This discussion has been an interesting one to follow. Both of them actually, since this tread has morphed into at least two topics or more... but, getting back to the original discussion, I believe many of the issues being brought up in this thread parallel some of the fundamental underlying issues pertaining to the war in heaven which is being continued here in hell or, a I mean earth.
(having to do with oppression, force, authoritarianism, intimidation, kissing the Pope's a#* I mean ring vs. liberty, free speech and agency and taking the spirit as your guide, etc.).
It is really interesting to see people on one side of the debate always talking about finding safety in following the "brethren" and staying true to the "church" while the people on the other side of the debate speak of "following the Holy Ghost" and being true to the "gospel".
I would like to ask the folks on this forum a two primary questions:
1. "Is it possible to file a complaint against someone to the appropriate church authorities and request that a disciplinary church court be held to evaluate their standing in the church without being 'critical' of their actions or statements?"
Please think this question over really carefully cuz it is a trick question.
I personally don't think it is possible to bring someone into a church court without making a critical assessment of something they have done wrong.
Obviously we are to love the sinner but not embrace the sin that is committed. Nevertheless, we still hold those wonderful "courts of love" that result in destroying people's reputations, families and livelihoods... and for good reason.. usually.
I don't think that being critical is categorically bad.
Sometimes it is bad, but sometimes it is necessary and justified.
In fact, God requires the church membership to make judgments about people's actions and to take action in order to protect the church from being overcome with sin.
If someone brings something to the attention of the appropriate church authorities that they think is a serious offense that warrants a bishop's court or high council court, I would think that they are being critical, but they are only wrong in being critical if they are wrong about their accusation.
Here are some examples of sinful actions that might result in justified critical thoughts from members of the church:
A person gets drunk and smokes weed and gets high daily but enjoys having a temple recommend.
Does that warrant a critical judgment that could result in a complaint to church authorities?
A person commits adultery with his neighbor's wife.
Does that warrant a critical judgment that could result in a complaint to church authorities?
Are any of those complaints worthy of disciplinary action by a church court and if so, don't they require someone to observe them and make a critical judgment that results in a complaint to the church authorities?
I think they do..
And I think that there are times when the church needs to take action against those who are sinning.
In other words, if a lay member of the church or someone in authority thinks that someone in the church has made a serious enough mistake that a disciplinary church court should be held, they are making a critical observation.
Here is a text book example of how the Lord mandates criticism within the church:
"Thou shalt not commit adultery; and he that committeth adultery, and repenteth not, shall be cast out. But he that has committed adultery and repents with all his heart, and forsaketh it, and doeth it no more, thou shalt forgive; But if he doeth it again, he shall not be forgiven, but shall be cast out."
That commandment from the Lord contained in section 42 commands the church to make a critical but accurate judgment about a person's actions and if necessary, to "cast out" those who don't repent of adultery.
Does it not take criticism to observe that someone is committing adultery and then to cast the unrepentant adulterer out of the church for adultery?
Of course it does.
Here is another mandate from the Lord to look at fellow church members critically:
"And now behold, this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it; For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him." (3rd Nephi 18: 28-29)
How can any member of the church follow the above mandate from the Lord in preventing people from partaking of the sacrament unworthily if it is a sin to be critical of others?
Is it only the people who are in leadership positions who are allowed to make critical judgments?
Obviously, church courts are conducted by those who are in certain leadership positions and ultimately it is those people that have the awesome and unenviable responsibility of passing disciplinary judgment on their fellow saints, but I would venture to guess that in most cases, the sin is brought to the attention of the leadership by a concerned member of the church who is not going to ultimately be sitting in judgment in the church court.
Do lay members of the church have the right and responsibility to make these critical observations when they see them?
Of course they do. That is what the Lord has commanded us to do.
Remember, the following passage in the New Testament?-
" JUDGE not, that ye be not judged."
It represents a corrupted passage of scripture.
It was corrected and restored to it's original statement in the JST
"Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment."
Next question. (this one is also a trick question of sorts)
Why did the Lord provide specific instructions on how to hold a church court for the President of the Church?
Was he being facetious or disingenuous when he gave us that protocol or was he being serious?
If it is really a cardinal sin to ever be critical of the Prophet of the Church and if we are to turn and look the other way and leave it up to the Lord to correct the situation whenever the president of the Church does something that is potentially harmful to the church or his own personal spiritual well being, WHY DID THE LORD GIVE US INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW THE PRESIDENT OF THE CHURCH CAN BE DISCIPLINED OR EXCOMMUNICATED?
I would suggest that it is because the Lord, in his infinite foreknowledge and wisdom knew that Presidents of the church are human beings that are subject to making serious mistakes just like everyone else.
I would suggest that He knew that there would (or at least could) be future circumstances when a president of the church might do something wrong for which he would need to be corrected, if not cut off.
Interestingly, there are people in this forum who seem to believe that it would be a mortal sin to ever be critical of the president of the church and other general authorities.
The very belief that nobody should ever be critical of the president of the church completely negates the Lords instructions on how to hold a church court on the president of the church.
If church members have no right or responsibility to make righteous judgments about how the church is being governed then it appears as if the Lord made a very serious error in providing a protocol for holding a disciplinary counsil concerning the conduct of the president of the church.
It is interesting to note that Joseph Smith was actually brought before a disciplinary court as a result of a complaint by a fellow saint stemming from issues that took place during Zions Camp.
The brother who filed the charges was named Sylvester Smith, one of the captains who served in the Zion's Camp expedition. The charges had to do with "criminal conduct" along with the fact that Sylvester felt that Joseph had used "insulting and abusive language" towards him.
One can only imagine what was going on in the minds of the council members who tried the case. Perhaps they were wondering what would ever happen to the church in the event that the Lord's prophet seer and revelator was ever excommunicated from the church.
The court ultimately rendered a verdict in favor of Joseph.
To the credit of Sylvester Smith, who was reprimanded as a result of the church council that he caused to be held, he did not leave the church because of that incident.
To the credit of Joseph Smith who was deeply humiliated in front of the entire church by the court proceedings and some of the testimony that was given by other witnesses that sided with Sylvester, he did not seek retribution of any kind.
Within a year after Sylvester brought charges against the Prophet, he was called to serve on the Kirtland High Council and shortly after that, he was called and ordained as one of the inaugural presidents of the Seventies which would indicate to me that neither Joseph Smith or the Lord harbored ill will against him for bringing the critical charges against the prophet.
There are obviously some disagreements between members of this forum as to whether there are serious problems within the church.
One thing is for sure, if there ever are serious problems with the leaders of this church, the problem can never be corrected based on the absurd notion that members of the church never have the right to ever be critical of church leaders and that only the leadership of the church have the right to be critical of their own sins.
The truth is that church leaders need to have the positive burden and tension of knowing that they are being watched by loving members who understand sound doctrine and want to accept their responsibility of participating in keeping the church on the right path.
I believe the Lord originally put two very important measures for a checks and balances between the leadership and the lay membership of this church. I believe those two measures are as follows:
1- He made members of the church responsible for bringing anyone, including church authorities into a church court anytime they commit a grievous sin.
2- He put in place the law of common consent giving the membership the right to reject new doctrines, commandments or church callings that is presented before the church
I believe both of those checks and balances have been negated by false teachings and perceptions currently held in the church.
Members have been brainwashed to believe that they can never be justified in bringing criticism against a general authority and they have been brain washed into believing that refusing to sustain the brethren in any doctrine, commandment or new leadership calling is categorically wrong and sinful.
If the church was running the way the Lord meant for it to run, someone would request that the Church look into the allegations and associated evidence that has been publicly provided regarding the use of paid employees to sway public opinion and to lie about who they actually represent.
After all, two separate witnesses who probably don't even know each other have obtained evidence and made allegations. One has actually provided compelling information which the church has made no attempt to refute or explain. (and you can be sure there are people in high places that know about the post that started this discussion.
"in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established"
If the allegations turn out to me wrong, everyone including the general authority over the strengthening the church members committee will feel much better after having the truth be brought to light and the authorities vindicated.
If in fact the allegations are true, an investigation needs to be held to see just how far up the chain of command the responsibility goes and the necessary disciplinary action needs to take place even if it goes all the way up to an Apostle or President. By that holy process given to us by the Lord we can correct the problem and move forward.