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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Can Members Express Dissatisfaction with Church Leadership?



After reading some of the comments from this small dissident group who would not sustain the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ at General Conference last weekend, I felt I should write more. If you have heard anything about them, you probably have some questions. If you have been around a bit you are probably wondering if more is really going on here, and you would be right. 


Lets take a look at their claim

"A growing number of concerned Latter-day Saints find little access to policy-making Church leaders to express feedback, opinions, dissent, or dissatisfaction about the current views, positions and teachings of the LDS Church.

Layers of bureaucracy keep higher LDS leadership insulated from hearing authentic concerns and feedback of their members. Correspondence and petitions by lay members directed toward the Church’s General Authorities are almost always returned and delegated to local stake presidents and bishops for further handling (who have minimal influence over official policy)." (from their web site Any Opposed)


Your first reaction might be to sympathize with these "poor oppressed people", but let's take a closer look. 

Why were these people dissenting at the sustaining (committing to support) of the General leadership of the Church? It is like picketing at a Presidential Inauguration! It isn't the time nor the place to bring up dissatisfaction about policy, but a time to pledge allegiance.


This is how the Church is organized.
there are the members (over 15 million of us)

We each have a Home Teacher (one or two men) and also two Visiting Teachers (if they are female) assigned to watch over us; these people visit us each month, provide any needed help, and listen to any of our concerns or problems; they report to the Bishop and/or Relief Society President (local leaders of about 400 people in an Ward area) our concerns and notify them if any further assistance is needed


Our Bishop reports the concerns of his ward (local group he watches over) to his Stake President (over about six wards; a larger geographic area); members also can speak directly with their Bishop and/or Stake President


The Stake President reports the concerns and problems of his Stake to the Area Seventy
The Area Seventy often lives in his area and is approachable to the members in his area;
The Area Seventy reports the problems and concerns from his area to the First Council of the Seventy


The First Council of the Seventy shares the problems and concerns reported to them directly to the Apostles of the Lord

Thus there are only four people (not departments) between a member and the Apostles-- hardly "layers of bureaucracy". There are far more between me and the President of the United States!


Besides personally expressing their concerns to their local Church leaders, members also may write directly to the General Authorities at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City. They also can and do give their feedback and express their opinions through LDS.org. I know since I am one of the people who answers their feedback. I have forwarded many comments from members to Church leaders. It is my responsibility to respond to each email, then forward it to be read by Church leaders. I refer people to the answers to their questions that are on the site and try and teach them how to find answers for themselves. We receive hundreds of feedback each day. Suggestions are offered on all sorts of topics such as the Scout, Addiction, Youth, Primary (children), and Family History programs. There have been suggestions about Church manuals and magazines, and the lds.org site layout.

Last fall, I remember some single young adults expressing their need for more support and articles in the Church magazines. This January a new Young Adult section was added to the Church adult magazine. As part of my responsibilities, I forward all comments by both members, and those who are not members, to the appropriate leaders who have the authority to make changes. Though these leaders do not have the time to personally respond to each concern and suggestion, I know their feedback is read and considered for I have seen both the suggestions and resultant changes. It is exciting to have this opportunity to help use technology to improve the communication within the Church.



What about their claim that their "authentic concerns" do not reach the General Authorities. I know that sincere concerns do reach the General leadership of the Church and appropriate changes are made. But, I have personally referred many people back to their Bishop. Why? First look at the situation. There are over 15 million members of the Church and many others who would like to personally talk with the Prophet. (see the counsel Jethro gave his overwhelmed son-in-law, Moses, about delegation Exodus 18:13-27) People can best receive the individual attention and assistance they need through their own Bishop.

Some people have even ordered me to give them an interview with the Prophet, threatening me that they would leave the Church if I didn't comply. I've raised four children and don't respond to temper tantrums, or childish threats. Besides many of them are just trying to get around their "parent" -- their local leaders who know them.


I've had people respond back to me saying they have already talked with their Bishop and Stake President, so now they must talk with the Prophet. One woman declared that her Bishop had told her that she had to work to get more Church assistance. She didn't want to; she wanted me instead to send money directly to her. She claimed that she was too ill do do any kind of work at all. I'm glad the Church is set up as it is. Her Bishop is her neighbor. He knows her and sees her true circumstances. This is why I think many want to "go to the top", where they are not known. They hope to deceive someone who doesn't know them (like me) into giving them what they want. I have to remind them that only the Bishop has the authority and resources to help them (thank goodness!).

I've received orders (and I do mean "orders!") for overalls and Depends and even to open the Salt Lake Storehouse so they could back up their truck and take what they wanted. A couple of times men have demanded the the Prophet declare a state of war and arm the members, so we can defend our food supplies. Scary!



What are they really after?

What is equally scary is that some people want more than undeserved things; some want more than just to be heard; they want to be obeyed. They want power. Their local leaders who know them are not doing what they want, so they want access to the "policy making Church leaders". Arrogantly, they declare that the Prophet simply does not understand, so they need to direct him. The Prophet and Apostles are some of the best educated, from diverse professions, and widely traveled group of people in the world. Accusing them of living in a "bubble" and needing these dissenters to inform them and guide them to make "correct" decisions, doesn't hold much weight with me.


If people do not believe that the Lord is guiding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through His Prophet and Apostles, then just leave. Find another church were you can help direct it. No one is forcing them to stay, or believe a certain way, but if you want to remain in the Church, follow it's teachings. Don't try and take over the leadership to change it to conform to your opinions. Don't misrepresent the situation claiming you are "not listened to" just because the Prophet refuses to allow you to direct him. He is a man of integrity who can not swayed from following the Lord.















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