Wheat & Tares welcomes guest poster Bill Reel: Host of “Mormon Discussion Podcast”. His Podcast serves to help those reconstructing their faith within Mormonism to do so “Leading with Faith” rather than leaving the Church.
What in Mormonism is off limits? What could a faithful believer absolutely not discard in his faith? As I thought this through a few months back, I landed on four or five things we assume are off limits. But I always worry when we make assumptions as they often turn out to be wrong. Lets look at these one by one and see what Mormonism has to say about each.
#1.) Scripture. We can’t discard scripture right? It is the word of God. To discard parts of scripture would be anti-Mormon right?
The first thing Mormonism gives us, is the ability to interpret scripture or Canon differently than our cultural assumptions. Take the Garden and the Fall for instance. Spencer W. Kimball taught that Eve being made from a rib was figurative. Elder B.R. McConkie taught that the trees in the garden were figurative. Others have taught that Adam being made from dirt was figurative. Let your mind wander for a moment…. if there are no real trees of knowledge or of life, no creation from ribs and dirt…. then what are we left with. Inevitably for me, I have had to completely re-look at the Garden and fall with new eyes and allow the whole story to be figurative and allegorical of something else (but that for another day).
The second Thing Mormonism gives you is room to see that not all scripture comes from God or even righteous motives. For Instance Joseph Smith discarded the Songs of Solomon as not scripture even though it was Canon.
Brigham Young also gives us room when he shares his personal view of Scripture when he stated –
“I have heard some make the broad assertion that every word within the lids of the Bible was the word of God. I have said to them, “You have never read the Bible, have you?” “O, yes, and I believe every word in it is the word of God.” Well, I believe that the Bible contains the word of God, and the words of good men and the words of bad men; the words of good angels and the words of bad angels and words of the devil; and also the words uttered by the ass when he rebuked the prophet in his madness. I believe the words of the Bible are just what they are; but aside from that I believe the doctrines concerning salvation contained in that book are true, and that their observance will elevate any people, nation or family that dwells on the face of the earth. The doctrines contained in the Bible will lift to a superior condition all who observe them; they will impart to them knowledge, wisdom, charity, fill them with compassion and cause them to feel after the wants of those who are in distress, or in painful or degraded circumstances.” – Journal of Discourses 13:175 (May 29, 1870)
Outside the saving Doctrines he felt that scripture was quite messy and complicated.
Lastly our Church has a history of removing scripture/Canon itself.
With these examples on our mind we each should feel more room to consider what is Scripture and Canon and what does that mean to us.
#2.) The claimed revelations of God through Prophets. We certainly can not discard a revelation when a Prophet has claimed such.
Brigham Young was taught a strange teaching that Adam was our Heavenly Father. Heber C Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and almost the entire Quorum of the 12 believed him on this as well, with the exception of Orson Pratt.
What very few know is that Brigham himself believed this teaching came from God and was revealed to him and That Joseph Smith taught it as well to him.
“How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which I revealed to them, and which God revleaed (sic) to me – namely that Adam is our father and God ” – Prophet Brigham Young, Deseret News, v. 22, no. 308, June 8, 1873
14 of the 15 leaders believed this teaching at its time only to have leaders closer to our day discard it as false and not from God.
…. as Joseph Smith so pointedly taught, a prophet is not always a prophet, only when he is acting as such. Prophets are men and they make mistakes. Sometimes they err in doctrine. This is one of the reasons the Lord has given us the Standard Works. They become the standards and rules that govern where doctrine and philosophy are concerned. If this were not so, we would believe one thing when one man was president of the Church and another thing in the days of his successors. Truth is eternal and does not vary. Sometimes even wise and good men fall short in the accurate presentation of what is truth. Sometimes a prophet gives personal views which are not endorsed and approved by the Lord.
Yes, President Young did teach that Adam was the father of our spirits, and all the related things that the cultists ascribe to him. This, however, is not true. He expressed views that are out of harmony with the gospel. But, be it known, Brigham Young also taught accurately and correctly, the status and position of Adam in the eternal scheme of things. What I am saying is that Brigham Young contradicted Brigham Young, and the issue becomes one of which Brigham Young we will believe. – From a Letter to Eugene England, BYU Professor, February 19, 1981
Even Formally, President Kimball denounced this revelation and teaching.
“We warn you against the dissemination of doctrines which are not according to the scriptures and which are alleged to have been taught by some of the General Authorities of past generations. Such, for instance, is the Adam-God theory. We denounce that theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine” – November 1976 Ensign “Our own Liahona”
#3.) Another point here that must be made was that many members had a testimony of Brigham’s Adam God teachings as well.
“Some have grumbled because I believe our God to be so near to us as Father Adam. There are many who know that doctrine to be true.” – Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 5, p. 331
Which brings into question feelings and testimony itself even when held by large groups of people does not make something true in and of itself.
#4.) Teachings of all 15 men when they are united.
At the same time it should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such. – Elder Christofferson
And the very next conference it was followed up with this.
A few question their faith when they find a statement made by a Church leader decades ago that seems incongruent with our doctrine. There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many. Our doctrine is not difficult to find. – Elder Anderson
So we can trust when all 15 men are on the same page that the taught Doctrine is True? Problem is we have exceptions to this. In the 1940’s The Church taught both privately and publicly that Blacks being banned from Priesthood was due to their lack of valiance in the pre-mortal life and this was said to be Doctrine. They also taught inter-racial marriage as sin was Doctrine. Today the Church says this
Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a pre-mortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else.
Hence even having all 15 men on the same page at the same time is no guarantee of truth or of divine approval for a teaching
#5.) What comes by way of Ministering Angels. We certainly can not discard what Heavenly Messengers reveal.
While I would generally agree with this, I would place a caveat. These ministering angels if not discerned could easily be Satan’s minions as well. Mormonism tells us this itself. Section 129 of the D&C tells us that Angels of Darkness can come as Angels of light and must be tested by such things as sacred Handshakes prior to our having certainty. So any revelation where we don’t have this verifiable witness seems to at least open the door to examination of the revelation and its fruits.
When I consider these five points I am left with two ideas and both have already been said by others.
Latter-day Saints are not asked to blindly accept everything they hear. We are encouraged to think and discover truth for ourselves. We are expected to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to a personal knowledge of the truth. – Elder Uchtdorf
For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. Moroni 7:15-16
And hence, while Scripture, Canon, Revelation, Prophets, and the testimony of others are all possible vehicles for truth. In the end it is my personal relationship with the Holy Ghost and the fruits of those proposed truths that I judge all things by. In doing so I have grown comfortable allowing myself to set some of Mormonism’s teachings or cultural rules fall by the wayside when I can not make them mesh with the light I get from the Holy Ghost.
1.) Do you feel this room to be a cafeteria Mormon
2.) Do you agree with Bill that such room exists?
3.) For those who still consider themselves believers, what have you set aside and why?
4.) Have you gotten resistance from local leadership as you have have implemented a cafeteria style belief in Mormonism?
Recently Bill Reel uses these same ideas to discuss the room one might have in the Church to see section 132 and to allow members the right to individually set it aside rather than feel compelled to leave over this issue or any other issue and instead move forward in the gospel having faith.