Question:You are Captain Moroni. You have travelled to the year 1776 in your time machine. You find yourself in the midst of the American Revolutionary War.
1. The British Crown has rejected the American colonists' right to govern their internal affairs. Who do you side with?
A. The American Patriots B. King George III
2. Many American clergymen were Loyalists during the War who supported the Crown, arguing the Bible requires submission to authority and that the "freedom" mentioned in the scriptures is freedom from sin. The Loyalists rejected the Patriot's defiance of Britain's laws and preached against rebellion.
On the other hand, the Patriots argued that "when a long train of abuses and usurpations ... evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government."
As Captain Moroni, do you agree with the Loyalists or Patriots?
A. Patriots B. Loyalists
3. American colonists favored John Locke's theory of the "social contract." On the other hand, Loyalists favored the doctrine of the "divine right of kings." Which do you support?
A. Social contract B. Divine right of kings
4. Thomas Paine said, "But where is the King of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain."
King George III said, "A traitor is everyone who does not agree with me."
As Captain Moroni, whose sentiment do you agree with?
A. Thomas Paine B. King George III
5. Which governmental system do you, as Captain Moroni, think is better?
A. Self-government with civil checks and balances B. British Monarchy
What if we had lived in 1776 and our clergymen preached that we should submit to the Crown because that was the "order of things?"
Would our gift of discernment have led us toward greater liberty or would we have doubled-down on tradition? Would we have loved freedom more than authority?
- Where were the Alexander Hamiltons when past Church leaders endorsed racist doctrines?
- Where were the Patrick Henrys when past Church leaders built the priesthood into an autocratic empire?
- Where were the Samuel Adamses when past Church leaders enacted the 2015 gay children policy?
So How Did We Turn into 21st Century Loyalists?
In discussing the Church's changing narrative on the priesthood ban, Jana Riess pointed out:
"This is an excellent case study of who gets promoted to leadership in the LDS Church and why. It’s the loyalists, not the idealists or the agitators, the ones who are willing to toe the party line — even if that position is not one they agree with — the ones who have demonstrated over years and even decades they are adept at prioritizing the institution over the individual."
(Jana Riess, "For Latter-day Saints, being led by old men can be a blessing and a curse," Salt Lake Tribune, February 15, 2021, accessed at https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2021/02/15/jana-riess-latter-day)
Latter-day "Give Me Liberty or Give me Death"
In 1775, at the Virginia Convention where the colonists debated a course of action, Patrick Henry stood and gave his immortal, inspired speech.
What lessons can we learn from Patrick Henry's speech to help us navigate this 21st Century spiritual space?
Are we disposed to be of the number of those, who having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? [If the scales fell from our eyes, what reforms would bring the Church into greater harmony with the gospel? How can we "cleanse the inward vessel" in order to bring about Zion? Or do we wish to remain subjects of King George III?]
For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst of it.
[When we cling to a telestial law and reject the celestial path God offers us, we create cognitive dissonance. There is no growth without change. But it is difficult to let go of cherished traditions. Are we seeking for new, revolutionary revelation from God?]
Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love?
[A person's authority can be no greater than their love. And love is expressed by persuasion, sacrifice, common consent and condescension. A hierarchy has no moral authority because it does not practice what it preaches: it creates status, privilege, double standards, and inequality.]
Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last hundred and fifty years. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain.
[Why does it seem like the Church responds only to negative publicity? Why is its public image more important than doing what is right? Why can't it issue real apologies?]
Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on.
[There are two tempests we face: (1) Babylon is increasing its dominion on earth, and (2) We do not have a "refuge from the storm" (i.e., Zion). It appears the Church is on course to repeat the events of 3 Nephi 6:
And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up;
And there began to be men inspired from heaven and sent forth, standing among the people in all the land, preaching and testifying boldly of the sins and iniquities of the people.
(3 Nephi 6:14, 20)
We have petitioned — we have remonstrated — we have supplicated — we have prostrated ourselves: but our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned. They tell us, sir, that we are weak — but when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week or the next year?
[Hierarchies enervate. Let me repeat, hierarchies enervate. We are drained of spiritual vitality and self-initiative when under the yoke of someone else's authority, which robs us of using our spiritual gifts that fall outside of what our "calling" is in the Church. Hierarchies create jurisdictional boundaries we are told not to cross.]
Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature has placed in our power. Sixteen millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, are invincible by any force which they can send against us.
[If the membership of the Church believes our agency is merely to do what the leaders tell us, then what about our accountability to God? Sometimes leaders give us inspired counsel; sometimes they do not. Isn't our accountability on being able to discern between the two?
Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
For the power is in them, ["IN THEM" -- not in leadership] wherein they are agents unto themselves ["UNTO OURSELVES -- not to leaders].
Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight with us.
[This is not about "us" vs. "leaders." We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. The leadership are our kindred. We need to work together to restore the Government of God to the earth, which is Zion. Having a hierarchy does not help us achieve that goal. Satan wants us to fight each other. God wants us to "be one." We can tell who is on God's side by whether they "walk the walk" of being "equal."]
There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged. Their clanking may be heard in the valleys of Salt Lake! Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace — but there is no peace.
[Jesus said a house divided cannot stand. But he also said:
If thy foot offend thee, cut it off; for he that is thy standard, by whom thou walkest, if he become a transgressor, he shall be cut off.
Therefore, let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or not trusting another.
(JST Mark 9:42, 44)
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! — I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Always Remember - 66 B.C.
Do we struggle with a sense of spiritual elitism? Do we enjoy the spiritual aristocracy we have created, believing priesthood keys create a kind of "upper-class" nobility?
Which reminds me:
Now those who were in favor of kings were those of high birth, and they sought to be kings; and they were supported by those who sought power and authority over the people.
But those who were desirous [for freedom] took upon them the name of freemen; for the freemen had sworn or covenanted to maintain the rights and the privileges of their religion by a free government.
(Alma 51: 8, 7).
History will judge us; but we must decide for ourselves: are we spiritual loyalists or patriots?