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Political Reaction to President Corbitt's Speech on Activism in the Church

President Ahmad Corbitt, the first counselor in the Young Men General Presidency, recently delivered a message to Latter-Day Saint chaplains about activism “towards or against” the Church.

He remarked that activism has brought about positive change throughout the world, saying, "I am a personal witness of significant changes of many kinds brought about by people of various backgrounds, all in the Lord’s way." However, he argues the activism that is needed in the world does not apply the same way to the Church.

In his speech, he notes that activism in the Church shifts people’s focus from the teachings of the Savior and the doctrine of Christ and that change in the Church does not happen in the same way that change in the world is initiated. He shares that activism against the Church is more hurtful than helpful for everyone involved and can "stir up feelings of disillusionment, annoyance, resentment, anger and hatred toward church policies, declarations, proclamations, principles, doctrines and eventually leaders." He says this is opposite to the faith that we, as members of the Church and Christians, should have.

He also qualifies this saying, "To be sure, righteous change is needed in our church. For example, members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have spoken out against prejudice in any form. The Savior organized His church in large part to effect positive change of many kinds in God’s children."

President Corbitt’s speech has drawn out many strong reactions from those who both agree with his message as well as those who found it to be controversial. The Salt Lake Tribune has released two critical articles in response to the message. One includes a list of instances where the author believes that activism within the Church brought about change, and the other also outlines instances of activism, as well as claims that change within the Church is not always brought about by the Church leaders, but by democratic methods as well.

Twitter account @SISTASinZION reacted to the speech with frustration when they reposted one of the articles from the Salt Lake Tribune, comparing activism to the Bible story of the woman with the issue of blood and stating that activism was necessary in order for her to be healed. Tweeters responded to their tweet passionately, most of them agreeing with the account. One tweeter replied, saying, “This is ridiculous! So we’re encouraged to be good citizens politically but not good citizens to push for change within our own culture. . .”

Another individual declared that the speech was “insidious”, and members of the Church will start “labeling activism as inherently bad. . .” Many of the unappreciative responses were along the same lines. Some accused the Church of being a cult, using this discouragement of activism as evidence of a cult-like mentality. Many people who disagreed with President Corbitt’s message noted that he is black, and claimed that if it weren’t for activism, he would not be serving in the position he is in right now.

Others responded to the message very warmly. Trent Toone, a journalist for The Church News and Desert News shared an article about the speech, remarking that President Corbitt’s message contained “powerful insight.” Many shared that they think the talk is very important and needed in today’s political and religious atmosphere. Others encouraged all members of the Church, but specifically any who might be questioning their faith, to listen to President Corbitt’s words.

In response to President Corbitt’s message, as well as the reactions to the dissenters, one tweeter shared the scripture Joshua 24:15, which says “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” The tweet goes on to imply that a person can be either a Saint or an Activist, not both.

Written by: Reagan Sumrall

Reporter at the Cougar Chronicle

The Cougar Chronicle is an independent student-run newspaper and is not affiliated with Brigham Young University or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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