Are we made for the Sabbath, or is the Sabbath made for us? Likewise, are we here primarily to serve the Church, or does the Church exist to serve and assist us as individuals? Most of us would think the second part of each sentence represents the deeper truth, yet so often it seems we act and think as if we as individuals are made for the Sabbath or the Church rather than them being given and continuing to exist in order to help and bless us. In a classic article, “The Institutional Church and the Individual,” organizational behavior professor and conflict negotiator J. Bonner Ritchie, lays out in a fresh and open way many of the tensions that exist–and will always exist–between organizations and individuals. To greater and lesser degrees, each have different goals and values, and they inevitably conflict with each other. When institutions act, at least some individuals experience hurt or pain. Yet institutions and individuals need each other, need the others’ stability or energy or creativity. The question is how can we mitigate the negative aspects in order to make this a creative tension rather than a painful, energy sucking one? Ritchie makes the claim that it is impossible to make institutions fully safe for individuals, so the task must become how to make individuals safe from organizational abuse or highly negative encroachments upon conscience or our daily lives?
In this episode, J. Bonner Ritchie joins Katie Langston, Bill Hansen, and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a stimulating discussion about these dynamics, illustrating them with stories and experiences and practical advice. The discussion covers both theory and practice, focusing in the second half on things like avoiding the negative consequences of worthiness interviews or the felt pressure accept every Church calling, etc.
We hope you will listen and then join in the conversation below!
J. Bonner Ritchie, “The Institutional Church and the Individual,” Sunstone, Silver Anniversary Issue (1999)
Katie Langston blog post, “This Must Stop,” discussed in Episode 191,
You mentioned My Name is Asher Lev. What other novels would you recommend?
All Potok novels, but for sure The Chosen and The Gift of Asher Lev (sequel to My Name is Asher Lev). Early on for me, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. I love Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees and Poisonwood Bible. Contact is terrific (very different from the film); I found Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy something worth meditating on. Lately I’ve loved Life of Pi and The Book Thief (YA novel but very powerful). Also have to say I very much enjoyed the meditations that followed my reading The Shack. I’ll keep thinking….
Everyone weigh in! Novels with spiritual themes you love.
I just finished the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho! Very powerful book if you’ve been on a spiritual journey of your own. It also contains all the elements of the Hero’s Journey.
I’ve listened to part one so perhaps my comment is premature. This topic needs to be addressed next to the scriptural doctrine that tells us that by gods own voice or that of his servants it is the same. With that doctrine comes the power given to church leaders to warn us not to complain, push back, or question because if we do we are showing our lack of devotion to god and our disobedience.
I hope part two addresses this issue head-on.
It leaves me sad. In the end, to talk of the church as any other institution of man and leaves the idea that their could really be an institution of god trampled in the dust.
Hi Glen, We don’t talk about that in Part 2, as our focus was really just on practical, how do we as people protect ourselves from being overpowered by institutions and the momentum they build toward certain goals that don’t always serve individuals. On the larger issue of “when prophets speak,” I believe we addressed it head on in an early episode we did, called Mormons and Their Leaders. Memory fading! Please tell me if we talked about that, and what you think of that discussion! Here is the link:http://mormonmatters.org/…/27-mormons-and-their-matters/
Another one of possible interest (in this same arena of prophets, scripture, revelation):http://mormonmatters.org/…/
Three years after becoming a Mormon and a few months prior to our temple marriage, I gave in to masturbation. While I cannot recover the experience in terms of my feelings and belief, I can infer them from my actions – I made an appointment with the Bishop to begin the repentance. I was very likely distraught over the possibility that I might have derailed our marriage plans – but desired more to be honest with God.
I don’t remember the details of that conversation other than the Bishop admitting, out of genuine sympathy, humility, and with a generosity that transcended his institutional-self, that he had masturbated as a young man. He trusted that I was now in good place, and more than that, he entrusted himself to me.
Let me suggest that unless a Bishop is willing to admit that he also masturbated as a young man, he shouldn’t ask the question. And if he is one of those rare individuals who never did, that might make him the last person who God would qualify for asking such a question.
I have spent the last 20 minutes scouring the internet for Katie’s post about the interview process. Link anyone?
It’s here: http://www.dovesandserpents.org/wp/2013/08/this-must-stop-a-call-to-end-sexually-invasive-interviews-between-priesthood-leaders-and-minors-in-the-lds-church/
While I was growing up in the church I was always taught that you never question church authority; that obedience is the first law of heaven; that you never question, seek or refuse a calling. Now, however, the paradigm shift has moved towards dialoguing with the leader who may not be fully knowledgeable about an individual member’s circumstances, therefore it is now a member’s right to refuse a calling if it is ascertained that there are legitimate reasons for doing so. Hence, no harm, no foul, no stigma.
And besides this I am now to understand that I am a member of an ‘institution’ rather than the restored ‘church’ of the living Christ wherein I am supposed to able to take refuge from the world (and, please, let’s not digress into the semantics of ‘church’ vs. ‘institution’). And as it is with all institutions I am now suppose to think it ‘fun’ to be subjected to so-called challenges (abuses) perpetrated by the Lord’s annointed (who are deemed as such at the local level as well, I presume); I’m suppose to find a way to deal with it; that this is just a sort of game called, “creative tension”.
Oh, yeah? Well, in my long and arduous struggles as both a member and leader in the LDS church, the so-called ‘Lord’s annointed’ that I’ve had to deal with weren’t very amenable to ‘dialoguing’ and working things out, and most especially with regard to the few abjectly devious ones — actually, real bastards, rather than God-inspired bishops or other ‘leaders’.
This new paradigm shift goes hand-in-hand with yet another one, which is starting to take root in the church, and that is: “Think of the church more as being good rather than true.” This is the ‘new rhetoric’ that can hopefully mitigate the issues that confront the church as for being (or not being) what it claims to be, i.e., the Book of Mormon issues, the Book of Abraham issues, Joseph Smith’s polygamy and polyandry, the Masonic rituals incorporated with in the temple endowment, white-washed history issues (aka ‘lying for the Lord’), and many others.
Listen, good people, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say we are ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of LDSs, and ‘The Institution of Jesus Christ of LDSs’ at the same time. Why not? Because “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” You can’t say we are *the* church that is led and directed by *the* living Christ, but act (especially at the highest ecclesiastical level) like you are just a typically run, institution of the world. As a matter of fact, based upon my professional experience dealing with youth that are not LDS, but rather members of other Christian denominations, the non-LDS churches may do it better! At least they have leaders (clergy) that are professionally trained and know how to appropriately deal with youth. Not all denominations or individual churches, of course, but I would say, a great many do. When it comes to appointing someone for a position to lead and counsel the ‘flock’ — both youth and adults, if I had to choose either the supposed ‘mantle,’ of ‘Larry Layman’, or the professionally trained person with an actual, appropriate degree — my vote is for the person professionally trained. I am sure I would have fared a lot better under that circumstance as both a youth and as an adult. And if I wanted some church oriented growth experiences, most non-LDS churches have more than ample programmes and lay positions to afford anyone, male and female with those opportunities.
Thanks so much for this interview. Seems like J. Bonner Ritchie doesn’t get the attention he deserves.
In the church, I mean, not in this interview. 🙂
Do you have anymore information about Elder Perry and his implimentation of the YM/YW programs?
Our attempts to figure this out in New Zealand