A Consequence of Overstating Authority

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints needs fewer Inspector Javerts
and more Jean Valjeans, as well as more Bishop Monseigneur Bienvenus.


There is a common teaching in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that its leaders are anointed representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here are a few examples:

Teachings of David O. McKay

“The priesthood is the power and authority to represent God. Whenever the priesthood is delegated to man, it is conferred upon him not as a personal distinction, although it becomes such as he honors it, but as authority to represent Deity and an obligation to assist the Lord in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”


“How grateful we are for restored priesthood keys that give us the power and the authority to represent the Lord in blessing His children across the earth,” said Elder Gerrit W. Gong


See: Elder Rasband, “Standing with the Leaders of the Church

These are reassuring quotes as long as the leader is compassionate and empathetic. But the same teachings are devastating when the leader exercises “unrighteous dominion” over members. The recipient will then conclude that the Lord himself is angry and abusive toward him or her. The leader’s harsh words then become a wedge that separates the member from the Lord. Members are expected to obey and sustain the leaders absolutely regardless.

“In no case are we to be guilty of any form of abuse or unrighteous dominion or immoral coercion — physical, emotional, ecclesiastical or any other kind.” -Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: ‘Not as the World Giveth,’ April 2021 General Conference

Priesthood leaders take the name of the Lord in vain when they condemn members out of the leaders’ own frustration.

I have learned this by repetitive, traumatic experiences. One General Authority angrily told me that I am destined for eternal punishment after I called him to explain how hurt I had been the first time he exercised dominion over me.

The lesson that I have learned is that I need to have my own relationship with Jesus Christ and follow the Holy Spirit directly. I can set and maintain healthy boundaries in regard to relationships with overbearing leaders. I can control my reaction to unrighteous dominion, past, present and future.

Walking the covenant path does not require subjecting oneself to abusive behavior or a toxic church environment.

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.
2 Nephi 9:41

Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. 2 Nephi 28:3

I express gratitude to my priesthood leaders who indirectly taught me than I must not put my trust in man. We have the power to reconceptualize our traumatic experiences.

See also:
Fear & Reconciliation
Asperger’s Related Trauma in the LDS Church

Command Responsibility

Tom Irvine

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