Taking control of the Mormon conversation — Another Look at Ballard

Andrew S Mormon 108 Comments

A few days ago (depending on when I get to publishing this), we had a rather lively discussion about Elder M. Russell Ballard’s Engaging Without Being Defensive. Batman highlighted one line in particular from Ballard and then the discussion went from there. Later on, he (that is, Batman, not “the church” or anyone like that) decided (and everyone’s been commenting about this decision) that he wasn’t satisfied with the tone and direction of the conversation, so he took down the discussion, as well as its comments.

Look at my name under the title. I am not Batman and don’t speak for Batman. His reasons are his own, and I’m sure plenty of people may still respectfully disagree with his decision. Rather, I would like to use this opportunity (if my fellow bloggers will let me) to take a look at a different message that, interestingly enough, also came from Ballard’s discussion, and which I find to be quite relevant to past events.

For while we were focusing on polygamy, whether it has been dealt with sufficiently, why it happened, why it’s still in our scriptures, etc., one commenter, Rach, said something that intrigued me. Unfortunately, since the comments are gone and I can’t find them, I have to paraphrase, but Rach pointed out that when we focus on the context of Elder Ballard’s message, he was talking about taking control of the Mormon conversation, especially with nonmember friends. So, positive and constructive quotes to focus on, I think, are:

It is easy in your conversations to think you are still knocking on doors. You’re not. If you are in a position to share what you believe, there’s no need to tread so carefully that you look like you are being evasive or anticipating criticism. The apostle Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 1:16). Neither should any of us be.

and (right after the part Batman had focused on):

If people ask you about polygamy, just acknowledge it was once a practice but not now, and that people shouldn’t confuse any polygamists with our Church. In ordinary conversations, don’t waste time trying to justify the practice of polygamy during the Old Testament times or speculating as to why it was practiced for a time in the 19th century. Those may be legitimate topics for historians and scholars, but I think we simply reinforce the stereotypes when we make it a primary topic of conversations about the Church.

So, it doesn’t seem to be a memo of internal silencing. Rather, it seems to be putting things in their place. We can certainly become historians and scholars (and this is actually a progressive comment, contrasted with past attitudes about historical scholarship), but in ordinary conversations, we should, and I quote Ballard again, “emphasize that Latter-day Saints follow Jesus Christ and what Jesus Christ teaches.

If Ballard is too intimidating for you, check out this comment from Seth R in response to Kullervo’s guest post at LDS & Evangelical Conversations or at his own blog.

So, let’s try to have a constructive conversation. Maybe it won’t work as planned. Maybe even this conversation will have to be curbed. While I think that a discussion of what Mormons should say about the whys and wherefores of polygamy or other issues could be a good topic at another time, at this time, I think we just do not have enough information to do much other than speculation.

What if we talked about how to take control about the conversation on Mormonism? If I may quote from an older article of John Dehlin’s, I’d point out that we should find it very reasonable to find empathy with this option.

You might feel as though the church has a responsibility to be completely open with all of its major flaws and weaknesses, but in the real world, this is probably not very realistic. For example, do you live up to this standard in your own life? Do you tell everyone you meet, or even everyone close to you, all of your deepest, darkest secrets? While it’s true that the LDS Church claims to be God’s one and only true church, we also acknowledge that in reality, it is run by imperfect men, in less-than-perfect circumstances. Given that realization, why would we expect the church to be any different? It is unreasonable to expect complete transparency from human beings and human organizations — even ones that claim divine authority. Humans simply don’t work that way.

We are not saying it is right for anyone to withhold information about their own wrongdoing from those who depend on them. Ideally, we should all be willing to confess the things we have done wrong and try to make amends. That is the ideal for individuals and for institutions. But we all fall short of that ideal sometimes, in some areas.

If we believe that, regardless of the warts, the LDS church is a force for good in the world, then wouldn’t it behoove us to show that good? I mean, if you don’t believe that, then ignore this paragraph accordingly, but I think Elder Ballard’s statement is good marketing and good conversation.

So, how should we steer the conversation in a productive way? How can we take control of the Mormon conversation instead of just being as “windtossed waves,” subject to whatever the controversy du jour (Big Love, Prop 8, a movie about some historical event, etc.,) is?

Comments

comments

Comments 108

  1. Ballard’s talk was a real eye opener for me, for some time now I have felt very uncomfortable discussing my Faith with non-members, not only because it is delicate and fragile and I dislike it when personal things are treated with such recklessness. But over recent years I have found so much that troubled me, that like in a therapy session I’m afraid it will all come spilling out. with my non-member friends theirs a candour that is so refreshing I sometimes forget who I’m talking to, (I have only found this same candour in anon blogging “sad face”). one example (not to start a new stream of posts but just to emphasis my point). One such discussion took us to “if some were married in pre-earth life therefore “heterosexual” were others of a Homosexual persuasion”, this was a very defining moment for me because at this stage I was more of a TBM, but the logic seemed to fit.

    back to topic, I realise it is essential for me to find some sort of happy medium, strengthen my abilities to guild the conversation. focusing on Christ and his effect on my life is vital.

    I have come to the place I am now through years of suckling milk and is it fair that I would discuss things with those who have not had that benefit theories that are so far out on a limb that no fruit would ever be produced.

  2. Steering the conversation in a productive way – a great way to steer this discussion

    I think, at its core, the Mormon message is beautiful. We came from God, God grants men his authority, we believe in a loving Christ, we believe in eternal families, we are all brothers and sisters, we support each other, etc. Contrast this with what the world thinks of when they think of Mormons – white shirts, conformity, polygamy, no coffee or beer, golden bible, etc. I think people have a hard time getting past all that to what should be the essence of Mormonism.

    I am obviously not in any position to actually change anything. To steer the conversation in a more productive way, however, I would do the following to change the focus from things for which we are known but which are NOT eternal principles:

    – I would let missionaries as well as local and general church leaders dress like normal people and not like relics from the 50’s and 60’s. All the “white shirt” policy does is propagate a focus on outward appearance. Have the people on the stand at the next General Conference still dress very nicely, but in blue shirts and striped shirts and in something representative of their culture for those not from the United States. Maybe some might even have a goatee or beard, much like earlier church leaders, and which is actually quite acceptable in today’s world. This would take away much of the “strange” factor, but wouldn’t have any impact whatsoever on actual doctrinal issues.

    – I would reframe the Word of Wisdom as a health code. Update it. Teach members to avoid intoxication, not alcohol. Restore wine to the sacrament (as it was actually revealed in the B of M, D&C, and in Christ’s time). If someone has a glass of red wine for dinner, so what. Tobacco would still likely be against the Word of Wisdom, as there aren’t any really good reasons for it. With coffee, tea, cola, soda, etc., again, emphasize moderation. A cup of coffee or tea is no big deal. Perhaps we could discuss Christ with our neighbor over a cup of coffee. Emphasize the health parts. Truly talk about obesity and avoidance of meat and other things that have been shown to be healthy. Obviously don’t have BMI charts and scales in the bishop’s office, but at least spend more time talking about that. This would also take away much of the “strange” factor. It obviously isn’t an eternal principle, as Christ / Joseph Smith / Nephites / etc. all drank and I assume they’ll make it to the Celestial Kingdom. But really emphasize health. I think the world can only recognize that has beneficial.

    – I would make missionary work primarily service, and would let more people go rather than less. Let people go teach around the world, help with disasters, dig wells, teach English, etc. The conversation will inevitably turn to why they’re there. It is a natural progression. Be seen as a force for service around the world.

    – I would spend more money on humanitarian needs and less on buildings. The church does a lot of humanitarian good. They actually spend very little actual money on it. From the Church’s own website (http://www.providentliving.org/welfare/pdf/WelfareFactSheet.pdf), they spent $280 million over 23 years in actual cash. That’s only just over $10 million / year. Compared to the amount they spend on other things (malls, etc.), that’s quite paltry.

    – I would make women’s garments more like a camisole top. They started wrist and ankle length, as that was the prevailing custom at the time. They have shortened them 1-2 feet, from the wrists to the shoulders. What is wrong with making them 2-3″ shorter, to also match the prevailing custom of our time. The marks could still be in the appropriate places. Some people will say that is “immodest”. People said the same thing last century when bathing suits didn’t go to the wrists either. We somehow survived.

    – I would have them be a bit more open about the past. There is obviously a fine line between dwelling on something in the past and burying it, but they need to be a bit more open as the information is available in a 30-second Google search. There should be a simple place people can be referred to to address these things, on the church’s own site, that is upfront about what happened. Explain that some of it was just people called to do God’s work, who bring their own baggage to the table.

    I think that by doing these things, we diffuse much of what makes us “peculiar”. That may have worked 100 years ago, but being “peculiar” doesn’t really do much in today’s world. None of these things are “eternal doctrinal” things, yet they make a lot of hang-ups for everyone. Just get rid of them in a big push. All at once. It would take a bit to swallow and generate waves / publicity, but when all is said and done, we could then focus back on our core message. It really is beautiful.

  3. Great post, Andrew. This is exactly what I meant by my initial comment and I appreciate your emphasis on “steering the conversation in a productive way.” In context, I think Elder Ballard’s talk is fascinating and yes, as you say, even progressive.

    Elder Ballard seems to be saying that when we have the opportunity to talk about the gospel, we should be honest, but also productive and positive. And I think one of the best ways to do that is for us, personally, to figure out what we’re comfortable testifying about and go from there. E.g., There is a lot I don’t get, but I really get prayer, and the Book of Mormon. Consequently, I am most comfortable having gospel conversations when I can steer them towards those things.

    A few weeks ago I ended up chatting with a stranger while traveling; she had been to Temple Square and couldn’t believe how “clean and nice” the sister missionaries were. I told her I had been one and she wanted to know what it was like. I could have told her that it was really hard and lonely and heartbreaking, which would be true, but I ended up just saying that as a missionary, my very favorite thing was to teach people that God hears and answers prayers and then listen to them pray, sometimes for the first time in their lives. She was intrigued and it was a nice, rewarding conversation that soon shifted to other non-gospel stuff. Did I lie? No. Could I have said other things that would be true? Yes. But that’s one of my (admittedly very few) experiences like that, and I liked it and hope I can do more of it and hope it’s the type of taking control of the conversation I can do more often.

    Maybe that is a dumb example. But I think it’s a worthy goal to want people to leave conversations with members thinking, “Wow, I didn’t realize the Book of Mormon was about Jesus” or “Huh. She seems like she’s found a meaningful relationship with God.”

  4. Mike S, do you have a blog? I want to subscribe. If not, maybe I’ll just have to code up a feed of your comments or something.

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    re 2:

    Mike S, I understand what you said (about not being in a position to change thing) in one light: obviously, you’re not a general authority.

    But in a different light, I don’t see why you can’t make personal change. If enough individuals wore colored shirts or had facial hair or whatever, while still being outstanding, worthy members, then wouldn’t this begin change in its own way? True, this still doesn’t give much chance to make the far-sweeping changes (like that to the WoW) but isn’t there a way to advocate for other health aspects (of course, you’d have to make sure not to defy the WoW as we know it now, even if there are certain potential health benefits in moderation. What if, instead of requiring institutional service missions, individuals from wards met together to unofficially do service projects for the community?

    In some aspects, change must be top to bottom. But in other aspects, it can be grassroots, right?

    re 4:

    Rach, I don’t think that’s a dumb example at all. Rather, I think it is one of the most to-the-point examples of what I think Ballard was encouraging in approaching the conversation. Especially if the conclusions that you mentioned (“Wow, I didn’t realize the Book of Mormon was about Jesus” or “She seems like she’s found a meaningful relationship with God,”) happen.

  6. I agree with Elder Ballard in the main – it’s high time we seized the conversation and went on the offensive (hopefully without being buttheads about it).

    I’ve been coming to this position over the last few years.

    Part of it was on my mission in Japan when European tourists short on awareness of the country, but long on enlightened arrogance would lecture the filthy little missionary about the virtues of tolerance of other cultures. And here I am thinking “yeah? And what would a lycra-clad jerk like you really know about this culture?”

    Another part was when I got sick of my fellow Mormons in Utah kissing-up to the Christian Right in what looked to me like a sycophantic popularity bid. I made a lot of comments about this online a few years back. Why are we begging these walking cultural anachronisms for acceptance? I mean, as soon as they’re done beating up gays and pro-choice folk, they’ll probably be coming after us. Why bother with them?

    This tied into the whole “are Mormons Christian” thing. I suddenly realized, to my mild surprise, that I frankly didn’t care if I was considered a part of Christianity or not. It’s not like the label was looking all that great at the moment, after all. And it just seemed rather pitiful to me that the greatest ambition of many Mormons, and it seemed, a few in the leadership, was to become “Protestantism – the SEQUEL.”

    I mean, what a stupid goal. Talk about selling the birthright for a mess of pottage…

    We are not the latest installment in the Protestant Reformation. We are a NEW WORLD RELIGION. And the more we waste time trying to ask permission from the Protestants to exist, the more we lose sight of our true destiny. We are not a heirs of Christianity – 2000 years of bad theology, I call it. We are the fourth Abrahamic world religion. The first new and revolutionary religious paradigm to appear in world history since Muhammad walked out of the desert.

    We will change the face of the world. And we’re not going to do it by following already-dying world Protestantism around asking for country-club memberships.

    This was my thinking back in 2005. Since then, as I’ve learned more about the rest of Christianity (though not as much as I’m sure I need to), I’ve become more and more convinced that we have ZERO need to apologize to these guys for our past.

    Seriously, the very idea that I should have to stand in front of a 5-point Calvinist and apologize for MY theology is beyond absurd.

    It’s like apologizing to a neo-nazi for why I’m so nice to black people. What do I have to be ashamed of in front of a theology as monstrous as the one cooked-up by some of Calvin’s followers?

    It’s like we’ve got this cringe-reflex hardwired into our skulls. We’ve gotten so used to apologizing that we’ll do it to just about anyone – no matter how absurd they may be.

    And why are we apologizing for polygamy if it comes to that? What did our polygamist ancestors do that wasn’t done – in spades – by good American monogamists? What crimes does polygamy bear that we can confidently state belong to it alone? To be frank – I’ll apologize to the world for polygamy, when they apologize to me for monogamy.

    So why are we the ones apologizing?

    Honestly, I think it’s because we – unlike the vast majority of America (on both the Left and the Right) actually have a historical memory and a historical conscience. This makes it easy for idiots who have neither to claim the moral high ground and throw rocks at us.

    Mormonism has had the bad luck of having all its major founding events right in the middle of a chapter of American history that the rest of the country is trying its damndest to forget. The 19th Century was not a stellar period for the United States. It’s like “oh yeah, that’s when we had the Civil War” and then we gloss over to the 20th century, where we did a little better as a people. But if Americans have had the luxury of forgetting this century, Mormons have not. We have had to look squarely at what people were like back then and come to terms with it.

    It is only from a position of historical stupidity that our critics gain their advantage.

    About the same time that Mormons were being treated as subhumans in the Eastern presses, the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890 occurred.

    To hear our critics talk, you’d think the only massacre in Western history was perpetrated by Mormons. But almost forty years after Mountain Meadows, US soldiers appeared before a packed crowd in a Denver theater wearing hat headbands fashioned from the vaginal skin of murdered “squaws” and got a standing ovation.

    And they want me to apologize for MY great-great-great grandfather?!

    If you actually study the history of 19th century America, Mormonism was a freaking beacon of loveliness and inspiration. Compared to a lot of the other characters of that day, even the most degenerate anti-Mormon portrait of Joseph Smith looks like Mother Teresa.

    American fundamentalists on both the Left and the Right only get to attack us freely because the have the historical attention spans of gerbils. Because they don’t know their own history, they feel no guilt for it.

    Must be nice to be ignorant.

    But that doesn’t mean I have to apologize to them. I’m done with that.

  7. I should clarify that I’m done apologizing to our stupid critics.

    I’m done apologizing to Mormonism Research Ministries, done with the Recovering from Mormonism echo-chamber, done with Christopher Hitchens, done with the Daily Kos.

    All of them can kiss my butt.

    But the Evangelicals and atheists, theists and secularists who are willing to be fair and confront their own histories even as they discuss mine are more than welcome. And they’ll probably get a frank apology from me far quicker than many other people will. If you’re willing to give a little, you’ll find me willing to do the same.

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  9. We don’t do enough to look at our past. It’s hard to know where you stand if you don’t know what you are standing on. It’s ok to tell your friends about polygamy. We still believe in it, and some priesthood holders are sealed to a second wife. Elder Oaks and Elder Nelson both were sealed to their second wife after the passing of the first wife. It’s silly to say that it’s no longer part of our church.

  10. #8,9 Seth:

    I respect your right to express your opinion, but I disagree with the holier-than-thou approach of your post, the us-vs-them dichotomy, etc.

    I think the majority of people in this world of all stripes (Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.) are much more alike than different. I think we all strive for the same things. I think we approach them in different ways. And I think there are going to be a lot more people in heaven than your post implies.

    But that’s just my opinion, which I am sure you think is weak, wishy-washy, and pandering. Oh well. That’s the beauty of a public forum, to hear other peoples’ viewpoints and learn what we can from each other.

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    re 12:

    Javelin, regardless, the polygamy of today (which can perhaps even be reduced to a technicality of the nature of “eternal” marriage) in no way represents the polygamy of yesteryear. And the polygamy of today requires much more nuanced understanding of LDS doctrine than many nonmembers (or perhaps even members) who bring up polygamy just for fun would have.

  12. I think that Mike S. is probably right.

    It’s also worth noting that our most vocal critics represent a minority. Most non-Mormons I’ve encountered are either politely curious, or mildly indifferent.

    But gosh darn it. I sure wish we’d grow a bit of a backbone as a people sometimes. People bring up a quote from Joseph’s King Follet Discourse, and you just sit back and watch the Mormons tripping all over themselves to neutralize this troublesome quote and put some distance from it.

    Nobody stops to ask why the quote is even a problem to begin with. Everyone – Mormon and non-Mormon alike, simply assumes that the quote is problematic and either tries to exploit or isolate it. In the middle of it all, I fail to see why it’s even a problem.

    Who cares if Joseph said God was “once a man?” Why is that such a big issue anyway?

  13. It’s interesting that I’m the “let’s play nice here” advocate and quick to look for real areas of commonality – to avoid contention and bickering – but that I agree with Seth R.’s main point. We really are unique.

    I believe some of our former uniqueness was based purely on the chaotic speculation of the genesis period of our theology, but I don’t apologize for it. I believe it was necessary to give us what we have and that, in the aggregate, it is beautiful and inspired. I don’t accept everything that has been said as infallible and unalterable, but I don’t apologize for it. As passionately as I feel about what I perceive to be the human origins of the Priesthood ban, I don’t castigate those who led the Church while it was in effect – and I don’t think that they weren’t prophets and apostles because of it.

    I believe Mike S. is completely correct, as well – which shouldn’t surprise anyone. I love finding real common ground where none seems to exist on first exposure, but I don’t think that search for commonality should rob us of our distinctly ennobling, inspiring, edifying core. We really do need to frame the conversation – but I believe we simply MUST do so from a foundation of love and acceptance of people, even when we disagree with them. Many of my Calvinist friends know I despise their theology – that I think hardcore Calvinism is Satan’s plan in its entirety. They also know that I support their right to think that about my beliefs – but they know I won’t let them misrepresent what I believe to be the core of the Restored Gospel.

    I can’t let them tell others what I believe and what we teach (especially since I believe we have the most logically inclusive theology within all of Christianity) – and, in that way, I agree with Elder Ballard, Seth and Mike.

    We really can be unique AND find common ground – and it doesn’t have to be as difficult as we tend to make it.

  14. Seth R.

    #8 frankly that was brilliant, I’m going to look into your previous blogs, I too see no discrepancy by embracing our common ground, understanding our Uniqueness, and also if under attack not crumbling into an auto apologetic mode of justification but have an understanding of there historical skeletons helps.

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  16. How to take control about the conversation on Mormonism? How should we steer the conversation in a productive way?

    Those are easy questions to answer. All we need to do is talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, preach of Christ and prophesy of Christ; then, we need to manifest the gifts of the Spirit (healings, tongues, prophecy, all of them). The entire world will then be listening.

  17. I agree with Seth’s point – maybe not the tone – but the point.

    I actually agree that we don’t need to apologize – for doctrinal things. As I said at the beginning of #2 – our message, much like Seth says, is beautiful. God lives. The priesthood is restored. Families are eternal. There are processes in place to even help those who didn’t have a chance to hear about Christ in this life. It is theologically complete.

    My argument is that we have so much encrusted baggage around it that people focus on, that they can’t get through to our core message. Why do we force people to focus on the fact that we wear white shirts, or why we won’t have a glass of wine or get hung up on Coke, or the underwear we wear, or anything like that? That is so peripheral to our core message, but it’s the image we portray. My argument is to jettison those nonessential things to completely neutralize those points of discussion, and refocus our efforts on the core message.

    Answering #5: No I do not have a blog. I just wander around the net. I don’t want my actual name attached to many of the things I write for 2 reasons: 1) The ideas should stand or fall on their own merits and not on who I am, and 2) I actually am active in my ward – having been YM President to 70+ YM recently. I don’t necessarily want them stumbling across my ramblings and “losing faith”.

  18. “And why are we apologizing for polygamy if it comes to that? What did our polygamist ancestors do that wasn’t done – in spades – by good American monogamists? What crimes does polygamy bear that we can confidently state belong to it alone? To be frank – I’ll apologize to the world for polygamy, when they apologize to me for monogamy.

    So why are we the ones apologizing?”

    I agree, I don’t think we need to “apologize” for polygamy from a theological standpoint. (It’s perhaps a little different if we’re talking about breaking the law of the land.) I think an explanation would certainly be nice, at least enough of one so that we can give people the correct information instead of perpetuating the myths that are rampant among Church members on the topic. Elder Ballard’s “solution” is probably sufficient enough for those who don’t really know much about us and aren’t really interested in going below the surface. It’s a different story, however, when we’re talking with those who do have an idea and know a bit more about Mormon polygamy. It’s also frankly embarassing when some “outsiders” know our history better than we do. I learned that the hard way many years ago — before the Internet — when my Baptist friend asked me about many things about Mormonism that I’ve only learned about in the past 2 or 3 years and which I (sadly) denied were true at the time.

    Regarding apologies, I think that we have painted ourselves into a bad corner when we, as a church, have sought to define the institition of marriage today as something that we couldn’t live ourselves back in the day. And I’m not sure that we won’t be apologizing for that someday — and with good reason.

  19. Seth #8,9

    “stupid critics”

    “It’s like apologizing to a neo-nazi for why I’m so nice to black people”

    “Must be nice to be ignorant”

    “All of them can kiss my butt”

    So when we seize control of the conversation are we going to kill all of these brainless, ill-meaning cretins?

    In my 38 years of being a member, I have so often felt duty and rules come before the Sermon on the Mount. As I read Seth’s heart-felt feelings, that again came to me.

  20. I’m also not going to apologize for having rules and duty act as schoolmaster until the better way is obtained.

    I agree the tone is over the top. It was meant to be. If that helps someone look at their religion a little differently, it will have been worth it.

  21. “Who cares if Joseph said God was “once a man?” Why is that such a big issue anyway?”

    You don’t think this is a rather central doctrine?

  22. That question operates from our opponents’ assumptions.

    It is they who assume that orthodoxy is the ultimate way to practice and define religion and religious observance. It is they who assert that correct theology is the ultimate path to God.

    Let me put it a different way – why should the fact that it is a central doctrine matter?

  23. sxark,

    My main worry is that Mormons, in turning the other cheek verbally and outwardly, will start to turn the other cheek internally.

    My worry is that we will get so used to being meek before our enemies that we will allow our conviction in our own cause to grow weak. This is a very real risk you run when you refuse to put up a robust defense of your faith. You start to internalize the criticisms. It weighs down on you and you start to think that maybe the critics are right.

    Now, the ideal of course, is to maintain a strong internal center while outwardly showing kindness to the revilers. Like Jesus did. I think we all agree with that.

    But we need to remember that Jesus was meek from a position of incredible strength and confidence in God, and in his own role. His internal center wasn’t going anywhere.

    The same cannot be said of the weakest of us.

    Many of us show meekness from weakness, not from strength.

    My comments were not an invitation to go hunt down the first five-point Calvinist you can find and tell him how much his theology sucks.

    It was an invitation to have a little INTERNAL confidence in your own position.

    We spend so much time on the defensive and so much time apologizing and debating on our opponents terms, that I worry that we will start to lose that internal confidence and start to think that maybe our opponents are right.

    If remembering that THEY need to apologize just as much, if not more than we do, helps a few of my people stand strong in the face of criticism, then my goal is met. And I don’t mind using a bit of righteous anger for that purpose. I’ll take what I can get at this point.

  24. Seth R.

    The internet is a new method of communication. For the 1st time in history, we communicate with our minds, without looking at each other. Yet we do so, as we are looking at each other. But this form of communication can play tricks with our minds and we end up writing things that we may not say to a person’s face. Yet the effect is almost the same as speaking to someones face.

    I feel that the effect of scriptures, such as, D&C 19: 29-33 remains the same today as it was when it was written, and if you carry it far enough, it brings into question of how closely, many of us are, to the “edge.”

    But I like one of your conclusions: “It was an invitation to have a little INTERNAL confidence in your oun position.”
    I would add: As long as your position is in alignment with LDS Gospel Principals.

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    re 21:

    Mike S,

    Now, I may be fanning the flames again, but let me take a look at your statement:
    My argument is to jettison those nonessential things to completely neutralize those points of discussion, and refocus our efforts on the core message.

    I ask one thing: isn’t this exactly what Ballard is saying that we have done (and should continue to do) with polygamy discussions? That we have already “jettisoned” it…but the problem is members don’t seem confident enough to feel it “neutralized”?

  26. #30: Don’t worry – it’s not fanning the flames.

    The issue of polygamy, in my opinion, goes much more beyond the practice itself. To me, polygamy can be just another strange thing that our religion did at one point. All religions have things that, to outsiders, seem strange. It’s about as strange as talks about “dying” before a single drop of wine crosses someone’s lips.

    The specific issue with polygamy is more fundamental and has to do with the nature of the LDS religion. Religions can run across a spectrum from pure dogmatic/obedience based to pure experiential based. One example of the latter is Buddhism. Buddha taught that NO ONE should do anything because anyone said it, even him. He claims that he found his teachings worked for him, but it was up to each person to find that out for themselves. Other Christian religions are also quite experiential as well. Do the teachings make you a better person? Accept what does, ignore what doesn’t. The important thing is one’s personal relationship with Christ. The institution is there to offer some help, but it’s really up to you and God.

    I would argue that for all of the lip service we pay to that concept, of having the Holy Ghost confirm what the leaders say, we are actually the other extreme. We have very much a pure dogmatic/obedience based religion. No matter how we feel, in the LDS religion, our relationship with God is defined by our relationship to the LDS Church, which essentially stands as a gatekeeper to heaven. Unless you are willing to do everything the Church says to pass a temple recommend interview and accept the entire package, you are for all intents and purposes damned. We have Church leaders who say that when they speak, the thinking is done. We have talks about having an extra earring essentially being equated with apostasy and therefore proof that someone has rejected God.

    How all this relates to polygamy. Because of this hierarchal based model, the keystone is Joseph Smith. Rather than having investigators try the religion for a while and see if it makes them a better person, we have them base their conversion essentially on Joseph Smith. We use the Book of Mormon and a logic chain. If you feel the Book of Mormon is true, then JS was a prophet. If JS was a prophet, then our current prophet is a prophet. If our current prophet is a prophet, then if he says earrings are bad, then earrings are bad. If you reject that, then you reject the Church. Since this is the only true church, then you reject your chance of getting to the celestial kingdom. All of our personal feelings and interpretations don’t play anything into this. It comes back to Joseph Smith.

    So, asking someone to join the Church essentially asks them to accept Joseph Smith at face value. Did he really see what he said he saw? Did he really experience what he said he did? Can I, as an investigator, accept him as the founder of this religion which I am about to join? Most of what he did is fairly easy to accept. Someone claiming to see God and Christ may seem a little out there, but the person may still have integrity and truly believe they did that. You just need to determine if you believe him or not. Polygamy is a bit more shaky, which is why it keeps coming up and is why it is hard to be “neutralized” in the Church members. It is documented that 1) Joseph Smith publicly and forcefully denounced polygamy while secretly practicing it himself, 2) Joseph Smith married girls who we would consider underage, 3) Joseph Smith proposed to/married women who were already married to other men, 4) Joseph Smith tried to hide this from his wife at times, etc.

    I don’t have a good answer to these questions. In the past, one had to actually seek out this information in “anti-Mormon” literature. The Church could go on basically ignoring it. They could publish a manual about Brigham Young and never mention polygamy, pretending it never happened. But the internet changed all that. They can’t teach one thing and have a 30-second Google search by an investigator show something different. This needs to be addressed.

    Sorry. This is getting long. When I said “neutralize” those points of discussion, I didn’t mean just stop talking about them. One of the points I made up in #2 (but didn’t expound on for the sake of brevity at the time) was their institutional bias towards basically just ignoring things they don’t like in hopes they go away. They should have an OFFICIAL explanation on their website for all these issues. Be upfront about it. Granted, it will take some sensitive writing to present it in the correct fashion, but many of us accept the truth of what actually happened and are still active members. Have more faith in people. The information is going to be available. They just haven’t “neutralized” it. Therefore, we keep talking about it, rather than the core and beautiful message of the gospel.

  27. “They should have an OFFICIAL explanation on their website for all these issues.”

    Why?

    How?

    If they try to do that, those who don’t want the Church telling them how to think will castigate the Church for trying to tell them how to think. If they try to do that, those who DO want the Church to tell them how to think will be even further entrenched in the mentality you hate so much.

    Your solution actually is diametrically opposed to your stated issue – that the Church tries to have total unanimity of belief and understanding. I disagree with that assumption, but that’s beside the point. The point is that you have set up an impossible standard for the Church with your “problem” and “solution” – that the Church corelates too much, so they should correlate everything. Those things directly contradict each other.

  28. I don’t believe they should correlate everything. But there should be an “official” source. Right now, the only information about a lot of these issues is on random websites from against to for the Church. There really isn’t an official answer. People are free to believe that or not, but it should at least be out there.

    Example: try to find a straight, OFFICIAL answer anywhere as to whether tithing is on gross or net.

  29. “try to find a straight, OFFICIAL answer anywhere as to whether tithing is on gross or net”

    There is an official answer – that the Church doesn’t care and leaves it up to the individual. Why is that a bad thing?

  30. Who cares if Joseph said God was “once a man?” Why is that such a big issue anyway?

    It’s “such a big issue,” because so many modern LDS completely freak out when anyone dares to point out that Mormon doctrines which differ from so-called “mainstream” christianity. It’s “such a big issue,” because so many modern LDS are embarassed by the doctrines taught by Joseph Smith, to the point that they try to twist the historical record and pretend he never taught them. It’s “such a big issue,” because modern LDS leaders are intent on divesting their faith from the things that make it unique, so they can play in the same fetid sandbox as the evangelicals and their ilk.

  31. Mike, I’m pretty sure the main reason that polygamy is a problem is due to the prejudices and bigotries of our current society.

    It’s just few people in our society recognized these feelings as such.

    What’s really wrong with polygamy? When you strip away the things that are EQUALLY wrong with monogamy, what are you left with?

    I say our Church should never renounce polygamy entirely.

    There’s really nothing to renounce.

  32. People are fascinated with Mormonism, which reflects the work of the missionaries and the LDS public relations apparatus. Doubt that? Consider the success of HBO’s “Big Love” (which I enjoy).

    The problem with Church leaders talking about seizing the initiative is that it translates into something in which they clearly revel – control and authority. This is the undercurrent behind the U of U’s threat to sue HBO – that it’s not controlled by Mormons, so they haven’t “seized” its content. For me, that is part of the reason the show is so good: the writers are not in the tank. They are non-Mormons trying their hardest to hold up a mirror onto a society that includes Mormons.

    I disagree with Ballard that Mormons are too shrinking-violetish when it comes to questions. The Church and individual members, after all, are not shy about throwing themselves into litigation on some of the most culturally-explosive issues of our time – hence the threats to HBO.

  33. One never sees a university threatening to sue producers of television shows that feature their logo. (Meadow Soprana went to Columbia, and her deceased boyfriend went to Rutgers.) Instead, there is a giant effort to get attention to the institutions. This is the very reason we see money thrown into athletic programs. Even as I know how hard it is for Mormons to get faculty appointments at the U., I also think that President Young and his lawyers know where their bread is buttered. (Meanwhile, I believe most Mormon critics of “Big Love” have never seen it.)

  34. My biggest issue with polygamy and how it relates is like some of the other examples just given:

    – When Joseph Smith teaches that polygamy is wrong and against the commandments publicly, yet is secretly practicing it, I have a hard time with that

    – When Larry King asks Pres Hinckley about “As man is, God once was…”, he replies that he isn’t really sure what that means and that we don’t really teach that – I have a hard time with that

    – When the church gets busted for trying to send illegal aliens out on missions, their response isn’t anything about “obeying the laws of the land”, but how they can come up with other ways to evade the law and sneak the missionaries to their missions and back – I also have a hard time with that

    – When BRM and others make sure emphatic statements about blacks and the priesthood, then it’s not as “eternal” as they taught, I have a hard time with that

    The wishy-washiness of all this is what keeps it in the public sphere.

  35. Seth R:

    Sorry, I misspoke in #29. Philosophers used to write letters to each other all the time without seeing each other. But there there is “something” about doing it on the internet that plays tricks with senders and receivers.

    Mike S.

    Interesting #31.
    Suppose I don’t believe the documentation, that was not provided, concerning the 4 statements about Joseph Smith? Can the documentation be challenged? Or is the documentation evidence that – Yes, indeed – Prophets and Apostles of the LDS Church are not infallible, and they do make mistakes.

    And how do you [and we all] square with the following:
    “Another strength Satan can exploit is a strong desire to understand everything about every principle of the Gospel. How could that possibly work to our detriment? Experience teaches that if this desire is not disciplined, it can cause some to pursue their searchings beyond the fringes of orthodoxy, seeking snswers to obscure mysteries rather than seeking a firmer understanding and a better practice of the basic principles of the Gospel.”
    by Elder Dalin H. Oaks, ‘Our Strengths can become our Downfall’ Ensign, Oct. 1994

    Perhaps the above could be included in a Mission Statement of Mormon Matters, that I have not been able to locate yet.

  36. It’s very difficult to “take control” of the conversation if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Most members don’t have a working knowledge of our history because it isn’t taught to us. But, those we converse with probably do. If they don’t, and we can’t answer factually, then they will get their information from the very sources that the leadership asks US to ignore. This is as effective as taking a final exam on the first day of class; you might get some of the answers right, but the odds of passing are not in your favor.

    So, what’s a faithful saint to do? New friend asks, “So what’s this I hear about Joseph Smith being married to another man’s wife?” Faithful saint answers, “I would like to tell you about our amazing welfare system.” Ignoring the questions or changing the subject does not further our position with our friends, let alone our critics.

  37. Sorry Mike, I don’t really have a hard time with any of it. None of it seems to matter unless you buy into some infallibility paradigm – which Mormons aren’t really supposed to be buying into in the first place.

  38. For Elder Ballard to ask members of the Church not to “waste time trying to justify the practice of polygamy during the Old Testament times or speculat as[e] to why it was practiced for a time in the 19th century” in our ordinary conversation with others seems like a fair request. I don’t believe too many of us choose to base our ordinary conversations on those topics. If we do, perhaps there are more productive and positive things that we can do with our time.

    With that said, the Internet now makes our flaws as a Church visible not only for our antagonists but for members as well. I’ve been active and have held a temple recommend throughout my adult life, but when I googled “Joseph Smith’s wives” (because my great-grandmother was sealed to him–along with 500 other women–posthumously–and discovered disquieting accounts not only of polygamy but also polyandry, I was appalled. I feel as though I have been duped by Church manuals, Institute and Seminary teachers, and Church leaders. I feel that I need and deserve an explanation of our Church history. I believe all Church members, investigators, and non-members do.

    Do I still believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God? Yes. Do I still sustain the prophet? Yes. Am I still worthy of a temple recommend? Yes. But now I am questioning many aspects of the Church. Why is personal appearance and apparel stressed so heavily when the Savior soundly condemned the Pharisees so doing that? Why are millions excluded from Church membership for minor Word of Wisdom violations when other sins (that so not smell) are not considered as significant? Why don’t we spend more time focusing on the Savior’s life and teaching–as we did when I was a teen–instead of such a heavy emphasis on white-washed historical doctrine?

    Sadly, there is too much institutional abuse in the Church. Some have been excommunicated for exposing it. Both are wrong. We need more transparency in the operational practices of the Church, and we deserve answers to doctrinal questions about past practices of the Church and its leaders. If we are expected to be honest in all of our dealings, surely Church leaders should hold themselves to the same standard.

  39. #44,

    Karen–exactly!!
    You ask why? Because as Isaiah teaches us “all things that have been will be..” Ironically I find evidence that the BOM is true based on Mormon 8 and 3 Nephi 16. We are living it. The evidence is becoming more obvious. In other words, we are the church because we are the fulfillment of the condemnation/warnings…I had always wondered about Mormon 8 and “adorning” churches” and grinding face of poor (see last two Ensigns–“I would rather lose my house, utilities, have no food or kids, or even go bankrupt then not pay tithing”–so I can contribute to the glorious mall of course). Now my testimony has increased that this is His restored church because we “be” doing what the BOM and Isaiah said we would “be” doing..

    So it may be wisdom to not make polygamy the issue as Elder Ballard points out. So then whose idea was it to have BY as the course study for a year followed by JS for the next two years in conjunction with DC/Church History study in Gospel Doctrine. For our church that bases so much of it’s “faith” on historical narratives (unlike other faiths that are Christ-centric in the present while distancing themselves from their histories for good reason) should it be surprising that our history would not be a focus of study and inquiry? So each week I hear stories/fables about Thomas Marsh, about ” JS going to the slaughter like a Lamb” about “JS being nearly as great as Jesus” and testimony about JS as foundation of our faith” and about “how wrongfully we were persecuted” and history after history and then I am counseled to NOT make history the focus of our faith or at least focus on the present and not the past…right

  40. One other point raised by Karen. Our testimony that this is His restored church (just as it was His church and authority that the Pharisees so jealously protected when he first came) should be bolstered by the recognition that IF this was just a church run by intelligent men seeking to pattern a church after the words of Christ in the NT and 3 Nephi then it might foolishly (according to Harvard MBA studies) cast it’s bread on water by giving nearly all collected to charity (maybe 60-80% like most churches rather then the 1%), it would denounce wars of aggression rather then get “Medals of Freedom” from the chief war criminal that started the war, and perhaps even seek to focus the primary study on the Sermon on the Mount rather then sermons on obedience to authority. But NO, it was restored in the latter days and it is my faith that it is authentic. Thus, being chosen the issue is preserving and protecting the history and building the CHURCH which then becomes the focus or Pearl of Great price for which we would sell everything to preserve….therefore, all “just because some things are true does not mean that they are useful” so then “truth” not being the primary focus but rather “usefulness” then does reverse of this statement is also “true”, ie, “some things that are NOT true CAN be useful.”???

  41. Ron, I have done bankruptcies for several Mormon families so far. And I can tell you that their problem wasn’t tithing.

    Their problem was more often a corrupt mortgage lending industry and out of control unregulated credit card lending practices.

    Your implied disdain for the bankrupt seems ironic in light of the scriptures you just quoted.

    And if the LDS Church, one of the largest citizens of Salt Lake City wants to step up and pitch in for the community in recovering the downtown from urban blight, revitalizing the local economy and providing a lovely service to the people of Salt Lake City, then I say bully for them.

    This is another thing I don’t think we need to apologizing about.

    On of my favorite lines from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is when the holier-than=thou priggish butler Malvolio rebukes a group for making merry late at night. The character of Toby rebukes Malvolio and states “thinkest because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”

    I’m always reminded of Toby’s words when people self-righteously stomp onto the scene and demand that the LDS Church stop X, Y or Z program, and instead donate the money to the poor.

    I say stuff it.

    There are a lot more ways to contribute to the state of our world, than self-righteously shoving C-notes at poor people. We do the best we can, and what is the harm in seeking to beautify the world we live in for everyone? I see NOTHING, zip, nadda, wrong with fixing up a shopping center next to Temple Square and recovering it from urban decay. Nice project. And I don’t mind my tithing money going toward it (if it is indeed going toward it – which I am not assuming at all). Salt Lake City belongs to every Mormon and we all ought to be happy that it is being helped.

  42. Seth,

    Thank you for the warm welcome. When I was obtaining my CLE the bankruptcy attorney stated at least in 2005 that a significant factor in his opinion contributing to Utah having highest bankruptcy rate at the time was payment of tithing. Was he wrong? and for clarification I have absolutely NO disdain for those that file bankruptcy—zero, zip, nada. I have seen the face of it and I only have empathy and angst as to the factors in our culture that contribute to it..

    I am happy that you are happy about the mall. I am sure the saints that give the gold fillings out of their teeth in south america to build temples would be willing to dig a little deeper for the mall.

    Now as to Mormon 8 and 3 Nephi 16. Who is being referred to in these chapters? It is either US or someone ELSE. If someone else then we it is an admission that we are not the church of God in the last days.

    Finally I am not demanding anyone help the poor or do anything they do not want to do including the church.

    However, your response concerning the mall further builds my testimony. I can now envision how a Samuel type would be treated if he dared challenge the need for any great and spacious building in the center of Zarahemla.

  43. #31,

    Mike S.—I could not agree more with your post (#31). When we spend so much focus on having a testimony of past and present prophets,especially JS, I think of the words of John the Baptist: “I must decrease that He might increase.” So a really big deal is made as to these “weak things” that the Lord chose to do HIS work and then we are counseled to not make too big a deal about their histories—at least if it is not favorable in any respect. Can’t have it both ways IMO.

  44. According to the Church’s own website, they have made actual cash contributions of around $280 million to charitable causes in 23 years. That is around $12 million / year. (see reference in #2 above) I don’t know how much they take in in tithing, but I have heard reports in the BILLION range ANNUALLY. $12 million is paltry. Yet they plan on spending $1 BILLION to make a commercial mall in downtown SLC.

    Perhaps it’s just me, but actions speak loudly. If my own Church is trying to run more like a Christian organization rather than the business so many people accuse it of being, perhaps our spending priorities are just a bit off. I would assume that we spend more money on imported marble for our temples than we do on actual charitable causes. I think Christ would probably help the poor and not care about fancy buildings. But that’s just me.

  45. #49–Ron M aka (Malvolio)–Don’t worry about Seth’s welcome. He’s not a people person.

    Thanks for your post. It saved me some time. As CPA for 30 years, I believe donating 10% of one’s income has an affect on the ability to pay your bills in rough times. My non-Mormon clients have, as a group, more investment income than my Mormon clients. How can that not be expected when you have larger families and give away 10% of your income?

  46. I have such a firm testimony of tithing. My friends who are banking executives in Utah tell me that bankruptcies are occurring because people did not heed the prophet’s (GBH) advice about avoiding debt and went heavily into debt for large homes, boats, cars, etc. We have been counseled by the brethren for years to live providently and to save food and funds to times of hardship. Perhaps some of us have been less diligent in heeding this wise counsel.

    FYI, the Mall in Salt Lake City is NOT being funded by tithing. This mall will do much to revitalize SLC, preserve the surroundings of the sacred temple there, and stimilate the economy. I suspect the Church will receive more in return for its investment that we can presently foresee–not only spiritually but temporally. Temple Square is a sacred and beautiful place, a site where millions of people visit, learn, and are taught about the atonement, about the Savior, and about the restoration. If downtown SLC were allowed to become a wasteland–as it was becoming–I wonder if tourists would feel drawn to the temple or if they would feel safe visiting there. I have spoken to a number of non-member business collegues from out-of-state who have expressed such concerns to me.

  47. Karen–I wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts in #44. I am happy for those who become aware of previously unknown warts the church has and can keep their feelings for the church and want to remain active.

    Such was not the case for me, but I am glad when I hear of people who do.

  48. Karen,

    First of all, I am not challenging tithing or sacrifice. Remind me to tell some really funny tithing stories I came to know first hand in Las Vegas, like the time a sister I challenged to pay tithing hit a jaokpot that week and shared in in F & T meeting–and how that all “played” out. Tithing is a firm foundation of our faith. How to define it and it’s disproportionate effects between widows and meglamillionaries when leaving behind the definition of “interest annually” in favor of ten percent of gross is another matter and subject to another thread

    Where is the 2 to 6 billion coming from for the mall?

    Where the money is coming from illustrates what Elder Ballard is trying to say, IMO, ie, that the control of information is vital to the church—what in politics might cynically call spin. So, for example, if the federal government taxes us and then takes that money and invests our tax money in a CD or a business and THEN uses that interest or profit to pay for a 2 billion dollar marbled federal building to “revitalize” let’s say SLC, then we can debate the merits of such an investment in our city (I can see both sides of the issue BTW). However, it is pure “control of information”/ spin for the federal govt. to then tell us to not complain about the federal building because, after all, they tell us that the billions spent it is not our money/tax that paid for it but rather from profit making CDs/ investments owned by the govt. So if tithing is used to create a profit making business then does that nature of the source morph into “non-tithing” source. If only I could convince me clients that their money invested in my trust accounts could so easily morph…

    Again, this whole topic re: Mall, illustrates the issue of “control of information” and how we label things to control perception over reality. By the same token we are asked to use history for faith but if challenged then it is not relevant nor “useful.” Well of course.

    but, again no need to be concerned for “all is well” in that “zion prospereth.”

  49. “Taking charge of the conversation” is the thread.

    Using the mall as a training exercise, we can see how we can and should take charge of the conversation.

    Criticism: “Tithing or offerings” are being used to build this several billion dollar edifice”

    Response: No “tithing” money is not used but comes from profit making investments owned by the church and is not therefore the widow’s mite.

    Criticism: “The mall represents a great and spacious building which will provide suitable condos for the rich, connected and pretty people”

    Response: No. You have it all wrong. The gospel is a gospel of prosperity and those that come from third world or lesser environments will see the blessings of the gospel of prosperity first hand and rejoice at seeing the fruits of the gospel and aspire to become as us.

    Criticism: “This will send a message that the kingdom of heaven is not in the end for the coarsely dressed, loser poor, and those that dwell in blight.”

    Response: “Again, the kingdom of God ennobles men/women so that they dress well, smell good, and demonstrate an image of success”

    Criticism: “The investment is a poor investment in this economy and may end up being a Kirtland Banking episode”

    Response: “Heck no. Anyone that knows how the world works can see the beauty of marrying the private with the public/institutional interest. Just look at the federal government. The players criss-cross between Goldman Sachs to the Federal Reserve and back again thereby protecting their interest and all in the end prosper. So,let me ask you, do you want us to put in public housing, relief for poverty center across from the temple? Who in their right mind would suggest something as socially unacceptable as having the poor, dirty and losers be underfoot in our Mecca? (Alma 32?). What kind of message would that send? Or should we have million dollar condos there? The former can’t make any deals and they are dirty, coarsely dressed, stupid, unworthy. THose in the million dollar condos can make deals and help business all around.

    So the million dollar condos go up. I see only opportunities galore. THink of allowing my connections both within and without the church all being allowed to use my condo, meet and make deals and talk business/building the kingdom while sipping lemonade with the picture of the temple framed out my window. Who could possibly complain or whine about such an obvious improvement?

    So, let’s send that one percent to the borderlands of the poor at the gate, while building edifices as a symbol of our prosperity. The Jesus I read would not have it any different. It is just those losers in Alma 32 and Samuel the Lamanite that just don’t get it….

  50. Post
    Author

    re 56:

    Actually, Ron “M”alvolio, I think you missed it.

    Let me try it again.

    “Taking charge of the conversation” is the thread.

    Criticism: “Tithing or offerings” are being used to build this several billion dollar edifice.”

    How LDS members currently respond (defensively): “No “tithing” money is not used but comes from profit making investments owned by the church and is not therefore the widow’s mite.”

    ^notice that this answer is speculation. This answer is not taking control of the conversation. This answer gives control of the conversation to the person with the criticism, and focuses on something peripheral to the gospel. This answer, as speculation, is particularly problematic because if it is falsified (e.g., if tithing money is used, for example…or if any of the other responses are falsified), then it gives the impression as if the LDS church is worse for wear…when in reality, these things are peripheral issues.

    Ballard instead suggests that we abstain from speculation…leave that to historian or theologians (and this is progressive — we certainly can become historians, scholars, and theologians if we *want*). Instead, we have to realize (and get others to realize) that a shopping mall isn’t and never was the central focus of our faith. The shopping mall doesn’t even *affect* us in *our* pursuit of becoming more Christlike. It is a folly, a detour, a mockery of what we’re trying to do to pretend that it does.

    I’m not even saying this in an apologetic attitude, but I would think you should be ashamed of yourself if you allow yourself to be so distracted from important matters by something so quotidian, so base, so irrelevant. I mean, if you were challenging the core (e.g., tithing and sacrifice), then perhaps that would make sense. If you want to challenge revelation, then perhaps that would make sense. If you want to challenge whether you are improved through obedience or not, then that would perhaps make sense. But you claim you don’t want to challenge these things. So, it makes no sense to have such a peripheral issue be the stumblingblock.

  51. I’m struggling to find a way to respond charitably, but . . .

    We live in a society that assumes everyone should and can know everything about everything – and it ends up translating into people speaking as experts about things of which they know little. I have a limited understanding of the overall financial assistance provided world-wide by the LDS Church, but it is a much broader understanding than that provided in the comments here. I cannot give details, since I have promised that I won’t, but the LDS Church has nothing for which to apologize, imo, when it comes to charitable giving.

    I think financial matters are perhaps the best example available of something where we don’t believe what we see, but rather we see what we believe – and that wouldn’t change one single bit if the LDS Church opened its financial books to all. Those who support and believe in the Church would be happy and strengthened; those who don’t would nit-pick and criticize and find ways to find fault. Personally, I’m glad the Church doesn’t open its financial books to the public.

    That’s as charitably as I can say it – with the addition that this is exactly why members simply have to participate in the conversation. Ideas like the mall being funded by tithing are out there, totally incorrect though they are, and we simply have to address them directly but charitably.

  52. “When I was obtaining my CLE the bankruptcy attorney stated at least in 2005 that a significant factor in his opinion contributing to Utah having highest bankruptcy rate at the time was payment of tithing. Was he wrong?”

    I’d say he was.

    My own opinion (corroborated by some recent research that I’d have to dig up) is that the reason Utah has a high bankruptcy rate is because of two factors:

    1. High level of entrepreneurship (which you find in a lot of booming western economies) – as we know, the majority of startups in America fail.

    2. Crappy collection laws that allow creditors to apply the heat to debtors more freely than other states.

    “I am sure the saints that give the gold fillings out of their teeth in south america to build temples would be willing to dig a little deeper for the mall.”

    I think you’d find they would. But as others have mentioned, the jury is still out on whether this is even tithing-funded to begin with.

    And I’d hardly call a project to cure urban blight and boost the local economy a “great and spacious building.” But I think critics of the mall project would do well to have their facts straight rather than arguing “well, where is the money coming from then?” The Church already stated the nature of the financing. If you’ve got some contradictory data, I’m all ears.

  53. OK. Skip the mall.

    If you were in charge of the Church, what percentage of tithing receipts should be used towards helping the poor vs building buildings (again – not mall – chapels, temples, etc.), missionary work, etc? I think giving away the same 10% we are asked to do makes some sense – kind of an institutional tithing.

    I don’t know the income of the church, but have heard estimates in the $3-6 billion range. Assume the low end of that – that would be $300 million in direct cash contributions. This would obviously be leveraged even more through “service assignments”, etc. from the members. Now contrast this with the Church’s own numbers – $280 million over 23 years.

    I think if the Church gave away in the ballpark of $300 million / year, it would do much more for our image and would help take control of the conversation much more than another glossy ad.

  54. Post
    Author

    re 61:

    Mike…”if you were in charge of the Church” is not the point of the church. It is not the focus of the Gospel or what the Gospel tells us to focus ourselves on.

    or will you still cling to peripheral issues? I mean, even I’ll admit, sometimes they are more exciting than the basics. But at the same time, we can work on the basics. We can’t work on the periphery. We can only speculate and work ourselves up in a frenzy of things that we can’t control.

  55. Prophecies/histories/patterns. We search the scriptures and prophecies to find fulfillment in the restoration. We find faith promoting and edifying evidences like Daniel 2 (although I believe “kingdom” is more broad then “church” for remember “more are the children of the desolate then the married wife” in the latter day Zion). So I see the words “holy church of God” in Mormon 8 and for some reason I jump to the conclusion that in the last days we comprise the”holy church of God.” But wait, the prophecy is not flattering. Oh no! Well, then are we the “holy church of God” or not? If so, we must be willing to take the warnings as well as the praise/good PR. So frankly I have read this dozens of times and I never saw it fit in the past, but now I am not so sure—and yet ironically if it is about US then it should be an additional evidence that we are the “holy church of God” even if we have serious cognitive dissonance.

    Okay, so back to the mall. Seth R and others are right. We had President Hinckley tells us in two conferences that “tithing” money was not used. He tells us where it came from and I paste:

    He said in the April 2003 general conference:

    “I wish to give the entire Church the assurance that tithing funds have not and will not be used to acquire this property. Nor will they be used in developing it for commercial purposes.

    “Funds for this have come and will come from those commercial entities owned by the Church. These resources, together with the earnings of invested reserve funds, will accommodate this program.”

    Then in the October 2004 general conference, he said:

    “We are now working on a major undertaking in Salt Lake City. It is imperative that we preserve the environment around Temple Square. This makes necessary a very large construction project. Tithing funds will not be used for this construction. The income from Church businesses, rents on the property, and other such sources make this possible.”

    So Ray, Seth and others with more knowledge and truth tell me/us: What funds were used to purchase church “businesses” and income properties? Frankly, what is more interesting and revealing to me and many others is the control of information and labeling as much as whether the mall is a wise or great investment or not. Polygamy was back then, but malls and financial empire building is now. It would be analogous to continuing to print manuals saying that “We assure you that Joseph Smith never practiced polygamy nor polyandry.” (we know that he practiced “Celestial Marriage” but no need to share that with members openly because a) they would not understand and b) “they can’t handle the truth” so let’s keep it secret from the members. President Hinckley also stated that the financial record are not disclosed for OUR protection–those that give. Fine.

    So using that model can I take the $430,000 I received from investors in my trust account and with it purchase a rental property and get monthly income and then send a statement to my clients: “I assure you that your money you gave me in trust is NOT being used to purchase the Mercedes you see at my office but rather it was from income producing rentals/businesses” And would their speculation/concern be unwarranted?

    This is about control of information and image. The problem is that it is one thing to control information in Kirtland and Nauvoo but it is another thing during an age when every “internet ploughboy” can read, think and observe. Mike S is correct. Those numbers were put out by the church to tell us how generous the humanitarian/direct aid has been. The problem is that a calculator tells us uninformed and left in the dark members with a different conclusion.

    Other churches even the “great and abominable” releases to the public what they take in and spend and we are required to do so in England so what is the problem? Is it to protect us from knowing just how overwhelmingly charitable we are in dispensing funds?

    So finally the issue is not the mall or someone else’ decision which I have control over, but rather my individual Christianity and the weightier matters. Correct, but the gospel is not practiced in isolation but as a covenant community and what my community does is a part of me and vice a versa. But maybe, just maybe we are not the “holy church of God” mentioned in Mormon 8: 37-39. You tell me….

  56. “You tell me….”

    No. I promised I wouldn’t – and you wouldn’t believe me if I did. That ends my participation in that aspect of this conversation.

  57. I think you might be overestimating the scope or integrity of other churches’ accounting systems Mike. And Ron, I don’t have much more information than what you provided in the above comment. I remembered Hinckley’s remarks and thought a bit of the commentary was one-sided, that’s all.

    Good points though. I’m not necessarily in disagreement with all the points you are making.

  58. Post
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    re 63:

    Ron “M”alvolio, I’d suggest you read the scriptures more carefully. So, you’ve got Mormon 8: 37-38 down, great great…but do you understand it? Do you understand the context? Do you understand the scriptures that precede it?

    The holy church of God is the church that Christ established in his ministry (either during his life in Middle East or in his ministry to the Americas). That was a long time ago, man. It could even represent the true church that existed even earlier (that was misinterpreted and screwed up by Pharisees, Saducees, etc.,)…in that case, that’s a really really long time ago.

    Look at verse 28. It refers to churches (plural) and leaders (plural) who are prideful. It is referring to an apostasy and that’s why the tone is critical. So…when could the apostasy have been? GEE…ANY TIME AFTER CHRIST’S MINISTRY?! In fact, churches (plural) and leaders (plural) have arisen VERY quickly after the establishment of the true church — you need only look at the Book of Mormon for countless stories of apostasy. In fact, it only took 200 years after the 3rd Nephi account for pride to creep in — and that was for a church that at one time had *everyone* as members. For the church in the Middle East and Rome, the splintering could’ve occurred much earlier!

    Read verses 32, 33, 34, 35…who is he talking to? Who is he speaking to as if they were present? It seems that he’s talking to the people of a far off time who belong to these churches (plural) who have apostasized from the holy church of God. In 36, 37, 38, he further describes these qualities.

    So, let’s think about when the Book of Mormon came to fruition. Obviously, it came about BEFORE the church was restored to the earth (Joseph Smith had to translate the Book of Mormon first before there could even BE an LDS church). It came about and Joseph Smith was tasked to the work as a “response” to the apostasy. So, if you’re thinking it refers to the LDS church — which doesn’t even exist at the point in time it’s referring to — then aren’t you jumping the gun? I mean, I know they say try to make the scriptures personal to you, but don’t read in things that don’t belong. This is exactly the speculation that gets people into trouble.

    However, even if the LDS church weren’t around, there were numerous churches that were existent in the 19th century that perverted the holy church of God (you know, the church way way back when?). And for many of these groups — many denominations of which do NOT take the name of Christ (as 38 mentions), this scripture DOES fit. Again, you’re trying to make the scripture fit for the LDS church, but the problem is that the LDS church DOES take the name of Jesus Christ (if you look at any of the logos, it’s in huge print. It’s kinda a big deal.) This is not to say that many in the church can’t be subject to pride and all of these effects, but really, that’s not the primary role of this scripture.

    If you’re going to indict anyone, you will have to indict all of the other churches first, who are not restorations in any way, shape, or fashion.

  59. And so like Ray I end my foray into this mormon matter. thank you all for your indulgence in charitably entertaining some of my musings. Ray, you are probably correct that even if YOU told me I might not believe you. 29 years of legal practice, half as many years in church leadership in Las Vegas together with more than five decades of church history teachings that I was told I must trust as being accurate— has all combined to make me a skeptic of all men–including myself–I have assumed and said a lot of stupid things over the years which most likely continues to this day. I have earned my cynicism. So, if Joseph tells my great, great great grandfather he is not practicing polygamy (necessary “lying for the Lord” for the greater good) or we must trust that our prophets were guided by God in denying a whole race the priesthood because it is God’s will, or that my wife’s great, great, great grandfather according to Elder Bednar just left the church because he was a sissy and could not handling being offended over milk strippings, then maybe I will just remain an unbeliever in all men that has ever lived but one…

    So “save it be plain” and open and full disclosure my trust reserve in men of any title is running on fumes. I can only tell you that I cannot “read a sealed” accounting record as to church finances. So it is trust us–deja vue all over again. I heard it during Viet Nam era, and thought I would never hear it again–until Iraq and then it was “trust us” for we know that God’s hand is in this. Trust US–we are the “holy church of God” and we will never lead you astray. We will tell you what is true or not true, and we will tell you what is relevant and not relevant. And if you do not believe us then something is obviously wrong with you. I get it. So being an old English major and lover of Shakespeare, I would only request that my title be changed from Malvolio be upgraded to the “fool”…or court jester—knowing nothing but what I see plainly….

  60. Post
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    Look, you’re not saving the world or anything of the sort. You’re not even being roasted on a spit for the world to see, suffering for your “noble cause.” You’re not even DOING anything when you just yap on and on. If you want to create change, find an area where you can create change. For one, you can create change in your life. You can create change in your community, in your home, in your family. But if you want to yap about what people several times removed from you are doing — an effort that will do nothing forever and ever — then I guess you can just keep on your current program.

    I don’t care who you do or do not trust. I don’t care if you will or won’t be cynical. I don’t care if you listen to me or you listen to yourself or you listen to the prophet or you listen to the “promptings of the spirit” or if you don’t listen to anything at all. I would simply hope, whatever you listen to, that eventually you will come to a realization that some things are just petty. Some times are silly to get fixated on. Even if you have had “five decades of church history” that you were “told” you must get fixated on and trust.

  61. Andrew,
    I see your points. I And will consider your take before responding as to Mormon 8–as to who the “holy church of God” Moroni is referring to when he wrote it about 421 AD— and knowing it would come out in 1820s???. Who then is the “holy church” in 1820? Can you also help me out on 3 Nephi 16: 7-10. Who is the Lord referring to when he states in verse 7 the “fulness of these things” being restored to the Gentiles in the latter days? Us or someone else? If us, then does verse 10 have any relevance to us or is it just referring to “other” gentiles and not the “gentiles” that had the fulness of these things restored in verse 7? And if so, does that lend any change of your opinion as Mormon 8?

  62. What an interesting group. Thanks Seth R. for the upgrade to the “fool.” Andrew S.–in the words of Ed McMahon..”you are correct, sir.” It is silly to get fixated on one thing. I have a wide range of fixations. I enjoy the debate and discussion as to the issues and should not have indulged in why I would not even trust Ray let alone church leaders to tell me to just trust us. Andrew S. I assume you are saying that if I “yap on and on” that I could not concurrently be doing good with family, community, church, etc. So “yapping on and on” on the internet is evidence that one surely cannot be focused on doing good in their own world and influence? If so, I am a novice to this forum and must hastily withdraw lest all I become one of the perpetual yappers. I assume that the rest of the yappers including yourself must be speaking from experience.

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    re 70:

    Ron, as I said, the holy church of God is the church that Christ established in both his ministry in the Americas and his ministry in the Middle East. This church is polluted by apostasy. So, in the 1820s, the only “remnants” of the holy church are the numerous apostate groups that have transfigured the holy word of God (verse 33) (e.g., the scriptures: which came about in the early days), have polluted the holy church of God (e.g,. the original church: which also came about in the early days). This holy church of God has to be restored to get rid of the pollutions and transfigurations.

    In fact, look at verse 33 and verse 38 together. Look at the “holy word of God” and “holy church of God” as being parallel. So, at the shallowest level, we can say that Jesus’s ministry was written about and spoken about (spread as the Gospel — Good news) in the 1st century AD. So, the 1st century AD represents the time frame — from the most basic reading — of the holy word of God and the holy church of God. Going even deeper though, we know that Jesus *is* the incarnate word…and in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, etc., etc., (So you could say that the holy word of God and the holy church of God was existent even earlier than that…and it is what went through the old day prophets as well!)

    But we KNOW from ALL the scriptures (and even from history) that people have misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misconstrued the holy word of God AND the holy church of God. So, it’s no wonder that in 1820s, the holy church has been polluted by the numerous denominations and is in need of restoration.

    Now, about 3 Nephi 16: 7- 10, this set of verses is a theological “foreshadowing” of the restoration of the church. The Gentiles (non-Jews) are praised in verse 6 because they took to the Gospel better than the Jews in old times (this is true: after Jesus’s death, the church spread much more quickly among non-Jews than with Jews…partially thanks to Paul. However, with the Book of Mormon, the idea is that “Jews” include Native Americans as well as Jews) Because the Gentiles (Europeans, Americans, and other non-Jews and non-native americans) will be Christian (e.g., they will have the Gospel), then it is through them (these Europeans and Americans) that the truth and fulness of these things (e.g., restored church, Book of Mormon, D+C, PoGP, other revelations revealed or not yet revealed) will be revealed. So as of yet, the church is not restored, so it can’t be talking about us. It is just saying that in the latter-days (19th century), it will be restored to non-Jews because of non-Jews’ early acceptance of the gospel (even if they twisted the scripture and church).

    Again, this is how these things worked out in history, if you want to look at it this way…Joseph Smith was American, not Native American. So, indeed, the restoration came through Gentiles (non-Jews) and not from the people of Israel (Jews, descendants of Nephites and Lamanites, etc.,)

    Verse 8: But even though the Gospel will be restored through Gentiles, woe if the Gentiles unbelieve (so, even though the LDS church will be restored through non-Jews like Americans, beware if you’re an American who does not accept it). It is described in verse 9 that regardless, the Native Americans will be allowed to be afflicted, slain, smitten by the Europeans and Americans, because of the Native Americans’ past actions (e.g., described in the Book of Mormon) have brought about the “judgments of the Father.”

    And then we get to verse 10. In that day when the Europeans and Americans shall sin against my gospel (by forming many many apostate denominations — this is as Joseph Smith described and it was told to him that none of the churches were true), THEN BECAUSE OF THAT the fullness of the gospel (e.g., the Book of Mormon, restored church, etc., etc.,) will be brought.

    verse 10 isn’t about us (in 2009), because we’re already *in* the church. Verse 10 is about other denominations, whether in 1820 or in 2009, who should recognize that their falling away from the church has caused the church to be restored as the LDS church, and they should recognize their error.

    So yeah, verse 10 has to refer to “other” gentiles anyway, because when the church is restored, we really become “adopted” into Israel. That’s a really tricky idea theologically though, so don’t get caught up about it (but that’s why many members refer to nonmembers as Gentiles…even though they most likely are nonJewish themselves).

    It goes very well with Mormon 8. It’s a tricky analogy, so if you don’t get one part of it, the whole house falls apart.

  64. Post
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    re 71:

    Well, Ron, I apologize. If you want to see yapping, see *my* comments. That’s going on and on. Of course, you point out something very clear: you can be doing good concurrently with yapping about pointless things on the internet. I am not saying that you cannot concurrently be doing both. What I am saying is…if you recognize that you’re doing important stuff but you’re saying unimportant stuff…then shouldn’t you try to TALK about and SAY important stuff too?

    This is what it means to take control of the Mormon conversation. It’s not that we never “yap.” But rather that we “yap” about the important work that we are doing with family, community, church, etc., Because it is this important work that truly represents us…not the petty side conversation. So if we get detoured on petty side conversation and hide the important work we do, aren’t we doing ourselves a disservice? What lamentable marketing!

  65. Andrew S.
    Interesting and informative. I will carefully consider your arguments. Thank you. But my opinions/questions are also rooted in Isaiah and 2 Nephi 26-30. But, I think I have thread jacked enough for one day….

  66. Post
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    re 74:

    No need to apologize about the threadjacking, unless you feel it was petty. But if you feel that Mormon, 3 Nephi, Isaiah, 2 Nephi (all complex and delicate scriptures) are important, then no need to “steer” the conversation into that direction.

    Again, in this kind of topic, any thing we can talk about will get back to the original topic of discussion — about taking control of the Mormon conversation. I think if the Mormon conversation is about interpretation of scriptures, that’s meaningful. That’s valuable.

  67. #62: I would argue that the world defines us according to our “peripheral issues”. We try to be a “peculiar people”. As long as we have them, the world will continue to define us by our “peripheral issues”, as it is human nature. Do you really see past someone’s turban to talk to them about God? Do you really see past a Buddhist monks orange robes to find out why they are orange? Do you really see past an orthodox Jew’s appearance and practices to find out about them?

    My whole comment in post #2 is that we should jettison as many of there peripheral issues that are not essential to the “gospel” as possible. It’s just that much less “static” in the way of our primary message. That’s all.

  68. Post
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    re 76:

    Mike, would you agree with me that it really sells Mormonism short to suggest that our peculiarity is only due to our peripheral issues? We’ve got TONS of peculiar things that are more central to our doctrine and perhaps that’s what we should point out!

    In answering your questions, uh…YES. Don’t YOU? When you see something funny, you ask, “What is that ABOUT?” When you see someone funny, you ask, “What are you about?” And then they will answer with the heritage, which will emphasize the CORE. Don’t miss the sight of this core for the trees. The funny clothes simply entice you to dig in deeper, since apparently we are still evolutionarily inclined to look for vibrant peacock feathers, vibrant flower petals, and the like.

    My point in response to your point in 2 is that you should jettison as many of the peripheral issues that are not essential to the gospel as possible according to the guidance you receive. Great for you! But, just as well, you are one person…and one person who does not happen to be the Prophet of the church. So you’ll have to bear with everyone for just a short while longer for what you know to be their folly in caring so much about the periphery.

  69. I am new to blogging, but I feel sad when we do not treat one another with respect and kindness as we discuss matters of importance. I feel the issue this blog is discussing is a significant one. I wonder if we trivialize it when we make unkind personal attacks. Although I do not know any of you, plase know that I respect your right to state your opinions and am grateful that you have been respectful as I have stated mine.

    I would hope that members of the Church will be a peculiar people by their compassion, humility, kindness, and love for the Lord and for others. As we radiate that love, we enjoy the blessings the blessings that Christ promises to his followers: peace, joy, and happiness amid the trials and challenges of life.

  70. Does the “fool” want full disclosure and transparency of all LDS Church transactions? – So that he can analyze everything and then feel confortable about the directions the Church may be taking?
    Does the “fool” not realize that the Head of the Church is well aware of all “secret” Church transactions and the motives behind them?

  71. #78 Karen,—well said and thank you for the reminder. I am also new to this forum so maybe I can start with understanding where you are coming from. Your original post #44 drug me into this topic–you steered the conversation back to your real concerns even though others including Elder Ballard wanted to “steer” you out of those concerns and questions. You expressed well IMO why your questions as to the past was relevant NOW. You said “But now I am questioning many aspects of the Church.” Elder Ballard counseled that we should 1) Engage without being defensive and b) take control/steer the conversation to that which is relevant. So you personally participate in a thread that you call a significant issue. I identified with and appreciated your post (#44). So my question to you is:

    So I can understand, What is the issue in this thread that you find significant and why? And as expressed in #78 has the responses demonstrated the very “defensiveness” and “steering” away from your concerns?

    Have you sensed from bloggers in the previous 80 posts either the very “defensiveness” or personal attacks or steering away from the concerns expressed either by you or any other blogger?

    Do you also feel the same defensiveness or personal attacks in church or other settings when you or anyone else has a question or you express an opinion?

    Have you ever heard in one form or another in these 80 posts or at church–what some might call “Steering” the conversation through defensiveness of accusations addressed to you or other personally when you have raised an issue or question?:

    1. Your question is irrelevant and you are essentially petty and/or small minded for asking?

    2. “that was then but this is now?” so essentially get over it?

    3. You obviously lack faith and trust in your leaders in daring to challenge or even question even one statement;decision or position bei it history of polygamy, Prop 8, etc. etc.?

    4. That if you question one thing then obviously you are questioning everything and demand answers to all issues–or in other words, if we entertain even your one question it will never end so basically shut up and get with the program?

    5. Well if you are concerned about that petty issue in the past or removed from your daily life, then obviously you are so obsessed on it that you could not be doing your visiting teaching or you could not be reading the scriptures and praying?

    6. You obviously have some hidden sin or pride in even asking?

    7. You obviously do not understand the scriptures (just poor reading or comprehension skills)? and my personal favorite..

    8. Ad hominen attacks as to your character thereby skirting the issue–in essence your question or issue somehow demonstrates a character flaw that needs to be pointed out rather then rationally addressing your question and issue?

    So here it is 2009. What is relevant to question? What can we question? Are we to simply trust whatever a leader tell us and additionally let all leaders decide for us what is relevant or not relevant? You expressed well your opinion that polygamy is relevant to you NOW—you attempted to steer the conversation back to what you considered vital to your faith and trust. I agree with you. Does it not all get back to trust and confidence? If the saints were misled then, then how do you know that you are not being misled now? For me I have a great deal of tolerance and acceptance of human error (I have strong universalist leanings) but deliberate deceit and misleading or even a sense of it can cause us/me to question. What is surprising is not human error to which we are all victim but the reaction to the simplest interrogatories..So Elder Ballard brings up polygamy and then says essentially it is irrelevant now—which frames and begs the very question–is it really irrelevant now?

  72. Ron the “fool”:

    I’m just a “bum”, myself – a sinner and failure etc.

    However, What do you think of that quote from Dalin Oaks in #41?

  73. Post
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    re 81:

    *golfclap*

    Ron, I definitely must commend you on your persistence and nimbleness with words. It’s now clear to me you know what’s what and you have your eye singular to that goal — you will not be led astray from your mission.

  74. #82 and #83,

    whoa. As a long time litigator I thrive on challenges but am caught off guard/disarmed with praise. “Sxark” we are all “bums” and I prefer the role of the fool myself. My intrusion was for me an interesting experiment in testing the original thesis–steering conversations and issues. Elder Oaks comments I would like to answer after work. Elder Oaks is a very friendly and wonderful person by all accounts by others and my very little experience. But that statement is also an attempt to control the conversation is it not? That may be this next generation of apostles most challenging problem. Even the question of control may be swept away by avalanche of the Karens out there.

    I have reread Andrew S’s doctrinal responses to the scriptures I quoted and found his thoughts addressing the source of my questions/issues valuable and his interpretation has given me pause and I recognize that my interpretation may be unfounded.,What is revealing is that in so doing he did not attempt to steer me away from my core question but effectively addressed the foundational assumptions that I have been employing. In another thread maybe the issue of how to incorporate Mormon 8, 3 Nephi 16, types for our time per Pres. Benson found in Heleman and 3 Nephi, latter-day Davidid servant (Gileadi’s take found in 3 Nephi), Samuel Lamanite type and shadow, DC 112, etc. etc. can all be correlated and make sense–I confess it is too daunting for myself as a non-scholar to tackle. Trying to find meaning and consistency in all these types may be forever out of reach….

    Finally, I use the title “Diogenes” in other forums I have just recently ventured into…and yes only a fool carries a lamp at noonday..but there is a reason for it….

  75. Ronald:

    However, it appears that you have neglected to bring up in your litany of issues with the LDS Church that the Head of the Church, is Jesus Christ.
    And the vast majority of LDS and former LDS are aware that a “promise” was made, by Jesus, that this Church would not be taken away from the Earth and that He [Jesus], will not permit His Church to go astray.
    I fear for those that bring their concerns about the management of the Church to light for all the world to see and gaze at.
    Imagine, for a moment, if one was suddenly taken from this life and trying to explain their concerns to their Maker about the crummy way His Church is being run.
    To me, it brings the statement of Dalin Oaks in #41 in sharper focus.

  76. Good point. However (and I am asking this sincerely) what statements/scriptures are you referring to that the his Church would never go astray or that the prophet will never lead us astray?

  77. Ronald:

    I was hoping you wouldn’t ask. I know the references are there, – just can’t find it now.
    But I heard it so many times, I just assumed it was common knowledge.

  78. Post
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    sxark~

    got to be careful about “common knowledge”…because often, it might end up being hearsay, rumor, or folklore.

    In this case, you can find in the Official Declaration 1 some excerpts from speeches by Wilford Woodruff…there he says that the Prophet will not lead the church astray.

    Matt 16:18 is a good quote about the gates of hell never prevailing against the church, but watch out — this is also used by non-Mormon Christians to argue that a great apostasy as the LDS purports is unbiblical…

  79. Ronald:

    Go to the official LDS site and type in “led astray” in the search engine, then pick #4 “Fourteen Fundamentals in following the Prophet” by Ezra Taft Benson.

  80. “I have done bankruptcies for several Mormon families so far. And I can tell you that their problem wasn’t tithing. Their problem was more often a corrupt mortgage lending industry and out of control unregulated credit card lending practices.”

    Did their problems also tend to include involvment in multi-level marketing plans and finding reasons why working would be unproductive for them (such as placing their disability benefits and health insurance coverage in jeopardy)? I am aware of a couple of LDS families in such circumstances.

  81. sxark,

    thank you. You mentioned that Jesus “promised” that his “church” would never be led astray in the last days. I am, of course, aware of President Woodruff statement that a prophet would not be allowed to lead us astray without being taken and also Pres. Benson’s “Fourteen Fundamentals.” I am not entirely sure what the phrase “lead astray” means? No mistakes at all? What about some big boners/doctrinal errors like the made up “blacks are not entitled to the priesthood”? Wasn’t a whole race led astray for a season? And the rest of us led astray with that and other falsehoods for a season??

    So if a person who is fallible tells you that he will not or cannot lead you astray then can such a statement be considered “infallible”??
    Of course, the reasoning is circular. DC 107: 81-84 tells us that NO one is exempt from the councils of the church and that is why I find it very faith promoting to learn that JS was subject to a disciplinary council after Zion’s Camp even if he was not disciplined–And paradoxically I believe it is the belief in “never being lead astray” that is more perilous to our faith when we are on occasion led astray on one issue or another or even a major doctrine/policy then having a healthy “testing and proving” all things attitude that allows us to have faith in what is authentic without requiring us to be tethered to a falsehood that will with time erode faith and confidence when the falsehood is finally exposed. I “worry” more about those that cannot compartmentalize between what is authentic/true and what may very well be false. Compartmentalization allows fire walls so that if something that a prophet or leader teaches proves wrong the whole house need not burn down…

    Several months ago I read a post from Andrew Ainsworth–might have come from “Mormon Matters’ on this topic and I will paste his nine conclusory statements below. I agree with all his statements. I respectfully believe that not only are prophets fallible and are capable of making really big fundamental mistakes but that no church–even a true one is immune, including ours, from going astray for a season or even collapsing–unless our individual and collective agency is taken away. I believe that we have been led astray at times and that for me at least it is a false dichotomy to believe that if we are led astray in one area then we are led in all areas OR if we have been led astray for a season that the ship cannot be righted. So, for example, if the last year in Nauvoo is a holy mess and the prophet who received authentic revelations and laid a firm foundation is veering off/going astray for a season, then he can be taken and we can drift for a while and then recover. I see the church as organic and having seasons of sputtering and advancing.

    In 1945 a Home Teaching Lesson which was the basis used by Pres. Benson in his fourteen fundamentals stated that a prophet would not ever lead us astray. Pres. George Albert Smith wrote a denunciation of that lesson and said in essence that a prophet could err. His letter fell into relative oblivion while the Home Teaching Lesson by committee survived and thrived.

    Anyway, here are a few quotes followed by the ten statements by Andrew Ainsworth stripped of his commentary:

    “And none are required to tamely and blindly submit to a man because he has a portion of the priesthood. We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who presided over them., if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery to the extreme, and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he returns from his folly. Any man of God…would despise the idea. ” Joseph Smith

    “What a pity it would be, if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken the influence they oculd give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. ….(JD 9:150 Brigham Young)

    “they cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody must control them. ” BrighamYoung JD 1: 312

    then George Cannon warns: “Do not, brethren put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support will be gone”

    The following is a post from Andrew Ainsworth of “Mormon Matters” web site:

    “In my view, the needed changes in Mormon culture do not require Church members to depart from their leaders’ counsel. To the contrary, I believe the most needed changes in Mormon culture will occur when Church members “catch up” with what the General Authorities have already told them. In my opinion, one of the most needed changes in Mormon culture is to eliminate Church members’ tendency to elevate the Church, its leaders, and its doctrines to a mythical state of perfection and completeness.

    The following is a list of ten things I believe every Mormon needs to know to avoid developing unreasonable expectations about the Church, its doctrine, and its leaders. You could consider this cocktail of established principles a proposed vaccine for inoculating the Saints from becoming disillusioned by just about any difficult or controversial information about the Church.

    1. Our current understanding is incomplete. O
    2. Church leaders do not claim to be infallible.

    3. Not everything a Church leader says is inspired of God.
    4. The scriptures may contain human imperfections.

    5. Prophets do not claim that all their inspiration is received through face-to-face conversations with God.
    6. Sometimes God gives Church leaders discretion to make their own decisions according to their best judgment.

    7. Doctrinal errors may exist within the Church.

    8. None of the above should undermine our testimony that the scriptures are the “word of God,” or that Church leaders are inspired by God. th

    9. Questioning and examining Church leaders’ statements is not only allowed, it is encouraged.

  82. No Rigel.

    In fact that doesn’t describe ANY of my bankruptcy clients – of any ideology or persuasion. Job loss, medical bills, collapse of mortgage values, and divorce – in that order. With predatory lending practices exacerbating the whole thing.

    Actually, it could refer to ONE of my clients in over 4 years of bankruptcy practice. But that’s about it.

    I think it’s really cheesy, incidentally, how the ex-Mormon crowd has been using bankruptcy as an insult against Mormonism. Always easy for people who won the financial lottery to sneer at those who didn’t. Irrespective of how I feel about Mormonism, I find the insult toward the bankrupt implicit in these criticisms of the Church to be disgusting.

  83. Ron M:

    I just finished reading “Revelation on Priesthood Accepted” by Pres. Eldon N. Tanner, Ensign Nov. 1978. and the letter from Pres. Spencer W. Kimball, dated June 8, 1978.
    It didn’t sound like President Kimball was addressing “a big boner/doctrinal error” to me.

    You said you would comment on Dalin Oaks statement in #41. – but you haven’t. Nor is there any acknowledgement concerning the Head of the Church raised in # 79.

    However, my #85 was addressing your #63, which appeared harsh to me. You appeared to clarify, somewhat, in #92 and I share some of your concerns.
    But I’m most affected by Dalin Oaks statement in #41, of which, I would like to hear everyone’s opinion on his [Oaks} entire article, in light with the questions raised in this thread.

  84. IMO: This thread is a great example of how difficult it is to control the conversation. the difficulty is the more we attempt to emphasis our point the more aggressive we seem and in that context few with read a post with the Spirit it was intended. I’m not taking sides but Ron & Dan I thought you both made very good points and presented clear examples of the difficulties, IMO: good answers were given by Seth & Andrew S however at times it descended to focusing on nitpicking a comment rather than elevating the conversation to the core issues (Iceberg). Now I’m not saying MrQandA would have been better, but in hindsight it is a little clearer.

    I agree I don’t believe you can just ignore the questions or turn to personal attack.

    There were many points that I would love to comment on. But will be pointless at this stage.

    #94 I will however comment on the Oaks quote, #41

    IMO: the key is “if this desire is not disciplined”.

    Our desire to study the gospel & histories should be disciplined, seeking the best books, avoiding irrational speculation, studying from good sources and continually using the tool of prayer & contemplation.

    we also need to pause at times, be willing to place that which causes difficulty on the shelf for a period of time, until the tide goes out and we can think clearly and ensure we are on a solid foundation of Christ.

    If we are based on a firm foundation then relatively we have little to fear, however Satan would seek to draw us out of this safety.

    All these subjects are good to study at some point, but it needs to be done line upon line and in its time and season.

  85. “I think it’s really cheesy, incidentally, how the ex-Mormon crowd has been using bankruptcy as an insult against Mormonism. Always easy for people who won the financial lottery to sneer at those who didn’t. Irrespective of how I feel about Mormonism, I find the insult toward the bankrupt implicit in these criticisms of the Church to be disgusting.”

    I am not an ex-Mormon. Our church always takes credit for the good of the church. Ever quote Utah’s longevity of life or lower heart disease rate as proof of the inspiration of the Word of Wisdom? Most do. By their fruits you will know them. We say that a lot. I don’t know exactly what the high Utah bankruptcy means. It’s got to mean something.

  86. 95- “Is Andrew Ainsworth a General Authority in the LDS Church?”

    No,he is not. But he is, perhaps, an Authoritative Generalist on Mormon Matters. 🙂

  87. To All:

    I have learned, the hard way, that on these threads that it is wise to read the preamble, the source which the preamble is based on, and everyone’s comments before making my own.
    A moment of clarity was expressed by Ron M. in his #71 that may reinforce, somewhat, my #41 [“there is ‘something’ about communicating on the internet that plays tricks with senders and receivers] and some communicate – badly.

    Please permit me to place, in nomination, a few awards:

    Best Response Award: To Andrew S. in #68.
    Best Explanation Award: To Andrew S. in #72&73.
    Best ‘Persecution Complex’ statement Award: To Ron M. in #81 [don’t worry – many here probably won this at one time]

    Ron M.

    re #92: Thought you spent way too much time on following the leaders blindly etc.
    also: “You may consider this cocktail of ‘established’ priciples [by Ainsworth] as a proposed vaccine for inoculating the Saints from becoming dissilusioned…”
    No Thanks – sounds more like poison to me.

    #96 MrQandA:

    I agree with you, however I’m now concerned with Dalin Oaks entire article and it gives me pause.

  88. Post
    Author
  89. Re #93

    I’m glad to know that those cases I heard about were probably aberrant.

    Re #96 “the more we attempt to emphasis our point the more aggressive we seem”

    Would you classify Elder Holland’s two talks that defend the status of Mormons as Christians to be seemingly aggressive? He prefaces his first talk with a rationale of clearing up misperception rather than being apologetic. Some historical and theoligical information is presented. I would consider their tone somewhat unusual as far as general conference addresses go.

    It would seem that in the Ballard model, we would simply answer with the first article of faith, perhaps bear testimony of Jesus Christ as our personal savior and “move on.” If someone had a sincere interest in knowing, then they could be referred to the Holland talks. If they merely want to contend, then the opportunity to find “common ground” is not there. If people disagree with me and think I am not Christian, then I’m not going to lose sleep over it. If people who truly know me label me as acting “unChristian”, I would probably lose sleep.

  90. Mr.QandA #96

    However, the Dalin Oaks quote is: “…if this desire is not disciplined, it can cause some to pursue…beyond the fringes…seeking answers to obscure mysteries rather than seeking a firmer understanding…of the basic principles of the Gosplel.”
    So I would say that the “key” is that some seek answers to obscure mysteries rather than seeking a firmer understanding of the basic principles of the Gospel because their desire to know every principle of the Gospel, is not disciplined.

  91. #100. All I can say about being nominated for the “Best Persecution Complex” statement award (#81) is that my broad shoulders can take all the name calling, personal attacks, and hate that the whole world, including my fellow bloggers, seems to be relentlessly heaping upon me….

    Now, Sxark, what I wrote above should seal the award, wouldn’t you say?

    In all seriousness, I just finally read all of Elder Oaks article that you have been referring to. So here are a few questions:

    1. What does he mean by discipline? ,ie,
    a. How do I know when I have studied too little or too much
    b. what topics are okay and which are not? (ex. Is getting into WOW study and changing it from a tenet/recommendation to ironclad commandment an example of hobby horsing? or focusing on too many earrings? Or rather is the intense, in depth study of Isaiah something that is clearly going overboard and needs curbing (google Gileadi)? I am not sure what is an appropriate topic to fixate on?
    c. Is being disciplined a function of determining what narrative/histories are edifying and only telling that part of the story and having the discipline to never cross the line by mentioning anything not edifying/useful even if true? (“Carthage Conspiracy”)

    2. What are the basic principles of the gospel?
    a. Could it be defined differently by different folks?
    b. Does it include the study of Open Theism as compared to Classic theism or is the study of the ever changing study of the nature of God way too speculative lest we actually come to know Him and His nature?
    c. Does it include the study of the atonement? I would think so, but then how deep am I allowed to go in studying the different models/theories historically and how they developed before I am considered on the “fringes” ?? Is it when I discover that our penal substitution model (first created by St. Anselm in 12 c ad) repeated over and over again in conference is nonsense and arguably paganistic? In other words, it is fringe when I find something or anything that challenges the orthodox religion of any leader?

    Finally, what I read from such talks is that while there is wisdom throughout the talk, the underlying theme is that we are the guardians of orthodoxy/ main stream and any deviations from what we consider normal is suspect. ,

    However, I can only look at my little world and realize whether it is my oldest son (32) or youngest (13) they can question, explore, hobby horse, venture all they want—plumb the depths of one topic or another and then go on to the next. I am just not that comfortable with circumscribing the pursuit of knowledge.

    When I first read Elder Oaks address it was just months after Gileadi was cut off from the church for hobby horsing the study of Isaiah (I had spent a week studying with Gileadi before he was just weeks later hauled into court). So Elder Oaks address has some special context for me personally.

    What Elder Oaks stated overall has some wisdom/pearls but the real life application can sometimes be an excuse to demand orthodoxy ( and I dare say even tell misleading one sided historical accounts) and steer or rather compel the circumscribing of the pursuit of knowledge…

  92. Ron M.

    [1] “…if this desire is not disciplined, [then] it can cause some to pursue beyond the fringes…”

    [2] When one goes beyond the “fringes”, seeking to answer obscure mysteries “rather than seeking a firmer understanding and a better practice of the basic principles of the Gospel,” then they loose the ability to go to the LDS official site and type in the search engine, ‘The basic principles of the Gospel,’ and should they make it that far, then they just won’t know what to do with the answers that come up.

    Your answer in #104 sounds like what was just described.
    You can “mock” the General Authorities if you like in the 1st half of your #104 and be sincere in the 2nd half, if you want.

    Although you state that Elder Oaks “overall has some wisdom/pearls” – it sounds like you are saying – “so what?”

  93. “[2] When one goes beyond the “fringes”, seeking to answer obscure mysteries “rather than seeking a firmer understanding and a better practice of the basic principles of the Gospel,” then they loose the ability to go to the LDS official site and type in the search engine, ‘The basic principles of the Gospel,’ and should they make it that far, then they just won’t know what to do with the answers that come up.”

    I am not going to make fun of this. I am not going to make fun of this. I am not going to make fun of this. I am not going to make fun of this. I am not going to make fun of this. I am not going to make fun of this. I am not going to make fun of this.

    There. I feel better.

  94. Holden C:

    I couldn’t help it, because, I couldn’t help it, because, I couldn’t help it, because, if I did help, there would be no progression and if there would be no progression, then I or the “fool”, most likely, would go beyond the fringe, which brings up…………

  95. I’m kinda sick of the argument that we can’t expect the church to be perfect because men are imperfect. And Dehlin is right, I don’t tell all of my secrets to friends and family. But then again, I don’t tell them that I am perfect, I don’t ask for 10% of their income for support, I don’t hide and whitewash my history to coax them into serving, paying and participating. That John, is the difference. The Church dictates standards of behavior, calls us into service, and requires 10%, so they have an obligation to be honest. The sad truth is that the Church doesn’t live up to its own standards, and if you know that going in, then your service is truly voluntary.

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