“I don’t know that we teach it”

In the latest LDS manual for priesthood and Relief Society sunday meetings, it features the teachings of Joseph Smith and will be in use for the next two years. Today’s lesson is on the topic of God the Father. There is a particular passage in the manual that I was surprised to see, especially in contrast to the famous comment quoted in this post’s title made by Gordon B. Hinckley in Time magazine.

The passage in the manual is taken from the King Follett Discourse, perhaps Joseph’s most controversial sermon.

“God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make Himself visible,—I say, if you were to see Him today, you would see Him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another. …

For the sake of openness and fairness, I’m providing the most apologetic source for discussion of President Hinckley’s interview, the topical page from FAIR. Regardless of how you slice it, doesn’t it seem weird to say we don’t teach it and then so clearly include it in a correlated church manual now?

What are your thoughts?

Comments

comments

75 comments for ““I don’t know that we teach it”

  1. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Well, as the guy that just wrote three essays with intent to explain exactly this point, I’ll bite:

    1. The manual isn’t teaching this, it’s teaching that Joseph Smith taught this. There is a subtle difference here that will become important on my next point. But that’s why the manual just quotes without further explanation.

    2. What Joseph Smith exactly meant is open for debate and is debated. I believe it, but I doubt I believe it in the same way others do. We get to decide for ourselves if how to take this teaching. There are many open ways to handle this: from believing it was an opinion, to accepting the Father as a divine man like Christ, all the way to accepting a mortal and sinful man that became God. Joseph Smith, in full context, never really insists on any of these views, but seems to favor the middle view – a divine man. (Or at least that is my honest interpretation. Feel free to disagree with me or read it differently.)

    3. Presidently Hinckley didn’t deny we taught it, he said he didn’t know if we taught it or at least he didn’t know that we emphasized it.

    The second half of #3 is obviously true. We clearly don’t emphasize it.

    I take it you are actually arguing the first half. That we *obviously* do teach it because there it is in the manual. But to me the question is “do we teach it the way the person doing the interview understood the concept?” Presumably as God having once been a sinful man on some planet out there in the universe a long time ago. I think the answer to this question is, for me at least, “Absolutely No!”

    Thus I see Hinckley’s answer as quite literal. He doesn’t know if we teach it the way they are thinking of it or not. But probably not. He says it’s deep theology, thus implying we don’t reject it either. Thus I don’t see the denial here that you see. I simply see a soundbite answer that couldn’t include the full nuance I just gave.

  2. January 20, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Bruce,

    I have great respect for your intellect — but answers like this bend my brain. Once language comes to be parse-able to the extent that you are parsing it — to me, it becomes almost meaningless.

    I respect your position — I really do — but I could never live that way.

    • Bryon Martin
      September 15, 2013 at 4:17 pm

      Thanks Don.

      Great response.

  3. John Hamer
    January 20, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Clay, no matter how you slice it, the manual indicates an awareness on the part of LDS leadership that Gordon Hinckley’s statements to Larry King were a strategic error.

    There are two possibilities. (1) If the King interview indicated that this doctrine had been on the chopping block (or the deleting in silence block), the manual shows that it’s clearly off the block. (2) On the other hand, if Hinckley’s statements were merely meant to mislead King’s audience, I think that actively teaching the King Follett Discourse here shows an awareness that duplicitous statements aren’t actually good for PR.

  4. January 20, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    As long as I have been in the Church, we have taught that God was once a man, and that men have the potential to become Gods. As the FAIR site indicates, GBH may have been answering the question, “Is the doctrine taught or emphasized in the Church today?” Since it was not at the time of the King interview being particularly emphasized in Conference or official publications, he was not strictly wrong. However I see no way around the conclusion that he was being misleading (perhaps in an attempt to avoid deeper discussion).

    The situation has changed now that this quote has been included in an official publication studied by the majority of the Church population worldwide. I would hope that if President Hinckley or any other Church leader were asked the same question today, they would answer, “Yes, that is what we teach.”

  5. Stephen Marsh
    January 20, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    do we teach it the way the person doing the interview understood the concept?” Presumably as God having once been a sinful man on some planet out there in the universe a long time ago. I think the answer to this question is, for me at least, “Absolutely No!”

    I don’t see a problem with that, doesn’t seem to be that hard.

    Especially since Joseph Smith seems to be saying what he said as a part of teaching if you were to see Him today, you would see Him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God

    The point of the quote is the bolded cite above, too often people are trying to make the bolded part the support for the part that is supporting. I think it is quite possible to believe that Adam was created in the fashion, image and likeness of God without believing that the type of person that you are talking about was ever, within the walls of this world, a telestial mortal like we are.

    Is it possible to believe that? Yes. Is it possible to not believe that? Yes. Which is the entire issue.

    As to I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it … I understand the philosophical background behind it, but I don’t know a lot about it, and I don’t think others know a lot about it. I can strongly agree that most do not know a lot about it and that you are unlikely to hear the doctrine in Conference or Sacrament Meetings …


    I should note that below, hawkgrrrl has an excellent comment, one that really adds something clear.

    She says:

    Maybe the best thing to say is, “JS, whom we revere as a prophet said [I don’t have the work ethic to type out the whole quote here], and what he meant is not entirely clear and complete. We believe in ongoing revelation, and if more is revealed in the future, we’ll know.”

    I’d have to agree with that.

  6. January 20, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    The way I see it, we need to step back and realize that Pres. Hinckley was giving an off-the-cuff answer to a difficult question. I think he tried to state it the best he could in that moment, but probably should not have said we didn’t teach it. He should have said (and indeed did one sentence later) that we don’t emphasize it. Haven’t you ever said a sentence that didn’t sound quite right and then said another sentence to clarify what you meant? Think about this. He said,

    “I don’t know that we teach it.” Then immediately said, “I don’t know that we emphasize it.” The second sentence doesn’t make sense unless you interpret it as a clarification on the first sentence. If we don’t teach it, clearly we don’t emphasize it! By saying that we don’t emphasize it, he was in affect admitting that it is, in fact, a teaching of the church.

    Let’s not become “offenders for a word” here.

  7. January 20, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Good answers Bruce.

    John D. — what do you mean you could “never live that way”?

    I think that the fact that this is a theological idea that is not settled in the church (as Bruce accurately described in his #2.) leaves a lot of room for President Hinckley to demur on that topic in the setting of that interview. There is leeway in Mormon theology to believe any of the things Bruce mentioned in his #2 and still be an “orthodox” Mormon (whatever that means) after all. So demurring on a complex and unsettled issue like this makes a lot of sense I think.

  8. January 20, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    This principle, in substance, is found also in the scriptures. The Lord said to John, as recorded in the third chapter of his Revelation: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” [Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, compiled by Clyde J. Williams (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984), 2.]

    I like that cite, from Bruce’s article as well as:

    The Apostle Paul also taught in this wise: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). This is the high destiny of the sons of God, they who overcome, who are obedient to His commandments, who purify themselves even as He is pure. They are to become like Him; they will see Him as He is; they will behold His face and reign with Him in His glory, becoming like unto Him in every particular. (Ibid., 5.)

  9. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    >>> The way I see it, we need to step back and realize that Pres. Hinckley was giving an off-the-cuff answer to a difficult question. I think he tried to state it the best he could in that moment, but probably should not have said we didn’t teach it.

    Mike L, you just said what I was getting at better than I did. John, you are seeing my answer as parsing. But in fact, I’m just taking an idea and doing my best to put it into words as best as I can.

    Yes, what I am saying is that this is a soundbite problem. That’s what I’m trying to say. When a person has to answer a question off the cuff and doesn’t have time to think about the answer in advance they do the best they can. When they know they can’t take time to do a Sunday school lesson on the subject, they do they best approximation they can.

    I feel, John, that you are being far tougher on Hinckley than he deserves. The answer isn’t as bad as you are indicating.

    Now if Presidently had written that into a book and left it at that, I’d be right with you. But it just took me 3 very long posts to explain the complexities that Hinckley would have been facing in such a question. I do not believe it would be possible for him to give the full nuanced answer you are demanding of him.

  10. Chris W.
    January 20, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    I think I’ll agree with Clay on this one – clearly it’s being taught and, in my experience, it’s being emphasized.

    Isn’t the mormon concept of exaltation that men will be gods? That we will have eternal increase like God our Father has done? Doesn’t that mean that there will be worlds of people (our progeny) that will be descended from previously mortal and sinful men (and women)?

    Who is responsible for clarifying mormon doctrine? I think this is the fundamental question. There are many people who believe that God was a man. These same people are teaching other people in church, and so this “teaching” (I won’t call it a doctrine….) persists. If it’s not true, or if we don’t know that it’s true, shouldn’t we get some clarification on the matter? The only things that are written on the matter indicate that God was a man.

  11. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    >>> Isn’t the mormon concept of exaltation that men will be gods?

    Chris W. The only thing being questioned is if God was once a man.

  12. January 20, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Suppose, for just a moment, that Hinckley was actually caught off guard with the question, stumbled a bit, and “clarified” as some have suggested. Why then would he make the following statement in general conference:

    “I personally have been much quoted, and in a few instances misquoted and misunderstood. I think that’s to be expected. None of you need worry because you read something that was incompletely reported. You need not worry that I do not understand some matters of doctrine. I think I understand them thoroughly, and it is unfortunate that the reporting may not make this clear. I hope you will never look to the public press as the authority on the doctrines of the Church.”

    Now, we can point to the fact that he made more than one statement refuting Joseph Smith’s doctrine regarding the past mortality of deity, yet Hinckley pretends it’s one reporter’s error. Further, he has the pulpit, and doesn’t set the record straight.

    Regardless of what you think of Hinckley’s denials, it’s quite unfortunate that so many are doing exactly what he said he hopes LDS will never do. They are taking the three recorded anti-Joseph statements of Hinckley (which Hinckley claims, at least on one occasion, were mistaken), and looking to the public press for doctrine on these points. The efforts of FAIR types, etc., to crowbar Hinckley’s statements into conformity with Joseph Smith’s teachings is entirely based on accepting the reports as an accurate statement of doctrine from a prophet.

  13. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    I would like to respectfully ask that those that feel Hinckley was not telling the truth that they please respond to the very question themselves and allow their answers to be dissected by those here in the very same why they are doing to Hinckley. John, Nick, and John, I’m looking at you.

    Here are the stipulations:
    1. You need to not represent one non-scriptural theory over another. (i.e. you can’t emphasize God once being a sinful man over the theory that this was just Joseph’s opinion as both are equally valid.) In other words, you aren’t allowed to leave out any living believing Mormon’s legitimate personal pet theories in the cold. Putting this another way, you must keep us creedless. If you specify one view as “true” then you have more or less just declared new doctrine. (Since you’re the President of the Church and that’s how everyone will take it.)
    2. You need to hold yourself to the same number of characters Hinckley used. Actually, let’s allow you to double it to give you an advantage.
    3. Your answer must help an outsider understand how a Mormon honestly *feels* and *understands* their doctrines. If you answer is technically correct but gives a misimpression to an outsider (i.e. they come away with a false understanding of how a Mormon would actually look at it), expect to get dissected and rightfully so.
    4. You need to not use Mormon lingo unless you can explain it fully within your space constraints.

    Now, if you are brave enough to do so, one of two things will happen. We will either end up with a better answer (very possible) and we can point to that and say “here is how Hinckley should have handled it.” That way this is actually a productive discussion instead of a gripe session, which is what I think it is now.

    That or else we’ll quickly have proof that this isn’t as easy as you guys think it is.

    I’m fine with either outcome. Frankly, I’d rather have a short and sweet yet comprehensive answer, so I’m hoping you can actually do what you think you can do. I have put a lot of time and effort into coming up with good soundbite answers and I’m always looking for better ones.

    Actually, I’d encourage everyone to try to give an answer even if they liked Hinckley’s answer. I think there is a fair question here: “what are the best ways to truthfully (as possible) answer difficult questions like this?”

    I think Hinckley’s answer was less than perfect but pretty good. I give it a 7 out of 10. I will attempt to improve on it with my own answer following my own contraints.

  14. January 20, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Bruce:
    (1) This nonsense of inserting “sinful” into Joseph Smith’s teachings on the mortal life of deity is a red herring. Joseph didn’t address that issue. Suppose, however, that the LDS deity did, in fact, commit sin during mortality. In order to obtain his exaltation, he would have to have repented, so your protests about a “sinful god” are poorly reasoned. Personally, I’m of the opinion that if neither deity nor Jesus ever sinned (and subsequently repented), this gives little or no encouragement to mankind. A “sinless” deity in the sense of “never committed any transgression whatsoever, and never repented either” presents the concept that exaltation is completely out of reach for us, who do sin, and have to repent.
    (3) I’m quite good at identifying how an actual “Mormon” understands this matter. Today’s young/convert LDS, however, are quite another matter. More and more of them, like yourself, are blatantly rejecting Joseph Smith’s doctrines, in order to feel more “acceptable” to the very christians that Mormonism teaches are in apostacy.

    A prophet need not be afraid of public reaction to his teachings, and the scriptures (which you want to play “sola scriptura” with) are full of instances where prophets boldly declared truth, even at the peril of their lives, let alone public relations. Hinckley should have said, “Yes, we believe in eternal progression, and that god himself went through a mortal experience similar to our own, before obtaining an eternal exaltation.” Such an answer would have made ZERO difference on the part of real anti-Mormons, and would have actually caught the interest (i.e. sparked investigation) among open-minded people. I say this as someone who was “accidentally” taught the doctrine of exaltation during the missionary discussions, and guess what—-this beautiful principle was one of the biggest reasons I joined the LDS church.

  15. Chris W.
    January 20, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Bruce said:

    The only thing being questioned is if God was once a man.

    I disagree. The mormon concept of exaltation is closely tied to the origin or our own God.

    Anyway, just for everyone’s reference, here’s President Hinckley in the SF Chronicle. (Is he denying exaltation here?):

    Q: There are some significant differences in your beliefs. For instance, don’t Mormons believe that God was once a man?
    A: I wouldn’t say that. There was a couplet coined, “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.” Now that’s more of a couplet than anything else. That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about.

    Here’s Time Magazine:

    Q: Just another related question that comes up is the statements in the King Follet discourse by the Prophet.
    A: Yeah
    Q: … about that, God the Father was once a man as we were. This is something that Christian writers are always addressing. Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?
    A: I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.

  16. January 20, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    “The mormon concept of exaltation is closely tied to the origin or our own God.”

    Absolutely, dead-on correct, Chris. I would also note for the benefit of Bruce that neither of the interviewers you posted asked whether LDS believed god was a “sinful” man. Again, inserting this into the discussion is merely a red herring, invented by those who reject the doctrines of Joseph in order to avoid the cognitive dissonance that Hinckley’s statements create.

  17. John Hamer
    January 20, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Bruce: I’m sorry to say that your requirements are as silly as those in Hugh Nibley’s infamous Book of Mormon challenge.

    For me to craft a PR line for Gordon Hinckley, rather than worry about your fantasy requirements, I would need to know the actual motivation, which (as I said above) appears to have been either: (1) we are deleting this doctrine as a church (and I say “doctrine” despite your ideas on the use of the term), or (2) we are concealing this meaty doctrine in PR circumstances and presenting milk instead.

    I can’t be his speechwriter without knowing which was the actual plan at the time. Either way, the response was botched (perhaps a 3 out of 10 on your scale), which is why it required a wink-wink correction in a later General Conference and which is why it has not gone away. Whatever the plan had been, the new manual indicates a new plan vis-à-vis this doctrine. I suspect the change in direction is, in part, a direct result of this botched response.

  18. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    >>> (1) we are deleting this doctrine as a church (and I say “doctrine” despite your ideas on the use of the term), or (2) we are concealing this meaty doctrine in PR circumstances and presenting milk instead.

    Neither. Please go read my posts for full explanation. I also highly recommend the links Yellow Knife added to my posts and the one from Millet.

    I’m asking you to represent the real and full truth, or at least the best approximation of it that you can within the space constraints.

    Based on what you posted here I’m not convinced you do understand the full nuanced view that Mormons hold. I think maybe you honestly believe we must either accept every statement made as true or not true and that we all must agree on that point. What a terrible misunderstanding of Mormonism that would be! I know you haven’t been a Mormon since you were younger, so I can understand how you might have missed this. However, this is a key point that is very real and very important to understanding Mormon beliefs.

  19. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Chris W,

    I’m going off of what Ostling said (that’s the interviewer from Time): (see FAIR link in the main article)

    Here’s the transcript of my question and President Hinckley’s response to me. This came just after a long discussion on whether men can become gods, which the President affirmed.

    Presidently Hinckly affirmed that men become gods according to this. And apparently to a non-Mormons satisfaction. This doctrine is straight from a revelation so it could’nt have been otherwise.

  20. January 20, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Nick: Hinckley should have said, “Yes, we believe in eternal progression, and that god himself went through a mortal experience similar to our own

    The “similar to our own” is a major sticking point for you here Nick. How do you know GBH believes that? How do you know Joseph believed that? I know lots of Mormons who believe that the Father was a sinless savior on a previous world like Jesus was here and if that is true he didn’t sin at all. (I don’t agree with that view but it is a valid position to take in the absence of revelation clarifying the matter.)

    So basically, it sounds to me like you are really saying “Hinckley should have boldly declared my favorite take on this matter”. That’s not a very compelling argument…

  21. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    >>> So basically, it sounds to me like you are really saying “Hinckley should have boldly declared my favorite take on this matter”. That’s not a very compelling argument…

    In other words, he wanted to creedalize. 😉

  22. January 20, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    In other words, you aren’t allowed to leave out any living believing Mormon’s legitimate personal pet theories in the cold. … ok, made me smile.

    If I were asked to take a position on the doctrine, which never made it as far as The Doctrine and Covenants or the Articles of Faith, I’d probably say something like this:

    I believe in the scriptures. The Lord said to John, as recorded in the third chapter of his Revelation: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” The Apostle Paul also taught in this wise: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). This is the high destiny of the sons of God, they who overcome, who are obedient to His commandments, who purify themselves even as He is pure. They are to become like Him; they will see Him as He is; they will behold His face and reign with Him in His glory, becoming like unto Him in every particular. (Ibid., 5.)

    I believe that we are heirs of God and Joint-Heirs with Christ, just as Christ taught through his apostles.

    Am I certain what that means? No, Christ has told us that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man how marvelous the blessings are that God has for us. But I have faith and exhort others to have faith in Christ and his words.

  23. January 20, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Chris W.: (Is he denying exaltation here?)

    No.

    He is revealing something very important that not enough people seem to take seriously though: “That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about.” Coming from a prophet that is big news. Not enough Mormons are willing to believe he really means it when he says we just don’t know the answers. If God isn’t telling, how could he know the answers?

  24. TJM
    January 20, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    What’s the church afraid of here? Either we teach and believe it or we don’t.

    In sacrament today a return missionary spoke quite clearly on a principle that he was taught to teach, and it was this: “the gospel is simple, it’s black or white, no gray, it is or it is not”.

    Mixed messages (for those who listen) create chaos. Governments flounder because of this, businesses fail because of this. What is going on here?

  25. January 20, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Either we teach and believe it or we don’t.

    OR…

    That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about.

    (See what I mean about nobody believing the prophet on this matter?)

  26. Chris W.
    January 20, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    It’s OK for the doctrine to be ambiguous. It’s OK for the answer to be “we don’t know.”

    What’s going on here is that it’s ambiguous whether we know (sort of a meta-ambiguity – we don’t know if we know). Do we know that God was like us? We have conflicting statements – President Hinckley says no in several media outlets. The Priesthood/Relief Society manual this year says yes.

    I think this level of ambiguity is not OK. If we don’t know, then someone needs to come out and say so. I feel the same way about the curse of Cain. Church members have believed (and many continue to believe) that people are born black due to pre-birth choices. There are a lot of statements by church leaders that affirm this. There are none repudiating it. Do we know why some people are black? If not, then we need to say: “we don’t know. Everything is just speculation.”

    Does someone have the job of clarifying and unifying doctrine/teachings?

  27. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    >>> What’s the church afraid of here? Either we teach and believe it or we don’t.

    I feel like my lips are moving but nothing is coming out.

    >>> See what I mean about nobody believing the prophet on this matter?

    *Raises hand* I do!

    Stephen Marsh, your answer was very thoughtful. You fail on the space contraint, but maybe we should open it up to be a bit larger. I really like your answer because you chose to summarize scripture and not interpret. However, I think some of our neighbors here would feel like you were dodging since you never answered if God was once a man. (However, I didn’t feel like you were dodging.)

    By the way, when I said “you aren’t allowed to leave out any living believing Mormon’s legitimate personal pet theories in the cold” I wasn’t being flipant (I can see it might be taken that way now.) What I mean is literally: “if there is a legitimate view out there, you aren’t allowed to rule it out with your answer.” That’s the real challenge of staying creedless.

  28. January 20, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    ““That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about.” Coming from a prophet that is big news. Not enough Mormons are willing to believe he really means it when he says we just don’t know the answers.”

    It is important news, much as when Joseph Smith said similar things.

    “That’s the real challenge of staying creedless.”

    It is.

  29. January 20, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Chris W: The Priesthood/Relief Society manual this year says yes.

    Actually the PH/RS manual simply quotes the KFD where the idea is founded. It does not give commentary the subject beyond that.

    If we don’t know, then someone needs to come out and say so.

    Errr… Weren’t you the one who just gave us quotes where the president of the church clearly did say “That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about”? The _is_ someone coming out and saying it. Why would you refuse to believe him?

  30. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    I do believe we’ve just uncovered something significant. We have a divide and it’s not about duplicity on the part of the Mormons.

    Question for the “orthodox Mormons” (hate that term) on this forum. Do you agree with my list of constraints? I ask because, far from being silly, I picked them as being the very constraints I personally believe President Hinckley would have felt he had to hold himself to. So I’m open to refining them and getting input from others.

    I’m serious about making a contest out of this. I want to find the best answers. I’m already working on my answer.

  31. John Hamer
    January 20, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    Based on what you posted here I’m not convinced you do understand the full nuanced view that Mormons hold. I think maybe you honestly believe we must either accept every statement made as true or not true and that we all must agree on that point. What a terrible misunderstanding of Mormonism that would be! I know you haven’t been a Mormon since you were younger, so I can understand how you might have missed this. However, this is a key point that is very real and very important to understanding Mormon beliefs.

    No, Bruce — I do understand the nuance you’re attempting to portray, but I don’t agree it has merit. I haven’t missed a thing in what you keep writing, but I don’t find it compelling.

    Are you actually suggesting that you are describing what all LDS Mormons believe and that your hyperparsed definitions are those understood by the bulk of LDS Mormons? These are your own personal, mental exertions. They don’t describe the behavior of the LDS hierarchy because they are based on your own particular, flawed assumptions.

    “…I think maybe you honestly believe we must either accept every statement made as true or not true and that we all must agree on that point…”
    I have said nothing that remotely implies this. The fact that you’ve pulled this idea out of the air is a clear example of how your analyses are so very affected by your pre-existing assumptions.

    You keep imploring everyone to look at the mental maze you’ve constructed around yourself, but you haven’t once listened to what I’ve said. That’s fine; you don’t have to. I’m not trying to engage you. But you are now also preventing me from engaging with Clay about his ideas by hijacking the discussion and bringing everything back down into your self-made maze.

  32. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    >>> Are you actually suggesting that you are describing what all LDS Mormons believe and that your hyperparsed definitions are those understood by the bulk of LDS Mormons?

    What are the other Mormons on this forum saying

    >>> I think maybe

    This was my way of saying “I’m not saying you are thinking this, but is it possible that you are thinking this?” I apologize if it didn’t come across this way. I don’t want to put words in your mouth. And I don’t want to offend you, John Hammer. The truth is that I was a bit taken back by the fact that you think my contraints are silly. They are an honest attempt to capture what I feel President Hinckley would feel he has to represent. We certain don’t share some assumption somewhere.

    Question for everyone else. Is this off topic now? Have I hijacked it? It seems to me that this is precisely on topic. This *is* the topic.

  33. January 20, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    My article “President Hinckley and doctrine” was posted just now as a direct response to Clay Whipkey’s post.

  34. John Hamer
    January 20, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    What are the other Mormons on this forum saying
    Several practicing LDS members on this forum have been saying that they find your proposed definitions and models very interesting and original. They have not been saying that your own nuanced positions are already broadly understood and reflected across the LDS membership.

    Whatever the merits of your intricate theses, your definitions are not, as you say, “the full nuanced view that Mormons hold” present tense. They are the ideas that you hold and are proposing.

  35. January 20, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    The “similar to our own” is a major sticking point for you here Nick. How do you know GBH believes that? How do you know Joseph believed that?

    Mostly because I spent about a quarter of a century carefully studying Joseph’s words, and I’m more committed to what Joseph taught, than I am to modern attempts to dismiss him.

  36. January 20, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    John Hamer: I do understand the nuance you’re attempting to portray, but I don’t agree it has merit.

    So that means you think Mormons all hold the same opinion on this theological issue? Really?

    Are you actually suggesting that you are describing what all LDS Mormons believe and that your hyperparsed definitions

    I must have missed where he gave these “hyperparsed definitions”. Is that somewhere in this thread? Also, was he defining? I saw him write “What Joseph Smith exactly meant is open for debate and is debated” but that assertion is not controversial at all.

    You keep imploring everyone to look at the mental maze you’ve constructed around yourself

    Huh? Where is this alleged mental maze outlined? What am I missing here?

  37. January 20, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    [Hinckley] is revealing something very important that not enough people seem to take seriously though: “That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about.” Coming from a prophet that is big news. Not enough Mormons are willing to believe he really means it when he says we just don’t know the answers. If God isn’t telling, how could he know the answers?

    Geoff, Hinckley specifically stated in general conference, with regard to the controversy his dissembling caused, that he “hope[d] you will never look to the public press as the authority on the doctrines of the Church.” Why do you insist that Hinckley’s statement as recorded by “the public press” is a “revelation,” when he stated before millions of witnesses that you should not take such statements as doctrine? Make up your mind, my friend!

  38. January 20, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    (See what I mean about nobody believing the prophet on this matter?)

    See how you’re doing precisely what Hinckley said you should not do with regard to doctrine?

  39. January 20, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Actually the PH/RS manual simply quotes the KFD where the idea is founded. It does not give commentary the subject beyond that.

    Perhaps because Joseph Smith was sufficiently clear that only those who reject his teachings are likely to egregiously twist them from their plain meaning?

    Errr… Weren’t you the one who just gave us quotes where the president of the church clearly did say “That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about”? The _is_ someone coming out and saying it. Why would you refuse to believe him?

    How about because that same president of the church specifically told you not to believe what you read in the “public press” concerning doctrine?

  40. January 20, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Nick: I’m more committed to what Joseph taught, than I am to modern attempts to dismiss him.

    I’m afraid I have bad news for you — Interpreting the writings of Joseph Smith differently than Nick Literski interprets them is certainly not the same as “attempting to dismiss Joseph Smith”. See here for several long debates among practicing and believing Mormons on how to interpret the King Follett discourse and the Sermon in the Grove. (I likely interpret them in a similar way you do but I am not willing to dismiss all other interpretations as ant-Joseph as you seem eager to do here.)

    Why do you insist that Hinckley’s statement as recorded by “the public press” is a “revelation,”

    I never insisted President Hinckley’s explanation about what we don’t know was a “revelation”. Did you just make that up? Rather, I said President Hinckley’s comments were a plain explanation that there has been no clear and unequivocal revelations on the details of God’s pre-earth history. (That is why there are competing speculations in the church on those details today).

  41. John Hamer
    January 20, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Huh? Where is this alleged mental maze outlined? What am I missing here?

    Geoff, Bruce wrote: Please go read my posts for full explanation. He is referring to his posts on “The Only Truly Creedless Church” and “What Is Mormon Doctrine.” My response to him is in light of those threads. I’m referring to Bruce’s definitions of doctrine, policy, creed, etc., on those threads.

    So that means you think Mormons all hold the same opinion on this theological issue? Really?

    No. I think nothing of the kind.

  42. January 20, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    I’m afraid I have bad news for you — Interpreting the writings of Joseph Smith differently than Nick Literski interprets them is certainly not the same as “attempting to dismiss Joseph Smith”.

    Nice straw man, Geoff. I never said this, and I think you know that. I do, however, interpret Hinckley’s denial, as well as the subsequent mental gymnastics of some LDS to justify it, as an “attempt to dismiss Joseph Smith.”

    I never insisted President Hinckley’s explanation about what we don’t know was a “revelation”. Did you just make that up?

    Actually, Geoff, you specifically stated that Hinckley’s denial was a revelation:

    “[Hinckley] is revealing something very important . . .”

    You didn’t say Hinckley was “stating,” or “explaining,” Geoff. You stated specifically that he was revealing, and then you went on to imply that those who don’t buy Hinckley’s denial are failing to “listen to the prophet.”

  43. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    I think tensions are rising here and I seem to have started it.

    I just want to say that I do not back down on a single thing I was thinking when I was writing what I said. (Go hyper parse that!) But I call for those that are angry with me to understand that I’m still human and I’m just explaining myself the best I can.

    But there is no reason for anyone to get mad. I am explaining my personal views of Mormon belief. How could this ever be wrong? Following my own teachings here, my views are themselves just an approxmiation of a profound truth that I have a hard time putting to words. I intentionally pointed out the Yellow Dart links and the Millet link. Those lead to two other people that have tackled the very question I am tackling and arrived at the same point I did but using a completely different path. If you don’t like my explanation, ignore it. It’s just one possible way of thinking of things.

    In other words, my particular approach is novel, as John is saying, but the underlying thought is not. I am just coming up with creative ways of explaining that which was always believed albeit perhaps imperfectly.

    I think the Mormon response to what I am saying speaks for itself, John. You have been missing something. Because it made you mad when I made a suggestion, I won’t do that again. You are my brother and I mean you no harm or offense. But look carefully at Geof’s response. Look at R. Gary’s post. Look at Stephen Marsh’s. John, you are missing something. You have misunderstood some aspect of Mormon belief. This isn’t duplicity as you’ve previously assumed. This is something that matters to believing Mormons and up to this point you haven’t understood it.

    >>> Mostly because I spent about a quarter of a century carefully studying Joseph’s words, and I’m more committed to what Joseph taught, than I am to modern attempts to dismiss him.

    Nick, I don’t want to offend you either. But can you see that to someone that holds my assumptions and believes as I do (as I’ve explained at length in my posts) that it would honestly seem to someone like me that you are commiting the very error of the Nicaea Council?

    You have studied Joseph Smith very much and you’ve cared very much. But when others chose to understand those words differently than you, you fell away in terms of your belief.

    Again, I do not want to offend. I’m trying to build a bridge here but I suspect that my words will sting no matter how carefully I word them. The simple truth is that there is a range of possible interpretations to many of these points. Your view are, in my opinion, valid. In fact, they are wanted. The issue isn’t how we view you, it’s how you view us.

  44. January 20, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Oh good grief Nick. I suppose saying President Hinckley was “revealing” that there is no revelation from God on a subject could technically be called a “revelation”. But calling it that in this context is confusing the issue rather than making things more clear. Seriously, is that the best you can come up with here?

    And no, my point about you claiming those who interpret Joseph differently than you do were dismissing Joseph is not straw man — rather it is quite evident that is just what you are trying to do in this thread.

  45. January 20, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    Nick, I don’t want to offend you either.

    I never thought otherwise, Bruce, and I’m not offended. I’m disappointed and saddened by what happened to the LDS church in the relatively brief time (26 years) that I was a member, as well as the ensuing two years which have passed.

    But can you see that to someone that holds my assumptions and believes as I do (as I’ve explained at length in my posts) that it would honestly seem to someone like me that you are commiting the very error of the Nicaea Council?

    What I perceive, Bruce, is that Hinckley’s comments caused serious cognitive dissonance among experienced members of the LDS church who knew his answer was not an accurate reflection of Mormonism. I perceive that this cognitive dissonance has expressed itself in mental gymnastics (as fully expected) on the part of those who’s belief might otherwise be challenged by Hinckley’s statement. I further perceive that this attempt to rewrite the doctrines of Mormonism has been picked up by CES and BYU (where at least one religion professor entirely rejects the King Follet Discourse, for example), and they are in turn influencing well-meaning young members of the LDS church to honestly believe that Joseph Smith’s teachings never meant what they said, and instead mean what Hinckley said in public relations interviews. I perceive that within a generation, it will actually be considered “apostate” in the LDS church to believe what Joseph Smith said on the topic. I perceive that this will entail a specific effort to entirely discredit and/or reinterpret the King Follet Discourse and other statements of Joseph Smith, together with a presidential statement against the “God Was Once A Man Theory.” I perceive that the following generation, out of a sincere desire to search and understand, will “discover” that this was always the teaching of Mormonism until post-1997, and these young people will compile volumes of statements on the subject, bringing them into uncomfortable discussions with their bishops and stake presidents, who will sincerely believe these young people are in apostacy.

    You have studied Joseph Smith very much and you’ve cared very much. But when others chose to understand those words differently than you, you fell away in terms of your belief.

    I wondered how long it would be until someone laid down the “You left the church, so you can’t possibly know what you’re talking about!” card.

  46. January 20, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    And no, my point about you claiming those who interpret Joseph differently than you do were dismissing Joseph is not straw man — rather it is quite evident that is just what you are trying to do in this thread.

    Geoff, you’ve ignored my statement repeatedly. Just who here is trying to establish the doctrine of the LDS church on the basis of what he read in “the public press,” in complete violation of what Hinckley stated in general conference? Sorry, but the answer to that question is pretty clear to me.

  47. TJM
    January 20, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Anyone seen the new series “Dancing with the Mormon Apologetics”? I hear you need a special artificial reality box to tune in.

  48. January 20, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Nick,

    You are clearly under the false assumption that the “doctrine” of the church regarding the KFD was established before GBH came out and said basically “we really don’t know the details on that subject”.

    So please help me understand what you think the doctrine of Mormonism was for those 26 years you were a Mormon.

    We can all agree that JS taught God was once a man on a previous world. In your opinion was the doctrine of the church that the Father was a savior on that world or a regular of joe like you and me? If he was a regular dude how do you explain the teachings of Joseph that said Jesus did on this planet just as he saw his Father do before him elsewhere? If he was a savior there how are we supposed to become like the Father since neither would have never sinned and we do? Do you reconcile this with the idea of multiple mortal probations and assume that the Father was both a man like us and a savior like Jesus on multiple previous worlds? If God was not a savior who was the savior for that world he was on — Jesus or some other divine person? Would you say that your answers to these questions were the well-known and established “doctrine” of the church before 1997?

    GBH came out and admitted “we just don’t know for sure” on all of these things. You seem to think he was lying or something and that Mormonism did in fact know for sure before 1997 so I will be happy to hear your answers to those questions.

  49. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    Nick, I have to agree with Geoff on this one. President Hinckley’s point was clearly that it’s possible for the press to take him out of context and we should be careful of how they present him. As Chris W’s post above proves, they did take him out of context and made it seem like he was denying that humans can become gods even though he spent a lengthy conversation affirming this first. (This is also the main source of cognotive dissonance you describe.)

    But Geoff isn’t taking him out of context. He’s quoting him in context and correctly. He’s stating what President Hinckley clearly actually believes, that we don’t know much about it.

    I need to say one more thing. Let’s say for a moment that I haven’t already shown that Mormons never taught that everything Joseph Smith or other Church leaders say carries the same weight on us as revelation. Let’s pretend for a moment that my views were something I made up out of thin air rather than deriving them from careful study. Let’s pretend all those quotes I made were in fact fictional.

    So what?

    The fact is that the “new Mormonism” where we stick with the scriptures first and foremost is the Mormonism I love. It’s the Mormonism I gew up with. It’s the only real Mormonism today, as you yourself have pointed out. You see it as a falling away from the our original teachings.

    So What?

    If Mormonism is not the true Church, then frankly God isn’t going to care one whit that we are some other type of non-true than we were previously.

    We have the right to interpret our doctrines any way we please. The rest of you have no right to define our doctrines for us. (Though obviously you have a right to try to recruit us to your beliefs. That’s called missionary work.)

    If there are two Mormonism as you say, an old and a new, well long live the new. The old is dead and buried as it should have been. I do not mourn it.

  50. hawkgrrrl
    January 20, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Nick,

    I think your cynicism about the future is probably based in a personal experience with the church that differs from mine. However, I do agree with the gist of what you are saying: downplaying the idea that God was once a man (whatever that means) and that as He is, we can become (again, whatever that means) feels like a slippery slope to me, too. I’m not very comfortable with the statement Hinckley made. I’m obviously not qualified to give advice to the church on PR, but it’s not how I would have answered the question. I’d like to hear us state even more clearly that “ours is a church of revelation.”

    Something I have always been uncomfortable with is the rampant folklore and contradictory speculation in the church, even among high-level leaders. It seems to me that since the McConkie/Mormon Doctrine event, the church has put the kaibosh on a lot of that, and I for one am glad. Ballard’s encouragement to define ourselves vs. letting others do it is interesting, too. I don’t hear them asking people to clamp down, but to focus on sharing personal experiences vs. “canned answers from lds.org.” So, perhaps the real shift isn’t away from core doctrines but toward experience vs. doctrine. To paraphrase another JS quote, we can go from knowing about God to knowing God; to me that sounds like JS is advocating practicing our faith vs. defending doctrinal points.

  51. John Hamer
    January 20, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Bruce: I am not misunderstanding you or missing anything. You are behaving precisely as my analysis predicts. Your problem is not a soundbite problem.

    I’m not mad at you, nor do your words “sting.” (My use of the word “silly” may have stung you, for which I am sorry.)

    That said, I spent a fair amount of time engaging with you on MormonStories only to see the effort wasted when you misread and mischaracterized the little of what I wrote that you seem to have read. You’ve reinforced my impression that you are not open to listening on this thread. That’s fine. That’s the nature of bboards. No one need cry tears for me for wasting my time in that way. However, I’m sorry to say that given that experience, I am not interested in engaging with you further on this topic. I already have plenty of bridges that actually lead somewhere.

  52. January 20, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Joseph clearly stated his doctrine on the subject, Geoff. Pointing toward uncertain further details does nothing to toss out what he said, no matter how much you or Hinckley try to pretend otherwise.

    Contrary to what you’re now trying to say, Hinckley didn’t dispute the sort of further details you are raising. He was asked whether Mormons believed that “God was once a man.” The answer to that question, notwithstanding a segment of those who do not actually accept the things Joseph taught, is “yes.”

    Now, will you please answer my question?

  53. hawkgrrrl
    January 20, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    “canned answers from lds.org.” – BTW, I don’t know why I put quotation marks on that; I’m not quoting anyone.

  54. TJM
    January 20, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Only two mormonisms? There are as many mormonisms as there are members, due to the never ending stream of contradictions that come their way.

  55. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    John Hammer says on Mormon Stories: “I think it’s much more effective than the advice to delete beliefs like the Plan of Salvation or even that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri. What’s wrong with either of those beliefs? Nothing. And only a small percentage of outsiders will even care if you have those beliefs, if you take pride in them, explain the idea behind them, and are just generally open about them.”

    I’m sorry that you are choosing to not engage me any more, John. I’m very disappointed. This is your choice, of course.

    But with all due respect, if you start with the assumption that anyone that disagrees with your views must not understand you, then of course you’ll feel the way you do.

    The simple truth is that I can’t accept your view as stated above because I disagree with it. To take a definitive stance on something that isn’t a revelation (or at least we can’t prove it was a revelation) surrenders our creedlessness. I do not doubt it would fix the problem of seeming duplicit, but it’s like going to a doctor with a seizure and having him tell you a frontal lobotomy will fix it. I’d rather have the seizure.

    We can’t support many beliefs you pointed to in your post on Mormon Stories as definitive doctrines because they are not. Some are considered in question by many and we aren’t prepared to take a definitive stance one way or the other because that is not within the frame work of how Mormons go about this. That’s how the “other guys” do it.

    I know you can’t respond to me now, but I really hope you’ll read this link by Nate Oman (http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=4244) and open your mind up to the idea that you really may have misunderstood something important about Mormons and their beliefs.

    And in case you missed it… I am taking your advice. I’m standing up boldly for what I honestly believe and letting the consequence come from the truth. Concerning our openness to intereptation and creedlessness, I am “taking pride in them, explain the idea behind them, and are just generally open about them.”

    >>> Only two mormonisms? There are as many mormonisms as there are members, due to the never ending stream of contradictions that come their way.

    And we like it that way, TJM. 🙂

  56. January 20, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    To take a definitive stance on something that isn’t a revelation (or at least we can’t prove it was a revelation) surrenders our creedlessness.

    Huh?? Bruce, kindly “prove” to me even one single revelation in the history of Mormonism or LDS-ism. It can’t be done, thus the above makes little sense to me.

  57. January 20, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    And in case you missed it… I am taking your advice. I’m standing up boldly for what I honestly believe and letting the consequence come from the truth. I am “taking pride in them, explain the idea behind them, and are just generally open about them.”

    That’s great, Bruce, and I doubt anyone here would begrudge you the right to accept or reject any doctrine you choose. The protest has been over your insistance that these points have never constituted the doctrine of Mormonism.

  58. January 20, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Dear moderators — We have a troll in our midst in this TJM person. I recommend dropping him/her into moderation if not just using the spam filter.

    Nick: The answer to that question, notwithstanding a segment of those who do not actually accept the things Joseph taught, is “yes.”

    Well you are certainly welcome to your opinion on the best answer. I happen to disagree with your opinion. I think a simple “yes” would give the impression we know more about these mysteries than we do. I think his more humble approach was a better than yours would have been.

    Now, will you please answer my question?

    What question?

    And I am still waiting for you to tell me what this clear doctrine of the church was before 1997 too. Saying Joseph was clear is just not good enough. If he was clear there would not be so much debate about what he really meant would there?

  59. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    I really need to sign off for the night.

    Nick, you are correct. I mispoke. You may beat me now. 😛 What I was really trying to say was that it’s not canonized. It’s not part of the standard works.

    I think the point I’m trying to make is that Joseph Smith said that God was once a man and that he never bothered to say “this is a revelation.” Some people MY SELF INCLUDED believe it was. But I will not insist that this is the only possible interpretation. Others feel that he was extrapolating from revelation and thus don’t believe it’s necessarily true. (But probably don’t deny it either.)

    I do believe God was once a man, but I feel Joseph was talking about a Divine man. You disagree with me and you’ve ably explained why you do. If you think you’ve prove yourself beyond doubt, I’d have to disagree. If you can accept that you might be right, but I might be also, we can come to some agreement. For that is how I feel about your view. I think you may be right. I just don’t currently subscribe to that belief.

    I feel like this is a really really important subject. But the truth is that I’m worn out now.

    If you guys aren’t going to at least allow for the possiblity that I’m right, please at least allow me to believe as I wish and as the Mormon church currently teaches. If the Mormon church were to suddenly decide to abandon it’s creedlessness and peg everything down I do not know that I could believe in it any more. That’s the truth. This means something to me. I’m sorry that many of you feel this means I’m crowbaring or being defensive. It is not hard to guess that John Hammer likely thinks I’m trying to defend President Hinckely out of some sense of not wanting a prophet to be wrong. But isn’t that exactly the opposite of what I’m saying, isn’t it?

    Let me say it again: if the Church were to become what John and you want it to be, I’d leave it. I want no part of it.

    Outside of that, I don’t think I could honestly say more on the subject. I’m sorry for your loss, Nick, I really am. I do not blame you, believe it or not. Personal belief is, well, personal.

    The funny thing is that I think we’d probably agree on more than we disagree on what “the truth” is. The difference I see is that I consider my views opinions only. I have a lot of self doubt and I’m not sure I’m right about much of anything as far as my personal interpretations. And I intend to keep it that way.

    Geoff says: ” I think a simple “yes” would give the impression we know more about these mysteries than we do.”

    Amen

  60. January 20, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    I think a simple “yes” would give the impression we know more about these mysteries than we do. I think his more humble approach was a better than yours would have been.

    Couldn’t you extend this to literally every doctrine of Mormonism, Geoff? Slippery slope, my friend.

    What question?

    Once again, Geoff, though I’m coming to the conclusion that you’re intentionally ignoring it: Just who here is trying to establish the doctrine of the LDS church on the basis of what he read in “the public press,” in complete violation of what Hinckley stated in general conference? Sorry, but the answer to that question is pretty clear to me.

    And I am still waiting for you to tell me what this clear doctrine of the church was before 1997 too. Saying Joseph was clear is just not good enough.

    I disagree, Geoff. I think you’re needlessly, and intentionally trying to toss in all sorts of technical details that you don’t think Joseph answered, in a misguided effort to completely disregard his clear statement. It’s not a question of whether he was clear about all the ramifications of the doctrine. He obviously wasn’t, but that’s the case with many things Joseph taught. I stand by what I said, that as far as Joseph stated his doctrine, he was perfectly clear. Again, Hinckley didn’t address specific corrolary ideas. Rather, he tossed the entire principle out the window with his comments.

    If he was clear there would not be so much debate about what he really meant would there?

    Geoff, “so much debate” with regard to what Joseph meant never existed until Hinckley’s public statements created cognitive dissonance for members who want to believe he is (in practice, if not in doctrine) infalliable.

    It’s much like the “debate” over whether Joseph Smith attempted to give the Grand Hailing Sign of Distress of a Master Mason as he leaped/fell from the window of the Carthage Jail. Such was explicitly recognized by the actual participants in those events, and this was never questioned until B. H. Roberts’ infamous footnote, pretending that Joseph was really just starting a standard prayer. Roberts’ nonsense ended up in print, and now you have CES instructors such as Ken Godfrey, who I personally witnessed telling a student that Joseph was actually responding to a vision of Jesus coming to “take him home.”

  61. January 20, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    If you can accept that you might be right, but I might be also, we can come to some agreement. For that is how I feel about your view. I think you may be right. I just don’t currently subscribe to that belief.

    Bruce, for what it’s worth, I think your view represents what will be the official position of the LDS church within a generation. In fact, I think the official position will go further than you have. I think the official position will be such that anyone in the LDS church who insists that Joseph’s words on this subject were true doctrine will be at risk for losing their membership for “apostacy.”

    What you fear as “abandoning creedlessness,” I see instead as gradual elimination of doctrines in order to establish an effectual LDS creed.

  62. John Hamer
    January 20, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    But with all due respect, if you start with the assumption that anyone that disagrees with your views must not understand you, then of course you’ll feel the way you do.

    Bruce: You keep projecting. This above complaint is what *you* keep saying, not me. That’s your belief and one of your false assumptions: that I disagree with you because I misunderstand you. I absolutely do not misunderstand you. I know why you disagree with me; it is not because you misunderstand what I’m saying.

    That’s your complaint. My complaint is that you don’t listen to what I say and it is therefore not been worth my effort to write it. I’m not saying that you would agree with me if you listened to me. I don’t think you would agree with me if you actually listened to what I was saying, because I think you are too wedded to your assumptions to pry loose.

    Meanwhile, rather than listening to me, you are inventing words for me to say so that you can repeat yourself. For example, where does this statement of yours come from?

    I think maybe you honestly believe we must either accept every statement made as true or not true and that we all must agree on that point…

    Why on earth do you imagine that I would honestly think that all practicing LDS members must either accept every statement made as “true” or “not true” and further that they “all must agree” on that point? You did not get idea that from listening to anything I wrote. That came from inside you and your personal creedmania.

    Let me say it again: if the Church were to become what John and you want it to be, I’d leave it. I want no part of it.

    This is continuous invention. You have no idea what I want the LDS church to be. No idea at all. I have no idea what Nick Literski wants the LDS church to be. However, I’m rather confident that whatever Nick’s vision is, it’s quite different from mine.

  63. January 20, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    Nick: Couldn’t you extend this to literally every doctrine of Mormonism, Geoff? Slippery slope, my friend.

    Sounds like Bruce is right to me. You are frustrated by the creedlessness of Mormonism. There is an easy line to stop this “slippery slope” argument of yours: The canon. Mormonism teaches (in canon) of an open canon. So while there may be varying emphasis on uncanonized teachings over the years, the canon is there to keep us from “slipping” very far from the revelations. If you are hoping for Mormon creeds I don’t see any coming any time soon.

    Just who here is trying to establish the doctrine of the LDS church on the basis of what he read in “the public press,” in complete violation of what Hinckley stated in general conference?

    Ahh… So that was your question.

    My answer is that President Hinckley wasn’t establishing doctrine in his interviews. Rather he was explaining what he did not consider to be clear doctrine in the church to begin with. So you are saying he was changing doctrine, I am challenging your assertion that we ever really knew or understood much about the history of God the Father. In other words there was never a clear “doctrine” on this subject to begin with.

    Again, Hinckley didn’t address specific corrolary ideas. Rather, he tossed the entire principle out the window with his comments.

    You’re just plain wrong with this accusation. Where did GBH say we do not believe God was once a man? Look at the interviews again (not just sound-bites) if that is waht you really think. He simply explained that we don’t know much about the subject and therefore don’t emphasize it in the church.

    Geoff, “so much debate” with regard to what Joseph meant never existed until Hinckley’s public statements created cognitive dissonance for members

    This is also a totally unsupportable assumption of yours. The implicit claim that all people in the church agreed on the meanings of the KFD is laughable. The notion that before 1997 Mormons didn’t debate what Joseph meant in his sermons given in the Spring of 1844 is equally silly and is demonstrably wrong.

    (I am no expert on the masonic stuff like you are so I will take your word on that.)

  64. January 20, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    I don’t have time to really digest all these comments right now, but I want to interject something here. My own personal take on what Pres. Hinckley was saying is not that he was lying, but that he probably doesn’t believe God the Father is progressing (or progressed from something as lowly as us). I think he’s made it clear in other statements that he values the King Follett Discourse, and he certainly proclaims that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

    For those that are not super familiar with Mormon intellectual thought, especially the kind of stuff that was being shared at Sunstone for many years, this has been a very hot issue between the intellectuals and the brethren. I mean the issue of God as static in glory or as progressing. Believing that God is progressing was even one of Elder McKonkie’s Seven Deadly Heresies.

    My opinion is that this passage being included in the correlated manual says that Pres. Hinckley either does not micromanage the correlation output, or he chooses not to project his personal beliefs on them. I think this actually puts him in a better light than having to swallow the bitter horsepill of apologetic doublespeak.

    I also find it interesting how folks who tell me things are black and white can so easily revert to making the PH/RS manual simply an educational exploration of the teachings of Joseph Smith, and not a doctrinal instruction. Somehow I don’t think that is what the church is intending with priesthood and Relief Society lessons.

  65. hawkgrrrl
    January 20, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Is creedlessness a creed? Is ever-changing doctrine a doctrine? Is adaptability a principle or the opposite of a principle? Does revelation mean the doctrines are reduced and dismissed or expanded upon? The ‘creeds’ referenced in the First Vision were specifically dismissed because they were “the doctrines of men . . . having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.” It seems to me that speculation (vs. revelation) is what is meant by “doctrines of men”–so in the absence of revelation, my opinion is that we should not add opinion to revealed truth (by “we,” I include historical talks by leaders giving opinions and theories). Of course, the problem for us is that there has been plenty of documented speculation.

    The problem with the statement “I don’t know that we teach it” is that we do teach something along those lines. Not knowing what JS’s statement means is another matter, and what isn’t said is more problematic than what was said. How does one go from TiVO-watching couch potato to being a God? By following the Seven Habits? How long does it take? Do we have to atone (e.g. re-enact Christ’s life and sacrifice)? When God was “as we are,” did he yell at his kids? Did he declare bankruptcy? Did he use profanity? The other problem with the JS statement is that there hasn’t really been additional revelation that I am aware of (that is actual revelation), just speculation. So, I agree with the notion that it’s not emphasized in our teaching. Personally, I think there could be additional revelation on this topic in the next 10-20 years, but only if we get to the point that we need to know it.

    Maybe the best thing to say is, “JS, whom we revere as a prophet said [I don’t have the work ethic to type out the whole quote here], and what he meant is not entirely clear and complete. We believe in ongoing revelation, and if more is revealed in the future, we’ll know.” Of course, that puts us in the position of being side-show freaks because no one else believes in revelation. People will think that means the prophet can do card tricks, talk to animals and predict the weather.

  66. January 20, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Maybe the best thing to say is, “JS, whom we revere as a prophet said [I don’t have the work ethic to type out the whole quote here], and what he meant is not entirely clear and complete. We believe in ongoing revelation, and if more is revealed in the future, we’ll know.”

    Nicely said.

  67. January 20, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Perhaps I am oversimplifying things, but I tend to think Pres. Hinckley’s statement was motivated by the same reasons why I sometimes tell people I am a recovering alcoholic in social settings where they comment on the fact that I am not drinking, rather than launching into an explanation of the Word of Wisdom.

    Sometimes you just don’t feel like giving the whole explanation behind one of our beliefs, particularly when you’re on national television sitting in the cross-hairs of every Church critic who will twist and misuse every word you utter in the 10 seconds you’re alloted to answer a question full of loaded and ambiguous words and meanings.

  68. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    John, thank you for responsing. After this, I’m reallying signing off. Let me be specific. I will take your correction if I misunderstood you.

    >>> the Garden of Eden was in Missouri… beliefs, if you take pride in them, explain the idea behind them, and are just generally open about them
    To me this seemed to mean that you believe we should accept this doctrine and stand up for it. (This is obviously just an example you were using, but I think it’s a good one.) Am I misunderstanding? If so, you really didn’t word this well.

    I disagree we should stand up for it. That’s what I’m saying. I don’t know that this was a revelation (at this point in time at least, I’m still researching it) as it’s second hand info only I’ve found so far.

    So when I say “what you want the Church to be” I just mean I can’t ever stand up for this as you are suggesting. It’s not necessarily what “you want it to be.” I just mean I can’t take your advice as I currently understand it. I think your suggestion that doing so would remove the impression of duplicitness is correct. I just don’t think we can do it the way you are suggesting and stay true to our creedless roots.

    Did I misunderstand? If so, I’ll take correction. If not, please take mine.

    In fact, the only thing I can say about the Garden of Eden being in Missouri right now with my current level of knowledge is “I don’t know much about this, I don’t know that it’s doctrine. I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. But I don’t necessarily deny it.”

    Ah, this is a waste of time. The fact is that I see Hinckley answer in such different light than many of you that I don’t think you can possibly understand what I am saying. I certainly haven’t had one of you attempt to confirm that you understand what I am saying in any case.

    You say you don’t misunderstand me, but right now I have no cause to believe that. You may well understand what Hinckley is saying better than me (i.e. he might really be dodging and I’m misreading him) but you certainly haven’t shown that you understand how I perceive his answer differently than you.

    If you did, you could have shown me by taking my challenge if for no other reason than because I honestly perceived those conditions as valid. It didn’t really matter if you perceived them as valid or not, did it, since we’re talking about my point of view? But you responded by asking to know if we were hiding or deleting doctrine. How could those two choices even come close to being what I’ve been saying, John? How could I possibly even guess anything but a misunderstanding on your part? So I say it again, John, I have every reason at this point in time to believe you don’t understand anything I’ve said so far. Perhaps you have and you are ignoring it for the sake of disagreeing with me. But that would be something other than bridge building or dialog.

    >>> I think maybe you honestly believe we must either accept every statement made as true or not true and that we all must agree on that point

    Fraknly, John, I have a problem with the fact that you brought up something I already apologized for and admited I was wrong on. It was just an honest suggestion, but I shouldn’t have said it, you are right. So again, I say I’m sorry.

    And frankly John, I think you are right. You and I can’t correspond. You aren’t going to take the time to make me feel understood and you will insult me if you feel I misunderstand, which perhaps I do. (“You’ve reinforced my impression that you are not open to listening on this thread.” This isn’t dialog, its a dismissive insult. I could give other examples.)

    Please know that I respect your beliefs, but I have to agree that we aren’t going to communicate with your current attitude and posture towards my honest and valid views. Valid if for no other reason than because I really believe them, wrong though I may be.

  69. TJM
    January 20, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    In response to:
    ”Dear moderators — We have a troll in our midst in this TJM person. I recommend dropping him/her into moderation if not just using the spam filter.”

    Geoff J, whatever makes you think such a thing? 🙂

  70. Bruce Nielson
    January 20, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    hawkgrrrl says: “The problem with the statement “I don’t know that we teach it” is that we do teach something along those lines. Not knowing what JS’s statement means is another matter, and what isn’t said is more problematic than what”

    I am not defending every word Hinckley said. I believe I’ve already agreed it wasn’t a perfect answer and that there is a soundbite problem here. He’s doing this off the cuff trying to express a thought. The thought, I believe, is exactly what you say in the rest of your post, that we don’t really understand what JS meant. It may have been a clumsy answer where he was, to some degree, back tracking from “I don’t know that we teach that” to “I don’t know that we emphasize it.” Mike L’s view.

    Or, as I originally suggested, he may have just been avoiding getting into a huge discussion about the fact that there are varied views on this point and none of them are official. This is similar to Andrew’s view too.

    I go a bit further than Andrew, I think. I’m sure you are aware that anti-Mormons have done a job of insisting that Mormons believe God used to be a sinful man on some other planet in our universe many years ago. Personally, I read Hinckley as denying that idea. But that’s just my read and I might be wrong. This is similar to Clay’s view. I do not read Joseph Smith as affirming that view either. So I’m not convinced there is a contradiction. (I really might be wrong, but it’s my honest view.)

    If you read Hinckley differently, that I do not disagree with you that this might not have been a completely truthful answer. But there is more than one way to understand Hinckley here and I just mentioned four of them.

    Good night all. Unintentional anger that I accidently caused aside, I really feel this has been a very important discussion. All of you have helped me see other points of view that I didn’t start out with. I can see that any of us might be right. We are all, after all, guessing.

  71. John Hamer
    January 21, 2008 at 12:35 am

    Bruce: You did misunderstand me. Look at my complete quote you cite above:

    I think it’s much more effective than the advice to delete beliefs like the Plan of Salvation or even that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri. What’s wrong with either of those beliefs? Nothing. And only a small percentage of outsiders will even care if you have those beliefs, if you take pride in them, explain the idea behind them, and are just generally open about them.

    Does that say what I want the LDS church to be? No! It says that I think taking pride in whatever your beliefs are is a “more effective” strategy for achieving certain goals (viz., being perceived as credible) than compromising or streamling your beliefs. By the way, that is a general tactical rule. It’s true for churches, individuals, minority groups, charities, governments, etc. It’s not a general vision for the LDS church; it’s a PR tactic.

    To me this seemed to mean that you believe we should accept this doctrine and stand up for it. (This is obviously just an example you were using, but I think it’s a good one.) Am I misunderstanding?

    Can you not see here how you completely twisted what I said? You even say that it’s obvious I’m just using an example and then you ignore your observation so that you can misread me. I did not say you should accept this doctrine in particular. I did not say you should “accept” anything. I did not say “this” one. The examples were clearly chosen because they had achieved media attention in the past year. And I did not use the term “doctrine.” You added all of that business because you are projecting your complex scheme of doctrine/creed onto me.

    I was talking about the effectiveness of competing strategies for accomplishing certain goals and nothing more. And, may I say, my advice above has nothing to do with my comprehensive plan for saving the LDS church (“what I want the LDS church to be”). My vision is altogether more substantive than a single PR tactic.

    And in case you missed it…I am taking your advice. I’m standing up boldly for what I honestly believe and letting the consequence come from the truth.

    In case you missed it — which you did, despite the fact that you identify it here — this is all my advice meant. The rest, you made up out of thin air to transform me into your imaginary antagonist, who says all the things that you want to argue against.

    You keep telling me you’re honest, or that this or that statement was meant honestly. I never accused you of being dishonest! Frankly, your effective use of my advice to state your beliefs boldly has convinced my that you hold them honestly. See?! It works!

    Bruce, I’m not mad at you. But can you see why I would be frustrated?

    I admit that I have been dismissive of you in a way that has not fostered dialogue and I admit I have deliberately given you no cause to believe that I understand your thinking on doctrine/creeds, by deliberately avoiding the topic. If you admit that your intense focus on these ideas has caused you to erroneously project the inverse of your own views onto me (as I point out above), then I will take that as a sign that there’s sufficient prospects for potential returns for me to invest in dialogue with you on that topic.

    Good night.

  72. John Hamer
    January 21, 2008 at 12:40 am

    hawkgrrrl: Great to see you here! I agree with Geoff that your proposed quote would have been a very appropriate thing to say.

  73. January 21, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Hey folks,

    I think we’ve covered all the productive discussion we are likely to get by now. I’m going to close the comments on this thread so we can move on. Let me know if you think there’s a compelling reason to reopen it.

Comments are closed.