Saturday, January 30, 2016

Elder Oaks: The Thoughtful Apostle

My new book has a lot of quotes from modern church leaders in it. A lot. About half of them are cited in support of my positions, about half are cited in comparison to scriptures/quotes from Joseph Smith to show that their statements were incorrect.

My stake president asked me recently if I had something against Elder Oaks, since he is cited more than anyone else in the latter category.

Rest assured, my approach was topical, not personal.

The truth is, Elder Oaks is cited more than anyone else because he comes out and says what most of the Brethren merely feel. Note that I used the word feel instead of think. If they thought about what they do, say, and believe, they would be inundated with contradictions that they would have to explain, and it takes a lot of effort to develop a believe system twisted enough to explain away even the most obvious of contradictions. These men simply aren't doing that, and it is apparent by the things they say and don't say.

Instead of thinking Elder Oaks is one of the worst of the brethren, which is obviously the impression my stake president had from reading my book, I actually have a great deal of respect for him. It is obvious from what he says that he has thought about and recognizes many of the contradictions, and he has bothered to go through the difficult task of constructing a system of belief that avoids those contradictions. While anyone who has studied the history of the church sees abundant evidence that these beliefs are certainly church doctrine (but not God's doctrine), how refreshing it is to see someone come out and say it plainly. Though I know of quotes from other brethren demonstrating at least one of the following points, who else has said them all?
-We should not ask for revelation about things that are unknown. [1] -If the laws of God conflict with the laws of man, we need to obey the laws of man. [2] -Neither he nor any of the brethren he knows of have ever actually seen Jesus. [3]
-The goal to seek the face of the Lord in this life is a tactic of Satan. [4]
-His special witness is only due to his calling, and has nothing to do with experience, and that he has had no special experience different than any normal member of the church. [5] -It is not lying to say something that you know will mislead others. [6]
-It is the job of the brethren to hide facts that portray them in a negative light. [7]
-"Revelation" just means feelings, and not feelings of particular strength, either. [8]
-It is wrong for any member to say anything negative about the brethren, even if what they say is true. [9]
-Apostasy means having negative feelings about the brethren or what they do. [10]
-The church has no real responsibility for the poor, because any Christian can do that, but not every Christian can build temples. [11]
-The number of temples built by the church is a witness that the apostles are called of God. [12]
-God cannot reveal to you things that have never been revealed. [13]
-God cannot reveal to you anything that contradicts anything one of the brethren have said. [14]
-God cannot reveal to you any truth that portrays the brethren in a negative light. [15]
-God doesn't often answer prayers for revelation. [16]
-If God doesn't answer your questions, you should just do what you think is right. [17]
-The brethren don't need revelation to change things in the church. [18]

By his willingness to reveal that system through the things he says, it makes it obvious to anyone who is brave enough to consider it that there are gaping holes in that system. I appreciate that.
Elder Oaks is, then, the most revelatory of all the current apostles--though they reveal what is in his heart and the heart of his brethren rather than what is the mind of the Lord. Elder Oaks' seniority and apparent health means that members of the LDS church will continue to have plenty of new examples of these things in the near future.
[1] - Dallin Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” BYU Speeches June 7, 1992 [2] -
[3] - "Q: Why should you pray for the kind of experience Alma the Younger had? A: I don’t think you’re likely to have that kind of experience that Alma the Younger had. Remember he had a miraculous appearance of an angel and really got hit over the head spiritually. Most of us don’t have that kind of experience, but I interpret your question as being, rather, how can we get the kind of testimony that he received. I don’t think we’ll get it like Paul did on the road, when the angel appeared to him, or like Alma the Younger had that startling experience. The Lord gives a few of those kinds of experiences and they are recorded to catch our attention. I’ve never any kind of experience like that, or any of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the 12 who have had that kind of experience, yet every one of us “knows” of a certainty the things that Alma knew. I suggest that, unless the Lord chooses to do it another way, like He sometimes does, for millions and millions of His children a testimony settles upon us gradually like so much dust, or like so much dew on the grass." (Elder Oaks, Bellevue Washington Conference, 23 Jan 2016) [4] “Of course, all of the righteous desire to see the face of our Savior, but the suggestions that this must happen in mortality is a familiar tactic of the adversary. To identify a worthy goal, such as to achieve exaltation, and then to use the desirability of that goal and people’s enthusiasm for it to obscure the new means the adversary suggests to achieve it.” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, June 2015 Boise Meeting.)
[5] - "This is not to witness of a personal manifestation. To witness of the name is to witness of the plan, the work, or mission such as the atonement and the authority or priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ, which an apostle who holds the keys is uniquely responsible to do." (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Boise, Idaho, June 17, 2105.)
[6] - BYU Speech, September 12, 1993
[7] - “My duty as a member of the Council of the Twelve is to protect what is most unique about the LDS church, namely the authority of priesthood, testimony regarding the restoration of the gospel, and the divine mission of the Savior. Everything may be sacrificed in order to maintain the integrity of those essential facts. Thus, if Mormon Enigma reveals information that is detrimental to the reputation of Joseph Smith, then it is necessary to try to limit its influence and that of its authors.”(Elder Dallin Oaks, footnote 28, “Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith: Psychobiography and the Book of Mormon,” Introduction p. xliii.)
[8] - “I have met persons who told me they have never had a witness from the Holy Ghost because they have never felt their bosom 'burn within' them. What does a 'burning in the bosom' mean? Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, then I have never had a burning in the bosom.” (Elder Oaks, “Teaching and Learning by the Spirit,” Ensign, March 1997.)
[9] - It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true....This reality should be part of the spiritual evaluation that LDS readers and viewers apply to those things written about our history and those who made it.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Reading Church History,” CES Doctrine and Covenants Symposium, Brigham Young University, 16 Aug. 1985, p25.)
[10] - “…the key question on who’s on the Lord’s side is how they feel about the church’s current prophetic leadership. If those feelings are sufficiently negative, they take members into what we call apostasy.” (Dallin Oaks, Boise, Idaho, June 17, 2105.)
[11] - “The preeminence of the spiritual over the temporal, which Jesus taught, has many applications in our own day. For example, it explains why our church spends great sums preaching the restored gospel and building temples to perform the ordinances of eternity rather than (as some advocate) devoting these same resources to temporal concerns already being pursued by others, such as preserving the environment, researching cures for diseases, or administering to other physical needs that can be accomplished without priesthood power or direction.” (“The Lord's Way,” Dallin H. Oaks, p.111.)
[12] - “The pattern is for some false prophet to claim that the spirit has revealed to him or her that the established leaders of the church are in error in some way and that he or she is to be the Lord’s agent to correct them….Here’s the temple, the great symbol and manifestation of our faith. There are now more than 140 operating temples, just one fruit of the restored gospel and of our prophetic leadership.” (Elder Oaks, Boise, Idaho, June 17, 2105.)
[13] - Dallin Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” BYU Speeches June 7, 1992
[14] - ‘“When visions, dreams, tongues, prophecy, impressions or an extraordinary gift or inspiration, convey something out of harmony with the accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions that its constituted authorities, latter-day saints may know that it is not of God no matter how plausible it may appear. (1912 First Presidency Letter, recently quoted by Elder Oaks.)
[15] - In 1912 the first presidency warned, ‘“When visions, dreams, tongues, prophecy, impressions or an extraordinary gift or inspiration, convey something out of harmony with the accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions that its constituted authorities, latter-day saints may know that it is not of God no matter how plausible it may appear. (1912 First Presidency Letter, recently quoted by Elder Oaks.)
[16] - Revelation is not constant. The Lord’s way puts limits on how often He will speak to us by His Spirit. Not understanding this, some have been misled by expecting revelations too frequently. (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “In his own time, in his own way,” Ensign August 2013.)
[17] - What about those times when we seek revelation and do not receive it? We do not always receive inspiration or revelation when we request it. Sometimes we are delayed in the receipt of revelation, and sometimes we are left to our own judgment. We cannot force spiritual things.…Even in decisions we think very important, we sometimes receive no answers to our prayers. This does not mean that our prayers have not been heard. It only means that we have prayed about a decision which, for one reason or another, we should make without guidance by revelation. (Oaks, “Revelation”, Sep 29, 1981 BYU devotional)
[18] - The divine nature of the limitations put upon the exercise of priesthood keys explains an essential contrast between decisions on matters of Church administration and decisions affecting the priesthood. The First Presidency and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who preside over the Church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting Church policies and procedures—matters such as the location of Church buildings and the ages for missionary service. (Dallin Oaks, April 2014 General Conference.)