Does Public Opinion Cause Revelation?

Russell Stevenson proclaimed on a Radio West interview last year that the priesthood and temple ban on black church members lasted so long because church members were as much to blame as church leaders.  I was one of the first to dismiss his idea.  As I’ve had time to think about it, I’m beginning to think that he might be on to something.

I am beginning to believe that church leaders only give revelation when the members want it.  When the Manifesto was received (Official Declaration 1), in part because many LDS members were tired of going to jail.  Official Declaration 2 was received after boycotts from the NAACP, as well as some internal discussions.  Currently, the LDS Church has justified the exclusion of women from the priesthood precisely because a 2011 Pew Research study claimed “90 percent [of women] opposed the ordination of women to the priesthood“.  President Hinckley stated in an interview that women weren’t “agitating” for the priesthood.  Well, what happens if women change their minds and start agitating?  Does that mean a revelation would be more imminent?

Yesterday in priesthood, someone mentioned that if a revelation was received, he would support it.  Until then, we should not agitate.  But as I stated in a previous post, nearly all revelation comes from agitation.  In fact, I can’t think of very many cases (except where God is correcting someone like Paul or Alma) in which a revelation was received that wasn’t agitated for.  Can you think of any?

3 comments on “Does Public Opinion Cause Revelation?

  1. I’d argue that all cases are the result of agitation. I’m sure that the many members who were persecuted as a result of Paul’s and Alma’s actions were praying that God would intervene. I can’t think of any revelation that doesn’t involve agitation.

  2. There are two issues here that I think are being conflated. The first issue is whether agitation facilitates revelation. I think that is true. The second issue is who bears the responsibility for church policy. The leaders? The members? Both? While I do not think that members do not have responsibility here, I would argue the lion’s share of responsibility is attributed to the leaders (it is difficult to quantify this but I believe 90% to 95% is held by leaders). Church leaders urge members to march to the drum of obedience and members take their cues from the leaders. In summation, my understanding of Russell Stevenson’s “collective sin” theory addresses responsibility, not agitation. Do you disagree?

  3. Sean, certainly Stevenson does call this a collective sin, but in the article I linked to above, Stevenson says

    One Mormon missionary, Marvin Jones, realized upon serving a short-term mission to Nigeria in 1961 that the priesthood ban simply could not survive if the LDS Church wanted to live out its hopes of being a global faith community. James E. Faust, the stake president and civil rights attorney, pushed tirelessly for church officials to acknowledge the faith and contributions of Brazilian Mormons. Dr. Lowry Nelson candidly communicated his concerns about the priesthood ban to the First Presidency in private correspondence. These figures are men worthy of emulation….


    Church efforts to provide social directives to the Saints had gone so badly that Church leaders felt impelled to become “followers of the masses.”

    I wish Russell were here to tell us his position, but I gather that Stevenson admires agitators like Jones, Faust, and Nelson.

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