King Noah’s Church, the church of the Zoramites, the Church of the Holy Anointed Demigod Leaders’ or Christ’s church? Lets follow Him then.

    Yes, that IS a test. Just as Jesus, Moroni and other prophets instructed us to follow Christ and the Spirit directly with no intermediary, which is also exactly what Nephi and Lehi learned in this part of their vision: 1 Nephi 8:5-10

    5 And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me.
    6 And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him.
    7 And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste.
    8 And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies.
    9 And it came to pass after I had prayed unto the Lord I beheld a large and spacious field.
    10 And it came to pass that I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.

    “Follow the Prophet” even in their errors and without question? Is that of Jesus and his prophets?

  19. Great episode! In addition, I really like the song at the end. Can you please tell me the artist and song name? Thanks, Bill!

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