An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Follow Which Prophet?

A recent blog by mmiles at By Common Consent compares an article in the April 2013 Ensign stating that equality in marriage is God’s plan with a Feb. 1973 Ensign piece claiming that patriarchal rule in marriage is God’s plan. Both pieces proved their arguments with quotes from scriptures and Church leaders. Since the Ensign is an official Church publication and does not print pieces disagreeing with Church positions, one can only assume that the Church position on marriage has evolved during the past 40 years.

My first reaction to reading this blog was that it’s evidence of the fluidity of Mormon doctrine. Continuous revelation means the current prophet takes precedence over past prophets—a benefit to the Church in a rapidly changing world. Patriarchal authority in marriage is about as popular in the 21st century as polygamy was in the 19th and 20th centuries. A church embracing either is likely to shrink to the size of the Shakers who insist that celibacy is God’s plan.

My second reaction to this blog was, “What about the Proclamation on the Family?” Will the phrase, “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families . . .” be quietly erased from the text—or will the word “preside” be redefined in Mormon rhetoric to mean equal representation?

My final reaction to the 180 degree switch on marriage roles from the tenure of Spencer W. Kimball to that of Thomas S. Monson is that it demonstrates the need for Mormons to make our own decisions rather than to blindly follow the leaders. The author of this blog ends his piece with the statement, “The eternal truths of today might not be the eternal truths of tomorrow.” An interesting thought for Mormons who are conditioned since Primary to “Follow the Prophet.”

How would it feel to be a woman who has endured a patriarchal marriage with an overbearing husband for 40 years to pick up her current Ensign and read that equal partnership is now God’s plan? Church leaders, including the prophet, are not infallible. Individuals are entitled to their own inspiration in making life decisions. If eternal truths do exist, they are in the realm of principles such as integrity and human dignity rather than positions on social issues.

Comments on: "Follow Which Prophet?" (1)

  1. Honestly, after studying Islam for a long time, I think our concept of continuing revelation has a lot of theological merit.

    One of my favorite Islamic theologians, Fazlur Rahman, has a position that to understand the Koran, you have to understand history and culture. What was going on when the verse was revealed, how did it impact the society, what was the intention, etc… His position on polygamy was that when Muhammad was alive, polygamy is unrestrained, so Muhammad (under the guidance of God presumably) limited it to 4 wives, but strongly hinted at 1 wife. Dr. Rahman’s position was that the goal was 1 wife, but that changes have to move at a pace the society can accept. In his theological estimation what the Koran is really saying is that men should NOT have more than one wife, a point we have reached as a society, so this should be the Islamic norm.

    His views essentially say that there is a divine standard, but that we as a society are progressing towards that standard. So as we get closer to being more tolerant and accepting, it would theoretically (not putting words in his mouth at this point, speculation only) possible to accept something like gay marriage or rights for minorities.

    This could easily be misused, it could justify the Priesthood ban, for example (we as a society were not ready, which I do believe, but does not necessarily make the ban moral or ethical).

    There is a lot of benefit in having theology that can legitimately evolve with the times provided we maintain the underlying moral structure, and differentiate between what is truly moral and what is societal.

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