Of Prophets and Men
I was eleven or twelve when I heard some piece of Joseph Smith’s history that I had never heard before. I grew up in a home that was pretty open about church history so I knew about polygamy, the seer stone in a hat, and the early gold digging. I don’t actually remember what this new information was, but I was upset by it. I went to my mother and asked her how she could believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet when he had done so many problematic things. Her response was one I have thought about again and again through my life. She said, “Joseph Smith was a human being and he made serious mistakes. But those mistakes only serve to increase my testimony of God. Because if God can use a flawed person like Joseph Smith to work miracles, then I have hope that He can do something with me.”
Let me be clear: I’m deeply troubled by the videos released this weekend that show private meetings of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other church leaders learning about and discussing current events. I sincerely hope that these meetings occasionally include people who provide divergent views from those shown and that the meetings don’t serve solely as an echo chamber. I also hope that the meetings typically have more discussion and informed debate than the simple nodding of heads. I’m confused about why there are no women in the room—auxiliary presidencies need to be informed about world events and I believe the presence of women would change the dynamic shown here. The Machiavellian-level discussion of baptisms following the Iraq War is disgusting. The antagonism repeatedly displayed toward the LGBTQ community makes me heartsick and angry. And personally, as a liberal Democrat, I’m deeply hurt by church leaders I’ve admired all my life referring to Democrats as “various miscreants.” That one is a punch in the gut, like overhearing my favorite uncle call me a bad name in the other room.
But I’ve known my whole life that people can be both deeply flawed and divinely inspired. Yesterday I heard many people say that these videos prove that these men are simply human, not seers and revelators. I don’t believe that those two categories are mutually exclusive. And if I had to wait until I had a perfect, sinless day before I received answers to prayers and divine direction, then the heavens would be silent. While I routinely disagree with church leadership, I have many times heard their words and felt God’s confirmation. The fact that God works miracles through broken, flawed humans is not surprising to me. As Elder Holland has said, these are the tools God has. What has surprised me in the last day is that while I am hurt and disappointed by these videos, I also feel a rush of love for these men. Maybe that’s because I’ve never been inclined to love Master of the Universe Patriarchs. On the other hand, I am willing to take up the challenge of loving my fellow brothers and sisters.