How Does Revelation Happen Within the LDS Church?

John Dehlin Mormon Stories, Writings

Over the past several years many have contacted me in response to my support of same-sex marriage and gender equality in LDS leadership to say:

“If you believe in this church, then you believe in revelation and in following your leaders. Consequently, it is inappropriate for you to be speaking openly about wanting LGBTs to be more accepted in the church, your support for gay marriage, or for women to receive more church responsibility. Either the leaders of the church get their direction from God, or they don’t. If you choose to be a part of this church, then it’s either get in line and follow, or get out.”

My response: A quiz for you.

1) What were the conditions/environment/personalities involved in Joseph Smith receiving the Word of Wisdom revelation? Was it purely direct revelation, or at least partially a response to people and situation?

2) What were the conditions/environment/personalities involved in the 1890 Official Declaration renouncing the practice of polygamy? Was it purely direct revelation, or at least partially a response to people and situation?

3) What were the conditions/environment/personalities involved in the granting of priesthood to black males? Was it purely direct revelation, or at least partially a response to people and situation?

4) What were the conditions/environment/personalities involved in the LDS church’s changing stance regarding oral sex (first forbidding it, then rescinding that forbidding)? Was it purely direct revelation, or at least partially a response to people and situation?

5) What were the conditions/environment/personalities involved in the LDS church’s change in stance regarding LGBT people, going from a) telling LGBT people that SSA was a result of sin, b) that being LGBT was a choice/non-biological, c) that LGBT folks should “get married, not tell their spouse, and it will go away,” or d) to try reparative therapy……vs. the church’s current position (http://mormonsandgays.org/) — abandoning all of those positions? Was it purely direct revelation, or at least partially a response to people and situation?

6) Rinse and repeat with other issues like the use of contraception, women working outside of the home, apostolic denunciations of evolution, interracial marriage, changes in the temple ceremony, the cessation of publishing Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine and Spencer W. Kimball’s Miracle of Forgiveness (now I’m being prophetic on that one), women praying in general conference, the modern young single adult program, etc.

7) In fact, are you aware of ANY significant changes in the church that were NOT made in response to conditions/environment/personalities ?

8) What is the value of continuing revelation, if it is not used….and what do you think precipitates revelation? Does it happen in a vacuum?

9) Finally, if conditions/environment/personalities can lead to change in all of these other scenarios, why couldn’t/shouldn’t it be so with gay marriage and the role of women in the church?