Pray Before Speaking Publicly About Doctrine

June 19, 2006 at 10:43 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

UPDATED: I’ve been debating over on By Common Consent on the issue of the BYU professor who was recently let go by his department chair. This situation has been blown out of proportion by gay rights activists wanting to find any excuse to excoriate a religion for doing something “anti-gay.” In this instance though, one thing not mentioned is that it wasn’t the church that let Mr. Nielsen go, nor even punished him ecclesiastically. Yet gay rights activists don’t mention that because it would undermine their efforts to paint yet another religion as anti-gay. In any case, that aside, I want to focus more on another issue.

Mr. Nielsen apparently, from his own words came to a fork in the road regarding the issue of gay marriage. His own feelings were to be against the amendment. His church leaders were for it. What is he to do? What we know he did is write an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune (no friend of the church) in the which he not only stated his views to be against the amendment, but in the which he criticized church leaders (even though he said he sustained them as prophets). Mr. Nielsen was a part-time instructor at BYU, and he noted that in his op-ed, which worsened the situation, as it gave the impression that a BYU professor disagreed with the Prophet. Mr. Nielsen’s boss, the department chair, told him that giving that impression, of a BYU professor speaking out against the prophet whilst employed by the university was not good policy, and told him not to expect teaching in the fall.

Many blogs have been over this in detail. But one thing struck me in a conversation over on BCC. I said that I knew of no person in history or in any epoch who argued with the prophet of the Lord and won. One person gave the example of Abraham and Enoch “wrestling” with God, as examples of public disagreeance on an issue, but if looked at more carefully, in those two examples, the individuals wrestled with God, not with the prophet. They took their concerns to God Himself. The conversation continued until I said this:

So I still stand by my point that if we do not agree with something the Prophets have spoken, it is not arguing publicly with the prophets that we need to do, but instead, go to God Himself and ask Him, as He has told us to do when we lack wisdom.

Do we think the Brethren did not go to the Lord in prayer before coming out with their statement? Why shouldn’t we do the same before we speak publicly about what the Prophets said?

I was really struck by that last section. The Brethren, the Prophets and Apostles go to the Lord FIRST on an issue before going public with it. They counselled with the Lord. They discussed their concerns first with the Lord before they took a stand on an issue.

Do we?

If we feel strongly about an issue, whether we are for something or against it, do we counsel with the Lord first before making our views known publicly? Do we ensure that our opinions are what the Lord desires to hear? If we don’t, can we call ourselves followers of God’s will?

Some might say, “well you’re supposed to be free to think what you want.” true. But nowhere in counselling with the Lord does your own free will get hampered. You are still free to disagree with the Lord. But doesn’t it help to know the will of the Lord on a matter before speaking out against it or for it?

I feel the way I feel about SSM (same sex marriage) because I’ve pondered on the issue and asked the Lord in a prayer. I think we might have less contention and more unity, edification, and love if we do the same.

UPDATED: I wrote the following on the BCC:

The Prophet of the Lord is in constant prayer with Heavenly Father regarding points of doctrine. Are we? We want to know the will of the Lord on an issue. Do we go to Him for it? The Brethren do. They are not infallible. They make mistakes. Heck, some of them actually sin! Gasp! But when it counts, they go to the Lord in prayer to ensure they speak the will of the Lord. We should do the same before we go publicly about points of doctrine, else we might actually be found to maybe not be doctrinally correct. This is why speakers in church are encouraged to pray about their topics before they give their talk.

It is essential for every single member of the church to know the will of the Lord before they speak on the will of the Lord. If they don’t, the chance of being correct falls from 100% to anything below. Personally, I’d like to be 100% concerning the will of the Lord.


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  1. Dan, did you ask that guy if he prayed before he spoke?

    We can assume he didn’t, because he spoke against the church’s official stance, but did you ask him?

    As Latter Day Saints, we’ve been counseled time and time again to follow our leaders, but we’ve also been counseled to be christlike in our actions to all others. Sometimes we forget that on the internet. Its easy to jump to conclusions, in this situation and we need to support our leaders—but maybe we shouldn’t be so critical of fellow members. Playing monday morning quarterback is easy, yo. 😉

  2. if you notice, though, ruby, I did not accuse Mr. Nielsen of not praying. I don’t know if he did or not, so I don’t mention it. perhaps i should have added, “we don’t know if Mr. Nielsen prayed before he went public or not.” I only mentioned what aspects of this situation is known publicly.

    that said, I am critical of Mr. Nielsen because the manner in which this is playing out stinks of opportunism for him. Maybe my assumption of part-time instructors is off, but I assume they are pretty intelligent and know what they are doing when writing something publicly. It sure seems like this is a way for a low-on-the-totem pole man to climb up fast.

    As a private citizen, he’s free to say what he wants, but when he says it with the BYU tag on his op-ed, he’s representing the University and the church in the end. To come out and be openly critical of the Board of Directors of BYU does not give you an advancement at BYU, but it sure will give you opportunities elsewhere, especially if you go down like a martyr.

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  5. I agree about the dude. As soon as I read the op-ed on the SL trib, I had a few suspiscions about the guy.

    Maybe he isn’t taking a martyrs route, but if thats the case, he should have had someone objective proof read that op-ed. Maybe its something he’s been praying about and agonizing about–but some of the words said leads me to question. He’s a part-time ass. prof. He’s a pretty smart guy, he knows the gospel process of revelation–I’m sure.

    That being said, I have a feeling this is one of those stories that we’re only getting the tip of the ice-berg as far as facts go.

    I support BYU in firing him, they are a private institution and need to do whats best for the school. Knowing the Y (but not familiar with their hr system) and admin law-this case wouldn’t hold a candle in an appeals case.

    Like I say Dan,

    Monday morning quarterbacking is easy, yo.

  6. “That being said, I have a feeling this is one of those stories that we’re only getting the tip of the ice-berg as far as facts go.”

    most likely. unless he milks this for what he can, maybe even make a public fuss about leaving the church.

    PS: what happened with your two comments?

  7. has he been excommunicated?

  8. When I said the tip of the iceberg, I really meant both sides of this story-the church and this gentleman. I’m okay not knowing the whole story- I’m willing to give this guy benefit of the doubt, and I agree with what byu did. That’s good enough for me.

    I deleted those two posts. They are gone forever. At least thats what blogger told me. Don’t know if I believe blogger though.

  9. he has not been excommunicated. from what we know the church has taken no action against him, because they said people are free to speak their minds. The only action taken was by his department chair who said he was not going to be teaching in the fall.

    i’ve pretty much said all I want to on Mr. Nielsen now. I wish him the best in life.

  10. That’s what I’ve read and understood-that he wasn’t excommunicated or leaving the church- just that he wasn’t teaching in the fall. Just making sure that you didn’t have some secret BYU information about the case.

  11. yeah, sorry I wasn’t all that clear here. I’ve been posting my thoughts on his situation more over on By Common Consent, where I noted that all we know regarding any kind of ‘disciplinary action’ of any kind was that his department chair did not want him back in the fall.

  12. This is one of those things where there’s a whole untold story in the background. Just on the surface–he’s only written one op-ed, so I doubt he’ll be disciplined. However, reading the language in the op-ed this guy may have more than just that one question going on as far as doubting our church leaders–and other stuff. But this is the inside story I really don’t need or care to know. Its just idle speculation that I don’t need to continue.

    But who knows, I just wish the guy the best and hope he finds happiness in whatever he pursues and be at peace with the Gospel and our church leader’s inspiration.

  13. Dan and Ruby G: After reading the most recent Tribune article about Nielsen, I am more and more convinced he has an agenda. There is absolutely no reason to continue to speak with Tribune reporters and allow them to publish to the world his over the top theological ideas on what he thinks the Church ought to do, or how the Church should be. His name is popping up all over the anti-Mormon websites and blogs as a very sympatheic person.

    Nielsen is a very bright guy–having graduate degrees in philosophy. He is apparently a life long member of the Church. He went into this thing with his eyes wide open. He knew exactly what he was doing, and made a deliberate choice to proceed as he did.

    I feel sorry for him as a person; but not as an icon/martyr figure with the anti-Mormon crowd, or for the bad publicity he has brought to the Church and to BYU. Choices have consequences. Think what you will–but be prepared to face those consequences once you willingly publish those thoughts to the world via the Salt Lake Tribune

  14. guy, I think you’re right. The previous hunches that Dan and I have had are correct. In other news: That reporter is obviously aiming for that article to be picked up by the national newswires. 😉

  15. oh they are milking this for all they can get. The Salt Lake Tribune op-ed is starting to remind me of the Nauvoo Expositor which has as its only run Mormons who began doubting the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith.

    I also feel sorry for Mr. Nielsen. He maybe doesn’t realize now that he will be used mercilessly by anti-Mormons as another example of the dictatorship stranglehold they feel the Brethren have on the church and on free speech within the church.

  16. Only starting?

    I read the tribune, but this coverage of this non-story is nothing new or surprising. Its just one in a long line……..

  17. I also feel sorry for Mr. Nielsen.

    I did have concern for him, but after reading the article about him that guy posted…he knows what he’s doing. He’s already way down the path of being anti or at least apostate lds himself. There’s a couple of things I picked up in the article that many apostates and antis have in common (several of my best friends and I’ve got several family friends that are apostate too). There’s a pattern when people start going on the path of leaving the church.

  18. true. i’m new to the Tribune though. I didn’t read it at all when I lived in Utah. I knew a little bit about its history as not being very friendly towards the church. It just seems here that they are milking this for far more than its actually worth.

  19. Yeah, they are. That’s not real new though. 😉

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