The following is a transcript I typed of a speech Greg Prince made at a Mormon Stories conference in Washington D.C. in October 2011. I’ve broken it down into five segments: Evolution and Diversity of Mormon Thought, My Own Journey, What I Have Learned from My Journey, What My Generation of Mormon Thinkers Has Accomplished, and What Remains for You to Do. This is the third segment, which runs from about 40:00 to 44:00 in the audio podcast, in which Prince gives a summary of the “lessons learned” from his own faith journey.
What I Have Learned from My Journey
I’ll give summary statements here, for time will not allow elaboration.
- Church leaders are mortals with all the baggage that word carries. After reading the McKay biography, Senator Robert Bennett called me and told me of an encounter he had with President Harold B. Lee. Commenting on the withdrawal of a Church member because he got close to the workings of power, Lee said, “Doesn’t he realize that we are just human beings doing the best we can?”
- On a good day, Church leaders do marvelous things. But not all days are good. My Catholic secretary entered several thousand papers of the McKay Diaries into my computer in preparation for the biography. When she was finished, I asked her, “What do you think?” She replied, “President McKay is my hero.” “What else?” “Power corrupts.”
- When a business deal went south, Brigham Young said to his partner Edwin Woolley (the grandfather of Spencer Kimball), “I suppose you’ll apostatize now.” Woolley replied, “If this were your church, I would. But it’s mine as much as it is yours.” You’re paying for the pew, so use it.
- We must own our religion, not borrow it. But to own it requires different approaches for different people, for we are wired differently. Celebrate your differences and keep them in mind as you determine how best to own your religion. The day after Paul Dunn became a General Authority, Apostle Richard L. Evans walked into his new office and closed the door. He said, “I listened very carefully to your talk yesterday. You’re different. But don’t change. You’re going to find around here that they’ll try to get you to conform. But just remember: the Lord got you here.”
- If you really magnify your callings, you will take risks. Be bold, for trickle-up revelation has been the primary force that shaped the day-to-day church in which we live. Tracy Cannon, who for many years chaired the Church Music Committee, was the subject of a most unusual article in The Instructor, which was the Church’s magazine at the time for the Sunday Schools. It said, “In moments of discouragement when Tracy would think, ‘Oh, what’s the use?’ the impression would repeatedly come to him that he had died and was standing before the Lord answering for his lack of action to improve a situation. ‘I was following the policies set by those in authority,’ he said to the Lord. The same answer always came back to him. ‘But Tracy, you knew better.’
- Next, correlation, while started benignly by David McKay, morphed into a beast that choked off trickle-up revelation and imposed a monolith of belief and practice. The renaissance of Mormonism will follow the weakening of that beast, the loosening of its grip, and the subsequent encouragement of local flavor and individualized encounter.
- Next, if you wish to help shape the Church, you must remain in the herd. Juanita Brooks’s father told her that a preferred position was to be near the periphery but still in the herd, for that would allow her to steer it in a subtle yet strong fashion. She took his advice and remained. Sadly, Lester [Bush], Tony [Hutchinson], and countless others left, and the entire Church is the poorer for their departure.
- And lastly, the more thoroughly you own your Mormonism, the more able you will be to join with other traditions to work for the common good. President Monson, in his only press conference, said, “I think we should not be sequestered in a little cage. I think we have a responsibility to be active in the communities where we live—all Latter-day Saints—and to work cooperatively with other churches and other organizations. My objective there,” he said, “is that I think that it is important that we eliminate the weakness of one standing alone, and substitute for it the strength of people working together.”