The For the Strength of Youth booklet makes a good point about agency:
While you are free to choose your course of action, you are not free to choose the consequences. Whether for good or bad, consequences follow as a natural result of the choices you make.
There have been a couple of notable instances recently of Church leaders appearing to not believe in this connection between their own choices and consequences of those choices.
The first example I’m thinking of is when Church leaders have told us not to pray to Heavenly Mother. As quoted in the recently released gospel topics essay on Heavenly Mother, President Hinckley hastened to add that
The fact that we do not pray to our Mother in Heaven in no way belittles or denigrates her.
I think he’s entirely wrong here. Church leaders can choose the action–forbidding prayer to Heavenly Mother–but they can’t choose the outcome of that action–whether or not doing so belittles or denigrates her. We can have a Heavenly Mother who we refuse to pray to and who is therefore relegated to the status of an eternally submissive wife and a at best a minor player in celestial affairs. We can have a Heavenly Mother who we do pray to and who is therefore acknowledged as a full and equal partner of our Heavenly Father. What we can’t have is the action of refusing to pray and the consequence of not denigrating her. Not praying to her denigrates her.
The other example I’m thinking of is the recent change made to the Handbook to define gay marriage as apostasy. Church leaders appear to believe that this action is consistent with statements like the following (from the gospel topics essay titled “Same-Sex Attraction”):
The Church’s affirmation of marriage as being between a man and a woman “neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility toward gays and lesbians.”[source] On the contrary, many Church leaders have spoken clearly about the love and respect with which all people are to be treated.
Like with President Hinckley’s assertion about Heavenly Mother, I think this is false. The Church can gerrymander the Handbook to apply the harshest label it has available to people in gay marriages and therefore communicate hostility toward gay people. The Church can leave people in gay marriages alone and therefore not communicate hostility toward gay people. What the Church can’t do is gerrymander the Handbook to punish people in gay marriages and still not communicate hostility toward gay people. Gerrymandering the Handbook communicates hostility.
In both of these cases, I’m happy with the outcome that Church leaders are wishing they could get (not denigrating Heavenly Mother, not communicating hostility toward gay people), but I think I might actually prefer that they just own up to what they’re doing and admit that they’re okay with putting Heavenly Mother down and communicating animosity toward gay people. It’s frustrating to have them make these choices and then when people like me complain about the obvious consequences, to have other Church members defend their choices because Church leaders have asserted that the consequences don’t actually exist.