Some people think that Mormons are controlled by their leaders; that we are kept in "lock step" and denied the opportunity to express our individual opinions. If this were true, I'd sure be in trouble since I have lots and lots of opinions on about everything! But what about the people who where shouting their dissenting vote yesterday in General Conference?
First, I need to explain that the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not vote for the leaders. Leaders in the Church are chosen by the Lord and the members either commit to sustain (consent to be lead by these people, pray for, accept callings to serve from them, and in every way help them be successful in their responsibilities), or we do not.
Here is an explanation of that happened in a General Conference years ago when there was a dissenting vote. The Church leader, N. Eldon Tanner, explained that those who dissent are given the opportunity to explain their concern to a General Authority. If the concerns are valid and the person is found unqualified for the position, necessary action is taken.
What is not allowed to happen is that the people who dissent are not allowed to disturb the meeting, and they are not given free media publicity and a forum to express their personal viewpoints. People have traveled from around the world to hear the messages of inspiration from the leaders of the Church. They have not gone to so much effort just to have their experience preempted by negative interlopers.
Can members publicly disagree with the Church's Position?
Some think that we can not express opinions that differ with the Church's position. Sure we can, and often do! What isn't appropriate is to publicly and continually oppose the leaders of the Church and teach false doctrine in an attempt to lead others away from the Church. This is apostasy and can result in that person being excommunicated (denied the privileges of Church membership).
Is this strict? Yes. But think about it. Is it wise to allow people who are openly acting to destroy an organization to continue within it and enjoy all the benefits of membership? What about the people who supported the bombing of the twin towers in New York City? Should they be given citizenship, or allowed to keep it?
The Savior warned His disciples:
Is it right, or wise, to allow known wolves in the flock?
A friend explained how she left her church when she was a teenager. I did too. Neither of us tried to contend publicly against their beliefs. We didn't yell, or picket to try and get that church to change their beliefs. We simply and quietly left, seeking truth elsewhere.
Most people do this. They just leave. No fanfare. Can you imagine angry Baptist or Presbyterian dissenters? Why then are there angry Mormon dissenters? I think it may be that other churches are run by councils of the members. Votes are taken and beliefs are changed to match current popular thinking. I admire those courageous leaders who, amid opposition, stand firm holding to what they know is right.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is lead by God through His Prophets and Apostles. This is how God has always lead and guided His people. I feel that some people, just as they have always done, want all the power themselves. They want God out of the picture. The church leaders in Jerusalem even attempted to maintain their power by crucifying the Savior. In the Dark ages in Europe, religious leaders killed those who tried to give the common people access to the scriptures. Just as these people tried to control others, I feel that dissenters today also want to control people, or at least personally direct the Prophet. Freedom to express differing opinions ends when it becomes a mere ploy to seize leadership from God.