Gordon B. Hinckley, April 2003 General Conference:

Now may I say a word concerning loyalty to the Church.

We see much indifference. There are those who say, “The Church won’t dictate to me how to think about this, that, or the other, or how to live my life.”

No, I reply, the Church will not dictate to any man how he should think or what he should do. The Church will point out the way and invite every member to live the gospel and enjoy the blessings that come of such living. The Church will not dictate to any man, but it will counsel, it will persuade, it will urge, and it will expect loyalty from those who profess membership therein.

When I was a university student, I said to my father on one occasion that I felt the General Authorities had overstepped their prerogatives when they advocated a certain thing. He was a very wise and good man. He said, “The President of the Church has instructed us, and I sustain him as prophet, seer, and revelator and intend to follow his counsel.” In 1933, there was a movement in the United States to overturn the law which prohibited commerce in alcoholic beverages. When it came to a vote, Utah was the deciding state.


I was on a mission, working in London, England, when I read the newspaper headlines that screamed, “Utah Kills Prohibition.” President Heber J. Grant, then President of this Church, had pleaded with our people against voting to nullify Prohibition. It broke his heart when so many members of the Church in this state disregarded his counsel. On this occasion I am not going to talk about the good or bad of Prohibition but rather of uncompromising loyalty to the Church.

How grateful, my brethren, I feel, how profoundly grateful for the tremendous faith of so many Latter-day Saints who, when facing a major decision on which the Church has taken a stand, align themselves with that position. And I am especially grateful to be able to say that among those who are loyal are men and women of achievement, of accomplishment, of education, of influence, of strength—highly intelligent and capable individuals.

What do you make of this, readers?

10 comments to Loyalty

  • I was a missionary in Brazil before the priesthood revelation, a part of Brazil where races had mixed for centuries. Yet we were told to do everything we could to avoid teaching to Brazilians with African ancestry. We would enter houses and "innocently" ask to look at family portraits. A wide nose meant a fast exit. I was loyal, obedient and quiet. I have no greater regret in my life. Never again will I be silent. I will not trade my heritage of free will for a mess of pottage. Whew!

  • There are many good things about being loyal. But in the end, I find greater happiness and purpose being loyal above all to myself (I don't mean self-serving, I just mean integrity-of-self seeking, rather than conformity-seeking)…

  • The personal battles of loyalty to the church, and specific practices, for me have always boiled down to whether or not I believe the prophet and the local leaders are chosen of God. If I have any doubt about this, it manifests itself in my hesitation to follow what they counsel.

    I think that's why President Hinckley said this in that same talk, to testify of his own intentions:
    "I make you a promise, my dear brethren, that while I am serving in my present responsibility I will never consent to nor advocate any policy, any program, any doctrine which will be otherwise than beneficial to the membership of this, the Lord's Church.

    This is His work. He established it. He has revealed its doctrine. He has outlined its practices. He created its government. It is His work and His kingdom, and He has said, "They who are not for me are against me" "

    I think if we have a firm belief that whatever is being required of us by the church is of God, whether or not we completely understand, then being loyal should be very simple.

    If we can't seem to find a confirmation of the rightness of the requirement, then maybe Pres. Hinckley was saying being loyal is a virtue unto itself, and that loyalty is the test of your faith until the confirmation comes- or the policy is changed to your liking (but i wouldn't count on that)

  • David – go, and sin no more. Thanks for sharing. You've highlighted the difficult situation that can result when loyalty requires you to compromise elsewhere in your life.

    Simplysarah – Pres. Hinckley might agree with you. The majority of his address (the part that I didn't quote) was centered around having integrity and being loyal to ourselves. That's part of why this section stood out to me.

    Jacki – thanks for quoting that portion of the address. I believe him entirely. I am thoroughly convinced that church leadership feels inspired and guided – and that they do only things that will be beneficial for the church.

    It makes sense that if someone doubts the leaders prophetic claims, then they will doubt the inspiration behind the counsel. But is the opposite always true? Can one wholly believe the prophetic claims of the leaders while doubting specific requirements? Is it fair to characterize someone who disagrees with a specific counsel or policy as 'unfaithful?' We know that the leaders of the church are sinners and that they make mistakes – is Hinckley encouraging us to do everything they say anyway in the name of loyalty?

  • In most cases I think that following the counsel of the leaders of the church is a lot more complicated then "doing" or "not doing" something. We all make choices about which counsel to focus on and how choose to follow that counsel. The current leaders of the church (as well as leaders throughout time) have different personalities and opinions about things and counsel us in slightly different ways. Likewise with most counsel, there is a variety of ways that you could actually put that counsel into pratice. I guess the best we can do is to make our best effort to follow the counsel and stay true to ourselves. I think a lot of problems arise when we start to think that the counsel is straight forward and there is only one way to interpret/practice it. That is when we can start to accuse other people of "not following the prophet."

  • Katie, I think you're right, most of the time. Some counsel is pretty open to interpretation and individual application, but other counsel isn't so much – and those tend to be the trickiest… The example President Hinckley cites is not so open to interpretation – you either voted for Prohibition or against it.. or you didn't vote. Those are the only three options

  • I've always thought that leaders, even GAs, don't really have such specific "stewardship" over members. Very personal things like voting, how many children to have, career choices, etc are between the members, their families, and God. Leaders can and do give general advice but specific mandates are inappropriate and not from God. IMO.

  • Rory

    I think a large part of the loyalty being referenced has to do with attitude. Obviously no one is perfect and even when Christ was teaching, his own apostles failed to follow his counsels at times. I feel like what determines your loyalty is not necessarily which counsel/commandment to follow, but your reasons for it. I think there is a big difference from someone who believes/knows the counsel comes from God, but for some reason slips up, and a person that has an attitude of just picking and choosing which things to follow, disregarding the rest without trying, and still professing membership.

  • Alex – I agree entirely. Thanks for commenting.

    Rory – I think you're right. But that puts someone in a pretty sticky situation if they are an active member of the church and one of the FP or Q12 gives counsel that someone fundamentally disagrees with.

  • Rory

    True, but then it goes back to what you believe. Are they really communicating with God or not? Christ preached a number of things that conflicted with people's fundamentals, based on the law of Moses. Just because it conflicts with our understanding or opinions doesn't mean that it's not true.