Honest Disagreement with Church Policy and Doctrine
Posted by Kerry on March 18, 2008
Last month, the Church released a statement regarding Peter Danzig’s (a member of the Church’s Orchestra at Temple Square in SLC) public disagreement surrounding same-gender marriage. It appears that Peter and his wife were very active members of the Church, serving and attending in their local ward. But they disagreed with a 1st Presidency letter sent to local leaders back in 2006 “urging members to ‘express themselves’ on a forthcoming vote in the United States Senate relating to the definition of marriage.”
Peter then sent a letter to the SL Tribune, saying that he “…was troubled that my church requested I violate my own conscience to write in support of an amendment I feel is contrary to the constitution and to the gospel of Christ.” It sounds like he also encouraged other members of the Church to oppose Church leaders on the issue. After 18 months of counseling with local leaders, Peter voluntarily withdrew his membership in the Church by his own formal written request. The Church stated that he was “not officially disciplined by the Church”.
The story is quite interesting. But what I find even more interesting is what else the Church’s statement mentioned:
“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraged to study, learn and ask questions in their quest for knowledge. Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th president of the Church said: ‘This Church came about as a result of intellectual curiosity. We believe in education … we expect them (Church members) to think. We expect them to investigate. We expect them to use their minds and dig deeply for knowledge in all fields.’”
This is an incredible statement. I love it. I love that Pres. Hinckley said it. For some odd reason, those who search after truth, who dig, who investigate, are often shunned in the church as weirdos or apostates. Even though we are commanded to individually search after knowledge and truth (many references, for one see here).
The statement continues:
“However, it is not acceptable when their digging and questioning leads to public opposition against doctrine Church leaders are obliged to uphold. That doesn’t mean that Church leaders don’t listen and consider opposing views. Quite the contrary. Local bishops and stake presidents love and are concerned about all members of the flock. This is the purpose of counseling provided by local Church leaders who know and care for each individual in their congregations. Honest disagreements are not the same as public advocacy of positions contrary to those of the Church. When disagreements arise, the principle of the Church is that local leaders discuss these matters with members with love and concern.”
Again, what a fascinating statement. Honest disagreements, when acted on appropriately, are perfectly fine. There is a designated channel for members with honest disagreements to counsel with and even question local leaders. The statement makes it very clear that “appropriate” means in counsel with local leaders, not in public opposition. Also, it says that church leaders do listen and do consider opposing views.
Even though I consider myself an orthodox Mormon who agreeably supports his local leaders and their local mandates, for some reason I find these statements quite refreshing.
Other Note: SL Tribune article