“Stop Complaining and Sustain Them All”

I served on my mission with one of the grandsons of emeritus Seventy Elder F. Enzio Busche, whose autohagiography has been on Mormon bookshelves for a few years. My wife and I recently completed reading it a chapter a week for FHE. Among the often incredible and always uplifting stories he tells is one about Sister Neuberg, an elderly German sister with unique spiritual gifts. The two became acquainted while Edler Busche was working in Salt Lake around 1983. He gives one vignette in which Sister Neuberg is bothered by something she heard from the church’s leadership:

One day, she was unsettled by a talk at general conference by one of the Brethren. I do not remember who it was, because I did not listen too closely to her complaints. Then she said to me, “Yes, I went to the Lord and complained about the talk and that brother, but,” she said, “the Lord told me, ‘They are all different, but they are all acceptable unto me, even the least among them is acceptable unto me.’” Then she said, “So what can I do? I have to live with that and stop complaining and sustain them all.” (Yearning for the Living God 189)

There have been some controversial, well-publicized, and much-discussed statements from church Ieadership as of late, and I hope to relate the above selection to TT’s post last year on inerrancy and criticizing church leaders. My own interest is not necessarily in Sister Neuberg’s proposed solution to “stop complaining and sustain them all,” but rather in the answer to her prayer: “They are all different, but they are all acceptable unto me.” No statement of consistency or unanimity. No insistence that the Brethren really do agree on everything or even that they are of equal merit. Rather it is a frank acknowledgement of dissonance and a blanket statement of support. It may be an actualization of TT’s ideal spiritual practice of silence, i.e. holding competing or hard sentiments from church leadership in tension with one another as part of an interpretive strategy. To me this declaration focuses not on the leader’s position at the head of the body, but on his position before the Lord. Emphasis is not on his vested authority or special placement but rather on whether the Lord “accepts” him or not. It looks like a clemency to church leaders in spite of their disunity and imperfection.

11 Replies to ““Stop Complaining and Sustain Them All””

  1. My 0.02: I have complained in prayer against non-leaders as well as leaders, and I get the same kind of response for everyone. I should not complain, and work on my own things. Maybe the Lord would stick up for me too, if others complained about me.

  2. I sustain them all, not because I agree or even feel I need to agree with them, but because I think they are trying to do the good work. I respect and appreciate them. This informs my view of dissent within the church. I obviously dissent on many matters, but I feel no antagonism towards these men.

  3. I also think the idea of them being different seemed more the case in earlier generations. I would have loved to witness the open, though friendly, disagreements about the League of Nations or the New Deal.

  4. Busche’s book is amazing and in many ways daring. I love it that he isn’t afraid to share deeply spiritual and miraculous experiences in the name of “keeping sacred things private.”

  5. Why can’t we both “support” *and* disagree with the leaders of the Church? “Support” should have a range of meanings beyond “blindly agree with”. With Chris H. I sustain the Church leaders because I think that they are virtually without an exception sincere men and women trying their best to live their religion and serve others. Will I still be happy when God decides not to let Packer become prophet? Sure.

    I still wish that there were more of a way to get our views to the Church leaders. I just watched Margaret Toscano’s interview on MormonStories.org and I loved her parallel of parents and children. The members of the Church cannot run the entire church any more than children can run the family.

    At the same time, it is only the most despotic of parents who never listens to the feedback and feelings of their children. In the same way there should be more ways for members to communicate with the upper levels of hierarchy rather than just sloughing them off to local leaders

  6. I appreciated the initial intent of this post – no, our church leaders (local or general) aren’t perfect. I believe that most if not all of them are sincerely trying to do what’s right. That alone is not very spiritually satisfying, as I believe, the vast majority of spiritual leaders of other faiths are also sincere people trying to do the right thing. Our church claims something different that is significant – priesthood authority with accompanying revelation. That power passes through human means, but it is divine.

    To that last comment from Enoch, I don’t want to come across as critical, but I’m not sure what you have in mind in terms of ‘communicating with the upper levels of hierarchy’. Perhaps President Monson should put his email on the church website and respond to emails about concerns regarding Elder Packer’s latest talk. Or maybe the church should figure out a way to poll church members on doctrinal issues to decide how we should really handle the matter of homosexuality in the church.

    I realize I’m pushing the issue here a bit, but I believe that the organization of the church is such that the ‘upper levels or the hierarchy’ do have very clear means for understanding the membership of the church. One, they go to the membership (i.e. regional, stake conferences) to speak to them but will generally listen to local leadership and have some (perhaps relatively limited) opportunities to speak with the general membership. Two, I would never discount the value of the revelation these men receive not just on theological ideas, but also about the individuals who make up this church.

    I don’t want to make assumptions about what you’re trying to say about, “sloughing…off to local leaders” so I’ll just say it’s wonderful the trust that the Lord places in so many of those who do their best to serve him.

  7. I think there are ways to stop complaining, be sustaining without agreeing with everything that is said. We don’t articulate or emphasize these ways often in general church conversations, but I believe these ways exist. 🙂

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