Viewpoints, part one

It is delightful, some times, to see how the LDS Church is seen from the outside.  For example, you might be surprised that one thing many Baptist scholars respect about the Church is the way the Church is open about the flaws in its leaders and history compared to other institutions. Further, it seems that the further in the past something is, the easier it is for people to be open.

No one seems to blanch at the thought that Noah got drunk and passed out in public, that Peter after he began to lead the Church still bowed to social pressure at times (and was confronted about it by Paul) or that Moses had issues over his marriages and children.  Most Catholics have long resolved their issues with the inquisitions and the times there were two or three popes.

The same way one looks at the current Church and its strengths and weaknesses, one can look at you can look at Samuel.  Samuel had sons who were rapacious.  They used the female attendants at the temple as a personal harem, they disrupted services to take portions of the sacrifices other than those allocated to them in proper time and order and they took bribes to corrupt justice. Imagine if Thomas Monson had some sons that kept their mistresses employed at the Salt Lake Temple, felt free to loot the Bishop’s Storehouse regularly and were employed as judges in Utah who freely (and apparently publicly) supplemented their income with bribes.

It is not surprising that against such a backdrop the Children of Israel decided that they wanted a king rather than continuing on with the pot luck of judges – nor is it surprising that when they were warned of where a bad king might lead them they did not see it as so bad.  Tellingly, Samuel’s response to this all, when he conferred with God was to see this as a repudiation not of God but of himself.  Of course we know what God told Samuel.  The people had not rejected Samuel, they had rejected God.

I know that most bloggers do not see the LDS Church as refreshingly open compared to other groups.  I would suggest that viewpoint makes a difference (though I would acknowledge that just doing better than someone else is not necessarily a sign of doing good enough) in this and other things.

Where do you think a neutral viewpoint might be different from the common view often found in the bloggernacle?

Comments

comments

10 comments for “Viewpoints, part one

  1. August 8, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    In the latest edition of Dialogue, there was a recommendation article of the Book of Mormon by a Gentile (his words, not mine, hehe), and what I liked about that article was how it did emphasize a more open perspective. E.g., why do so many people “expand their religious horizons” with readthroughs of the Quran, etc., but not the BoM? People repeat standard memes about the BoM and Joseph Smith without recognizing that, even if you don’t accept the supernatural claims of the book, it presents a monumental undertaking and a monumental product.

  2. August 8, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Excellent point Andrew. Heck, we read about Zeus and Jupiter and Thor and Brama and Indra and Coyote and Spider too, and teach them in the schools. Guess I need to start reading Dialogue again.

  3. Annon
    August 9, 2010 at 2:10 am

    “you might be surprised that one thing many Baptist scholars respect about the Church is the way the Church is open about the flaws”

    What?! Yeah, I’m very surprised — that you could advance an assertion like this.

    Neither Noah getting drunk, nor is anything regarding Samuel, “about the flaws in its leaders and history compared to other institutions” and most certainly not about “the current Church and its strengths and weaknesses”.

    “I know that most bloggers do not see the LDS Church as refreshingly open compared to other groups.” — You think?!

    A better question is: “Where do you think a NEUTERED viewpoint might be different from the common view often found in the bloggernacle?”

  4. jmb275
    August 9, 2010 at 9:58 am

    @Stephen
    I can’t personally attest to how open or closed the church when viewed from the outside. I haven’t met enough people who actually know anything about Mormonism. There is a tract in my local Orthodox church that slams Mormons pretty good.

    I like the idea of comparing the openness of the church with other churches. One of the most startling points for me is that virtually all religions are more or less “owning up” or coming to grips with their past but their past is quite heinous. Perhaps comparatively Mormonism’s past is not so bad. But as you mentioned toward the end of the op, I’m still not sold that it makes it okay.

    I suppose I have different expectations from my gov’t, from corporations, and the other groups with which I am associated. Those groups never really earned my complete trust. I always have viewed myself as an agent within those systems who is responsible to look out for himself. But that was not the case in Mormonism. Mormonism won my undying trust to the point where I stopped looking out for myself (spiritually and in a worldview sense) because I was relying on the leaders. I still would have cautioned against blind obedience, but this was just lip service as clearly viewed following the prophet as a primary imperative and gauge of my “righteousness.” Turns out this was built upon less than purely honest (IMHO) selling of the product on the part of Mormonism. Nevertheless, much of my faith crisis was nothing more than me realizing my own folly of relying spiritually, emotionally, etc. on someone else. I had abdicated my decision making to someone else but it was my own fault primarily.

    Given the church’s claims, I do think they ought to be held to a higher standard, so perhaps I am in company with a typical anti-Mormon’s view on this topic. I don’t think the church, organizationally, lives up to that standard. It’s not that I don’t think people can’t make mistakes, it’s more of a directional thing. That is, I see the direction the church heads and it disturbs me. Right now, I’m appreciative of the direction the historianship is headed, but I still feel it needs to make it’s way into the local level and in missionary work. I have thought and thought, and prayed, and pondered, and I can’t help feeling that missionary work, in general, is deceptive. When a person withholds information that would clearly change the mind of many people I think it is dishonest. That is not to say the missionaries themselves are dishonest, but you get my drift. I also should mention that I’ve sufficiently modified my expectations in the church such that I can still be a fully participating member, but fundamentally I disagree with the tactic.

    As for a neutral viewpoint, I try to keep my viewpoint fairly neutral (tooting my own horn here). I still support the church and love it and don’t want it to fail. I no longer hold it to an impossible standard. But I also feel compelled to critique it and try to push it in a direction I think is better. Contrary to what so many loyal members think, falling in line, being obedient, etc. DOES NOT (IMHO) help the church. Rather, it perpetuates our problems.

  5. August 9, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I try to keep my viewpoint fairly neutral (tooting my own horn here). I still support the church and love it and don’t want it to fail. I no longer hold it to an impossible standard Amen.

    Yeah, I’m very surprised — that you could advance an assertion like this — I actually got that from listening to others write about the fact. Do you have a question Annon, or just a snark? Or do you have a comment about neutral viewpoints of scholars and historians?

    jmb275 — you make a good point about the difference between an impossible standard and a higher standard.

  6. Annon
    August 9, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    @ Stephen M (Ethesis) who said: “I actually got that from listening to others write about the fact. Do you have a question Annon, or just a snark? Or do you have a comment about neutral viewpoints of scholars and historians?”

    If indeed, you “actually got that from listening to others write about the fact“, then I am not in any way suggesting that you are fabricating this assertion, but frankly, it really does surprise me “that one thing many Baptist scholars respect about the Church is the way the Church is open about the flaws in its leaders and history compared to other institutions.” “(M)any Baptist scholars”? Who are these “scholars,” and how many is “many”? What is the actual source(s) of this “fact”? I suppose this “surprise” provoked my inclination to “snark,” but please don’t be offended, or take this as a personal attack.

    About the “neutral viewpoints,” I can’t answer this question to any germane degree because I really don’t know what the “common view often found in the bloggernacle” is. I don’t cruise the bloggernacle to any significant extent. I will say, though, that I agree with jmb275’s statement about the church in so far that “I … don’t want it to fail,” but I am finding it increasingly difficult to “still support the church and love it,” Hence, my *snarky* alteration (“NEUTERED”) of the word “neutral.” I have never held the church to “an impossible standard,” except perhaps when I was very young and naive, however, I most certainly do hold the church AT LEAST accountable to the standard of honesty and not ever lying. It greatly saddens me that “lying for the Lord” appears to be a justifiably assumed, all-to-often used modus operandi for the church’s highest officials (the way in which the local yokel authorities behave have very little effect on me). So, when jmb275 says “I also feel compelled to critique it and try to push it in a direction I think is better,” I say, “Good luck.” Ergo my snarky “N” word. At any level of the church, it has been my experience that almost all TBMs will either shun you and /or try to shut you up AND down with regards to most any critiquing, or “pushing” (whatever that would entail). I absolutely agree that “Contrary to what so many loyal members think, falling in line, being obedient, etc. DOES NOT (IMHO) help the church. Rather, it perpetuates our problems”

    So again, to come full circle, I find it to be a surprising “fact” that Baptist scholars, or anyone, for that matter, who really knows about, or has had experiences with many facets of the church would actually respect it because of “the way the Church is open about the flaws in its leaders and history compared to other institutions.”

  7. Clark
    August 11, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Actually, Mr. Marsh, the man with the rapacious sons was Eli. That said, I don’t think it affects your thesis statement that much.

    One of the difficulties in judging how “open” the LDS Church is, is that different leaders vary so greatly. (Pres Packer and Oaks “not all historical truth is useful,” versus Pres. Kimball’s Arrington era and Pres. Hinckley’s commissioning the Mountain Meadows Massacre book.)

  8. Thomas
    August 11, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    #7 — Eli and Samuel both had rapacious sons. (See 1 Samuel 2:22-25 (Eli’s sons) and 1 Samuel 8:1-3 (Samuel’s sons).) No success can compensate for failure in the home.

  9. August 12, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Clark, they both had rapacious sons, just with similar and different issues (only one had sons with mistresses handling the ushering duties at the Temple).

  10. August 12, 2010 at 7:35 am

    Annon, understood.

    A similar, though different issue, is context. But I agree, we need more truth and light.

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