Look Out! There is a New Elephant in Town
The Message of "The Mormons"

Spoken as a Man not a Prophet

The following post was originally a response to Phaedrus, one of my favorite posters on the Wild Wild Web. He regularly posts at On Faith.

Phaedrus posted the following quote at Susan Jacoby's response regarding Mormonism.

"To those who would say, "But the Mormon church is a private entity, and should be able to decide for itself what rules it will enforce for its members," I say "Right you are. If it ended at the borders of the faith." But, it does not. The LDS church spends millions of dollars to combat gay marriage, and any meaningful version of civil unions, in every state that takes up the issue. In so doing, it seeks to exert its influence over the lives of "everyone," LDS or not."

This is very true. I too agree that the institution has the right to protect itself and set its own limits and rules. They can kick professors out of BYU as they see fit. They can excommunicate Janice Allred and her sister, Margaret Toscano. It is run by a few men who have been given full control of the institution.

However, it is not mandatory that all who disagree with those men, especially when it comes to civil rights, cease to speak. Otterson's suggestion, along with the chorus of faithful Mormons, that to speak against the LDS Church is somehow unamerican or lacks tolerance, was pathetic.

I noticed today something that is quite possibly the most significant reversal in the history of the LDS church. In my opinion, this position, as it is presented on LDS.org is bigger than the reversal of the race ban, it is bigger than the Manifesto regarding polygamy, it is bigger than the 1978 change that allowed women to pray in Sacrament Meeting.

You can read it here:  Approaching Mormon Doctrine

It includes this bullet:

Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted. (emphasis added)

I applaud this statement. It was made on Friday, May 4th, 2007 by Michael Otterson. In my opinion, this is a victory for everyone, inside and outside of the church, with 15 exceptions - the Apostles.

The most common apology made by Mormons, with regard to doctrine or social stances, is that past prophets and living prophets were speaking as a 'Man not as a Prophet.' It was left to the apologists to decide when something was manly or prophetic. Members were faced with the impossible position of deciding what as just a rant by an old guy in a white shirt and what was inspired. (Does Eve come to mind for anyone?)

The press release puts it all in perspective: if it's not cannonized, it aint enforcable, official, godly or important enough to even have an opinion on how another person accepts or incorporates the information. That is huge progress, even if the words in the statement are not cannonized - oh for the irony and continued dilemma. One funny thought here, does this mean that General Conference is just a soundbite, and, until something is cannonized, Mormons can just enjoy two free weekends a year?

The Mormon Scriptures do not mention coffee specifically, so, any interpretation, according to what Otterson just published, is left to the Mormon coffee consumer and not to the old dudes or a bishop or anyone else. It may take a generation for the local leadership, including  Bishops,  ( Judge in Israel) to free themselves from judging those for whom they consider themselves the leader.  "I will take a Venti Vanilla Latte with non-fat milk for me, and a Triple Espresso for my Home Teacher."

Even the The Family: A Proclamation to the World leaves some vagueness regarding homosexuality, in my opinion. Regardless of how it is interpreted, it is fair that the comments by Oaks and Wickman in this staged interview regarding homosexuality are not to be considered at face value as equivalent to scripture or God's will. Regardless of how one accepts Oak's nonsense, the church has now publicly created an allowance for people to interpret those words differently and cease the harsh judgments of others, and the horrendous forced apologies and interpretations that are the burden of members, fathers, mothers, children and friends of homosexuals.

I think there is great reason to rejoice and party in the streets.

The press release by Otterson will be dismissed by many, disected by many, and embraced by many. If members allow themselves to really believe what is said in the statement, the debate that could ensue may do more to advance the religion into the mainstream than anything I have ever seen in the Mormon Church.

Otterson, that was bold to publicly reduce the doctrine to cannonized scripture. Let's see if your peeps in the pews can show even a fraction of the boldness as they speak for themselves more, and apologize less for the leaders, including Oaks comment that was broadcast on April 30th and May 1st. After all, Oaks was not inspired, he was merely expressing the thoughts of a man that was going 'All In' in a high stakes poker game.

And finally - Woohoo! Poker is back for the elders quorum and Relief Society until we get the poker ban cannonized.



Silly Mayan,

Otterson's press release is not canonized. He is just speaking as a man. Just because he is the spokesperson for the church doesn't mean he speaks for the church. What's funny to me is they include "official proclamations as well as canonized scriptures, which means the official proclamation of the Q12 from 1845, wherein the American Indians are called Lamanites must be binding. And the official FP statement from 1949 saying that blacks were denied the priesthood for a lack of valiance in the premortal existence is also binding, while, I guess, Jeff Holland's and Marlin Jensen's remarks relegating such a notion to "folklore" status is not. Of course, that's only if you accept Otterson's PR statement as more official than, say, President Ezra Taft Benson's talk on the 14 Fundamentals of Following the Prophet. For all their talk of unity, they sure can't seem to get their story straight on what is doctrine, what is official, and what isn't.


I echo Equality...

Somehow, I think that the above statement will simply be ignored...the preferred way of dealing with odd, controversial or wrong statements in the past

What is more ironic than a non binding statement defining what is binding and not binding on members?

Mayan Elephant


I agree that it is loose as hell. But, for a minute, can you please appreciate that I can now invite the High Priest Group leader to my poker games? That is a good thing. I hear he sucks.


Offer him a Polygamy Porter for us, OK? "It's a mild barley drink Brother HPGL!"



See, I thought the irony of which Equality speaks is that very same irony referred to by ME here:

"That is huge progress, even if the words in the statement are not cannonized - oh for the irony and continued dilemma."

But even if Otterson's little junta were canonized, we'd still be left with that loosey-goosey of all situations where each may interpret the words of the canon as the spirit dictates and only those of superior authority may correct error. As long as this is so then great weight will be given to the spiritual/administrative hierarchy of the day. The moment this changes in more than just rhetoric is the moment when Mormon authority becomes irrelevant...IOW, the moment that the church ceases to exist.

I'd like to sustain Brother Otterson as interpreted by ME. May it come true in our lifetime.

Anon for this

I've always wondered why no one has tried marketing Pay Lay Ale, with the slogan "Quench the thirst in your mouth!"


I have seen a parody beer labe called Pay Lay Ale with the slogan "O God Beer is good for my mouth"

I agree that this statement means nothing unless read over the pulpit and has the FP and/or Qo12 signatures under it. However it does call attention to the fact that most of what goes on in the church today is driven by church culture and not doctrinal statements from the brethren. The church is operated at the local level mostly by folklore. correlation is dropping the fun stuff we used to talk about and not replacing it with anthing of substance.

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