Monday, August 8, 2011

Can Members Question Church Doctrine? An Answer From This Month's Ensign

Yesterday before Church a young man named Luke asked me if it is permitted to question the very doctrines of the Church.  Naturally I was astonished at such a question! Luke explained that a professor at the university whom he considers to be very wise counseled the students to never stop questioning and he wanted to apply this thinking to his religion to see where it would take him.

I told Luke that the answer to his question lies within this month’s Ensign.  I asked him to find it and then come and see me in my office when he had the answer.  Luke quickly went to the library, obtained a copy of the Ensign and started his research.

I noticed him look up at me during sacrament meeting and we shared a smile.  As Luke came up to bear his testimony of the gospel I knew that he had felt the spirit of the counsel he had read. 

He said (and I paraphrase) “Brothers and Sisters, I know that President Paternoster is a man of God for he guided me today in answering a question I had been pondering for many weeks.  You see, I had been thinking about questioning the doctrines of the Church.  Something didn’t feel right about this approach but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  After much prayer I finally came to see our beloved stake president who simply counseled me to read this month’s Ensign.  Within its pages the uncomfortable feeling I had been having was made clear to me.  Please allow me to quote *directly from an Apostle of the Lord in this matter, even Elder M. Russell Ballard who after talking about how solidly anchored in our testimonies we must be stated “We won’t question the doctrines that are part of our belief.”

Brothers and Sisters, could it be any clearer than this?  Has ever a prayer been answered with more clarity? The world would advise us to never stop questioning, but here we have a current prophet, seer and revelator who has given us a higher, holier and better plan, even one of unquestioning belief in the truths of the gospel.  After all, what good could possibly come from questioning the Church anyway?

I know that as I humbly accept without question the doctrines that are part of the Church I will be stronger, more obedient and more faithful.  I pledge to do all that my righteous priesthood leaders ask and know that in so doing I will have a happy and fulfilling life and I leave these thoughts and this humble testimony with you in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.”




*http://lds.org/ensign/2011/08/solidly-anchored-in-our-testimonies?lang=eng


26 comments:

Anonymous said...

"...because Mormons just believe!!"

Leland James Media said...

I have always been reminded that, "When the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done."

Porter said...

Obviously we don't want to look to our wayward brother Warren Jeffs for a good example, but that guy took the same approach. Recent stories about his case talk about how when he became prophet he became more and more strict and did not permit people to watch TV, have dogs or wear red. Some people rebelled and others were cast out and their wives were given to others. But those who stayed were promised eternal salvation.

The LDS church seems to be taking the same approach recently. It sure makes things easier when we don't have to think or choose for ourselves! I cant wait until President Packer takes over, I'm sure those people who dare to question things (particularly on the Internet) will be cast out so they don't pollute the minds of the loyal saints. I'm so excited for that day, too much questioning gives me a headache.

My only concern, President, is that when I was in primary I was taught that we had free agency, and that Satan's plan of not permitting free agency was rejected by our Heavenly Father. It seems to me that the church is kind of moving away from free agency these days. I try to "follow the prophet" always, but can you help me reconcile the Church's current approach with the doctrine of free agency?

Porter said...

Funny I just noticed that the Ensign article you referenced was authored by President Packer's son who is a general authority too. That must be a really spiritual family!

And what a funny coincidence that he wrote an article about not questioning authority, following in his dad's footsteps.

Anonymous said...

Another beautiful post, President. A small parable I often use is to say that Church Doctrines are like the letters of transit in the movie Casablanca: they "cannot be rescinded, not even questioned," because they were signed by General DeGaulle himself [1]. Our doctrines are signed by the prophet himself, which is even more unquestionable. Or another general authority with stewardship of the proper priesthood keys (also cannot be questioned). And testified to by faithful leaders such as your good self. Although one does have to take care not to be led astray by incorrect transcriptions such as those found in the Journal of Discourses.

[1] Some think Peter Lorre actually named the Vichy "General Weyland" instead--the sound is a little unclear. But the point is, it was a signature the Nazis could not rescind or question. I mean, we all know who would win if Hitler had to fight either of them.

Donna Banta said...

Whenever I feel the desire to question, I read The Ensign and it sucks all the curiosity out of me.

Me from Cali said...

There is no question that no one should question what only may seem questionable, especially when it is unquestionably clear that any question about what shouldn't be questioned lies in the correct answer.

Now, are there any questions?

Goldarn said...

I've always believed that one should always Question Authority.

However, when Authority answers, one should *always* listen.

This is why I read President Paternoster's blog, because he always gives me answers that aren't just correct; they are appropriate.

I thank God for President Paternoster. He is truly a Noble and Great one.

Anonymous said...

Porter, there is no difficulty in reconciling the doctrines of free agency and following the prophet. The faithful exercise their free agency to make the decision to follow the prophet. This is the true purpose of free agency. Thereafter, free agency is not destroyed, but fulfilled (Matt. 5:17). There is a distinction not unlike the one between secret and sacred, or Elijah and Elias.

Anonymous said...

Those are inspiring words from M. Russell Ballard. I'm sure you may know that one of M. Russell Ballard's daughters is married to Peter Huntsman who is the brother of Presidential Candidate Jon Huntsman. I pray that we will one day have a Mormon in the White House who is as committed to following the doctrine of the Church without question as Brother Ballard is.

Mahonri Kimball said...

We don't question the doctrines because they have never changed and never will.
If God were to change he would cease to be God. What is true today has been true from the beginning of time.
We don't have to question the truthfulness of a 6000 year old earth, Worldwide flood, Tower of Babel, or location of the Garden of Eden.
“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38.)
Worldly men may place their confidence in science, logic, rational thinking, and evidence. In the Church we have no need of these inferior means of "knowing". We have the "more sure word of prophecy"
I am truly blessed to have a knowledge and testimony of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

you speak the truth brothers and sisters but...i think it just made me throw up a little in my mouth...

Also, in addition to following the leaders without question, what about praising them? Remember exudos and deut?

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image (or idol), or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God,...

However we sing,

Praise to the Man who communed with Jehovah

Can I praise him? Will God be mad?

Anonymous said...

This is truly inspiring! Thank you president for telling me how to think, though it doesn't really match reality, I know it must be true because you said it is ^_^ !

I'll be sure to never think for myself or come to my own conclusions about anything in my life ever again. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I'll be sure to never think for myself or come to my own conclusions about anything in my life ever again. Thanks!

Previous anonymous, if you enjoy thinking, it's not necessary to go that far. The key is to observe the principle that when the Brethren speak, the thinking has been done. Before that moment, the thinking may be ongoing, and (subject to President Paternoster's correction) it is not necessary for you to abstain from privately following along, as it were. Of course, prudence dictates that your own thinking should be confined to the privacy of your own mind. In this way, any danger of leaking incorrect teachings to others is minimized, and you yourself are prepared to abandon any incorrect thoughts with a minimum of embarrassment once the thinking is, in fact, done.

Anonymous said...

Of course you can't question doctrine, Or think for yourself! If you did you may find fault! Heaven forbid we should follow the bible and test our prophets!

Anonymous said...

So what does that say to president George A Smith???

“If a Faith that will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be weak.” (August 13, 1871, Journal of Discourses Vol. 14 pg 216.)

Do you hear yourselves? You're saying that you can't or shouldn't question the faith because an agent of the faith (apostle) said not to.

That's like asking a pedophile to answer moral questions about child pornography.
The only way to test the validity of the claims of the church is to test against the bible.

Cindy said...

There is a difference between questioning the gospel and asking questions. When Luke's professor said you should never stop questioning he was right but not in the sense that Luke thought. Luke has a responsibility to be ever learning, we all do. Why do you think we have ensigns and other church magazines? Why do you think we have firesides and conferences? It is for the very purpose of questions to be answered. How do you think the leaders of the church expect it's members to have their questions answered if they don't ask any? Your example here demonstrated just that. Luke had a question and a righteous desire to find an answer and that answer came to him through the proper channels. It was through prayer, guidance by his local leaders and from the words of our leaders that he received his answer. So no we do not "question" or bring doubt to our beliefs, all that would do is weaken our testimonies and leave us confused. In stead we ask questions that would help straighten out testimony and if we go through the right channels it will, just like it did for Luke. God did not put us on this earth to find out way on our own. He gave us prophets, seers and regulators to show us the way.

Anonymous said...

"God did not put us on this earth to find out way on our own. He gave us prophets, seers and regulators to show us the way." - Indeed he did.

Iron Chancellor said...

At times like these I find comfort in the words of the Prophet Joseph. He foresaw these kinds of situations and wrote in the Millennial Star, "We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them even if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercize of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents they should do it without any questions. When elders of israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves.

Hey, wait a minute, I think Joseph hated the idea of the saints obeying without questioning. How could that be? Maybe that is why, when this was first printed in a church manual in the '40's a reporter called George A. Smith and asked him whether the church believed this or not and he said it was an embarrassment to the church and the church leaders were upset by it. He also said it was totally against everything the church stood for.

When Ezra T gave his (in)famous talk about the 14 fundamentals of following the prophet he was chastised by Spencer W Kimball and made to apologize to the 12 and later all of the GA's. SWK never wanted this talk repeated in church again but modern revelation by Thomas Monson has changed that. BTW Monson was a member of the 12 when Benson was rebuked for it.

All I know is that when somebody says that when the leaders speak the thinking has been done, I think to myself, "you can say that again!"

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful illustration, sir, of your superior intellect and transcendent spirituality! And I certainly agree that to question our leaders is a grievous sin - second only to dabbling in liberalism and homosexuality.

Please keep feeding us, your humble sheep, more of these faith-inspiring stories.

Anonymous said...

Please note that this blog is a fake. President Paternoster is not a church leader in the LDS church. This is a made-up alias with the intent to mislead which uses

a stolen photoshoped picture of Ed Madden; a journalist for the Irish Medical Times (picture is flipped and hair is added).

http://www.imt.ie/opinion/2011/09/ruling-on-fixed-term-work-case.html

Stake Patriarch said...

I never question the Ensign; I know that the Brethren's words are truly inspired (as are President Paternoster's words.)

Anonymous said...

Mormon teachings once again in contradiction to the true Bible. Read for yourself...

1 Thessalonians 5:21 "Test all things; hold fast that which is good"

Anyone who tells you not to question is trying to make you sin.

Kallie Walter said...

LOL. These are NOT true LDS teachings on this blog.

Anonymous said...

If this is a phony blog, it sure did draw many sheeples to it defending the Mormon doctrine.

Anonymous said...

I pity anyone told not to question their HUMAN leaders or doctrines. We were created with the capacity to use critical thinking and questioning is one way to utilize that God given ability. We should never fear to question someone's teachings. If what they are teaching is right and truth then it will uphold to any amount of scrutiny and if not then what is being taught should be challenged, reformed or dropped altogether