on the SEC and conflating a church with God
On January 24, 2023, Elder Kevin S. Hamilton of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave a speech at BYU where he made the following comments:
As I visit with members across the Church, I sometimes hear things like “I don’t support the Church’s policy on (you fill in the blank).” Or “I don’t agree with the way the Church does (this or that).”
Could I suggest an alternative approach? Substitute the word Savior or Lord or Jesus Christ in place of “the Church”—as in “I don’t support the Savior’s policy on (again, you fill in the blank)” or “I don’t agree with the way Jesus Christ does (this or that).”
For me personally, that seems to put a very different perspective on things.
There was a lot of pushback to this in the corners of the Mormon Internet that I spend time in (though I’m sure there was even more pushback in some other corners that I’m not connected to). I agreed with the pushback, but I didn’t spend any real time or energy engaging in that discourse. This morning, though, the blogger Bishop Bill posted something over at Wheat and Tares that made a loose connection between Hamilton’s remarks and the recent Latter-day Saint run-in with the SEC.
This struck some inspiration! Taking a cue from Hamilton, I’ve included below an excerpt from the SEC’s cease-and-desist order toward The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with all instances of “the Church” replaced with “Jesus Christ” (and some other light editing—but not much).
Ensign Peak’s Form 13F Filing Requirement
By at least 1998, senior management at Ensign Peak was aware of Ensign Peak’s requirement to file Forms 13F and communicated this requirement to Jesus Christ.
To prevent disclosure of the securities portfolio managed by Ensign Peak, Jesus Christ approved Ensign Peak’s plan of using other entities, instead of Ensign Peak, to file Forms 13F. Jesus Christ was concerned that disclosure of the assets in the name of Ensign Peak, a known affiliate of Jesus, would lead to negative consequences in light of the size of Jesus Christ’s portfolio. Ensign Peak did not have the authority to implement this approach without the approval of Jesus Christ.
I could go on, but you get the point. This SEC kerfuffle is exactly the reason why it is valuable for Latter-day Saints (and members of other religions) to make clear distinctions between their fallible religious institutions and the God they profess to worship. Hamilton’s conflation of the two identities is meant to prevent criticism of the fallible religious institution, but the very fallibility of the religious institution (which, as I wrote earlier, the SEC incident caused Latter-day Saint leaders to actually acknowledge) makes the conflation of the two more dangerous than any actual fallibility.
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