Although the member had failed to sustain his leaders, Brother Corbitt counseled with him about the impropriety of his method and help him understand prophetic principles. Church leaders also continued to help the brother financially support his family and regain employment.
“We recognized who he really was, overlooked his lapse in judgment and taught him,” Brother Corbitt said.
Brother Corbitt, who now serves as first counselor in the Young Men general presidency, related the experience to Church-endorsed chaplains in early October as an example of what he called activism or advocacy against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He titled his remarks, “Activism vs. Discipleship, Protecting the Valiant.”
“I would like to address an especially effective tactic Satan is using to blind and mislead the young, those transitioning from other religious traditions and cultures, and even longtime and lifetime members of the Lord’s restored Church,” Brother Corbitt said.
“In my humble view, it is one of the great mists of darkness of our time. I speak of our enemy’s effort to transform disciples of Jesus Christ into activists toward or against the Lord’s Church and its leaders.”
Activism vs. discipleship
Brother Corbitt defined activism as “the policy or action of using [campaigning or] vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue.”
Does this mean activism and advocacy are bad? Not at all, he said.
Brother Corbitt cited several examples from American history, from the Boston Tea Party to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution’s Bill of Rights and the civil rights movement.
“The United States was founded on and through activism and advocacy by activists,” and “you and I are beneficiaries of this activism,” Brother Corbitt said.
“But activism or advocacy directed toward or against the Church is a secular, worldly device misapplied in a spiritual, otherworldly context,” he said. “Change in the kingdom of God is not accomplished in the same way as change is in, say, government.”
Brother Corbitt continued: “When activism or advocacy is directed at the kingdom of God on earth or its leaders, especially prophets and apostles, it is the wrong tool for the wrong job in the wrong place. Why? Because it effectively but subtly undermines the doctrine of Christ, which is God’s plan for changing, saving and exalting His children.”
Adversary’s three-step maneuver
Brother Corbitt described the adversary’s three-step strategy for this entrapment, which he said is “genius in its simplicity and effectiveness.”
- “Focus the rising generation and the valiant generally away from the doctrine of Christ and onto real or imagined unfairness or injustice in the Lord’s Church and the imperfections of its leaders.
- “Use this shift in focus to stir up feelings of disillusionment, annoyance, resentment, anger and hatred toward Church policies, declarations, proclamations, principles, doctrines and eventually leaders.
- “Manipulate these negative impulses to instigate the use of worldly or secular activism or advocacy rather than the doctrine of Christ to effect change in the kingdom of God.”
Three thoughts on activism toward the Church
Brother Corbitt offered three thoughts for recognizing and avoiding activism against the Church and its leaders.
First, be sensitive to the more vulnerable of this deception.
Latter-day Saints of all ages, experiences and backgrounds, including those coming from different faith traditions, may not yet understand the doctrine of Christ or its importance.
“They will likely only know and trust the telestial tools they have seen used in the world,” Brother Corbitt said. “We will have to help them see why the doctrine of Christ should have priority over all other causes, why it should always govern our methods and manners and why it is our only real hope to accomplish any righteous change or cause.”
Second, recognize that valiant spirits can sometimes be misguided and need patient guidance.
In the Book of Mormon, Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah allowed Satan to misdirect their actions before they were converted and engaged in gathering Israel.
“Among the many important lessons I take from the Book of Mormon is the principle that we cannot always judge others’ premortal righteousness by their current state of confusion or even rebellion,” Brother Corbitt said. “This story of redemption of the errant valiant makes the Prophet’s call to today’s rising generation to help gather Israel more timely and urgent. The same is true of His teaching them of their true identities.”
Third, the enemy uses activism towards the Church to cleverly and effectively undermine the doctrine of Christ, especially faith in Him.
Activism toward the Church, which Brother Corbitt abbreviated as “ATC,” weakens faith and trust in God. Its pattern is to undermine faith in Church leaders, Brother Corbitt said.
“This distrust is the very opposite of the faith the Lord requires of His covenant people in Himself, His prophets and apostles, and those they direct,” he said.
ATC tends to focus on leaders’ imperfections and opposes their testimonies by undermining their credibility in the eyes of followers.
“Masquerading as a higher and nobler cause, ATC instigates distrust of these leaders,” he said. “By seemingly customizing this deceptive approach to the valiant, he (the adversary) cleverly diminishes their real power (faith) and robs them of their true mission (the gathering). He effectively turns the gatherers into scatterers.”
Brother Corbitt said ATC focuses on leaders’ human weakness rather than their strengths and mantles. “In doing so, it subtly gives permission and justification for murmuring, backbiting and evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed, all deceptively cloaked as principled,” he said.
ATC can also deceive new converts who may be more used to religious traditions where leaders are hired or fired by their local congregations. Some will be more accustomed to religious leaders who avoid controversial topics.
Brother Corbitt also counseled to beware of catchphrases that somehow preserve a sense of religious sincerity to influence others, such as “I don’t follow the Brethren, I follow Jesus Christ,” or “I am holding the Brethren accountable to do what’s right.”
“These dangerous claims are as counter to Jesus’ own teachings as they are confused,” Brother Corbitt said. “By contrast, discipleship of Jesus Christ builds and expresses ‘confidence, faith and prayer’ on behalf of Church leaders.”
“Please do not misunderstand. I am not at all saying ATC’s causes are not important or good or often pursued in good faith,” he said. “A light bulb must be changed to avoid darkness and restore light. My simple point is a hammer is not the right tool for that job. All needed and appropriate changes in the kingdom of God are God’s work to bring to pass.”
How to recognize ‘ATC’
Brother Corbitt taught that ATC “effectively gaslights” Church members who engage in it, “not in the sense that it manipulates them to question their own sanity, but in that it narrows minds, enlarges beams and blind spots, and invites judgmentalism all at once.”
“Whereas discipleship says, ‘Lord is it I?’ or ‘Help thou mine unbelief,’ ATC rarely seeks to humbly understand others’ perspectives or experience or to meekly introspect,” Brother Corbitt said.
Here are some other ways to recognize activism toward the Church:
- “ATC looks backward with an eye of judgment and condemns or looks sideways with an eye of scorn and finds fault.”
- “ATC sits on the trash heap of disappointing history recycling others’ real or imagined sins and shortcomings.”
- “It also finds fault with current attempts to regulate the affairs of the Church, chaining everyone involved to the past or present.”
- “ATC generally ignores Church leaders’ positive features and accomplishments.”
- “By nature, ATC will always drive its followers to find other issues.”
- “ATC ... cleverly plays on cultural identities and seeks to elevate them above all else in the minds and hearts of its followers. It substitutes culturally familiar voices for divine ones. ... You and I must help those to whom we minister avoid allowing their social identities to consume them.”
- “ATC dismisses prophetic priorities.”
- “ATC is like thrashing in quicksand. ... Its methods sink the souls and the faith of its followers because, again, this approach undermines the doctrine of Christ.”
- ATC not only fosters contention but justifies it as noble.
Questions to consider
Brother Corbitt encouraged those in the audience to help those they serve to see that “ATC is the world’s approach, not the light of the world or a city on a hill.”
“In my view, ATC is one of the most masterful deceptions of our time,” he said. “ATC is eerily similar to the premortal rebellion against God’s plan.”
Brother Corbitt encouraged members to counsel with their local leaders, “humbly and lovingly expressing concerns, sharing observations, even lodging formal complaints.”
He offered the following questions to help “valiant friends” know whether to pursue a cause:
- Does it promote the doctrine of Christ in our lives?
- Does it build faith in Christ, His Atonement, His gospel and His promises?
- Does it lead others to trust God and be confident in the teachings and leadership of His servants?
- Is it faultfinding or critical of Church leaders?
- Does it generate feelings of love for all others or some form of anger?
- Does it foster harmony in Christ among all God’s children or does it tend to divide?
- Does it seem more geared to advancing a narrative rather than the cause of Christ?
- In some cases, there is need to warn and urge change; does it do so consistent with gospel principles and methods or does it tend to rely on worldly wisdom or secular sayings and approaches?
- Is it contentious or does it introduce peace, unity and healing?
- Does it advance prophetic priorities?
“May we all be effective and divinely guided in helping the rising generation and all our members use the higher, holier methods — especially faith in Christ — that the Lord, Himself, prescribed for changing hearts, minds and behavior, and to build a unified people,” Brother Corbitt said.