Questions For Mormons Part 2

Questions For Mormons Part 2

Free Agency

QUESTION: I understand that you believe in the doctrine of free agency. What does this mean to you?

ANSWER: It means I have freedom to choose.

QUESTION: Why is that such an important doctrine in the church?

ANSWER: Because the original war in heaven was fought over this principle. Satan wanted to take away the agency of mankind and God wanted man to have it.

QUESTION: Isn’t it also said within the church that the spiritual war on this earth is a continuation or the War In Heaven?

ANSWER: Yes, I have heard that.

QUESTION: Have you also heard it taught that members sometimes have to give up some of their free agency for the good of the whole?

ANSWER: Yes, I heard that taught also.

QUESTION: In what circumstances do you think it is right to give up your agency?

ANSWER: Well if I need money I should not have the freedom to rob a bank.

QUESTION: If you rob someone then the overall freedom of the whole is diminished, is it not?

ANSWER: Yes, I suppose.

QUESTION: Would you say that this should be the principle governing any yielding of freedom, that the freedom of the whole is enhanced?

ANSWER: That sounds right.

QUESTION: So how about the freedom of speech. Should this ever be infringed?

ANSWER: Maybe in exceptional cases where careless speech can be the cause of some type of danger.

QUESTION: You mean like shouting “fire” in a crowded theater?

ANSWER: Yes and some types of harmful slander should be governed by law.

QUESTION: That sounds reasonable. Could we agree then that there should be freedom of speech except in cases where real harm is done to another?

ANSWER: I suppose

QUESTION: And in these types of cases we are already governed by the laws of the land are we not?

ANSWER: Pretty much.

QUESTION: So if I disagree even with the President of the United States, should I be free to stand on a street corner, run an ad or speak to my friends to declare my views?

ANSWER: Yes, definitely.

QUESTION: What if the President does not like my views – should he have any power to punish me for them?

ANSWER: No.

QUESTION: What if my views hurt the President’s feelings? Does he then have any power to do me harm?

ANSWER: Unless you are slandering with lies you have pretty much power to say anything about anyone or anything.

QUESTION: So, do you agree with having this type of freedom?

ANSWER: Yes

QUESTION: Does it not seem logical that since a core belief of the LDS church is free agency that you should have as much or more freedom of speech in the church than you do within our country?

ANSWER: I suppose.

QUESTION: Do you feel that this is the case – that you enjoy as much freedom of speech within the church as you do within your country?

ANSWER: Yes, I think so.

QUESTION: So, do you feel you can say pretty much what you want to express within the church then without fear of retribution?

ANSWER: Yes.

QUESTION: Let us suppose you were in a Sunday School class and the teacher read a quotation from the current prophet that was totally contrary to your view. Would you feel free to tell the class that you think the Prophet is wrong, just as you are free to express your opinion that the President of the United States is wrong?

ANSWER: That would not happen because I have never disagreed with the prophet and I never will.

QUESTION: And why is that?

ANSWER: Because he speaks for God upon the earth.

QUESTION: So disagreeing with the prophet is a little like disagreeing with God from your point of view?

ANSWER: Something like that.

QUESTION: So the prophet would never lead you astray then?

ANSWER: No. We are told that if he tried to he would be removed.

QUESTION: You mean God would zap him?

ANSWER: I wouldn’t put it that way, but he would either be removed by the other General Authorities or suffer some calamity.

QUESTION: So the way you see it is that you have free agency in the church because you never have the need to speak anything in opposition to the brethren. In other words, everything you desire to speak are things permitted in the church?

ANSWER: Yes.

QUESTION: Let us take this basic idea and put it in a different location. Hans was living in Germany under Hitler during World War II and agreed 100% with Hitler and the NAZI party. Does this mean the Germans as a whole had freedom of speech?

ANSWER: No.

QUESTION: Why not?

ANSWER: There were many others who did not agree with Hitler and many of them were punished for their disagreements.

QUESTION: In other words, if someone spoke up on a street corner, ran an ad or communicated disagreement with Hitler among friends then he was in danger of severe punishment was he not?

ANSWER: Sadly so.

QUESTION: So the fact that you feel free to speak your mind in the church because you agree with authorities does not mean that all are able to speak their mind, does it?

ANSWER: No. But everyone I know of is able to speak his mind.

QUESTION: Now getting back to the hypothetical Sunday School class here I’m sure you will agree that all LDS are not as austere as yourself in agreeing with the authorities. Suppose there was someone in your Sunday School class who did disagree with the prophet. Would he or she have the freedom to speak up and voice their opinion?

ANSWER: Yes.

QUESTION: And would you say then that there would be no discipline or punishment of any kind meted out for this freedom of speech?

ANSWER: No. I don’t think there would be any.

QUESTION: But if the Bishop found out that this person did not agree with all the prophet said, would he not call him into his office to have a chat?

ANSWER: It’s possible that the Bishop may want to see if he could help with his understanding.

QUESTION: And if, after questioning, the Bishop found out that he disagreed with the prophet on a point of doctrine, do you think he would just smile and let it pass?

ANSWER: It would depend on what it was.

QUESTION: Take Sonja Johnson, who was reported in the papers a few years ago, as an instance. She disagreed with the authorities on equal rights for women and was excommunicated because she exercised her legal freedom to speak her mind. Was she not punished for using freedom of speech?

ANSWER: But she was leading people astray.

QUESTION: But you maintained that the Church has as much or more freedom of speech than our country. Are the Democrats able to have a Republican arrested because they think he is leading the country astray?

ANSWER: No, but that is different.

QUESTION: How is it different?

ANSWER: It is very serious to lead members of the church astray. Their eternal salvation is at stake.

QUESTION: Is it more serious than taking away free will or free expression?

ANSWER: This is one of those cases where we should give up our free agency.

QUESTION: You never mentioned this situation when we talked of this subject earlier. So do you think then that there should be no free will in the church to express your opinion if it disagrees with the authorities?

ANSWER: You shouldn’t be in the church if you disagree with the authorities.

QUESTION: Funny, I thought the church of God was supposed to be for all who are seeking the kingdom of God with a sincere heart. Now Sonja Johnson may have had some views that were impossible to prove right or wrong but suppose a person expressed views that were very accurate and could be proven beyond dispute to be true. Would the church allow freedom of expression in verifiable truth?

ANSWER: I would think so.

QUESTION: Are you aware there are many who have written accurately about certain parts of Mormon history and have been excommunicated for it?

ANSWER: If they distorted history maybe, but not if they told the truth.

QUESTION: One of the most famous examples is the BYU professor and church historian Michael Quinn. He had access to historical information never before published and was excommunicated for writing about it and refusing to retract on what he saw as historical fact. Is this what you support as free agency?

ANSWER: I am sure the authorities had good reason to excommunicate him.

QUESTION: Or how about Abraham Gileadi. He was excommunicated for writing his own interpretations of the Book of Revelations. Do you call that freedom of speech?

ANSWER: He was probably teaching doctrine out of harmony with the church.

QUESTION: It is interesting that in 1843 the High Council excommunicated a member named Pelatiah Brown for teaching unapproved doctrine from the book of Revelation also. Do you know what Joseph Smith’s reaction was to this?

ANSWER: I imagine he approved of it.

QUESTION: He did not but was very upset by it and ordered the man to be reinstated. Does it not seem reasonable that he would also order Abraham Gileadi to be reinstated?

ANSWER: It’s hard to say

QUESTION: You might find Joseph’s rebuke of the High Council interesting. He said: “I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodists, and not like the Latter-Day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (DHC 5:340)

This does not sound like the attitude of the current authorities, does it?

ANSWER: Perhaps circumstances are different today.

QUESTION: Do you agree with Joseph Smith that “it does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.”

ANSWER: Yes.

QUESTION: So if Michael Quinn, Abraham Gileadi and many others merely erred in doctrine they should not be excommunicated should they?

ANSWER: It depends. If they were leading members astray then perhaps they should be.

QUESTION: But the High Council thought that Pelatiah Brown was leading members astray and Joseph castigated them for taking away his freedom of speech. Aren’t you concerned about this core principle over which the War in Heaven was fought?

ANSWER: Of course I am. Now, I realize that all the brethren are not perfect, but if they do get overzealous in cleansing the church, God will work things out in the next world.

QUESTION: So should we let injustices such as the suppression of free expression, slavery, oppression, racism and other wrongs just continue here on earth because God will work things out in the next world?

ANSWER: No of course not.

QUESTION: Yet you and millions of members of the church just sit by and allow free expression to be suppressed, which thing is contrary to the teachings of your founding prophet. Why do you do this?

ANSWER: We are told that our leaders will never lead us astray so we trust them.

QUESTION: But the scriptures tell you not to lean on the arm of flesh. Is not leaning on the arm of flesh the same as placing your faith in men of flesh who you call your authorities?

ANSWER: Not if they speak for God.

QUESTION: Earlier we talked about the War In Heaven. Again, what was the battle over according to Mormon scriptures?

ANSWER: Free agency.

QUESTION: And before the war was fought how many of the hosts of heaven did Lucifer persuade to come over to his side?

ANSWER: A third of them.

QUESTION: How many do you suppose that was?

ANSWER: It would have been billions of them.

QUESTION: And how long do you suppose it took for him to convince these billions of beings that the Father was wrong and he was right?

ANSWER: I never thought about it, but it probably took a while.

QUESTION: When you think of how much time and energy it takes LDS missionaries to convert a few souls then one can indeed conclude that it probably took Lucifer quite a few years in our time to accomplish such a deed. But when was Lucifer kicked out of heaven?

ANSWER: The scriptures says that it was after the War in Heaven.

QUESTION: But before the war broke out there was a lengthy period of perhaps a hundred, a thousand or maybe a million years where Lucifer just preached to his heart’s content and made converts. During this period, did God take away his agency to speak what was a dangerous doctrine?

ANSWER: I suppose not.

QUESTION: And during this period did God excommunicate him, or kick him out of heaven?

ANSWER: I guess not.

QUESTION: Is it not taught that Lucifer was not kicked out until he openly rebelled and made war?

ANSWER: Yes.

QUESTION: So why then does the church not follow the example of God himself and allow for freedom of expression and cease excommunicating peaceable people who may have different opinions, but have no desire to make war against the church?

ANSWER: He has no answer

QUESTION: Is the church not supporting the same side which Lucifer took in seeking to destroy the free agency of its members?

ANSWER: He becomes uncomfortable and wants to end the discussion.

June 4, 2001, 2001

Copyright by J J Dewey

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