I received a message from what appeared to be a well-meaning sister on the Facebook page the other day. I’m going to leave our entire conversation posted here for all to see. I didn’t think much of it after it happened until this morning when a blog post began making the rounds. Apparently, this sister felt the need to relitigate the purpose of #DezNat for the umpteenth time. I’ve already written my response, as have others.

In the meantime, I’ve been inundated with questions the past few weeks about why users of the tag would say “Brigham Young did nothing wrong.” It really is something that has been on my mind for a while even though JP had already posted on this site. I told this to Sister Clements before she wrote for what appears to be a political blog sprinkled with “Mormon.” One might even call it a poor-mans BCC – if by poor you’re referring to the tent people living near the freeway with all their earthly possessions in a shopping cart. Luckily for her, I’ll be directing far more traffic to her post than she did to this site. It’s my way of rolling down the window and giving her the coins out of my cupholder.

A few weeks ago, I was involved in an online conversation with several members of the Church who took umbrage at the notion that a prophet could be infallible. Interestingly enough, they were more offended by that than overtly calling a prophet of God a racist, which they did repeatedly. They were more offended by “Brigham Young did nothing wrong” than they were by his statue being vandalized on BYU’s campus. Think about that for a moment.

We Don’t Know the Mistakes of Prophets

As I mentioned to Sister Clements, while we do know that prophets are human, we don’t know what “mistakes” they made. It’s interesting to see some people play Monday morning quarterback by calling out the “errors” of prophets simply by saying they’re human and make mistakes. Humans calling out humans, but in this case, humans who aren’t the prophet are telling others that they know where the prophet went wrong. It’s not as strong a position as they believe it is.

Let’s use an actual example, which is brought up consistently: The priesthood restriction. Do we actually know it was a mistake? Does anyone know for sure that Brigham Young wasn’t inspired to implement it? The church reversed the ban in 1978, not because it was wrong when it began, but because it was right to reverse it when President Kimball did so. It isn’t the official position of the church that Brigham Young erred in making the policy, but the armchair quarterbacks seem to think they have some inside knowledge the rest of us don’t have. And for some reason, it makes them feel better about their testimony to call a prophet of God a racist than to think he was inspired. Kind of kooky if you ask me.

Meanwhile, there are legitimate reasons why Brigham Young, indeed, did nothing wrong. A recent convert offered a perspective recently that would make the Ph.D.’s at BYU jealous:

Ancient Prophets Are Revered

Moses had his well-documented foibles, but it didn’t stop him from being Nephi’s hero. He constantly referred back to the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea in his writings. No decent and honest practicing Christian or Jew questions the authenticity or value of the Ten Commandments because Moses wandered in the desert for forty years. For some reason, ProgMos are so busy tearing down Brigham Young that they miss the mark by overlooking the miracles he oversaw in leading the pioneers west and developing a great civilization in the middle of nowhere.

The same thing is done with Joseph Smith, to a somewhat lesser or greater scale, depending on who you talk to. What is wrong with revering a prophet of God? Why not be grateful and marvel at the wonderful blessing we have to see miracles and the power of their keys manifest in our days? How is our testimony strengthened by looking for the weaknesses in God’s chosen vessels?

What is the Real Motive?

The crux of the matter is simple. If it can be established that God’s prophets are imperfect, then we don’t have to follow commands or laws we deem as imperfect or uninspired. There is a reason the same people who hate Brigham Young fight consistently against even more modern revelations such as The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

The problem with the worldview of the people who fight against the prophets is at some point everything comes crashing down. Who is right, and when? Who should we follow, and when? It kind of defeats the purpose of calling a prophet in the first place, doesn’t it? Paul was clear as to the purpose of establishing a church with prophets and apostles. Turns out the Monday morning quarterbacks are even more fallible than the prophets they fight against because they can’t see their own house of cards falling down before it happens.

Our job is to obey and to sustain with exactness. Leave it up to God to judge His prophets and we’ll be alright. It’s amazing the same people who decry people who use a hashtag as judgmental are casting more than their fair share of judgments with their very same complaints. There is less harm with zealous obedience than with the never-ending backseat driving.

*UPDATE* A worthwhile addition

Supplemental Reading:

5 thoughts on “Wheat and Tares

  1. I do appreciate the coins out of the cup holder. 🙂 I really love family history, and one thing I’ve learned about studying the lives of my ancestors (as well as those I research for others) is that most individuals live interesting, complex lives. As I’ve written in another post at W&T, Brigham Young accomplished a lot of great things for both the Church and the state of Utah. But we can’t act as if our ancestors and other historical figures (even prophets) were perfect in everything they did. –Which is exactly what you do with the #BYDNW hashtag. We can admit theoretically that they are flawed, but we must treat them as if they were perfect.– It’s unfair to them and it’s unfair to members of the Church today who are trying to do their best (and, unfortunately, are very aware of their own faults). One of my ancestors was an early pioneer who was absolutely devoted to Joseph Smith until the day he died. But at the end of his life he took issue with the way Brigham Young was governing the state and also got involved in Spiritualism. As a result, he was excommunicated. Some family members refuse to talk about this ancestor, because clearly the excommunication in the last year of his life negated everything he did in his prior seventy years. Others refuse to talk about him because they have left the Church and hate hearing about his missionary service and helping to settle various parts of the west with other Latter-day Saint individuals. Do I consider this man a positive or negative influence to my children, who I hope will love this Church as much as I do? The fact is that I consider his decades of dedication to the Church AND the fact that he stood up to Brigham Young at the end of his life as something worthy of consideration. In both cases, he was firm in his convictions and what he believed was the truth. I can appreciate that even if I’m not convinced I would’ve made the same choices.

    As far as the statement, “There is less harm with zealous obedience than with the never-ending backseat driving.” I honestly used to believe that, until I personally experienced the harm that can happen when we zealously obey imperfect local leaders. It took several times before I finally learned my lesson. Imperfect people (even when having the absolute best of intentions) can still cause harm, and you need a strong witness of the divinity of the work IN SPITE of the frailties of individuals to keep going.

  2. I personally believe Brigham Young was directed by Christ to direct The Church away from engaging in the coming Civil War.

    None of us know what that conversation entailed or what was exactly asked or what Revelation was directly received. But based on Brigham Young’s own statements A) that he was proud and supportive of the first black Priesthood holders and B) his demonstrable lack of racial hatred even after instituting the Priesthood Ban, seems to indicate that he had received SOME direction from Heaven that caused him to lead the Church the way that he did.

    I know Brigham Young was a Prophet of God who served the Lord the way the Lord intended to be served. Brigham was a remarkable man, a paragon of conviction, who was called to preserve The Church with a level of dogmatism few others could have exhibited. His character and principled nature was a force of absolutism.

    I ponder to think what damage The Church could have been made to suffer if that same demeanor, forced by the will to ensure to the equality for all humanity, would have thrust the early Church into the turmoil of the coming Civil War.

    After you have pondered the question, we must then step back and take into question the nature, power and determination of Brigham Young as Prophet and as a man. The question I pose to all is this:

    What would have God had to say to His servant Brigham Young, to make sure he did not throw the Saints into that Civil War which was being fought for the rights and dignity of his fellow man?

    That is how I understand the Priesthood Ban and Brigham Young (who did nothing wrong) 😉


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