Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 27: The Bitter Fruits of Apostasy.
To the dictionary, the word is benign: the renunciation of a religious or political belief or allegiance
To the Church, it's betrayal of God.
The second paragraph in the lesson begins thusly:
As that year wore on, a spirit of apostasy grew among some of the Saints in Kirtland. Some members became proud, greedy, and disobedient to the commandments... Sister Eliza R. Snow recalled: 'Many who had been humble and faithful to the performance of every duty - ready to go and come at every call of the Priesthood - were getting haughty in their spirits, and lifted up in the pride of their hearts.' (p. 317)Too often, far too often, we shun those who no longer agree with all or some of the tenants of the church as prideful, haughty, greedy and worldly apostates. Indeed when one disagrees, some jump at the chance to suggest the apostate is looking for the approval of the world as opposed to that of God. As Latter-day Saints we are in the world, but not of the world. Apostates, on the other hand, fit both bills.
This lesson doesn't help that.
...Brigham Young...remembered a meeting at which some Church members were discussing how to depose the Prophet Joseph: 'I rose up, and in a plain and forcible manner told them that Joseph was a Prophet and I knew it, and that they might rail and slander him as much as they pleased, [but] they could not destroy the appointment of the Prophet of God; they could only destroy their own authority, cut the thread that bound them to the Prophet and to God, and sink themselves to hell. (p. 317, emphasis added)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has mentioned it's inappropriate for anyone to criticise Church leaders, even when it is justified. And why? The lesson explains:
It's never about anything else, either.
I understand that it's wrong to complain just to complain. We all do it, we probably shouldn't. Sustaining our leaders, teachers, etc. includes buoying them up. Supporting them. Raising our hand in class, preparing for class, etc.
[Brigham Young] then remarked that any man, any elder in this Church and kingdom who pursued a course whereby he would ignore or, in other words, refuse to obey any known law or commandment or duty - whenever a man did this, neglected any duty God required at his hand in attending meetings, filling missions, or obeying counsel, he laid a foundation to lead him to apostasy and this was the reason those men had fallen. (p. 319, emphasis added)
"As long as my brethren stand by me and encourage me, I can combat the prejudices of the world, and can bear the contumely [harsh treatment] and abuse with joy..." (Joseph Smith, p. 320)
Of course. We all need support in our work, our leaders especially. This isn't easy stuff, and there is a world of people against them. They've much to combat.
But to suggest justified criticism is wrong because it's a stepping stone to apostasy...? Is this shit for real?
It gets worse.
"From apostates the faithful have received the severest persecutions. Judas was rebuked and immediately betrayed his Lord into the hands of His enemies, because Satan entered into him" (p. 321)
Ahh, yes. Apostates of the Church today = Judas.
Judas. Who betrayed Christ to his death.
"Who, among all the Saints in these last days, can consider himself as good as our Lord? Who is as perfect? Who is as pure? Who is as holy as He was?" (p. 321)
I get it! The Church isn't perfect, neither are the servants of the Lord. I get it! But I propose those who leave don't consider themselves perfect. We don't ask for a perfect church. We don't ask for perfect leaders...necessarily. I'll admit I do hope for better in my leaders. It's important to realize they're human too and will fail at times. We need to realize such about anybody. Respect is tantamount, but respect must be given and earned and isn't always even by our leaders. The benefit of the doubt is also vital, for both leader and follower alike. Sometimes we just don't know. I get all of this. I don't think "apostates" necessarily began with criticising present leaders as much as they may criticise past leaders' opinions as well as current church stances. There is a difference.
The lesson basically accuses "apostates" of biting the hand that fed them, and indeed perhaps some do. One such example MAY be Ed Decker (thank you, Equality, for the correction. Oy!). His work is unbelievably ridiculous. My mom had me watch his movie The Godmakers as an investigator and I laughed. Horrible. Fear mongering and exaggerations at its worst.
But are we much better sometimes?
This lesson encompasses the reason so many find difficulty in leaving. Many stay because they believe in certain tenets of the faith. Many stay because they feel a connection to God here. Many do stay because they cannot go anywhere else because their discriminatory beliefs in God are rejected in many other churches (though I hear many choose to attend the Unitarian churches).
But many don't leave because they're scared to death of abandonment and venom. If they haven't already, they know the accusations will fly. Gossip will hush behind their backs. They are going to hell. They are covenant breakers, and if you've been to the temple, you may recall the consequences of breaking those covenants, though they sound more like general threats of the wrath of God...
And it doesn't matter what dissenters say about their good feelings toward the Church despite their disaffection. This lesson also covers that.
When the Prophet had ended telling how he had been treated, Brother Behunin remarked: 'If I should leave this Church I would not do as those men have done: I would go to some remote place where Mormonism had never been heard of, settle down, and no one would ever learn that I knew anything about it.'
The great Seer immediately replied: 'Brother Behunin, you don't know what you would do. No doubt these men once thought as you do. Before you joined this Church you stood on neutral ground. When the gospel was preached, good and evil were set before you. You could choose either or neither. There were two opposite masters inviting you to serve them. When you joined this Church you enlisted to serve God. When you did that you left the neutral ground, and you never can get back on to it. Should you forsake the Master you enlisted to serve, it will be by the instigation of the evil one, and you will follow his dictation and be his servant (p.324)
The lesson ends on a higher note, I think, stating that the majority of the prophets and apostles will never lead us astray. Quite a change from "The Prophet will never lead you astray" but I suppose most things don't get through the Quorum until a majority rules, correct? Ahh, I don't know.
I don't believe the apostles and the Prophet to be imposters. I don't hate the Church; I'm grateful for it and will always be.
There are apostates, but not necessarily betrayers of God. Though I certainly understand why the Church would think so, many simply find another way to God (and many turn agnostic at best and athiest at "worst"). Some in the Church accept this and treat sincere dissenters with respect, but most hear lessons like this and choose to shun, choose to believe anyone who would leave (and generally these are the once very active and zealous) to be a fallen people, a prideful people, a worldly people.
This simply isn't true, not all of the time. I understand the Church wants to protect its people, wants to ensure its people stay faithful, but to suggest it's God or Satan, I think, is counterproductive. Some readers might find it to be a truthful statement. Such black and white teaching and thinking only serves to push more people away. I won't have anything to do with it.
I still haven't decided if I want to go or not. Upon my first reading of this lesson my anxieties kicked in. Guilt set in. I developed a migraine.
Many would say this is because "the guilty taketh the truth to be hard."
And I just might hit the next person who suggests such a thing. Guilt isn't always a reaction to uninvited truth, but to indoctrination.
I just don't know. I don't know how I'd react at Church. I already know what people will say, I just want to know what I would say. I couldn't go and remain quiet. That wouldn't be right, but it sure will pique some curiosities regarding where I stand. Eh.