Elder Dallin H. Oaks addresses the faithful on Sunday, April 3, 2016. Courtesy of Mormon Newsroom.

Apostle suggests Mormons were saved from Brussels attacks and Fiji cyclone

Elder Dallin H. Oaks addresses the faithful on Sunday, April 3, 2016. Courtesy of Mormon Newsroom.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks addresses the faithful on Sunday, April 3, 2016. Courtesy of Mormon Newsroom.

Dang it. I told you guys that if there was a General Conference talk that would disturb the happy and peaceful bubble I was in from having only heard half of GC this past weekend, I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't tell me about it.

But you did. Because I missed Elder Dallin H. Oaks's "Opposition in All Things" talk on Sunday, I never heard this statement that has bothered me quite a bit since I first read it yesterday:

God rarely infringes on the agency of any of His children by intervening against some for the relief of others. But He does ease the burdens of our afflictions and strengthen us to bear them, as He did for Alma’s people in the land of Helam (see Mosiah 24:13–15). He does not prevent all disasters, but He does answer our prayers to turn them aside, as He did with the uniquely powerful cyclone that threatened to prevent the dedication of the temple in Fiji; or He does blunt their effects, as He did with the terrorist bombing that took so many lives in the Brussels airport but only injured our four missionaries.

So terrorism and physical disasters can be averted for righteous Mormons who pray, but not for other people?

More than two dozen people are dead after the terrorist attacks in Brussels two weeks ago. I'm grateful that all four of the LDS missionaries who were injured at the airport that day are going to recover. But to suggest that the Lord will "blunt the effects" of evil acts for Latter-day Saints and not for others is a slippery theological slope.

First of all, even within our own narrow community, you would then have to account for all of the missionaries who have in fact been killed while serving the Lord on their missions. Why would God choose to save these four missionaries, when others have died from car accidents (here and here), illness (here), and violent crime (here)? Were they not righteous enough?

Such deaths are uncommon, but they do happen. So whenever we're tempted to argue that God intervened to save missionaries in Belgium, we're on the hook for explaining why other missionaries in other places have died.

Secondly, and more importantly, we pit Mormonism against the world. We diminish God into a pocket deity who cares the very most about Mormons, who constitute about two-tenths of one percent of the world's population.

The other 99.8% will have the full force of nature unleashed on their children while our pocket deity intervenes to save one of our buildings. Our temple dedication goes forward, which is a sign of the Lord's favor, while 42 Fijians are dead and thousands more are homeless?

In Elder Oaks's defense, there is a strong biblical precedent for this kind of theology. Much of the Old Testament chronicles God's protection and favor for a tiny minority, the Israelites, in far more violent terms than the ones Elder Oaks employed in General Conference.

Where you don't see that theology, however, is in the New Testament. Jesus had countless opportunities to play the theodicy game, including the time he was asked, "Who sinned, this man or his parents?" to explain the existence of a man born blind since birth.

Jesus answered that neither the blind man nor his parents had sinned -- a radical departure from the beliefs of his time -- and suggested that his suffering might be a window through which God's works might be displayed more fully. (Which is not the same as saying that God caused the blindness, just that God could use it for God's glory.)

Throughout the gospels Jesus points to suffering and death as necessary, and sanctifying, things. I feel that Elder Oaks's talk had many good things to say about the holy role that opposition and suffering can play in our lives . . . which he then qualified or even negated by suggesting that God sometimes removes suffering from a very, very few Latter-day Saints.







  1. Quietly yet effectively building the case for giving emeritus status to all GAs

  2. Thank you! These were my thoughts exactly as I listened to the talk! I’m glad I wasn’t the only person frustrated by his “righteous-washing” of history! I thought about the several other missionaries who had passed away and what his statements implied for them, as well as the good people who died in Brussels, were they not “righteous” enough?! Thanks for so eloquently writing about this!

  3. Thank you. When I heard him say that God “blunts the effects” of evil acts and spared the lives of the missionaries I wanted to scream. My brother was killed while serving a mission 23 years ago. Why didn’t God blunt the effects of the train that smashed into his car? I can’t accept that statement. Not at all.

  4. I think his statements and his talk would be a great talk to study deeply. I think we could reason that at times God does protect certain people for certain reasons. And at other times he allows certain people to die. For his reasons. I’ve been studying the scriptures lately more increase and better. There are more blessings and there is an increase and blessings and there are better blessings for those who choose to live as God has asked who choose to be more diligent and exactly obedient. I have found dozens and dozens of references to this fact. I like to write a book about it. When we choose God he chooses us. He loves everyone all his children. But He blesses extra blessings he prospers thosewho choose to live higher sporitually, those who choose to live exact diligent lives. If you strive with all your might he blesses you with so many blessings

  5. There were a lot of miracles for people during ww2 also. I wonder if death is a better blessing for God’s followers anyway…..has anyone read the book We Were Not. Alone???

  6. Yes! Thank you, Jana. I thought the same thing as soon as I heard him say that (along with, “Did he really just say that out loud??”). I thought maybe I was just being oversensitive, since I was still irritated by what he said during last conference about singlehood being an “affliction.” I’m glad I’m not alone!

  7. “death is a better blessing for God’s followers”

    Yeah. Right.

    “Everybody wanna go to Heaven,
    But nobody wanna go now.”
    –Kenny Chesney


    “[God] prospers those who choose to live higher spiritually”

    No He doesn’t. The vast majority of the world isn’t Christian, and out of that minority of Christians, only about 1 out of 100 are Mormon. All those non-Christians and non-Mormons are doing just fine.

  8. It just seems so un-Christ like and full of pride to say this.

    But if they had been killed, then many would be electing them to sainthood.

    If they would have left the airport 5 minutes earlier many would be saying they were inspired to leave just in time.

    It seems a bit like we are writing the narrative to fit with what we like to think and makes us think, “Dang us Mormons sure have it ‘in’ with God!” I just can’t think if we heard other groups speaking like this we would write them off as just always painting the picture in a way that makes them look good.

  9. I have heard explanations similar to yours before in church when people are puzzling over this idea of God protecting “his people” more than others because he *can* bless them for their obedience. This makes sense on one level, but falls apart when I acknowledge that God only gives the opportunity if full gospel knowledge and therefore the fullest opportunities for blessings to a select group of people. The question always arises, why would he only give certain people the opportunity to be obedient and therefore receive those blessings? As a result, I am more prone to believe that he saves and protects individuals for reasons that have little to do with obedience.

  10. It seems scripture is full of certain people receiving more or better blessings. Scripture is full of IF …THEN…statements. . But u have great questions…why are some people born in places and at certain times….how does God treat or deal with those not given opportunities to gather more light and knowledge?? Are children kept from blessings because of parents choices? And more. …there really are countless questions to keep asking and studying.

  11. This is a huge question I find unsettling and unanswerable. It is hard for me to conceive of a God that “picks” “winners and losers” so to speak. That a God can allow children to be neglected, starved and abused. yet, (as we hear in Fast and Testimony meetings) “guide” us to that lost pearl ring/contact/etc.

    I’ve seen members exercise great faith and receive “confirmation” that their loved one would be healed of cancer/survive disaster etc. only to watch them die while we are taught that great faith can result in miracles etc.

    The “pat” answers/rationalizations/explanations we offer as members are often infuriating. For me, the answer is simply “we don’t know.” Sometimes it is easier for me to believe in a God that doesn’t intervene, (though I continue to offer him thanks for the abundance and “luck” I enjoy).

  12. What does it mean to be exactly obedient or live exact diligent lives? I’ve heard these phrases a lot lately and don’t know why just obeying is not enough.

  13. I suppose if one approaches things like General Conference with the fear and trepidation that someone is likely to violate one’s personal sensitivities, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy that someone will.

    What I don’t get is the rush to fulfill the prophecy with the paragraph cited in the column wherein Oaks TWICE makes it pretty clear that while God CAN intervene on people’s behalf, that it is NOT his default position.

    “God rarely infringes on the agency of any of His children by intervening against some for the relief of others.”

    “He does not prevent all disasters”

    Nowhere does Elder Oaks claim that faithful, prayerful Latter-day Saints will necessarily be spared the world’s evils. He is surely aware that God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

    We shouldn’t discount that God can and does intervene in the lives of his children, our obliviousness perhaps testifying to this. I should be dead…

  14. “Sometimes it is easier for me to believe in a God that doesn’t intervene, (though I continue to offer him thanks for the abundance and “luck” I enjoy).”

    Right on the money! Personally, I don’t think I’m important enough that the Creator of the universe needs to micro-manage my existence from moment to moment. I am sure he knows I don’t want nor need that (though I know He could–His eye is on the sparrow). I do remember to tell Him thanks for the good things that happen–saying thanks is important. But I don’t complain too much nor point fingers when bad things happen. It’s part of life, and, as Daddy used to grunt when I complained: “Builds character.” or “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

  15. If Mormons are so Godly, righteous, and selfless, why aren’t they praying for God to save everybody *but* the Mormons?

  16. Just more of the same….Mormons are better than everyone else with a dash of magical thinking.

  17. And something else Elder Oaks didn’t say, that God intervenes ONLY for righteous Mormons and not for righteous nonmembers. True, the two examples he gave involve Mormons. Is this supposed to be a surprise? This is, after all, a conference talk aimed at Mormons. You could just ignore the examples Elder Oaks used and apply the statement to people generally and not just members, as the rest of the talk does — after all, opposition to all things applies to everyone, and so does God’s occasional amelioration of it, when it matches His purposes.

  18. Thanks Jana. I thought the same thing when I heard his talk. How can Oaks be so clueless? I am always dismayed when Mormons set themselves above others and it’s even more offensive to hear it from an apostle. If Mormonism claims to be the only true church of Christ, it should certainly be more inclusive of all God’s children.

    In addition to this talk, we got to hear another lost keys story. Inspiration fell flat on its face.

    I really hope headquarters is at least paying attention to the feedback. I was happy there were no overt anti gay propaganda this time. That was a nice surprise.

  19. Let’s get a grip, everyone, Oaks didn’t set Mormons above others. Those who set the bar for taking offense so ridiculously low are simply setting themselves up for a life of misery.

  20. I strongly disagree with the mischaracterization of Elder Oaks’ words.

    7 years ago my sister, dad, and I got into a horrible car accident. My father came out with only scratches. We all thanked God for his safety. Is thanking God and believing He helped my dad equal disrespect for me, who was scalped and knocked out by wreckage, broke 7 ribs and eye bones, and has scars and nerve damage in my left arm? Or disrespect for my sister, who was also badly hurt? No.

    My sister almost lost premature twins. We all fasted and prayed, and they healed. The doctors were SURE they would die, then were amazed they miraculously recovered. My other sister, who had recently miscarried a late term pregnancy around the same time, also fasted, prayed, and rejoiced God healed our nieces.

    God answering prayers is EXACTLY what Jesus taught. It’s all over the NT. Believing you were helped by God does not equal disrespect for those who are currently on a rougher road.

  21. If you had been righteous and praying regularly, God would not have caused you to have an accident in the first place. I wonder why God felt the need to punish you and your entire family. Maybe He’s telling you to pray hard all the time, not just when you want Him to save you. Or maybe you just aren’t up to His standards in other ways. Who knows?

  22. Well said. The inference drawn here is just that, an inference.

  23. I think it makes sense to thank God for your father’s safety. And if you want to believe he helped your dad, that’s fine–but it’s a slippery slope, as that means God also apparently decides not to help hundreds of thousands of His children every day. Innocent little children who are being abused horribly by very evil people. If he doesn’t intervene in those situations, but protected your dad from a car accident…I don’t know, to me that doesn’t sound like the God I believe in.

    I think where Elder Oaks overstepped was in outright claiming that the reason the four missionaries didn’t die was that God intervened. Maybe He did…but it’s certainly also possible that they just got lucky. How does he know for sure? There is just a callousness to stating outright that many people died in the blast (so God apparently didn’t feel it was important to save them), but He was definitely watching over OUR missionaries. Why? They must be more special! It feels creepy.

  24. Oak’s comments are an example of confirmation bias. He has a worldview and interprets events to conform to that view. 4 missionaries wounded and a temple saved–clearly god’s handiwork. Never mind those less fortunate. No real mystery how he arrives at that conclusion. What gets me is his authoritative pronouncements about what God does or doesn’t do. As if he knows. I’m certain he has never seen Jesus let alone talked with him. He’s no more qualified to speak than any other person. But a person like him thrives inside the authority cult that is the Mormon church. These guys talk they they are somehow more privy to deep truths than you and I. Members grant them their special status because of constant indoctrination. Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, blah blah blah. Sort of like the crowd oohing and aahing in the opening scene of The Life of Brian. Such programming keeps members from recognizing the pablum of some of these speakers for what it is.

  25. President Hinckley:

    “Now, I do not say, and I repeat emphatically that I do not say or infer, that what has happened is the punishment of the Lord. Many good people, including some of our faithful Latter-day Saints, are among those who have suffered. Having said this, I do not hesitate to say that this old world is no stranger to calamities and catastrophes. Those of us who read and believe the scriptures are aware of the warnings of prophets concerning catastrophes that have come to pass and are yet to come to pass.”

  26. How is this relevant? That was just a long rambling speech that comes down to “bad things happen to everybody”. It doesn’t negate what Oaks said.

  27. If you believe the Bible and Book of Mormon to be true, then Elder Oaks message should be perfectly sound doctrine.

    If you believe that God protected Paul, Peter, and the Sons of Mosiah from harm, then what is to stop you from believing that He could also protect missionaries from the bomb blast in Brussels?

    If you believe that He can calm the storm on the Sea of Galilee to save the lives of those who one day would lead His church, then what keeps you from believing He could also keep His temple safe from a storm in the Pacific?

    God saved Peter and Paul from death because He had a righteous purpose for them, yet at the same time allowed his apostles James to be executed by Herod, and Stephen to be stoned. Does Stephen’s death mean he was less righteous or less loved by our Heavenly Father? Doubtful, given his apostleship and the vision of Heaven he received as he died. What keeps you from applying this scriptural teaching to modern day messengers of the Lord?

  28. Elder Oaks statements were myopic, self centered views that we have heard before from the brethren. Saying nothing would be better than what he did say.

  29. According to you and Elder Oaks, exactly whom does God save from getting killed by terrorists and natural disasters, and whom does God allow to perish?

    So, for example, do you and Elder Oaks claim that if a Mormon missionary and a gay Hindu missionary are standing together in an airport, that God would direct the terrorist’s bullets to miss the Mormon and strike the Hindu?

    Jana’s point is that such a view is ridiculous on its face. The vast majority of human beings aren’t Christian and have never seen the Christian Bible. Almost nobody has heard of Mormonism or its “doctrine”. To claim that God is *ever* going to save a Mormon and allow non-Mormons or “less righteous” Mormons to die is just plain silly.

    Elder Oak’s comments are not “doctrine”. They are ridiculous, unsubstantiated, and uncalled for. As an attorney, he ought to know better.

  30. The idea that missionaries are protected is certainly borne out statistically. In 2015, the mortality rate for Americans in their late teens/early 20s was 95.3 per 100,000. Yet for missionaries, of whom there are about 75,000, if there are ten or more in any year, it is unusually high. The protection given is obvious to any except those determined not to believe.

    The chances are low for any of us being given the answers in this lifetime as to why one particular missionary might have died while most others are protected. But if you believe your scriptures: the Lord loves your missionary, just as He loved Stephen, James, and Abinadi!

  31. “are protected is certainly borne out statistically”

    No it’s not. I read the same Salt Lake Tribune article you did. You left out the part about safety training, mission management, and the LDS church’s proactive stance in protecting missionaries from harm. There’s no evidence, statistical or otherwise, that God preferentially loves and protects Mormon missionaries or any other group of people.

  32. Pointing to particulars is hazardous for theory in a story-based theology. There is a brief inferential leap to theoretical generalizationwhich is understandable but may “round off” facts which are contrary to the theory. As Elder Maxwell was won’t to say, “There goes a beautiful theory about to be attacked by a brutal gang of facts.” So sometimes the case is x, and sometimes the case is y.

  33. True–otherwise we would have inquire of Inscrutable Providence what levels of righteousness were exhibited by Fidel Castro, Augusto Pinochet, Francisco Franco, Pol Pot and Adolf Hitler as evidenced by their utterly remarkable escapes from death.

    We’ve heard this transactional stuff about god’s will (lower case intended) for ages. It just bewilders me to hear about it from Dallin Oakes. He’s a bright guy. He’s seen a lot of life. He’s seen death–really up close. Surely he’s aware that the sun shines and the rain falls on the just and the unjust….

  34. It is easy to understand (even w/o a study) to assume Mormon missionaries would be doing significantly fewer risky behaviors than the average post-high school kids.

    The BIG one of course is alcohol & drugs. The vast majority of risk is introduced to young people when they start experimenting with drinking & drugs. The vast majority of people learn to control their drinking by overdoing it once and realize they have to be a bit more careful. Compare that to a 19 year old Elder that is concerned they may be out past their curfew by 5 minutes and considers that a huge problem.

    Then there are many other minor items to consider. My scout training clearly states that swimming is a huge risk and as a leader I need to not be casual about it. They also are much less likely to have their last words be, “hold my beer, watch this” & attempt to impress some girl.

    It would be shocking if after reducing all these risks that the rate of death of missionaries was not significantly low.

  35. I didn’t read any article in the Tribune. I got my information from the CDC and sites that talk about missionary deaths. Do you really think that safety training and mission management can reduce mortality by a factor of eight?

  36. Eliminating drugs and alcohol as factors does make a significant difference. Eliminating water activities only makes any difference if the missionaries are toddlers. Between the ages of five and 85, only two people out of 100,000 drown every year. But you are overlooking a number of factors that should increase mortality. Being out of the house and on public streets most of the day, often in places with higher crime than at home, often with poorer public sanitation, Exposure to foreign diseases, medical care of that is not as advanced as in the US, going into the homes of strangers, unfamiliarity with surroundings and lack of awareness of dangers unique to each country… There’s a long list of factors that should increase mortality, but rarely do.

  37. Do you always read the first link that comes up in a Google search? I didn’t click on that one because I could tell it was not what I was looking for. I was looking for a year-by-year total and farther below I found one article that lists every death back into the 1990s.

  38. Precisely. I googled religion effect on mortality and found two studies of the effect of religiosity on mortality broken down by affiliation, e.g. Jewish, mainline Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, etc.

    These studies indicated Jews and mainline Protestants had the lowest mortality compared to other branches and the general population. Example factors were deleterious behaviors (drug use), health habits (non-smokers), psychosocial support, and socioeconomic status.

    I suspect information circulating about the low mortality rates of Mormon missionaries is simply a reaction to a recent uptick in deaths as reported in the news. Perhaps the LDS church felt this would impact participation in mission programs.

  39. Read A Happy Hubby’s comment. He explains why you are wrong.

  40. According to wikipedia “In these attacks, 32 victims and three suicide bombers were killed, and over 300 people were injured.” So of the 332 innocent people injured or killed… roughly 90% were “only injured.” Falling into the 90% category, just doesn’t seem that statistically significant. Add to that others nearby who were not injured and the avoidance of death in this scenario just isn’t that remarkable.

  41. Actually yes, The top 5 causes of death for young adult males are Poisoning/overdose, suicide, motor vehicle accidents, homicide, other injuries. These 5 make up about 74% of all male young adult deaths.

    Mormon missionaries, due to both their commitment and the rigidity of the experience, almost uniformly do not participate in these activities apart from very restricted vehicle operation. Many missionaries never even use a car during their mission. There is a strict health questionnaire and exam process that weeds out almost all those with depression, anxiety, ADD, physical limitations, those who have demonstrated risk taking behaviors like premarital sex and drug/alcohol use. Finally, those who have not demonstrated complete adherance to the faith are all weeded out. The deck is stacked. That’s not a bad thing!

    But using those numbers out of context to prove a point about God’s intent? Yeah, at best it’s dishonest. At worst it’s a blatant attempt at emotional…

  42. This is a “squirrel” tangent, but my examples don’t even come close to covering my “entire family”. Did I mention I was Mormon? 🙂

    Christ said “Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you”. To not believe that God can and does answer prayers is to not believe Jesus as quoted in the NT.

    There seems to be 4 options here:
    1) Believe there is no God. Fair, but irrelevant to discussions of Mormon philosophy.
    2) Believe God does not answer anybody’s prayer. Fair, I suppose, but totally against what Jesus taught and experiences in the NT.
    3) Believe God answers every prayer of every righteous person the way they asked Him to answer it. Fair also, I suppose, but would also go against a key tenant of Mormon philosophy. We agreed to come here to see who would become when faced with adversity and uncertainty. Doesn’t work if God always saves us from said adversity.

  43. 4) Believe God does and can answer prayers, but doesn’t always do what we ask – even if we prayed and were righteous. This makes it so things seem unfair. But it also fits larger Mormon theology. (1) We have to face evil and decide what we will do and who we will be, but (2) God does and can exert his power at times so (and this can be constant struggle in itself) we maintain the hope there is something/someone better, we can make it through, things won’t always be this bad.

    Saying (as Elder Oaks does) that the moments God exerts His power corresponds to requests (prayers) of the righteous is saying no more than Jesus did. That doesn’t mean that any time we go through struggles (because we ALL do) it’s because we didn’t pray or were unrighteous.

  44. The problem with this kind of thinking is that it leads to the question of, “were they wicked?” if they had died. Of course, had those four missionaries perished, for the faithful it would have just been their time, or they would have been called to serve in the spirit realm, etc.

    So, on the one hand there is no reason to thing God didn’t spare these men, but on the other it’s presumptuous to think we fully understand God’s plan. Maybe these young men were not faithful, but were given a second chance to repent. Who are we to say? But yes, I do agree that using this as a part of the LDS sales pitch is a bit much.

  45. While serving a mission in Texas 35 years ago my companion and I were spared by divine intervention a horrific car accident during rush hour on the I-10 freeway. Ten years later my child was brutally raped and terrorized by a monster. I have a lifetime of personal experiences highlighting the contradiction of God intervening miraculously in one situation and then leaving me alone in another, leaving me on the highest of highs, dropping me to the lowest of lows. I find my comfort not in Elder Oaks, though I appreciate his remarks, but in Christ who is my Savior; His promises are sure and I trust that He will make things right, for those of us who are spared and those of us who are not, in the end.

  46. God does intervene. The why and when are great mysteries we will understand some day, but not now. Elder Oaks gave two examples appropriate for General Conference. There are many in and out of the Church who have experienced divine intervention. Elder Oaks never implied this was a blessing just for Latter-day Saints, but if we are seeking to be offended, we can take it that way. Many wonderful talks were give at conference. Why focus on the negative? I’ve certainly heard some things in conference I disagree with, but those thing aren’t the focus. I try to focus on the blessings of so much enlightenment.

  47. We just had a missionary die. I bet we dont hear any poorly thought out remarks on that one from Oaks.

  48. “Elder Oaks never implied this was a blessing just for Latter-day Saints”

    Huh? Did you read the article and Oak’s quote? He didn’t imply it, he stated it directly. That is the entire point of Jana’s article.

    “Why focus on the negative…”

    Yeah. The Bretheren are supposed to be living prophets providing continuing revelation and claiming to speak for the Lord. But whenever one says something bone-headed or offensive, all of a sudden it’s “why focus on the negative”, “he was speaking as a man”, or “not sure we teach that”. How convenient.

  49. Nobody focuses on the negative like those who are nitpicking over this issue. There was nothing bone-headed nor offensive about Elder Oaks’ remarks. The itchy trigger finger some of you have toward LDS leaders betrays a lot more about your own condition than their alleged motes. There are days one could make big business in the beam harvesting industry around here.

  50. Please give a quote from Elder Oaks’ talk where he stated just Latter-day Saints were given divine protection. All he did was give two examples. I come here (rarely) when I want bone-headed and offensive comments, not General Conference. There is something wrong when individuals are just waiting for something to offend them in conference. We all have our faults, but I felt what I heard in conference was inspired and wonderful. I just don’t understand the criticism.

  51. That was the reason for my comment in my first post: “The why and when are great mysteries we will understand some day, but not now.” There are some things we just don’t know. If one believes the world is just random and there is no God, then it is pure luck some survive such things and some don’t. If one believes in God, then there is a reason, but I freely admit I don’t understand.

  52. Or maybe God intervenes in *exactly* the same way for everybody, regardless of their religious beliefs, the faith they practice, or even whether they worship the Christian God. God doesn’t favor Mormons or anybody else. He loves and cares for *everyone* identically, since they are all His children.

  53. Lewis, when ever a leader sticks there foot in their mouth or the church is caught lying to folks, the default system goes to “there are things we don’t understand”. I don’t buy it.

  54. “I just don’t understand the criticism.”

    Lot of that going around, apparently.

  55. Sure, I raised an eyebrow when I heard Elder Oaks’ comment. (Of course, I smiled at his “loyal opposition” comment, satisfied that someone had the courage to call out the loudmouth members who clamor and moan about the Church and its policies.) Then I asked myself, “How is it that a person I believe to be an Apostle, can make such a statement? Could it be because that’s what he believes to be true?” And who am I to question the beliefs of the Lord’s Anointed?”

    Go ahead and murmur and mumble and let an Apostle’s statement of belief ruin your day.

    Ya know, maybe just in this case, and this case alone, maybe God DID protect these missionaries and that’s all there is to it. Maybe you’ll get a chance to ask HIM why someday.

  56. What??? I read the article and heard the talk.

    Where does Elder Oaks say divine intervention is a blessing just for Latter-day Saints? You say he said it directly. I would like to see where you think it was even implied. It wasn’t.

    He gave examples of well-known Mormon experiences to a group of Mormons. Saying that means (directly or implicitly) only Mormons have those experiences is like saying when I teach my kids a lesson and use personal examples from myself or other family members, I must be saying only our family has learned those lessons. It means nothing of the kind.

  57. OK. So you and Elder Oaks believe that when God intervenes, He intervenes in the same and loves everybody the same. Because He created us all, He loves us all the same, regardless of what religion we practice, or even if we practice no religion at all. As any parent, He requires nothing of us in return for His love. Sure. Then we’re on the same page.

  58. Is there an Elder Oaks vs Elder Holland double-standard?

    When Oaks says God can ease burdens, strengthen us, answer prayers, and blunt the effects of catastrophe, he is on a “slippery theological slope” despite abundant scriptural support.

    When Holland says the Lord “blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them, who cherish Christlike virtues and strive to the best of their ability to acquire them,” his remarks are “a blend of deep theology and light humor: pitch perfect.”

    Is Holland not on the hook to explain how bad things can happen to those who do all these things? Does Holland’s “pocket deity” not care about those who don’t?

    Is there a certain predisposition to project displeasure over Oaks’ comments on other matters to anything else he says, because he usually speaks in bold black & white terms, whereas Holland enjoys inherent grace for anything he says, perhaps because he is more prone to speak with tender emotion?

  59. “Is there a certain predisposition…”

    There’s no predisposition or double standard, at least for this article. Read the title. This article specifically objects to what Oaks said about a Fiji cyclone and Mormon missionaries in Belgium. It’s about specific content, not the manner of expression.

  60. When the brethren speak, members are quick to attribute their words to some wonderful inspiration of the Spirit and say take it up with God. The problem is these men have made callous, incorrect, remarks so often it would fill up a book.I do not see this statement by oaks as coming from God but from Oaks himself based on his own prejudices and viewpoint. He sees everything filtered through that and as a result he might really think God protected these missionaries and not the other people in the airport because they are not part of our small click. Where is he on the newest missionary tragedy?

  61. So… No, you can’t show where he said it directly. Or even implied it.

    No, I don’t believe God intervenes the same for everybody. My earlier comments (comments you already responded to) make it obvious I don’t hold that view. That’s not the same as saying God favors Mormons over anyone else because Elder Oaks brought up instances where he felt God intervened in Mormons’ behalf. You are conflating the two, acting like they mean the same thing. Elder Oaks didn’t conflate the two (explicitly or implicitly) and neither did I.

    You apparently believe that God has to do the same thing for everyone if He loves everyone. Fine, believe that. But don’t project that belief onto Elder Oaks’ words and say “he must have meant” something he didn’t either say or imply.

  62. Mmm, I’m going to jump in a moment. Yes, I think Oaks does imply such an exclusivity, even if unintended. He cites instances involving only Mormons or their chattel to a (nearly) exclusively Mormon audience. He needn’t have. Mormons in general are open enough to understand good things happen to all. For instance, he could have referred to the person I read about who said he had a feeling he should get out of the room and thereby escaped unharmed. There was no suggestion in this news article that the person was LDS. Oaks is a highly educated, accomplished lawyer and jurist. I assume all of his remarks are carefully pondered and hold him to the effect they provide. Either that or he was just too lazy to go beyond Deseret News for his examples. Ballard comes across a bit more unrefined. Otherwise, the so-called apostles are literate and well-spoken and should not get a pass for unintended interpretations. Nor should the Church. Especially when it has Kirton McConkie to vet.

  63. Danny S,

    Elder Oaks cites only two modern examples. It’s not like he gave “the top 100 moments God intervened for the righteous” and they all involved Mormons.

    One example was regarding a temple, a place Mormons consider extremely sacred, where rites have eternal effect. It should therefore be decidedly uncontroversial that this example was used in a Mormon meeting.

    The example regarding missionaries in Brussels can obviously be construed to be more controversial. But also consider Elder Oaks had just visited at least one of the missionaries involved, possibly personally felt the Lord’s protection over this missionary, and it therefore would have been fresh on his mind.

    You call his examples lazy. But perhaps he rightly understood that his time was better spent other places than throwing out wonderfully pertinent examples so people who call sacred temples “chattel” couldn’t gin up anything to be offended about.

  64. @San Antonio

    Reading Elder Oaks words, I, Jana Riess, and other posters here are are very clear that Oaks says God favors Mormons using two examples mentioned in the article title. That favoritism is the subject of the article.

    You, on the other hand, just sound confused. You don’t seem to understand what Oaks said, when it’s written there plain as day and when Jana and others have explained it to you.

  65. So when you have nothing to support your argument, you attempt digs at my intellect. As you did with my faithfulness and family above. Thank you. I believe I better understand the “logic” and motivation behind your (mis)characterization of Elder Oaks’ words.

  66. SanAntonio,
    Do not flatter yourself or the church that I devote enough energy to be offended by Oaks. For the most part I’m bemused by the near continual foot-shooting of these guys. Aren’t they supposed to be inspired? Actually, I had just finished a consultation, was sipping my Glenlivet, listening to Molly Hatchet, and pondering my golf swing when I thought to check out events on Jana’s post. I too used to consider sacred the McMansions you call temples. At one time, I knew the masonic, errr, temple ritual by heart. I also thought knowing secret handshakes, wearing baker’s hats and green aprons, was the only way into the presence of a cosmic accountant who tallies whether or not Billy touched himself that day. I worshiped a being who helps Mormons find their keys but won’t lift a hand to prevent child molestation. But one day I could no longer maintain cognitive dissonance. Instead I chose to believe my lyin’ eyes.

  67. And with that comment, any sense you are interpreting Elder Oaks’ words objectively is obliterated. In the interest of fairness, I cede the thread to you without further input.

  68. “So terrorism and physical disasters can be averted for righteous Mormons who pray, but not for other people?”

    “not for other people” is an unkind and unreasonable extrapolation from the original.

  69. Perhaps it’s worth extending the logic of “theological slippery slope” to claims of any positive divine intervention, and not merely in terms of protection (“blunted” or otherwise) from adversity.

  70. Jana says, “But to suggest that the Lord will ‘blunt the effects’ of evil acts for Latter-day Saints and not for others is a slippery theological slope.”

    Elder Oaks made no such statement, no such suggestion, and no such implication. This whole article is criticizing something Jana simply implied incorrectly. She put words in someone’s mouth and then argues against those words. Straw man?

    Elder Oaks says, “God rarely infringes on the agency of any of His children by intervening…but He does answer our prayers to turn them aside.”

    I read that as meaning that sometimes God intervenes based on our prayers. That does not mean he ALWAYS intervenes. (I think much, much, much of what happens on Earth is pretty random.) It does not mean He only intervenes for Mormons (Oaks used 2 examples about Mormons–the primary group he is addressing–but we all know “His children” means everyone). It does not mean He only intervenes if we pray, etc. It just means that God can and does intervene sometimes as an answer to prayers. Only He knows when and why for all cases.

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