In Defense of Elder Callister

Yet again, a disciple of Christ has been bitterly attacked for speaking the truth about the Lord’s standards of morality. In recent days, I have read posts accusing Elder Callister and the Church of encouraging rape culture, and perpetuating hurtful stereotypes. As I have read Elder Callister’s remarks, I have strongly felt the confirmation of the Spirit that his words are inspired of God. In the posts condemning his talk/article, I have seen the same moral relativism and rejection of God’s standards that he strongly condemned. I felt prompted to write a post strongly supporting and defending Elder Callister’s words. I encourage everyone to read his words with an open mind and to ask God if his teachings are true.

First of all, Elder Callister began speaking of something that I am very familiar with, the power of precedent.  He compares the word of the prophets to a Supreme Court precedent which trump other cases. For some reason, people seem to have gotten worked up by this quote:

“So it is with God our Father—He needs to speak only once on the issue of morality, and that one declaration trumps all the opinions of the lower courts, whether uttered by psychologists, counselors, politicians, friends, parents, or would be moralists of the day.”

Some have suggested that Elder Callister urges members to simply ignore the teachings of psychologists and counselors. I found this argument to be demonstrably false and a clear red hearing. The church has clearly encouraged members to seek help from professionals when in serious need. Instead, what Elder Callister is suggesting is that their teachings and pronouncements must be interpreted in light of God’s divine teachings and truths.

For those of us who are legally trained, this concept is familiar. The Supreme Court rarely overturns its precedent and often takes pain to avoid overturning lower court cases. Thus, often one will see lower court cases construed or narrowed by the Supreme Court. Subsequent analysis will not ignore those cases, but instead consider them in light of Supreme Court pronouncements. The process Elder Callister suggests is quite similar. Teachings of professionals, friends and parents are very important and often God will speak through them to us. However, the gold standard is very simply the teachings of God through his Prophets and Apostles.

Having established that God’s standard is the gold standard, Elder Callister turned to explaining exactly what that Standard is.

“It is almost unbelievable to think that God has given to His children the power that is most prized and sacred to Him—the power to create life. Because God gave us this power, He, and He alone, has the right to prescribe how it should be used.

Contrary to much public sentiment, there is nothing negative or restraining about God’s moral standards. Rather, they are positive, uplifting, and liberating. They build relationships of trust, they enhance self­esteem, they foster a clear conscience, and they invite the Spirit of the Lord to bless individual and married lives. They are the proven standards for happy marriages and stable communities….

The procreative power is to be exercised in the marriage relationship for two key reasons: (1) to bind and strengthen ties between spouses and (2) to bring souls into the world. These uses have the blessing and endorsement of the Lord.”

I really loved that Elder Callister starts by focusing on the positive aspects of the Lord’s standard of sexuality. Sex in marriage is a beautiful and powerful gift. Currently, my wife and I are expecting our first daughter, and I am filled with awe at the fact that God has allowed us to bring one of his precious daughters into the world.

Having grown up outside of the church, I have really come to appreciate the Lord’s standard as liberating. As Elder Callister mentions, sexual chastity and purity is “positive, uplifting, and liberating.” It is uplifting and empowering to dedicate oneself to one’s spouse fully. Being fully dedicated to your spouse and to none other also increases self-esteem because it ensures that couples are not constantly wondering where they stack up in comparison to past love interests or relationships. I truly have a testimony that the Lord’s standard is meant to bless rather than suppress and harm.

The Lord’s standard is an ideal and of course, not everyone is aware of it and many will choose not to live according to it. Yet, as Elder Callister repeatedly mentions throughout his talk, sexual transgression is nevertheless one of the more serious acts of transgression.

“Sometimes people do not realize the seriousness of these transgressions or, in some cases, rationalize it away. Corianton did not seem to realize the seriousness of what he had done when he sinned with the harlot Isabel. Alma, his father, put it in perspective: “Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord?” (Alma 39:5)…

Alma taught, “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). We cannot break God’s moral laws with impunity and be happy because God, who created us, placed within our souls a moral compass known as our con­science. Anytime we violate God’s standard of morality, that conscience goes to work—it gnaws at us, it triggers feelings of guilt and remorse, and it acts as a divine witness testifying to the truth of that standard.

We may try to ignore it and we may try to suppress it, but we cannot escape it. God’s standard of morality cannot be dismissed; it cannot be diluted or compromised; it can only be obeyed or disobeyed. Eventually we either fight it or embrace it. Our choice will largely determine our happiness in life.”

            Even for those that do not know the Lord’s standard explicitly, the light of Christ within them tugs and gnaws. God’s standard is embedded into our hearts from birth, but over time and through experience we lose sight of that clear standard. We unfortunately live in a society that teaches so much contrary to God’s laws of sexual purity.

Yet, even if societies views of sex and sexuality change, we can not be deceived… For instance, in regard to Same Sex Attractions:

“Some would have us believe that the Church’s stand against same­gender physical relationships is a temporary policy and not an eternal doctrine. Such a belief would be at odds with the scriptures, with the words of modern prophets, and with the plan of salvation, all of which teach the necessity of eternal marriage between a man and a woman as a condition to exaltation. A same­gender relationship is inconsistent with God’s eternal pattern that husbands and wives not only have children in mortality but also have eternal increase in their exalted condition.”

God’s teachings on these topics will not always be popular and in vogue. Satan will seek to lead hearts astray and cause us to doubt.Unfortunately, Elder Callister notes that Satan is the master of temptation and seeks to lead us down the myriad paths towards sin:

“Now I share some danger signals that precede some of the sins I have mentioned. In some regards, Satan is like an octopus trying to capture us. If one tentacle does not work, he will try another and another until he finds one that takes hold. Following are some of the tentacles of the evil one designed to cause us to break God’s standard of morality.”

The image of the Octopus is apt and even though some have criticized it as overly frightening, I think it is a very true description of the tempter and his multifarious efforts to lead us astray. This metaphor reminded me of the powerful image that Peter uses in the New Testament: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”

Satan is content if we commit sin, but he is also equally pleased if we become indifferent to the sin of others and fail to be lights unto the world. He is doubly successful when he causes faithful members of Christ’s Church to doubt the inspired teachings of the Prophet and Apostles.

In our society today, it is all the more important that we are vigilant to avoid the allure of temptation:

“At certain times and places, no matter how strong we are, we have less resistance. Some of the best of men and women in the worst of circumstances have fallen. It happened to King David as he watched Bathsheba at night­time, at first from a seemingly safe distance (see 2 Samuel 11:2–4). None of us should think we are too powerful or too immune to succumb. Secluded locations, late nights, and morally loose friends have incredible magnetic fields to draw us into Satan’s clutches.”

Thus, Elder Callister provides several suggestions such as being careful in the movies, TV Shows, and websites we view. He also speaks of modesty in what has become the most controversial part of the talk.

“Our dress affects not only our thoughts and actions but also the thoughts and actions of others. Accordingly, Paul the Apostle counseled “women [to] adorn themselves in modest apparel” (1 Timothy 2:9).

The dress of a woman has a powerful impact upon the minds and passions of men. If it is too low or too high or too tight, it may prompt improper thoughts, even in the mind of a young man who is striving to be pure.”

Some have suggested that Elder Callister is perpetuating rape culture by suggesting that women are responsible for the actions of men. This interpretation is a malicious falsehood and is completely inconsistent with the tone and tenor of Elder Callister’s message. Immediately afterwards, Elder Callister demolishes the notion that temptation provides a justification for illicit conduct.

“We cannot avoid seeing every improper billboard or immodestly dressed person, but we can drive out the improper thought once it arises. The sin is not in involuntarily see­ing something improper; the sin is in entertaining the thought once it comes. The scrip­tures tell us, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7)”

“In essence, our thoughts become the seeds of our actions. We do have the power within us to take control of our lives and our thoughts. Good and evil thoughts cannot coexist in our minds any more than light and dark can exist at the same time and in the same place. At some point we must decide which will be our invited guest.”

Elder Callister is calling both men and women to be responsible for their thoughts, deeds and conduct. We live in a world filled with smut and wickedness and we are called to be a light unto the world. We must life as examples in all that we do. That includes dress for both men and women. To suggest that certain outfits help perpetuate a sexual obsessed culture does nothing to take away responsibility for the men who then act on those temptations.

Elder Callister also goes to great lengths to demolish common rationalizations given for sexual sin. I found this one of the most powerful parts of the talk:

“Two oft­repeated rationalizations are used to support moral transgression. The first is “I loved her.” Satan is the great counterfeiter. He tries to palm off lust as love. There is a simple test to detect the difference. Love is motivated by self­control, obedience to God’s moral laws, respect for others, and unselfishness. On the other hand, lust is motivated by disobedience,  self­gratification, and lack of discipline.”

Finally, Elder Callister also offers hope for those who have committed sin. He promises that the power of the atonement is real. Nevertheless, he urges us to remain clean from sin and temptation. He also emphasizes again the incredible blessings that come from following this approach:

“To all honest souls who change their hearts and forsake their sins, He has promised, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).However, it is always better to remain clean than to sin and repent afterward. Why is that? Because certain adverse consequences of sin may remain even after repentance, such as disease or a child born out of wedlock or damage to our reputation. Our goal in life is not just to be clean but also to be perfect. The quest for perfection is accelerated when we are clean, but it is stymied when we are not.”

The blessings of living a clean and moral life are overwhelming. Such a life will bring self­ confidence and self­esteem. It will result in a clear conscience. It will make us eligible for a spouse of like purity and will make the expression of the procreative power in the marriage relationship sweeter and more rewarding because we have reserved it for the time the Lord Himself has endorsed.Because the Lord loves us immensely.”

As I read these words, I see a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although his words are being twisted and misconstrued, they are the teaching’s of our Heavenly Father and are consistently preached by those that I sustain as Prophets, Seers and Revelators. I have a witness of their truthfulness and am grateful to Elder Callister for his boldness and persistence.

8 thoughts on “In Defense of Elder Callister

  1. Amen. I think Elder Callister is in good company. I remember reading about Abinidi, Samuel the Laminite, several Old Testament prophets and the Savior who were persecuted for speaking the truth.

  2. I just posted a link to this post to my Facebook page and want to say thank you for taking the time to write an intelligent and articulate article that defends Elder Callister. My husband was a missionary when Elder Callister served as a Mission President in Canada and I can’t think of anyone who I respect more when it comes to a sound knowledge of Gospel Doctrine. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

  3. Pingback: Being my Brother’s Keeper (Modesty, Agency and the Power of our Example) | Symphonyofdissent

  4. Pingback: Rape Culture in the Ensign | Junior Ganymede

  5. Excellent article, thank you for your bold defense of Elder Callister. I have been completely surprised by the backlash to his talk, and the twisting and misconstruing of his words. Isaiah’s prophecy that good will be called evil and evil will be called good is truly coming to pass. Thanks for being a voice for good!

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