Sunday, June 29, 2014

First Presidency Statement About Priesthood, Questioning And Apostasy

Shortly after the very public excommunication of Kate Kelly, who created an organization and website advocating that the Church ordain women to the priesthood, the First Presidency and Council of Twelve Apostles issued the following statement on 28 June 2014, relative to the priesthood, questioning, and apostasy.


June 28, 2014

In God's plan for the happiness and eternal progression of His children, the blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women. Only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices. All service in the Church has equal merit in the eyes of God. We express profound gratitude for the millions of Latter-day Saint women and men who willingly and effectively serve God and His children. Because of their faith and service, they have discovered that the Church is a place of spiritual nourishment and growth.

We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.

Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.


Lets think together again, soon.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Did Kate Kelly Ever Encounter The Real Joseph Smith And The Real Mormonism?

Did Kate Kelly Ever Encounter The Real Joseph Smith And The Real Mormonism?© 

The world of Mormonism has been thrown into a turmoil by the minor squall fomented by Kate Kelly and her “Ordain Women” organization which resulted in her excommunication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday 22 June 2014 in Virginia. Despite her protests of belief and faithfulness (to be discussed in more detail below), she has two outstanding problems–she does not know, understand and believe some basic church doctrines about how the Church is governed, nor the history of the Church relative to these same issues. She has never encountered the real Joseph Smith and the principles he taught about apostasy.  She missed Apostasy 101.

On 21 June 2014, Mrs. Kelly reproduced on the “Ordain Women” website a letter she wrote to her Virginia bishopric which she labeled, “My defense against the charge of ‘apostasy’.” This defense begins with a request: 
I beg of you not to impose any form of discipline during the trial you will hold on Sunday. I also request that you do the right thing and revoke the “informal probation” that was placed upon me and remove the “move restriction” placed on my records so that I can participate in the ward where I currently reside. Please reconsider this punitive process and allow me to continue to worship in peace.(1)
Though she did not attend the disciplinary council or agree to do so through modern technology or arrange for another date, she asks not to be disciplined and for the brethren to “do the right thing” and revoke previous restrictions placed on her, as though she were the sole arbiter of what “the right things” are, and implying that her leaders are misdirected. The “peace” of her worship is at issue; apparently the peaceful worship of the church, especially the women among whom she is agitating, (not to mention the men of the general priesthood meeting she sought access to) be damned.

Her long letter asserts that her leaders do not really know her or her heart and that they failed to follow-up on her “repeated invitation to engage in an open dialogue in person.” She refers to but does not cite four emails. This is puzzling and seems contradictory to the letter from her bishop informing her of her excommunication in which he refers to four separate meetings she had with him and/or the stake president.(2)

She went on to say that she has always had a believing but questioning heart, and that she cannot stop asking hard questions. She complained that when she was baptized the only thing to wear was a white jumpsuit for an adult man.  
I was very upset that no one [apparently including her own parents] had thought that a little girl might be getting baptized and prepared something for her to wear. As I look back I realize that is just a small reflection in my memory of the way in which adult men are treated as the standard mold in the church and everyone else is an ‘other.’
This super-sensitivity is typical of critics who get something in their craw and then everything is seen in this light. She does not hold her parents responsible for her dress, it is the male dominated Church that is trying to force her into a male mold. She does not consider how big the ward was at the time and how much baptismal clothing they had available, or any issue of modesty. She had her own idea of what she expected to happen and when it didn’t she somehow became a victim demeaned by the organization. It is all about her, as it is for many critics.

Again, as is typical with apostates, she feels her personal morality, her perception of truth and integrity are greater than the Church’s commitment to righteousness, truth, and integrity.  Her personal morality trumps that of God’s Church. From her recital of lessons she loved about brave pioneers putting faith into action and walking in difficult paths to support the truth, the Young Women values of good works and integrity that to her require one to “act on the thoughts and feelings you have in order to live with true integrity,” (the same argument gay and lesbian Mormons use in violating the law of chastity), we learn that she somehow sees her “Ordain Women” quest as an act of pioneer heroism, integrity and authenticity. When she launched the website she exclaimed, “that was the most joyful worship I had felt since my mission. My whole authentic(3) self was out there for all to see, and I was unashamed.”

Thus the following paragraph from her letter is equally telling and suggests why the outcome was what it was:
I want to communicate with perfect candor, as I have always done. As I made clear to President Wheatley when we met on May 5th, I will continue to lead Ordain Women, the group I founded. I will not take down the website I will not stop speaking out publicly on the issue of gender inequality in the church. These things President Wheatley instructed me to do, I cannot do in good conscience. I cannot repent of telling the truth, speaking what is in my heart and asking questions that burn in my soul.
She received a legitimate call to repent from God’s authorized servants and by her own admission she rejected it. All apparently because of self-righteousness and pride and being "authentic".  Her defense, as I read it, is: "Look, I grew up loving the gospel, active in it, even owning and wearing BYU paraphernalia, serving a mission and marrying in the temple. That should show you [her judges] that my sincerely asking hard questions, starting a website campaigning for changes in Church practices, using six proselyting discussions in recruiting others, are not reasons to question my faith, loyalty, and commitment to the gospel." 

Encountering the real Joseph Smith and the real Mormonism

Mrs. Kelly’s problems are many, but two stand out. She does not understand some fundamental doctrines and she has not learned how they have been implemented and played out in the history of the Church.  As good of a woman as she may be, she is ignorant of some very fundamental things and that ignorance has led her into grave consequences.

First, she does not understand the “first step” into apostasy. Joseph Smith taught it as an eternal and undeviating principle “firm as the pillars of heaven.” In other words, this is not some possibility, or some likelihood, or some issue for others to worry about; in actuality it is a key to one of the mysteries of the Kingdom.  In 1839 he said:
I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. The principle is as correct as the one that Jesus put forth in saying that he who seeketh a sign is an adulterous person; and that principle is eternal, undeviating, and firm as the pillars of heaven; for whenever you see a man seeking after a sign, you may set it down that he is an adulterous man.(4)
Perhaps Mrs. Kelly in her attorney-like way may want to parse this and say, “Well, he is talking about men here, not women.” I do not think she is that shallow, but just in case, I would remind her that it was she who said “adult men are treated as the standard mold in the church and everyone else is an ‘other.’” So, it should not escape her that the same principle applies to women. She is exhibit A of its truthfulness for the present generation.

The Lord gave the following warning to the Saints in the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, when he spoke about conditions and beliefs in our day. Verse 16 reads:
16) They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.(5) 
A correlation to these principles comes from President George Q. Cannon, apparently another teaching unknown to Mrs. Kelly.This statement was made in reference to The Godbeite apostasy in 1868-69.
A friend . . . wished to know whether we had said that we considered an honest difference of opinion between a member of the church and the authorities of the church was apostasy, as he said, we had been credited with having made a statement to this effect. We replied that we had not stated that an honest difference of opinion between a member of the church and the authorities constituted apostasy; for we could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the authorities of the church and yet not be an apostate; but we could not conceive of a man publishing those differences of opinion, and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife, and to place the acts and counsels of the authorities of the church, if possible, in a wrong light, and not be an apostate; for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term. We further said that while a man might honestly differ in opinion from the authorities through a want of understanding, he had to be exceedingly careful how he acted in relation to such differences, or the adversary would take advantage of him and he would soon become imbued with the spirit of apostasy, and be found fighting against God and the authority which He had placed here to govern his church.(6) 
Second, Mrs. Kelly appears to be unaware of other very important teachings of Joseph Smith.  In an op-ed piece in the Salt Lake Tribune of 13 June 2014, Ashley I. Woolley, an LDS graduate of Harvard Divinity School, took issue with Kelly on three grounds, though as she said because of her background, “I might be expected to align with those who believe the LDS Church should ordain women.” Her third point was that neither she (Woolley) nor Kelly had the calling, nor the authority, nor the perspective “to resolve complicated doctrinal issues for the church. Intellectual discussion and questioning of doctrine is the privilege of all members. But to claim that my own interpretation is right for the whole church is beyond the scope of my authority. That is, I believe, what prophets are for.”(7) According to Joseph Smith she was absolutely correct.  He said:
I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them; but if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom. Respecting an apostate, or one who has been cut off from the Church, and who wishes to come in again, the law of our Church expressly says that such shall repent, and be baptized, and be admitted as at the first.(8)
I am not aware that Kate Kelly has explicitly claimed revelation or guidance for the Church. However, her practical actions of starting an organization and a website, with discussions for recruiting, campaigning for her position, and leading a group of women in that campaign are de facto evidence that she believes she knows better than the leaders of the Church on this issue. She is not, in fact, seeking a dialogue with Church leaders about her questions.  She believes the Church practice is in error and she seeks a change in church government in harmony with her personal belief.  Her campaign is not for dialogue, but for change.  She deceives herself and anyone else who does not see through this rhetoric.

Mrs. Kelly, who either did not know these doctrines and principles or ignored them, adds the further problem of not knowing or ignoring the history of the Church.  Many have tried to steady the ark; some but not all have been disciplined.  But one can force the issue too far.  Mrs. Kelly is either naive or ignorant, or both if she thought she could persist in her ever escalating campaign without some response from her church leaders. To say now that she is surprised by her treatment is disingenuous given the fact that she knew as early as March of 2013 that there was an issue which concerned her for the rest of that year and which was brought to a head in four meetings with her Stake President in the winter and spring of 2013-14, following her actions at the Fall General Conference. If Kate Kelly would have studied Joseph Smith and church history, she would not have been surprised by the judgment brought upon her. She would have seen it coming and even predicted the outcome.  Unfortunately in her case, as Jesus frequently pointed out, those who will not see and hear, do not understand.

An important question is what will the future hold for Mrs. Kelly? It will be interesting to see if the teachings of George Q. Cannon and Joseph Smith hold true for her. Cannon warned that one who differed with the brethren“had to be exceedingly careful how he acted in relation to such differences, or the adversary would take advantage of him and he would soon become imbued with the spirit of apostasy, and be found fighting against God and the authority which He had placed here to govern his church.” Joseph Smith once had a discussion with Isaac Behunnin about apostates. Behunnin observed that if he left the Church he would “go to some remote place where Mormonism had never been heard of, and no one would ever learn that I knew anything about it." Joseph Smith taught his friend the same principle Cannon urged upon the Saints generally–caution about becoming an apostate. He told Behunnin that he [Behunnin] didn’t really know what he would do if he left Mormonism. When he joined the church he “left neutral ground” forever–he couldn’t get back on it. Therefore, if he were to leave the Church it was at the instigation of Satan “and you will follow his dictation and be his servant.”(9)

I do not desire to wish a plague upon Mrs. Kelly’s house, but I know enough about these principles and how they have been demonstrated ad infinitum in church history to be concerned about what lies ahead for her.  I won’t be surprised if her campaign turns ever more virulent.  It is common among apostates to leave the Church but not leave it alone. I can only pray that the “spirit of repentance” will come upon her and replace the spirit of self-justification and self-righteousness which is with her now.

I am sad that Kate Kelly apparently never encountered the real Prophet Joseph Smith and his teachings. She has nobody to blame for that but herself, but had she done so the outcome for her could have been different.

Lets think together again, soon.


1. Kate Kelly to Mark Harrison, et al., 21 June 2014.  Available online at:
Accessed 27 June 2014.  All other quotations from Mrs. Kelly in this article are from the same source.

2. Available online at:

3. Doing something with authenticity or being one’s “authentic self” is a popular buzz word or phrase these days. I believe Mrs. Kelly confuses it with true integrity which is more robust, more direct, and less abstract than “authenticity.”  Integrity implies thinking, belief and conduct based on genuine and true high moral and upright principles; whereas authenticity is more malleable, more in line with individualism, pushing the envelop, and rebellion–all based on one’s personal standards and beliefs regardless of how incorrect or low they may be.  “If I am true to my personal beliefs and standards, I am authentic.”  What more could one want?

4. Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), pp. 156-157, emphasis added.  Hereafter cited as TPJS.

5. Emphasis added.  Verse 14 is also relevant.  It says, “...the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people.” 

Establishing the Lord’s righteousness is also at issue in Isa. 54:13-14; Jas. 1:20; and Rom. 1:16-17.  Doing religious things one’s own way was an issue in Old Testament times.  See for example, Jer. 7:24, 9:14, 10:23, 11:8, 13:10, and Ezek. 36:17-19, 32.  Of course idolatry takes many forms beyond idol worship.  One of the most subtle in our day is willfulness in religious matters.  See Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, 6 (June 1976): 3-6, where he also cites D&C 1:16.

6. George Q. Cannon, Editorial, Deseret News, 3 November 1869, p. 457, cited in B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 6 vols, (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1965), 5: 265-66, n. 23, and in Walter E. Bowen, Teachings of the Living Prophets, (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, n. d.), p. 205, emphasis added.  Many like statements may be found in the latter publication on pp. 196-208.

7. Ashley Isaacson Woolley, “Op-ed: Changing the church: How Ordain Women gets it wrong,” Salt Lake Tribune, 13 June 2014, available online at:
Accessed 27 June 2014.

8. TPJS, p. 21.

9. Daniel Tyler, “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor, 27 (15 August 1892): 491-92.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gospel Laws Pertaining to Marriage and Family


We are not born knowing the gospel laws pertaining to marriage and family. Depending upon the strength of our own family we may learn some of them more or less. In general, we as a church do not discuss this specific topic (laws of marriage and family) very often.(1) I believe as Latter-day Saints the subject should be of great interest to us. Where will you find the laws pertaining to marriage and family? There are two basic sources: 1) the holy scriptures, and 2) from the teachings of the modern Apostles, Prophets and other General Authorities and Officers of the Church. Learning the laws of marriage through scripture study takes considerable searching and skill to ferret them out.  Some are obvious, others are not.  The teachings of modern General Authorities are surfeited with instructions about marriage and family, but they too must be located, obtained, and studied. Consider the following: There have been over 360 General conferences (2 per year for over a 180 years). I don’t know what the average may be, but in my lifetime it seems as if there have been one or two, sometimes more, talks devoted to these subjects in each conference. As a result, our leaders have discussed our responsibilities in marriage as a spouse and parent so frequently, it is likely that they have discussed most of the major and important subjects, including divine laws relative to this topic.We just have to be interested enough to seek this information out and study it.

There is a third source.  Many of the more important, though not all, of the major laws pertaining to marriage and family have been condensed into a one-page document known as “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” which was first read to the church on 23 September 1995, at a meeting of the Relief Society sisters. Knowing the importance of these laws and having read the document a number of times, I am nevertheless, ashamed to admit that though it has been around for almost twenty years, it was not until last week that I finally sat down and outlined it with the purpose of learning what it had to say about my responsibility as a husband and father.  Below I have reproduced my findings for the readers of this blog.  

I wish I would have been wise enough to do this twenty years ago.  I know that with frequent reviews of its teachings, I would have kept my covenants better and would have been a better husband and father.  In that spirit, I encourage all to download this outline, revised it to your own liking, but most importantly use it as a guide to your conduct as a spouse and parent. It seems only logical to me now after thinking about this subject for the past six or seven years, that doing so is crucial to our doing a better job of keeping our covenants with God, our spouse, and our children.

Blogspot does not have, so far as I can tell, true outline capabilities, so please forgive the present format. You will notice that where a sequence of items is listed, separated by commas, I have isolated each one with the relevant comment which preceded or followed it. This is to highlight and give appropriate weight to each item, separate from its list. Also, as you will see some subjects are mentioned more than once, in different terms. I have grouped all the relevant statements under the general heading which seemed appropriate to me. I was struck that the largest section deals with the spiritual duties of spouses and parents.  All quotations are from the proclamation with emphasis added by me.


Prepared by
Danel W. Bachman 
  1. Fathers are to “preside over their families...”  
    1. “... in love and righteousness...”
  2. Equal partners
    1. “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”  
    2. “We warn that individuals who ...abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.”  
  3. Maintain Family Integrity
    1. “Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” 
  4. Procreation
    1. “The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife.  We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”  
  5. Chastity
    1. “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.” 
      1. No homosexuality or bestiality.
        1. “...only between man and woman”
      2. Only inside of marriage.
        1. “ and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife”
    2. “We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed.” 
    3. “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” 
    4. “We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, ... will one day stand accountable before God.” 
  6. Husband and wife to love each other and their children
    1. “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.” 
    2. “‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalm 127:3).  Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness.... 
    3. “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love....”  
    4. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of ... love...”
  7. Husband and wife to care for each other and their children
    1. “Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children.” 
    2. “Husbands and wives–mothers and fathers–will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.” 
  8. Children to be reared in righteousness
    1. “‘Children are an heritage of the Lord’ (Psalm 127:3).  Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness.... 
    2. “Parents are to provide for the ... spiritual needs of their children.”  
    3. “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in ... righteousness....” 
    4. “Husbands and wives–mothers and fathers–will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”  
    5. “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  
      1. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith....”
      2. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of ... prayer...”
      3. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of ... repentance...
      4. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of ... forgiveness...”
      5. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of ... respect...”
      6. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of ... love...”
      7. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of ... compassion...”
      8. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of ... work...”
      9. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of ... wholesome recreational activities.”
  9. Parents are to provide for the physical ... needs of their children
    1. “Parents have a sacred duty ... to provide for their physical and spiritual needs....” 
    2. “Husbands and wives–mothers and fathers–will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”  
    3. “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families ... and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.”  
    4. “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”  
  10. Parents are to teach children to love and serve one another 
    1. A. “Parents have a sacred duty ... to teach them to love and serve one another.” 
    2. “Husbands and wives–mothers and fathers–will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”  
  11. Parents are to teach children to observe the commandments of God
    1. “Parents have a sacred duty ... to teach them to ... observe the commandments of God.” 
    2. “Husbands and wives–mothers and fathers–will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”  
  12. Parents to teach children to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live
    1. “Parents have a sacred duty ... to teach them to ... be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.”  
    2. “Husbands and wives–mothers and fathers–will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.”   
Lets think together again,  soon.


1.  One clear example of which I am aware is, Parley P. Pratt,  “Laws of Marriage and Procreation.”  In Key to the Science of Theology, 159-73.  Liverpool: F. D. Richards, 1855. This can be viewed in the Internet Archive at:

Friday, June 6, 2014

One Businessman’s View About The Education Of Today’s Workforce

Introduction: I am not in favor of looking at education solely from the point of view of getting a good job, nevertheless, that is a very important aspect of the subject. Because the world is changing so rapidly, it is important for educators and students to keep abreast of how the changes influence the need.  Here are some excerpts from one business executive who also sits on the board of the Council of Independent Colleges.  This is worthwhile reading for educators, students, parents,  and business leaders.


...let’s discuss what a business like mine [UPS] needs from institutions like yours [Coalition for International Education].

Of course ... we want to see people with the basics of smarts and the ability to commit to something bigger than themselves.

We need students who excel at critical thinking ... problem solvers ... independent thinkers who also understand teamwork.

We need global thinkers with an abiding curiosity about people and places unseen.

These are people who want to know how the world works. They understand that a world hungry for the best ideas values diversity over uniformity.

They want to find the connections.  They want to understand how something happening half a world away can impact something happening to a customer down the street.

They need to understand the benefits of global exploration ... how to source and sift solutions and ideas from all parts of the world.

They need the intellectual humility to accept that good things are “not always invented here.”


Here’s one more thing you can help us with: We need communicators.

If there is one complaint you hear consistently about the bright young talent coming into our organizations, it’s that they can write an algorithm, but they can’t write a letter.

We need people who are not only technologically literate in how to communicate ... but also expressively literate in what they communicate.

That’s important because ... in an age of collaboration ... communication is the force that brings the parts together.

Communication focuses them on a shared feature, and gets them moving in the same direction.


A big plus is the ability to speak a foreign language ....

You can debate what learning a language adds to your lifetime earnings.   [DWB: But there is no debate about what knowing a second language adds to one's personal life beyond money.]

But when I see a U.S. job candidate who speaks more than one language, I see someone who had the foresight and determination to put in the extra hours.

I also see someone who sees the importance of making those global connections I spoke of.


We need a new generation of leaders who understand the cost of political expediency.

We need leaders who can rise high above the protectionist debates to see the realities–the inevitabilities –of an interconnected world.

We need people who pursue the benefits of globalization without forgetting that 2.7 billion people around the world struggle to live on less than $2 a day ... and that in many countries, the gap between rich and poor is growing.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan once said that “arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity.”

That’s true.  The best and the worst of its impacts are simply facts of life.

The only question: How do we manage them?

The only answer I see is leadership that understands that global possibility and risk are very personal issues.

We must all adjust to the fact that wherever we are, whatever we do, our day is shaped by events a world away.

Source: Kurt Kuehn, CFO, UPS, "Internationalization of U.S. Education in the 21st Century," available online at:
Accessed 6 June 2014.

Lets think together again, soon.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

John Stuart Mill, Michael Bloomberg, and Joseph Smith

Michael Bloomberg:

A week ago the former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, spoke at Harvard’s commencement ceremonies. His address briefly stirred up the liberal media. Headlines such as: “Michael Bloomberg bashes liberal bias at Harvard commencement address” (The Washington Post), “...Bloomberg slams intolerance by liberals on college campuses...” (The New York Daily News), give a little flavor of the furor. Despite the hoopla his address merits a close read. My version of the headline would have been: “Bloomberg Reminds Harvard Graduates of Fundamental American Ideas and Ideals.” The speech is not long but embodies important principles and examples about the purpose of universities and the American values of freedom and tolerance.

Bloomberg acknowledged “...this has not been a traditional commencement speech, and it may keep me from passing a dissertation defense in the humanities department, but there is no easy time to say hard things.” He began by asserting that Harvard is
America’s most prestigious university. And, like other great universities, it lies at the heart of the American experiment in democracy. 
Their purpose is not only to advance knowledge, but to advance the ideals of our nation. Great universities are places where people of all backgrounds, holding all beliefs, pursuing all questions, can come to study and debate their ideas – freely and openly. 
Today, I’d like to talk with you about how important it is for that freedom to exist for everyone, no matter how strongly we may disagree with another’s viewpoint. 
Tolerance for other people’s ideas, and the freedom to express your own, are inseparable values at great universities. Joined together, they form a sacred trust that holds the basis of our democratic society.(1)
From there he discussed evidence that freedom and tolerance are vulnerable and at risk in America’s cities and on America’s college campuses due to “ the tyrannical tendencies of monarchs, mobs, and majorities.” His first example of the danger to freedom and tolerance came from his own NYC following the attacks on the World Trade Center in 01. Almost immediately afterwards there was a furor because some Muslims wanted to build a mosque a few blocks from the site. Bloomberg said that movement was resisted because: “The idea that government would single out a particular religion, and block its believers – and only its believers – from building a house of worship in a particular area is diametrically opposed to the moral principles that gave rise to our great nation and the constitutional protections that have sustained it.”  It was precisely the values of freedom and tolerance that those who attacked New York feared. To them we were a godless country. “But in fact,” Bloomberg observed, “there is no country that protects the core of every faith and philosophy known to human kind – free will – more than the United States of America. That protection, however, rests upon our constant vigilance.” He went on, “If you want the freedom to worship as you wish, to speak as you wish, and to marry whom you wish, you must tolerate my freedom to do so – or not do so – as well.” [Emphasis added.] A bit later he stated, “We cannot deny others the rights and privileges that we demand for ourselves. And that is true in cities – and it is no less true at universities....”

He went on to talk about the problems of political intolerance on American university campuses and some ideals which should be in place.  Here is a summary of a few things he pointed out:
  • There is an idea that scholars should be funded only if their work conforms to a particular view of justice. There’s a word for that idea: censorship. And it is just a modern-day form of McCarthyism.
  • In the 2012 presidential race, according to Federal Election Commission data, 96 percent of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama. ... [By the way, Bloomberg supported Obama, which wasn’t often mentioned in the liberal reviews of this talk!] When 96 percent of Ivy League donors prefer one candidate to another, you have to wonder whether students are being exposed to the diversity of views that a great university should offer.
  • When tenure was created, it mostly protected liberals whose ideas ran up against conservative norms.  Today, if tenure is going to continue to exist, it must also protect conservatives whose ideas run up against liberal norms. 
  • The role of universities is not to promote an ideology. It is to provide scholars and students with a neutral forum for researching and debating issues – without tipping the scales in one direction, or repressing unpopular views.
  • This spring liberals “silenced a voice–and denied an honorary degree” to people deemed politically objectionable who were invited to give commencement addresses at Brandeis, Haverford, Rutgers, and at Swarthmore and Johns Hopkins last year.
  • A university’s obligation is not to teach students what to think but to teach students how to think. And that requires listening to the other side, weighing arguments without prejudging them, and determining whether the other side might actually make some fair points.
  • If university administrations do not defend freedom and tolerance for all students, they will graduate with ears and minds closed and the university will have failed both the student and society.
John Stuart Mill:

These are ideas and ideals liberals constantly claim in their own defense.  However, many liberal political activists and ideologues in the guise of university professors and administrators have forgotten a fundamental principle of free expression.  Bloomberg turned the attention of the Harvard graduates to the writings of John Stuart Mill:
I’m sure all of today’s graduates have read John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty.But allow me to read a short passage from it: ‘The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it.’ 
He continued: ‘If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.’ 
Mill would have been horrified to learn of university students silencing the opinions of others. He would have been even more horrified that faculty members were often part of the commencement censorship campaigns. [Bold emphasis mine.]
Bloomberg concluded these observations with this comment which sensationalists and scandal-mongering reviewers touted: “For tenured faculty members to silence speakers whose views they disagree with is the height of hypocrisy, especially when these protests happen in the northeast–a bastion of self-professed liberal tolerance.”

Joseph Smith

Rather than an excoriation of liberals, I find much that is fair and truly liberal here and view this address as a much needed restatement of fundamental principles which should apply to all political parties. The remarks of Bloomberg and Mill reminded me of two very important statements of Joseph Smith. Regarding the threats to religious freedom he said:
I am bold to declare the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.(2) 
And he added the following as a revelation from God, binding upon his people:
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge....(3)
Joseph Smith was so committed to the principles of free agency, tolerance, and the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, that Mormonism was never set on the path of either restricting what people could hear or forcing its religious message upon them. The gospel was to be presented and people were free to accept it or reject it. Joseph Smith believed the principles of the fullness of the Gospel could hold their own in the marketplace of ideas. This approach of dispensing the gospel not only honors the agency of mankind, it also accepts the justice and fairness of God. This is a position that both major branches of Christianity, Islam, and other religions have not always understood or honored.

In the same sermon Joseph Smith also laid down what was to become a fundamental principle of Mormonism regarding the search for truth. He said, “One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.”(4) This perspective suggests that Latter-day Saints should be open, tolerant, interested, and engaged in the search for truth–the “fairest gem that the riches of worlds can produce.”(5) 

Sometimes we Mormons are tempted to restrict the expression of the ideas of others and are not as open and valiant in our search for truth as our ideals teach us to be, but I am grateful for those ideals and the man who promulgated them as well as for other like-minded men such as Michael Bloomberg and John Stuart Mill. I am confident those ideals, when properly upheld and pursued, are our best personal and collective approach to political and religious freedom–and progress–in this great land.

Let’s think together again, soon.


1. See, Michael Bloomberg, commencement address, Harvard University, 29 May 2014.
Available online at:  Accessed 4 June 2014.

2. Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 313, 29 July 1843.

3.  D&C 121:41-42, 20 March 1839.

4. TPJS, p. 313, emphasis mine.

5. Parley P. Pratt’s poem, “Truth,” in LDS Hymns, p. 272. John Taylor's view of Mormonism and truth is captured in this 1867 statement:  "Our religion is more comprehensive than that of the world; it does not prompt its votaries with the desire to 'sit and sing themselves away to everlasting bliss,' but it embraces all the interests of humanity in every conceivable phase, and every truth in the world comes within its scope."  John Taylor, JD 11:354, 6 April 1867.