Conservative Mormon Bloggers Under Scrutiny

RockWatermanOne of my greatest desires as a blogger is to help people of differing beliefs and political ideologies come together in a unified search for peace that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Thus I was delighted today to be able to express and expound upon those sentiments to Kristen Moulton of the Salt Lake Tribune, substituting for the vacationing Peggy Fletcher Stack.

Disciplined for Following a Prophet

The focus of the piece is that conservative Mormons, as well as progressives, are being called in and disciplined by their local leaders for their blogging activities. I don’t fall into that category, since I’m under no disciplinary restrictions, but because I’ve written much on the subject, I was honored to be asked my opinion. The piece was well done. My contribution was two small ideas.

Asking Questions is not the Same as Doubt

I’d like to elaborate on those ideas for a minute to illustrate an observation that is now becoming clearer to me each day as this drama unfolds, a drama which many people hope will blow over soon, and which the majority of the church outside Utah has very little idea even exists. First, the idea of asking questions seems to be misinterpreted by many conservatives as expressing doubt.

Some Think it Not Acceptable to Ask Questions

I can’t tell you how many of my conservative friends have written me privately, as well as on the blog, expressing grave concerns for the welfare of my soul. I know they love me. I know their concern is genuine. We’ve served together in past leadership positions or have worshiped in the same wards and stakes over the past fifty plus years I have been a member of the LDS Church.

Some Seem to be Afraid of Asking Questions

For some reason, it just strikes them wrong to ask a question that may or may not be answered in the official curriculum of the church. And if I dare to suggest the answers provided in the official material may not be exactly truthful, meaning they leave out parts of the story or the narrative is perhaps slightly embellished to make the church look better, why, I’m sowing seeds of doubt.

Church Encourages Us to Ask Hard Questions

Nothing could be further from the truth. I love to ask questions. It’s how I learn. It’s part of my nature. I ask questions, then I answer them. I’m confident I can find quotes from at least a half dozen General Authorities endorsing this manner of learning as being superior to simply reading the scriptures every day. We are to search the scriptures and be ready to defend church doctrines.

Elder Ballard Encouraged us to Be Active on Blogs

Second is the idea that blogging is somehow a rebellious activity in the church – something only progressive activists do. Neither idea is anywhere remotely close to the truth but I encounter both every day on this blog. Misunderstanding goes with the territory. I openly invite participation and encourage comments. I do not censor anything, no matter what kind of comment they leave – unless they are obvious trolls.

Trolls Should be Banned for Contention

I get trolls just like every other blogger. In case you don’t know, a troll is someone who will do everything they can to stir up contention. They will be personally abusive with ad hominem attacks and will purposefully misrepresent the facts. I suppose trolls have their place. They can sure get the conversation going, but they don’t contribute anything intellectually constructive.

Blogging Can and Does Make a Difference

I started my blog just before Elder Ballard invited all members of the church to be involved in the Internet conversations taking place with or without us. He said we could make a difference. He was right. I’ve seen that evidenced time after time as friendships are created, ideas are then discussed with passion, and conclusions are reached with agreement or a better sense of unity.

Open a Dialog, Have a Conversation, Let’s Talk

HannahWheelwrightDo all bloggers and their readers agree on the ideas expressed? Of course not, there are too many divergent views based on differing experiences in life. But just the fact we are having a dialog to discuss the doctrine, a policy or practice is constructive and allows us to exercise kindness in the way we respond to each other. It’s especially helpful if we pray before we write responses. I do.

Most LDS Leaders are Ideologically Conservative

Because many if not most of the local leaders in LDS congregations are conservative by nature, and usually very successful in business, law or medicine, they tend to be authoritative and, well, controlling to a degree. I hate to say it but it’s true. They seem to see it as their most important duty to make sure the meetings run smoothly, emotions are under control and all is peaceful.

Seems Not Okay to Ask Questions in Church Classes

While it is a commendable practice, I have to wonder how much ministering is done when the members feel it is NOT okay to bring up their questions in the classrooms. There seems to be an immense amount of pressure to project “all is well in Zion, yea, Zion prospereth” that nobody wants to get down to the raw nitty-gritty of problems they may be experiencing with doctrine.

Church History Narrative Not Always Accurate

It is especially manifest in discussions of church history. For the longest time, we have been spoon-fed the same standard narrative of “this is how it was” and there is no other interpretation. Unfortunately, there are some who know otherwise. They have done as the prophets have asked us to do and have discovered some things were not exactly as they have always been presented.

Bloggers are an Inquisitive, Questioning Bunch

This is common to both progressive activists and conservative bloggers. President Boyd K. Packer one time proclaimed that three of the greatest threats to the church are intellectuals, gays and feminists. I used to wonder why he would call such members threats. Why should we limit the participation and acceptance of members of our faith because they fall into these categories?

Should be Room for Everybody in This Church

What about John Dehlin’s argument that he is happy as a cultural Mormon and just wants to be left alone? What’s wrong with that? Isn’t there a place for him in this church? So what if he doesn’t believe a lot of the truth claims of the church. Must you believe everything the church teaches in order to be a member? Isn’t any other behavior a controlling and thus forbidden act?

Cultural Mormons Want a Place in the Church

In other words, why are we excommunicating members for what they believe, especially if they are NOT encouraging others to doubt or to leave the church? I have read or listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts from Mormon Stories and have not lost my belief or faith in Jesus Christ or the role this Church has to play in these Latter-days. Why are so many conservatives so fearful?

Excommunicated for Endorsing a New Book

But what really gets me upset is the way some conservative LDS leaders have forced their members to “shut up” and not share their appreciation for the words or writings of individuals who have helped them come closer to Christ. In particular, I am extremely disappointed that stake presidents have excommunicated members for simply telling their friends about a book.

Amen to the Priesthood of that Leader

Seriously. We’ll never hear the other side of the story, but when the excommunicant explains they were cast off for simply recommended a book and wanting to discuss it with friends, I say the leaders have abused their priesthood or worse, have lost it because they exercised control, compulsion, and unrighteous dominion. That is not the purpose of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

The Internet Changed Everything for Research

Now back to the story for some concluding thoughts. From Jan Shipps: “The fact they are going in both directions [against conservatives and progressives],” Shipps said, “makes me think the church is finally coming to grips with the fact the Internet is changing the situation.” Oh, how I hope that is true. I’ve made a living with the power of the Internet for the last twenty-five years.

Every Member Should be an Amateur Historian

I have watched it bring people together like nothing else ever has. One of the best uses of the Internet, in my opinion, is the sharing of gospel doctrine and newly discovered LDS historical evidence. The fact should be obvious to all by now our history has been whitewashed, covered-up or embellished, especially in the earliest 1820-1840 developments in some very key areas.

We Lost an Opportunity With the Death of Joseph

Here’s my concluding point. I love to research church history. It makes a difference in my faith. It helps me to understand what Joseph Smith was trying to do. He wanted to establish Zion much more than to simply start a new church. The Lord intended to perform a marvelous work and a wonder through him that simply did not get completed. He died before it could be brought about.

It’s Time to Prepare Ourselves Individually for Zion

Enough time has passed – four generations according to the scriptures – that we now have an opportunity to establish Zion again. But we must individually become a Zion people. We must come unto Christ, receive Him in this life. That’s the entire purpose of the temple, to receive the Savior and have Him confer the power of the priesthood upon us – both upon men and women.

Just Expressing my Thoughts – Don’t Crucify me

False doctrine, you say? Not from what I’ve read and not from what the scriptures teach. Yet every time I try to provide the evidence from our scriptures and our historical records I am lambasted for heresy. I know I don’t have all the answers yet. I wonder if anyone in this church understands what the Lord was trying to do through the Prophet Joseph Smith. What say ye?

Comments are Still Welcome – Trolls are Warned

New policy: Trolls and Haters are subject to banning. The policy against no ad-hominem attacks will be enforced. Your comments are welcome, but only if you can provide a sound and logical argument, devoid of contention. Passionate expression of opinion is allowed and concern for the welfare of others is always appreciated. But please, no knee-jerk “you’re a fool” crap anymore.

God bless and thanks for reading and sharing.

Update: I felt the church’s response was important enough to include a link in the post:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765655450/LDS-Church-responds-to-concerns-over-member-questions.html

Yet, members who leave comments or questions on blogs are still being called in and questioned by their bishops:

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58088940-78/church-bishop-leaders-mormons.html.csp

 

66 comments
Velska
Velska

Thanks for your thoughts. I've often wondered about the more knee-jerk conservative Mormons on the Blogosphere, and how they fit into the whole narrative of what's going on. Interesting. Personally, I'd like to allow all flowers to bloom, but anybody making a differing argument with me must be ready to go further than, "because I said so!" I'm very bad at accepting such instruction or argumentation. Furthermore, I'd like to think that a faithful member would still be able to study "liberal arts" or humanities. Anthropology, psychology, sociology all have a bad name as far as sciences go, but nevertheless, I cannot imagine a world without sociology or anthropology. It would be utterly boring, as fascinating as I do find physics, especially particle physics. Anyway, as I've said before, asking questions can be fraught with peril. Easy answers aren't always forthcoming, but we should accept that we don't know everything for certain. Just like we don't know exactly what kind of stuff Dark Matter is, doesn't mean that the rest of the physics isn't still true. After all, Curiosity Mars landing was engineered to perfection on autopilot three billion miles away. That means that we can prove empirically, by testing, a lot of Einstein's theories. All of them by now, except the "cosmological constant". :D Sorry, didn't mean to run off there. So, thanks again, and I can't say when I would've seen you teach false doctrine. You have been critical of some recent actions, just like I've been critical of BY's treatment of African-originated dark-skinned males in regards to priesthood. He never even claimed revelation, but rather appealed to "the false traditions of [his] fathers" that these people were somehow inferior. Thank God that this was finally sorted out, and not a day too soon. But many members still gripe about it. I hear it, I see it, and I see some leaders treat them in a rather shabby way. And I guess that is exactly the kind of questioning you've been talking about? ;) But I've made my peace with the fact that as human actors in the Church, we're always subject to our weaknesses, and how often have heard the prophets stressed that point.

Jared
Jared

So then-- the dilemma. We are to become one in heart and mind. I testify that the expedited route Is being a King Benjamin Saint. The power that comes from hearkening and not trifling with God's Word Through His holy servants. Chapter 4&5 results mosiah very much real today. Will we go through the trial of our faith and dispute not because we see not? I hope and pray so. Nothing grants greater peace and ties iuploose ends betterthen following this appro ch. I testify and bear personal witness of this...

Ken
Ken

Other than just expressing things that people seem to find uncomfortable I really don't give people reason.

tomirvine999
tomirvine999

I am trying to make sense of this complex situation. Here is my working theory based on anectdotal accounts. I am not saying whether this is accurate or inacccurate, just or unjust. Please correct me if I am wrong in any way. A GA or SCMC official identifies a member who needs to be disciplined for “apostasy.” The local SP is alerted. If the SP is lenient, he might receive “training” until he reaches the predetermined decision. But if the SP continues to be lenient, a strict SP is called in his place to make sure the “apostate” is disciplined. In this way, the LDS Church PR department can still claim the disciplinary decision was made by the “local leader” and not by LDS Church HQ.

Mark
Mark

I am constantly fascinated by the various feelings or the spirit portrayed by the words someone writes. For the most part one can come to a pretty accurate conclusion of the feelings someone has based upon a comment or paragraph written by the individual. How can two people write on a similar subject, with similar words, similar opinions and similar conclusions, yet the readers interpretation of the similar words can be polar opposites? I'm convinced that someone's writings contain a portion of the sentiment and spirit of the individual author. Asking questions is not a pass. Korihor asked questions. The argument isn't why can't members ask questions, the point is simply what is the spirit behind the asking of the questions? The Church can and must protect itself. Whether right or wrong, it will protect itself. Herein lies the ultimate question: Is the Church right or wrong and will I remain aligned with it or not? Certainly, a humble individual will ask himself, why would I criticize the vehicle that helped me take flight. The Church certainly teaches and brings people to a better knowledge of Christ. What the individual does thereafter determines the relationship they will have with Christ. Why would someone who has had significant spiritual experiences and who has been taught on high by the Lord, assume that those leading the Church don't know or understand as much, simply because they don't speak of it. That is such an arrogant assumption, taking the gifts of the Lord has shared and using the new found knowledge to judge unrighteously. Even if your assumption was accurate and you knew more than others, then you'd certainly understand that the Lord loves His children and accepts and cherishes even the least offering made by them. Who are we to critically say it's not enough?

Ken
Ken

I am new to this discussion but I tend to question lots of things, both about the Gospel, and the world in general. What I have found helps me is to look at the church as two separate entities. There is the doctrinal church, The Church of Jesus Christ, and there is the procedural church, the church of the office building. I agree with the doctrinal church, that is the part where we receive the ordinances required for our salvation. The church where Jesus commands and is in control. I have lots of issues, however, with the procedural part of the church. But I just keep in mind that is the part that really doesn't matter. Whether the deacons wear a tie or not has no bearing on their priesthood authority, but if it makes people feel better to see them on a white shirt and tie then so be it. It's the only way I keep from going crazy and I am ostracized by many in my ward as a result. LOL

Jared
Jared

http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=622 Tim, will you shine noon day light upon this talk. I/we would very much value and benefit from your commentary gift exploring this gem of a talk. I joke with my wife that if I had no form God's inspired written or recorded word with me besides this talk, it would more than suffice. A zion existence/ results is and are having locked and ensured that mighty change of heart. Would love for you to unearth for us the wonderful mysteries of godliness through this most amazing talk. Gratitude:)

Log
Log

Here's what I've found by harsh experience. For us mortals, the only comfort possible for the hungry is to feed them; for the naked, clothing them; for slaves, paying their debts and liberating them thereby. Grief, sorrow, pain - none of these things can really be helped by mortals. No number of "I'm sorry"s or "I know how you feel"s diminishes the suffering. Consensus has no relationship with truth, and interesting speculation remains, in the end, speculation. When we awaken unto God - and there is no other way save it be by repenting of all sin and crying unto the Lord until one has unfeigned faith in Christ - then are we comforted in that our sufferings are swallowed up in joy. And neither do we need that any man should teach us, for we are taught from on high. Yet after being awakened, and covenanting to obey the commandments of God, we are ofttimes cast out, cut off from the light, that we might learn by our own experience to distinguish between good and evil. When we earnestly seek for enlightenment, we find only those willing to preach to us the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture. The correct course is to reject them all - disbelieving them - and call upon the Lord in our mights and await true messengers - messengers whom God vouches for to us. Yet charity believeth all things - and liars and deceivers abound - thus we are tested and tried even to our very cores by the conflict between the words of men and that which we have received of God. They appeal to our pride, our self-righteousness. And we are chastised for our sins until, finally, as Elihu said to Job, we say " I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more." And we are commanded, eventually, to do something we can't do, or the one thing in our entire lives we don't want to do. And we have to keep our hand in the box of our own free will and choice. What comes next? Ether 12:28 28 Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.

Tim Malone
Tim Malone

In 1969 First Counselor in the First Presidency, Hugh B. Brown spoke this at BYU: "You young people live in an age when freedom of the mind is suppressed over much of the world. We must preserve it in the Church and in America and resist all efforts of earnest men to suppress it, for when it is suppressed, we might lose the liberties vouchsafed in the Constitution of the United States. "Preserve, then, the freedom of your mind in education and in religion, and be unafraid to express your thoughts and to insist upon your right to examine every proposition. We are not so much concerned with whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts. One may memorize much without learning anything. In this age of speed there seems to be little time for meditation. "Dissatisfaction with what is around us is not a bad thing if it prompts us to seek betterment. …"

awaketozion
awaketozion

If priesthood is a fellowship (i.e., first between man to man, second between man and angels, third between man and Christ, and lastly between man and the Father), then the statement "Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man" begins to take on a new meaning. The person who exercises control, dominion, or compulsion, and/or aspires to the honors of men, DISQUALIFIES themselves from an increase of future fellowship. Thus, in most cases he/she will be left to a fellowship among mortals. Maybe it really is an act of mercy that men (and not women) administer the affairs if the Church.

Log
Log

I bring this up here because The Snuff doesn't allow comments on his blog. Presuming that God told Nephi to kill Laban (which, sigh, shouldn't be controversial but somehow is), answer this question with a yes or a no: did God kill Laban? If no, then God would not be a liar if he said he did not kill Laban, and that it was Nephi's decision. I trust the parallel is obvious.

Geoff
Geoff

Then again, D&C 68 also clearly teaches: 25 And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents. 26 For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized. 27 And their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of the hands. 28 And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord. It says in any of her stakes.

Geoff
Geoff

If we want to exclude cultural Mormons, and we're going to define membership by those who have been baptized, we would probably have to stop baptizing children before they've had a real chance to form their own thoughts and opinions. I wonder if the Nephites waited - it almost sounds like they waited until someone had been "wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost" - in other words, baptism of fire, before their names were taken. It's hard to know for sure. But I don't think membership and association or identification have to be the same things. Everyone is free to attend our meetings - and even speak up, except if they're being "disciplined" specifically in that way. If you don't believe in Christ, or Joseph Smith, or priesthood, why would you want to be a member of this church? (I'm asking). Why not just participate on your own terms? Would someone really want to be teaching lessons and such that they don't believe? There's plenty of ways to volunteer and serve without being a member. Should an unbeliever be permitted to enter the temple and make covenants they don't intend to keep (a sham basically)? That seems wrong. The Lord does limit participation based on certain requirements of faith, repentance, and obedience to His laws and covenants. Mosiah 26 6 For it came to pass that they did deceive many with their flattering words, who were in the church, and did cause them to commit many sins; therefore it became expedient that those who committed sin, that were in the church, should be admonished by the church. 7 And it came to pass that they were brought before the priests, and delivered up unto the priests by the teachers; and the priests brought them before Alma, who was the high priest. 8 Now king Mosiah had given Alma the authority over the church. 9 And it came to pass that Alma did not know concerning them; but there were many witnesses against them; yea, the people stood and testified of their iniquity in abundance. 10 Now there had not any such thing happened before in the church; therefore Alma was troubled in his spirit, and he caused that they should be brought before the king. 11 And he said unto the king: Behold, here are many whom we have brought before thee, who are accused of their brethren; yea, and they have been taken in divers iniquities. And they do not repent of their iniquities; therefore we have brought them before thee, that thou mayest judge them according to their crimes. 12 But king Mosiah said unto Alma: Behold, I judge them not; therefore I deliver them into thy hands to be judged. 13 And now the spirit of Alma was again troubled; and he went and inquired of the Lord what he should do concerning this matter, for he feared that he should do wrong in the sight of God. 14 And it came to pass that after he had poured out his whole soul to God, the voice of the Lord came to him, saying: 15 Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who were baptized in the waters of Mormon. Thou art blessed because of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi. 16 And blessed are they because of their exceeding faith in the words alone which thou hast spoken unto them. 17 And blessed art thou because thou hast established a church among this people; and they shall be established, and they shall be my people. 18 Yea, blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine. 19 And because thou hast inquired of me concerning the transgressor, thou art blessed. 20 Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep. 21 And he that will hear my voice shall be my sheep; and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also receive. 22 For behold, this is my church; whosoever is baptized shall be baptized unto repentance. And whomsoever ye receive shall believe in my name; and him will I freely forgive. 23 For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them; and it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand. 24 For behold, in my name are they called; and if they know me they shall come forth, and shall have a place eternally at my right hand. 25 And it shall come to pass that when the second trump shall sound then shall they that never knew me come forth and shall stand before me. 26 And then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, that I am their Redeemer; but they would not be redeemed. 27 And then I will confess unto them that I never knew them; and they shall depart into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 28 Therefore I say unto you, that he that will not hear my voice, the same shall ye not receive into my church, for him I will not receive at the last day. 29 Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also. 30 Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me. 31 And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor’s trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation. 32 Now I say unto you, Go; and whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people; and this shall be observed from this time forward. It doesn't say what the sins and iniquities are, but it does clearly teach the need for church discipline or being "admonished." It also clearly teaches in verse 29 that, in certain cases, confession and the repentance process are to be judged and administered by the priestly authority. I can't deny this pattern.

Geoff
Geoff

I thought several parts of the church spokeswoman’s response were interesting when considered in conjunction: How and why one asks is as important as the questions we're asking. What causes concern for Church leaders is when personal motivations drive those conversations beyond discussion, and a person or group begins recruiting others to insist on changes in Church doctrines or structure. When it goes so far as creating organized groups, staging public events to further a cause or creating literature for members to share in their local congregations, the Church has to protect the integrity of its doctrine as well as other members from being misled. At the heart of the conversation are matters of faith and doctrine. We believe these doctrines are given to us by God in simple ways: through scripture and through living prophets and apostles. If our personal goals go beyond what has been provided from those sources, we must ask ourselves whether we are we trying to change His Church to match our own perspective. As a Church, we've been looking for several years on what we can improve and change — cultural elements that are not tied to doctrine. In dealing with all of these issues and questions, a local lay leader is the one who determines how they apply to those he serves. If he becomes troubled by a member's actions, he can rely on his own spiritual insights, personal prayer, guidance from handbooks and his training to determine how best to address the members circumstances. For instance, their standard procedural handbook says: "Local presiding officers should not expect General Authorities to tell them how to decide difficult matters. Decisions on Church discipline are within the discretion and authority of local presiding officers as they prayerfully seek guidance from the Lord." There’s a few zingers in these statements for the public questioner, seeker, and publisher or blogger to consider. One is “if [a local leader] becomes troubled” possibly about how, why, or what one is asking - that sounds awfully subjective in a Mormon culture that has a very demonstrable historical tradition of obedience and submission to authority and protection of the purity and good name of the institution. A local leader might determine a belief or question or reading a book to be an act of apostasy. News like this is going to spread, to the Church’s detriment. Few are going to want to join an organization that seems thought-policing or wields the sword of excommunication so liberally (that’s ironic). This is the information age. If a secret police organization such as the Strengthening Church Members Committee actually exists, the Church would be better served to disband such a thing (and acknowledge that it DID happen but has been corrected - not bury and deny like corrupt governments do with scandals). SCMC is the type of intriguing and scandalous story that the media will never let go of - NEVER! Look how they still ask about polygamy and blacks and the priesthood. Such a thing is the worst kind of PR we could possibly have. Who wants to join a church that has a gestapo that “helps” local leaders “strengthen” members through discipline (via excommunication for apostasy, a.k.a. not bowing to the leaders’ wills)? It makes us look like a mind-controlling cult, which is what the anti’s try to make us look like! We’d do less damage to the progress and reputation of the Church by letting every loose-cannon church member run wild with speculation on their internet blogs. SCMC creates an atmosphere of fear, not faith or freedom - I’m kinda nervous just typing this. I hope I don’t find out by my bishop or stake president getting a copy of this post as if to say, “we know who you are and we’re watching you, always watching (waiting for you to say the wrong thing)…” Well, if I did, that would confirm its existence to me personally. What if you were an employee in the SCMC, wouldn’t the purpose of your job be to get results, to find people worthy of (spiritual) execution for apostasy? If your job is to find witches, a witch-hunter, don’t you start to see them everywhere? I hope this is not true, and if it is (I know Elder Holland acknowledged that it is, etc.), my vote is that it gets disbanded ASAP. The church doesn’t need this kind of “protection” and I don’t think this is what the Lord or the Prophet Joseph had in mind in D&C 134 with documenting “grievances." Okay, enough paranoia. The spokeswoman's definition of doctrines is “given to us by God in simple ways: through scriptures and through living prophets and apostles” - true, but which teachings are doctrinal and which ones are opinion? According to D&C 68, it’s only the word of the Lord when they’re “speak[ing] when moved upon by the Holy Ghost”: D&C 68 2 And, behold, and lo, this is an ensample unto all those who were ordained unto this priesthood, whose mission is appointed unto them to go forth— 3 And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. 4 And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. 5 Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants. I believe that leaves it to us to discern when they are teaching the Lord’s truth, i.e. doctrine, vs otherwise. Publishing and “creating literature” also seems to be an opening for discipline. The pattern I’ve noticed in those who are being disciplined is that they are publicly questioning, publicly stating beliefs, or publicly lobbying for changes which are judged to be “contrary” or “opposing." Public, publication. I guess it would be nice to know what the boundaries to public discourse are without being trammeled, but it seems subject to local leader opinion (which might be influenced by the SCMC), which is influenced by church culture, which seems historically “intolerant” (I couldn’t find the right word here). For example, we kicked people out who had strong feelings about civil rights and that blacks should be able to hold the priesthood because they were lobbied for change. After 1978 they were right. I wonder if any of them ever came back after being severed from salvation? Is the ultimate test loyalty to the institution? Does the Church = Christ? I hope certain non-doctrinal cultural and traditional elements can be retracted from being treated like doctrines and then left to agency rather than enforced. I also hope that the doctrine can be retracted to what truly should be doctrine, not current teaching or opinion, etc. My hope would be that if we don’t actually know something to be true, or it has not really been revealed yet, in a manner that can be upheld by common consent, then maybe we shouldn’t have a doctrine established on it yet, thus leaving people free to believe and speak more freely without being trammeled or disciplined. Our history shows that we’ve put too many stakes (pun) in the ground, carved too many things in stone (I’m not talking about temples), only to discover later that they were the doctrines, commandments, prophecies, and promises of men (in other words, their ultimately untrue opinions), not of the Lord. We’re all fallible, including the leaders, and entitled to beliefs and opinions about things, but we should be humble enough to recognize when we don’t really know something and therefore avoid making it a doctrine (punishable by excommunication). We throw that words “I know" around too much and I think it seems like we're puffed-up with pride. All the articles of faith are framed with “we believe” not “we know.” Alma 32 teaches the distinctions between desire, belief, faith, knowledge, and perfect knowledge. When was the last time you heard anyone’s testimony start with “I believe…” It seems like this know-it-all-ness has bled over into what we teach too. We just have to be right and sure (about almost everything) because we’re the “only true and living church”, etc. Whenever someone declares that they know something that they really don’t KNOW, they are instantly wrong, because they are not being truthful, even if the thing they are declaring IS true. It’s true you can discover a testimony in bearing it, but not by pretending to know. We shouldn’t be training our little children to be saying “I know” - we should teach them to make sincere and honest statements of hope, belief, and truth. Hopefully, eventually, it will grow into knowledge. Wouldn’t the Lord have His people to be more sincere and more humble in their declarations of truth? I think the same could be said of doctrine vs teaching as it could for knowledge vs belief. And maybe there should be an official book of Doctrines of the Church where things are spelled out clearly, so we’re not publicly questioning what is not permitted to be questioned without retribution. If the scriptures are to be that yardstick, then we must permit some differences of interpretation. I don’t have the answers. But here’s an example, have “all priesthood keys” been enumerated and defined? Not that I’ve been able find in years of study and searching. So is it a doctrine that the president of the church holds all priesthood keys (as each of us must answer in a temple recommend interview)? When Elder Oaks and others have stated publicly that there are definitely priesthood keys (in the universe, I suppose) which the president of the church does not hold? (like the keys of the resurrection, creation, and to command the elements - I think these were mentioned specifically, that the president of the church does NOT hold them). Even on the earth: aren’t John the Beloved and the Three Nephites and who knows how many other holy men we know not of, and we don’t know what keys they might hold? I don’t have the answers but you can see there’s some logic and reason to the questions. I DO believe the church and its presiding officers have keys. I don’t know what they are specifically. I believe they are something like: all the keys necessary for the church to perform its proper functions according to the plan and will of the Lord, like administer the ordinances and covenants, build temples, preach the preparatory gospel, publish scriptures, etc., things like that. It seems to me like Denver Snuffer got excommunicated for proposing in Passing the Heavenly Gift that the “fulness of the priesthood” was not passed on from Joseph and/or Hyrum to Brigham and the Twelve - well, he was ex’d for refusing to cease publication of that book, but I think that was its offending thesis. Nibley published some really indicting stuff (against us, the Latter-day Saints, and even the leaders). Check this one out: "The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism... the haircut becomes the test of virtue in a world where Satan deceives and rules by appearances." (Waterman, Brian and Kagel, Brian Kagel. The Lord's University: Freedom and Authority at BYU. Signature Books. 1998.) Does that sound like us? Yikes. But maybe he didn’t touch on the keys. To remain members of the Church, do we just have to "show up, put up, and shut up”? (That’s one of our joking family mottos - it’s a bit sarcastic, I know - oops, I just said it - but I actually know that). I truly, truly hope not, about the shut up part. I want to be free to believe things that aren’t doctrine yet or even aren’t quite so. Sorry my comment is too long. Peace and love to all.

marginalizedmormon
marginalizedmormon

Log, I don't know how we got off on the 'wrong foot', but we did. You were offended by my screen-name at one point. I was put off by your in-depth concern about aspects of the priesthood. I admit my fault in this. I tend to be less concerned, perhaps, with rituals/ordinances and, yes, power, and more concerned with hunger. More concerned with those who have absolutely no power of any kind. Here, listen, I'm ranting again, and my passion is hard to hold down. (hold it there, girl!) But these are one person's personal gifts, and they don't have to hit others' personal gifts. From anyone. To anyone. If my personal interests with regards to the kingdom of God or if the things that speak to me from the Book of Mormon are different from yours, that difference probably should be celebrated. It is something I try to do, but I was completely unsuccessful with you, so a quiet ideological or personality 'war' has ensued. I apologize for my continuing it. I was disturbed by what appeared to me to be an obvious 'hammer and nail' situation (and I might be using that metaphor incorrectly, for all I know)-- if you had no intention of that, again, mea culpa. But it did appear to be in answer to a question regarding that man. I will stop my part of this 'war'. If you think there has been no warring on your side, then, fine-- I will stop my part, and probably it would be better if I did not respond to anything you write again, but it won't be out of rudeness. It will be out of . . . cautionary civility.

Shari Rust Graham
Shari Rust Graham

A friend of mine posted this on facebook today. Perhaps it is pertinent. "Have you see how many people are getting exed for their opinions they express in these online activities? Now lets read Alma 35: 5 "Now their rulers and their priests and their teachers did not let the people know concerning their desires; therefore they found out privily the minds of all the people. 6 And it came to pass that after they had found out the minds of all the people, those who were in favor of the words which had been spoken by Alma and his brethren were cast out of the land;..." Things that make you go Hummm...."

Donald
Donald

Thanks Tim. I keep asking questions....maybe most of them are dumb questions....but I figure it's easier to ask a dumb question than it is to correct a dumb mistake....at least that is what I used to tell my math students.

Anon for this one
Anon for this one

In the Book “The Varieties of Religious Experience” by William James, I found the following passage very apropos to the current discussion. “A genuine first-hand religious experience (such as that of Joseph Smith) is bound to be a heterodoxy to its witnesses, the prophet appearing as a mere lonely madman. If his doctrine prove contagious enough to spread to any others, it becomes a definite and labeled heresy. But if it then still prove contagious enough to triumph over persecution, it becomes itself an orthodoxy; and when a religion has become an orthodoxy, its day of inwardness (i.e., inward spiritual experience) is over; the spring is dry; the faithful live at second hand exclusively and stone the prophets in their turn. The new church, in spite of whatever human goodness it may foster, can be henceforth counted on as a staunch ally in every attempt to stifle the spontaneous religious spirit, and to stop all later bubblings of the fountain from which in purer days it drew its own supply of inspiration. –p. 295”

Log
Log

Are you a King Benjamin saint, having been ministered to by angels?

Jared
Jared

there is some sleepiness in church keep articulating and loving-- you can't go wrong:) at least you'll never stand alone....

Log
Log

Why would someone who has had significant spiritual experiences and who has been taught on high by the Lord, assume that those leading the Church don’t know or understand as much, simply because they don’t speak of it. That is such an arrogant assumption, taking the gifts of the Lord has shared and using the new found knowledge to judge unrighteously. Even if your assumption was accurate and you knew more than others, then you’d certainly understand that the Lord loves His children and accepts and cherishes even the least offering made by them. Who are we to critically say it’s not enough? We all judge after our own hearts, and after our own knowledge. One who knows more than others can identify failures of understanding in others - that's the point of having teachers, after all. Who wants a teacher who knows and understands less than oneself on any particular topic? "[T]he skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is." It is not unrighteous judgement to recognize wrong answers from one's teachers. It is not unrighteous judgement to recognize lack of answers from one's teachers. It is not even unrighteous judgement to recognize one has more knowledge and intelligence than another. Were it not so, God would be condemned. Abraham 3:19 19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all. D&C 130 18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. 19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. It is not logically necessarily the case that God calls the most diligent or obedient to any particular calling in the Church (Judas). It is logically possible for one who has no calling of any particular importance (Nibley), or even be excommunicated (maybe Snuffer), to know more than anyone else in the Church. Now, absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence, however, when one hears wrong answers from one's teachers, and lack of answers on things one is searching for, one begins to think the most likely explanation for that circumstance is the teachers don't know what they're talking about and have no knowledge beyond what they've stated. It's not a logically necessary conclusion, but based on observation of human behavior and experience as a human, it is a probable one. And when one has no countervailing evidence, it is natural to believe it is correct. So when such an one says that what the Brethren have said is not enough, they are not judging the Brethren’s status before God. They are speaking of a deep seated uncertainty / fear which cuts to the core of their religious upbringing. They are saying that they 1) they have no basis for believing that what the Brethren haven't said ought to be believed, and 2) don't believe what the Brethren haven't stated, and 3) that the thing that the Brethren haven't stated is what they feel is necessary for them to trust the Brethren, and 4) they want to trust the Brethren, and 5) they feel they can't trust the Brethren. And they may well begin to believe the Church, led by these Brethren whom they feel are untrustworthy, is wrong - that is, they cannot trust it. The more humble and perspicacious will remain relatively silent, pondering and inquiring. And the more intemperate will begin to preach that the Church is wrong. It is simply a hasty conclusion based upon insecurity and fear as well as an emotional need for support and affirmation. Not everyone has the same set of jigsaw pieces, and very few have seen the picture on the box. Unless and until you know what makes a man do what he does, until you have suffered his pains, you cannot judge righteously.

Jared
Jared

Thanks for sharing. I agree. It was Joseph Smith who said to the detractor something to the effect: take what you have and I'll take what I have let's walk hand in hand to heaven. I love the Prophets approach Of inspiring With love....

Jared
Jared

Good brother please don't allow yourself to be ostracized. Moroni 7:45

Tim Malone
Tim Malone

From one of the meekest and yet most intelligent of men. Thanks for the link. Meekness was exemplified by the Savior. Nobody could say it like Neal Maxwell. I miss this great man and apostle of the Lord. "Will we be meek and listen to Him and learn from Him? Or will we be like the Gadarene swine, that pathetic example of totus porcus—going whole hog—after the trends of the moment?"

Eric
Eric

What is the difference between "speculation" and "pondering" (if any)? The former tends to be discouraged, and the latter encouraged, but I was wondering how people draw the line (if any) between the two.

Log
Log

There is a temptation for the writer or the teacher of Church history to want to tell everything, whether it is worthy or faith promoting or not. Some things that are true are not very useful. The Church has followed not Elder Brown's liberal view of freedom of speech. (And we have lost the liberties vouchsafed in the Constitution of the United States.)

Log
Log

In fact, God could truthfully say that the decision to kill Laban was made at the local level, couldn't he?

Log
Log

Some examples of what was understood to be confession and repentance among the Nephites: 1 Nephi 7:20-21 1 Nephi 16:5 Alma 17:4 And so on...

Good Will
Good Will

Once again, Geoff, great insight. I'm believe I will copy what you wrote in my journal, for my children's benefit. (It's that good!)

marginalizedmormon
marginalizedmormon

and I apologize to Tim for my part in any contention that entered his blog.

Jared
Jared

This Orthodox following Latter day Saint has had many wonders of the gospel revealed to him.... I have seen! :) M. Chp 4-5 is a reality. no circumventing required...

Jared
Jared

Rather I should say please do not give people a reason to ostracize you. All parties involved moroni 7:45

Jared
Jared

Love you Bro Malone:) pres Hinckley said something to the effect of: the first time I hear /read Neal A's talks I'm in wonder hwith what he said. I read it a second time to comprehend it, and read it a third time to realize the pure gold that it is... ( quote remembered somewhere around latter end of his bio. E. Maxwell's bio) have a great Sabbath wonderful brother,

Eric
Eric

"Don't teach what you don't know" is a good principle that some of us here (including myself) should do well to remember from here on out . . .

Log
Log

ponder PON'DER, v.t. [L. pondero, from pondo, pondus, a pound; pendeo,pendo, to weigh.] 1. To weigh in the mind; to consider and compare the circumstances or consequences of an event, or the importance of the reasons for or against a decision. Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2. 2. To view with deliberation; to examine. Ponder the path of thy feet. Prov.4. The Lord pondereth the hearts. Prov.21. To ponder on, is sometimes used, but is not be to countenanced. speculate SPEC'ULATE, v.i. [L. speculor, to view, to contemplate, from specio, to see.] 1. To meditate; to contemplate; to consider a subject by turning it in the mind and viewing it in its different aspects and relations; as, to speculate on political events; to speculate on the probable results of a discovery. 2. In commerce, to purchase land, goods, stock or other things, with the expectation of an advance in price, and of selling the articles with a profit by means of such advance; as, to speculate in coffee, or in sugar, or in six percent stock, or in bank stock. The short answer: pondering is review and reflection; speculation is prediction of what will be found to be true. Long answer: speculation is the fine art of making **** up. "Truthiness" is the gold standard of speculation. Speculation is where that which is "truthy" gets mixed with that which is truth, the philosophies of men mingling with scripture in matters religious, or the philosophies of men mingled with fossils in matters scientific. A top-ranking savant from the East recently made the observation to this speaker, that the unique thing about Mormonism is that it is a nonspeculative religion in a world of purely speculative religions. That remarkable characteristic establishes at once the identity or kinship of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with the original, primitive Christian church, which in ancient times also had the unique distinction of being a nonspeculative religion in a world completely "sold" on philosophy. ... Let us summarize briefly some of the objections of the early Christians to philosophy (the same objections, incidentally, which scientists today make to philosophy): (1) The philosophers disagree constantly among themselves. "It is impossible to learn anything true concerning religion from your teachers," says Justin, "who by their mutual disagreement have furnished you with sufficient proof of their own ignorance."18 One of the very earliest Christian writers, Tatian, says, "Tear yourself away from the solemn conventions of these self-styled philosophers who do not agree among themselves." 19 Even the pagan Caecilius admits this in the Octavius of Minucius Felix, "One is confused by the numerous and reputable sects of philosophy that only show how far beyond human mediocrity the exploration of divine things really is."20 (2) This meant that there was no reliable norm in philosophy to which all men could be held. Reason should indeed qualify for the position but has a fatal weakness: "O what a powerful reasoner self-interest is!" says Tertullian.21 And modern psychology has shown us, as the study of literature and historiography have long ago, that when men have honestly thought themselves free of all prejudice, are perfectly detached and impersonal in their judgments and impartial in their conclusions, all their thinking has actually been not merely colored but predetermined by their conditioning. They cannot escape that. (3) What they really deal with is not evidence but opinion. "They announce a doctrine as truth the moment it pops into their heads," says Tatian, 22 and though the statement seems exaggerated, yet a brief consideration will show that if the great maxims of philosophy can be proved, they certainly never have been: Panta Rhei (all things flow), Die Welt Ist Meine Vorstellung, Man is the measure of all things, Cogito ergo sum, etc. Did the men who expounded these famous doctrines even begin to exhaust the evidence necessary to prove them? On what do they rest? In the end, on their proclaimer's personal mental equipment! (4) Hence, another constant objection to the philosophers, as Tatian states it: "They are full of mutual hatred and jealousy and ambition." A large literature has descended to us from antiquity on this theme. It is a case of man versus man. Recall Clement's experience in the schools: They would argue endlessly back and forth, he says, and the prize went not to the truth but to the man who was able to wear his opponent down. The ball was knocked back and forth, back and forth, and the game ended when one of the players had a lapse of memory, or got tired or rattled and was not able to come back with a quick answer. But that, as the early Christians observed, has nothing to do with truth. This disdain for evidence and passion for method guaranteed that the philosophers never got anywhere. Terrence and Galbunugus, we are told, argued for fourteen days and nights on whether ego has a vocative case. For every question there is an answer, the Arabs say, and if one cannot find the answer at the moment, he can always think of it later. And so the squirrel cage goes round and round. When Erasmus was being shown through the Sorbonne, his guide took him into a great hall and announced in an awed voice: "In this chamber the doctors of philosophy have disputed for four hundred years," to which Erasmus replied, "And what have they ever settled?" (5) A remarkable aspect of the undue prominence of personalities in what should be the impersonal search for truth is the wonderful way in which philosophers of every age, more than any other humans, display an irresistible urge to form themselves into schools. The fluidity of the open mind is a rare and momentary thing in the history of thought. As Rashdall says of the great philosophical movement of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries: "The wild outburst of intellectual ardor cooled very rapidly as it crystallized into the institutional machinery of the university system."23 A John Dewey denouncing the tyranny of schools of thought promptly becomes a nucleus around which yet another school of thought—and a very stiff and orthodox one—crystallizes. More than any other profession, philosophers subscribe themselves in schools which they defend with passion and to which they subject themselves with unquestioned submission. Socrates made sly fun of the followers of some of his great Sophist friends for this, for this whole-souled worship of individuals and this alignment in schools is the last thing that a really open mind would ever be guilty of. (6) But the main objection of the early Christians to the philosophers was simply that they were superfluous. "Since the word Himself has come down from heaven to us," says Clement of Alexandria, "there is no point in our traveling far and wide to attend the schools of men any more, or in our going to Athens or somewhere else in Greece or Ionia to study. . . . There is nothing which the Word Himself has not now taught us,. . . . answering the very questions that the philosophers have sought to answer all these years." 24 "Now either all these men . . . knew the truth or else they did not," says Irenaeus, speaking of the philosophers. "If they did, then the Savior's descent to the earth was superfluous; . . . if they did not, why do you . . . go to them for supernatural knowledge, since they do not know God?" 25 And Tertullian: "They indeed by a lucky chance might sometimes stumble on the truth, as men groping in the dark may accidentally hit upon the right path; but the Christian, who enjoys a revelation from heaven, is inexcusable if he commits himself to such blind and unreliable guidance."26 In other words, whatever merit philosophy might have in the search for God has been superseded by a revelation from heaven. One may not choose to agree with that verdict, but such certainly was the teaching of the early Christians. For them, the true religion of Jesus Christ could only be a nonspeculative religion; and what appears at first sight as an astonishing defect in the restored church is actually a wonderful vindication of its prophets. Either you know, or you don't - and if you don't, what purpose does spouting off on your opinions serve? And there are whole blogs of speculation by highly intelligent individuals - very truthy stuff - which, in the end, are worthless.

Dani
Dani

To "speculate" is to believe we can derive answers from ourselves, from our own mind and thinking. To "ponder" is to consider the things given by God--to seek to confirm or weigh them out. One is an outward show of presumed knowledge and ideas, whereas the other is an inward act of humility that requires us to set our own thoughts aside and be open to receive truth. We speculate before men and ponder before God. Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

Log
Log

This principle means nobody but the actor bears responsibility for suicide. Recent "prosecutions" of "bullies" for their victims' suicides ("civil rights violations resulting in bodily injury") are patently unjust. And committing suicide, and willingness to use suicides, as a club against others, may be seen for what it is.

Log
Log

And yes, I am aware of Deuteronomy 19:11. I would expect the determination of hatred to be witnesses testifying of prior threats the killer made against the victim. The Book of Mormon suggests as much (3 Nephi 5:5).

Log
Log

Obvious rejoinder is obvious. But, seriously, the law of Moses was just - it looked solely at what a man did, rather than, as our unjust modern Gentile laws do, try to read his mind and punish him for the content of his heart.

Michael A. Cleverly
Michael A. Cleverly

Yet for David to have fallen from his exaltation he must have shed innocent blood (D&C 132:19, 38-39). I suppose the obvious rejoinder is that the law of Moses was a lesser law and while not in violation of the lesser law, David was guilty of transgressing a higher law.

Log
Log

Which would probably be why he wasn't prosecuted.

Michael A. Cleverly
Michael A. Cleverly

If I recall correctly, there is no “conspiracy to commit murder” in the law of Moses – so long as one did not raise their hand against another to shed their blood, one was innocent of the blood shed, even if one induced or paid another to kill someone. So in the case of King David's efforts to cover up his affair with Bathsheba, his ordering Joab to make sure Uriah was slain in battle (2 Samuel 11) wouldn't have been a crime under the law of Moses?

Julie
Julie

I concede what they said can be considered truthful in the sense you explained. That doesn't make it just, though.

Log
Log

If I recall correctly, there is no "conspiracy to commit murder" in the law of Moses - so long as one did not raise their hand against another to shed their blood, one was innocent of the blood shed, even if one induced or paid another to kill someone. This principle is alluded to in Helaman 9:20. So, the statement "Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by Church headquarters" can be true, even granting the truth of everything here. In the Law, it is written: "Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour." Righteousness in judgement means without partiality or prejudice.

Julie
Julie

Log, interesting point, and the parallel is obvious. But here's what came to mind for me when the church first started denying involvement: Deuteronomy 17:7. I came across this chapter months ago when I was studying that part of the OT, looking for ways I could demonstrate to my SS class that there are worthwhile things to learn in the law of Moses that still apply to us today, and this was one of them. The penalty for apostasy used to be execution, not just excommunication, but the process to ensure justice is served should still apply. However, one of the important principles to follow to ensure that the judgment was just and fair was that the witness (in our case, whoever noticed it and brought it up first) had to be the one who cast the first stone in front of the entire congregation. I'm not entirely sure which of our scriptural examples applies better to this situation. There is a difference between how God operates (giving us an order and then letting us exercise our agency to decide whether to follow, which makes us responsible for the outcome), and how a human chain of command operates (someone with less-than-absolute moral authority giving orders to an underling who is expected to obey pretty much unconditionally, in which case I would say both parties are partially responsible for the decision that is made). I do find it more than a bit cowardly that the church is not admitting its role in these excommunications, and that statements are being issued by spokesmen/women, who have no actual authority at all in the chain of command publicly recognized within the church.