Much of the angst (and the gloating) surrounding the latest excommunication scares is fed by what I believe is a slight misunderstanding of the church. In general, I would say that those who gloat over potential excommunications believe that the church and its prophets are pretty close to perfect, reflecting the glory of heaven on earth. John Dehlin and Kate Kelly represent destructive cancers that must be cut away because they blind the eyes of other members to the truth and beauty of the kingdom. Those who moan about the potential excommunications believe that the church SHOULD be perfect, a reflection of the glory of God, but that it currently isn’t. People like John Dehlin and Kate Kelly are fighting to bring the church to it’s great potential. In my opinion, both these groups are somewhat wrong about the church, both what it is, and what it can be expected to be.
The Church: The Bride of Christ
In the Bible, the God’s church is sometimes referred to as “the Bride of Christ” where she is often accused of “whoring after idols.” Nevertheless, God bears patiently with His bride, in spite of her wickedness. Occasionally, the bride becomes so wicked that God divorces His bride and marries a new one, as He did with the Jews and the new Christian church, and again with the Restoration. But these are rare occurrences, and only come after many centuries of wickedness. Most of the time, God is patient with the imperfections of His bride.
Let us carry the bride metaphor one step further. If Christ is the groom, and the church is the bride, who are we? I believe we can be seen as the symbolic children of the union. God is our Father. The Church is our metaphorical Mother. Our personal relationship with God is intangible and varied. God sometimes seems present, and sometimes distant. But He has left us with something much more tangible and accessible, though much less perfect: our spiritual Mother Church. As our spiritual “stay at home” mom, the church is always there, to nurture us, teach us, lecture us, discipline us, as she sees fit, and according to her particular strengths and eccentricities.
The Mother Church
Like our real father and mother, Christ and the church may not always agree. An earthly father might feel a mother’s discipline is too harsh, and vice versa. But for the sake of unity, one often concedes to the other. It is the same with God and His church. God says, “whether by mine own voice, or the voice of my servants, it is the same.” He says this, not because his servants always speak exactly what He wants, but because He gives them His support, even in their imperfections, just as a husband would to his wife. He tells His Church, “I do not command in all things,” “study things out in your own mind.” He allows the church to stumble and learn from its stumblings.
Honor Thy Mother Church
We can’t expect our earthly mothers to change just because we perceive that they are wrong about something. Though our mother may sometimes be abusive, or controlling, she is still our mother, and we are commanded to “honor her, that our days may be long upon the land.” So we submit, we respect, we listen, we disagree sometimes, but we avoid confrontation and contention, because we love her. Likewise, the authority the church exercises over us is similar to that of a mother over her children. Even if we recognize she is wrong, it is not our place to appeal to the New York Times to embarrass her and force her to change. That is disrespectful of the parental relationship she has towards us, and the authority God has given her on our behalf.
Kate Kelly: A Modern Day Hagar
Abraham cast Hagar out of his tent, because his wife Sarah, felt threatened by Hagar’s arguments that her son Ishmael should be the legitimate birthright son, as Ishmael was the firstborn. Abraham did not want to cast Hagar out, and he was sympathetic to her arguments. However, he was commanded to “hearken unto the voice of his wife.” Sarah came first, and God honored the authority she had been given, in spite of her weaknesses.
Kate Kelly likewise has threatened the church (metaphorically Sarah), by arguing to extend priesthood authority to everyone, which the church adamantly disagrees with, both collectively, and in the leadership. Whether or not God is sympathetic to Kate Kelly is beside the point. God (like Abraham) must hearken to the voice of his church (Sarah), and He must cast Kate Kelly (Hagar) out of the church if she does not relent. For the church is the bride of Christ, to whom He has given His allegiance and authority. God cannot separate himself with His beloved church over this issue.
If Kate Kelly leaves the church, and this indeed is God’s will for her, He will not abandon her, but rather take her on other paths which will lead to greater growth and opportunity for her, just as Hagar was visited by an angel, and promised that a great nation would arise from her seed. Not everyone is destined for membership in the church, and God could have missions for some people currently in the church, on the outside. This is completely Biblical. God says, “I will shut their eyes and stop their ears that they see and hear not.” “Other sheep have I which are not of this fold.” “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” “He who is not against us is for us.” “You are called to gather the elect, those who hear my voice.” It is obvious if you look around a bit that many of the 99.9% of humans who are not Mormons also having spiritual experiences and being led by God on important personal missions that have nothing to do with whether or not they are Mormons. I reject the idea that excommunication is a “nuclear” option, as was suggested in a recent BCC post. The important thing is to follow God’s voice to you personally, whether that leads you into the church, or away from it.
John Dehlin: A Modern Day Uzziah
I think most people who’ve run across John Dehlin and his podcast recognize that he is acting according to good moral instinct, even if they see him as misguided. Who could not be moved by his passionate appeal to embrace the outcasts in the LGBT community? Excommunicating such a person seems like a terrible wrong. When Uzziah reached out to steady the Ark, I’m sure God wasn’t happy about striking him with lightning (or with the scribes who invented the story as a cautionary tale). But in fact, it was probably good for Uzziah to leave the Old Testament culture of war and fanaticism, and enter the Spirit World, where he could come to know Christ and His mercy. Since his electrocution, Uzziah may have entered the Celestial Kingom, as it was always in his nature to keep things steady and upright.
So I wonder if John Dehlin would also be better off without the church, even for a time. The church is supposed to be a nurturing mother, who comforts, consoles, and warns her respectful and obedient children. But if someone has an antagonistic relationship with his mother, constantly criticizing her, demanding that she change, and focusing only on the negative things he sees about her, maybe it’s time he left home and stayed away from his mother for awhile. This is obviously not a productive relationship.
Our Relationship with the Church: Familial, not Democratic
In our day, it is hard to understand the church as “The Mother Church.” We are obsessed with individuality, with inalienable rights, with democracy. We expect “the only true church” to be characteristically perfect, and when it’s not, we think something is wrong, that we must act! When Kate Kelly complains to the New York Times, she acts like a citizen in a democracy. As a citizen, she has the right to have her voice heard and to advocate for change. But the church is not a democracy. It is a familial relationship, like the relationship of a mother to a child, a father to a mother.
Understanding the nature of this familial relationship would help us interact with it in a more appropriate way. We would understand that some things cannot be forced. We would not expect perfection or change from the church. We would be able to separate the church from our understanding of God. The church doesn’t have to be a perfect reflection of God’s glory and will. As imperfect children ourselves, we may complain to our Father in prayer, and to our leaders in the Mother Church, but we would recognize that there are limitations for change, just as there are limitations in all family relationships. The beauty of a family relationship is not that it provides ultimate self-fulfillment, (to “live authentically,” as Kate Kelly puts it) but that we are shaped by having to deal with its weaknesses and eccentricities. Our family shapes our identity and turns us into something different and, most of the time, better than we would be all by ourselves.
- Is the Mother Church metaphor an accurate representation of our relationship to the church?
- Are there limitations to the church that we need not expect to be overcome?
- Is there virtue in submitting to an imperfect church?
- Could Dehlin’s and Kelly’s preoccupation with getting the church to change be hampering their own personal growth? Could they find greater spiritual growth by starting with a clean slate, and perhaps a new path?
Seems to me: if you disagree with the Church (in other words, the leaders) you are disagreeing (or arguing) with Jesus Christ. He runs the Church. If you don’t believe that, then what do you believe? Or, another way of looking at it is asking: What would Jesus do? Seems to me he would cleanse the temple, chastise the sinner, even excommunicate the member, or cut of the hand that offends thee (ie Matthew 5:30).
Hoffbegone, may you be visited by the shade of Edwin D. Woolley. Either you are greatly oversimplifying, or you radically misunderstand what it means to lead the church.
Both sides need to humbly and sincerely listen to one another.
I humbly suggest that a solution can be found in Elder Zwick’s talk:
” It is the same with God and His church. God says, “whether by mine own voice, or the voice of my servants, it is the same.” He says this, not because his servants always speak exactly what He wants, but because He gives them His support, even in their imperfections”
This is (in its versions) one of the most alarming interpretations of scripture I have come across. I first heard it from an Institute instructor over 20 years ago, though who knows where it originated, and it still makes me flinch when I hear/read it. This is a slightly softer version mind you. I read it that when God’s servants are speaking God’s words then it is to us as if they were delivered by God himself. It matters not that he isn’t delivering them personally. But I certainly don’t take it to mean that God ‘adopts’ (the scarier version), or approves of words said is his name that do not come from him. In the words of my son: “What! That’s leaders putting themselves above God, putting words in his mouth.” He might not intervene, but it doesn’t mean he supports or condones IMO.
hoffbegone: Please read this and then come back: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmuth_H%C3%BCbener
All good mothers teach by example and are far more effective when they listen……listen….listen. All children’s needs must be met through first listening. All righteous mothers go to the Lord to seek his will to meet those needs. They are slow to discount pleas as childish selfishness and seek to understand that one child’s needs differ from another. Most children respond well to validation of their needs, even if they temporarily cannot be met while Mother and Father counsel together.
Mothers who are swift to discount, deny, chastise, and rebuke leave sorrow and alienation in their wake. Happy is the family where no child is ignored, labeled negatively, or worst of all–cast aside. NO righteous mother kicks her “different” children out. She nurtures them the more, lest love dies and all is in vein.
Even wayward children are encircled by the whole loving family in long-suffering, as the Savior commanded.
Let there be love.
Let there be listening.
Let there be encircling.
Let there be nurturing.
Let there be long-long-suffering for generations as Jesus does.
Let there be discernment to desire all these qualities of a righteous mother in Zion.
Seems to me: if you disagree with the Church (in other words, the leaders) you are disagreeing (or arguing) with Jesus Christ. He runs the Church. If you don’t believe that, then what do you believe?
The uber orothodox like to assert this and TBMs assume via folklore indoctrination and (baseless) “belief” that the brethren direct the church via *direct revelation from God*. As a result what the brethren say trumps all other ideas or concepts inspired or not giving rise to the idea that once LDS leaders have spoken the thinking is done!
But we know from SWK’s experience with seeking revelation that became OD2 that this is NOT the case. And Hugh B. Brown’s memoirs make it succinctly clear that this is not the case.
So the church is guided by committee discussion and committee decision that is passed by heaven to be rubber stamped via. a brief prayer. This may or may not qualify as inspired but it is clearly NOT direct revelation.
Leaving out the Kelly and Dehlin comparisons, this is an excellent post.
The problem with the analogy is that you’re elevating Kelly to the same level as the Church. She’s another mother, one the first mother doesn’t like. Dehlin is just trying to help, even if he knows he’s trying to supplant those called to hold the ark. These aren’t kids disagreeing with their mother (and what mother would shut out her children), these are equals being set aside over jealousy.
To use RockiesGMA’s mother-child analogy, this is not a mother shutting off children who just have a difference of opinion, this is a mother shutting off children who are actively trying to convince people that she is a bad mother and should not be listened to when discussing womens issues (in Kelly’s case) or on any issue (in Dehlins case). This isn’t self preservation, but trying to preserve the whole family.
I don’t believe the Mother Church metaphor to be the best example. In the scriptures, it is “likened” but not a perfect analogy, as analogies rarely are. Instead, the “church” exists to teach the gospel and administer the saving ordinances through exercise of the priesthood (Handbook 2, chapter 1) It is “the kingdom” as opposed to a mother or bride. Above all else, it does not supercede the basic family unit. I do believe membership in the church is for everyone. From an eternal perspective, I’m not overly worried about someone who, for whatever reason, isn’t a member of the church through out their life, or who is even excommunicated. That’s what the Spirit World and Millennium are all about. I would rather someone stay a member in good standing if at all possible, but don’t believe the member is cast off forever if his or her journey in this life is outside the church.
With all due respect to Nate, his analogy is flawed because it proceeds from a false assumption; that is, that WE members down here are somehow separate from “the church.” Yet if we are to believe Christ’s definition of the church, it consists of ALL who repent and come unto me. We ARE the church. WE are the bride collectively, not some separate entity that exists above us and in addition to us.
The above analogy assumes there is a separate entity called ” the Church” that consists of the leaders and managers. Yet God makes no such distinction between those at the top of the hierarchy and what the author labels the “children” at the bottom. We are all equally defined in D&C 10:67 at The Church.
Our doctrine and instructions come from the groom, and Him alone. If we assume there is a class of more elite members at the top who can decide doctrine absent direct and unmistakable revelations given through Him in the same manner they were given to our founding prophet, then we have corrupted the whole idea of the bride/church, and created an idol that we look to for our salvation.
There is a bride, and there is a groom. That’s Christ’s analogy. It fails when you define the bride as being separated into classes, one higher than the other.
hoffbegone, thanks for commenting. Your perspective is the dominant one at church, and I suppose it is my special challenge to submit to such a perspective while retaining another myself. Like Hedgehog is saying, “whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same.” This I agree is an alarming scripture. But that’s part of the challenge of it. Without challenge there is no faith.
Howard, the distinction between “direct” revelation and “rubber stamped” revelation I don’t think is that important. Isn’t revelation revelation? Maybe today’s prophets aren’t as virtuosic as past ones, but I think they do their best. God speaks to them in this format, so why shouldn’t they stick with it?
Frank, I realize the metaphor doesn’t really work with Hagar. It was just a comparison that popped into my head and I wanted to try and fit it in, however imperfectly. I think you’ve got the right idea about the church’s perspective: “This isn’t self preservation, but trying to preserve the whole family.”
IDIAT, true, Mother Church is not a perfect metaphor. I like the “kingdom” metaphor too, and I use that frequently as well. In the end, I think that reality (including spiritual reality) is so complicated, that we can only understand it by using imperfect models, just like scientists have different models to illustrate the nature of atoms, but which are not really completely accurate. “Mother church” is a model, “kingdom” is a model. I think they both teach us different truths, and perhaps lead us astray as well, if they are too dogmatically applied.
I would like to explore your question: “is the church for everyone?” In Mormonism, we have a “model” of spiritual reality called The Plan of Salvation, which imperfectly reconciles this great paradox: How can the Mormon church be “the only true church” and the only way to get to the highest degree of heaven, and yet it seems to have hardly any traction with humanity, attracting only .01% of people? The Plan of Salvation model solves this paradox by introducing the idea of a Spirit World, when supposedly the 99.9% of humanity will become more attracted to it.
I think there is something real about this idea of the Spirit World, and baptisms for the dead, but I still think we are only seeing through a glass darkly. The whole doctrine seems a bit too convenient and pat. I believe the Plan of Salvation is a model God has given us, and so we should go with it, at least in church. But I like to explore other models as well. If there are contradictions, I don’t mind. Hagar’s angel is a contradiction, because she left the covenant by leaving Abraham. But nevertheless, that was God’s path for her.
Isn’t revelation revelation? No! And worse inspiration certainly isn’t revelation and neither is prayer! Revelation is more God than man, inspiration is more man than God and allows a lot of error to creep in. Do you really believe LDS Q15 committee decisions are on par with Joseph channeling the Lord with bones quaking in thus saith the Lord revelation?
I appreciate the metaphor. I also much appreciate the sentiment that the church is far more a family than it is a democracy. My bishop, for example, is far more like my brother (maybe an older brother, even if we’re both adults) than the mayor I and my neighbors elected.
The principle of sustaining is an important and eternal principle, and that it works both ways. I even believe our God sustains us in our church callings.
So the church = mother, but it’s all men. Yet we are against gay marriage.
Yeah the gendering of this metaphor has all types of problems especially trying to apply it in a context where gender inequality is one of the major points of contention. I know it isn’t primarily designed to be that way. It is more ironic than emblematic but still…
Also, I agree with those that find the interpretation of why one should be obedient to every human caprice of the church as if it came from God’s own mouth absolutely frightening. Mountain Meadow Massacre much? To gets really close Brigham’s greatest fear that members would simply blindly follow leaders. THis seems like a pretty ripe justification for something pretty close to Brigham’s nightmare.
“Also, I agree with those that find the interpretation of why one should be obedient to every human caprice of the church as if it came from God’s own mouth absolutely frightening.”
Fearmongers say things like this a lot in these parts, but I’ve been a convert member since 1980, and I simply haven’t seen anything to suggest that Latter-day Saints believe that “one should be obedient to every human caprice of the church as if it came from God’s own mouth” — I think it is an unfair characterization of me, and I think also of Latter-day Saints generally.
Nate wrote: I think they do their best.
Okay but they set themselves up as unavailable, unaskable and uncorrectable. Words flow one way, down! Member ideas and questions are discouraged and unwanted, letters to SL headquarters are returned to your local leaders, they recently PA between us. Where is prophetic leadership? Don’t call us, we’ll call you…maybe…but probably never.
In the minds of TBMs and hoffbegone for example on this very thread it’s assumed to be justified because they are under the impression (belief) the brethren speak for Christ or when they speak it’s as if Christ is speaking but how can that be, they don’t receive revelation? When Joseph channels the Lord the Lord is speaking the Lord’s mind through him not answering a committee’s Y/N question, it is a conversational relationship, there is a huge difference! When the Lord speaks he expounds on the subject and sometimes initiates his own subject. When Q15 requests Y/N approval on a committee created idea (btw they say camels were designed by committee!) how does the Lord tell them he wants something a little or a lot different? Does he keep saying no until they finally guess the right answer? Y/N feeling does not come close to accuracy and knowledge provided by thus saith the Lord revelation.
I appreciate the fact that this is much more nuanced than most of the commentary you’ll find out there. It is good for me to ponder on other perspectives and opinions, but I have a hard time with aggressive and condescension coming from most other sources. So once again, Nate although we disagree on quite a few things I always think your posts are thoughtful and worth a good ponder.
Is the Mother Church metaphor an accurate representation of our relationship to the church?
I think I understand what you are trying to express using ‘Mother Church’, but I am not sure it is accurate. We (the collective and individual we) are the Bride of Christ.
I see two things that can happen when we try to use this maternal relationship. The first is it places another layer between us and God. Yes, even though father and mother should be equal, that is not often the truth in reality, so in that way your example might offer more harm than help. Besides, our heart should be set on the Bridegroom only. That, I think, is more expressive of the relationship the Lord wants with us. Seeing it that way allows us to perceive ourselves as more spiritually mature (as we should be), something I think The Lord expresses as He invites us to be His peers in the end. If we see the church as a mother we begin to see ourselves as less mature and then we start to behave that way. Maybe this is why we are so dependent on the church to give us all our answers rather than seeking them from the Lord directly.
The second reason I think it doesn’t work is if we see our collective selves as the bride, then violently loosing even one or two members should hurt. I see too much rejoicing and *told you so’s* and not enough mourning at even the prospect of this. Maybe if we were more serious about community it would hurt more regardless of the outcome and our personal feelings on the matters.
Call me weird, but I have always seen the endowment as a marriage to Christ. We as the Bride just fits better in my mind.
Are there limitations to the church that we need not expect to be overcome?
We should be more merciful to the church. If I can see myself as the Bride that always fails the Lord, and I do, then I can be merciful and patient when I see the church as the (collective we) Bride and failing. I expect to always be progressing and improving, so I do not think it is unreasonable for the church to also grow and progress and improve. I think we can be patient realizing how slow we are to change and repent sometimes ourselves.
Is there virtue in submitting to an imperfect church?
No, but there can be value in doing so.
Could Dehlin’s and Kelly’s preoccupation with getting the church to change be hampering their own personal growth?
I imagine that they might say they are growing by leaps and bounds just now, that’s what trials do for us. If they are truly doing as the Lord asks and they are following His guidance, I imagine they are seeing and feeling this growth as well. That’s just my experience.
Could they find greater spiritual growth by starting with a clean slate, and perhaps a new path?
Maybe, but We would (or should) be grieved to loose part of Ourselves. We can’t imagine being found on the wedding night not whole or complete. We don’t think it would be the joy it is meant to be if We were not.
On a personal note, I have read too much David Weber for the term *Mother Church* to sit well anymore. Ha. That might be why it raises my hackles.
Submitting to an imperfect church can also cause the church to be less aggressive. It’s really hard to kill an unarmed opponent. At least it is after you kill the first and second rows of unarmed opponents, as we see in the BOM.
That’s an interesting observation hawkgrrrl and it’s true.
But if we’re honest with ourselves about the issue the problem isn’t “imperfection” it’s outright dishonesty at the core level and at least at some points in history at the top as well. Truth is expendable! Faith promotion is elevated above truth and inconvenient facts are hidden, spun, even lied about. Lying for the Lord occurs with omissions and have truths carefully assembled with deliberate intent to deceive obscure or confuse. The goal of apologetics is plausibility, achieving it is considered a big success, without regard to probability often quite small largely making it’s apologists intellectually dishonest in the process. It isn’t an imperfect church as in we all come with faults but we’re constantly working to overcome them, transcend them, it is a deceptive and outright dishonest church and has been for most of it’s history and it doesn’t repent until the debate over, the smoke clears and it’s caught red handed causing an exodus of members! It’s only redeeming quality in this regard it that it has begun recently to repent and set the record more straight in some of areas it can address but others remain a big mystery.
This breeds a somewhat unique LDS brand of hypocrisy and double standard with regard to truth vs deception in it’s members. Actually, sadly the church is sick in this regard and several others as well.
Nate #10, ” Like Hedgehog is saying, “whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same.” This I agree is an alarming scripture.”
You misrepresent me. The scripture itself is fine. The interpretation so many put on it is alarming.
rah #14, Yes.
ji #15, Maybe you should have been in my ward for Sunday school last week, in which the very terrifying conclusion the teacher finished with (extrapolating from the lesson on Samuel and Saul) was that we should obey everything the Bishop tells us (right, because Samuel was described as a prophet, not the Bishop being the first problem with that), *even* when that pertains to our own individual and personal lives. My jaw dropped (the guy is a former Bishop and SPresidency member himself). Unlike you perhaps, I have known people who have done exactly that. Not pretty. To give one example – for a while many years ago as a YSA I attended a Japanese ward in Tokyo. There were a number of YSAs. A couple of them, both sparky and enthusiastic individuals, with a not particularly then-societly approved solemn view on life got engaged. The Bishop thought this was a bad idea, since they were both such ‘nonconformists’. Well heck – they were conformist enough that they obeyed the Bishop… She later married someone of a more conformist bent, but was divorced after a few years, and is no longer active. He’s never married. Would it have worked if they had married? I don’t know. But I don’t think the Bishop should have got involved like that. Add to the mix something I remember from a lesson sometime in the distant past also, maybe an old youth Sunday school manual.. not sure, but precisely the example was given of a couple who followed the advice of an over-reaching Bishop in marrying, and it didn’t work out. The question asked was, should they blame the Bishop? The official answer was No. The Bishop was only giving advice, and as the ones who decided to follow it, and carried out that decision, they are the ones who take the responsibility. Well believe me, if I’m the one taking responsibility (and it’s my life, I want to), then I make my own decisions thank you very much. I’m going to seek my own inspiration, and confirm for myself whether something *really* is God’s word.
My tripple great grandfather followed his LDS leaders faithfully and died in the process along with with 2 of his 9 children in the Willie Handcart Company fiasco. Belief is admirable but there’s no substitute except the spirit for own good judgement.
This comparison disturbs me on so many levels. But I have to say that if my mother was treating one of my siblings inappropriately, my father would want me to stand up for them.
Howard. Yes the way those handcart company fiascoes are represented really disturbs me. Yes those who survived suffered, and have their experiences to tell, but all too often we neglect to consider all those who died needlessly. And those who ‘dissented’ and waited till spring get no mention whatsoever. We’re teaching the wrong lessons from those events, I think.
If a child tells it’s mother it has a problem with her, and the mothers response is silence for a year, we call that emotional abuse. If she then punishes the child for continuing to ask the question, and while continuing to remain silent, that is more abuse!
Is this the mother church that Christ approves of? I think not.
hawkgrrrl, I’m baaaaack!
To those who responded to my post (#1): appreciate the responses.
“I know that God lives and He will be the Just Judge in all matters. I look forward to seeing you in a better world!” — modified from a letter written by Hübener
“I know that God lives and He will be the Just Judge in all matters. I look forward to seeing you in a better world!” — modified from a letter written by Hübener
Before they cut his 17-year old excommunicated head off. Yeah, some martyrs are grace under fire. I too trust God . . . and history . . . will be the just judge.
That being said, I still don’t agree that God sustains the mistakes of the human below him who are messily trying to do His will.
I do agree that regardless what any of us will do, in the end He leads us forward – most of the time it’s in spite of our humanity (all of our humanity, including our leaders), and not because of it.
p.s. He allows our mistakes to occur not because we are the “bride” and he is deferential, but because he respects our free agency, even the free agency of our leaders, much more so than he is interested in driving the ship. He inspires and leads and guides our leaders (just like our leaders do for us) but he doesn’t dictate.
Not to hammer this point, but Kristine A that means that he respects the free agency of bishops and other men in charge (the bride) but not the free agency of lay members (that be us, home skillet).
I’m having numerous issues with this discussion, not the least of which is that I do not come to it from an LDS perspective. So please bear with me.
As a longtime editor I value metaphors immensely but at the same time recognize that they all have limits, some more than others. The “Bride of Christ” metaphor quickly veers into dangerous territory, I believe. Probably its most familiar reference comes from Revelation chapter 21 where it’s connected to the New Jerusalem and Christ’s second coming. The last book in the New Testament is not the place where I go to base my core beliefs. I do recognize, however, that the writer of Ephesians uses the metaphor in a rather beautiful and poignant way to describe an ongoing relationship.
A big problem, for me, is when the image of the Bride of Christ” is tied to the institution of the church, with all the organizational and hierarchical baggage that brings. So should we speak of the church as an entity or a community of believers (and here we get another metaphor, the “body of Christ”)? I take issue with the OP’s statement: “Occasionally, the bride becomes so wicked that God divorces His bride and marries a new one, as He did with the Jews and the new Christian church, and again with the Restoration.” The apostle Paul is quite clear in Romans 9-11 that God has not rejected the Jews but has allowed some of them “for a time” to reject Jesus so that God could bring the Gentiles into God’s “chosen family.” The big question in Paul’s day was never “How can the Jews be saved?” but rather “How can the Gentiles be considered as part of God’s chosen ones?”
One of my favorite parts of the Old Testament is the prophet Hosea, whose relationship with his “whoring wife” Gomer is likened to God’s relationship to Israel. The key words in that whole story are steadfast love and forgiveness–not judgment.
As for the rest of that quoted statement which apparently refers to an apostasy of “the true church” thus requiring a restoration of “the true church” (and maybe even subsequent “cleansing” of that One True Church to keep it pure—which is where the concept of excommunication can be brought in, I suppose), we may have to just agree to disagree on this point. I don’t believe there ever was a so-called “perfect, golden era “ in Christianity from which it “fell into apostasy.” Nor do I come from a religious background where obedience to institutional authority is the paramount virtue. Instead, it’s “love God and love one another.” The Bride of Christ metaphor is, I believe, one that is all too easy to cross over into literalness. And when metaphor becomes literal, beauty can quickly turn into ashes.
Rock, welcome!!! I just rescued comment 10 above from the spam filter (I don’t know why it was there), so I encourage everyone to see that comment.
I will say that it does seem Nate plays fast and loose with most definitions and analogies. His posts provide provocative, but usually not convincing, points of view, IMO.
ugh, hawk, I know! we the only way i survive is to know all will be made right in the end. If an excommunication isn’t just in this life, He doesn’t enforce it. He always has mercy.
This is the balance I get to that is often argued over at times and seasons . . . . there are injustices and that is what the atonement is for. But I differ in that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to approach justice in this life, and follow the promptings of the Spirit to love and comfort and lift those around us. (and fight injustice)
It’s quite possible to be aligned and in tune with God while being misaligned and out of tune with the church. That’s because the church reports to God not the other way around.
Haven’t had time to keep up with all the comments, but some good ones here.
To Forgetting, and others who have noted that we as members constitute the Bride, both individually and collectively. It’s true, like Mormon Heretic says, I play fast and loose with the scriptures. I believe in proof texting. The Bible can be used to support almost any claim, good or evil. Rather than trying to discover “original intent” my philosophy is to see the scriptures as creative tools in our own journey of spiritual self-discovery and meditation. This I believe was Joseph Smith’s method in creating the JST, which cannot be scholastically argued to be revealing original intent. But anyway, that is something for another post I suppose.
There was a GA who mentioned this in one of the last conferences that God speaks to us in two ways: through personal revelation, and through his authorized church prophets, and how both are necessary. I thought this binary communication method is very similar to the binary of a father and a mother, and how they communicate with their children in different ways. I link it to the bride of Christ, and I personally think its a metaphor that helps me see the church in a better light.
I don’t want to have an antagonistic relationship with the church. With my own mother, there are many things we disagree on, but I want to move beyond those disagreements and focus on the relationship. A lot of the things we focus on are not that important in the grand scheme of things. I’m sure a lot of you have a racist parent or grandparent. So what? Does that really make them a terrible person? Society has become fixated on certain kinds of civil liberties, like gay rights or equal rights for women, and this is a good thing. But as we are overthrowing the old perspectives, we shouldn’t loose the ability to judge others by their own perspectives, even if they have been overthrown by the broader society. If we could really put ourselves in the shoes of these General Authorities, see things from their perspective, feel out their hearts, I think it would be quite an epiphany. We would see how much love they really have, and it would move us. I think the church is good, and God loves good, even when it is imperfect.
>To Forgetting, and others who have noted that we as members constitute the Bride, both individually and collectively. It’s true, like Mormon Heretic says, I play fast and loose with the scriptures. I believe in proof texting. The Bible can be used to support almost any claim, good or evil. Rather than trying to discover “original intent” my philosophy is to see the scriptures as creative tools in our own journey of spiritual self-discovery and meditation. This I believe was Joseph Smith’s method in creating the JST, which cannot be scholastically argued to be revealing original intent. But anyway, that is something for another post I suppose.
That’s fair and thanks for clarifying. I figured that is what you might be doing (and hinted at that), but I am still apt to push back on any metaphor, example, analogy, story, parable, or otherwise that wants to put an intermediary between us and the Lord. When we start telling ourselves these kind of ‘truths’ – even in a loosey goosey way like this – we actually might start believing them. We already have in some cases.
Besides the Lord already claimed the mother role as well, and that was only to gather us in under Her wings (can I get away with gender literary touches without being called apostate this week?). It’s still the One to one (and collective one) imagery.
Also, if we want to separate us (children) from the church (mother), then when mother misbehaves herself, it is less likely we (the true body) will see that as our responsiblity, seeing mother as other than us (cf. how we have recently disavowed some things in our past without accepting responsibility for our collective actions, recent or distant).