Gospel teachings - These are the eternal truths (e.g. the plan of salvation). These are immutable.This particular talk also resonated with my wife - and has been a topic of discussion between us throughout the years. Often when we hear someone say something that is just totally off the wall, we'll just look at each other and nod in recognition of a member teaching.
Church teachings - These reflect society and the times, such as policies. For example, when I first joined the church, women were not allowed to pray in sacrament meeting as it was considered a priesthood responsibility. This was a church teaching that has since changed.
Member teachings - These are the teachings that we need to be wary of. These are the personal opinions of people which may or may not be in harmony with gospel or church teachings. For example, I had a missionary companion who would tell investigators that they had to give up chocolate when we taught the word of wisdom.
I recently talked to my wife about my reluctance to go get my temple recommend renewed. I explained that there are a couple of questions I'm not sure I can answer to the satisfaction of our bishop and/or stake president. As we discussed this further, she related some of the things she heard in church while visiting our daughter in California and said that she thinks proposition 8 make a lot of people in the church go crazy and say a lot of stupid things. I countered asking about leaders saying some of these same things. She then said that she believes even general authorities can be guilty of member teachings.
I understand what she is saying. For example, Bruce R. McConkie has gone on record and admitted that some of the things he put in his book "Mormon Doctrine" are wrong.
My concern is: How are we supposed to know the difference? When a general authority speaks in an official capacity as a representative of the church, how are we supposed to discern if it's a gospel teaching, a church teaching, or a member teaching? Yeah, I know, pray - read the scriptures - go to church. But what if we've done all that and conclude a particular teaching is wrong - but others discern the same teaching as "thus sayeth the Lord ..."? Who's right? Who's wrong? Can we both be right (or wrong)?
For many in the church, when a general authority speaks, it is as if the Lord himself had spoken. And, once God has spoken it - through his earthly representatives - the time for thinking is past. The only course of action left is to follow and obey. To disagree with a general authority is akin to disagreeing with God! For someone to speak up in a church meeting and disagree with the words of a general authority would be considered apostasy and blasphemous.
Others in the queerosphere have commented on the talk Elder Bruce C. Hafen, of the Seventy, gave at the recent annual conference for Evergreen International. I read his talk, and, without going into detail, I don't agree with much of what he says. Am I supposed to just shake my head and tell myself that he is just giving his opinion - his member teaching - to an audience of like minded people? That's much easier said than done - especially knowing that others will read his same words and nod in agreement, believing that he is speaking the will of the Lord.
This is the crux of a problem that is festering within me. These are men whom I've always considered to be men of God - and whom I trusted and sustained without question. But now - I can't just accept everything they say at face value anymore. And, I keep having the nagging thought: if they are wrong about one thing - then what else are they wrong about?
I feel like a little kid who just found out Santa Clause isn't real - wondering if he can ever trust his parents in anything. Like that little kid, part of me still wants to believe. But he can't - not with these nagging doubts haunting him. Because learning the truth has caused other things to fall into place - things that he previously chose to ignore, but that he can ignore no longer.
I just wish I could help my wife better understand my feelings - as she believes I should just dismiss those things I disagree with as member teachings - and then go in for a temple recommend interview answering the same as I always have. But I can't do that - it would feel . . . dishonest.