This post is not intended to be a historical look at changes that have happened in the church throughout the years, but more of experiential observation.
Over the years, change in the Church has been much more top-down driven from the leadership to the members. But I think, to some extent, it is changing to a more bottom up orientation and I don’t think it is overall positive for the Church.
When you look at changes that have occurred in the Church, they have been mainly administrative and organizational, rather than doctrinal. There have, of course, been some major doctrinal changes, such as the discontinuance of Polygamy and the lifting of the Priesthood ban. I am sure there are others that can be cited as well.
Some examples of the administrative changes have been organization of the Priesthood Quorums, the move to the three hour block and the grand-daddy of them all, correlation.
These changes, while always having an effect on some members, tend to be taken in stride by most.
But, for those expecting major changes coming from Church Headquarters, I am not sure it will come. For example, some want a change so that women have a much greater role in leadership, even the Priesthood. One of the rumored changes that have been around for awhile has been the elimination of Sunday School. There have been stories of wards that have tested the concept, but I have never seen anything that indicated this is true. Maybe, it is, but I’ve never seen evidence.
This brings me to my main point of this post. That change will occur from the bottom up actions of the membership. But I observe that in some cases, the fundamental truths of the Church are being cast aside and as a consequence, the practices of the members will change as a result. If that happens, there is a natural change in the commitment of the members and the Church, will change.
Here is a short list of some things that will cause the changes:
- Lack of belief in “One True Church.”
- Lack of belief in Historicity of Book of Mormon
- Lack of attending Church Meetings regularly
- Won’t accept callings
- Won’t pay tithing
- Selective belief in fundamental doctrines like First Vision
- Lack of Sabbath Day observance
- Lack of overall reverence in Church Meetings, Dress standards, eating and drinking
- Lack of youth participation
- High, High inactivity for various reasons
I hope I am wrong about this. But if you go by what is said across the Bloggernacle, the change has already happened.
In my opinion, the list you provided comes about as a result of prosperous times. Prosperity is the enemy of spirituality (Helaman 12). Out of all the messages Moroni could have put in his concluding chapter in the Book of Mormon he chose to enumerate the gifts of the Spirit and then warned us that if the time comes that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you it shall be because of unbelief (Moroni 10:24).
Your list illustrates the symptoms that manifest varying degrees of unbelief in church members. The Lord has given us a indication at what His response will be when His followers reach a certain level of unbelief (D&C 112:24-26).
The scripture are brim full of warnings and pleadings regarding that which follows when the Lord’s people trample under their feet the Holy One.
“Lack of attending Church Meetings regularly
Won’t accept callings
Won’t pay tithing”
I think these three are the biggest, because I really believe that the church will be what we make of it (perhaps that was your point). If we are not attending meetings and accepting callings, etc. how can we expect anything good from church?
As far as member-driven changes go, I like Sunday School (when the teachers put effort into it), and would rather like to see Priesthood mtg. shortened–more focus on service and etc, and less on reading from the manual.
Me? I’ll follow the Apostles. I think the Church will grow and become more active in the future…
There is definitely a push towards a 2 hour meeting block. However, my guess is that Priesthood and Relief Society will occur just once a month, whereas the rest of the time it will be general Sunday School.
Ultimately women wanting the Priesthood will become more militant, and it will happen. Restrictions based on gender will be looked back on as a matter of policy and tradition. Leadership (Bishops and above, and maybe even quorum presidents) will remain male for a while though.
Perhaps in time there will be a few General Authorities who admit to questioning the historicity of the Book of Mormon, as long as they continue to believe its principles are true and its contents are inspired they will remain in their positions.
Missionary work may become more service based (or there could be a service-based option for those who want it). The Church will require more attendance prior to baptism too as a matter of policy – this will actually increase levels of activity amongst converts, although lessen the number of baptisms.
The concept of exaltation will change to the more ambiguous idea of “being God-like” without being fathers of spirits etc. (which will be considered just speculation), and the role of spiritual rebirth (a born again experience) will be emphasized more.
More modern music will be introduced in the next hymn book too. Maybe even “Shine, Jesus Shine.” (Heaven forbid!) This will be followed by guitars being used in congregational music for some songs. Dress standards will loosen up – to shirt and trousers (without a tie), and pants on women too.
I am not promoting these ideas, but can easily imagine them happening, whether I like them or not.
I don’t believe this change you’re talking about is relevant to members. In my youth the activity rate in our ward was somewhere around 30%. That means, even in the 60’s, 70% percent of Mormons where inactive in my area. I imagine the overall activity rate was not over 40% church wide. That still seems to hold true today with well over half the reported membership not attending any meetings in a month.
What I think has changed, is the reason for all that inactivity. In the 60’s and 70’s, very few if any Mormons had insight into the problems with the restoration story or Book of Mormon historicity. As a matter of fact, most inactive folks I had dealing with were still very sure the church was true. They just didn’t want to live by the principles taught and felt guilty attending meetings or perhaps didn’t get any spiritual fulfillment by going.
Today, a small percentage of members are familiar with historical issues and has a result are not as committed as they once were. The information super highway as produced a group of pseudo scholars (such as myself) that think we have a valid reason for believing the church is manmade. So in essence, the activity rate of the church hasn’t changed in all these years. There is just an emerging group of inactive members with belief issues preventing them from being fully involved. They haven’t changed the dynamics of the membership and probably won’t. Therefore, changes in the beliefs you listed are limited to a very small percentage of the membership and probably won’t have a profound effect on church doctrine in the future. After all, the doctrines of the church today have changed dramatically just in my life time. As an example, if you have a copy of the film strip “Mans Search for Happiness”, have a look and tell me we still believe those doctrines of salvation.
We now teach about a personal relationship with Christ and how important that is for exaltation. When I was a youth, that kind of thinking was for Catholics who pray to Jesus. I was taught that the only one you should worship was Heavenly Father. Christ was just our mediator, not the focus of our adulation. We were taught that Christ was the perfect example and we should try and be like him, but not have him as our best friend. Am I the only one that has seen this shift?
My point is this; church doctrine has changed progressively over time and will continue to change as we move through this century. I don’t believe these changes will profoundly change the percentage of active members of the church. I think what will change, as a result of the internet, is the number of convert baptisms each year. There appears to be a very discernable change in the ratio of convert baptisms to missionaries. That number has progressively worsened has the internet has picked up speed. So perhaps your points would be better applied to the nonmembers of the world. They may require significant changes in our core doctrines if the church is going to continue to grow.
“I was taught that the only one you should worship was Heavenly Father. Christ was just our mediator, not the focus of our adulation. We were taught that Christ was the perfect example and we should try and be like him, but not have him as our best friend. Am I the only one that has seen this shift?”
Funny, I was just thinking about this the other day. I was in college when George Pace wrote the book about developing a personal relationship with Christ. I really liked the book, then it was said shortly after in general conference pretty much what you just said. There is a big shift now about becoming closer to Christ and not near as much said about HF.
Our teaching on “exaltation” wont change…it’s not speculation…it’s not even just from statements made by Presidents of the Church and Apostles…it’s scripture. If our teaching and core belief of families sealed in the eternities (and eternal increase)was eliminated…you might as well just through out Mormonism altogether…we’d be much like the Community of Christ or any other brand of Christianity and I’d have a heard time finding a reason to stick around. Than IS the plan man.
I don’t think things will change as much as some of you claim/hope. I think we will be open to more diversity in our worship style and music etc, but I think we will largely hold on to our “core doctrines”. I think we will become better at communicating those teachings to others. If we give up our core doctrines we will fail…and we wont fail.
Our “core doctrines” are the reason the Church will continue to grow…more rapidly in the future I think.
““I was taught that the only one you should worship was Heavenly Father. Christ was just our mediator, not the focus of our adulation. We were taught that Christ was the perfect example and we should try and be like him, but not have him as our best friend. Am I the only one that has seen this shift?”
Funny, I was just thinking about this the other day. I was in college when George Pace wrote the book about developing a personal relationship with Christ. I really liked the book, then it was said shortly after in general conference pretty much what you just said. There is a big shift now about becoming closer to Christ and not near as much said about HF.””
I think what we’re really seeing is not so much a change in doctrine as much as a shift in some of the language we use in describing our covenant relationship with Christ. Look at the sacramental prayers on the bread and water. . .the ones we’ve always had. . .and tell me that doesn’t describe a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I don’t think I’m hearing any less about worshiping our Heavenly Father though. . .
# 4 There is definitely a push towards a 2 hour meeting block. However, my guess is that Priesthood and Relief Society will occur just once a month, whereas the rest of the time it will be general Sunday School.
In smaller units or units that lack leadership they have the small units program which is two hours. Below is a quote from my friend in Germany.
The small unit program for our ward in Germany, that we did not have Sunday School.
This all members had to do at home by themselves.
Perhaps in time there will be a few General Authorities who admit to questioning the historicity of the Book of Mormon, as long as they continue to believe its principles are true and its contents are inspired they will remain in their positions.
I wonder in the recent past or even now if we have General Authorities that feel this way. It could give some members a lot of hope and make them feel less alienated!
I definitely don’t hope for some of the changes I surmised might take place. But the idea that core doctrine cant change would seem laughable to a 19th century Latter-day Saint if they were to look at the LDS Church in our day. What was included in the ‘list’ of core doctrines has changed over time.
The Church may not change the scriptures (although some historians believe it considered removing many revelations from the D&C – such as section 132 – in the 1930s), but may accept new interpretations, or may relegate certain teachings to lesser importance, or introduce declarations or policies that take precedence.
A couple quick observations while the insomnia holds:
I think we have a greater understanding of Christ,- his nature, personality, mission, centrality,- than at any other time in the history of the church. This is mostly due to an emphasis put on Christ back on the 80s. I personally think it is wonderful how that emphasis has born fruit. I alwyas knew, even as a kid, that Jesus meant everything – but it was nowhere near reinforced publicly the way it is now. I think we get into an ahistorical mindset, however, if we think that because the trend has been movement away from things that were once foregrounded that it will always be so. I have a lot of hope that with the greater understadning we’ve received (collectively), we can, as time goes on, look back collectively on Kolob with cleaner spectacles – so to speak.
I think membership in the church will be increasingly difficult for many, and that we will see more and more what Pres Benson once said: that unless the roots of our testimony go deep into the doctrines of Christ taught in the Book of Mormon, in the heat of the day they will wither and die. Amidst that, I think that the tensions of our times will also produce a deeper general spirituality in the members of the church.
I appreciate Jared’s comments, and I also think the Book of Mormon is the place to look for types of how the church waxes and wanes. We tend to have in our mind the image of the church growing unhindered from one victory to the next – the stone cut out of the mountain. While this may be a good metaphor looked at from a certain distance, a closer look might reveal times of relative waxing and waning. In the Book of Mormon, we see the church growing and shrinking based on the spiritual conditions of its members. I think we are right to look there to find ot what our problems might be. For instance, in Alma 10, we read that the “church began to fail in its progress.” Some of the problems that surrounded this failure were that “the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world”; that “they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure”; that “he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry.”
As a spiritual convert to the church, I see some other tendancies that I think may progress linearly: There is a lot more humility in the tenor of the statements we see coming from the leadership of the church. I think the church is, collectively, learning, deepening, becoming richer spiritually. I think there are plenty of people not riding that train. But it is definitely happening. I frequently hear things in conference that would have astonished me 25 years ago – for their candor, even intimacy, and for the dimension of understanding they reveal. There is, of course, as there should be, letter of the law sort of talks. But there is also far more simply personal, compassionate language, and a look at principals rather than rules. The feeling that righteousnes is mostly a matter of strict adherence to outward norms is clearly giving way. That is probably also due to the changes of emphasis we saw under Pres Benson.
I see signs and hope I’m seeing right, that we realize we will need in other more in the future than we have in the past. That we are reaching out to each other more in kindness. That we are slower to judge. I think that there is reason to hope that a deeper general friendship will develop – but there is also going to be some heartache.
Time to find a pillow!!
I think there already has been a fundamental change in the way the church functions and where it used to be from top down, i.e. the prophet is supposed to receive direct revelation from God, then tell us what to do, to today where we as members tell the leadership what we want and the leadership of the church try to stay as non-controversial and watered down as possible.
For example, there was a time when apostles and prophets talked about the geography of the Book of Mormon with authority. They referred to Native Americans as “Lamanites”. Every prophet from Joseph Smith to Gordon B. Hinckley said that the Hill Cumorah in upstate, NY where Joseph found the plates was the same one as referenced in the Book of Mormon. This was asserted up to 1990 by the first presidency until countless LDS scholars told them it was impossible.
However, there is a change and LDS scholars are now telling the first presidency where the book of Mormon lands might have taken place, and the prophet and apostles have now learned to stay silent on the issue regarding Book of Mormon geography.
I think the doctrines of polygamy and blacks and the priesthood changed from the bottom up and not the top down. Look at the political and social pressures that existed when the “revelations” occurred. I understand that racism was prevalent in the early days of the church, but if we are to believe that the church leaders are inspired by God, you would think that we would be ahead of the civil rights movement, not decades behind it. In fact, this idea that the priesthood ban was a true doctrine prescribed by God, all it did was make the church more stubborn and reluctant to change it until they were threatened with government sanctions.
The church only stopped practicing polygamy to gain statehood for Utah.
So not only is the church run from bottom up, but it is run from outside in.
I believe it is just a matter of time until women get the priesthood. Why shouldn’t women be allowed to at least bless and administer to the sick and afflicted?
Joseph Smith gave the priesthood to women. Women never held a position of priesthood leadership, but under Joseph Smith, women held the priesthood and were able to administer to the sick and afflicted. Joseph Smith also gave the priesthood to blacks. So why is it that we have overcome the racism that Brigham Young enacted, but not the sexism?
My feelings on this post were much more emotional than analytical, so I posted them on my blog.
At any rate, thanks for this post. It hit on some things which have been bothering me for some time. I’m afraid much of my once-lauded ability to stand firm in the face of persecution has suffered severe undermining. It helps to hear people talk about these things.
Sorry for not closing my tag. It’s been a long week.
Still rushing while I type from a hotel room:
What Thomas Parkin said. Perhaps more later.
I think that the changes you list for the most part in the area of belief and acceptance of callings are growing pains as a religion matures from a sect to a church or denomination. If we are ever going to produce a person who can be elected president, let alone be the nominee of one of the two major parties, this is the road we will have to travel.
I don’t agree that greater inactivity is necessarily going to result from this change. The greatest inactivity rates historically probably occurred in pioneer Utah, where everyone was so busy building Zion by farming, ranching, etc, that church meetings took a back seat to survival.
Great video, by the way! I always find it’s the least appreciated part of our posts.
I was taught that the only one you should worship was Heavenly Father. Christ was just our mediator, not the focus of our adulation. We were taught that Christ was the perfect example and we should try and be like him, but not have him as our best friend. Am I the only one that has seen this shift?
This shift is actually one of the major reasons I distinguish between Mormonism and modern LDS-ism. It’s also one of the major reasons I ended up leaving the LDS church. With a little searching on the bloggernacle, however, you’ll find that most current LDS members rabidly insist that their present Jesus-worship is the historic doctrine of Mormonism, and that it has never changed. I think this shift is due to two factors. First, when I joined the LDS church in 1980, there were only about 4 million members. A whole lot of that increase comes from so-called “mainstream” christians joining the LDS church, and they’re bringing their theological baggage with them. As a result, you’re seeing many distinctive Mormon doctrines being watered down, or even rejected. Second, the new “we worship Jesus” message is frankly good for missionary work and public relations.
Our teaching on “exaltation” wont change…it’s not speculation…it’s not even just from statements made by Presidents of the Church and Apostles…it’s scripture.
So is plural marriage. Your point is…?
If our teaching and core belief of families sealed in the eternities (and eternal increase)was eliminated…you might as well just through out Mormonism altogether…
Modern LDS-ism already has, and the rate of departure is rapidly increasing. Jesus no longer was married (let alone to three wives). Joseph Smith’s King Follett discourse is no longer reliable doctrine, at least according to some professors in the BYU religion department. I could go on and on with Mormon doctrines which have fallen by the wayside just since 1980, let alone before.
I think we have a greater understanding of Christ,- his nature, personality, mission, centrality,- than at any other time in the history of the church. This is mostly due to an emphasis put on Christ back on the 80s. I personally think it is wonderful how that emphasis has born fruit. I alwyas knew, even as a kid, that Jesus meant everything – but it was nowhere near reinforced publicly the way it is now.
And if Mormonism is true, then all those “new emphasis” modern LDS can end up in that kingdom where only your all-surpassing Jesus will visit on occasion.
“So is plural marriage. Your point is…?”
We haven’t rejected the “doctrine” of plural marriage. If you synthesize the scriptures we have on the subject you will come to the conclusion as the church has that at times God has allowed or commanded it and at other times he has forbiden plural marriage. Here is the Church’s official stance on plural marriage:
“The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. At certain times and for His specific purposes, God, through His prophets, has directed the practice of plural marriage (sometimes called polygamy), which means one man having more than one living wife at the same time. In obedience to direction from God, Latter-day Saints followed this practice for about 50 years during the 1800s but officially ceased the practice of such marriages after the Manifesto was issued by President Woodruff in 1890. Since that time, plural marriage has not been approved by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and any member adopting this practice is subject to losing his or her membership in the Church.”
Eternal marriage is an eternal principle that will always be central to Mormonism and the Church. Mormonism is not being cast aside…really I don’t know what meetings or talks you all are referring to, but if we are emphasizing Christ more then I suggest that we are moving back to where we should have been all along…according to our own scripture…the Book of Mormon and D&C. I am only 29 so I may be a little young to see what some of you are talking about.
Let me ask you a question Nick, if the few examples you listed that some reject were such strong “Mormon Doctrine” then why were they never canonized? Jesus being married or not…or the King Follett discourse are not Doctrine because they’ve not been canonized…they’ve not been made teachings binding on the Church as a whole…people are free to believe or not to believe them….personally I find both those teachings attractive…they are part of my personal belief…I’m sure of the teachings in the KFD, but not so much on if Jesus was Married or not…he was or will be at some point.
However, if we’ve dropped essential Mormon principles (Mormonism) someone should tell SLC because I still see all sorts of things coming out of there which inform me otherwise:
How about this chapter on God from the new Joseph Smith manual that quotes heavily from the KFD: http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=da135f74db46c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=dc48b00367c45110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1&contentLocale=0
How about the Gospel Principles book that teaches that we can become gods. I’m sure that we’ll find this and other uniquely “Mormon” teachings found in many other publications and proclamations coming out of SLC.
Quoting from an official LDS source: “In obedience to direction from God, Latter-day Saints followed this practice for about 50 years during the 1800s but officially ceased the practice of such marriages after the Manifesto was issued by President Woodruff in 1890. Since that time, plural marriage has not been approved by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and any member adopting this practice is subject to losing his or her membership in the Church.”
If you were to actually read up on the history, you’d know that this statement is blatantly false. It’s a stretch, to say the least, that plural marriage was “officially ceased” in 1890, since Woodruff’s counsellors were actively approving recommends for plural marriages to occur in Canada, Mexico, offshore waters, etc. If approval by members of the First Presidency are not to be considered “approved by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” then you end up buying into the Fundamentalist Mormon arguments, which suggest that while “the [LDS] church” has discontinued plural marriage, “the priesthood” has not. Of course, the LDS church won’t take that position, so we know that the above statement is purely public relations spin. Furthermore, excommunication was not directed for those practicing plural marriage until Joseph F. Smith issued the so-called “Second Manifesto” in 1904, which was the result of public scrutiny during the Reed Smoot hearings.
but if we are emphasizing Christ more then I suggest that we are moving back to where we should have been all along
That is certainly the view of the protestant-influenced reformists and public relations specialists who have largely formed modern LDS-ism. Mormonism, on the other hand, places Jesus in his proper (albeit greatly adored and revered) role, rather than mistakenly granting Jesus precisely what Lucifer allegedly demanded in the council of heaven. Hint: Jesus always directed worship and glory toward his Father, rather than to himself.
Let me ask you a question Nick, if the few examples you listed that some reject were such strong “Mormon Doctrine” then why were they never canonized?
Perhaps because actual Mormonism never held the sort of canonization fixation that has infiltrated LDS-ism within the last few years. This idea of “well, it was never CANONIZED, so it wasn’t the doctrine” is really quite recent, and has universally been used as a way to downplay Mormon doctrines which are unpopular with so-called “mainstream” christianity. Rather than focusing on whether or not every jot and tittle was canonized, Joseph Smith explicitly condemned the enactment of formal creeds. Modern LDS-ism, on the other hand, appears to be striving toward a creed of sola scriptura, with the proviso that anything the current president (not earlier presidents, let alone Joseph Smith) should be just as unquestionable as the accepted Standard Works. Anything outside of the Standard Works and/or the public statements of the current president of the LDS church has become subject to baldfaced denials via press release.
However, if we’ve dropped essential Mormon principles (Mormonism) someone should tell SLC because I still see all sorts of things coming out of there which inform me otherwise:
Your examples are duly noted, and yet some of the material quoted from Joseph Smith in those sources was rejected by Gordon Hinckley. Of course, Hinckley’s recent death relegates any inconvenient statements he made to the same public relations spin of “speculation by some early leaders” that has been used on Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, et al.
I’m sure that we’ll find this and other uniquely “Mormon” teachings found in many other publications and proclamations coming out of SLC.
I’m sure you realize you’re setting up a straw man now, since I never said that the LDS church had successfully eliminated all the unique doctrines of Mormonism from its teachings. Give it a few more decades though, and you’ll hardly see the difference between an LDS ward and the Protestants down the street.
You said How about the Gospel Principles book that teaches that we can become gods?
Gospel Principles, 1978 Ed., page 290 – “We can become Gods like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation.”
1997 Ed., page 302 – “We can become like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation.”
On Plural Marriage –
President Hickley – “It is not doctrinal.” (Larry King Interview)
Mahonri – those GP quotes are interesting, thanks.
Re: polygamy, if you add a few of the other words he said: “I think it is not doctrinal.” To me, that is different than “it is not doctrinal.” I think he was clearly opining here, and actually I was grateful for that. All too often we as members take any word out of any leader’s mouth to be Doctrine.
#12 Zelph said “…the prophet is supposed to receive direct revelation from God, then tell us what to do…”
You seem to be saying that prophets should be infallible? If you are, then I can understand your point about Book of Mormon geography and the Lamanites.
However, a basic and fundamental doctrine of the church is that prophets are NOT infallible.
To me this means they can express their thoughts and opinions based on the best information available, and when new information and discoveries introduce a new paradigm prophets certainly should be given the option of adapting.
Book of Mormon geography is a very interesting subject, but it has nothing to do with the salvation of souls. The Lord requires His followers to exercise faith. In order for faith to exist there needs to be unknowns–the Book of Mormon’s geography is one of many unknowns.
I think the best approach to “prophets” is to follow them like the hymns and scriptures teach. As I have done so I have seen many miracles and manifestations of the Spirit as promised by the prophets—so naturally I continue to follow them because they are indeed the Lord’s chosen prophets.
“Book of Mormon geography is a very interesting subject, but it has nothing to do with the salvation of souls”. Amen, neither does historicity…
I think the LDS position is more closer to prima scriptura than sola scriptura and I don’t ever see that changing. It is a distinctive “marketing position” that is not entirely anathema to belonging to Christianity. While your points about canonicity being a modern quandary are quite valid, I also want to add that I don’t think that LDS-ism’s prevalent soft canon was developed as a way to be malleable and doctrinally non-committal, in the way many disaffected or critical folks might today argue. This flexibility has largely been an outgrowth that has allowed individual member faith to be adaptable while preserving the continuing corporate / hierarchical loyalty that makes the church more distinct compared to other faiths. Historically the LDS church was quite comfortable to be positioned in opposition to other Christian faiths, and therefore soft-canon has come to be a detriment to the perceived trustworthiness of LDS efforts to mainstream and be accepted as a member of Christian fellowship, even if as a stepchild. It’s hard to imagine how they will work around it without involving a neo-orthodox-fundamentalist shrinkdown or eventually a more Emergent schism developing.
You said, “Give it a few more decades though, and you’ll hardly see the difference between an LDS ward and the Protestants down the street.” I agree that more distinct and alienating traditional LDS concepts are likely to be jettisoned or practically jettisoned through deemphasis. I don’t think the LDS faith will ever become “hardly” perceptible from Protestant faiths, however. First, hierarchical loyalty is a distinctive that I hardly see changing. Protestant-like Grace teachings may continue to be emphasized more, but the hierarchical loyalty paradigm will keep obedience-driven-works still a significant emphasis. I can envision the church making its wedding ceremonies more inclusionary, and vicarious works for the dead may even take on a more “communion of the Saints” angle vs a living-saving-the-dead angle. But I think Temple LDS-ism will still remain for the living Saints a significant emphasis of community holiness rite, liturgy and ceremony that will keep it distinct from the Protestant world-view — even the mainline Protestant view — for years to come.
However, a basic and fundamental doctrine of the church is that prophets are NOT infallible.
However, a basic and fundamental aspect of LDS culture is that prophets ARE infallible, and if they’re not, you need to be obedient/believing to what they say anyway, or deity will punish you (or at least withhold blessings). Indeed, LDS are taught that if a priesthood leader is wrong, you’ll be blessed for following his wrong direction.
Neither do I, JFQ, but regardless of how or why it was developed, it has come to be used that way in modern PR efforts.
First, hierarchical loyalty is a distinctive that I hardly see changing.
I would agree in the sense that no matter what else changes, LDS leaders will continue to preach exclusive divine priesthood authority. Particularly as they proceed to become more and more protestant in belief, they really have little else to set them apart from other denominations. Divine authority really has become the LDS “trump card” of today, rather than restored truth.
I quote from the current version of Gospel Principles found online at this page: http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,11-1-13-48,00.html
Some of the blessings we can enjoy for eternity are as follows:
1. We can live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of God.
2. We can be exalted as God is and receive a fullness of joy.
3. We can, at some future time, increase our family by having spirit children.
and later on the page:
We must seek earnestly to obey every covenant that we make in the temple. The Lord has said that if we are true and faithful, we will pass by the angels to our exaltation. We will become gods. (See D&C 132:19-20.) Temple marriage is worth any sacrifice. It is a way of obtaining eternal blessings beyond measure.
#25 Two responses:
1. I (try) never let the opinions of other fallen beings (fellow church members) stand between myself and the Lord.
2. As far as being blessed for following wrong direction–same as #1.
No one stands between myself and the Lord, except me, when I sin and error.
I firmly believe the LDS church (SLC) will become more and more like the Church of Christ (RLDS) is today as time passes – the Temple ceremony will continue to be changed every few years to the point that most of the symbolism is gone and not as unique anymore. Meetings will be shortened just like the temple ceremony was. More of a “Protestant” born again christian feel will come to Sunday meetings with an emphasis on being born of the spirit but without the Pentecostal experience attached. In-fact the “mainstreaming” of the Church has been ongoing since the late 1980s – and this is not unique to the LDS faith but to almost all American born religions (Scientology, JWs, 7th Day Adventist etc have all gone into a mainstreaming phase for various reasons).
Is plural marriage doctrinal? If it was, then wouldn’t that mean that EVERY man must enter the order of plural marriage in order to receive the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom. This was an interpretation of the D&C by some, but not all. We discussed in another post that perhaps 25% of the Utah church participated in plural marriage, which means that 75% did not. Does this mean that the doctrine was that the men in those 75% were under the understanding that they would not obtain the highest degree of exaltation? If so, then waiting for an unreceived invitation from the prophet
was tantamount to accepting the fact that one was going to be ineligible for exaltation in the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom. The faith and legacy of the other 75%, however, would suggest that they believed that their children were sealed to them just the same as everyone else. Perhaps in the eternities it will be a principle for all, but for now, the answer “I think it is not doctrinal” seems entirely appropriate.
“We must seek earnestly to obey every covenant that we make in the temple. The Lord has said that if we are true and faithful, we will pass by the angels to our exaltation. We will become gods. (See D&C 132:19-20.)”
Is there a difference in a lower case “god” than an upper case “God”? You see that in some NT scriptures, i.e.
5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)
6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. 1. Cor 8
Is this just a literary style or does it affirm the teaching that we strive to become like God as much as we can, but that He will always be God.
“Mormonism, on the other hand, places Jesus in his proper (albeit greatly adored and revered) role, rather than mistakenly granting Jesus precisely what Lucifer allegedly demanded in the council of heaven. Hint: Jesus always directed worship and glory toward his Father, rather than to himself.”
This is a good argument, but didn’t Jesus also say if you have seen me, you have seen the Father?
This is just old “naive Rigel” thinking out loud, so feel free to torpedo what I have put out here.
Here’s your torpedo.
If Brigham Young and others who reportedly reluctantly took plural wives didn’t think plural marriage was a command of God for exaltation, why did they “envy the corpse” in a passing hearse? Sexual license can be the only other compelling reason, right? Maybe we can say this practice should only be limited to a certain time period, but I think it must be said that within that time period, it was the most commonly held belief that entering polygamy WAS necessary for exaltation.
Rigel and John,
I think Kathryn Daynes did a good job of documenting that the real teaching of the LDS Church in the 19th century on polygamy was that you did not have to actually practice it to receive exaltation but you did have to be willing to. That being the case, I see little difference between what the two of you are saying. Furthermore, whether it is “doctrinal” or not is just a word game that doesn’t matter in the slightest, so let’s stop using the word because it’s causing confusion.
(I have a post on this subject coming out tomorrow morning as a matter of fact.)
Clearly it is “doctrinal” in the sense that at one time it was practiced and taught and that God commanded it. And clearly it is still “doctrinal” in the sense that we believe that at one time it was practiced and taught and God, back then, commanded it.
But clearly it is “not doctrinal” in the sense that it is no longer practiced or taught or commanded by God.
It could also said to be “not doctrinal” in that the basic commandment, as Jacob, is monogamy, and plural marriage is just an exception.
Since President Hinckley was talking to someone outside the Church, in a sound bite situation, where he knows people will take words out of context, his answer makes perfect sense because it was the single best way to convey our true practice in his very few allotted words as contrast to the way many people incorrectly view us. Any parsing beyond that is just lame.
I’d like to respond to your whole laundry list.
Lack of belief in “One True Church.” – I think there is a more “universalist” bent, but to paraphrase Nick, this is a “trump card” of our belief.
Lack of belief in Historicity of Book of Mormon – I don’t see this happening, but I do see interpretations changing over time (e.g. what the historicity was)
Lack of attending Church Meetings regularly – I’d like to hope Monson’s focus will be reactivation.
Won’t accept callings – I see more of this than I like, but it goes with the preceding one IMO, but I could see some falling off of the “extras” (e.g. VT/HT go quarterly as they are reported, or online enrichment)
Won’t pay tithing – individual apostacy doesn’t equal change to church policy
Selective belief in fundamental doctrines like First Vision – that’s really an individual thing, but the church won’t abandon it as it is to your point, fundamental. Individuals may have doubts, but that’s not policy.
Lack of Sabbath Day observance – this has always been subjective.
Lack of overall reverence in Church Meetings, Dress standards, eating and drinking – I think this is cultural and goes as society does.
Lack of youth participation – I don’t think this will happen. If anything, the youth programs are stronger than ever.
High, High inactivity for various reasons – Again, my hope is for a reactivation focus.
“But if you go by what is said across the Bloggernacle, the change has already happened.” Wow – I don’t think the B’naccle is typical, BTW, as I have never encountered another LDS person who knew of its existence (aside from you fine folks). It’s probably about as typical (in many cases) as Martin Luther is of Catholicism.
I agree with Hawkgrrl that the bloggernacle is non-representative of Mormonism.
An interesting question is if the bloggernacle are thought leaders for the church. I suspect we aren’t.
I envied the corpse in the hearse a bit when I got my current calling, but it, fortunately, was not to enter the order of plural marriage. If the prophet told me personally that I had been called to do it, then I would feel like it was necessary for my exaltation. I believe you could say that it was a commonly held belief at that time that eventually plural marriage would be required of all worthy males, but I think it is a stretch to say that all worthy males at the time believed that it was necessary for their own salvation. The actions of the faithful monogamous believers demonstrated otherwise.
There’s a big difference between pressure for change coming from the bottom, and actual change coming from the bottom. Of course the GA’s respond to the desires and wishes of the membership and of course certain changes in church policy and doctrine are a direct result of the changing beliefs of the members, which suggests a bottom-up structure of sorts. But in many, many areas of mormondom, change won’t actually occur until it comes from the top – and for this reason, the LDS church IMO is still very much top-down.
For example, the general membership may have been prepared and waiting for blacks to hold the priesthood for decades before it actually happened, but it required change from the top before it ever took place in any significant volume. Similarly, members may be ready and willing for, say, women to hold the priesthood for decades in the future, but I doubt very many women will be ordained until change comes from the top.
Although the desire and pressure for change may originate at the base, the authority to enact significant change still resides at the top.
But even if you’re right that the church is completely driven from the bottom-up, I’m not so sure this means the demise of the church. I think most existing members would prefer that the church ebb and flow in relative coordination with popular christian beliefs.
Theosis — deification — as many LDS understand the LDS ‘doctrine’ is not similar to the limited Orthodox position, which rests a lot of extrapolation of the meaning of “joint heirs with Christ.”; the ancient Christian theology — though not widespread — is a way to conceive the magnification and reflection of God’s penultimate glory in the redemption and exaltation of man, not that any human will be (a) God. (It is therefore an Orthodox position that reinforces the oneness of God and the limits to which man’s saved nature can achieve — which to the Orthodox thinkers is amazing and ultimate.)
I Cor 8 is historically aligned to the Greek culture and audience of Corinth, and together with similar references of Exodus, Psalms, and John (which cross-refs Psalms 82), demonstrates how human leaders in authority are termed “gods” as exercising sub-dominion in the earth but not in heaven, having no more authority than what God permits, and no more power than other gods competitive cultures worshipped. In some scripture the pagan gods are treated as invented; in others they are treated as if existent, though perhaps not literally so, and ultimately subjugated to YaHWeH (Ps. 135:5 for ex).
Nick said, “Mormonism, on the other hand, places Jesus in his proper (albeit greatly adored and revered) role, rather than mistakenly granting Jesus precisely what Lucifer allegedly demanded in the council of heaven. Hint: Jesus always directed worship and glory toward his Father, rather than to himself.”
The Bible explains how the great gift and Glory of the Father is to present the Son with His Bride — His Church — so Jesus definitely is accorded sublime Glory as the incarnation with whom humankind relates. Yet the Son’s Glory is to present the blameless Bride and Himself to the Father. While a struggle to explain in the right term this “hierarchy” of God is a contested point even within Christian theological history, the traditions unite in affirming the Oneness, Threeness and Sameness as all well asserted biblical points about God Nature. It seems fair, therefore, to leave terminology flexible and argue there is a symbiotic and ordered way by which Glory for Father and Son is achieved, even if the Nature of God is not so ordered. Historical Mormonism’s hierarchy of Godhood nature, as well as existence, rule and glory, is certainly distinct from Christianity and even modern LDS-ism. Using the Bible I think its predominant thrust does not support this historical LDS understanding of Jesus’ “proper role.”
Whether it is a healthy and proper evolution could be argued, but it certainly resonates with modern LDS people to not be so strict about Threeness in subjugating Son in worship of God in Oneness.
“An interesting question is if the bloggernacle are thought leaders for the church. I suspect we aren’t.” Ha! Yeah, I think there are many who would like to imagine we are. I think we are more like the “employee survey” of the church, churning up and examining the sludge at the bottom of the lake, occasionally finding something pretty and shiny. And yet, here we are, and it’s a pretty day at the lake, and we enjoy the company and a place to share thoughts. If I were a GA, I’d scavenge the b’naccle as an indication of what topics might be good to address in upcoming conferences, tossing out 80% of what is out there, of course.
Of course the church (and change within it) is top-down. We believe Christ to be at the head of the church. This isn’t a democracy (like a megachurch or Baptist church); it’s not an oligarcy (like Presbyterianism). I don’t see that changing.
What I do see changing:
-how we understand and interpret things as a church.
-“new revelations” don’t really look like these major pronouncements (e.g. “go to the Ohio”) in a growing, worldwide Church. The Titanic couldn’t turn on a dime, and neither can 13M people (or however many will actually turn when new direction is given). Our revelations are more directional in nature due to our size, and the fact that much has already been revealed that we still don’t fully understand.
-people nowadays are not so ‘out there’; we just know more and have more scientific knowledge. BY could have benefited from the internet or a modern-day 4th grade science class.
-there’s a new focus on cooperation with other churches (despite recent evidence to the contrary) that is encouraging; as a result, we’re becoming more humble. That’s a good thing.
I have a few more minutes, so I am going to try to address each point directly:
* Lack of belief in “One True Church.”
I don’t see that happening. I see a change in the way the term is understood – ironically, by going back to what I believe the original term meant, not what the early leaders took it to mean. I have GREAT respect for much of what I see in other religions and denominations, but I believe in the “One True Church” concept unabashedly. I just think it can be retained without being totally obnoxious.
* Lack of belief in Historicity of Book of Mormon
I see the Limited Geography model becoming the dominant model, but I think that is as it should be – since I think that’s what the book actually claims. I don’t see a rising disbelief in the historicity becoming the standard.
* Lack of attending Church Meetings regularly
That has been a personal issue for many years. As long as the retention rate increases, as I believe it will under the most recent guidelines, I don’t see this becoming an issue.
* Won’t accept callings
An eternal challenge, imo.
* Won’t pay tithing
“Won’t pay a generous fast offering” is a bigger concern for me.
* Selective belief in fundamental doctrines like First Vision
I don’t think this will happen among the member masses. It is perhaps the only thing in this list that, if accurate, has the power to turn the Church into just another Protestant church – as has happened to the Community of Christ, imho.
* Lack of Sabbath Day observance
See comment about accepting callings.
* Lack of overall reverence in Church Meetings, Dress standards, eating and drinking
Important to me, but I don’t see major changes like are occurring in some other churches.
* Lack of youth participation
Huge issue, but I would extend the scope to include YSA. I think we could solve this to a large extent if we actually implemented the programs of the Church as they are intended to function, with some basic changes to the YSA program. There was a fascinating discussion of this on BCC a while ago.
* High, High inactivity for various reasons
The overall activity rate hasn’t declined in the past 40 years. The new missionary focus that is being implemented currently will result in slightly fewer baptisms, imo, but much higher activity rates among converts.
I see, as Thomas mentioned, a fluctuating growth rate that probably will never equal the euphoric expectations of the recent decades, but I don’t see major problems in growth, at all. I think the challenges will be for individuals, especially “intellectual” members, not necessarily the Church as an organization. I don’t think there needs to be a crisis for members, per se, but I also understand that each and every member has to deal with whatever is most likely to pull them away – and the doctrinal / cultural stuff often is harder for those who crave consistency and the ability to win an argument.
#22 Jared said “You seem to be saying that prophets should be infallible?”
No, that is not what I am saying. I am simply saying that there has been a change in dynamics on how the church is run. Book of Mormon geography is just one example of such a change.
I am not saying that if they were wrong about Book of Mormon geography that therefore they are not prophets. I am simply pointing out that there is a change in the organization on how things “used” to be run and how they are run now. BoM geography is just one example. Polygamy is another example. Blacks being denied the priesthood is another example. Changes to the temple ceremony is another example. Perhaps women will get the priesthood one day if enough of them complain about it, and that would be another example of how the church runs from bottom up instead of from top down.
So the point of my post was simply to point out there is a change.
Hawkgrrl said, “Of course the church (and change within it) is top-down. We believe Christ to be at the head of the church. This isn’t a democracy (like a megachurch or Baptist church); it’s not an oligarcy (like Presbyterianism). I don’t see that changing.”
and Ray said re:”Lack of belief in “One True Church,” “I don’t see that happening. I see a change in the way the term is understood – ironically, by going back to what I believe the original term meant, not what the early leaders took it to mean. I have GREAT respect for much of what I see in other religions and denominations, but I believe in the “One True Church” concept unabashedly. I just think it can be retained without being totally obnoxious.”
Traditional Christians believe in a One True Church, a universal church and bride of Christ of which God is at the head. Divisions happen over the concept of the Church Militant. Maybe if theologians would stop calling the worldly governance by that term we Christians could get along better. 😛
God has given his spiritual gifts out differently (Eph 4) to His churches and communities. There are several ways at which governance can be interpreted to authoritatively happen unless we truly are going to declare the Bible wholesale unreliable. It is alienating to the extent any denomination thinks Christ is literally at the helm for them, and the rest of us are in steerage. Or hanging out on a lifeboat somewhere waiting to be rescued.
Of course, some denominations are more exclusionary that others — and certainly doesn’t only include the LDS church — but the unifying truth of the grand ship, the Enduring Church, still ports home in the hearts of a significant portion of Christian Fellowship. It’s my hope this is the message (and reality) that will allow denominations to modify their combative baggage while the Christian Body will find ways to be more honestly and genuinely inclusive — even though there are some points that appear irreconcilable.
JfQ, and, ironically, it is the Mormon Church that teaches God’s grace as extended to all more directly and explicitly than any other, especially when those of other religions are included in the conversation. That’s a topic for another post, but it is an important one to me.
“It is alienating to the extent any denomination thinks Christ is literally at the helm for them, and the rest of us are in steerage. Or hanging out on a lifeboat somewhere waiting to be rescued.” And yet your point is essentially that Christ is the helm (the bridegroom to the church) of all Christian churches in the view of those churches. It is the congregants (regardless of sect) who are in steerage or in a lifeboat waiting to be rescued. The fallacy is in thinking any human being, regardless of church position, is elsewhere or in authority over other human beings.
Speaking of our emphasis on Christ changing: didn’t Mccconkie give a talk at BYU years ago basically stating matter of factly that Mormons do NOT worship Jesus Christ?
That we only worship Heavenly Father. He essitially said that anyone who stated we worship Jesus was wrong.
The most disturbing thing to me was this was the entire subject of his talk, not just one off handed comment.
Good point hawkgrrl (44). I really struggle with traditional dialogue over religious authority because it is usually cast in the die of humanity’s values — of rank, hierarchy, governance, power — rather than embodying the anti-World nature of authority, of the Kingdom, to which the NT testifies. Hard to tie it down to a single, accurate metaphor because it’s always like Christ is saying, “If you think authority is this, then it’s not,” or “As soon as you think you understand, then let me turn over your horse cart with this paradoxical point…”
Bruce Nielson –
you did not have to actually practice it to receive exaltation but you did have to be willing to
You don’t have to be baptized to be an heir to the Celestial Kingdom, but you have to have been willing to – D&C 137. The same could be said of any ordinance or law.
Whatever the view of Daynes or of 75% of the 19th century members were – B. Carmon-Hardy, Richard Van Wagoner, Jessie L. Embry & D. Michael-Quinn, have all documented numerous examples of Church leaders (from Joseph Smith to Joseph F. Smith) teaching that plural marriage was the only form of Celestial Marriage, and that without living it one could not gain exaltation.
The Journal of Discourses, Deseret News and Millennial Star of the time include many such sermons on the subject, often given in General Conference by the Church President). Without exception they stated that men would be damned if they did not enter into the practice (there being only extreme exceptions, such as a person dying before they had the opportunity).
Rigel Hawthorne –
If the prophet told me personally that I had been called to do it, then I would feel like it was necessary for my exaltation.
I met many an investigator of the Gospel who said that if an angel or Jesus came to them personally they’d accept Mormonism. Noah probably didn’t tell everyone personally (one-on-one) that there was going to be a flood, but if they had listened to (and accepted) his preaching they could have been saved. I wonder if they will be able to use the excuse that Noah didn’t try to convince them personally, or that they thought what he said only applied to other people because he didn’t call them by name?
Really interesting post – I’m going out on a limb and making a sort of prediction.
I think the internet has only begun its rise to power. I think it is going to make sweeping changes not just to the Mormon church, but to all the churches out there, as well as nations, kingdoms, etc.
When I see the political and social changes happening in China, India, Central America – for better or worse, I think it is going to forever change how we process information and how we are governed, and how we worship.
And I agree with the original post – it is all going to be bottom up, also top down, outside in, inside out.
I don’t see this as a bad thing. I think truth is all over the place out there, little bits here, little bits there, like a jigsaw puzzle – we are probably all going to end up more homogenized.
Thus Mormons are going to be more protestant-like – but maybe protestants are going to be more mormon-like – maybe mormons and protestants are going to be more buddhist-like, etc., etc.
My hope is that this unifies the whole world more. When I see my 20 year old son traveling for three months all over Asia and staying with a bunch of friends he met over the internet in Japan, Taiwan, Korea – when I communicate with my poverty struck friends in Honduras over the internet whose ancestors 100 years ago were African slaves – and this has all happened within the past 5 to 10 years – I marvel at what might happen in the next 5-10 years.
I am not going to predict any particular changes in the church over the next 10 years, say, even though all of the changes mentioned may be possible – just that I think the changes will come through the internet. (yes i know some members don’t use the internet, but enough do to effect change)
#48 – I like the vision of your second-to-last paragraph, wm. There is MUCH work to do, but I try to focus on the good while recognizing the bad.
>>> B. Carmon-Hardy, Richard Van Wagoner, Jessie L. Embry & D. Michael-Quinn, have all documented numerous examples of Church leaders (from Joseph Smith to Joseph F. Smith) teaching that plural marriage was the only form of Celestial Marriage, and that without living it one could not gain exaltation.
Mahonri, that is one possible view of it… but pardon me if I disagree with your interpretation.
I also think many of the above names have reason to want to see it a certain way and portray it that way and thus they are apologists for their personal views, so I find using them as evidence rather unimpressive. In fact you are an apologist for your point of view too! Stand up and be proud of that fact, because we all are!
The simple truth is that you are taking certain statements of Mormon leaders and, due to confirmation bias, ignoring others to arrive at your conclusion. I’ve seen such quotes time and again and frankly there are plenty of counter quotes that apologists such as yourself simply ignore to prove their point. But it’s wrong to ignore everything someone says and just take a single statement.
I feel you missed Rigel’s point. Mormons believe that if God commanded a certain group of people at a certain time to do certain things, those are the things they have to do (or be willing to do) to be exalted. The key here is obedience to God and repentance when not obedient, not any one specific command as you are supposing. Without that context, it’s doubtful one can properly interpret Mormon leaders.
D&C 137 is only fully understandable within the context of D&C 128. Everyone must be baptized, period. Willing is not enough at the judgement bar, though it may be during mortal life until arrangements can be made. There is nothing in Mormon scripture equivalent to this idea in plural marriage in D&C 132, so I believe you are over reaching on that point.
In some ways the rise of correlation has led the what we could call the corporate church. As I look around my BYU ward, most people live divided lives. They fine with what the Church requires as far as temple worthiness goes, but are not as devoted as most active members my parents age. I do think there are some doctrines that are not only taking a back a seat, but moving to the back of the bus as far as their emphasis goes. Some are I can’t remember the last time in Church someone talked about the millenium, becoming gods, and the second coming. Mostly I hear people hammer home the ideas of obedience and performance to the point where I have decided to either read my scriptures, a book, or a manual during Priesthood, Sunday School, and perhaps Sacrament Meeting. That is unless someone says something interesting, then I will step in.
There is nothing in Mormon scripture equivalent to this idea in plural marriage in D&C 132?
Nothing in D&C 132 stating that plural marriage was commanded?
D&C 132:7 – “Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded;”
What was the law spoken of in D&C 132 (v2&21 that you must live in order to obtain the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, v4&6 that you’d be damned for not obeying)?
v28 “I am the Lord thy God, and will give unto thee the law of my Holy Priesthood, as was ordained by me and my Father before the world was.”
… (read verses 29-33)
v34 “God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises.
Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it.”
Melinda Merrill asked President John Taylor if D&C 132 could be interpreted in any way to allow someone to make it to the celestial kingdom with just one wife. His reply was –
“You seem desirous to take part of the Law and reject the other part, but it is plainly stated as above quoted, that they were ‘to do the works of Abraham, and that if ye enter not into my Law, ye cannot receive the promise of my Father which was made unto Abraham.’ It is further said: ‘God commanded Abraham and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife, and that the reason why she did it was because it was the Law.’ It is evident therefore from the whole of the above that other wives were included in this Law as well as the one.” (John Taylor, 19 January 1883)
Also, what did the Lord mean when he said the following?
“Woe unto that nation or house or people who seek to hinder my people from obeying the Patriarchal Law of Abraham which leadeth to a celestial glory … (Rev. to W. Woodruff, 26 Jan. 1880)
“This law is a Celestial law and pertains to a Celestial Kingdom. … and appertains to thrones, principalities, powers, dominions, and eternal increase in the Celestial Kingdom of God.” (Rev. to J. Taylor, 25/6 June 1882)
“All those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law. And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham’s seed and would enter into my glory they must do the works of Abraham.” (Rev. to J. Taylor, Sept. 1886)
On the point you make about obedience at certain times to certain things being required – this is true to prepare for or avoid certain events and perform special works, but as far as ordinances go –
“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21)
Does this apply to plural marriage?
Again we are reminded of verse 28, which introduces plural marriage –
“I am the Lord thy God, and will give unto thee the law of my Holy Priesthood, as was ordained by me and my Father before the world was.” (see verse 5 too)
Could this possibly change? Not according to Joseph Smith –
“Ordinances instituted in heaven before the foundation of this world in the Priesthood for the salvation of man, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved upon the same principles.” (TPJS 308, Words 210)
I don’t know how I fair as an apologist, but I feel I have to speak up for my family’s ancestors who I have gotten to know through their journals, and who bravely entered a difficult law because they were commanded to.
On the subject of the LDS church being the “one and only”, I wonder how we deal with another one of the huge changes in LDS doctrine from just 30 or 40 years ago? The scripture in the BoM referring to their only being two churches, one of the Lamb of God and the other was the devil’s, was interpreted as we (LDS) were the “one” and the Catholic was the church of the devil. And it was explained, because all the other Christian religions were branches off that church, they were churches of the devil as well. Be nice here and don’t make me go dig up all that old theology, I’m sure anyone reading here over forty can validate this was LDS doctrine.
Today, we don’t equate the Catholic religion or any other as being churches of the devil. So if we still believe the BoM, than all Christian religions are of the church of the Lamb of God. (Remember there are only two churches) In other words, by our own scriptures we have legitimized all faiths as being part of the “one true church”. That means, by taking this very political stance and changing the temple ceremony to accommodate it, we no-longer believe we are the one true church.
I guess this doctrinal change (not being the “one true church”) was absolutely driven from the top down as it happened the day we decided to become more politically correct. I’m sure someone (Bruce) is going to try and convince me that the scripture in the BoM doesn’t mean what I’ve interpreted it to mean. My answer, to the point he will make, is that I’m in some very good company with many previous church presidents and leaders…
Mahonri states: “There is nothing in Mormon scripture equivalent to this idea in plural marriage in D&C 132? Nothing in D&C 132 stating that plural marriage was commanded?”
You certainly misunderstood what I said here. I certainly wasn’t saying polygamy wasn’t a commandment and I think I was pretty obvious about that.
The rest of your quotes stand for themselves, I think. Is that the best you can do to prove that actual practice of polygamy was considered required for exaltation now and forever? I could have used better quotes than that.
Did your quotes really establish that there was no way for anyone to be exalted in any time without practicing polgamy? Your quotes fell sort of the proof you were after.
The problem with quotes saying polygamy was required for salvation are that you have a tough case to make that such statements weren’t just meant for a certain time frame (Rigel’s point.) Do any of your quotes really suggest this at all?
Now consider the plainess of these teachings by comparison:
“A Man may Embrace the Law of Celestial Marriage in his heart & not take the Second wife and be justified before the Lord.” –Brigham Young
“I understand the law of celestial marriage to mean that every man in this Church, who as the ability to obey and practice it in reighteouness and will not shall be damned.” — Joseph F. Smith
“I am perfectly satisfied there are men who will be counted worthy of that glory who never had a wife; there are men probably in this world now, who will receive exalatation, who never had a wife at all, or probably had but one.” — George Q. Cannon
“if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessing which Abraham obtained, you will be polygamists at least in your faith.” –Brigham Young.
>>> I’m sure someone (Bruce) is going to try and convince me that the scripture in the BoM doesn’t mean what I’ve interpreted it to mean.
>>> we no-longer believe we are the one true church
I have to admit, Doug, you were the last person in the world I expected to hear that coming from. I’m shocked really. Haven’t you spent the last 100 or so posts talking about how it’s so arrogant that the Church teaches we’re the one true church? Why the sudden change of heart? 😉
Can’t have it both ways. But you seem upset with the Church either way, so at least that’s consistent. 😛
On this “theoretical polygamy” that so many seem to advocate, I can only say that polygamy was not the rule, even when it was practiced, although simple math tells me why so many multi-gen LDS do hale from polygamous ancestry. My husband is 5th gen LDS with not a trace of polygamy in any of his family tree. Perhaps his ancestors were just unpopular. Yet they were faithful and lived and died monogamously and were counted worthy to marry in the temple.
On “one true church” being dropped, in reality, I don’t see it happening. But spouting off all the time about it just seems to be hitting the hornets nest. Seriously, though, what church out there doesn’t believe something similar? Even if you don’t say “one true church” you obviously make a choice to attend where you attend, so it’s the one you think is the best. The phrase is considered inflammatory because other churches do not like the quote in the First Vision about their creeds being an abomination and their professors being corrupt. They get riled up over it, and yet, if God did say it (which is hearsay like all of the Bible), who are we to say He didn’t? And yet, one could interpret that direct quote in a less inflammatory way: creeds are incorrect and “those professors” could be some specific individuals who were corrupt.
I agree with workingmother that the internet will change all inter-faith dialogue ultimately for the better. There will be much more civility and much less isolated rhetoric. The secret things shall be shouted from the rooftops.
I hadn’t intended for this to be the Nathan and Bruce show. I wasn’t trying to write an exhaustive treatise, just trying to use scripture and revelation to illustrate that a) it was a commandment (which others – if not you personally – do question), b) that such revelations (and many statements by prophets) identify it as being essential to exaltation, c) that it was one of those laws determined before the earth upon which he requirements for exaltation were based.
I used this one principle (and could have used many others) to illustrate that the Church can and has changed its views on doctrines and practices it once considered divine.
There are many other quotes (probably hundreds) from public sermons and private journals that substantiated these points further. But I was trying to use D&C 132 and other revelations on the subject as a basis, as you raised your views on that particular revelation.
The quotes you use from Brigham Young to my mind do, in no way, undermine his public teaching that “the only men who become Gods are those who enter into polygamy.” It seems to me that his remarks are little different from anyone saying that –
“A Man may Embrace the Law of [Baptism] in his heart & not [have the opportunity to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost] and be justified before the Lord.”
“if you desire with all your hearts to obtain the blessing which [Alma] obtained, you will at least in your faith [believe in baptism, even if you should not have that opportunity].”
My reasoning is like this – if Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow & Joseph F. Smith all publicly taught the same doctrine in General Conference, and this doctrine is also taught in the scriptures, yet in private they speculate about a possible exception, then they are probably speaking about special circumstances that could apply to anyone unable to have the chance to live a law or receive and ordinance, whereas generally few Latter-day Saints would be in such a group. Otherwise they would be publicly saying one thing and privately believing the opposite, which I suppose is vaguely possible (and you are entitled to believe so if you wish), but I personally consider it very unlikely.
Leaving aside whether this principle applies to us personally, whether it is now a commandment or will ever be relevant in the future for exaltation – There are some modern leaders that have said it was never a commandment and never essential to exaltation, and this does not square with the historical records and public pronouncements made by the early prophets of this dispensation (and both cannot be right). That is the point we began with – the possibility that the Church can reject doctrines it once considered essential, and if it has done so in the past, it can do so in the future.
I have not speculated as to whether this is due to our unworthiness, us not being strong enough to withstand the world’s opposition, or some divine postponement. Although in all those cases I fear we, the saints, will be answerable for our general unrighteousness.
As the First Presidency said –
“We formerly taught to our people that polygamy, or celestial marriage as commanded by God through Joseph Smith, was right; that it was a necessity to man’s highest exaltation in the life to come. … To be at peace with the government and in harmony with their fellow citizens who are not of their faith, and to share in the confidence of the Government and the people, our people have voluntarily put aside something which all their lives they have believed to be a sacred principle,”
(19 December 1891, First Presidency Petition for Amnesty, Contributor 13:197; Smoot Investigation Vol 1, p. 18.)
As Joseph F. Smith said –
At Wasatch Stake MIA Conference, remarks of Sister and President Joseph F. Smith: “Sister Smith bore a very strong testimony to the divinity of the principle of plural marriage. Pres. Smith endorsed it. He said it was taken away from the people – like the law of consecration – because the saints rejected it, and neither would be restored until there is a people prepared to live them. Anyone should beware that casts slurs upon the birth of those born under this covenant.” (W. H. Smart Diary, 1901-1902 Bk; p. 94; 28 July 1901. This is essential the same remarks as he gave at a session of the Salt Lake Temple dedication, John Mills Whitaker Journal, April 1893)
The fact that I can see your interpretation of the facts as “valid” (i.e. there are no facts that definitively disprove you) does not mean I believe you are “correct” in your interpretiion. The problem is that it’s impossible for you (or me, or anyone) to prove it one way or the other.
If the early saints saw polygamy as essential to their salvation and if I, as a modern Mormon, also see polygamy “as essential to *their* salvation” then there has been no change of doctrine. This is my point.
Because you are claiming proof of change in the Church, your burden of proof is not to show me your point of view is a valid opinion, but to prove my opinion is invalid. That’s a huge difference!
Short of having a quote in Mormon scripture that says “thus saith the Lord, I say polygamy is the same as baptism. You don’t have to have it in mortal life because you can always have it done via proxy ordinance later and you will have to have it at some point prior to the judgement bar or you can’t be exalted” the simple fact is that you are just speculating. You can say I am speculating too, and you’d be right.
But here is the rub. For your point that the Church has *changed it’s doctrines* to have been valid *to me* you had to prove *to me* there was no legitimate alternative way of interpreting the facts and quotes we’ve talked about. You didn’t do that. You simply showed that it *could* be interpreted the way you think it is meant. But I was never arguing otherwise.
You are, of course, free to interpret Mormon doctrine any way you want. But if you are going to claim proof that those doctrines have “changed” you have then taken on the burdern of proof of proving that my intepretation isn’t a valid way of looking at the facts rather than merely showing your interpretation is one possible way to fit the facts.
Let me put this in another way to use a really simple logical “deductive” example to illustrate what I am saying:
Pretend we have two facts in a murder case that neither of us dispute –
Fact 1: John and Tim are the main suspects
Fact 2: Tim could not have commited the murder
So let’s say you and I both have our own interpretations of these facts. I think John committed the murder and you think a third unknown party did and that John is not guilty.
Both of our theories fit the facts. The facts are non-conclusive.
You then make an argument: “John and Tim are the main suspects, Bruce, and Tim is innocent. But I think John isn’t the type of guy to do it, so I think it’s neither of them.”
Is this a logically “valid” argument? Yes it is. Does it fit the non-conclusive facts? Yes it does. But it’s not a logically conclusive argument. In fact, it’s merely an opinion.
So long as we just both hold our opinions, we are on equal ground.
But now let’s say you say to me: “I can prove it was a third party that committed the murder. And here is my proof! Tim didn’t do it and I don’t believe John did! There I proved you wrong Bruce!”
This is the equivalent to the argument you are making with polygamy. We both have valid possible interpretations of the meager facts that are non-conclusive. You are making an argument that yours is the best interpretation, which is fine. I’m doing the same.
But the moment you claimed positive proof that the Church has changed it’s doctrines, you now have the burden of proof on you. (Whereas I am claiming no burdern of proof at all, just the right to hold my opinion as valid as yours.)
Now it’s no longer a mere opinional subject where we both have valid opinions but neither knows for sure. Now you have to, as it were, prove me wrong rather than just demonstrate that the facts do not deny your opinion.
In other words, you are failing to rise to the level of proof needed for your assertion.
By the way, this example illustrates what I see as the primary problem with all discussions on the bloggernacle (or even off the bloggernacle.) People do not understand the concept of burden of proof. They think if they have a good interpretation of the facts that this is synonymous with proof that everyone else is wrong. (And usually go on to claim everyone that disagrees with them is a liar or a cheat or delusional.) But that is merely a logical fallacy and it’s actually kind of silly because there is almost always more than one valid interpretation of the facts when we are dealing with something as non-conclusive as the historical record.
“I have to admit, Doug, you were the last person in the world I expected to hear that coming from. I’m shocked really. Haven’t you spent the last 100 or so posts talking about how it’s so arrogant that the Church teaches we’re the one true church? Why the sudden change of heart?
Can’t have it both ways. But you seem upset with the Church either way, so at least that’s consistent. ”
You’re not being fair here my friend. If you look at the first sentence of my post you’ll see I’m just asking the question about how we deal with the contradiction. This is another example of a major shift in the core teachings of the church. You see, it’s not me that wants it both ways, it’s you.
I don’t believe our church is the “one and only”. My last 100 posts or more back that up. My whole point is that the church no-longer believes that either. Jeff’s OP is all about this shift coming from the bottom up and I’m just trying to show that this one came from the top down.
Now to your other point- Bringing up uncomfortable things for discussion here is not being upset with the church. I still attend on a regular basis and posting here helps me deal with the problems, contradictions, and changes in our doctrine and core principles. If I was upset with them, I wouldn’t post here and I wouldn’t be a member anymore…
I just wanted to clarify that Church headquarters has, in fact, tested the idea of eliminating Sunday School. The tests took place in a few wards in the U.S. a few years ago. Ultimately, the idea was dropped—for now. So that was an example of a change that would have occurred from the top down. Personally, I think the changes you listed are of great concern to the Brethren. Listen to the talks in general conference. And your comment about what you see in the bloggernacle is spot-on, and I think that, too, is of concern to the Brethren. Listen to Elder Ballard’s caveats when he talks about how to engage people on the Internet. Many bloggernacle participants shouldn’t be self-congratulatory about Elder Ballard’s supposed endorsement of their activities. In large measure, they should see themselves in his comments about what not to do when discussing the Church online (not this site, of course—I think).
Here is my simple answer to the whole “is polygamy required” question:
Yes – **for all of whom it is required**; no, for all of whom it is not.
The collective body of our scriptures indicates that monogamy is the standard, except when polygamy is required. The most concise statement of this is Jacob 2. Verse 27 indicates the Lord commands monogamy, then verse 30 offers the exception that proves the rule.
Some OT prophets were polygamous; some were not. We have no record of major NT figures being polygamous. Our own history now has more years of monogamy than polygamy, and the number of members who have practiced polygamy in this dispensation if *FAR* lower than those who have practiced monogamy. I apologize for being as blunt as I’m about to be, but this is an absolute no-brainer to me.
Our doctrine on marriage relative to polygamy has not changed one whit. Those who are commanded to practice polygamy are commanded to do so; everyone else is not, as they are allowed to live the foundational standard. Those who are commanded to live polygamy receive very blunt and sometimes over-the-top commands, since most of them have no desire to do so at first – and for some the desire never comes even as they practice faithfully. That doesn’t change the overall pattern we see throughout our own Judeo-Christian history. Monogamy is the rule; polygamy is the exception – even when polygamy was practiced in this dispensation. The numbers are crystal clear to me, as is the overall canon.
>>> If I was upset with them, I wouldn’t post here and I wouldn’t be a member anymore…
Fair enough, Doug. Upset can have multiple meanings, though.
I guess my point was this. If I thought the Church was wrong to say it’s the one and only true Church, then I’d be glad if I perceived a shift away from that notion. I’d certainly not bring it up as a “contradiction” to the poor deluded soul that was trying to have it both ways. I’d simply try really hard to encourage what I thought of as “correct” ways of thinking and downplay the “incorrect” because of course trying have it as a contradiction would most likely cause the poor deluded soul, if by chance they agreed with me, to error on the side of the truth claim that the Church is the one and only true Church and stop the positive improvements.
The fact that you are not doing this, to me, does suggest an inconsistency between your stated beliefs (well, stated intentions anyhow) and your actions, if only a very minor one.
Besides, a belief in a contradiction is not the same as a belief in the thing. My Evangelical friend believes a) God loves perfectly, b) He chooses to send people to hell that He could have saved. Would it be right for me to summarize his beliefs as “God does not love”?
Ok Bruce, so now that we have the formalities out of the way.
How do we explain the “two churches only” scripture in the BoM and the current position of the church? Do we want it both ways or are we mad as h-ll that they changed the temple ceremony and adopted this politically correct position? Do we want them to go back 30 years and take the hard line that we are “it” and therefore any of you poor deluded souls that can’t see it are headed for a very limited heaven and are being led by satan?
Again the whole point of my post, doctrines have changed significantly just in my life time, not to mention the many changes in the past. To take the position of core doctrines are still the same is to ignore significant teachings of many past prophets. Bottom up, top down, whatever, they have changed and will continue to change.
FWIW, I believe most of the changes in my lifetime have been in the right direction and continuing to lose the bigotry of being the “one and only” is also healthy. Having said that, by making these “significant” adjustments to our beliefs is more evidence that the church is manmade as I have been trying to show through all my postings.
Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it…
The very idea that something can be essential for exaltation one day and not the next is probably the most fundamental doctrine that has changed. The early Church Presidents consistently taught that the requirements for exaltation do not change – “if not, God has had different plans in operation to bring men back to dwell with Himself; and this we cannot believe.” (TPJS p. 60)
“The Gospel can not possibly be changed. The heaven we hope to achieve is eternal and unchangeable. Therefore to bring the same human nature to the same goal, regardless of the time in which a person lives, requires the same steps and procedures. For that reason the saving principles must ever be the same. They can never change. …
To say that the Gospel may be changed is to say that either God has changed, or that human nature is no longer human nature. It is obvious therefore that no one can change the Gospel, and that if they attempt to do so, they only set up a man-made system which is not the Gospel, but is merely a reflection of their own views. And since only God can save, only His Gospel can save, and if we substitute “any other gospel” there is no salvation in it.” (LDS Church News, June 5, 1965, p. 16)
D&C 132:38 tells us that plural marriage was practiced “from the beginning of creation until this time” & Jacob 2:30 tells us if we want to raise up seed (children) to the Lord we will live plural marriage, otherwise we are to live monogamously. Who do we want to raise up children too?
Do we really believe in a God who one day says “no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory” (if that doesn’t put it in the same class as baptism I don’t know what does) and then later says it is no longer a requirement? Did God change His mind, or did we – like the unrighteouss Nephites – become unworthy to raise up seed to the Lord?
What part of “I have not revoked this law nor will I, for it is everlasting” (1886 rev to J. Taylor) is ambiguous? That did not just apply to Plural Marriage (which was once synonymous with Celestial Marriage), but to all essential laws – “For I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with; but they stand forever. … I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not.” (ibid.)
I have confidence in God’s promises and believe in and rely on a consistent God, as the early Saints of this dispensation did –
“it is equally as necessary that men should have the idea that he is a God who changes not, in order to have faith in him, … for without the idea of unchangeableness in the character of the Deity, doubt would take the place of faith. But with the idea that He changes not, faith lays hold upon the excellencies in His character with unshaken confidence, believing He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that His course is one eternal round. (LoF 3:31, see v. 15 & 22)
Plural Marriage not like Baptism?
“If the ‘Mormons’ were ever so unwilling to become polygamists, they have no choice in the matter. God has commanded and they must obey. If there was not a single word or example to be found in the Bible in its favor, still they must observe its practice. It is in no sense optional with them. It is as much an integral part of their faith as baptism for the remission of sins, or the laying on of hands for the bestowal of the Holy Ghost.
“It holds precisely the same relations to the Gospel plan of salvation, redemption, and exaltation (which of a verity we know to be true, and for the testimony of which hundreds of our people have laid down their lives) as the arms and legs sustain to the human body; and with us it is absolutely as necessary to the eternal happiness and behoof of the Latter-day Saints, as the union of the head and trunk of the body is necessary to the perpetuity of mortal life.” (M.S. 39:341-407)
“Man may receive great reward, exaltation and glory by entering into the bond of the new and everlasting covenant, if he continue faithful according to his knowledge, but he cannot receive the fullness of the blessings unless he fulfills the law, any more than he can claim the gift of the Holy Ghost after he is baptized without the laying on of hands by the proper authority, or the remission of sins without baptism, though he may repent in sack-cloth and ashes.” (J. of D. 20:24-31, please read the rest – it speaks about those who don’t have the opportunity in this life)
16 Feb 1882: “This in the [statement of the] young ladies [15,636 of the LDS Church]: ‘We have been taught and conscientiously believe that plural marriage is as much a part of our religion as faith, repentance and baptism.” (Life of John Taylor; Roberts; pp. 357-358)
Wilford Woodruff – “The reason why the Church and Kingdom of God cannot advance without the Patriarchal Order of Marriage is that it belongs to this dispensation just as baptism for the dead does, or any law or ordinance that belongs to a dispensation. Without it the Church cannot progress. The leading men of Israel who are presiding over stakes will have to obey the law of Abraham, or they will have to resign.” (Life of Wilford Woodruff; Matthew Cowley, p. 542)
13 Jan 1884, George Teasdale: “I bear my solemn testimony that plural marriage is as true as any principle that has been revealed from the heavens. I bear my testimony that it is a necessity, and that the Church of Christ in its fullness never existed without it. Where you have the eternity of marriage you are bound to have plural marriage; bound to; and it is one of the marks of the Church of Jesus Christ in its sealing ordinances. …
Three-fourths or more of the Mormon adults, male and female, have never entered into the polygamic relation, yet every orthodox Mormon, every member `in good standing’ in the church, believes in polygamy as a divine revelation. This article of faith is as much an essential and substantial part of their creed as their belief in baptism, repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and the like. …
This article of faith is as much an essential and substantial part of their creed as their belief in baptism, repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and the like.’ And again: ‘All orthodox Mormons believe polygamy to be right, and that it is an essential part of their creed. …
Congress may make baptism, confirmation, ordination, partaking of the sacrament, gathering, building temples, paying tithing, and praying to God, crimes. If made so by law, they would be just such crimes as polygamy and unlawful cohabitation are now. Do you say that Congress can declare all those innocent ordinances crimes? Yes, if it chooses to; but it would be an exercise of unjust power, not derived from the governed. ‘Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion.’ Celestial or plural marriage was revealed from Heaven to the Saints, through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Everybody knows that it is a feature of our religion.” (Contributor 8:36-39)
Doug, for what it’s worth, I believe that *you* believe this is a doctrinal change and I even believe that *for you* it was. That’s because I believe you that you interpreted the Book of Mormon that way at one time, even if *I* never did.
And in fact, that change (from your view) is from a manmade Mormonism, in my opinion: a shift from (in my view) a misunderstanding of the Book of Mormon (and D&C) to a true understanding of it’s teachings as a whole. And I believe your view now is pretty close to the view I always held that I honestly thought I got straight from the Book of Mormon and the D&C and have believed all my life.
And I don’t blame you either. If I interpreted Mormonism and the Book of Mormon as you do, I’d reject it too.
But the way I choose to read and comprehend the Book of Mormon, it just doesn’t seem to take the hardline stance you insist it does. So, of course, I can’t see your point because I just never read it the way you did:
2 Ne 28:14: “They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.”
That’s a fantastic quote, Mahonri! I’ll have to remember it for future conversations. It’s better then the ones I used and really leaves little room for the interpretation you are pushing. Thanks for that.
Can I move to a slight but related tangent? Clearly you aren’t going to covince me of your point, so there is no need to go futher there.
But I’m curious what you personally believe. I can’t tell if you believe the Church is manmade and you are trying to use this “change” to prove that point or if you have a fundamentalist slant and believe in practicing polygamy for your salvation. Are you comfortable sharing a bit more? (I’m guessing you aren’t a polygamist, but I could certainly read it that way.)
From your post #4, I would have guessed that you are trying to use this point to prove the Church manmade.
But if that is the case, keep in mind that I’m self defining my own beliefs and you are defining others beliefs. Are situations would then be very different, if that is the case, and there is a difference in the moral demands on us.
Mahonri, I read your comments as coming either from a polygamist or fundamentalist (regardless of actual marital status). If you feel comfortable sharing, I also would like a bit more info about your own beliefs and/or practices.
Honestly, I don’t get the “true believers will ALWAYS practice polygamy” stance. It’s just not consistent with our canon. Unless you can show me that Jesus and the early apostles and disciples were polygamists, I just don’t see it at all.
Prophets preach whatever they are told to preach to their people in their times – and they almost always do it in absolutes, in order to impress upon the people the seriousness of the command. Doctrinal fluctuation among dispensations is obvious in our canon, and I just can’t understand or accept a position that “this ordinance or practice or symbol will never change. It simply makes no sense to me, so if your position is “Once said by a prophet always said by any real prophet” . . . we simply will have to agree to disagree. That simply isn’t what we have in our total, comprehensive religious history.
PS. I also appreciate the quote Bruce excerpted in #67. It really does make my point.
I’m surprised that a number of people seem to miss the fundamental point of my post. Many members of the Church have adopted a world view of things rather than a God view of things. As such, they begin to fall away, line upon line, precept upon precept, in somewhat reverse order of gaining a testimony. Many of you don’t think the Bloggernacle is very representative of the church as a whole. Of this I wonder. I see, a lack of real commitment around me, sometimes feel it in myself from time to time.
I see people walking through Church, but not really there in mind and spirit.
Maybe, this is the separation of the wheat from the chaff we’ve read about. Maybe, this is a second “falling away from the truth.”
And maybe, I am too pessimistic about what I see.
Now that I think about it, the word of wisdom was a doctrine that was from the bottom up, of sorts. Joseph Smith received the revelation after several complaints from his wife Emma.
Women used to have to wear men’s garments and the first presidency was very reluctant to authorize any changes to the temple garments. Women changed tailored them to fit women anyways and eventually the first presidency authorized changes to the temple garment to better fit women.
This demonstrates that there is precedent and if enough women complain about not having the priesthood, perhaps they can get it.
I believe the LDS Church is a divine organization with an important mission, and consider myself a member. However, I also believe it has agency it can exercise to accept and reject true doctrines. Just like the Israelites under Moses who rejected the higher law, and the people in the days of Samuel who requested a king.
That Jesus was plurally married was a common belief amongst the early Saints and taught privately by Joseph Smith (see the Nauvoo Book of Anointings) and Brigham Young and others publicly. It is an idea that some Protestant scholars have entertained relying solely on their knowledge of the scriptures and Jewish traditions to come to that conclusion. Many modern Mormons also still believe it (see Dynasty of the Holy Grail for an example).
The early brethren likewise taught that all the prophets throughout time have lived plural marriage, despite the scriptural record not always specifically mentioning it. I believe there is also evidence of godly plural marriages within the Book of Mormon (Lehi and the Brother of Jared being the most notable).
I suppose I might be called a Mormon Fundamentalist, however I am very wary about what that label means to most people – I certainly do not condone arranged marriages, marriage to minors, spousal or child abuse. I do not speak for all Fundamentalists (who like Mormonism in general has split into different groups) and I didn’t want to focus on my personal background, as I felt the views I was sharing were held by some mainstream Latter-day Saints I knew (and many more in the past from what I read). I also was trying to use plural marriage as one example, but could have used a hundred others – I didn’t want to lose focus on the point I was trying to make.
Those doctrines revealed by revelation or indicated by prophets to be essential and true (such as baptism and plural marriage) I do believe are always essential and true. I believe this because I believe in “all that God has revealed” as well as Him being able to “yet reveal many great and important things” (AoF 9) as long as what is revealed does not contradict what has been revealed, or “if so he would cease to be God” (Mormon 9:15-19). “Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;” (D&C 93:24)
One difference between the Fundamentalist and ‘Orthodox’ LDS positions seems to be that mainstream Mormons now believe that we are judged by what the current prophets tell us and what he says always takes precedence because of the authority he holds, whereas Fundamentalists (whilst still believing in the importance of a prophet, authority and revelation) believes that even prophets are judged against the scriptures and teachings of their predecessors, and that their authority is dependent upon such conformity to prior revelation.
The idea of what constitutes the Gospel seems to have changed too. Joseph Smith was emphatic that the Gospel never changes, and to 19th century Latter-day Saints many things like plural marriage were considered part and parcel of the Gospel, whereas to modern members many early laws and ordinances seems to be peripheral practices only instituted for a limited time. So to me it seems that Fundamentalism is a continuation of not only early Mormon laws, doctrines and ordinances, but it is a philosophy which encompasses all that has been revealed, without embarrassment, irrelevancy, relegation or revision. Thus “I believe all that God ever revealed, and I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much;” (Joseph Smith)
“I see, a lack of real commitment around me, sometimes feel it in myself from time to time.”
Jeff, I believe this has been the case in all times, in all places, anywhere God has had a Church. I think the scriptures substantiate this point. This is really not intended to support or deny your point. It’s just a related observation.
I appreciate your having the courage to share your beliefs so that we have some context to your arguments. I will agree to disagree with you on this point and will be happy to let God be the judge of us both.
But I particularly appreciate that you were defining your personal beliefs and not defining other people’s beliefs for them. (As I had assumed prior to your last post.)
Mahonri, What Bruce said – and I mean that respectfully. We disagree, but I appreciate how you expressed yourself.
Jeff: “Many members of the Church have adopted a world view of things rather than a God view of things. As such, they begin to fall away, line upon line, precept upon precept, in somewhat reverse order of gaining a testimony. Many of you don’t think the Bloggernacle is very representative of the church as a whole. Of this I wonder.” I think testimonies ebb and flow over the course of life, which seems to be confirmed by some demographic activity stats. Those in the B’nacle are very actively engaged in the discussion around church concepts, whereas to your point, there are some at church just sleepwalking or going through the motions. Those types are not going to visit the B’nacle. We are here because we want to engage in this kind of discussion and thinking; some are here because they have an axe to grind or a pet peeve they wish to bat around. But your average lay member is just living day to day, not giving this stuff much thought unless something new or thought-provoking captivates their attention on Sunday.
Zelph: “This demonstrates that there is precedent and if enough women complain about not having the priesthood, perhaps they can get it.” Speaking as a woman, I for one am not inclined to care for this type of petition. It is not necessary to my salvation, and I am already doing about as much time wise as I can handle in the church. I would be okay either way, but I think it unlikely this will ever change, which is fine with me. I can see the usefulness of women being able to administer priesthood blessings (especially as there are not always worthy priesthood holding males in a household) and I also see that it would be useful for women to be able to be involved in church courts on the behalf of other sisters or to help clarify perspectives (regardless of who is being examined by the church court), but as to church leadership roles, meh.
Re #56 Hawkgrrl
“My husband is 5th gen LDS with not a trace of polygamy in any of his family tree. Perhaps his ancestors were just unpopular. Yet they were faithful and lived and died monogamously and were counted worthy to marry in the temple.”
Thanks Hawkgrrl. This is the point I was trying to make. I had assumed that my direct line was similar in absence of polygamy, but going to FamilySearch to verify this proved me wrong! (See, this post inspired me to do some family history work!)
What is interesting as I look at the marriages of my ancestors is the different levels of committment to the principle that seem to be immediately evident. One ancestor, after his first wife died, married 2 widowed women and apparently bore no further children. One apparently bore children with two wives simultaneously. A son to the more polygamous one, born in the late 1850’s and married in the late 1870’s was strictly monogamous. I need to find and review their life histories. Was there a winding down phenomenon in the 1870’s to attribute the snub of polygamy by that ancestor, or was he just “unpopular” or less spiritual?
In the book “From Mission to Madness” (the biography of David Hyrum Smith) the author asserts (and I’m going by memory here) that the Brigham Young era Patriarch of the (Utah) church, John Smith, lived his polygamous life minimally and was chastened by the higher authorities for not spending more time with his second wife. Imagine if a patriarch stopped living to the fullest one of the requirements to obtain a temple recommend. Would he be able to retain his office and suffer a mere “talking to” for such a breach?
PS. I also appreciate the quote Bruce excerpted in #67.
By the way, I forgot to mention the most frequently discussed polygamous ancestor (in an indirect line) among my family. When he was called to leave Utah to go on a colonizing mission, his wife didn’t want to go. So, he marries a second wife and moved out of state, leaving the first wife and kids behind. I guess he took that calling seriously.
Rigel – I understand that polygamy was a ‘calling’ and not all men were called to do it. Is this not correct?
Mahonri- I think that you have drawn an excellent definition of what a Mormon Fundamentalist is and how it differs from the mainstream LDS church.
I agree with you that if the gospel is a restoration of eternal truths, that means they are eternal and should never change. However, I do not believe this is the view currently held by most members of the church. I believe the current view in the church is that the gospel is something that is ever changing and our understanding of it is constantly being refined and evolves over time.
I haven’t read all the posts so I hope I’m not repeating anything. But I’d like to comment on blacks not having the Priesthood until 1978 and it being blamed on ‘bigotry’…
Keep in mind when Jesus ministered on this earth his ministry was only to the Jews. It was not opened up generally to the Gentiles until Peter saw the vision and Paul was sent to them. We wouldn’t call Jesus a bigot. There is a time and a season for all people’s. We do not know why blacks couldn’t hold the Priesthood until 1978. So why throw the racist/bigot accusation out?
One of the most inspirational stories I’ve ever seen is how the Church began and spread in Africa. You can see it on BYU TV online. It’s called ‘Pioneers In Africa’ and it is awe inspiring. How do we know what God’s reasoning was/is? According to President Hinckley, we simply do not know why. But the faith of those in Africa was tested in a marvelous way and that story is just awesome! And they were simply humble and grateful when the Priesthood was made available to them and the Church was officially sactioned in Africa. I encourage everyone to try to find that show.
I’d say the same thing using a little different language.
It isn’t that gospel truths change, it is that we are a church that receives new revelation – both collectively and, importantly, individually. When you learn something new it shifts truths that you already knew into a new place, into a different light. We may come to see that thing as more or less important. Rarely, but on occasion, we may see that what we previously held is completely wrong. (Those instances cannot be held up as typical, though, unless you show that a substantial number of changes involve that kind of rejecting dynamic. And that isn’t something we see in the church. Rather, revelation tends to shift rather than eliminate older ways of thinking.) Learning requires change – but to say it even better, learning is change (though change is not learning). If we are learning, we can fully expect that the church in 50 years will be substantially different than the church is today. (although change is not proof of learning, it is a neccesary componenet of learning.) If the church looked, spoke and prioritized exactly as it did in 1880 – one thing we could say for sure about that is that the church had never learned anything. Of course I’m not saying that all change is due to the reception of new light. The loss of light also causes change – and the tension in this thread is over whether the church has learned or forgotten. The original post seemed to view change as largely due to forgetting, and seems to equate change with a kind of forgetting. I see that most, not all, of the changes that have happened within the church as a process of learning.
Here is an example:
I would say that I’ve believed baptism is a requirement for entrance in the Celestial Kingdom for a long time. And I still do believe that. However, I have also learned a lot more about the baptism of fire, and its relation to baptism. Because of what I’ve learned, I wouldn’t speak about baptism with the exact same language I’d have used in the past. Although I still believe most of what I’ve ever believed on the subject. I understand that baptism, per se, doesn’t cleanse us of our sins. I hear people say that all the time. It is true from a limited point of view. It is incomplete. It is the same with every subject. There is nothing that we understand perfectly, either individualy or as a church. As we learn more, and we will learn more because we have the companionship of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is revelator, we can expect more change in the church. If we cannot allow our postions to shift to accomodate revelation, _especially_ persoanl revelation, we are dead in the water as far as the gospel goes.
Hi, 79 Jayleen you might want to go back and look at some of the posts, as the issue of blacks and the priesthood have been discussed.
As mentioned in a previous comment, Joseph Smith gave the priesthood to blacks. Elijah Abel was the first black seventy and he was ordained by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith also gave the priesthood to women, not to hold leadership roles within the priesthood, but to administer to the sick and afflicted.
Brigham Young is the one that changed the doctrine, and it is clear that Brigham Young made some racist remarks during his discourses.
“You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind….Cain slew his brother. Can might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, page 290).
“In our first settlement in Missouri, it was said by our enemies that we intended to tamper with the slaves, not that we had any idea of the kind, for such a thing never entered our minds. We knew that the children of Ham were to be the “servant of servants,” and no power under heaven could hinder it, so long as the Lord would permit them to welter under the curse and those were known to be our religious views concerning them.” (Journal of Discourses, Volume 2, page 172.)
“Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” (Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110.)
I have read the Discourses that are referenced and nothing is taken out of context. Brigham Young meant what he said, and said what he meant.
Bruce R. McConkie had some rather choice words to say on the subject in the original edition of his book “Mormon Doctrine”
“Those who were less valiant in pre-existance and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negros.” Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 527, 1966 edition
“The negros are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, …but this inequality is not of man’s origin. It is the lord’s doing, is based on his eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate.” Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 527 – 528, 1966 edition
It is clear to me that racist teachings were taught by leaders of the church.
Thomas Parkin- I agree with you and this is the view that seems to be shared by most members of the church. My point is more about pointing out that there are those that feel that the doctrines should never change and should continue to be practiced as taught by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and those are the people that we call Mormon Fundamentalists.
“Those in the B’nacle are very actively engaged in the discussion around church concepts,….”
Definitely agree, But some want to re-hash and re-hash the same stuff over and over again without any new insight or information. We can’t ever stick to the topic at hand for very long before some trot out their pet peeves.
Rigel asks: “Was there a winding down phenomenon in the 1870’s to attribute the snub of polygamy by that ancestor, or was he just “unpopular” or less spiritual?”
Daynes documents that there was a winding down in the 1870s and then another more significant one in 1880s By the time the first manifesto came the truth is that there was very little polygamy going on anyhow and only amongst the die hards. This wasn’t really a very popular principle amongst men or women. Plus there was the increasing outside legal persecution that was escalating to unbelievably illegal proportions that made life miserable for polygamists.
Zelph – There have been Prophetesses in the past as well as women judges. That doesn’t mean that women not be allowed the Priesthood at this time is solely due to bigotry in the current leadership. I, for one, accept the Lord’s way for my day. And people (women or whoever) who get ‘militant’ and press for something from the Church (the Lord) are acting in the height of pride. We may humbly seek for some kind of change, but militancy has no place in the Church.
There are also many examples of Gentiles being allowed to convert to Jewdaism and Jesus did indeed perform miracles on their behalf. But the Lord stipulated the Gospel to go to the Jews first. Peter behaved in a very bigoted fashion on occasion as did some of the other leaders, and I can only imagine some of the things they said about Gentiles. But their behavior didn’t change the fact that Gentiles weren’t to be included as a mass population until the Lord said so.
And what good would it have done the Gentiles, when after they were approved to be included and blessed with the Gospel, to focus on prior bigotry of Peter or any of the others? What good does it do now in this day to focus on the bigotry of past leadership in the Church? None. Just as the Gentiles back then opened their hearts and minds and embraced the Gospel and were HUMBLE in receiving it, so should the black today show that same humility. So should we all. Focusing on past wrongs or even current wrongs only harms a person’s present. It perpetuates the negative and quelches the Spirit.
So by showing me that some Church leaders were bigots means little to nothing to me, as they are human, just like everyone else. My point is, that as a general population blacks were not included in the Priesthood because, for whatever reason, the Lord did not appoint it to them until 1978. Again, I would encourage people to watch Pioneers in Africa on byutv online and see if you don’t get a better understanding of the situation.
Over and over the Scriptures show examples of prideful people who lost the Spirit and their faith by disobedience and rebellion. The answer is not to blame God, but to humbly acknowledge that we have done wrong and humbly accept chastisement and put the past behind and press on to the high calling of God. Hanging on to bigotry or hanging on to wrongs that were done to you, whoever you are, is prideful and will interfere with your own repentance and current walk down the road to salvation.
Jayleen, fwiw, I think there is little disagreement on your central point – that we need to let go of past practices and statements that no longer apply in our day and focus on moving forward within our new framework. There is wide disagreement on the ban itself, but this is not the place for that discussion, imo. It simply would derail the overall discussion, as it always does whenever the topic arises.
Jayleen, I am not suggesting a militant uprising among women to demand priesthood. However, I believe that if women ever get the priesthood, it will come from bottom up, not from top down. Why would it come from top down when everyone at the top are men?
If you are satisfied with the current status of women, that is fine. However, if someone is not satisfied with their role in the church, I do not believe that they should stay silent or roll over on the issue to demonstrate their humility. As I said before, if Emma Smith never complained about cleaning up the chewing tobacco, perhaps we never would have received D&C 132. If women didn’t complain about having to wear men’s garments, perhaps women would still have to wear men’s garments.
I understand that people were not perfect, and it is unfair and a bit naive to think that anyone, including the early leaders of the church, were perfect, or walked around being “good”. However, I was simply pointing out that while we were on the subject of blacks and the priesthood and how changes are made to our church, I believe that this doctrine is an example of a change from bottom up and not from top down. Sure, Spencer Kimball received a revelation, but only after years of criticism and threats of government sanctions. I think it would be naive to believe that this was a revelation from God completely independent from outside influence. That is the point I am making, is that we DO have a role to play in the church.
Zelph wrote: I think it would be naive to believe that this was a revelation from God completely independent from outside influence.
Your comment is one of unbelief.
We are surrounded by issues and prophets as members of the church. Blacks and the priesthood is one issue that has been resolved. Those we call prophets have told us that it was a revelation that brought about the change where blacks are now able to receive the priesthood. Nearly every member of the 12 was present when this revelation was received. I choose to believe their testimony because they are believable, I’m not sure why you don’t “believe” them. It’s a choice to believe we are led by prophets or corporate leaders who will bend the truth to their own purpose. I have all kinds of evidence they are led by the Savior, what evidence are you using to believe they are corporate leaders who bend the truth to their own purpose?
RE #84 Thanks Bruce! Very interesting. Do you have a link to the papers of Daynes?
Rigel, here is a link to her book on Amazon. Looks like there is a paperback now. Awesome.
Unlike most scholars that have written on this subject, Kathryn seems to have no axe to grind.
Jared, just to be fair, #88 is not a direct response to what Zelph actually said. He can correct me if I’m wrong, but I could just as easily translate his comment as meaning that the Lord sometimes waits until His people are ready “at the bottom” before He reveals changes to the leadership “at the top”.
Jacob 5 says that the tree will be pruned according to the strength of the root. That might be what Zelph is saying, as well. Either way, calling his comment “one of unbelief” is a bit extreme, imo.
#91 Ray–I see your point. In fact, I think the same as you regarding “at the bottom”. This often seems to be the way the Lord deals with his children.
I should have softened by comment, after I posting it and rereading I wished I had.
Correction- I meant D&C 89 when I was talking about Emma Smith, not D&C 132.
“Nearly every member of the 12 was present when this revelation was received.”
I believe that all 12 members were present, and I can also accept that they truly and legitimately felt something that day. Perhaps it was a revelation from God. However, it was still a change in doctrine that came from bottom up.
“However, it was still a change in doctrine that came from bottom up”
No, I think you’ve got this wrong. the question regarding the situation may have come from Emma, but the revelation itself, came from the Lord through Joseph. That is top down. Bottoms up change occurs in the actual practice and belief of the members.
Zelph and others,
Two members of the Twelve were absent from the June 1978 revelation: Mark E. Petersen was out of the country on assignment, and Delbert Stapley was in the hospital. They were both contacted and agreed with the spirit of the revelation.
Source: Lengthen Your Stride, biography of President Kimball, Edward Kimball, Deseret Book.
Zelph – a few comments.
“I believe that if women ever get the priesthood, it will come from bottom up, not from top down. Why would it come from top down when everyone at the top are men?” It always comes from the top down (meaning through the prophet & the 12, presumably from the Lord). But if there are barriers that exist in the minds of the prophet & 12 that make it not possible to receive such a revelation in a certain time and context, it may not get through. Change in the church doesn’t occur from the bottom up, BUT cultural change and enlightenment changes people’s perspectives, including the 12 and the prophet (over time – a long time given that the church is a gerontocracy), and they become receptive to the revelations that were unthinkable in years past. At least that’s my theory today.
“However, if someone is not satisfied with their role in the church, I do not believe that they should stay silent or roll over on the issue to demonstrate their humility.” I agree with Jayleen that complaining about this is pride, and frankly, so is “demonstrating your humility.” Do I think women are as capable as men? Yeah, and a great deal more capable in many cases. Do I think the Lord needs women to have the priesthood for the church to flourish? No, I don’t think it matters at all. Priesthood power is only given by the Lord on condition of righteousness. Anyone unrighteous no longer has priesthood power. The priesthood isn’t a meritocracy.
“As I said before, if Emma Smith never complained about cleaning up the chewing tobacco, perhaps we never would have received D&C 89.” That’s a cute story they tell in the Newel K. Whitney store, but I think there were also other factors. Mostly the WoW was just common sense with a dash of contemporary conservativism.
“If women didn’t complain about having to wear men’s garments, perhaps women would still have to wear men’s garments.” Not a doctrinal issue. Just obvious stupidity.
“I believe that this doctrine is an example of a change from bottom up and not from top down. Sure, Spencer Kimball received a revelation, but only after years of criticism and threats of government sanctions. I think it would be naive to believe that this was a revelation from God completely independent from outside influence. That is the point I am making, is that we DO have a role to play in the church.” I think the role that is played in the church is not directly by the beneficiaries of the change. Even Joseph’s approach to abolition did not condone slave uprisings. He wanted to buy out the slaves through the sale of public lands, thus making the oppressors whole as well as freeing the oppressed. This required good people who were more or less disinterested to create the change. I think this is more than just a coincidence, that there is a more eternal principle at play here. Plus, as cultural norms shift, barriers once thought impenetrable become irrelevant. That’s the “bottoms up” change I see.
John Nilsson- Thank you for the correction, I was not aware of that historical fact.
“Change in the church doesn’t occur from the bottom up, BUT cultural change and enlightenment changes people’s perspectives, including the 12 and the prophet and they become receptive to the revelations that were unthinkable in years past”
This may be true, and I would argue that this change in perspective comes from bottom up, not top down.
“Mostly the WoW was just common sense with a dash of contemporary conservativism”
I would also add to that the WoW was not anything new or original during the time period of Joseph Smith. Sylvester Graham, the inventor of the Graham cracker was a Presbyterian minister in New Jersey from the 1820’s and was influenced by the temperance movement. My point is simply that the word of wisdom was certainly not an original idea.
““If women didn’t complain about having to wear men’s garments, perhaps women would still have to wear men’s garments.” Not a doctrinal issue. Just obvious stupidity.”
I suppose that it is not necessarily a doctrinal issue, just historical fact. The first presidency was reluctant to make any changes to the temple garment and women ended up custom tailoring them regardless of the fact that it was unauthorized.
Zelph – The WoW was/is far more than just abstaining from alcohol and tobacco. If you look at the whole of it, it was indeed original thought at that time.
Sylvester Graham went a step further. Graham believed that a firm bread made of coarsely ground whole-wheat flour was more nutritious and healthy. He was against refined flour and preached that it was not for the body and hence he invented the graham cracker.
He believed that alcohol had medical qualities, but should not be used for social reasons. Followers of Graham abstained from alcohol, believed in cleanliness, believed in vegetarianism, which if you read the D&C, that is what is advocated, and even condemned white bread.
I haven’t seen any evidence that Joseph Smith had ever had any direct influence from one of Sylvester Graham’s discourses, but the point is that the D&C was not the only source during this time period.
Zelph, you’ll never get a dinner invitation from hawkgrrrl if you keep going on with this 🙂
Maybe you should remember the temple ceremony where men are priest and women priestesses, so one day they may, or could, include the ‘priestesses’ priesthood in sunday church.
And maybe women, like Eve, saw something wrong with the garment design which us MEN still don’t get; maybe its the men who ought to be complaining about it -as soon as we wakeup & realize that a singlet would get the job done too, imo.
That list you draw up here seems to me like the obvious road to apostasy. People start by not accepting callings, then going to church less often, then not paying tiths…….etc and finally end up completely out of the church, which is apostasy defined.
“That list you draw up here seems to me like the obvious road to apostasy. People start by not accepting callings, then going to church less often, then not paying tiths…….etc and finally end up completely out of the church, which is apostasy defined.”
While this is true, my fear is that there will be/are many who will just reject a few truths here and there and stay in the Church. because of this, the Church naturally changes. We only have to look to the ancient church to see what has happened to it as a result.
My teenage years were in the 1970s. During that time, we were declared “the chosen generation”. It was pounded into us that we were unique, a candle on a hill and all that. We took great pride in our peculiarities. That’s all changed. And, this is important, when told we weren’t Christians, the church said, “by your definition, no.”
The LDS church has made a seriously shift from peculiarity to mainstream evangelicalism. It has become hyper-sensitive to charges it isn’t Christian, even to the point of changing the logo of the church and emphasizing Christ in a way that was declared heretical in the mid-1970s.
For various reasons, in the last fifty years the source of converts has largely shifted from people well versed in religion who disagreed with their pastors and priests on doctrine (many Catholics opposed to Vatican II were baptized) to evangelicals for whom religion was largely an emotional experience. The other influence was moving the Missionary discussions from a salvation/family oriented message to a Christ oriented message. Point being that it brought in more of those with an evangelical outlook on religion. Any organization is that it is the gestalt of its members and the demographic shifts have had a real and serious impact.
In addition, church leaders became almost obsessive about erasing the controversial aspects of Mormonism. It went so far as to have a prophet pretend certain long held doctrines weren’t such on national television. Not just there; Maxwell gave a horribly convoluted interview for a PBS special that left even well versed members scratching their heads. Most definitely gone was the notion that Mormons were unique and proud of it.
Ironically, even as the church was becoming more global, the leadership was becoming less so. Central control has massively increased since the 1980s. Despite all the claims of being family oriented, the church still insists on using members time at rates far above most other religions. (A few years ago, the church leadership made a massive move to use even more of that time and was rebuffed by the members.)
The church of today is so different than the one of my youth that it’s barely recognizable to me. My gut feeling is that the church has to either have a reformation to move it back to its traditional roots, or it will turn into yet another protestant religion that doesn’t believe much of anything–it will become even more of a weird cross between Baptists, Lutherans and Methodists. (One huge problem with a reformation is that it will greatly reduce church membership numbers and force the church to tacitly admit that its claims are wildly overinflated–I think they have too much pride to do that.)
PS. “The WoW was/is far more than just abstaining from alcohol and tobacco. If you look at the whole of it, it was indeed original thought at that time.”
Entirely and completely untrue. In fact, it was a rather liberal interpretation of beliefs about diet that were sweeping both the US and England. Moreover, the WoW of the 19th century is NOT the WoW of today. At that time they were Words of Wisdom; today they are dietary laws enforced through temple recommends and baptism interviews. This is a rather dramatic change. Furthermore, careful reading of the WoW using the language of the time shows that the big bugaboo was distilled liquors–a very common target at the time–not beers or wines. Makes sense since Joseph Smith was a beer drinker.
PPS. Another interesting shift.
When I grew up in the 60s and 70s, when bearing your testimony you would say “I believe…” Starting with a talk by Bruce R. McConkie around 1978, this shifted to “I know…” I’ve long felt this, along with McConkie’s talks about obtaining a “personal relationship with Jesus” had a profound, though subtle, effect on the the church. There was also an emphasis from the leadership to interpret the scriptures literally, rather than as metaphor (and to apply them to our daily lives, even when it made no sense, like God ordered genocide or taking so many steps on Sunday.) This is very evangelical, though I don’t think that was the goal at the time. Makes me wonder that it’s an inevitable shift in any religion.
Joe, individual perspectives are interesting.
I agree with some of the things you describe as changes; I think some of them are silly nit-picking; I think some of them aren’t changes at all. Some of them are so over-the-top to me that I would need specific citation to understand them.
I am not saying that your comment is “wrong”; I’m really not. I’m just saying it’s interesting to see how radically differently individuals can interpret the same things.
Joe- I find your perspective fascinating and thank you for sharing your perspective. I did not grow up in the 70’s so I do not know what the church was like. However, from reading history, it is clear that there was a time when the church didn’t give a tinker what the rest of the apostate world thought, now the church tries desperately to be liked by everyone. I have heard from many people that have been in the church for a while that feel the same, the feel that the church used to be this unique and special organization and they took pride in being a ‘peculiar people’ and now they feel like the church has become watered down and the church is just like any other Christian denomination.
Zelph said, “…and now they feel like the church has become watered down and the church is just like any other Christian denomination.”
And such members obviously haven’t travelled around very much 😛
Seriously, I think you’re right to mention it, though. DO more LDS members want to perceive they are standing at odds or extremely distinct from other faiths, or do more really want to fit in?
Joe Woodbury said, ” This is very evangelical, though I don’t think that was the goal at the time. Makes me wonder that it’s an inevitable shift in any religion.”
“Post-evangelicalism” is a very strong emerging trend in mainstream Christianity. The militant evangelicals, especially ones with a very sociopolitical, fundamentalist or fundamentalist-leaning bent have really, IMO, set back Christian dialogue. I’m glad to see the trend backfiring. OTOH, it may be a temporary setback. There may be a large contingent of Christians who like to view themselves at odds with or distinctly elevated from other Christian denominations.
Joe – Thanks for the list. It is helpful. I do see differences over time, but I don’t agree that there is a clear progression/regression to it. OTOH, what I see is that leaders and times have different focus, but I don’t agree that it is as simple as “we used to be X, and now we are Y. When will we be X again?”
We have to remember that the original restored church was very evangelical and pentecostal in its worship (e.g. speaking in tongues, focus on expressing personal conviction, enthusiastic services). Frankly, a lot of that was toned down throughout all U.S. relgions in the 1900s. Americans just became more stoic. For example, the quakers, so named for their physical movement in worship, now have what amounts to a very open-ended testimony meeting as their form of worship.
Only in the 1970s did the term “evangelical” begin to be interchangeable with “fundamentalism” or biblical literalism and inerrancy. They are now used almost synonymously, but they actually have alternate meanings that are unique and predate the current connotations.
Zelph – “it is clear that there was a time when the church didn’t give a tinker what the rest of the apostate world thought, now the church tries desperately to be liked by everyone.” BTW, this is a byproduct of globalizaiton and the internet. No one had to worry about PR back in the day. If you ticked people off, what did you care? Now, every word you say is parsed nine ways to Sunday by twelve different bloggers and several 24/7 news sites before you even finish the sentence. If you go back 100-120 years, people said the same thing, and it was a byproduct of Utah’s quest for statehood. If you go back 50-80 years, it was a byproduct of no longer telling the saints to gather (e.g. the emergence of an international church).
Long and short of it is, we should all play nice in the sand box. It’s easier to do that in an environment that is supportive (e.g. council of churches) vs. one that is adversarial (e.g. fundamentalists vs. “the world”).
I took a church history class at BYU taught by Susan Easton Black. If I recall correctly, when we came to the Kirtland period and discussed the WOW, she said that Graham had come through Kirtland on a lecture tour not long before Joseph received the Word of Wisdom. I don’t remember if she gave a citation, but I’m sure you could email her if you really wanted to know her source.
Hawkgrrrl said “this is a byproduct of globalizaiton and the internet. ”
I would agree with you there, and just another example of how outside influence effects changes in the church. There are many examples. Another example is how DNA has had enough of an impact to get the church to change the introduction from “principal ancestors of the Native Americans” to “among the ancestors of the NAs”. Certainly you can agree this is change in the way we view Native Americans as a whole and I am sure you can agree with me that this was not a change made that came from top down.
Zelph – yes, I agree that change was not really top down. It was more of a sea change, IMO. The fact of the matter was it wasn’t ever really doctrine (your bloggername notwithstanding) that all Native Americans were Lamanites. Early church members just assumed that because they didn’t have much knowledge about these things. The verbiage in the BOM was put in based on that erroneous assumption, and the church just finally bothered to change it. I have frankly not heard anyone since the 1970s say that they thought all Native Americans were descended from BOM people. Those are the same people who thought the narrow neck of land was the Panama Canal.
Some of the so-called changes like the title page of the Book of Mormon is just as much a function of who is in a leadership position at the time. Each of our Presidents have had a different emphasis and those areas of interest reflected changes. Some of it is as a result of cultural/ societal changes that do not reflect a diminishing of the moral principles of the Church like a renewed emphasis on the Savior in the logo.
Kind of like the Supreme Court. A decision in one era can be deemed wrong in another era. did the constitution change? Nope, just the players.
Actually, there are many sections of the D&C where the Lord refers to North American Indians as “Lamanites.” See, for example, D&C 28, where Oliver Cowdery is called to serve a mission to the Lamanites in the territories west of Missouri. D&C 28:9 says the the city of Zion (Jackson County, MO), will be built “on the borders by the Lamanites.”
MoJim – “Actually, there are many sections of the D&C where the Lord refers to North American Indians as “Lamanites.” ” I disagree that it makes it “doctrine” that all Native Americans were Lamanites. These were revelations, not God’s journal written in His handwriting that we stole out of His nightstand. People (with erroneous interpretations of who the Lamanites were) were still scribing it. At the end of the day, calling the Native Americans Lamanites created a paternalistic feeling among the LDS toward them that was not only more charitable but also probably saved many lives in the westward trek. Was that intentional or just dumb luck? Who knows. Just an observation.
Hawkgrrrl- I agree with mojim and if you read the D&C, the lord is speaking to Oliver in first person.
“Behold, I say unto thee, Oliver, that it shall be given unto thee that thou shalt be heard by the church in all things whatsoever thou shalt teach them by the Comforter, concerning the revelations and commandments which I have given.”
And now, behold, I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them; and inasmuch as they receive thy teachings thou shalt cause my church to be established among them; and thou shalt have revelations, but write them not by way of commandment.
9 And now, behold, I say unto you that it is not revealed, and no man knoweth where the city Zion shall be built, but it shall be given hereafter. Behold, I say unto you that it shall be on the borders by the Lamanites.”
This was not just Joseph Smiths personal opinion, this was a revelation from the Lord given in first person.
“And thus you shall take your journey into the regions westward, unto the land of Missouri, unto the borders of the Lamanites.”
If we are to believe these are real revelations from the lord, it is clear that Missouri is geographically close to Lamanite borders. And the Lord refers to Native Americans as Lamanites, this was a revelation in first person from the Lord through Joseph Smith, this was not just his opinion.
hawkgrrrl–I agree, that is a perfectly valid interpretation (one that I would tend to agree with). But (playing devil’s advocate), then if that is true, it begs the question of what parts of the D&C are true, and what parts of it are “erroneous interpretations” by the authors.
Taking your explanation further, it could be used to argue that the BoM is simply inspired fiction (not that I think there is anything wrong with that idea). The stories of the Nephites and Lamanites are just “erroneous interpretations” used to explain inspired truths, so there is no need to worry either way about whether the Lamanites are “among” the ancestors or are the “principle” ancestors of the American Indians.
I’m of the opinion that we should start by understanding what the book itself actually claims, then making our verbiage match that. Once that happens, I will be open to a more focused discussion, but I believe we still have a ways to go before the membership at large understands what the book actually says. I read the limited geography model as quite obvious in the book itself, and I thought that LONG before I even knew there was a “limited geography model”.
Imo, changing the ancestors wording finally makes it consistent with the actual book.
As to the D&C Lamanite quotes, I look at them the same way I look at ALL first person quotes. If a scribe is transcribing something as it is said and I feel confident in the scribe’s ability (e.g., my mother or sister), I feel comfortable accepting it as an “accurate first person statement”. If it is recorded after the fact, even if that is only minutes after the fact and/or is recorded by someone whose skills are suspect (like me), I don’t feel confident that it is an “accurate first person account” – and my hesitancy increases the more time passes and/or the longer the quote’s length. For example, I don’t accept ANY of the purported first person statements in the Bible as “accurate” – as literally the exact words of God, uttered by Him and transcribed accordingly. I see them as approximations based on re-tellings. The D&C verses were written much more quickly after the fact, but they still were written after the fact. Therefore, I have no problem believing that either the Lord said “Lamanite” because the early saints would have understood that or, more likely, that He said something else and the hearer used Lamanites when telling about it, since that’s what he believed the Lord meant.
If it concerned me, I might be using it as an example on a different thread. *grin* It just doesn’t concern me, as either way is consistent with much I have seen in historical texts of all kinds.
“I’m of the opinion that we should start by understanding what the book itself actually claims, then making our verbiage match that.”
The problem I have with that is that Joseph Smith was unequivocal in his claim that the American Indians as a whole were descendants of Lamanites (and was equally unequivocal that these claims were the result of revelation.) Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders in Utah reiterated that claim. Furthermore, several modern day prophets are quoted as making the same claims, using in the context of addressing comments to a congregation (as in “you are descendants of Lamanites.) I think it’s very clear that in early Church history this was, in fact, doctrine and continued to be so until very recently.
MoJim – “it begs the question of what parts of the D&C are true, and what parts of it are “erroneous interpretations” by the authors.” I would by no means stop at the D&C on this one. Ray’s point is a good example.
Here’s another. Why do we call the Native Americans Indians? Not because they were from India, and yet, many historical texts call them that. Why? This idea was so firmly entrenched in people’s minds that evidence to the contrary couldn’t get through to them. Does the Lord care whether the Native Americans are mistakenly believed to be Lamanites or not? I’m not sure it’s that important, and the misunderstanding had some good consequences.
Ray, I give your brain a gold metal from all the mental gymnastics you must go through.
hawkgrrrl- what you are proposing sounds pretty heretic to me. Looks like I am not the only one around here 😉 It is certainly not an orthodox view.
I see this very problematic for a literal interpretation of scripture. Joseph Smith used scribes for the Book of Mormon, the pearl of great price, the doctrine and covenants and the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible. So if his scribes are so unreliable, why would God want him to use such a unreliable method? That doesn’t make any sense. If God wanted to reveal to his prophets corrections, how would he do it? Certainly not by telling the prophets directly, because they have gotten so many things wrong. I believe it is by science. Science is what has helped us understand that Native Americans are not Lamanites. Science has helped us understand that humans have been around a lot longer than 6,000 years. The Asiatic ancestors of Native Americans were from 30,000 years ago, which scientists already knew through archeology and anthropology. DNA simply confirms this from the number of generations. So we can understand that a lot of what we call scripture is not literal and is merely allegory.
Ok folks, I’m surprised at this blatant attempt to make the black wall white. Either the doctrine of the Indians as taught by JS is true or it’s not. To make statements stating that some of you actually never believed in this principle, as was so very commonly taught when I was in my youth, means that all those years ago you were a heretic to some of the teachings of the church. Had you said in Priesthood meeting, back in the 70’s, that you didn’t believe the Indians were descendents of BoM peoples, you would have been labeled an apostate well before I even understood what the word meant.
Please forgive me in advance for saying this, but I just don’t believe any of you were that radical. I debated a long time before writing this post as I hate it when people don’t believe me when I make such statements about my beliefs, but believing you all were heretics well before me is unthinkable. If I’ve misjudged you, then please accept my apologies and let me be the first to welcome you to my side of the fence. You see, my belief in the BoM as inspired fiction is just one step beyond what you’re saying. In other words, you’re just like me. (If you can stand that) In 40 years I may be writing on this very blog when the evidence against the historicity of the BoM is so overwhelming that no one in the church accepts it has literal anymore and I may be the one saying:” Hey guys, I always believed it was inspired fiction. What is it about any of the writings in the book that would make you think any differently?”
Again, please forgive my poking a little fun at you … You heritics! (grin)
Doug, you draw an excellent point. “I was heretical before you were”
Let’s just all agree that I am right and move on.
This is fascinating, you won’t believe me when I tell you, but I wrote my post before I had a chance to recheck the site. In other words, I posted my impression of Ray and Hawkgrrrl’s comments before being able to see yours. Interesting, we both got the same impression…
Zelph – “So if his scribes are so unreliable, why would God want him to use such a unreliable method?” You tell me since it’s more direct than the method used for the entire Bible. Or are you equally dismissive of the Bible?
Doug G. – “means that all those years ago you were a heretic to some of the teachings of the church” Nope, it just means I’m apparently younger than you. I suppose being baptized in 1976 at age 8 makes me a member in the 70s, but I was pretty young to be considered either heretical or a white-washer. I never heard it “preached as doctrine” that all Native Americans were Lamanites. That people believed that, I grant you, but it’s not something relevant to my testimony of the Book of Mormon.
“Interesting, we both got the same impression…”
No, not “interesting” – predictable – just as it is predictable that Hawkgrrrl and I would agree. So what?
Blatant use of “…” is interesting, don’t you think? Neither Hawkgrrrl or I tend to use speculative “…” like that. Interesting . . .
(See how insulting that is? Let’s not play those games.)
Hawkgrrrl- The question I am asking is if you are equally dismissive of Joseph’s scribes when it comes to the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price or Joseph Smith translation as you are with the Doctrine and Covenants.
You asked if I was equally dismissive of the Bible. I am not sure what you mean by that, so I will try to answer what I think you are asking. I would not say that I am dismissive of the Bible, or the Book of Mormon. I would just say that I do not take a literal view of scripture. That is to say that I believe that many of the stories in the Bible are not literal stories. For example, the story of Adam and Eve may or may not be literal, or maybe it is an exaggeration of something that happened hundreds of thousands of years ago. However, I am certain that humans have been on earth much longer than 6,000 years. The first humans came from Africa. If there was an Adam and Eve, they would have been Africans, not Anglos from Missouri. Surely there must be things in both the Bible that you can’t possibly take literally, like a global flood and Noah cramming 2 of all 6 billion different species into a boat then distributed all the animals to their proper place on earth. Maybe the story was based on a local flood, who knows, but I can not take the story literally. The idea that there was a global flood is nonsense and might be neat when you are a kid, but just silly when you are an adult. I even question the literalness of Jesus and his resurrection. Perhaps Jesus was based on a real person. I am convinced that the Book of Mormon is not a literal story of real people that existed. Could it be that it is “inspired ficton” and that Joseph Smith simply used a median that he understood well (he was well known for being a good storyteller) to communicate the message and principals that God revealed to him? Sure, it could be possible, but I do not take a literal view.
However, this does not mean that I dismiss any scripture. Just because I do not believe that Adam and Eve or the creation account is a literal story does not mean that I can not draw on just as much inspiration when I read it. In fact, I think that once you understand that the Book of Mormon is not a literal history, it makes it a much more spiritual book, which I believe is the intention. One does not have to spend too much time trying to find archaeological evidence or artifacts that will never be there. One can focus on what is really important.
So I hope that it answers your question.
Zelph, “I give your brain a gold metal from all the mental gymnastics you must go through.”
See how condescending that sounds? It’s a good thing I don’t mean it.
Hawkgrrrl- “Nope, it just means I’m apparently younger than you”. You got me on that one; sometimes I think everyone here is at least as old as me. While I still think that even in the 80’s the Lamanites were still very much accepted as being the American Indians, you may be right about the church starting to back away from the doctrine by the time the 90’s rolled around.
Ray- I was just poking fun at you man, don’t take it so personally. FWIW you were firm in your post about not believing the Indians are descendants of BoM people. Sorry if my choice of words offended you. To steal from another poster here; don’t get offended for a word… (smile)
You just have to realize that I actually find it refreshing when someone (such as yourself) takes a firm position on something that years ago would have been fighting words. Surly you can see the irony, you are now a defender and very TBM and I am the heretic. Thirty years ago, you would have been the heretic and I would have been the TBM defender.
I still like you Ray and I respect your right to be TBM. Just because you didn’t see the irony I was trying to convey in my post is no reason to think I was insulting you.
Yeah, Doug, I’m tired tonight and not my normally chipper self. If I blame the phone company again, do I get another pass? 🙂
Ray- Maybe you have a point and I will try not to be too condescending. I struggle. I am not sure if the church is true, or even if any of Christianity is true. So why am I still open to the possibility that it could be true? I suppose that I have to go through mental gymnastics just like anyone else.
Doug – “While I still think that even in the 80’s the Lamanites were still very much accepted as being the American Indians, you may be right about the church starting to back away from the doctrine by the time the 90’s rolled around.” Well, it was not taught as doctrine where I lived in the 80s. I’m not really sure that it qualifies as “doctrine” under any premise, though. Wide-spread assumption I grant you. But doctrine? Really? What is the doctrinal importance of the genetic origins of the Lamanites? So, I agree that dismissing the BOM as inspired fiction is heretical, and I am not even close to doing that. I have points on which others would consider me heretical, FWIW, and on which I may be. But at heart I am a believer as you say.
Zelph – “I am not sure if the church is true, or even if any of Christianity is true.” That helps explain your questions on the scribe issue a little more fully. I wish you luck in your quest. My own personal feelings are that scribing is fraught with problems, regardless of which text, so I’m not much of a literalist. But I do believe the BOM is an ancient record, not a modern-day fictional creation of JS.
Sorry I’ve come back late to this conversation, but I wanted to add my thoughts regarding the church’s teachings about Lamanites.
I was born later than both hawkgrrl and Doug (in the early 80s), and I was always taught in church that American Indians were all Lamanites. In fact, it is demonstrably true that this was an official teaching of the church until within just the last few years.
Here’s why: The introduction to the BOM, where the official church-sanctioned text says the Lamanites were the principle ancestors of the Native Americans. I saw other official church publications (the childrens version of the BOM, I think) that showed a map of the Americas, showing Lehi’s family as landing somewhere in Chile.
Moreover, this is what I was taught in religion courses at BYU as well. I was even taught (using quotes from SWK in the 1980s) that Polynesians are Lamanites. I have NEVER heard a limited geography model taught in church or at BYU (only through my own independent reading); the only statement I have ever read from a GA was a talk given by Elder Oaks (to FARMS, I believe–not at an official church event) mentioning limited geography. In fact, I think it pretty likely that most average LDS members and GAs still believe in the hemispheric model.
As far as the doctrinal significance of this: the teaching that Polynesians, American Indians, and all other New World aboriginal groups are Lamanites has had a profound effect on the church. It has been used by the church as a justification for enhanced missionary efforts among these peoples, since all the way back to the beginning of the church when Joseph Smith called people to be missionaries among the Lamanites. It has been used to justify very expensive church programs, such as BYU-Hawaii, Church College of New Zealand (and several other church schools among Polynesians). It was used to justify the church’s program of adopting Native Americans into LDS homes to give them better opportunities and to assimilate them into mainstream American culture. Spencer W Kimball even talked about how these adopted kid’s skins became lighter, fulfilling promises in the BOM that the Lamanite’s skins would become whiter when they repent. I know this program continued at least until the early 90s / late 80s, because my wife’s family participated. This teaching has been (and still is) used as a missionary tool when missionaries teach people from these groups. Our missionaries have been telling people “you are a Lamanite, so the BOM is about you,” when it is very unlikely that the people mentioned in the BOM are really their ancestors.
Being a LDS in Denmark, I found the following passage in the book “Law of the Harvest” very interesting. For me this is one of the reasons some changes will come.
In 1987, Elder Boyd K. Packer reminded a group of Church leaders that “we can’t move [into various countries] with a 1947 Utah Church! Could it be that we are not prepared to take the gospel because we are not prepared to take (and they are not prepared to receive) all of the things we have wrapped up with it as extra baggage?”
your question: Rigel – I understand that polygamy was a ‘calling’ and not all men were called to do it. Is this not correct?
My thought: Women and girls were doled out as a property right to “worthy” men, so the “calling” was the most interesting part of how their decisions were made by the male members.