A Word about Liberal Mormons
From Ryan Nilsson
Introduction: What is a Liberal Mormon?
What is a liberal Mormon? Is it a Mormon who leans toward liberal politics? In one sense of the phrase, this could be what is meant, but that is not the usual intention when discussing liberal Mormons. Neither is politics the issue, although liberal Mormons are almost always liberal politically as well. A liberal Mormon is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that believes or preaches doctrine that is at variance or opposition with that taught by the Church. They are in the Church but because of worldly agendas they do not believe some or many of the things that it teaches. Often these liberal Mormons pretend or believe that they are the normal member of the Church, and anyone who disagrees with them is abnormal – which is in fact a distortion of reality. In a bizarre attempt to marginalize the normal member of the Church, liberal Mormons may label them with a negative, harsh-sounding label such as “extremists” or “religious fundamentalists.” This is an attempt to disguise who the true deviant is - the liberal Mormon himself, who has departed from the teachings of the Church and is trying to justify himself. Liberal Mormons are over-represented on the internet because that is where they congregate. They frequent blogs on the internet and post comments that would be outrageous and completely foreign to the thoughts of any normal member of the Church.
Harold B. Lee warned us of such wolves in sheep’s clothing. He said, “Well might we expect, as in the past dispensations, that our worst enemies will be those within our ranks who will betray us” (Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 392). The greatest threat to God’s Church is not the opposition from without, but it is the opposition from within perpetrated by dissenters who do not wish to follow the prophets, but instead seek to change the Church to suit themselves. Harold B. Lee further identified such an unfaithful member as “a liberal in the Church,” and also identified their problem - a lack of faith and testimony - in this excerpt from Teachings of Harold B. Lee:
Unfortunately, some are among us who claim to be Church members but are somewhat like
the scoffers in Lehi’s vision—standing aloof and seemingly inclined to hold in
derision the faithful who choose to accept Church authorities as God’s special
witnesses of the gospel and His agents in directing the affairs of the Church.
There are those in the Church who speak of themselves as liberals who, as one of our
former Presidents has said, “read by the lamp of their own conceit” (Joseph F. Smith,
Gospel Doctrine [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 373). One time I asked
one of our Church educational leaders how he would define a liberal in the Church. He
answered in one sentence: “A liberal in the Church is merely one who does not have a
John A. Widtsoe, former member of the Quorum of the Twelve and an eminent educator,
made a statement relative to this word liberal as it applied to those in the Church.
This is what he said: “The self-called liberal [in the Church] is usually one who has
broken with the fundamental principles or guiding philosophy of the group to which he
belongs. He claims membership in an organization but does not believe in its basic
concepts; and sets out to reform it by changing its foundations. It is folly to speak
of a liberal religion, if that religion claims that it rests upon unchanging truth.”
And then Dr. Widtsoe concludes his statement with this: “It is well to beware of
people who go about proclaiming that they or their churches are liberal. The
probabilities are that the structure of their faith is built on sand and will not
withstand the storms of truth.” (“Evidences and Reconciliations,” Improvement Era 44
[October 1941]: 609.)
Here again, to use the figure of speech in Lehi’s vision, they are those who are
blinded by the mists of darkness and as yet have not a firm grasp on the “iron rod.”
(Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 394).
Common Elements of Liberal Mormons
Upon observation of Liberal Mormons, the following things are apparent and almost completely universal among them:
- Liberal Mormons are seemingly always willing to stand up for what’s wrong. They are prone to taking the side of almost any given issue that is opposed to the teachings of the scriptures and the prophets.
- Although the God of heaven has given us the scriptures as our guide, liberal Mormons believe that their intellect is better. They actually believe that their own ideas and the philosophies of men are superior to revelation from heaven, whether in the form of the scriptures or the teachings of the prophets.
- Liberal Mormons hide their unfaithfulness through a thick smokescreen of intellectualism, and use clever arguments to justify their positions that are clearly opposed to the truth. Through this deceptive means, they try to make it appear that the normal member of the Church who believes the scriptures and the prophets is actually the one who is hopelessly in error.
- Liberal Mormons justify their dissension from religious authority on the basis that there are others like them (albeit they are generally only brave enough to manifest themselves through the anonymity of the internet). Like the pack of wolves (in sheep’s clothing) that they are, they gain confidence in their numbers and their elusiveness.
You Might Be a Liberal Mormon If...
What are some of the things that liberal Mormons believe? How do we identify them and come to recognize them, or put a name to what an observer would see on a typical blog swarming with such characters? There are several tell-tale symptoms that designate a liberal Mormon. All of them spring from a lack of faith in the scriptures or the principles of the gospel, and betray a love affair with the world and its views of reality. Here are some things a liberal Mormon would believe. It is arranged in a kind of Jeff Foxworthy-style arrangement (my apologies), but is a good litmus test for you to make a determination:
- If you believe in evolution, despite having a comprehensive knowledge of what the scriptures teach and what the prophets have said on the matter, you are probably a liberal Mormon.
- If you believe that Adam was perhaps not a real person, and that the Old Testament and Pearl of Great Price cannot be trusted as real and accurate history, then you are a liberal Mormon.
- If you believe that the historicity of the Book of Mormon is not trustworthy, or that it is a well-meaning metaphorical piece of modern fiction developed from the imagination of the Prophet Joseph Smith, or that it should only be interpreted allegorically and should not be understood as real history, then you are certainly a liberal Mormon of the worst kind.
- If you believe that there is progression between kingdoms of glory in the afterlife, so that a person who has been assigned to the telestial or terrestrial kingdom can eventually over time progress to the celestial kingdom, you are confused about the plan of salvation and who God is, and are likely a liberal Mormon.
- If you dislike the monumental written work, Mormon Doctrine, and its author, the much-revered and influential apostle Bruce R. McConkie, as well as his father-in-law and tenth President of the Church, Joseph Fielding Smith, or Ezra Taft Benson, the thirteenth President of the Church, and have a problem with many of their teachings and uncompromising positions, you may well be a liberal Mormon.
- If you believe that the Church withholding the priesthood from blacks was nothing more than a racist policy by discriminatory Church leaders, and that it was purely a social exclusion and not God’s will or having doctrinal basis, then you are a liberal Mormon.
- If you believe that polygamy as practiced before 1890 with the approval of the Church, and as instigated by Joseph Smith, was morally wrong or evil and detrimental to women, you are a liberal Mormon.
- If you sympathize with the feminist movement which teaches that women should work outside the home, otherwise the woman is not as valuable as a man, then you are deceived and may be a liberal Mormon.
- If you believe that women should rightfully be ordained to the priesthood, despite the policy and doctrine of the Church, and believe that the exclusion of women from holding the priesthood is morally wrong, you are a liberal Mormon.
- If you disagree with the Church’s position against homosexuality, or were critical of the Church for its support of Proposition 8 in California, you are fooled by Satan and are a liberal Mormon.
A normal member of the Church or a person familiar with Mormonism would be very confused after going on a liberal Mormon blog and reading such ideas. With all the broad differences in belief that exist between normal members of the Church and faithless liberal Mormons, the two groups might as well belong to different religions. It becomes apparent about liberal Mormons, after reading some of their comments on an internet blog, that they do not belong in the Church. Yet they are in it, existing under the radar, and are subtly trying to change it.
You’re On the Wrong Path If...
Here are some sure signs that a person is on the wrong path, which surely would apply to all liberal Mormons:
i) If things that a person expresses, whether on a blog on the internet or otherwise, are in opposition or totally alien to what is taught in Church on Sunday from approved manuals, or from what is taught in recent General Conference Reports, or what appears on the Church website or is written in publications printed by the Church such as True to the Faith, or the Gospel Principles manual, this is a sure sign that the person is off track.
ii) If a person believes or teaches something that is clearly contrary to teachings which are scripturally sound and have been taught repeatedly over the years by many of the highest General Authorities of the Church in public venues such as General Conference or BYU Devotionals, this is a sure sign that the person is kicking against the pricks and is not a true follower of the religion of Christ.
iii) If a person continually refers to past or present Church leaders in a disrespectful, contemptuous or belittling way because of their stances on evolution, politics, or any other matter, this is an indication that the person is corrupt. It should be remembered that “devil” means “slanderer,” and those who engage in slander and disrespect against the servants of God are children of the devil (see John 8:44).
iv) If a person is overly critical of the Church’s stance on social issues, which conflict with evils such as feminism and homosexuality, this is a sign that the person is not a follower of Christ but of popular opinion and political correctness, and is in love with the world’s perception of truth.
Prideful, Corrupt Dissenters
Do not liberal Mormons think that the Church is careful about printing information that will lead members of the Church on the path to truth and salvation? Evidently not. To liberal Mormons, the best way to salvation is being politically correct, putting stock in popular theories of the day rather than the scriptures, and leaning to their own understanding. It can be readily seen that the great underlying problem within the heart of liberal Mormons is a pernicious, unbridled pride. Liberal Mormons are generally among “those who are proud, and that do wickedly” (2 Ne. 26:4), for no man, no apostle, and no President of the Church can tell them that their ideas are wrong. They will not accept correction, and they will revile against any person, be it the servants of God in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or the First Presidency (all of whom are prophets, seers and revelators), that openly opposes what they (the liberal Mormons) teach.
In the war between good and evil, liberal Mormons have camped on the wrong side. Sometimes there are confused, well-meaning people among their ranks, but more typically they are corrupt individuals whose true master is not the Savior, Jesus Christ. Liberal Mormons seem to fit very well Apostle Paul’s description of deceivers in the last days: “lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers... unholy... trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away....Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:2-7). The fact that liberal Mormons are not true followers of the Lord is evident both in their beliefs and their works.
Liberal Mormons are in love with themselves and their learning, and they reject the prophets. They reject the prophets through their teachings and opinions, either implicitly or explicitly. For example, a common sentiment put forth by liberal Mormons is that the prophets are “not experts on science,” and the liberal Mormons thereby imply that the prophets are not qualified to speak on the matter of evolution. In doing this, liberal Mormons reject both the prophets and the principle of revelation from God, suggesting that a degree in science is needed in order for God to reveal to a prophet whether evolution is true or false. In reality, however, God has no educational requirement of his prophets and reveals truths as He sees fit. Joseph Smith, for instance, had very minimal education, but to him was revealed some of the grandest truths that are available for mankind to know. President Ezra Taft Benson taught in relating to this matter, “The prophet [of the Church] is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Living Prophet”, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1980). He then lamented the existence of liberal Mormons who fight against the truth and added, “Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution” (ibid).
An Eternal Principle and Key
Perhaps the Prophet Joseph Smith best summed up the root problem of these apostate liberal Mormons. According to the recollection of President Heber C. Kimball, the Prophet taught that “the very step of apostacy commenced with losing confidence in the leaders of this Church and kingdom, and that whenever you discerned that spirit, you might know that it would lead the possessor of it on the road to apostacy” (Dahl & Cannon, ed., Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings, p. 44). President Heber C. Kimball referred to this as “a key which brother Joseph Smith used to give in Nauvoo” (ibid.). The Prophet also declared:
“I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal
principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to
condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way,
while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road
to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.”
(Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 156).
Of course, these pride-infected attitudes describe the condition of liberal Mormons perfectly. They do not have confidence in the scriptures or the prophets, and they truly believe that they instead know the right and true path. They put their own intellect ahead of the teachings of the scriptures and the prophets, thereby establishing themselves as better, more correct, or more righteous than those Divinely ordained channels of information.
Liberal Mormons are real; they are not just a figment of an overactive imagination. They exist and fester in the Church like a loathsome cancer. They are not very noticeable in Church on Sunday, which might lead many members of the Church to be ignorant of the problem, but they instead thrive on the internet on liberal LDS blogs and the like. Why is this the case? Why do liberal Mormons thrive on the internet but are almost completely unheard of in the normal everyday of the Church? It is because liberal Mormons have no place in the real Church, and they know it. And so they come out of the woodwork on the internet and spew forth their garbage doctrines where they are safe from the correction and reasonable thinking of the Church administration and the main body of its membership. Like wolves in sheep’s clothing, they have come among the flock of God, feigning innocence and trying to appear as merely a representation of the diversity of people within the Church. But their beliefs are dangerous and out of step with the teachings of the Church. They hold to their false teachings and opinions and will not accept correction because of a deep and abiding pride in their hearts. They truly believe that their intellect is superior to the word of the Lord. They are apostates.
Typically, liberal Mormons on blogs are vicious towards normal Mormons who disagree with their outrageous and radical views, deciding that, since the Church is not on their side, they will win the day through intimidation. But venom from such characters is not to be taken seriously. In fact, such persecution should be considered in the light of the teachings of Jesus Christ: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12). As true, faithful, believing members of the Church, we should be aware of this liberal Mormon problem but not be overly concerned about it, only enough to stand up and witness for the truth in the face of evil.