Sunday, November 7, 2010

LDS Church Leadership Issues Pastoral Letter Directing Members To Communicate With Local Leaders Rather Than Elevate Inquiries To Church Headquarters

The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently sent to priesthood leaders churchwide two letters to be read in sacrament meetings. One letter addresses communication by members up the priesthood chain of command, and the other addresses the risks of self-awareness programs and schemes which imply LDS Church endorsement.

The first letter, dated October 6th, is the most important. Church leaders direct members to address their questions and issues to local leaders rather than to Church headquarters:

Dear Brethren and Sisters:

Members of the Church continue to place telephone calls and write letters to Church headquarters about doctrinal issues and personal matters. By reason of their callings, local leaders are entitled to the spirit of discernment and inspiration to enable them to counsel members within their jurisdiction.

Accordingly, correspondence from members will be referred back to their local leaders for handling. Stake presidents who have need for further clarification about doctrinal or procedural issues may write to the First Presidency in behalf of their members.

It is our desire that all members will feel they have the support and guidance they need; however, all things should be done in wisdom and order. We believe that both members and local leaders will be blessed as they pray and counsel together in an effort to resolve matters of concern to them.

Signed by the First Presidency:

Thomas S. Monson

Henry B. Eyring

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

The purpose is not to isolate or cut off the top leadership from the members, but to permit the top leadership to concentrate more exclusively on issues of churchwide concern and to afford local leaders maximum opportunity for personal growth through increased service to their constituencies. Bishops and stake presidents cannot grow in leadership capabilities if they don't get to exercise their decision-making power. Furthermore, local leaders usually possess a better grasp of local singularities. The senior Church leadership gets sufficient opportunities to interact with ordinary members through worldwide visits for temple groundbreaking and dedication as well as visiting stake conferences where a change in the stake presidency occurs. The recent visit of Elder Marlin K. Jensen to an Oakland stake conference is a good example of how well the visitation process can work.

The second letter, dated October 13th, cautions church members against getting involved in "self-awareness programs" sponsored by commercial enterprises which imply LDS Church endorsement. While addressing various rituals employed by these self-awareness gurus, this letter may have also been prompted by an upsurge in affinity fraud cases involving church members, most notably the recent case of R. Dean Udy, a former stake president and regional representative, who was convicted on securities fraud charges and sentenced to 1-to-15 years in state prison:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

We have repeatedly warned of the risks inherent in participating in so-called "self-awareness" groups sponsored by commercial enterprises that promise heightened self-esteem, improved family relationships, and increased spirituality. It has come to our attention that some of these enterprises continue to express or imply Church endorsement, thereby attracting members of the Church to their programs.

The Church has not endorsed any such enterprise. We warn that these programs are not in harmony with Church doctrine or gospel principles. Church members should not participate in groups that:

1. Challenge religious and moral values.

2. Advocate confrontation with spouse or family members as a means of reaching one's potential.

3. Imitate sacred rites or ceremonies.

4. Foster physical contact among participants.

5. Meet late into the evening or in the early-morning hours.

6. Encourage open confession or disclosure of personal information normally discussed only in confidential settings.

7. Cause a husband or wife to be paired with other partners.

Once again, we counsel members against participating in such "self-awareness" activities.

Signed by the First Presidency:

Thomas S. Monson

Henry B. Eyring

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

It appears the primary concern of the First Presidency in this case is that some of these "self-awareness" programs may create a favorable climate for apostasy among members in general or even adultery among married couples.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the copy of the letters. I spent some time looking for them on the church web site but found it hard to navigate. Thank you for your blog.

Anonymous said...

I book marked your blog. Looks like a great place!

Jack Mormon said...

Thanks for the feedback from both of you. Fortunately, the Church had published them on the LDS Church News website; they don't always publish this stuff on

Anonymous said...

I like the first presidency letter warning against some weird groups trying to promote self awareness. And a commercial enterprise trying to gather more clients by implying church endorsement is just shady shady marketing.

Question for anyone willing to answer. The letter that appears here (the letter on the church website) Was NOT the same as the one read from the pulpit to my ward last week. They had some key differences.

The letter online is totally legit. The one in sacrament meeting included most of the same stuff but declared that ALL self awareness groups were out of harmony with church doctrine. Not just ones that imply church endorsement or ones that meet those 7-8 criteria. It said ALL self awareness groups.

I know a few self awareness groups that DO NOT meet that letters criteria in any way, but yet now I have to defend them to friends and family who think I'm going against the Fist presidency letter when in fact I'm not. Their minds have now been closed off to things that weren't even what the letter was addressing. But the one in sacrament had much broader application than the letter on the website. Anyone else notice this?

May have just been me, but I don't think so.