As Mormons, we don't like to be critical. Nobody really likes a critic because who likes to be criticized? I don't, you don't, and leaders of the Church sure don't. Some members have found that out the hard way.
I've learned in life that we need to pick our battles. We're not supposed to criticize our Church leaders and really, when it comes to things like the overcooked spaghetti being served at the Relief Society potluck or how out of tune the ward choir sings... well, let's just say that every ward has its petty critic and you're probably thinking of yours right now. However, sometimes you may think that you have a really good reason to be critical. In fact, you're probably CERTAIN that your justified in your criticism because you know that if you keep your mouth shut, people might get hurt. So what do you do?
Dallin H. Oaks has said "It’s wrong to criticize leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true." In the case of trivial matters, who could disagree with him? Criticism usually results in hurt feelings and hurt feeling often lead to members leaving the Church. But is it EVER right to criticize a leader, particularly those in a higher calling? A couple of examples come to mind:
The Priesthood Ban: Though I always have and probably always will struggle with this doctrine, I nevertheless am willing to accept that God did perhaps have a reason to withhold the priesthood and blessings of the temple from those of the black race. Though there were perhaps other factors, which I do not feel confident enough to get into, I understand that what it all boils down to is the scripture stating that they were "cursed as pertaining to the Priesthood" (Abraham 1:26). So, the issue for me is not this doctrine in itself, but rather all the theories and possible reasons behind it which were presented over the years by various general authorities. Among these is the notion that those born into this world as blacks were somehow fence-sitters or "less valiant" spirits in the pre-existence. Unfortunately, some of these false ideas have stood the test of time, have generally been regarded as doctrine by many members, and have done their damage. Thankfully, I think that most members in 2008 are able to see the foolishness of such theories and reject them. In this case, why would it have been wrong to criticize the leaders who presented ideas that were indeed wrong and did nothing but give fuel to the fire of possible racists within the Church, at the same time alienating a large group of people?
Homosexuality: This is the hot issue of our time and it's an emotional one. I think back to the days when we learned in YM/YW that homosexuality was a choice -- and I don't mean just the sexual acts, but the feelings in themselves. At the time, I'm sure that Mormon homosexuals were probably being counselled by leaders to get married in order to cure themselves. Thankfully, I think that most Mormons of a sound mind are starting to see homosexuality for what it is -- a very real and uncontrollable orientation that is a huge struggle for those homosexuals who want to live the Gospel. For those of us who haven't experienced it ourselves, I think that it's way to easy for us to dismiss the impact that it has on not just homosexuals themselves, but their friends and families. The rhetoric from Church leaders regarding homosexuality has definitely changed for the better, and though I'd like to just concentrate on that fact and look positively to the future, I often think how things could have been different for those homosexuals who ruined their own lives, as well as scarring the lives of a spouse and children, hoping to be "cured" through heterosexual marriage. I'm sure that most of them had the best intentions at heart and took a huge leap of faith, trusting that the Lord would "heal" them. If only leaders would have been more open to the possibility (which is pretty much regarded as fact today) that sexual orientation could not be changed, then so many people could have been spared spiritual and emotional devastation. I can't help but think that all this has come too little, too late. And for some, it's still too little, and my heart aches for them.
So... not to be critical or anything... is Dallin H. Oaks right or wrong?
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