Excerpt from Elder Oaks:
We have the concept of apostasy. It is grounds for Church discipline. It is far less frequently grounds for Church discipline than immoral behavior. I think if you had 100 Church excommunications, 98 of them would be for immoral behavior. Two of them, perhaps, or one of a hundred, would be for apostasy.
Apostasy, being rare, has to be carefully defined. We have three definitions of apostasy: one is open, public and repeated opposition to the Church or its leaders. Open, public, repeated opposition to the Church or its leaders — I’ll come back to that in a moment. A second one is to teach as doctrine something that is not Church doctrine after one has been advised by appropriate authority that that’s false doctrine. In other words, just teaching false doctrine is not apostasy, but [it is] teaching persistently after you’ve been warned. For example, if one were to teach that the Lord requires you to practice plural marriage in this day, it would be apostasy. And the third point would be to affiliate and belong to apostate sects, such as those that preach or practice polygamy.
So, we go back to the first cause of apostasy — open, public and repeated opposition to the Church and its leaders. That does not include searching for a middle ground. It doesn’t include worrying over a doctrine. It doesn’t include not believing a particular doctrine. None of those are apostasy. None of those are the basis of Church discipline. But when a person comes out publicly and opposes the Church, such as by saying, “I do not think anyone should follow the leaders of the Church in their missionary program, calling these young people to go out and preach the gospel,” or whatever the particular issue of the day. And when you go out and begin to “thump the tub” and try to gather opposition and organize opposition and pronounce and preach against the Church — that can be a basis for Church discipline.
And at different times in the Church different dangers have been identified. I’ve identified a few myself.
I thought that public misunderstandings and possibly public persecution as a result of the ban on the priesthood were a major problem. I used to worry about it, but I wasn’t a leader of the Church at that time. I remember worrying about it, but obviously we don’t worry about that anymore. Feminism is clearly a point of danger to the Church because it draws the daughters of God away from a perception — or it distorts perceptions — about things that are very important eternally — marriage and family and responsibilities to posterity and so on. It has some very favorable effects in encouraging people to maximize their service to mankind [and] to develop a talent. All of this I’ve had with my own daughters, of whom I have four, and I’ve felt the benefits of feminism. But also it has some troublesome aspects. If a person grows up saying, “Well I don’t want a family, I want a career,” that goes against eternal values — so I think there’s a danger there.
Now intellectualism is also perceived as a danger. I suppose it has been for at least a century. I read some history of some of the early confrontations with science — creation of the earth and so forth. In fact at Brigham Young University in some of its earliest years, [there] was [such a] manifestation. There’ll be other manifestations at different times. The life of the mind, which is a great, defining object of universities in our day, of which I’ve been the beneficiary in my own life, can be seen or practiced to be in flat-out opposition to the spiritual characteristics of one’s faith. Revelation stands in opposition to science in some aspects according to some understandings. So I think in any day the watchmen on the tower are going to say intellectualism is a danger to the Church. And it is at extreme points, and if people leave their faith behind and follow strictly where science leads them, that can be a pretty crooked path. ([The] science of today is different than the science of yesterday.) We encourage the life of the mind. We establish and support universities that encourage education. But we say to our young people: “Keep your faith. Do the things necessary to hear the promptings of the Spirit. If you’re getting too far off the line in the latest scientific theory or whatever, you will get a spiritual warning.” And I believe that.