I Have An Answer

Questions to Gospel Answers

First published in Mormon Women's Forum, vol. 7, no. 3-4 (1996)

ANSWER: “Either you represent the teachers and students and champion their causes or you represent the Brethren who appointed you. You need to decide now which way you face.” —Harold B. Lee to Boyd K. Packer, when the latter was first called to a position of significant responsibility in the Church Educational System.

QUESTIONS: Just as God listens to us, shouldn’t we turn our ears to God and to one another to hear? And just as God speaks to us, shouldn’t we face one another to speak? Prayer is two-way, not one-way. Why shouldn’t the Church be patterned after this divine two-way flow of information and communication?

Likewise, Jesus Christ is both our source of revelation and our advocate with the Father. Why can’t our leaders represent both the Brethren and those over whom they have stewardship? Why is such two-way representation seen as contrary to correct principles of “gospel management”? American political leaders ostensibly represent both “the government” as well as the interests of the people governed, and we claim that this system is inspired: why cannot this same inspired model be implemented in the Church?

Current procedures prevent the rank and file from speaking directly to leaders on the general level. If my local leader will not speak for me because he has been told not to, who will speak for me? If my local leader will not ask my questions for me because of their “feminist” or “intellectual” or possibly even “homosexual” nature, who will?

D&C 121 specifically enjoins those in authority to meekness (“teachableness”). As soon as any leader believes that he knows it all—that he is an “authority generally” by virtue of being a general authority (or leader at any level)—he will “exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of people, in varying degree s of unrighteousness” (v 37). Why? Because one of the chief-most components of unrighteous dominion is failing to listen and to truly hear (with the mind and heart).

Without the qualities of humility, meekness, empathy, and awareness, leaders are not capable of understanding the people they are to serve, nor of interpreting God’s will for those people in the most correct or beneficial manner. Further, when leaders dismiss real people’s real concerns as mere “hyperventilation,” they may be closing themselves off to significant information which can help shape the kinds of questions and concerns they should take to God for answers.

Good shepherds have to face their sheep as well as the Overshepherd. Our “file leaders”—those to whom we are expected to go for counsel—are being taught to categorize and pigeonhole both the problems members bring to them and the members themselves, rather than to listen with their hearts and minds and to seek for the guidance of the Holy Ghost. Elder Lee’s charge to stiffneckedness, still championed at the highest levels in the Church, is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ and has been the source of much mischief and misery among us.

—Olivia “Are you talking to me?” Kallner