Is it Wrong to Criticize Mormon Church Leaders?

"It’s wrong to criticize leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true." Elder Dallin H Oaks, Church leader and Mormon Apostle
“It’s wrong to criticize leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true.” – Elder Dallin H Oaks, Church leader and Mormon Apostle

It’s wrong to criticize leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true.

Elder Dallin H Oaks

How can this be twisted to be seen in a good way? Is it wrong to call out errors our leaders make? No. It could be annoying, or even tactless to harp on every minor thing they do that we disagree with, yes, but wrong? As in sinning is wrong? Ecclesiastical leaders are not immune to criticism, in fact they should probably be held to a higher standard. It doesn’t seem like President Oaks is talking about the small stuff though, he is claiming any criticism. Is it wrong to criticize leaders? He seems to think so.

This has a real, “I’m putting you in your place” feel to it. Seems to say:

“I’m special, and you’re not. I’m ‘called’ by God to be your leader and be in charge of the kingdom of God on earth, while you are ‘called’ to be a follower only. God’s ways are not your ways, He knows best, and He tells me (and other leaders) all about His ways. So, when things don’t make sense to you, it’s not because I’m human and imperfect, it’s more because you don’t and can’t understand God’s will like I can. He works in mysterious ways, afterall. Aren’t you so glad he’s called me to bear this burden of leadership so you don’t have to worry about it. Just trust us, have faith in the ‘system’ Gad has for things like this. You don’t have to understand it, or like it, or even agree with it, but it’s what God wants, I’m just His messenger.

Oh, and by the way, if it goes sour and my successors decided that this wasn’t in fact God’s will, there will be no apologies for the pain, suffering and confusion this all causes. God doesn’t apologize and we can’t understand his higher will anyway remember (except sometimes I can), so therefore we can’t apologize either. God works in mysterious ways. They won’t say that I wasn’t doing God’s will, but that it will no longer be His will somehow, God might change his mind, who knows, we can’t fathom his will all the time. But, continue to trust in me- I mean Him. Have faith in me- I mean Christ. I have the priesthood after all, and the keys to use it.

So, don’t say anything bad about my actions or my decisions, it’s making you out to be Laman and Lemuel, and we all know what happened to them. Criticism is like contention, and it’s of the devil. Criticism is not from God. Jesus never criticize anyone, right? So, just let me be. Give Brother Joseph a break, and by extension every single church leader ever, a break too. Don’t make my mistakes (if I had any, remember God is on my side) a big deal, don’t distract from the Gospel. Don’t sully the good name of the church by talking about that bad stuff you think you see. Can’t you see, it’s bad overall to talk about that? We must hide anything unbecoming because this is the kingdom of God! What will the other Christians think? Our church is perfect remember? It’s the one and only.

My actions that could be perceived as bad or damaging, those are God’s will, He told me to do it. But, you talking about it is bad press and uninspired (remember keys)! We have the reputation of the church to consider here so let’s not get into the weeds. I can do whatever I want- er God wants, because this is my- er His church. He is at the head, can’t you see that? Criticising me is like criticising God himself. You won’t understand everything we do as church leaders because His ways are not your ways, even when they contradict his Gospel, things seem strange, you just can’t understand what us church leaders go through.

Thanks for the tithing though, we- er God appreciates it. He tells me how to spend and invest that too…

– said no true prophet ever

This is bogus. This is giving the leaders a false sense of infallibility. This sets them up to be above reproach. This sets them up to always be right, even when they’re not. Because we know that they are human, and they will make mistakes. Even though we know they also consider themselves above apologies when they do make a mistake. Criticizing leaders, in government, business, and yes even the church is the only form of checks and balances so the leaders do not get too comfortable, irrelevant, and tyrannical.

Strange men standing behind veils checking passwords and secret handshakes is no basis for a religion. Salvation derives from personal experience of the divine, not some farcical masonic ceremony. - Monty Python and the Holy Temple
Strange men standing behind veils checking passwords and secret handshakes is no basis for a religion. Salvation derives from personal experience of the divine, not some farcical masonic ceremony. – Monty Python and the Holy Temple

No one is above reproach.

It has been said that this quote is taken out of context or exaggerated, but there are many examples of the same sentiment.

“Evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize of depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true.” Dallin H Oaks
“In our system of church government, evil-speaking or criticism of leaders by members is always negative. As President George F Richards of the Council of the Twelve said in a conference address in April 1947: ‘When we say anything bad about the leaders of the Church, whether true or false, we tend to impair their influence and their usefulness and are thus working against the Lord and his cause.’ This is why the Holy Ghost will not guide or confirm criticism of the Lord’s anointed or of church leaders, local or general.” Dallin H Oaks

Also, see the Elder Oaks Interview for the PBS documentary about Mormons transcript.

No one gets a free pass to live above criticism. Especially leaders of a church. They are under scrutiny as they should be. That does not mean they should be given a “break”. We shouldn’t expect perfection, but we can at least expect decent, maybe even better than average. At least with this quote, we can say that Oaks is admitting that church leaders are not perfect, because he concedes that some criticism is true and deserved. He rationalizes his statement to say that criticizing a leader makes them less effective. Well, maybe, but more likely. What leaders do that is worthy of criticism makes them less effective leaders. In that case, the criticism will alert others that the particular leader may not be acting out the Lord’s will!

If we have a small-time leader, say a bishop, who is molesting children (as has been in the news lately), according to Oaks, we would do what? We would not criticize him? We would not speak out against this. What? We should suffer the little children to come to him?

Where would we be had Jesus followed this advice? He is famous for saying things like:

24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.

26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,

30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.

31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.

Matthew 23:24-31

Was Jesus right? Was this criticism true? Was Jesus wrong in criticizing his leaders? Have you been affected by a leader? Local? General? Don’t play that game.

Join and tell your own story. Some church leaders would love to tell your story. They already have and they will continue to, at the local level as well as church-wide. You have an amazing and interesting story to tell, if you don’t tell it who will?

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