Two Degrees off Center: Have Ye Inquired of the Lawyers?

Two Degrees off Center” is a monthly blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience.  Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.

Glasses on Book

by Rich Keys

“Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my lawyers, it is the same.”

“For he that receiveth my lawyers receiveth me.”

“And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my lawyers whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place.”

There seems to be a lot of discussion recently regarding the role of lawyers in the prophet’s obtaining inspiration or revelation. Growing up, I was taught that the Q15 sat around the big table according to their seating chart, and the youngest in seniority would give his recommendation, then the next youngest, and so on until the most senior apostle would offer his suggestion. Then all eyes would be on the prophet, he would give his definitive answer, and that was it. End of discussion. The prophet had spoken.

But somewhere along the way, lawyers entered the picture. The prophet may have spoken, but then he added, “Run this by Corporate Counsel first.” Then the lawyers made all their margin notes, red-lined certain parts, and added their suggestions. Finally, it was again passed around the big table, and everyone initialed their approval. If the prophet didn’t sign off, he added his comments and back it went to the lawyers. Sooner or later, everyone signed off, and it was “thus saith the Lord.”

I admit I’m being a little flippant with my description of the procedure. I’m sure they take it much more seriously, and I’m not exactly sure how it works. But I’ve never read any account of Joseph Smith running any of his revelations or press releases by the lawyers first. He didn’t ask them to proofread and review his King Follett discourse before he gave it. But these days, things are a lot more complicated. It’s not just black or white anymore, although many would argue otherwise. There are hundreds of shades of gray between the black and the white, and apostles and prophets call in the lawyers to help sort it out.

Recently, the church issued a statement of its intent to retire all things Mormon and only refer to the church’s official name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Proper names such as the Book of Mormon are an exception. (I guess the musical’s name won’t change, either.) But the statement quoted President Nelson as saying, “We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will.” That means the revised style guide isn’t just for the media, but for us too. Some will see this as a “choose you this day” moment, when you decide who you’ll follow, and you’ll be judged by others for it (all in love, of course). The MoTabs are out. Now it’s just the Tabs. Lds.org may not be around much longer, and maybe we’ll have to live with thechurchofjesuschristoflatterdaysaintsandgays.org. With all the Mormon and LDS references woven throughout the church and in every nook and cranny of Zion, it’ll take an army of lawyers to get this done and the world on board before the Second Coming.

I should have sensed this coming a long time ago. When I was younger, every official church book and publication was copyrighted by Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That sounded a lot more like a business than a church, but at least it had the official name in it. Then one day, it suddenly changed to Intellectual Reserve, Inc. I didn’t have a clue who or what that was. No church name, not even a Mormon or LDS in it, and the “Inc.” made it even worse. There was no official announcement of an inspired change. It just happened. Obviously, the lawyers had their fingerprints all over that.

If this is creating a crisis of faith in you, just remember this is kind of like how Beethoven wrote his music. He’d write a symphony, then put it on the shelf for a few weeks, then look at it and make all kinds of changes, then put it back on the shelf again, then make more changes, until there were no more changes to make, and it was the masterpiece we hear today. The only difference is he did it all by himself. Today, he’d need a lawyer.

By the way, I hear the church has now asked us to refrain from using the term, “lawyers,” when discussing legal counsel in the church. In the latest style guide, the term is now “attorneys.” Effective immediately, use “attorneys for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” in the first reference, then “the church’s attorneys” in subsequent references.

They’re right: “Have ye inquired of the attorneys?” sounds much better.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.

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