What would you do?

My wife and I just returned from AAR/SBL and I have some interesting reports to make on things I saw related to Mormon Studies. My plan is to post on them tomorrow, once I have unpacked, etc.

Tonight’s post concerns the following: If you ask most Mormons about the “bloggernacle”, it is generally regarded by them as the haven of malcontents and a den of gripers and almost-apostates. I have seen instances where I think that criticism is justified, however for the most part I believe strongly that we are engaged in a valuable and worthwhile enterprise. In the interest, however, of having folks put their money where their mouth is, I ask the following:

Assume you made the President of the Church tomorrow. What would you change or do differently?

Now this requires a couple of stipulations in order to play the game:
– Females must assume that they are males and have acquired this position through ordinary priesthood succession. I want people to consider whether they would give women the priesthood or not, so assuming that you have been given it (and are therefore eligible to be President of the Church) is not helpful to this exercise.
– You were chosen for this position according to ordinary procedures. There was no catastrophe that wiped out the GAs, making you the next best choice.
– You must assume that the President of the Church can unilaterally make changes in Church policy. If you want, you can discuss the meaning of the policy/doctrine distinction and how your list of actions might change if you had to forge a consensus with other members of the Quorum of the Twelve, the Seventy, etc.

I have to play the game like everyone else, so here is my list:

– I would NOT immediately give women the priesthood. I am amenable to them having the priesthood at some point in this life, however I feel like President Kimball as to the matter of black and the priesthood. This is such a big change, I would need a strong confirmation of its rightness before proceeding.
– Likewise, I would NOT immediately allow same-sex marriage either in the temple or to be performed outside it by any priesthood holder.
– I would NOT stomp out Correlation (though the temptation would be mighty), as I think it has an important role to play and function to perform; however, I would retain a personal check on its power.
– I would order Deseret Book to be spun off as a private company unrelated to the Church and let it sink or swim on its own, thus encouraging the development of independent LDS publishers and book retailers (I know, I know, start with the important stuff…)
– I would immediately order the entire Church curriculum redone, to be completed within a year. Furthermore, I would publicly announce that initiative and encourage members to flood Correlation’s inbox with suggestions.
– The link between CES and the BYU religion department (and their faculty) would be severed, and BYU would operate a dual-track religion program, one with CES classes and another for religion classes as taught at other universities. CES classes could be taken for credit, but none would be required for graduation.
– CES employees could retain their employment, even after divorce or could be hired even if single/childless.
– In general, I would make decision-making and operations of the Church more public and transparent. See the curriculum item above.
– I would reopen the cases of the September Six (contingent on their desire to have them reopened) and would reinstate them to the degree possible based on their desires and willingness to live Church principles. Other cases of intellectuals excommunicated for their ideas would be handled on a case-by-case basis.
– I would repudiate blacks and the priesthood folklore; I would NOT publicly address or adopt a particular rationale for polygamy or apologize for it the Church’s having practiced it in any way.
– One general conference every four years would be held outside Utah (and perhaps outside the United States)
– I would attempt to be as inviting and inclusive as possible to those who deal with same-sex attraction, singleness, childlessness, etc. They would be told explicitly that they are encouraged to attend church.

Now, a couple of caveats (you are welcome to add your own): I am not saying that President Hinckley or the other leaders of the Church are not doing some of the things I listed above. This is not a criticism of their leadership. I am simply providing a vision for what I would do if it were my responsibility to lead. I don’t have all the answers. I am sure I could list other things and will surely think of them as soon as I hit “Publish Post.” Many of the things, especially the last item, are things so much more effectively handled and observable on the local level and largely outside of the reach of a Church president. However, what compassion and mercy I had to publicly offer, would be offered gladly.

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4 thoughts on “What would you do?

  1. Wonderful list, Adam. I wholeheartedly agree with all of your points. If I was the prophet, I would do many of the same things that you would do–especially to reach out to those that don’t fit the stereotypical Mormon mold. As for women and the priesthood, I would sincerely pray to Heavenly Father about this matter. I would ask Him two main questions:1.) Should women be given the same priesthood that men hold today?2.) Or should women be given the “priestesshood”? (An ordination that parallels the priesthood yet has a different function. And no, I don’t believe motherhood is the same thing as priestesshood.) If the Lord is willing, I would also like to restore certain ordinances that Mormon women have performed in the past, like blessing one another and their children. I would make the Relief Society more of an autonomous organization that works side by side with the First Presidency and apostles rather than under them. And I would encourage more women to speak in General Conference. Two or three female speakers per conference is pretty pitiful. My main emphasis as prophet would be to encourage Christ-like love and service. I had the most wonderful stake president at BYU (Thomas Griffith) who made it our stake theme to apply Christ’s example into our community. He told us repeatedly that if Christ came to Provo, he would not go to BYU. Rather, he would be out amongst the poor and the week, the hungry and the needy. And this is something I would actively encourage Church members to do–to show our love for God by serving His children no matter what their religious affiliation may be. Great post, Adam! PS On another note, you mentioned in your entry how some Mormons view the bloggernacle as a “haven for malcontents and apostates.” And yes, I can understand why some iron-rod Mormons will think this way. But as for me, the bloggernacle really saved me from going inactive. When I struggled deeply with polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, etc., the only place where I found understanding and camaraderie was in Mormon blogs. I felt less alone. I felt a little more hope. So the bloggernaccle does provide a service to some Mormons.

  2. Thanks Caroline. To my knowledge, she has not read it yet, but I’ll see what she has to say later.Also, there is obviously a larger group of issues that I would address after a period of intense prayer, etc., like the one you mentioned in your first comment. My idea for the initial post would be things I would feel good changing without any direct revelation on the subject. My own personal belief is that Heavenly Father gives the Prophet certain latitude and discretion to make decisions using his own judgment and agency and only intervenes in very significant matters (which are not necessarily measured by the amount of money at stake). I know that some people disagree with this, and think that the Prophet does nothing, or almost nothing, without praying about it first. But that is not how I see it. Obviously that kind of person would have a very different (and likely much shorter) list than mine.

  3. Women should not have the priesthood ever. God is a man, he has a wife and she still doesn’t have the p-hood. Enough said. Your attitude towards those ex’ed for academic reasons is misplaced, they were and are still in apostasy; God burned Sodom and Gomorra for a reason, he hates sexual sin with a vengence therefore he will not and therfore the church should not make concessions for them or be tolerant of them. Marlin K. Jensen once said, (paraphrased) that they should participate in church to the extent that they can live the gospel just like a heterosexual male/female who was not married.Academics, in general start to walk down the path to apostasy when they begin to approach the things of God in the light of man; when they should exercise some faith and obedience and trust that God, who by the way knows what he is doing, is correct.Anyhow, all this equality garbage has no place in the church of Jesus Christ…there is a reason why you are not the prophet (most likely will never be) and that caroline is a woman who wants the preisthood.what is wrong with being satisfied that God has a perfectly good reason for doing things how he has done it? Sure I have some questions about why the lord chose to handle blacks and phood the way he did; but I certainly wouldn’t postulate about what I would do if I were the prophet.President Hinckley, shortly before he died when considering to forego a more intense chemotherapy for his cancer said (quoted from his son, a 70) “that my life is not my own, it belongs to the Lord” and that he should do whatever it takes to prolong his life so the Lord can use him.When men presume to take “honor upon themselves” like Martin Harris did, attempting to presume to know more than God, we are open to serious sin and problems.Therefore, I think you inquiry to this issue is moot and should have been left alone.I will continue to lurk in your blog, because I find it interesting.

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