Thursday, April 22, 2010

The traditions of men, part 3


This subject causes a great deal of anxiety for saints.  The fact it causes anxiety is proof that the saints have become conditioned to a mythology which requires everything to be good, all to be well, our current path a direct line to Zion itself, and all questions concerning the current state of affairs to be wrong.  More than "wrong," questions are evidence of weak faith and the road to apostasy.

From the questions which started as soon as this subject began, I see I need to reiterate what I said at the first.  I have a testimony, I am active in the church, and I am not in a position to change things.  I support the brethren, pay tithing, serve where called and do not challenge the right of the regularly constituted authorities to manage the affairs of the church.  I rise when President Monson enters a room I am in, I sustain him with my vote, my prayers and my confidence.  I admire him.  I posted about him a few days back.  I meant what I said.  I do not envy him nor aspire to church leadership.  I am not called and do not anticipate I would ever even be considered; in part because of things like this subject appearing on this blog and concerns raised in books I have written.

I love the church and I am content as a Latter-day Saint.  I love my ward and serve gladly wherever I am called.

The fact that those clarifications need to be added again, although it should have been apparent from the beginning remarks, is again revealing how shaky the saints are today.  We do not have a foundation that allows us to consider alternatives.  We have a single "on/off" switch for all subjects and for our testimonies.  That is NOT as it should be.  We should be able to confront dilemmas, difficulties, troubling news and failures by leaders while we suspend judgment and tolerate dissonance.  We want instant messages, instead of having the patience to see the Hand of the Lord work over decades to bring good things from bad.

An open, candid and critical look at ourselves is not possible with people who are so insecure that they feel threatened.  The progression of these insecurities will be disastrous unless at some point it is reversed.  When those who raise questions are excluded, told they are weak in the faith and are on the road to apostasy, eventually everyone who is thoughtful is chased away from the church.  Instead of celebrating their critical thinking and working to understand issues better, we chase some of the best minds out of the church.  I wish all our critics were active members.  I wish all our discussions were open enough to allow the marketplace of ideas inside the church to air everything.  As I have said before, I believe the truth will prevail.  You can knock it down, burn it, pave it over, kill it and threaten it, but it will prevail.  A whisper of truth will overcome a hurricane of opposition.  It endures. It will triumph.

I've only touched on a few matters here.  I'm not going to go further at this point. However, the greater mischief we face at present is the de-emphasis of doctrine.  We are raising a new breed of Latter-day Saint today whose familiarity with doctrine is negligible.  They understand only a fraction of what has been restored, and for many of the doctrines, their understanding is incomplete, or so skewed that they are incorrect.  Doctrine has become less important.  We feed upon "inspirational stories" that salve the emotions, but do not edify the soul or bring the personal changes necessary to return to God's presence. More and more of the saints grow up inside this new environment and have never even gained a fundamental command of the doctrines which Joseph Smith restored.  Gospel Doctrine classes rehash the same material every four years, which is quite challenging to those who have a memory which goes back decades.  The format adopted for teaching involves group discussions, and the teacher becomes a "discussion leader."  Little is learned.  The group is made to share fellowship, and feel better for having attended, without any forward momentum in understanding the doctrines of salvation and exaltation.

When, over time, the leadership is replaced at all levels by those who are raised in the current milieu, the church will have completed a transformation back into a Protestant, powerless body of good people who want to do right and feel good about themselves.  But the power of godliness will have fled them.

President Packer again sounded the alarm in General Conference.  It was a brilliant talk.  I use the term "brilliant" to describe the light within it.  He said we had done a "good job of correlating" the priesthood "authority" but we had failed to disburse any "power" in the priesthood.  I think it was a wonderful talk.  What I would like to see discussed is whether there is a cause-and-effect between the correlation process on the one hand, and the admitted failure of priesthood power on the other hand.  That discussion, however, cannot happen in the current environment.  To ask the question about the underlying wisdom of the correlation process would be to directly challenge the "inspiration" of the prophet Harold B. Lee, who created this process.  Therefore, any questions about correlation demonstrates that the one asking questions is weak in the faith and on the road to apostasy.  So the discussion cannot occur.  That is until we become a little more secure in our faith and are willing to de-mythologize the cult of personality and recognize that questions are the first step to getting answers.

I love the church, and my fellow saints.  I mourn many of the changes.  However, I also celebrate the fact that the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with all its gifts, privileges, opportunities and power remains still on the earth.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints administers the fundamental ordinances of that Gospel.  How far you take it is up to you.

There was a talk in General Conference given by a Seventy named Poleman, in which he distinguished between the church and the gospel.  The talk is still available on-line in its original form.  However, he was required to re-record the talk to conform to the correlation department's challenge to any statement which distinguished between the church and the gospel.  Right now testimonies within the church recite the mantra "I know the church is true."  The correlation process has made the church into god.  People's testimonies of the "church" have supplanted their testimonies of Christ.  Read any Ensign issue of any Conference held within ten years after the triumph of the correlation process, and consider how many of the talks focus upon the church and the church's processes and goodness, in contrast to how many of the talks focus upon Jesus Christ and His doctrines.  Christ's role has been diminished by the emphasis upon the correlated church.

These are trends and traditions.  They are at their incipient stages.  We are a 180 year old church.  Barely out of the cradle, so to speak.  But trends endure.  Add another 200 years of progression of these trends and you will vindicate the fellow who said:  "When Mormons have been Mormons as long as Catholics have been Catholics, the Mormons will be more Catholic than the Catholics."  If you want to see the future of the church in its present course, attend Mass this Saturday evening (held on Saturday so as to keep your Sunday open for basketball playoffs and MLB play now starting).


  1. I wonder if its possible to see changes like correlation and the rise of "infallible" Prophets as both the hand of the Lord at work, and as something to mourn.

    I would echo along with you that generally the Saints are weak doctrinally. I read talks written by my convert grandfather and am sometimes amazed at the logic, the faith, the surety that's contained in them. They read much like a Marvelous Work and a Wonder.

    What if a strengthening of the office of the President of the church was done because WE are weak. I guess I'm saying that maybe because we (and this is as much a self-indictment as anything) don't have enough faith, don't seek his spirit or listen to its whisperings as we should that the Lord has use the organization to compensate for our weaknesses.

    Perhaps this trend in the Saints themselves is something more to be mourned than the institutional changes that have mirror it.

  2. I hope there are 20 parts to this topic.

  3. There could be; but I thought I'd end it here. Just illustrations. There are more things covered in the six books I've written. Folks interested can read them.

  4. If we are not challenging and asking questions, if we are not seeking for great spiritual heights, if we are not manifesting great POWER, then what do we have besides Protestantism?

  5. "whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants it is the same." DC 1:38 Until further light is shone on this scripture the problems and abuses you've mentioned in these blogs will continue.

    I find it interesting that if someone "attacks the church" they are put on notice for their membership but if LDS attorneys sue the church for their clients they can alter church policy (abuse cases, ...) and their membership is never called into question. The church gets a pound of flesh back though when those attorneys are called as stake presidents; a ten year stint. :-)

    As for what's taught in church, I finally realized that the church is targeting the many new members who don't know the basics. The old timers know enough so that if they are interested they will on their own study, learn, and follow the spirit to learn the deeper doctrines. I long ago stopped depending on learning doctrine in most church meetings; getting personal insight from others though is useful.

    One person's comment reminded me of President Benson's saying about the Samuel principle. Samuel (the current president or other leaders), If the people want it bad enough (a king, ...) give it to them. The Lord doesn't condone the "gift" but is willing to allow it to be given and let the people learn from their choice.

    I juxtapose President Packer's conference address with Elder Oaks. The first seemed to say that we need priesthood power and shouldn't be satisfied with just the authority, the second seemed to say don't worry about the power (what one should say by being led by the spirit or trying to get the spirit of healing) just use your authority and go through the proper motions and you've done your duty.

  6. Where ARE you people? Tears course down my face as I read these blogs.
    This explains to me what I've instinctivly known but haven't been able to clearly analyze.

    I've never been able to just 'beleive' or 'act' because someone in authority told me to. I've always believed in my right to personal confirmation...thought i was just naturally rebellious.

  7. I wonder what the brethren can really say regarding an audience with the savior? I posted a comment a while back that showed that Hugh B. Brown had an audience, but I don't recall him ever stating that publicly. I believe at least some of them have had an audience, but don't talk about it. If that is the case, why? Is it the sacredness of it? I would think if anyone would openly testify of such a thing, it would be an apostle. Any comments?

  8. Thank you for your insight! I've felt this way for years but have not been able to pinpoint or articulate some of the problems. I also know that it is the Gospel of Christ that is true, not the necessarily the church.

    I also find it facinating how the requirements for becoming an apostle changed in 1911. Do you have some other sources I can read more on that? I've listened closely through the years to the testimonies of the apostles for references to visitations with Christ and have been left wanting in most cases. I know they have testimonies and know they have been called of God but I would almost expect that being an apostle would require seeing him in order to be his special witness. At least the general populous of the church believes, or has been lead to believe, that all of them have seen or should have had visitations with Christ.

  9. Some questions your comments have brought to my mind:

    Why do we sustain the Presidency and the Twelve as Seers? I mean no disrespect. I pray for them, study their talks and look to them as the Lord’s Twelve Apostles. I don’t believe, however, each of them have been commanded to look through a Urim and Thummim. Is it perplexing to them as they read about Seers in the Book of Mormon? What is their knowledge and understanding of their title? Also, revelators; have they revealed to us new knowledge?

    Why do we say ‘the ‘church’ is ‘true?’ Doesn’t that imply that we believe all the programs and practices to be perfect? Isn’t truth synonymous with the word perfect? If the word of the Lord is truth and the Lord is infallible then we should be careful in whom and to what we apply that praise. “For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”

    Does it really matter? Should I just chill-out? Words and their meaning change. Am I ‘straining at a gnat?’ Or is this something that is important? Is this an area where we have lost some ‘light and truth’ and are incorrectly following the traditions of the fathers? I don’t know.

  10. Well, the Lord himself testified that the "Church is True," and he even used the word "Church," not just that his gospel is true.

  11. Many years ago I was in the desert after having been there close to starving for almost a month. Apropos to nothing, meaning that I was not asking anything, the Spirit said to me really clearly, "The Church is true." At that time I thought that was wonderful information, but I already had a profound testimony of the Book of Mormon, so I wasn't sure why I was given that information.

    About 10 years after that, I was exposed to a several-year-long view of terrible things going on in the Church, including with some Church leadership. It was really hard on me to see and learn of these things. But finally, I recovered after realizing that the "crap" going on wasn't my stewardship to fix, and that all of it was between the Lord and His leaders who did have a stewardship over it.

    Still, it scared me, because I personally experienced how hard it was for me to recover the depth and living nature of my testimony. And the recovery took me years. Once I recovered however, although, I was glad and stronger for the experience, I have worried ever since about all of the members out there whose testimonies are built, in part, upon "the cult of personality".

    I personally don't think we're going to get a chance to experience becoming better Catholics than the Catholics. It looks really evident to me that incredibly hard times are coming upon us very shortly, and I worry for all of us, but even moreso for the members who have a fairy tale view of the Church and not a testimony based on the reality of the Gospel and the Church.

    Finally, I came to be really grateful that Heavenly Father blessed me in the desert long ago with actually telling me, "The Church is true." I've needed that, especially as I've come more and more to see the frailties and problems in the Church. And so what does it mean, The Church is true? It surely doesn't mean what most members think it means. I can see that it means exactly what Denver's testimony above says in this post.

  12. Denver,
    Do you think when the sifting occurs between the wheat and the tares and God starts with His own House (meaning the temple), that maybe the church will get back on track? Will the church or just individuals in the church with Calling and Election be the ones to build the New Jerusalem?
    I personally have always thought that the church has to change a lot in anticipation of the second coming, and that now we wouldn't even recognise the church during the millenium. Just look at all the changes, we have already made, when I was a young girl I wanted to give the prayer in Sacrament Meeting when my brother was called on a mission, I was told "no, that I couldn't, women don't give prayers in Sacrament Meeting". That was in the 70's. So in some ways we are changing for the better.

  13. This comment is so late, that it might best be addressed in a new post, but there are a couple of things I'd like you to discuss a little further:

    (1) You stated, "However, the greater mischief we face at present is the de-emphasis of doctrine. We are raising a new breed of Latter-day Saint today whose familiarity with doctrine is negligible. They understand only a fraction of what has been restored, and for many of the doctrines, their understanding is incomplete, or so skewed that they are incorrect."

    What doctrines do you believe that the average LDS member "understand[s] only a fraction" of?

    (2) Hearkening back to Elder Poleman's talk on the differences between the Church and the Gospel. It's often stated (overstated?) that the church is the Kingdom of God in various meetings and most members conflate the Church with the Gospel (i.e. they are synonymous terms these days).

    Could you discuss the original differences (as intended in the scriptures) between "church" and "gospel"? Is church, as we currently know it (big meetinghouses, 3 hour blocks, weekly attendance, etc.), the same thing as "church" in the times of the Old and New Testaments?

    Also, unrelated, but there's a group of people working on the "self-defining Hebrew" system as it relates to the Old Testament as found in our average bibles. Are you familiar with it and what are your thoughts? Essentially, they are trying to get back to how the scriptures would read without the modern alterations we've seen happen (transfiguration might work there).

    Just curious on that last part.

    You can reply to my email if that's easier/less problematic to your blog readers. I don't get on your site too frequently, but was curious as to your thoughts on those questions above.

  14. WOW! The statement by Elder Packer on the difference between priesthood authority and power is alarming! Isn't that just as the church was during Christ's time? That is quite disturbing to me to think the church has already returned to that condition.
    This makes me think of any gift of the spirit, even the Holy Ghost-it's the metaphor of someone giving me a gift of say a shirt, and I take it and hang it in the closet to never be used. Don't the gifts of the spirit etc. require power? How could someone have the gift of healing without power, or prophecy, or the casting out of devils etc? What does that mean for the ordinance work being done? Do some things merely require authority while others require power? My mind is all over the place with this, especially coming from the source from which it did. I've long suspected some who claim power no longer have it but this seems to be on a much grander scale. Now I'll state the obvious-if we no longer have power, aren't we powerless? Methinks there is much work to be done!!!


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