Judge speaks to BYU audience about faith crises

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A federal judge visited BYU to speak to students on navigating through their personal faith crises.

Thomas B. Griffith, a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, came to BYU Oct. 31. He is part of the Temple and Observatory Group, a community of Latter-day Saints that holds conferences to help those questioning their faith. Griffith is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has served as a stake president at BYU and also as a bishop.

Federal judge Thomas B. Griffith speaks passionately about responding to crises of faith. Photo by Sarah Hill.
Federal judge Thomas B. Griffith speaks about responding to crises of faith. (Photo by Sarah Hill)

Griffith said some members of the Church leave when they realize the mistakes of past and present leaders.

“I speak of those whose faith is flagging or has been lost because they have realized that Church leaders, past and present, are not infallible in their teaching, nor perfect in their discipleship,” Griffith said.

He referenced talks that discuss the issue of prophetic infallibility by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, talks by prophets in the 20th century and the scriptures.

“The gospel of Luke records a heated quarrel among the Twelve at the last supper, of all places, over who was the greatest disciple, of all things,” Griffith said.

Griffith said there is danger in teaching that Church leaders are perfect. He argued that the reality of imperfect leaders can build more faith than the idea of prophetic infallibility.

“Ironically, the truth about how the Lord works with and through imperfect servants is far more inspiring than the story we sometimes tell. The real story is very encouraging because it tells us in bold letters … that despite our personal weaknesses the Lord will work with us and through us,” Griffith said.

At the end of the speech, he took time to respond to questions from students and faculty, most of which involved how to handle the imperfection of Church leaders. Griffith left the audience with a feeling of inspiration and reality.

“No one in Nauvoo thought Joseph (Smith) was perfect, not a single person. They would have felt most uncomfortable with it,” Griffith said.

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