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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Living The Gospel, Or Living In Zombie Land?


In my entry last month, I told of being present among a group of strangers who wondered why Mormon missionaries dressed in a way that made them seem distant and aloof to to the very people they're apparently trying to reach.

This is a legitimate concern for many of our own members, as witnessed by the many comments following that piece.  If we want our message heard, why are we dressing our boys in a manner that makes them seem so oddly formal and unapproachable?

One anonymous poster, however, expressed the contrary opinion that by putting people off, the suit and tie look was actually accomplishing its purpose.  This particular response has so bothered me that weeks later that letter is still stuck in my craw and keeping me awake at night.

Our missionaries dress formally, this reader insists,
"To show respect for the message & mantle they carry. The Church is not out to win a popularity contest, just to find the few who are ready for the truth.”
"But most people are not ready for the truth, & thus it mattereth not what they think about us.”

I've read those sentences over and over again, and I’m still scratching my head.  If it mattereth not what others think about us, why does church headquarters maintain an expensive public relations department in an attempt to make us more popular with the gentiles?  What about this new series of ads that is geared to assure all the non-members out there that we Mormons are just plain regular folk?



Not out to win a popularity contest? The church has spent untold millions of our tithing dollars since the 1970's in an attempt to get people to like us.  We’re just regular everyday people, dontcha know?  We act normal, we look normal, we dress normal.  Except for our actual representatives out there on the front lines.  We make those poor saps dress up like Freddie and the Dreamers circa 1963, and just hope for the best.

I recently asked a couple of missionaries here in Sacramento how that look was working for them these days.  One replied, “We still get the occasional frumpy cat lady who lets us in.”

I am not opposed to the various public relations projects the church has developed over the years.  During the Winter Olympics the church was very successful in getting a lot of really good press. That period was a major coup for church PR. That’s because every single one of the hundreds of members of the media who converged on Salt Lake City for the Olympics was given an employee from the church Public Relations department who stuck to them like glue every minute of every day. If Mormons didn't win the popularity contest it was only because there was no room for any other entrants.

I have no idea why this reader would think missionaries dress up formally “to show respect for the message and mantle they carry.”  Missionaries dress the way they do because they have to.  It's the rules.  During my mission, whenever an Elder’s time was drawing to an end, it was common for him to declare that the first thing he planned to do when he got home was put all his white shirts on a pile in the back yard and set that pile on fire.  We respected the message and the mantle all right, but we'd had our fill of the dorky costume.

I wonder if this commenter realizes how odd it is to defend the stuffy missionary uniform on the grounds that we’re only looking for that rare gentile who's gutsy enough or crazy enough to strike up a conversation with one of our nerdy looking reps.  In her zeal to defend the policy, I believe she missed the bigger truth.

I suspect that the reality is that The Powers That Be at church headquarters desperately want our young men to get out there and be popular.  In truth, they insist on that mode of dress precisely because they believe that look is effective out here in the hinterlands.  To them, the missionary look is respectable, and respectability is what church administrators want for the church more than just about anything else.  These members of the hierarchy have been immersed in the corporate world of suits and ties for so long that they are out of touch with the fact that this particular look is no longer garnering the desired effect anywhere outside of 50 East North Temple Street in Salt Lake City.  The ordinary non-Mormon man or woman on the street would be much more comfortable interfacing with our missionaries if our boys didn’t overdo it with the spiffy threads. 


Should We Be The Light, Or Just Do As We’re Told?

I have to tell you the part of this reader's comment that really floored me.  After stating that it is not only non-members who dislike Mormons, the reader closed with this sentence:

“Most all members of the Church quickly come to dislike & try to avoid or persecute the few rare members who really live the Gospel, for they make them uncomfortable & cause them to feel guilty.”

Say What?!

Did you just read what I did?

According to this person’s experience, most all members of her own church -fellow Mormons!-dislike, avoid, or even persecute the few rare members who really live the gospel!  And why is that? Because the ones living the gospel make everybody else feel uncomfortable!

What an awful ward she must live in. 

My experience, and I’m sure yours too, has always been the exact opposite.  It's been my observation that Latter-day Saints who really live the gospel of Jesus Christ tend to make the people around them feel extremely comfortable because they have within them the light of Christ.  They tend to be open, caring, and non-judgmental.  People really living the gospel of Christ have a knack for helping everyone in their presence feel lifted up, encouraged, and comfortable.

When I'm in the presence of such individuals, guilt and discomfort are not what I feel.  Love and acceptance would be better descriptors.

And such individuals aren’t all that rare, either.  There’s one of them in my bed right now.


I Married An Angel

In our old ward, when Connie would miss a week or two of church due to her disability, I would show up to the Relief Society room after church to find a large group of women gathered around her wheelchair waiting to chat with her.  I could never get her out of there outside of a half hour because all those ladies wanted their hugs.  They seemed attracted to some ineffable essence emanating from her spirit.  I can’t tell you how many times over the years people have told me Connie is a true angel on earth.

I used to wonder at Connie’s remarkable penchant for attracting others to her.  What was her secret?

Easy.  She simply loves and accepts everyone within radar distance without bias or judgment of any kind.  She just really lives the gospel.

Which is actually pretty effortless, by the way.  All you have to do is let go and let yourself BE.  As I wrote previously in my essay What Do I Mean By "Pure" Mormonism, if you practice allowing yourself to experience sincere, infinite love for every soul you come in contact with, pretty soon it will become second nature.  You already are a loving, divine, spirit being of light. It really doesn’t take much effort to get back in touch with your true self.  And once you do, you'll always be in direct communication with the spirits inherent in everyone around you.  That's how it works.  Spirit touching spirit. Light touching light.

But I suspect none of this is what my anonymous commenter thinks of when she writes about the negative reaction one should expect to find if one tries to really live the gospel.

Rather than simply emulating Christ and allowing His light to shine within them, some in the church seem to define “living the gospel” as a desperate race to obey all the rules of the institutional Church.  This counterfeit gospel keeps the membership focused on their shortcomings; constantly worried about what they should or should not be doing, they're motivated by the fear that what they're doing is never enough, rather than allowing themselves to simply be who they really are: Sons and Daughters of the Light. (If you're stuck in one of these ruts, I recommend Brother Stephen Robinson's Believing Christ as the book to help get you unstuck.)

What's worse is when such persons think of themselves as somehow having been called to arbitrate the sins of others.  They then busy themselves with supervising -that is, finding fault with- those who are not as up to speed as they are.

These types live by a checklist of accomplishments necessary to prove to themselves and others that they are “living the gospel.”   There's nothing wrong with efforts at self-improvement, of course. And service to others becomes automatic when living in the spirit because as Paul reminds us, if we don't have charity we have nothing.  Charity along with service is the essential quality often missing.  You can check off a list of assignments you've completed from here to eternity and still never really live the gospel.

Attend all your meetings? “Check.”

Go to the temple regularly? “Check.”

Keeping up on your genealogy? “Check.”   

Magnifying your callings? “Check.”

Paying a full tithe? “I pay double tithing, just to make sure.”

Pull over and slip a couple bucks to the homeless woman holding the cardboard sign on the corner?

“Hey, I told you I pay double tithing.  I can't help everybody.”       

Then there’s that all important big question: "Do you live the Word of Wisdom?"  As we all know, whether one of our own is following this one to the letter -and beyond- is the only sure way to determine that a member of the church is truly, surely, absolutely, positively, one hundred percent, really, really, really living the gospel.  It's the primary indicator of one's righteousness. There is no greater measurement.

Just don’t ask them if they follow the entire Word of Wisdom, though, or you’ll confuse them.  You know what I mean, the main parts of section 89, where the Lord charges us to make sure most of what we eat is fresh fruits and vegetables.  Not to mention how we ought to practice at least some moderation in the amount of of meat we ingest.

Lucky for us hypocrites, we can usually tell if a fellow Saint is living the full word of Wisdom simply by looking at the shape of his body.  If he looks anything like me or Thomas S. Monson, he's probably a backslider.

This guy is probably not living the full word of wisdom...
...But then again, neither is this guy.
       













My Wife The Chick Magnet

I used to believe that perfect church attendance was the key indicator of one’s righteousness, but I don’t see things that way anymore.  My wife Connie hasn’t been well enough to attend church for almost three years now, yet somehow she doesn't seem to be losing any of her light.

This past summer, I was concerned that Connie wasn’t getting enough sunshine, cooped up inside as she is most days.  So I set up a lounge chair on the front porch so she could spend a half hour a day soaking up some vitamin D.  One by one, several neighbor women wandered over to chat with her until there was a group of half a dozen ladies surrounding her and acting like being with her was some big happy reunion. It's like that every time.  People are drawn to Connie.  They miss her when they don't see her, and they can't stay away from her when she draws near. 

By the way, one of our neighbors is an inactive LDS, yet she does not appear to feel the least bit guilty or uncomfortable around Connie.  Go figure that one out.


In The End, Only Kindness Matters

I can name you several prominent Latter-day Saints who were early influences on me growing up, all of whom you would consider examples of men who really lived the gospel.  Ask yourself if you think any of these men would be thought of as making other Mormons feel guilty or uncomfortable in their presence:

Hugh Nibley.
W. Cleon Skousen.
Truman Madsen
Steven Covey
David O. McKay.

If you were to distill every character trait these men are known for -their intellect, their humor, their patience and love toward their fellow beings- into one word, the word I would use that would best describe each of them would be “kindness.”  Not guilt.  Not discomfort.  Just simple kindness.

In the case of President McKay, one particular act of kindness on his part may have backfired on the church and affected things for the worse for decades after. In fact, I believe that this one simple act of charity ultimately led to a climate in the church which enabled some members like my anonymous reader to confuse living the gospel with clinging to a rigid orthodoxy.


Who's In Charge Here?

One day in 1958, it was brought to President McKay’s attention that Bruce R. McConkie, a relatively new member of the First Council of the Seventy, had taken it upon himself to write and publish a book purporting to be the definitive word on all matters of LDS doctrine.  

The book bore the authoritative title Mormon Doctrine, and it’s unexpected appearance troubled President McKay a great deal, for since the time of Joseph Smith it had been the unique province of the president of the church to define the doctrine of the church.   McConkie had neither consulted President McKay on his intentions nor presented the manuscript to him or anyone else for approval.  The book’s arrival in Deseret bookstores had come as a complete surprise to the Prophet.

McConkie’s effusive preface to his own book boasted that it was “the first major attempt to digest, explain, and analyze all of the important doctrines of the kingdom” and that “never before has a comprehensive attempt been made to define and outline...all of the basic principles of salvation...”

There was just one problem with McConkie’s new book.  Actually there were a lot of problems with the book.  President McKay had asked apostles Mark E. Peterson and Marion G. Romney to examine it for possible errors and report back.  Ten months later Peterson returned with a list of one thousand and sixty-seven outright errors and entries where it was felt McConkie presented doctrine that was either false, misleading, or just plain iffy.   

President McKay called Bruce McConkie into his office and gave him a rare dressing down.  In addition to McConkie’s violation of church policy and scripture as established by the Lord in D&C 28:2,  McConkie had placed the prophet and the church in an extremely awkward situation.  Because the error-filled book was becoming a popular reference among the general membership of the church, McKay felt the church should issue a formal repudiation and distance the church from the book and it’s author.  On the other hand, he did not wish to embarrass Elder McConkie, and was concerned that a public repudiation might lessen McConkie’s influence as a General Authority.

The church would be better off today if the prophet had followed his first instincts.

Ultimately, President McKay extended to McConkie an undeserved kindness.  It was decided to let the matter lie, as long as Elder McConkie promised not to re-publish the book, even in corrected form.  McConkie promised the prophet that he would not republish it.

It was a promise he did not keep.

I bought my copy of Mormon Doctrine in 1971, printed a year after President McKay’s death.  Of course I was unaware of the private controversy surrounding it.  The book became a runaway bestseller in the church and it’s declarations were considered by one and all to be the definitive word on all questions of LDS doctrine. I carried my copy to church with me every Sunday, whipping it out during priesthood meeting to prove my position the way an Irishman pulls out The Guiness Book of World Records to settle a bar bet. 


Changing Of The Guard

The reason all this matters is that David O. McKay and Bruce R. McConkie had immiscible views regarding the complexities of Mormon thought and how the church should be governed.  Like Joseph Smith, President McKay did not view Mormonism as rigidly dogmatic, so an attempt to compartmentalize LDS teachings into a granite-hard set of "doctrines" seemed needlessly divisive and might even be detrimental.  McKay held that Mormonism is a broad tent with room beneath it for a wide spectrum of beliefs.  All individuals are entitled to travel their own perfect path in life.  To President McKay, the doctrine of free agency was of paramount importance over just about every other teaching.

Elder McConkie,on the other hand, was more like a strict Calvinist whose philosophy could best be expressed in the phrase, “My way, or the highway.”  In McConkie's view, Mormonism required it's adherents to jump through an endless set of hoops laid out in a careful and orderly sequence.  McConkie expected church members to toe the line, a line that was drawn in the sand by men in authority such as himself.  Ordinary members were inferior in rank to the General Authorities who the Lord had placed over them to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Two years after the death of President McKay, Elder McConkie was ordained an apostle, and due largely to his reputation as the author of what many assumed was the Official Church Reference Book, he soon became the de facto expert on all questions relating to scripture and doctrine. His interpretations are the ones you see on the chapter headings in all our Standard Works.  He authored two influential series of books, the three volume Doctrinal New Testament Commentary and a six volume series entitled  The Messiah.

David Buerger has written that the sources that are most frequently cited by McConkie as authority for his interpretational positions are other works authored by McConkie himself.  McConkie justified this unprecedented hubris by explaining, "I would never quote another man unless I could first square what he said with the scriptures and unless he said what was involved better than I could."

Over time, drastic changes to church government and policy were instituted, some even inimical to traditional practices.  Where Joseph Smith had taught that the members were expected to govern themselves through the gift of the Holy Ghost, they were now being taught to depend upon the church hierarchy for continual guidance and instruction.  A top-down program known as "correlation" was introduced church-wide to ensure uniformity of teaching and conformity of thought.  Since the earliest days of the church, one of the primary pieces of business at General Conference was the annual accounting of how and where the tithing monies had been spent.  Suddenly it was decided that those contributing the money need not be privy to that information. Where President McKay had emphasized free agency and tolerance as fundamental to the Mormon faith, the 1970's and '80's introduced a more rigid orthodoxy. Obedience to authority was fast becoming the first principle of the gospel.

Of course, the church was still full of members who continued living the gospel as they had traditionally been taught, by drawing on and emulating Christ; but more and more old timers found themselves looking back wistfully to the more libertarian administration of David O. McKay.  Those creating policy may have been trying to tighten control at the top, but the general membership was not always quick to come on board.  Most never noticed the sometimes subtle changes in policy and direction.  To the average member, "the church" was still the Body of Christ, that aggregate of everyday Saints that made up the total membership.  They hadn't gotten the memo that they now belonged to "The Church," a monolithic institution owned and run by a legal corporation duly registered with the state.  So they plodded on, continuing to teach and live the gospel as they always had.

One of these gentle souls was a teacher in the BYU Religion department by the name of Eugene England.  Brother England was a brilliant Mormon scholar with a pleasant disposition and an unparalleled ability to distill and convey many of the more complex principles of the restoration.  He was arguably the most popular teacher ever to come out of the Church Education System, beloved not only by the students and faculty, but also by all who came in contact with him.  England was said to personify the light of Christ; he radiated love and good will.  A common description of him was that here was a man who was truly Christ-like.

It was probably inevitable that he and Bruce McConkie would eventually bump heads.

In 1966, recognizing a need for an independent forum for the free-flow of ideas central to Mormon thought, Eugene England and another Mormon scholar founded an academic quarterly publication they named Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought.  It was to be a forum where interested members of the church could discuss Mormon culture, history, theology, literature, science, you name it.  President McKay  recognized the usefulness of such unfettered dialogue within the church, for official Church publications weren't always appropriate channels for open dialogue between members.

However, things were beginning to change by the 1980's.

In most corporate cultures there are the managers at the top who hand down decrees, and those below who gather around the water cooler to discuss those fiats.  As the LDS church hierarchy appeared to be acting more inclusive and detached from the general membership, letters and articles began to appear in Dialogue asking what the heck was going on upstairs.  Dialogue was becoming the Mormon print version of the water cooler.

In some organizations, the High Mucky-Mucks don't like seeing the Mundanes gathered around the water cooler if they can't control the discussion.  They prefer to break it up and get everyone get back to work.  By the 1980's, rumbling sounds were coming from some Church administrators in opposition to "unauthorized" publications such as Dialogue and its sister Magazine, Sunstone.

Some letter writers to dialogue were showing signs of actual disaffection with the Church, but Eugene England reminded his readers that the leadership of the church were only humans with human shortcomings like the rest of us.  We should love them and pray for them.  And he encouraged all to stay within the church where they were needed and they belonged.

Aesop tells a fable about the Sun and the Wind arguing between themselves over which of them was the more powerful. They looked down and saw a man walking down the road below.  The Wind challenged the Sun to see which one of them could get the man's coat off.  The Wind went first, blowing great powerful gusts in repeated efforts to blow the coat clean off of the man.  But it wasn't working.  The more the wind blew, the tighter the man wrapped the coat around himself.  Eventually the wind gave up, exhausted and out of breath.

Then it was the Sun's turn.  Slowly at first, the Sun directed its radiant warmth toward the man, increasing the heat little by little until eventually the man removed his coat of his own volition.  Aesop's moral: Kindness effects more than severity.

It could be said that in some people's eyes, Eugene England demonstrated the characteristics of gentle persuasion while Bruce McConkie has been described as an arrogant blowhard.  Some have surmised that McConkie was jealous of the veneration England so effortlessly garnered from BYU students and faculty, a popular acceptance that seemed always beyond McConkie's reach.  McConkie received the respect due him because of his rank and office, but I never heard anyone describe him as likable.  Usually you hear quite the opposite.

Whatever the deal was, McConkie took the opportunity to chastise Eugene England in a ten page letter rebuking England for espousing a relatively innocuous point of doctrine that had been taught by Brigham Young but which McConkie disagreed with.  "It is my province," he wrote, "to teach to the Church what the doctrine is. It is your province to echo what I say or to remain silent."

Of course, McConkie had been charged with no such commission, other than that which he had bestowed upon himself in his own mind.  He had, in fact, once been called on the carpet by a prophet of God for displaying this very type of hubris.

Eugene England did not respond in kind, preferring in his usual way to quietly let things be. But McConkie had sent copies of his letter to a handful of other people.  Those copies found their way around the so-called "Mormon Underground" much to McConkie's embarrassment, as the letter showed him not only to be a petty tyrant, but also that he personally believed that God allows the Mormon Prophets to teach false doctrine from time to time.  

When Eugene England died in 2001, the outpouring of love for this tender soul was unlike anything I had seen since the passing of David O. McKay when I was eighteen.  Dialogue published an entire issue filled with nothing but tributes to him; so did Sunstone.  Many eulogized him for his pure love and unwavering acceptance of all who knew him.  Countless stories were told of people who would have left the church had it not been for the welcome influence of this Christ-like spiritual giant.

When Bruce McConkie passed away after a year of painful pancreatic cancer, a tribute was published in the Ensign magazine.  No mention was made of the number of people his prickly abrasiveness had driven from the church, but sadly there were many.  Judging by his final testimony given two weeks before his death, he finally seemed to have developed the personal relationship with Christ that he had long declared anathema for others.  The agonizing method of his passing was a sad and needless end for a man whose atribilious personality had kept most of his fellow Saints always at arms-length from him.

As for Mormon Doctrine, Deseret Book has recently announced that it will no longer publish or carry the book, but the reasons remain shrouded in rumor and speculation.  Deseret Book claims low sales, but used book dealers report still selling them as fast as they can get them.


In their fascinating biography of David O. McKay, Gregory Prince and and William Wright conclude that Mormon Doctrine "became one of the all-time bestsellers in Mormondom, achieving the near-canonical status that McKay fought unsuccessfully to avoid, and setting a tone of doctrinal fundamentalism antithetical to McKay's personal philosophy that remains a legacy of the church to this day."

Follower Of Christ, Or Fan Of The Pharisees?

I admit to feeling legitimately concerned for the anonymous reader who left those odd comments on my blog last month.  I'm bothered that she has confused loyalty to the institution with love of the gospel.  She readily excuses the failures of the institution by deciding that well, we don't really care about those people who don't care about us.  To her, those other people "mattereth not."

But I'm even more concerned about her assumption that members who live righteously should expect to be ostracized by their fellow Saints.  If her own experiences have taught her that it is natural and expected to be avoided, to be disliked, and to be persecuted for her piety, I would hope that she would allow herself a bit of circumspection.  If she is experiencing such reactions from fellow believers, it is not because she is living the gospel.  It's because she is becoming a Pharisee.

_

71 comments:

Dave P. said...

You had really good timing in posting this one because last week at sacrament meeting was one of those becoming-more-common times where I find myself unable to say "Amen" after any of the talks. While I don't remember much of the first and the final talks (they were the usual reading of a recent Conference talk as my ward is wont to do lately), the second one had a very wonderful message about the Savior and His example, then she decided to turn the topic towards prophet worship. While I don't remember the exact quote, she said something along the lines of, "It is the prophet's job to speak for the Lord, it is our job to listen and do what he says." I whispered to my friend, "So she's teaching the doctrine of 'Sit down and shut up.'"

Of course that reminded me of the previous time you mentioned McConkie's statement to Brother England and this essay brought it back to mind. It's really sad that I had Joseph McConkie, Bruce's son, at BYU and he is a very knowledgeable and spiritual man, but he adamantly defends every single thing done and said by his dad even if it contradicts his own ideas. Fortunately I got a teacher in the next year who was more than happy to disagree with McConkie's teachings.

Your statement on the Word of Wisdom in the essay prompted the idea of an essay regarding incorrect/unauthorized changes to the LDS scriptures over various editions since their initial printings. While JosephDefender covers many relating to plural marriage on his blog, there's one in Section 89 that's been there since the 1959 edition.

Verse 12 talks about the use of meats sparingly by saying "Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;"

So we shouldn't abstain from meat completely, but we shouldn't make it 100% of our diet either. Then there's verse 13 as it currently reads, "And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine."

Plenty of people try to use that a justification that we shouldn't eat meat at all, which seemingly contradicts the Lord's statement about meat in Section 49:17-21. However, remove that comma after "used" that was NOT there before 1959 and read, "And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine." This reading keeps it consistent with the eating meat sparingly but not only as a last resort idea while not contradicting a previous statement by the Lord.

I learned about this error from that same teacher who would disagree with Bruce McConkie but the reason he gave that the church hasn't corrected that in recent years is really silly, if not completely ridiculous: "Antis would jump on the chance to criticize the church over making 'changes' to the scriptures." If you hear a loud thud, that is my head hitting the desk.

Someone who is watching said...

That was a great post!

It might be your best so far.

I have read several takes on the McConkie- England-McKay fiasco over the years and even blogged about it myself once , but you went into more depth on the personality dynamics of the people which made it a fun and instructional read.

I have a similar take on many of those issues as you do, which makes me worry about you a little bit.

I once attended a Zone Meeting as a missionary in the Bible Belt and while McConkie was visiting and speaking about how much more important living prophets are than dead prophets an elder on the back row fell asleep and began snoring.

McConkie was so incensed that someone would sleep through his discourse that he threw the chalk eraser from the black board over about 16 rows of missionaries and hit the guy in the head.

The guy was quite startled, then embarrassed, then angry, then he went back to sleep.

As the little puff of chalk dust ascended I was astonished at the accuracy with which Brother McConkie threw that thing.

Witnessing that extraordinary athletic accomplishment may be one of the more profound events i had as far as my testimony of the supernatural abilities of latter day contemporary prophets and apostles is concerned.

Regarding the gal that you quoted, I would be curious to know if she is in a Utah ward or a mission field ward.

I believe there is a huge difference between many of the Utah wards and many of the mission field wards.

If she is a Utah member, she could be in a little different religious culture than you and looking through a much different lens than you.

If that is the case, she may have more in common with you than you might think.

Who knows, perhaps your liberal and loving approach to the gospel, like England's might make "some [Utah] Mormons feel a little uncomfortable & cause them to feel guilty.”

After all, she reads your blog, you need to give her credit for that! LOL

The rigidity and dogmatism that she and many of us sometimes display is something we come by honestly… from certain high profile leaders that shall remain unmentioned.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Dave, you make some excellent points regarding meat.

I lasted a year and a half as a vegan until someone invited us to Outback Steakhouse, and I've never pulled it back together. My health was vastly improved during that time, but I no longer believe that a lifetime of veganism is particularly appropriate, nor even scriptural, as you so well pointed out.

I do think we should all go a couple of months of abstention every now and then to give the body a rest and get the pipes cleaned out.

I am not currently practicing my own counsel, however. I'm creeping back up to my old "Monson Weight," again, and that ain't good.

Watcher,

I do believe I've read about the McConkie chalk-throwing incident you were privileged to be in attendance at. I think it is immortalized on the web somewhere in one of the many online collections of stories about people's run-ins with Bruce R.

On the other hand, that incident could have been very common on the McConkie Talk Circuit and happened countless times. Perhaps it was a regular thing for missionaries to fall asleep listening to McConkie, and for McConkie to angrily throw stuff at them.

The part about the missionary going right back to sleep rings true. That voice could cure insomnia. Good thing for me growing up that McConkie couldn't see me through the TV.

TruthSeeker said...

This is, as always brilliant and gives me much to ponder.

Growing up in Utah, I would say- sadly Dave P., that I found that the commenter Rock speaks of, to be much more prevalent there, than out "here". (These sad "pious" souls exist everywhere, I am sorry to say.)

If we all could just follow Christ's great commandment and love one another, warts and all, what a wonderful church this truly could be. Maybe I am being simple minded here, but this blog entry literally does show the way for everyone to be equal. For I truly believe that we are ALL equal in God's eyes. From the chorister to the Bishop and all the way to the top.

It seems the bigger this church becomes- the more convoluted and lost this simple commandment becomes. No one. NO ONE is greater in God's eyes than anyone else. This is a false teaching. By believing that we are "broken" and that we can't ever measure up to Brother or Sister so and so, we set this terrible belief- that we will never be good enough, in motion.

For the commenter to even say such a thing about themselves being judged so harshly- gives me pause. The only people whom I have known that feel this way about their fellow ward members, have always been very Pharisaical in the way they run their lives. I feel sorry for you, my Sister or Brother. You are loved. I believe deeply in free agency. You have the right to follow all of the "rules"- but if you are shutting others out of your life, because you make them uncomfortable for being so unbendable...I suggest you take a good hard look at how you run your life.

I do not like to write judgmental things, but perhaps you need to hear this? May you be blessed to know that you are love-able!

Tom said...

In one way the original comment that precipitated this discussion is right, though we likely yearn for the opposite. The truth of the matter is that the gospel is divisive. Living the gospel can – and I’d argue should – bring persecution at this stage of the game.
Christ’s teachings attracted, at a minimum, two separate groups. There was the group that saw the light and love of what He taught, and there was the group who saw how much He challenged the status quo. The former group came each time to hear the truth of what He taught, the former came to find fault with Him.

The “wicked and adulterous” generation he so often referred to were the very people who were (a) reliant on the status quo, (b) “lifted” up within the community and (c) those who persecuted others for their way of living the gospel (at least in my opinion).

I think the commenter is correct in that those living the “true” gospel will indeed meet persecution from those living the “false” gospel. The problem is, those living the “false” Pharisee gospel don’t usually see that they’re living the false gospel. As such, they persecute anyone and everyone who doesn’t measure up to their standards. Whether it’s making people feel bad (and unwanted) for wearing anything other than a white shirt and tie, or criticizing those who have long hair and a beard, or the “apostates” who don’t buy or support the “sit down and shut up” doctrine Dave referred to. And, yet, those Pharisees see themselves living the gospel. They see themselves persecuted by anyone who views the world differently than they do. All the "light" in the world won't prevent others from viewing some as either apostates or worthy of their undivided attention.

In my ward, there’s a guy who is usually quick to respond when I say something. One of the last times I said something in EQ was in response to Woodruff’s comment that he could never lead the church astray. I, the apostate in this discussion, was quickly repudiated for “doubting” the prophets, for not having enough “faith” in those called of God. Now, this fellow is quick to assume his own “mantle” whenever I say something. And, yet, both of us “think” we’re being true to the gospel.

This, I feel, is the same situation the original comment is in. S/he feels that their version of the gospel is true, while anything that contradicts that version is “persecution” that refines his/her soul. Same with the guy in my EQ – he sees my comments as either persecution or as someone that needs to be trammeled for believing something contrary to what comes out of correlation.

As for Bruce, what he did to George Pace was equally egregious – calling him out in front of thousands of people at a Marriott devotional. It certainly complicated his family’s life, as his father was released from his Stake President position within days of the devotional and now everyone saw the Pace’s as “that” family with the dad who got called to the carpet by Authority Bruce. In that talk, Bruce stated that anyone disagreeing with what he said in that sermon (1) won’t “inherit eternal life,” (2) is rejecting the expounded “doctrine of the Church,” (3) does not “understand the scriptures,” (4) is not “in tune with the Holy Spirit,” (5) is spiritually unsound, (6) does not have “the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” (7) does not have a “sound understanding of the doctrines,” (8) have rejected the “mainstream of the church,” and (9) needs to “repent and believe the accepted verities as [Bruce R. McConkie] set them forth.”

And, even with that said, Bruce is one of the most quoted “authorities” in church. Dogmatism, I find, is still alive and well, and that’s not including the Bruceites, but it does include the Brethrenites.

Heather said...

Yet again, you post is brilliant and I wish I had something of value to add. All I can say is that I love your blog -- and I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Also, your comment on my blog last month made me laugh out loud. You are a witty one. :-)

Dave P. said...

I just read the article you linked and a few other pages on the salamandersociety.com page I just had to shake my head at the fact that the most hateful comments on the page about peoples' experiences with Bruce R. McConkie came from people who also took great PRIDE in calling themselves Mormons.

My opinion on the site as a whole is currently mixed since there are some good points, some humor, but also some (in my opinion) tasteless and pointless things as well.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Yes Dave, I'd say the Salamander Society seems to attract a lot of juveniles. Not a lot of real wit or substance on that site. Lots of "language of decrease" there and very little light, sad to say.

Tom, I had completely forgotten the George Pace incident. Very sad public humiliation of a very light-filled educator. The tragedy, as you point out, was that as a G.A., McConkie was considered to be in the right. He was not, but as his final memorable testimony seemed to indicate, it looks like he finally found that personal relationship with Jesus in the end. Would have been nice if he had acknowledged that Pace had been right, though.

Heather, thank you. Kind words.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Truthseeker, quoting you:

"If we all could just follow Christ's great commandment and love one another warts and all, what a wonderful church this truly could be...It seems the bigger this church becomes- the more convoluted and lost this simple commandment becomes."

You just stated in two short sentences what it took me pages and pages to say.

Frederick said...

Rock,
Fantastic article. It certainly has me contemplating. I also realize how little I know about anything. I didn't know that about Elder McConkie. I wasn't aware of anything about a controversial history surrounding its publication. However, I now know why I hear people criticize me for quoting dead prophets, instead of the current living prophet. Interesting..... I am and always have been a huge fan of David O. McKay. I've never heard anything but kind words spoken about him, and I am a HUGE fan of his passion for defending free agency. However, as I find myself contemplating more over this subject.... I can't put my thoughts clearly into words just yet, I'll have to think it over more. However, my thoughts are going something like this, if the general membership didn't have Mormon Doctrine, they would have found one, or something to put in its place. Scriptures that constantly ring in my head lately are ones that command us to "awaken." I think of Ether 8:24, or 2 Nephi 1:13, Mosiah 4:5 etc... These scriptures, especially Ether 8 tell me that we are asleep. Last months article in the Ensign, entitled, "Finding Ourselves in Lehi's Dream," we are told that most of the membership of the church is not holding onto the rod, looking at the great and spacious building, but are inside of the building looking out. To me, that's the same exact thing as saying that we are asleep to our situation. As Elder Stone of the 70 stated a couple of years ago in conference, "people surround themselves in cocoons of self-satisfied, self-deception, fully convinced that the way they see things is the way things really are."

In any case, to me that explains why so few seem to really have the spirit of charity with them. It's no different than the Pharisees, they focused on the letter of the law.

Well, I'm not sure if my incoherent ramblings have made any sense at all. But I sure am grateful for your thoughts. I also would love to meet you and Connie both. I send you my best as always.

Take care!

Carey Foushee said...

@Dave P -- I'm a new reader here as well and think that perhaps you should include an example of what your referring to that is "tasteless" otherwise it just comes off a cheap pop shot. And based on what else you wrote and your overall tone I don't think that is how you meant to come off.

Dave P. said...

@Carey Foushee - Oh I was referring to the site that Rock linked to in the article, not Rock's blog itself. Let's just say that the site's attempts at humor are somewhat juvenile at best and some parts about it to me felt like they're just trying to incite something rather than address the problems that the church won't either. Or, in other words, reading through a good chunk of it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Dave P. said...

In fact one could say that the primary difference between places like this blog, Mormon Matters, Sunstone magazine, Defending Joseph etc. is that they ask the tough questions that lead people to think for themselves and come to their own conclusion.

Various "anti" sites that I've seen actually have the same attitude of the church in regards to "Sit down and shut up" since, like Tom's example, they don't want to listen to anything other than what's coming out of their own mouths or, in the case of the church, the "scripture" that we supposedly receive every time the president of the church opens his mouth.

Dave P. said...

Sorry about the triple post but I was reminded of a couple of recent entries at Mormon Matters that apply well to this essay.

A fine example of President McKay being himself: http://mormonmatters.org/2010/09/07/coke-rum-cake-and-president-mckay/

Reader examples of little "doctrines" that seem to have snuck into the church: http://mormonmatters.org/2010/09/16/even-beyond-idle-speculation-the-worst-things-youve-ever-heard-at-church/

Too Hard Headed to Give Up said...

Thanks for posting this.
I have spent my entire life trying to make everyone happy by giving, serving, and doing... everything I can think of. I actually got pretty durn good at it... only I was dying.

I have spent the last two years trying to figure out what I believe. I believe in loving people. I believe prayers are answered. And that's about all I know.

I like reading what you write, because its different. So, thank you.

Steve said...

Thanks, Rock, for the post and the comments which followed.

My one anecdote of Elder McConkie occurred before I arrived at the Brazil Central Mission in 1971. Apparently there were some problems there, and according to my companion, Elder McConkie surveyed a list of missionaries and just happened to choose the ones who could give him the true scoop. While, I, too, have been offended by his treatment of Bro. Pace, I suspect there was good in him, as I'm sure you already know.

Joseph was a big believer in friendship and thusly attracted many that his doctrine would not have appealed to. On the other hand, I do believe that those who do not love the truth will at least eventually not be comfortable around those that do. Thus those who are not accepted into the celestial kingdom will feel more comfortable around those who share common attitudes.

My ramblings for today.

Thanks, again.

Steve

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Frederick,

A book that I feel is more reliable than Mormon Doctrine is Rulon Burton's We Believe. You look up the topic in this huge volume and it's followed by pages of citations from the Standard works, and an abundance of quotes from the Latter-day Prophets. Much more thorough than McConkie, who quotes mainly himself and his father-in-law. We Believe comes with the entire book on CD, so you can search easier.

The only problem copies appear to be scarce. I just pulled it up on Amazon and new and used start at $192.00! Yowza! Of course, if you have a kindle you can get it for ten bucks. Might be worth finally buying a kindle for.

I have to think you can get it at a decent price from my old friend Richard Horsley at Pioneer Book in Provo. (801) 356-2931. Tell him I sent you. He'll probably be glad to hear I'm still alive.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Dave, I've been thoroughly enjoying the tales of "doctrines" repeated in church you linked to on Mormon Matters as well as the piece on Pres. McKay and the Word and Wisdom. That site is a treasure chest of fascinating posts. Only problem is they come in so fast I can't keep up.

Carey, it was sweet of you to come to my defense. Glad Dave was able to clear that up for you.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Too Hard Headed To Give Up,

Your response has made my day. One great cure that Connie highly recommends for that malady of confusion is Stephen Robinson's "Believing Christ". I linked to it on Amazon in my post above.

Steve,

I agree with what you say "those who do not love the truth will at least eventually not be comfortable around those that do." Persecution from the wicked will often follow the righteous. But we shouldn't expect such harsh reactions from our fellow believers.

feathertail said...

Hey, it's me again. >.>b Thanks for directing me to Postmormon. I sent in my resignation ... posts like this make me remember the good in the LDS church's membership. But I can't support them as long as they're opposing GLBT rights.

I just wanted to suggest that maybe that person's comment should be taken at face value. Some people would thank me for comments I made in Sunday School or Institute (and I made a lot of them), or for just trying to be a friend to them. But my personal beliefs got me in trouble with my family, teachers and bishop. I was hurt badly and scared to death. Just as an example, when I finally met another Mormon vegetarian we commiserated about all the people who'd told us it was against the Gospel to eat meat.

Jesus' worst enemies were the leadership of the church he belonged to. Towards the end I kept thinking of that. I didn't hate them; I just wished they would stop hurting me and other people.

Gaybob Spongebath said...

Hey, Rock,
Maybe the fact that your wife hasn't been to church in years is the very reason she still DOES radiate light.

That boring three hour block I suffer through every Sunday would suck the light out of Joseph Smith, David O. McKay, Little Mary Sunshine, and Mahatma Ghandi together.

Steve said...

Rock,

We should not expect harsh treatment from fellow believers. Sometimes we may believe different things, and that doesn't seem to be well tolerated in the Church.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Rock,
My dad revered Bruce R. McConkie so much that he named me Bruce R. Auggghhh! :)
Your wife sounds like a truly wonderful person. You're a lucky guy.
It's so refreshing to see folks boldly admitting that the mainstream church is a little out-of-order. It will be nice when the leadership honestly addresses the issue.
I guess the one issue that really chaps my patoot is this "live prophet trumps a dead prophet" nonsense. Who in the heck twisted the scriptures to say that?

Bruce in Montana

Emily A. W. said...

Thank you once again for a brilliant post with very insightful information. Your posts are far better than attending Sunday School. I love the hard work and research you put in to make a strong and thoughtful presentation of information. Keep up the good work!

Rock Waterman said...

Emily,

I clicked on your name above and checked out your blog. I love it (especially the part where you talk about me)!

Thanks for your kind words; you cheer me up.

Bruce,

Oh, man, too bad about the eponym.

But then, I understand where your dear old Dad was coming from. Bruce R was at one time a great hero of mine, too, until I learned he was a rogue GA focused mainly on his own self-aggrandizement.

My sons can only thank heaven that I learned the truth before they were born.

(This is just a barely related aside, but did you ever wonder why you never hear of anyone with the last name "Hitler"? All the New York Hitlers changed their names to "Hiller.")

Connie Waterman said...

Dear Emily and the rest of you, who appreciate my wonderful Husband's Blog. I want to personally thank all of you for your kind and encouraging comments to him!

Rock has always been brilliant in my mind-it is so great to see such appreciation for his work. I lose him for a couple of days, every time he writes his insightful and thoroughly researched entries here. Also, for about a week before, I can see the wheels turning behind his eyes. When I find I'm repeating myself and ask him if he heard what I just said, he says, "Sorry Honey, I was thinking about my blog". I let it go, because I love what I learn reading here and I really believe that he is performing an important work. I also learn a lot from all of your comments here.

I also would like to thank Rock for how he has honored me in this entry. I had no idea he was going to write such a tribute and I am deeply humbled and grateful to be married to my Rock.

calimom said...

As always - I enjoyed your post! Your lovely words about your wife really touched me.

Insana D said...

Rock, I read the whole thing. Yep, tip to toe. I have some serious qualms with your list of "Kind" men but agree that David O. Mckay was one of the dearest. If I had to be defended in any situation, I'd place you at the head of the castle to protect my honor. Even when you're protecting a corrupt and flawed organization you are sifting through the charred mess to find the little bits of salvagable debris to try to rebuild a worthwhile shelter from. You are a noble man. I still think you're wrong. I love that we can disagree and still deeply respect each other.

Harry C. said...

Even as a member, I never knew of this. You are probably correct in stating, the McKay / McConkie thing was the beginning of the end.

I learned a great deal from this post.

Thank you ..

Jonas said...

Too Hard Headed to Give Up

You bring up an issue that I have struggled with for a long time. Service is a wonderful and honorable practice, but one must do it for the right reason and one must serve one’s self before true service can be rendered to another.

There are two – and only two – commandments. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Most of us agree that we love God. My love for God may not look like someone else’s love for God, but overall, I think most of love God. Easy.

Most of us think we love our neighbor and as stated in the previous paragraph, we do it in our own way. The second half of the second great commandment is the problem. We usually forget or neglect to love ourselves. Instead we cover-up our lack of self love in the form of service, giving, etc. Don’t misunderstand – I am in no way discounting anyone who serves in any way or for any reason, but from what you posted, I get that self-love an issue with you and the possible absence of it may be the reason you feel lost. There is good news for those who have forgotten what it is to love themselves.

I am reminded of the 23rd Psalm where David says “My cup runneth over”. We are taught so adamantly that we must serve and sacrifice ourselves to the cause of service. I disagree. My cup cannot run over until it is first filled. Since it is my cup, the filling of it must be for my own sake. Does that sound selfish? I don’t think so. Once my cup is full (of self-love), then, and only then, can it can run over. That’s when I can take all the over-spill and give it to others with fullness of heart. Once I am satisfied, and my thirst is quenched, I now have all love in the world to give away and for all the right reasons. Now matter how much I give away, there is always more because I have sufficient for me to love me fully. My cup is full. But if my cup is only half full, then I am starving myself for the very thing I want to give to others. How can I give fully when I do not have fully? My cup must be filled to the brim before I am truly able to give to others.

. . . More to follow . . .

Jonas said...

Too Hard Headed to Give Up

I admire the place you are in. You have come to a cross road. Shout with the angels for joy! The very fact that you are lost could be very good news. Perhaps you have reached that magic point where you deserve a major shift and you are primed for it. This is no accident. The only question is, will you return to the old ways, unsatisfied or will you realize that this is only a cross road and that there is a whole lot more to learn and experience? In essence, you are at a point of waking up. This is by grand design my friend. “There are NO accidents”.

You believe that God answers prayers. Then pray about this cross road and ask if that’s what’s really happening. But then you must listen and (here comes the hard part) accept the answer no matter what it looks like. That means that even if it comes from a source not associated with church, or scripture or any other seemingly God-source, accept it.

I recently met a person who is involved in a very dysfunctional family. Many prayers have been pled I am sure for the healing of the family, but so far, there is no reprieve. This is a faithful member of the church and as we talked I mentioned a solution for the problems and a way to get through them and possibly pull the family back together. I don’t think they heard me. I hope I am mistaken. But here’s what I heard from this person – I am the fourth person (at least) to offer the same advice. Go to this place and sign up for “training”. Now here is a person crying mightily to God, and God is shouting the answer, but as so often happens, the unsettled soul is not hearing the answer because it doesn’t look the way they thought it would, or the way they want it to.

In my own life I have discovered that most answers come from another person and they usually don’t know they’re answering my prayer. Something they say just clicks for me and I suddenly realize that they have just given me what I asked for. So it might have been with this person of whom I spoke and so it might be for you.

I envy the place you are in. I stood at this cross-road myself as have many on this blog. Each of us has chosen the best road for us. Now it’s time to choose.

In his book, The Immortal by JJ Dewey, the author gives an outstanding analogy of being at the cross road. You can download the first of the series for free in any format you choose – PDF, MS WORD or even Audio. It’s free. Here is the link: http://www.freeread.com/

In Gratitude, Jonas

The Faithful Dissident said...

I have nothing intelligent to add, but I just wanted to commend you on a brilliant post. I love your blog and your sense of humour always gets me smiling. :)

The Faithful Dissident said...

PS: I've decided to feature your blog on mine. Hope you don't mind. ;)

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Faithful Dissident,

I'm honored and flattered by what you wrote on your blog about me. Thank you ever so much.

Seeing that photo of me blown up so large is a bit disconcerting, though. Do you think it makes me look fat?

(Would that I could replace it with a better one, but any picture taken now would only be worse.)

A very nice write-up; thanks again for the kind words.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Jonas,

Excellent and loving counsel for our friend at the crossroads. I just ordered a book by David Icke based on the title alone: "Infinite Love Is The Only Truth: All Else Is Illusion."

Of course I second your endorsement of J.J. Dewey's free book, as you already know. Someday I think I'll feature a post on it.

Dave P. said...

Jonas,

I'm also reminded of the Savior's words to first "cleanse the inner vessel." While of course this doesn't automatically mean that one doesn't have to be perfect before providing service, we should at least be able to offer something other than dirty water.

Good to be Free said...

At the risk of heaping too much praise on you for this post, I have to say that I was truly blown away. I have already shared this several times today and intend to keep on sharing.

Thank you for enlightening my mind today.

Anonymous said...

David Icke is right, 'infinite love' is the only truth, all else is illusion.

Or in other words, Unconditional True Everlasting Love 'IS' the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was the new mindblowing inconceiveable idea that Christ introduced to the world, & was even hard for his apostles to accept & still today, very few really believe in it & are willing to give it, even though everyone wants to receive it from others. All other doctrine stems from that one concept & virtue.

For no matter what other virtues we may have, without this Christlike love, we are nothing. But if we possess it, it will exalt us.

Alan, do you realize that you proved my point with your post? I'm sorry reality is what it is, I wish it weren't true either.

I still enjoy reading your material. I'm sure you would agree with me more than you think, if I could express myself better. I'm sure it's my fault for the misunderstanding.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Good To Be Free,

Thank you, and welcome aboard. Your own blog looks to be very interesting. Thanks for sharing the word here.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Anonymous,

Hello! I'm assuming you are the anonymous commenter who was the unwitting star of this piece. I'm very happy to have you weigh in here.

Still not clear on how or whether I misunderstood your position, though. If you meant to convey that those living righteously can expect persecution from outsiders, yes, I agree. But what I was getting from you was a conclusion that our fellow members would persecute us, and that I'm not seeing.

Unless you're referring to McConkie types. They never feel the rest of us are up to standard. Is that what you meant? If so, mea culpa, and I stand corrected.

Cap'n Moroni said...

Anonymous, what did you mean when you say that Rock has proven your point? I'm trying to understand.

Jonas said...

Rock, I came across this last night in a new book I am reading.

“The incipient [seeker] will confess his faith to a universal religion. He will find out that every religion has its good points as well as bad ones. He will therefore keep the best of it for himself and ignore the weak points, which does not necessarily mean that he must profess a religion, but he shall express awe to each form of worship, for each religion has its proper principle of God, whether the point in question be Christianity, Buddhism, Islam or any other kind of religion”

"Fundamentally he may be faithful to his own religion. But he will not be satisfied with the official doctrines of his church, and will try to penetrate deeper into God’s workshop.”

“Each religious truth is relative and the comprehension of it depends on the maturity of the person concerned. Therefore the adept does not interfere with anybody in this respect, nor will he try to sidetrack anyone from his truth, criticize him, to say nothing of condemning him. At the bottom of his heart he may feel sorry for the fanatics or atheists without showing it outwardly. Let everybody hold on to what he believes and makes him happy and content.”

It reminded me again of what was written by Too Hard Headed to Give Up and once again validates what I have been thinking for a long time – that there is no one true religion, but that it is all within us and all part of a grand scheme.

This explains why we come to a crossroad. We have reached a level of spiritual maturity and begin to ask questions. The problem arises that as we begin to ask, knowing inside that we are not satisfied, we also feel guilt and shame because we have been so ingrained that there is only one way. At this crossroad all this comes up and we must make a decision as to which way we will go. Will we settle back in where we were, comfortable but miserable, or will we break out of the box and know that it is divine and wholesome? Do you think David O McKay knew of this and held to a more open society within the church?

I have to wonder what Joseph really knew, especially in light of the 11th article of faith. “We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” Did you know that is the only article that does not begin with “We believe . . .”?

There are higher fundamental truths that transcend any and all dogmatic religious teachings. These are the pure teachings of God. These come to us individually from the divine source as we are ready to receive them. These truths will take us beyond dogma and into the higher realms of spiritual growth. Due to the nature of man, we cannot trust that which is of man because man will absolutely (even with the best intention) screw it up. And THAT is why we have churches.

God, it feels good to be free!

Espavo!

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Jonas,

Good stuff. What's the name of the book?

It's clear from the speeches and writings of Joseph Smith that he saw "Mormonism" (however one cares to define it), as merely a jumping off point to greater truth, greater light, and greater knowledge. I don't believe we were meant to isolate our beliefs to contain only those parochial teachings handed down through official channels.

Knowledge is power, alright. More knowledge begets more power.

calimom said...

Beautifully written, Jonas. Agree 100%(I think I may have guessed the book you are reading so I can't wait 'til you tell us to see if I'm correct :)

Jonas said...

calimom
Sorry I hadn't planned on referring to the book, but since you ask . . .
Initiation Into Hermetics by Franz Bardon

Since my post I have also read The Shack by Wm. Paul Young
I found it expresses my attitudes, beliefs, knowledge and feelings about God in an exceptional way. One of the best books I think I've ever read; not for it's fictional (???) story, but for the way it portrays God, religion, spirituality, Jesus, Holy Spirit and concepts of higher truth and enlightenment. If you read it, bring tissues.

calimom said...

That is NOT the book I had in mind :) Wasn't even close - hahaha! I looked it up - sounds interesting. Esoteric material is still a little beyond my understanding, but I have learned a lot by reading some. It has been helpful for me to read it written by those with an LDS background so I recognize the terminlogy. I'm sure the ideas are about the same, but I don't always get the words/definitions some use.

weeder said...

I find it very interesting that the church is so SO insistent in how their missionaries look and then are willing to spend a whole lot of PR $$$ to put the image (the very ad you chose to put in your blog) that shows a 30-something man wearing thong underwear -- no mind you, I've heard the apologist's arguments as to why that isn't a thong that Mormon is wearing -- but seriously do try to tell me the PR group didn't intentionally leave in those slight peaks after untold review of their "message" to the world ... I'm surprised I'm the first to comment on it here.

Emily A. W. said...

The New International version of the Bible - Matthew 6.

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

Tom said...

Jonas:

I listened to the Shack and actually didn't like it near as much as I liked some of the books written by one of the contributers to that book. Though, to be fair, the Shack was very, very good.

Go here: He Loves Me! and So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore were fantastic reads, especially the latter one.

http://www.jakecolsen.com/

Guy Noir, Private Eye said...

these ALL underscore one Truth:

Living LDS is befuddled by too many detours & details!
ARW speaks of 'Pure Mormonism'...

How About... "Pure Christianity"?


just sayin'

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Guy Noir,
Well, of course, Pure Mormonism IS pure Christianity, with the addition of many lost fundamental truths. Sadly, the modern Corporate LDS Church appear to have itself forgotten those lost fundamentals.

LDS Scriptures for the Modern Man said...

@Alan: I wouldn't say that the modern LDS Church has lost those fundamentals. In fact, nowadays, I would say they've made more of a return to them rather than leaping away from such. I'm not Mormon myself, but living in a Mormon culture has exposed me to such and I can say this from an honest outlook.

whitehusky said...

I once forked up the money for satellite TV just to get the BYU station. Imagine my surprise when the devotional speakers were introduced by a long list of supposed accomplishments, exactly as is done in the world. It really put me off that the church would act that way, a way could be called corporate.

It seems to me that many Mormons want the gospel to be corporate as well.

Online I have come into conflict with the zombie thinkers who claim to be Mormon but who will not recognize that we worship Jesus Christ. They say that LDS doctrine says we do not even pray to the Lord Jesus Christ. When I urged them to seek the guidance of the Spirit and listen to the Lord on whether he was, indeed, Jesus Christ, and the head of the church, even the Most High God, they quoted McConkie saying things about how having a personal relationship with Christ was not according to the approved pattern. (Yikes!) When I pointed out that in the scriptures we are commanded to pray to the Lord without ceasing, they told me it's really Heavenly Father who is the Lord. (Double yikes!)

These supposed Mormons claimed I was not a Mormon because I was quoting scripture that proved them wrong:

"Yea, we have reason to praise him forever, for he is the Most High God, and has loosed our brethren from the chains of hell ... Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever..." (Alma 26:14,16)

When confronted with such scriptures, these zombie Mormons said that modern-day revelation trumps scripture.

No it doesn't. Modern-day revelation agrees with scripture. It doesn't go against it at all. Anyone who thinks the Lord will contradict his own word had got some heavy-duty repenting to do.

And Mormons who say that Jesus Christ is not God Almighty don't even know their own God.

doyle_megan said...

I've pretty much had it with the Mormons who fall back on what they call "Mormon" doctrine while going directly against the scriptures. I'm sorry. Since when did they speak for Mormon, anyway? Mormon knew perfectly well that Jesus is the Lord God of Israel, not some silly spirit child who had to "progress" into Godhood. No wonder other Christians think Mormons are following after some strange gospel. They are.

whitehusky said...

I'm not very popular on blogs usually because I say that Jesus Christ is the Almighty God. You'd be surprised at how many Mormons throw fits in objection to this. They want Heavenly Father to be the Almighty God. They want Heavenly Father to be the only Father. They want Heavenly Father to be the Lord.

Basically, they just want to be too lazy to know the Lord God Jesus Christ for themselves, that he is our Eternal Father and God. [Mosiah 16:15]

You could even say that they are worshiping a false God, since Heavenly Father is not our Redeemer, nor does he place himself in Christ's stead as our God. It's false tradition that does that.

It's not just embarrassing, but also blasphemous, to hear a Mormon say that Christ is not our Lord and that another member of the Godhead holds that position.

Steve said...

Husky,

What you wrote prompted me to search for "eternal father" on lds.org. The 1st hits in the Book of Mormon follow. They would make a good meditation session. Or more than 1.

Sometimes we think we understand things only to discover that we need some more learning.


Steve

---


Alma 11
38 Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father?
39 And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last;

===

Mosiah 16
15 Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.

===

Mosiah 15
2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—
3 The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—
4 And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.

===

1 Nephi 11
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

===

Moroni 4
3 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

===

Moroni 5

2 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee, in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

Dave P. said...

Steve,

In 1837 the words "the Son of" were inserted into every reference of "the Eternal Father" during Nephi's vision. The original BoM also prophesied that plain and precious truths would be removed from both the Bible and BoM. The identity of God is the plan and precious truth that was removed.

whitehusky said...

Steve and Dave, the Lord himself is the Eternal Father. The Lamb of God is our Everlasting God. That's what the scriptures say. Jesus Christ is Lord, and Israel has but one Lord.

But if you go away from the scriptures and shut out the testimony of the Holy Spirit, you will be led down the paths of blasphemy that relegate Jesus Christ to some kind of creation, rather than Almighty Creator.

I'm just disgusted with Mormons who don't understand that Jesus Christ is Jehovah. Oh, they'll parrot out things about his being Jehovah, but then they have NO idea that this makes him the Father of Israel and the Most High God. They insist we do not worship Christ alone, but that we're worshiping all members of the Godhead.

No, we worship Christ the Lord. Sure, we respect and honor members of the Godhead. But Christ alone is the God of our Salvation. He's the Great I AM. He's the God we pray to and worship.

If not, we might as well just go out and join the JWs who deny Christ is God.

Steve said...

whitehusky,

As you can note above the Book of Mormon identified Heavenly Father, Jesus and Heavenly Father/Jesus as the eternal Father.

D&C Section 110 might make one think that Jesus is Jehovah, but the preceding section has Joseph praying to the "owner" of the Kirtland Temple and addressing Him as Jehovah 4 times.

The New Testament and Psalms 110 tell us that Christ will sit on the right hand of Jehovah.

The temple endowment has a Jehovah character and I have heard explained that He is Jesus, the Savior of Adam and the Father of Adam.

Perhaps the best explanation I've heard is that the Father has placed His name on the Son. Thus it is entirely appropriate to address both of them as Jehovah.

One of many questions I'd like to ask Father.


Steve

whitehusky said...

Steve, we have only one Lord, and that is the God of Israel, Jesus Christ, our just God and Savior. Jehovah is our Redeemer. He is Jesus Christ, mighty to save. Please review Isaiah if you are in any doubt as to this.

However, the term "Father" generally can apply to any male member of the Godhead, which includes Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit.

I must point out here and emphasize that the term "Father" in scripture most often refers to Christ specifically. It can in a few places be interpreted as a general reference to "The Father," or the male members of the Godhead, but in nearly every case it is more appropriately a reference to the God of Israel: Jesus Christ.

Again, Jesus Christ is Jehovah. He is the Most High God. He is the God of our salvation. The other members of the Godhead assist him, but they are not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Lord our God is one Lord and his name is Jesus Christ.

P.S. Why don't you ask Jesus if he is the Father? Guess what? He is. He is the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace, the Mighty One of Jacob.

Ryan said...

It's getting late and I'm sorry for not taking the full deserved attention this entry deserves. Some key points of the calling of Elder McConkie to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This is a calling that has to be supported by the other members of the Quorum and First Presidency if I'm not mistaken.

With that being said at the time of Elder McConkie's calling to the Twelve Marion is in the first Presidency and Mark a senior member of the Twelve. If either of them disliked or believed that what Bruce did was wrong they would have said something wouldn't they have?

Also, among the 1,000+ errors that Mark found can we really say that they were ALL doctrinal errors? What was Mark's profession? He was an editor for The Deseret News. Who did Bruce publish his book with? It was with Bookcraft a struggling publishing company that didn't have a full time editor. It's possible that most, not all, of the errors in Bruce's work were editorial errors and not doctrinal errors.

Just some food for thought :)

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Ryan,
By the mid-twentieth century, the Brethren felt it important to convey an image of complete unity, so if a GA happened to promote a false doctrine, no one spoke up with an alternate vision. This resulted in the GAs attaining near demigod status in the eyes of the members.

Jon said...

So when did the tradition start of having the bishop partake of the sacrament first before the ward members?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Good question, Jon. It's been like that ever since I was a deacon circa 1964. We would fan out with our trays and stand beside our assigned rows. We would wait as the kid assigned to the stand walked up and administered to the bishop. Only once the bishop had partaken did we turn and pass our trays into the row of pews.

Scott said...

The way I understand the Heavenly Father/Jesus Christ relationship is this (and I may be wrong):

I repair equipment for a living. One of my best customers is a mid-sized lawn care and landscaping company. It is owned by a man about 62 years old. He's a good, honest, Christian man. However, he no longer runs the day-to-day operations. His son, Jr. (he has the same name) does. He's a great guy. When I first started doing work for them, the owner (Father) came to me with his son in tow and said: "Whatever my son asks you to do has already been approved by me. It's just as if I myself gave you the assignment." Two people, one purpose.

I know that sounds overly simplistic, but I have always been comfortable with the current doctrine of two separate beings, praying to the Father in the name of the Son.

If they were the same person, wouldn't the Lord have told Abraham that someone was going to kill him and command him to let him do it, instead of commanding him to sacrifice his son, Isaac?

Just a thought, for what it's worth.

Scott

Anonymous said...

So I am kind of late to this discussion, but I do have a question regarding the source when you talk about 1000+ errors in MoDo (I read a bit on my mission, and didn't feel good about it then, nice to see 14 years later I wasn't off base) Grad school and being loath to spread runours has resulted in me being a (preferrably primary) source hound.
Thanks, Brendon

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Brendon,
You can find discussions of this issue in "David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism," and Quinn's "The Mormon Hierarchy: Extension of Power."

Anonymous said...

Eugene England's family has recently posted a wonderful account between Elder McConkie and Brother England. It is worth reading. I never met Eugene England but his writings and talks have made a huge difference in my life. I am so grateful for his generous work. Kandee

http://www.eugeneengland.org/a-professor-and-apostle-correspond-eugene-england-and-bruce-r-mcconkie-on-the-nature-of-god

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thank you for that, Kandee.

Anonymous said...

I have to say in my ward I was treated horribly, as was the rest of my family when I was put in as Primary President. What the person said about those living the gospel and emulating Christ are treated awful is true where I live.
Upon moving to my husband's hometown to care for his parents I told my family we were going to make the effort to know our new ward. I am shy and socially inept, had a hard life. I would go up to members and introduce me and the family and boy, the looks I got - like I was an alien, or "I don't know you, get away" look or "why are you bothering me" look. At church functions people ignored us but I still went up to people just to say hello and I could see eyes roll. I wasn't trying to be a new BFF. I was practicing my religion.
As Primary Pres. I tried to turn things around for the better. The ward was awful. The kids out of control. I used different methods to get the kids interested like love, attention, less rigid, and using church approved materials. I was creative, I had control of rowdy kids in a good way. I got inactive people coming. After 6 months I was released, and the whole family was treated even worse than before. The Bishop's wife started awful rumors about me, the new Primary Presidency criticized everything I did. It gets worse but I won't take up space. So in my experience members don't like being shown up (even though that is not your purpose), at least where I live. I am very unhappy with the church but I go and ignore everyone. I have been beaten down.

Gary Hunt said...

Sorry to hear about your troubles. I think the old saying, "no good deed goes unpunished" would apply here.

I and my wife have run into similar situations. We have lived in eight different wards during the time we've been married. Some wards were better than others, however, pride seems to be a systemic problem. Maybe that's why Pres. Benson gave that talk on pride. Maybe that's why the Lord gave us the 121st Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, which says...

39. We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

I believe "almost all men" applies to women as well.