Mormon Church Leader Accepts Roses; Apostle Decries Apostasy
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ In an extraordinary interlude during the Mormon Church’s general conference, a church leader accepted hundreds of white roses Saturday from Mormons concerned about recent ecclesiastical punishments.
The roses, bought with donations from church members throughout the world, were given by a coalition of church members in response to sanctions imposed on six Mormon scholars and feminists for abandoning the church’s teachings - four of whom were excommunicated.
Veteran church spokesman Don LeFevre said he had never seen or heard of such a demonstration held on church property and recognized by leadership.
″These roses symbolize our support both of the church and of the members who recently had disciplinary action taken against them,″ said Shirley Paxman of Provo.
″Therefore, in the spirit of peace, we make this appeal: let the fear and reprisals end.″
She added that ″God cherishes diversity, that he loves all his children, and that he does not seek to exclude any who love him from membership in his church.″
The roses were accepted by Presiding Bishop Robert D. Hales on behalf of the church and ″all of us concerned about our brothers and sisters ... the door is always open for them to come back in love and appreciation.″
The two-day semiannual conference is where church leaders traditionally outline the boundaries that safeguard Mormon orthodoxy.
Earlier, Apostle Neal A. Maxwell delivered a sermon on apostasy, or abandonment of faith, saying the early Christian church lost its purity through fragmentation and distortion following the death of Christ’s apostles.
Also at work was the ″Hellenization of Christianity,″ which sought, among other things, to apply reason to faith, he said. Mormons believe the gospel was restored when Joseph Smith founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints in 1830.
″Let us be wary about accommodating revealed theology to conventional wisdom,″ Maxwell said.
In an apparent reference to those disciplined, Maxwell paraphrased the Book of Mormon, which advised patience and faith for those who fall away from the church, but also said, ″We needed them not.″
″And so it should be with us,″ Maxwell said.
And Apostle Boyd K. Packer, considered by many dissidents to be the driving force behind the recent discipline, outlined the church’s view on the roles of men and women.
In May, Packer identified feminists, homosexuals and intellectuals as dangers faced by the Mormon Church.
Packer, who is fourth in line to assume the presidency in a strict tradition of apostolic succession, reiterated doctrines holding that men alone can hold the priesthood that governs the church at all levels.
Men are the providers and protectors of women, he said, while women have virtues and attributes that ″come naturally ... and are refined through marriage and motherhood.″
But, Packer said, ″a man who holds the priesthood does not have an advantage over a woman in qualifying for exaltation. The woman, by her very nature, is also co-creator with God and the primary nurturer of the children.″
Divine laws regarding such matters are eternal, Packer said.
″They are not based on social or political considerations,″ he said.