Saturday, May 8, 2010


One of the very substantial differences in the way we are currently evolving is almost unnoticed.  I've tried to capture the difference in what I've written by using the terms "movement" in contrast to "institution."  Those terms help to explain the notion, but it is really something more than that.  I'm going to use a different way to explain it in this post, and see if I can get a little closer to the real underlying process which is now underway.

The original development under Joseph Smith was something quite distinct from all existing faiths.  It was not just a new religion.  It was a wholesale resurrection of an ancient concept of "Peoplehood."  It was radical.  Its purpose was to change diverse assortments of people, from every culture and faith, with every kind of ethnic and racial composition, into a new kind of People.  They were to be united under the banner of a New and Everlasting Covenant, resurrecting the ancient Hebraic notion of nationhood and Peoplehood.  No matter what their former culture was, they were adopted inside a new family, a covenant family.  Status was defined not be virtue of what you believed or confessed, but instead by what covenants you have assumed.

What returned through Joseph Smith was not a religion, nor an institution, nor merely a faith.  It was instead the radical notion that an ancient covenant family was being regathered into a separate People.  This return to ancient roots brought with it, as the hallmark of its source of power, the idea of renewed covenants that brought each individual into direct contract with God.  It did not matter what they believed.  It only mattered that they accepted and took upon them the covenant.

Once inside the new People, there was a new culture where ancient ties returned to bind the hearts together.  There was a dietary regimen where the People were reminded at every meal that they were distinct and apart from the world.  There was the gift of sacred clothing, in which they were reminded of their separateness by the things put upon their skin.  There were financial sacrifice of tithes, gathered from the People to help the People.  The fortunes of all were intertwined with each other by the gathering of tithes and offerings into the Bishop's storehouse to help the poor and needy among the People.  It was NOT a religion.  It was a People.  It was to become The People.  And The People were required to extend to all others the same equal opportunity to become also part of the covenant.

This is different from a religion.  It was cultural, personal, and as distinct as a Jew views himself to be from a Christian.  To a Jew, religion is a part of the equation.  They share blood with other Jews, and therefore even if a Jew is not attending weekly synagogue meetings, they retain their status as one of the Jews.

Religion on the other hand is merely a brand name for a sentiment.  One can be a Presbyterian or a Lutheran and still belong to the same Elks Lodge.  There is nothing really distinct between the two, other than where they meet for an hour or two on Sundays.  Apart from that, they identify culturally as "Protestants" and brothers.  There is no great distinction, and the theological differences which separate them are so trivial that a doctrinal disagreement between them is unlikely.

Mormonism has taken a direct course-change where the original elements of separate Peoplehood are now viewed as an impediment to wider acceptance.  The distinctions are being minimized in order to undo the conflicts that marred the relationship between Mormonism and the larger American society.  The lessons learned from those conflicts have led to the idea that we must become more actively engaged in public relations.  Our commitment to the public relations process has informed us that we have to become less distinct to get along with others.  We need to drop our misunderstood and offensive claims to distinctions that claim superiority, and urge instead the things that we share with the Presbyterians and Lutherans.  The ultimate end of that process is to make it just as meaningless and controversial a thing for a Mormon to belong to and fellowship with the Elks Lodge as it is for the Presbyterian and Lutheran.  This is one of the great goals of the Correlation process and the public relations effort of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The outreach at present is merely an attempt to get people to accept the church as another form of Historic Christianity, claiming equality among peers, without any desire to confront or cause conflict.  The notion of Peoplehood is being suppressed.  Any claims of superiority of the faith are suppressed.

Enthusiastic scholarship is working alongside the larger public relations effort.  The work of Robinson at BYU, for example, in his reconciliatory book, (co-authored with a member of the Evangelical-based Denver Theological Seminary faculty) "How Wide the Divide," made an attempt to discuss Evangelical Protestant notions alongside Mormon notions and to minimize any differences.  The underlying presumption is that we are both merely religions.  As fellow religions we share an attempt to come to God through teachings we believe in and scriptural texts we share.

Reconciliation between what Joseph Smith restored and other religions should never have been a goal.  Joseph's restoration was not a church.  It was not a religion.  It was not a bundle of beliefs.  By trying to reach a common footing among other mainstream Christian faiths we have to first abandon the very different footing upon which Joseph established the Restoration.

The original Restoration could never be like any of "them."  They were churches.  Joseph restored Peoplehood.  To go from what Joseph restored to a common footing requires us to first abandon the concept that we are neither a new form of Christianity, nor a return to Jewish antecedents.  We are something quite different from either.  We are an Hebraic resurrection of God's People, clothed with a covenant, and engaged in a direct relationship with God that makes us distinct from all other people.

When we view ourselves as a Christian faith, we deconstruct the very foundation upon which we began.  We aren't that.  We can never be part of Historic Christianity.  And yet that has been our front-and-center effort through the focus on public relations and the scientific study of what words we should use to advance our acceptance in the world.

Read the earliest of Mormon materials and you will be shocked by how differently they viewed themselves from how we now view ourselves.  They were building a separate People.  They invited all to come and partake of the covenant, renounce their prior errors, and return to living as one of God's New and Everlasting Covenant holders.

To rid ourselves of that tradition, we need to assume the elements of a typical religion.  Rather than defining ourselves as a separate People, we turn to defining a set of beliefs.  Establishing an orthodoxy and then insisting upon uniformity of belief to belong to the orthodox religion is the way of the Catholics and Protestants.  They are bound together NOT by their peoplehood but instead by their confessions of faith.  So as you de-emphasize our Peoplehood, you must then begin to emphasize and control an orthodox statement or confession of faith.

These dynamics are worth very careful thought.  There is an actual consensus among church leaders that this is the right way to proceed.  A discussion about it among Latter-day Saints has not even begun at the rank and file level.  The transition takes place over decades, and unless someone first creates a vocabulary for the problem, we don't even have the capacity to discuss or notice what is happening and why.

This post has gone on too long.  Not really a blog post subject.  It's a book-length subject.  I make fleeting comments about something that would take pages to develop.  But I doubt I'll write the needed book.  Instead I will try to bring the idea into the consciousness of you good people and let it percolate about.  Surely some of you can do something about it.


  1. Here's a question about a previous post. You said something to the effect that God is continually surrounded by concourses of angels, and that this fact tells us something important about the nature of God. After studying the relevant scripture on the matter I don't see what it is that you're driving at. Circles within circles of angels surrounding Diety suggests that the angels themselves are organized with an eye for order and harmony and perhaps progression, but what does it tell us about God himself? Can you help us understand?
    Thanks so much for the hard work you put in to your writing.

  2. Can you clarify something for me? You've touched on this elsewhere - way back when - when you noted that one of your acquaintances (?) had said that they whole world should be allowed to partake of the ordinances the Church offers, and then be allowed to practice/honor those ordinances as they please, inside/outside the confines of a church in whatever way they see fit/inspired to do.

    If so, then it appears to be a similar chord you're striking on this write up when you say, "it did not matter what they believed. It only mattered that they accepted and took upon them the covenant."

    Is that a fair understanding?

  3. The first thing I can do is to really study the original teachings of Joseph Smith. The second is to read your book on the subject when you write it.

  4. Tom: Yes, I think the concept that joining in with us in covenant, accepting the ordinances, and learning that they have part in the great latter-day resurrection of the People of Israel should be what makes a Latter-day Saint. From that point it is merely a matter of education. And by education I mean persuasion, example, pure knowledge, the power of the spirit and inviting and enticing them to a higher plane. Not control. Not compulsion in any degree. Not strict rules and mandatory catechisms. Merely showing the light and inviting to move toward it should be the gentle spirit of the Restoration. It will produce independently converted, self-empowered, capable people who do not look to another to tell them what to do. The bar which will be raised will be wholly within the souls of members.

  5. Sure, some of us can do something it!!


    I tried to weave the sentiment into my Mother's Day talk yesterday... not sure if that counts.

    I really didn't know what correlation was until a few days ago when you brought it up. Hadn't given it any thought. Just figured we were dumbing down, cuz people are putting less and less effort into studying and learning generally. I joked that the next GD manual would be the Choose The Right A manual. Guess that's not funny.

    I, for one, don't have the foggiest clue how to do anything about this.

  6. Brandon:

    Well, in that respect, maybe the FLDS finally got something right! They dont compromise anything at all.

  7. With respect to the FLDS and their resistance to compromise: Except, of course, with respect to their obligation to comply with the law, as the Articles of Faith obligate them to do. As well as honoring and respecting a woman's right to be educated, make an informed choice and wait to marry until after she is of age. Such compulsion of child-brides as we saw at the YFZ ranch was criminal and resulted in the conviction of Jeffs, who is now in prison.

  8. I like this view, especially where you said, "It will produce independently converted, self-empowered, capable people who do not look to another to tell them what to do. The bar which will be raised will be wholly within the souls of members."

    That particular sentiment reminds me of several things, but only one is worth mentioning:

    Jeremiah 31

    " 33 But this shall be the acovenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my blaw in their inward parts, and write it in their chearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
    34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all aknow me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their biniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."


    But, as to the comparison with the FLDS, I can't say that I agree with your premise that the Articles of Faith "obligate" us or anyone else to do anything. The early church history is littered with similar examples where LDS church members were much more willing to rebel against the laws of the land. Today we seem to have developed a complex where we're uber-obedient and even scared to do anything that might go against this or that rule. We've positioned ourselves as the ultimate Statists.

    As you probably know, the Articles of Faith were never really viewed as anything that approached the level of "binding" or even an "obligation" until Woodruff presented them as being the equivalent of "scripture" just prior to presenting the original Manifesto in 1890. Prior to that date it was far cry to call it an obligation and was, if nothing else, the very definition of a mixed bag and much more in line with Acts 5:29 then the current dogma.

    What's amusing, is that if we were to apply the 12th AoF - especially in the definition used in the mainstream - as binding or obligatory, then we'd never have the likes of Washington, or Jefferson, or any other revolutionary thinkers who thought it much worse to be blindly accepting and obedient to governments and the laws they create. Unfortunately, today it's quite the opposite.

  9. First off, I saw another Brandon on this post. This is Brandon Blair- I wouldn't want the other Brandon to be critiqued for my posts and vice versa.

    I am imperfect and quite independent by nature. However, I sometimes experience a deep yearning to be surrounded by a people bonded by the Spirit of God, having one mind and one heart, a community of saints, where nothing but the best of feelings prevail. My heart is filled with much joy having such thoughts, because I know such a thing exists, though currently I can only see it with the eyes of faith.

    I completely feel this reality, this building of a separate people...a peculiar treasure. I converted to this Church because of the doctrine, and the freedom and peace it brings through the transformative power it contains thanks to the accompaniment of the Spirit.

    I do have some concerns about this blog but perhaps that's because it could be misinterpreted.

    Joseph Smith along with establishing an Hebraic resurrection of God's People, also established the Articles of Faith...a set of beliefs that among other things, ties us to the Primitive Church of Christ's time and the strict adherence of laws and covenants.

    It seems that although this 'People' have the freedom to believe what they will, there is a balance where there are certain beliefs and practices that are non-negotiable if we are to be a part of the People.

    Furthermore, to even covenant with the Lord by means of the proper authority who has been given such keys/power to perform the associated ordinance(s), interviews must first be conducted where our very beliefs are questioned. If we want to receive the ordinances, we must believe certain things and obey certain commandments. Some may see this as control. Others may see this as proving that they are willing to do all that the Lord commands (Abr 3:25).

    It appears that not only did Joseph Smith establish a People but he also established the associated order (D&C 107:84), which would include not only shared and set beliefs set forth and exemplified by Christ, but the observance of them as well.

    When Christ restored His Way, the apostles and disciples began to live in communities. When people from all over joined the Church during the Restoration, they began to build up and live in communities. I yearn for this. We are a people without a promise land to immediately gather to and live together in peace under the leadership of the King of Kings. I'm in exile in my 2-bedroom condo with all the amenities one could ask for.

    Note: the word verification below is not a word...what's lardsci? Or what's google for that matter? I guess they can now list any array of characters and call it 'word verification'...they're Google. Just jesting...


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