Obnoxious Folk Doctrines — the unstoppable force

Stephen Marsh Mormon 38 Comments

There were several complaints about the false doctrine thread — about how I was slighting folk doctrines.  I’ll be back to the false doctrine series soon, but thought I would take a moment out and discuss a folk doctrine or two.

“Tell her to obey me because I have the priesthood.”  There is a folk doctrine in the church that wives have to obey their husbands because the guys have the priesthood.  It got so prevalent that a general authority was called upon to give an address and the Church made it available on tape, as part of a series.

The talk is great.  Along with “Father, are you there” and other classics, I used to listen to it in my car while driving.  The man was told “no, you don’t” and after some back and forth was introduced to D&C 121, the concept of unrighteous dominion and that any time he used that argument the heavens were grieved, withdrew themselves and he had no priesthood at all.

The authority of the priesthood in a marriage is the call to act by persuasiveness, gentleness, kindness and love unfeigned.  The only time you can command or reprove is when the Holy Ghost specifically directs and is involved.

Which is the scriptural answer to the folk doctrine, which appears to be alive and well, given all the angst that comes up over it from time to time in the bloggernacle.

What other folk doctrines do you seem that no one seems able to stop from spreading?

Comments

comments

Comments 38

  1. My wife’s grandmother tells the story of how her inactive husband (she wasn’t a member at the time of this story) would tell her what to do because he had the priesthood. The story’s full of holes, of course, since she wouldn’t have known what that was and he hadn’t been to church in years at the time, but she enjoys it methinks.

    The folk doctrine that really bugs me is the strain of women being spiritually superior to, or more “pure” than, men–I mean, we hear that one in General Conference, for crying out loud. It’s patronizing to women, and degrading to men. We’re just different, that’s all. Maybe that’s a false doctrine topic, but the sources from which it is repeated are high enough up that the distinction is fuzzy.

  2. It’s not really a false or folk doctrine as much as the false application of a true principle that men of the Priesthood should lead their family in righteousness in partnership with their wife. Because of our fallen nature, some men will exercise unrighteous dominion and apply the principle in error. From the caveman era, no doubt.

    I wonder about the opposite problem where the wife is the dominant figure in the home and exercises unrighteous dominion over her husband and family. We don’t talk about that much.

  3. #3 – Yeah, that’s not good for the manly men image we try to project to everyone else. I’m whipped, and I know it, but nobody else needs to know it – other than the rest of you here, that is.

  4. “There is a folk doctrine in the Church that wives have to obey their husbands because they have the priesthood.”

    Fulling realizing that I’m about to get yelled at right now, the truth is that prior to 1990, one could (and, in the 19th century, most probably did) interpret a particular covenant made in a particular place, as meaning just that.

  5. #6,

    Yes many do still, and when I disagreed with them I ended up shouted at and accused of spreading false doctrine -this in a HP class very recently!

  6. @Ray–

    You just have General jealousy.

    @Larryco
    I won’t yell; I agree. The problem with many of these “folk doctrines” is that we view them through today’s lenses instead of the window of time in which they first came about. While the man-in-charge idea is obviously stupid now, for a loooooong time it was culturally and religiously (not doctrinally!) very commonplace. The past use/existence of folk doctrines isn’t nearly as big of a problem as the continued use of them.

  7. “The past use/existence of folk doctrines isn’t nearly as big of a problem as the continued use of them.”

    Nicely stated.

  8. Post
    Author

    larryco_
    Jan 8th, 2009 at 11:33 am Edit

    “There is a folk doctrine in the Church that wives have to obey their husbands because they have the priesthood.”

    Fulling realizing that I’m about to get yelled at right now, the truth is that prior to 1990, one could (and, in the 19th century, most probably did) interpret a particular covenant made in a particular place, as meaning just that.

    You are free to think that, but I bought the tape collection late 70s, early 80s …

    It was people thinking that sort of thing that led to Joseph Fielding Smith and others to be giving talks in the 40s, 50s and later trying to correct that attitude and belief.

  9. You could likewise consider PoF to mean this. But in practice I think very few men would be as idiotic as this sounds. Their wives wouldn’t put up with it. And it’s an “unrighteous dominion” interpretation.

  10. Folk doctrines are like racism, we just have to wait for all the old people to die to eradicate it. I am under 40 and I haven’t heard any in my circle ever try to pull that with their wives. It’s like the whole Coke thing, my Grandma would freak if she saw me drink a coke, but all us younger people (yeah I’m call us younger) don’t blink.

    On the other hand, and I realize that I think I am way off topic, but I’m going for it. When I was younger we didn’t watch TV on Sunday, we stayed in our church clothes all Day, etc… We are all about that now, but totally in the closet, otherwise people think we are radicals!!!! So there is something good to say about an older Generation, they kept us on the straight & narrow (not that I am implying no TV Sunday & church clothes all day is straight & narrow exclusively, give me some slack, don’t caps me.)

  11. anne,

    Thank you for recognizing the value of some of these folk doctrines (not drinking coke, wearing church clothes all day on Sunday and not watching TV, etc.) They definitely did have value. It’s a mistake to completely dismiss them.

    I think the real key is to not be judgemental about them — either way.

  12. anne, I just want to welcome you to this forum. Not everyone will agree with everything you say, but every comment I’ve read thus far has been thoughtful and insightful.

    Thanks.

  13. Re: Yes many do still, and when I disagreed with them I ended up shouted at and accused of spreading false doctrine -this in a HP class very recently!

    How do all you HPs out there put up with HP classes? I’ve been to one since someone decided I needed to receive a calling that required the office of HP and it was rather scary. I’m not sure whether it was the presence of false doctrine, senility or both! 🙂

  14. In the BYU scene, a few folk doctrine come to mind:

    BYU devotionals and CES firesides, if attended in person (as opposed to viewed on TV or online,) bring with them otherwise unavailable spiritual benefits.
    I rarely missed a CES fireside or devotional, but I most always took advantage of modern conveniences to tune into the message, opting to forgo the fuss of long lines, traffic, and dressing up. I was often chided by my “more righteous” counterparts who made a point of contributing to the “bums in seats” number, citing the benefits of a “special spirit” from being there in person, that I clearly was missing out on.

    “Ward Prayer” attendance is mandatory for temple worthiness
    “Ward Prayer” is a Sunday evening meeting designed to fill the role of a family devotional for student wards. There are announcements, a thought, a hymn, and a prayer. Sometimes refreshments are served, in which case it assumes the names of “mix and mingle,” “eat and greet”, or “dessert and flirt.” I don’t believe it exists outside of church-owned school singles wards, but at BYU, failure to attend is tantamount to ditching Sacrament meeting.

    The Sabbath begins when you wake up
    This one I kind of like. In response to some folks in the dorms who, at the stroke of 12:00 on Saturday night, would patrol their fellow students’ rooms, exhorting them to turn off their “worldly music,” because the “Sabbath had begun,” the excuse was given that the Sabbath starts when you wake up in the morning. I’ve never been too Pharisaical when it comes to Sabbath day observance, so this one seemed reasonable to me.

  15. KC- I’ve noticed that many of the rules at BYU (I actually attended BYU-Idaho so I’m only assuming they’re the same) are an unabashed attempt at creating a “hedge” about the Law. Devotionals and Ward Prayers were theoretically attempts at giving students spiritually fulfilling activities during the week, but by the time I got there, they were basically church meetings. This is one of the many reasons why I decided to finish my degree in the “mission field.” It’s the same problem that Christ encountered in the Church when he lived… first there are laws, then there are suggestions to help keep us from breaking the laws, then those suggestions become laws themselves, and those found guilty of breaking those suggestions are sinners. A classic cycle that someone (or me) should write a post about.

  16. “…wives have to obey their husbands because they have the priesthood.” – My brother-in-law always have a good time with this when we visit. Of course, our wives know we’re joking, but it gets them a little riled. The fact is that, in our families, they probably have the final say in things more than we do, though.

    “BYU devotionals and CES firesides, if attended in person (as opposed to viewed on TV or online,) bring with them otherwise unavailable spiritual benefits.” – What about the ones that aren’t held at BYU? Are we expected to travel to those? I could see how in certain circumstances the efforts of some to be there in person could legitimately benefit them spiritually. It’s a flawed notion in terms of sheer logistics – there’s no way all BYU students could fit in the Marriott Center 🙂

    “‘Ward Prayer’ attendance is mandatory for temple worthiness” – I hated ward prayer when I first went to singles wards (I still call it “social prayer” instead). Sometimes it actually seems to take away from the spirit of the Sabbath.

    “The Sabbath begins when you wake up” – I agree, KC, I like this one too. Part of it stems from the fact that I was (and still am) often up until 2am any day. It seemed strange to suddenly shift to Sunday mode at midnight Saturday, and back out at midnight 24 hours later. I don’t know whether the Jews had clocks back in the day to measure time, and my understanding is that the Sabbath began and ended at sundown, which seems like it ought to be (roughly) when people should be heading to bed anyway… But I’m not a historian and could be wrong.

  17. Post
    Author

    How do all you HPs out there put up with HP classes? I’ve been to one since someone decided I needed to receive a calling that required the office of HP and it was rather scary. I’m not sure whether it was the presence of false doctrine, senility or both!

    I was comparing HP groups with a relative. Mine is a joy, literate, reflective and thoughtful, with nice participation. I love it. Others, obviously, do not always have that sort of experience.

  18. The HP Groups I attend regularly are absolutely wonderful. EQ, otoh, often bore me – since the young bucks often don’t have enough life experiences to know what they are talking about.

  19. #12 Anne

    I completely agree and I don’t think you are all that off topic.

    I can’t ascribe any value to them. These folk doctrines (not drinking coke, staying in church clothes all day Sunday, not watching TV, etc.) are akin to being allotted only a certain number of steps on the sabbath day. The modern day versions of these traditions of the elders are given enormous weight just as the number of steps were in the times of Christ himself. Christ had an interesting discussion with the pharisees on this very topic in the 15th chapter of Matthew.

    Too often I see people cling to these traditions more than the gospel. The problem with building a hedge around the law is that after a while, people think the hedge is the law.

  20. #24 – “The problem with building a hedge around the law is that after a while, people think the hedge is the law.”

    Shadow, I hope you don’t mind me linking to your comment and quoting that sentence in a future post on my own blog. That is a perfect summary of the issue, imo.

  21. KC: Thanks for bringing up the devotionals thing… it had completely slipped my mind. I can’t tell you how many times people looked at me funny when I told them I wasn’t planning on taking the trek from the MARB to the Marriott Center to watch a devotional, then run right back to the MARB for another class right afterword, when I could sit right there in my seat and watch it. Oh yes, the “special spirit” only availible to those physically present…

    Shadow: I agree… many of these rules (like the no tv thing) are exactly like the number-of-steps thing. It’s really amazing how people tend to latch onto these things and hold them up as requirements of the law.

  22. “How do all you HPs out there put up with HP classes? I’ve been to one since someone decided I needed to receive a calling that required the office of HP and it was rather scary. I’m not sure whether it was the presence of false doctrine, senility or both!”

    My HP group is excellent and our lessons are always lively! I teach once a month and get good participation and excellent response. I try to challenge some of the norms and it almost always turns out fun and enlightening. We have about 40 HPs in our Ward.

  23. D&C 121 warns against “unrighteous” dominion not “righteous” dominion. Since NONE of you are in a position to judge another person’s dominion tactics, you have no reason to discuss the topic. Unless your are willing to practice unrighteous dominion by imposing your interpretation and beliefs on others. Having said that, I guess we all practice unrighteous dominion, myself included. Oops, did I just make a judgment?

  24. Missionary Stu,

    I guess we all had better stop talking about anything since it seems impossible to discuss something without making some sort of a judgment.

    Oh, wait, that was a judgment too.

    There is a difference between righteous intermediate judgments and final judgments. (See Dallin H. Oaks, CES Fireside “Judge Not and Judging” Mar. 1 1998; as both a GA and a former UT Supreme Court justice, I think he’s qualified to speak on the subject.) Without intermediate judgments we have no basis for making day to day decisions on what we should and should not do. The scriptures even function as a guide to help us make those intermediate judgments. Final judgments are a different story, and I do sincerely hope that none of us are making that type. (I hope I didn’t hijack the post too much)

  25. You missed the point. Who’s appointed to judge what is unrighteous dominion? If a person attempts to judge another as employing unrighteous dominion that person may be guilt of unrighteous dominion themselves. No one knows where the lines are drawn (except The Lord of course). Get it?

  26. #30 – I disagree, MS. An abused spouse has the right to make that determination, as does an abused congregant or a Priesthood leader charged with shepherding (protective) responsibilities. S/he simply has to be certain it is a righteous judgment, which is neither easy in most cases nor impossible. Nobody has the right to make a “saving or damning judgment”, but not judging unrighteous dominion at all would lead inexorably to the solidification of that dominion, since there would be no way to challenge or eradicate it.

  27. “We have about 40 HPs in our Ward”

    Good Lord! what planet are you guys from? Our wards here never have more than 7 or so HP in a class! Even sometimes when there are only 2 odd we have to meet with the elders, who are never more than about 15 or there abouts, if that!

  28. “dominion tactics” – doesn’t the mere fact of having dominion tactics make one ripe for a charge of unrighteous dominion?

  29. #25 Ray – Go ahead. Hope it helps.

    #28 Missionary Stu – I think you’re taking this a little personally and you may be misunderstanding the topic. The folk doctrine of “I have the priesthood = I rule without question” and its modern day manifestations are what is being compared and contrasted here. While I do agree with you that there is a huge difference between righteous and unrighteous dominion, I do believe that every one of us is in a position to judge the “dominion tactics” as righteous or unrighteous via prayer and the Holy Ghost. As a missionary (long time ago), I told people not to believe me and to ask God for themselves if the things I was teaching them were true. The same concept isn’t really emphasized all that much after we join the church even though it should be. We had an apostle come down and talk to us about this very same concept. He said that when a leader has the priesthood and is governing righteously, the directives will be authenticated by the Spirit. If not, the leader has either gone off the tracks or the member isn’t listening by either not living in a manner conducive to hearing or has simply chosen to live in blind faith which is counter productive in the grand scheme of things. The member not listening clearly supports your point, which is why it is so important that we, as citizens in the kingdom of God here on the earth, learn to exercise our God given intellect infused with the faith necessary for salvation and act accordingly. This is even more important for those of us who are parents.

    In righteous dominion, the leader’s ego and ambitions don’t factor into the equation. A bishop which calls a few of the brethren together to get a service project done is an example of righteous dominion. However, if the bishop adds that because he has the keys of the priesthood to the ward and was set apart under the hand of Elder ______ that you have to do what he says because “whether it be out of my mouth or the mouth of my servants it is the same,” we start going into the unrighteous dominion. (I’ve actually been on the receiving end of that last one.) In all honesty, it’s pretty easy to differentiate between the two.

    The point I’m trying to make here is that the influence of these folk doctrines sometimes overrides both common sense and celestial law here on the earth.

  30. Good Lord! what planet are you guys from? Our wards here never have more than 7 or so HP in a class!”

    A lot of ex-bishops, HC and Counselors, I guess. Where I live, people don’t tend to move from unless it is from their house to the ground!

    1. Unfortunately, you’re wrong there. The entire point of the church is to strengthen the family unit, which has always been taught in and out of canon to be eternal. How “Gay” or LGBTWXYZ “members” fair in the next life is in fact largely folk doctrine, inasmuch as it hasn’t been overtly delineated in the modern canon. The Old Testament however, is pretty clear about the issue, both in historical, “orthodox” Christianity and the Restored Church.

      Have a read:

      https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation?lang=eng

      You don’t get much more central, authoritative, and universally taught and sanctioned by the Brethren in an official capacity than the church’s Proclamation to the World on marriage.

      Apart from surmising that “Gay” members don’t burn in hell, it’s pretty hard to picture where they’d fit into the Celestial Kingdom as priests and priestesses, populating planets with their eternal increase. Nonetheless, that gender and all other personality characteristics are co-eternal, neither created nor can they be created by God, is hard canon. The “intelligence” that makes you you is you and always has been, always will be. When you’re preaching out of the Doctrine and Covenants, quoting the canonized words of Joseph Smith in his capacity as president of the church, prophet, seer and revelator, you aren’t teaching “folk doctrines.”

      https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/93.29?lang=eng

      If what you are saying is you have no testimony of any of this sort of authority and the whole church is a load of folk doctrine, just come out and say it. But don’t try to put your own externally-divined opinions on sexual orientation in an LDS context out of wishful thinking. The Brethren aren’t going to wake up one day and pat you on the back saying, yeah, you know what? We’ve been wrong about all that stuff! Thanks for correcting us! Thanks for your superior enlightenment.

      Dream on brother. And wow. I just realized I’m responding to a post from 2009! Can that be true?

      Ha. Hit “Post” anyway.

  31. My favorite in the mid-80’s at BYU was Word of Wisdom Superiority. The church just a few years ago published an official re-definition of the Word of Wisdom to not include caffeinated drinks–probably because it owns the largest Coke bottling and distribution company in the intermountain west, Bonneville. But Provo was the home hive of a million multi-level marketing scams preaching pure and natural supplements, vitamins, cure-alls and blood “purifiers” for all of the world back then, and probably still is.

    I had roomates who claimed chocolate was worse than drinking coffee, who wouldn’t drink hot chicken soup of cocoa till it cooled down to luke warm temperature, who went of weird cleansing fasts, lived on fruit juices and cayenne pepper pills, and even had a friend who’s sister died on one of those cleansing diets. Had another friend when I moved back to home state after school who got caught up in Sunrider herbs–very hot at the time, ended up in the hospital dehydrated and in Anaphylactic Shock‎ from one of those herb-and-juice cleansing diets.

    And there’s the one where the sacrament bread has to be white, and you can’t take it with your left hand.

    As for the history of the “Race and the Priesthood” mythology, I’ve done probably more research on that than most people care to read, but if you’re so inclined, have look:

    https://realgreattalk.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/mormonism-and-the-mythical-curse-of-cain-part-1-never-mind-all-that-stuff-about-the-negro/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *