Kierstyn Kremer Howes, a member of the church, wrote an op-ed this week, in which she encouraged LDS women to boycott church on the Relief Society anniversary, March 17. In response, a number of other LDS women have argued against the boycott.

While I don't agree with Howe's position in this case, I find the “faithful” responses more concerning than the edgy ones. It's easy to be an agitator. It's more difficult, but necessary, to counter possibly problematic instigation with sound apologetics.

When we hear something that seems critical of our church or that makes us uncomfortable with a religious issue, we too often celebrate anything that counters it. The counter claim isn't good just because it's a counter claim to the thing we don't like. It's good apologetics if it includes correct theology and sound reasoning.

Today, before the official boycott and boycott-boycott begin, I present to you a contrasting point of view to the contrasting point of view.


  • Am I participating in the boycott? No. (I’m out of town and hope absence in my home ward isn’t perceived that way.)
  • Do I think the boycott is an effective tactic? Largely, no.
  • Have I ever wanted to be a bishop? No. (But not for the reasons put forth by many women and I did love serving as a Relief Society president.)
  • Have I ever thought I would have made a better decision than leadership? Yes.
  • Have I ever thought leadership made a better decision than I would have? Yes.

Kristen Walker Smith presented the video above to call for a boycott of the boycott. I follow her because I like some of her content, but this one has a lot to unpack.

The argument is reductive and largely inaccurate. The most straightforward way I can think to address this, is a piece at a time. Here we go…

Line Upon Line

What we believe is that God is at the top and the prophet is simply his mouthpiece.

Christ is at the top of Christ's church, to be sure. He is at the helm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But does that mean the church is run precisely as Christ, in his perfection, would run the church? Is he overseeing the church or micromanaging it?

I suggest it has always been the latter. Can we agree:

  • It’s Christ’s church while also understanding that even the prophet (along with every single other member) is a fallible human who—even with an incredibly monumental calling—is doing the best he can with what he knows and within the context of the culture in which he was raised and impacted by the way he sees and understands the world?
  • The prophet (and every single other member) has agency?
  • Prophets make mistakes and sin and have need to correct course and repent?
  • Even the “mouthpiece” isn’t always just a blind conduit revealing God’s perfect will?

Some present an implied practical infallibility of church leadership that is not doctrinal. We should stop doing so.

The prophet it not “simply his mouthpiece.” He's a human being with human strengths, weaknesses, impulses, thoughts, passions, limits, and all the rest—who has a calling to do his (imperfect) best to lead the church.

The prophet is not a clone of Christ or a virtual God embodiment.

If you have a problem with how the church is run, you can just take it up with God.

In the context of the previous claim (God at the top; prophet just a mouthpiece), this is nonsensical.

First—and this is, admittedly, a somewhat tangential issue—we are expected to pray only to God the Father. We also claim this is Christ's church (not God the Father's church). So Christ is at the head.

Why would we pray to Heavenly Father about a perceived problem with Christ's church? Can we pray to Jesus Christ about Christ's church? This highlights an interesting (somewhat evangelical) conflation I've noticed in the past few years of Christ and Heavenly Father. Anyway…

Second, can you possibly have a valid concern to “take…up with God” if the church is run directly and unfiltered by God?

Third, if you do so, might God intervene?

Fourth, if God might intervene after your intercession, why didn’t God intervene before you addressed the issue? Why did he let the problem occur at all?

Fifth, if there can be no problem with the church, the implication is that we are really just taking our whining up with God so that God can dismiss our concerns as invalid and wrong and irrelevant. They cannot possibly be valid. We just need to get our heads straightened out and get back in line.

Sixth, the only other alternative (see claim below) is that God will tell us we are correct and, thus, the church is false…and we should leave.

Again, we run into the implied practical fallibility problem.

You don't need to believe the church as false (or leave) because leaders make human mistakes.

God is the one in control, and if you don't believe that, if you think that the church is run by a “patriarchy,” then why does it even matter, because the church wouldn't be true.

This statement is not just inaccurate, but harmful in so many ways. This is the kind of position that I think is faith-destroying rather than faith-enhancing in the long run.

God is the one “in control”? Do church leaders give up agency (and their minds and thoughts) when they accept their callings? To what extent is this control levied? How far off the perfect, godly path can a prophet wander before being yanked back into line (or just offed completely)?

The church is (obviously) a patriarchal church. (Whether or not that is inherently bad is a different discussion. I see both pros and cons.) Jesus Christ is male. So…it is run by men, no matter what upper level of the hierarchy you're referring to. Is that really under contention? Why the air quotes?

Kristen seems to think that if you believe the church is “run” by the male humans in positions of authority, then ipso facto, it cannot be Christ's true church.

Fortunately for all of us, that's incorrect. It can still be Christ's church if fallible humans are those working in the church—at every level—whilst imperfectly doing the work of God they best they can. And repenting and correcting course when they realize there is a correction to be made.

Never Astray

A discussion about “leading the church astray” is often injected at this point

This is a longer conversation than I intend to have today. Suffice it to say that I don’t believe ‘astray' means what many think it means. Another post for another day.

Fallibility and the Pope

There’s an old joke that says:

Catholics claim the pope is infallible

But no one believes it.

Mormons claim the prophet is fallible

But no one believes it.

We have this strange cultural bit, where we state (or at least imply) that everything in the church at any given moment is exactly, precisely as God would have it. In fact, it must be so for the church to be true!

And the moment anything changes, it is because God wanted that change to occur precisely when it did.

Both the before and after are utterly perfect. Always. Because never ever “astray.” Or something.

We also behave as if it’s presumptuous and unfaithful to express (or even have) a concern about anything in the church. Because doing so must mean we “don’t trust God.” Because God is running the show. And so it’s perfect.

Even a cursory look at church history shows that prophets are called, wise, inspired, good men. But that they are still human and still have agency and are still expected to work through things imperfectly, as humans do.

This is shown in simple things, like the removal of the Saturday night General Conference session and its quick reimplementation—without ever having tried it out. Were both changes God's inspired will? Is it more likely that the leaders removed the session and then, later, simply came upon reasons to continue?

More seriously, we can point to dozens of examples of prophetic humanity: Mark Hoffman stuff; temple/priesthood ban; treatment of child/spouse abuse abuse; marital/sexual prescriptions/proscriptions, etc. These examples exist in the early church, the middle church, the modern church.

And it's fine, because God chose to use real human beings to do the work of the gospel.

The Survey Says…

For decades the church has done pilot projects (recently, integrating service missionaries into proselyting missions, 2-hour church blocks, and on and on). For decades the church has also done member surveys (garment style and fit was just one I participated in in the 90s–00s).

Pilot programs and surveys show that member needs are not just supernaturally sparked into the brains of leadership. They are gathered…from members. They are analyzed and discussed. They are implemented and evaluated and tweaked.

I know that both the church’s official abortion policy and the guidelines concerning garment wearing (for women) were changed specifically because of women who spoke up publicly about problems they experienced. (I disagree with the former change and agree with the latter.)

Neither came about because women prayed harder to ask God to poof info back down to the prophet. And neither came about because the men in leadership were incredibly attuned to all women's issues by osmosis (or even by marriage to a woman).

Both came about because leadership heard spoken concerns from living members and implemented what they thought best and most in line with what Christ would do.

That is a great model for how we all should lead and live.


If we are God’s hands and feet and ears to serve others (a concept we have always presented), then why isn’t the same method understood with regard to church policy and practice?

Why would God poof info to leaders minds, when the leaders can just talk to members and work through to the best solution they can?

Which method is truly more elegant? Which truly provides the most human growth toward becoming like God?

Oldster Speaking

At nearly 60, I have seen so many positive changes with regard to women being considered as equal disciples and being allowed to participate in more meaningful ways. I've witnessed many non-doctrinal cultural artifacts removed.

I am still an active, “card carrying” member of the church because, in spite of all the problems I've personally witnessed in all my years (and in studying history), I do not expect the leaders to be perfect conduits or mouthpieces or leaders. I sustain them in their humanity!

I hope we can continue to make positive changes that will help all members be more like Christ and that women will be accepted as the equals we are declared to be.

Last Thought

Why can’t I have the priesthood?

The temple indicates women can have something. What is a priestess? It is part of our dogma. A part that we largely ignore or set aside. Kind of like Heavenly Mother. Hopefully both can be fully realized as we move forward.