Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
This file image shows Temple Square, home to the headquarters of the LDS Church, in Salt Lake City, April 4, 2013.
LDS Church Spokeswoman Jessica Moody issued the following statement Thursday in response to media inquiries concerning the ability of church members to raise questions and seek answers in the church:
First, there is no effort to tell local leaders to keep members from blogging or discussing questions online. On the contrary, Church leaders have encouraged civil online dialogue, and recognize that today it's how we communicate and discuss ideas with one another. Our whole Church was founded on the basis of sincere questions asked by a 14-year-old boy. Having questions and seeking answers is normal. Within those earnest questions may lie the seeds of faith.
The scriptures are full of examples of how to receive answers to our questions — to find truth and align our will with God's — and that process includes studying, praying, learning and discussing Church doctrines. Millions of people do this throughout their lives. How and why one asks is as important as the questions we're asking. What causes concern for Church leaders is when personal motivations drive those conversations beyond discussion, and a person or group begins recruiting others to insist on changes in Church doctrines or structure. When it goes so far as creating organized groups, staging public events to further a cause or creating literature for members to share in their local congregations, the Church has to protect the integrity of its doctrine as well as other members from being misled.
At the heart of the conversation are matters of faith and doctrine. We believe these doctrines are given to us by God in simple ways: through scripture and through living prophets and apostles. If our personal goals go beyond what has been provided from those sources, we must ask ourselves whether we are we trying to change His Church to match our own perspective.
As a Church, we've been looking for several years on what we can improve and change — cultural elements that are not tied to doctrine. We've had and will continue to have dozens of meaningful, helpful conversations with a variety of voices and perspectives about cultural changes. From my perspective, it's a very exciting time to be a member!
It would be completely inappropriate for me to comment on any of the individual cases you've heard about recently, as those are personal matters dealt with at a local level. But I can provide some principles. In dealing with all of these issues and questions, a local lay leader is the one who determines how they apply to those he serves. If he becomes troubled by a member's actions, he can rely on his own spiritual insights, personal prayer, guidance from handbooks and his training to determine how best to address the member's circumstances. For instance, their standard procedural handbook says: "Local presiding officers should not expect General Authorities to tell them how to decide difficult matters. Decisions on Church discipline are within the discretion and authority of local presiding officers as they prayerfully seek guidance from the Lord."