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.
– Old section 101 which later became 109 and then was removed in light of section 132.
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.
This is a well reasoned post. I feel that there is a sound basis for “cafeteria” mormonism, supported by historical events and doctrine. Most arguments against it are similar to the circular argument that the prophet will never lead the church astray because he said so.
At the local level, it depends very much on the ward, but in the Mormon corridor there seems to be very little if any tolerance for cafeteria Mormonism. Even discussions of the church’s own essays and websites is sometimes not tolerated.
Elder Holland gave a talk a while back that seemed to show empathy for doubters. The phrase “help thou my unbelief” comes to mind. But more recently he spoke with vehemence against any belief that the story of Adam and Eve is anything but literal. It is difficult to reconcile the two talks.
So it seems that while history and doctrine indicate that individuals should work out their own understanding of the gospel, the people and organizational leadership of the church today do not allow such latitude.
Several years ago I mentioned that we are all Cafeteria Mormons because we have our own opinions about things, and the SP’s wife was there, and she quickly spoke up in agreement, stating that we are not just all Cafeteria Mormons, but Cafeteria Humans. Exactly!
Very well written post.
To me, this is the cold, hard logic against the church. Why should I trust what a prophet says over the pulpit (or what the scriptures say, or what the statement issued by the Q15 says) when the leadership of the church has disavowed what previous leaders believed the scriptures to mean or what previous leaders said was revelation from god or what previous statements issued by the Q15 said?
If tomorrow’s prophet may very well reject what today’s prophet is teaching, why should I listen? I’ll use my own powers of reasoning, thank you.
As far as being a cafeteria Mormon, when I was an active member, I thought it was problematic, because believing the gospel to be true, I thought we can’t pick and choose what works for us. If it’s true, IT ALL WORKS FOR US.
But, now, I think people should pick and choose what works for them. The only problem is that it is illogical. If it’s true, well, then the leaders know what they are doing, they are guided by revelation, and you should follow them. If it’s not true, well, then you are obviously free to choose what to pick up and what to put down, but if you feel that way, you may be inclined to not enter that particular cafeteria.
That we are all “Cafeteria Mormons” is an increasingly popular opinion, bit I don’t think it holds water.
There is a difference between picking and choosing what you like from a religion to meet your own comfort level, and humbly working through beliefs, sometimes concentrating on some more than others, in order to seek God’s will for you. I don’t think “Cafeteria” applies to the latter.
The problem I have with this approach, is at what point is what you believe no longer “LDS” or even “Mormon”? When what we, as an indivdiual, family, or group differs to the point we can’t agree on basic doctrines or practices, then what? Prophets either speak for God and hold his authority as they claim, or they do not. We each look at their teachings, prophecies and actions and decide what we believe. If they are what they claim, then there is no middle ground to pick and choose. If they are not, why should/do we pick around the rotted fruit for a few good piece?
Flyingmooseman, I couldn’t disagree more. You seem to be saying we must live in a black and world on this issue simply because the repercussions of such flexibility is too messy and complicated and hence should be abandoned. I simply don’t feel pigeonholed into a black and white paradigm simply because it is easier and cleaner.
I agree the world is full of grey, but to me this isn’t pigeonholing something to make it easier. I’m saying they either speak the truth or they do not. If a child says “My friend broke the window” they did, or they did not. If a friend broke it while they played together the child is correct, though they share the blame (a spot of grey if you will). If the friend wasn’t there, it is a lie though–no grey area. A teenage shows up and tells my child “your parents put me in charge and I need to take you over there” changes from babysitting to kidnapping, simply based on if I have done just that. It’s that way with this isn’t it? The prophets have said their is NO grey–this forces it to BECOME a black/white paradigm, as the existence of grey in their authority disproves the authority and does it not, just as with babysitter does it not? Yes, their are repercussions to that, and it doesn’t discount the good the prophet/babysitter is trying to do (that is the grey) but that good is not the issue I asked. The Church leadership claims a very black/white situation in terms of what it is/can do–It is either God’s church and authority or it is not. If we reject that paradigm, don’t we automatically reject what they claim?
It seems far less dangerous and more humble for someone to admit that they are picking and choosing what they believe than to do this unwittingly and then assume anyone who sees things differently is a vile sinner.
Flyingmooseman, in my paradigm, some is true and some is false. I no longer feel pressured to swallow all of it. They can speak some truth that comes from God and be completely wrong on other beliefs they proclaim thinking they come from God but actually dont
The problem centers around black & white vs nuanced thinking. The two are not equally respectable for adults to hold and use because black & white is how a child thinks, it truncates and polarizes nuance into a simplified approximation (it is an analog to digital converter with low resolution output) and nuance is only leaned after gaining more maturity than a child. Nuance is clearly a higher way of thinking but the church generally remains firmly grounded in childish b&W thinking for example President Hinckley:
So this type of quote appeals to a child’s simplistic thinking but repels adult logical nuanced thinking which appreciates far more complexity than either or. Is that really the whole picture?
When we look at scriptures and revelation from which they come with nuanced thinking it becomes clear that they are largely allegory and this makes the contradictions less threatening if we begin to assemble the allegories into paradigms and begin to see a progression of allegorical paradigms OT > NT > Joseph’s restoration and beyond, etc.
The LDS checklist is the output of b&w thinking. You don’t think so? Try replacing your checklist with the beatitudes, can you feel a difference? The beatitudes are more nuanced. Which are more important to live your correlated b&W LDS checklist or Christ’s beatitudes?
Cause here is the thing, I WANT this approach to work, I NEED to to work. It’s clear looking at current events, our history, and the future such grey area exisit and needs to be explored. The problem I’m facing is I’m being told, by those I’m trying to follow, that it DOES NOT exist and SHOULD NOT be explored. It’s all true, or a fraud–a fine line between right or wrong we must stay on one side of; and that’s done one way following the prophet. I feel like simply acknowlding the grey, by their definition, puts me into the black–stripping me of that idenity if I try to navigate and explore it. A current prophet might make a mistake, but only a future prophet can tell us so, so find my own witness that it what they currently say is true, and make sure I do it until I have it or I don’t belong. Does that make sense?
Howard, I was raised the beattitudes method; I have always hated checklist. And while we were recently reminded the church is not a checklist of behaviors, we are frequently taught it is a checklist of requirments. That is where I’m asking this from, if we remove those requirments is it still the LDS faith? If, for example, a person decides other church can help a person gain the celestial kingdom, are they still LDS? If they decide priesthood authority is made up, or temple cemermonies are a fundraising mechanism, what then? If they believe the prophet is more a bussiness leader than spiritual man who communes with Jevhova? That drinking alchol to celebrate is ok? Again, the problem I’m seeing is while we are all trying to navigate the grey, we’re being told it not’s even there.
If we remove those requirments is it still the LDS faith?
It’s a good question! If we look back we see:
The Only True Church 1.0 Joseph drinks wine, ordains blacks and introduces polygamy
The Only True Church 2.0 polygamy is in, blacks are out
The Only True Church 3.0 polygamy is out and blacks are out
The Only True Church 4.0 blacks are in, polygamy is out
Which one is right and why?
The point is none of this addresses the essence of LDS Mormonism? I would say it’s essence is what Joseph revealed regarding the restoration and beyond generally viewed as allegorical doctrine. Specific literal revelation was more aimed at the nuts and bolts of constructing the mortal church with is (should be) a support system for Joseph’s revealed gospel.
Where does this leave the LDS checklist? It’s designed to train you to rote obedience (control), to keep you busy (idle hands…), to keep you “active” which means engaged rather than introspective or acting as a disciple (competition) with an end goal of keeping you as a full tithe paying member to support the Corporate goals which is largely constructing buildings.
This is a nice summary of important points, Bill.
I heard a Christian say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, it matters what you do.” I think there’s a lot of truth in that. The Good Samaritan wasn’t in the “true church” but he did God’s work.
The sheep and goats in Matthew weren’t separated by church or beliefs, but whether they had visited the sick, etc. James says pure religion is to visit the fatherless.
The true church of God isn’t a repository of pure doctrines, it is a collection of people, that collectively make up the living temple of god, the family of God, the Body of Christ. People matter more than doctrines, ideas and principles!
There is obvious flexibility and change in LDS doctrine and scripture.
But there is no flexibility in authority. A prophet can be wrong and still have authority. We can doubt a prophets teachings, but still honour their authority.
The question in the temple recommend interview is not whether you think the scriptures or teachings on this or that are true, but whether you accept Thomas S. Monson as prophet, seer, and revelator, and the only one authorised to exercise all priesthood keys. This is not the same thing as disagreeing with President Monson on some point of doctrine.
A prophet can be wrong and still have authority.
So what is the value of authority beyond keeping order?
Howard, I think you answered your own question by your own question. To turn your question around, why should there be a value to authority beyond keeping order?
To some extent, I suppose, we are all Cafeteria Mormons. But that’s like saying we are all sinners. It is true that the person who hurt his friend’s feelings in a moment of insecurity sinned just like the murderer sinned. But to put those two in the same category is ridiculous. Similarly, to say the member who doesn’t believe Joseph Smith was a prophet is a Cafeteria Mormon like the member who doesn’t think hometeaching is important is a little ridiculous. Yes, we all pick and choose to some extent, but the term Cafeteria Mormon becomes meaningless unless it describes people who choose to ignore major issues. So I agree with Silver Rain on this.
Black and White Thinking:
To all comments regarding this issue, I think Flyingmooseman is hitting it on the head. He recognizes the world is gray. BUT THE CHURCH INSISTS THAT IT IS BLACK AND WHITE. The quote from GBH that Howard provided shows that.
Howard, then I think we are saying the same thing. I like how Howard put it though-if you’re in it’s all or nothing. if you’re not, why eat there? my point was doing this approach the gate keepers who are in are more apt to kick us out, and there is so much bad we have to shift through it makes me wonder if it’s worth it.
As an active member, I struggled to see the world as black and white or black and white and gray, but how much gray was tough to figure.
Since leaving the church, the world has been nothing but BRILLIANT COLORS.
Thank you for helping define the brethren.
Black and white, darkness and light. Christ said He is the light. That excludes the gray and the darkness. I don’t confuse the soft light of dusk and dawn with the gray of a cloudy day.
Ok…so there is no black or gray? Only white? Sounds like Brigham Young all over again. Congratulations.
Sure IIDIAT so if Christ is without nuance what is a parable? What are the beatitudes?
Outside of the talk of colors and shades, there are a few facts here that some consider well supported by history and doctrine:
Prophets are not infallible.
Scriptures are not infallible.
If one accepts those premises, one must decide how to glean the best truth one can find. Some people decide to find truth in other places, while others continue to rely on scriptures and conference talks, and many people fall somewhere in between. Any of those paths seems valid to me, if the individual is being true to what they believe.
It is true that the church often insists on a dichotomy: it’s all true or it’s all a fraud. That argument serves to solidify the base while chasing out those see both truth and error in the church. On the other hand, if one first rejects infallibility, then one can discard the all-good-or-all-bad argument as a false dichotomy, and continue to look for the good in the remainder of the church’s teachings.
Unfortunately, that leaves the one in a weakened position at church. If one expresses a minority opinion at church one may be ostracized or disciplined.
To the question of whether there is room for cafeteria Mormonism:
I have seen a public chastisement of a grown woman after she expressed some doubt about a certain passage in the Book of Mormon. This happened in what I considered a liberal ward. She went home in tears.
In a priesthood class in a more conservative ward, one person said that any one who thinks women are not equal in the church is “a servant of Satan”. This happened before Ordain Women was founded. Nobody contradicted him. I wish I had, but I have never figured out what I would have said.
Evolution continues to be denied in every ward I’ve been in. Someone recently reminded me that evolution is one of Bruce R McConkie’s seven deadly heresies.
I frequently hear political jibes spoken as doctrine as well. It seems that political neutrality of the church around here is limited to allowing you to choose between right wing, tea party, or moderate republican.
But the most important thing is not the facts of the doctrine, but the mocking. Evolution is mocked. Gays and gay advocates are mocked. Democrats are mocked. Feminists are mocked.
I don’t know what Cafeteria Mormons would experience coming out in the open in my ward. They wouldn’t dare reveal themselves because they are already being mocked on all sides.
The scriptures teach that we learn line upon line, I think that applies to the church as a whole, as groups , leaders and individuals. Just as the savior’s disciples where not ready to learn of his “other sheep”, so leaders and members in the past may not have been ready to accept blacks and the priesthood, interracial marriage, etc
So the question is, are the leaders really called of God? I believe they are even if they as we ” see thru a glass darkly”.
Fair enough, Sparks. But if society can accept blacks before the church can figure it out, why should I eagerly wait for the prophet’s words?
If the church were leading the way, even if slower than some would like (because leaders were having difficulty accepting this or that, as you said) I would be impressed and more likely to listen.
But if you look at history, it seems to me that society improved its treatment of women before the church, society improved its treatment of blacks before the church, society improved its treatment of homosexuals before the church, so if leaders of the church are slower than society to make the right changes, why do I need them?
The church’s stubborn fight against evolution also comes to mind.
“The problem centers around black & white vs nuanced thinking. The two are not equally respectable for adults to hold and use because black & white is how a child thinks.”
Howard, I don’t have a problem with this, but I think that the scriptures do. Hugh Nibley and other scholars have written extensively about “the two ways”. Although the phrase comes from the Didache, it exemplifies teachings all throughout the scriptures. Simply put: there are two paths in the world; one that leads to light and Life, one that leads to darkness and Death. If you believe this, this, and this; and you do this, this, and this, you have Eternal Life. If not, you are doomed. Truth, then, is the same yesterday, today, and forever; error also, i.e. black and white. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a great deal of “nuanced thinking” in the scriptures. I actually think the Church is more flexible than scripture is.
With experience I think you will see that the black and white path precedes the nuanced path rather than paralleling it to the goal. An example of this is the thou shalts and shalt nots of the hellfire and damnation Old Testament which proceeds the Christian (nuanced) Blessed are… of the New Testament Beatitudes.
First off, thank you Bill for the BY quote. It highlights one of the primary problems for me. Too many contradictions. Weigh that quote against the 8th article of faith and tell me what we get at church.
So, if any word of prophets or apostles past or present could be cited for doctrine but they have clearly changed are we not you of enduring the buffetings every wind of doctrine just as much as the heathen?
So what is objective and eternal truth? The terms ‘truth’ and ‘knowledge’ are thrown around way too easily. Consequently authorities and members constantly overreach by making knowledge and truth claims that have not withstood the test of time. However, they have added force to the winds of ever-chain-ging doctrine.
And so I reduce what I thought I knew by rejecting it or changing it to belief. And I simplify what I believe to be true to broader general ideas of man and divinity and while being more specific about how and why I believe any particular ‘truth’. As I do this I begin to see Mormonism as a small piece in the eternal puzzle (thank you Elder Pino).
The problem is my ability to enter the temple to express any belief or hope of eternity is subjugated to the mandate that requires the more universal ‘church is true’ viewpoint. Consequently my worthiness to attend the temple and therefore my salvation cannot abide nuance.
Church materials in general do not teach from a nuanced angle.
Consequently my worthiness to attend the temple and therefore my salvation cannot abide nuance…Church materials in general do not teach from a nuanced angle.
Very well said! Here we have one of the main problems with modern LDS Mormonism.
#33 – I’d like to hear what the “Gatekeeper” has to say on the subject. If “she” (yes, I know with these demons from antiquity they can be whatever they choose, including gender..) comes in the form of Sigourney Weaver c. 1984, anytime…
The problem with so much cafeteria talk is that the author almost always assumes that the church is trying to serve us all of the dishes listed in the post. But living prophets do not endorse every single verse in the scriptures, every passage of the Journal of Discourses or every personal letter sent to any general authority that ever lived. Of course there is an element of cafeteria, which is exactly why we have living prophets to pick and choose such things for us.
Once we limit our own personal selections to those thing that the LDS cafeteria is currently serving, however, the picking and choosing become far less pressing or relevant.
In other words, posts regarding picking and choosing almost always take us to a cafeteria that is not that of the actual church, but rather, that of sunstone, dialogue or some other non-official selection of material to choose from. By tacitly switching the cafeteria from which we are to choose, they give the illusion that their picking and choosing is no different from anybody else’s, when in fact the most important picking and choosing (that is which cafeteria we will eat at) has already been made before the post even starts.
When it comes to key points of Mormonism, I boil it down to revelation and authority. Revelation encompasses both scripture (with the caveat of fallibility of past prophets) and current prophets (same fallibility caveat applies). The 9th article of faith leaves open the door of future revelation, which means doctrines and policies in force now may be superseded at a later date. The authority/priesthood thing identifies the uniqueness of the Mormon church in providing saving ordinances. In my mind, being a member of the church means coming to terms with the core issues of revelation and authority. This is where I see the black and white dichotomy. Either you believe the leaders of the church receive revelation and have unique authority to provide saving ordinances, or you don’t.
That being said, how you *cope* with the fallibility of church leaders will require nuance. All five points in the OP revolve around dealing with the risks inherent when imperfect individuals act or speak when claiming inspiration. This is where individual members tend to disagree, and where those who typically identify as cafeteria Mormons will run into trouble with other members.
Regardless, bringing in the Beatitudes is a bit unfair. We are debating membership in the institutional church, how we view the authority of a church claiming to represent the *temporal* Kingdom of God in the latter days. Leaders are in charge of providing saving ordinances appropriately. The Beatitudes reflect something much deeper, how children of God are expected to treat other children of God (more of a *spiritual* Kingdom of God). While it is expected that members of the church follow these deeper truths, it is undeniable that any person, regardless of their religion, may respond to what we call the Light of Christ and act on these more fundamental truths. Many religious leaders outside our church clearly reflect the light of these sacred truths. This is one of the reasons I can accept God inspiring movements in secular society prior to church leaders receiving direction on the same issues. Perfection isn’t achieved until the temporal and spiritual kingdoms are permanently united, though, and there we’ll find a Zion society.
I’m a cafeteria Mormon. The first item I reject is the notion that it’s wrong to be a cafeteria Mormon.
But it would be unfair of me to expect Church leaders to validate that approach. The cafeteria attendants tell me to try everything. I politely smile and disregard that suggestion.
Put on your big kid pants. Don’t ask permission to believe, or make excuses for believing, only those things that seem true to you. Anybody else tired of being infantilized?
Sorry but the Beatitudes were/are the centerpiece sermons of Christ’s ministry, eight blessings each of which addresses a major biblical theme. They are as fundamental to Christianity as being forgiven of your sins, life after death, love one another, and leaving the comforter behind. Yes they are deeper, the 10Cs are Mosaic, the Beatitudes Christian and the LDS checklist is correlated. The problem is the LDS church is far too Mosaic to officially put them into practice so instead they mostly receive occasional token lip service. They are more than 2,000 years old, isn’t time we seriously considered them?
The Beatitudes are significant, but they do not address saving ordinances. By both NT and BofM theology, admission to the kingdom of God requires baptism by water and fire. Orthodox Christians and Mormons both believe these ordinances must be performed by those with appropriate authority. That is where the necessity of the institutional church comes into play.
The Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount were repeated in the BofM. Given how often we are expected to read it, I agree, you would think we would be a bit more familiar with them. As to whether the Beatitudes are the centerpiece of Christ’s ministry… that is debatable. They are a good summary of many themes, but Mark, Luke, and John clearly differed from Matthew in what they considered the most memorable aspects of Christ’s ministry.
baptism by water is a typical LDS saving ordinance baptism by fire is almost completely unknown to modern LDS members, yes they are confirmed but an LDS confirmation is nothing close to the experience known as baptism by fire, they are worlds apart. Both including true baptism by fire are but a door opener, personal growth and enlightenment are required to become Godlike to allow one to exist in his presence. You don’t seem to realize that the LDS church in spite of it’s Christianity plus doctrine is spiritually operating at mostly an Old Testament level.
Sorry I seem to be forgetting to close my italics today.
“With experience I think you will see…”
Hey, nice slam, Howard.
But the “Two Ways” concept found in the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, and other writings are drawn directly from the Savior’s teachings in the NT. An example:
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
The BOM also strongly teaches the two ways, the most entertaining being the confrontation between Alma the Younger and Korihor.
Now, I didn’t write the scriptures and I’m sorry if it offends you, but the black/white – right/wrong scenario appears in all of the LDS standard works. There’s a great deal of writing done by scholars concerning this.
I’m not offended. The Didache is an early catechism, so you might think of it as early correlation. Religion is the mortalization of spirituality so revealed concepts tends to be dumbed down to the current level of the people receiving it in a you can’t know know what you don’t know kind of way.
I enjoyed this post.
There are a couple of things I would like to contribute with the hopes that a few who frequent this blog might find useful.
We are taught by scripture and church leaders that prophets are fallible. Bill pointed out a few examples.
In general, church members have a hard time with the concept of fallible prophets and the doctrine of opposition in all things.
We need to realize we are in a fallen telestial world and the only way we can successfully navigate the spiritual death we are subject to is by doing all we can to fulfill are baptism covenant.
Too many church members don’t even know what it means to fulfill our baptism covenant. The 4th Article of Faith and the Book of Mormon clearly teach what it means to fulfill our baptism covenant. But for some reason it isn’t a priority for church members as they focus on other priories.
Bill got it mostly right when he said, ” 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.”
Even this powerful statement misses the bulls eye.
The bottom line of the gospel is for church members to obtain a remission of sins!
A remission of sins, as a general rule, comes after experiencing the important, but lesser manifestations of the Holy Ghost.
A remission of sins is a baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. It is to be born again. And as surprising as it sounds, we are taught that we are at the beginning, having just entered the gate (2 Nephi 31:18).
It is surprising because in our day, I don’t think 1 in 10 members has been born again. The parable of the 10 Virgins is more liberal, suggesting 5 in 10.
The Book of Mormon teaches what I’ve written.For starters, turn to the Words of Mormon, verses 12-18, and the first 5 chapters of the Mosiah.
In these chapter it becomes clear that king Benjamin’s people are highly favored of the Lord because of their diligence in keeping the commandments, yet they haven’t been born again.
They had prophets and holy men and experienced the manifestations of the Holy Ghost, but they had not received a remission of sins (born again) until the day that king Benjamin taught them as described in Mosiah 4.
I hope what I’ve written will be helpful to the few who are interested in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
You often claim that the gospel or the church is “dumbed down” in a way that suggests we can or ought to graduate from it to a higher level. How do you support such a claim? Yes, the message is adapted to the lowest amongst us, but I see no reason why this has anything to do with dumbness.
So adapted to the lowest amongst us isn’t dumbed down? Correlation isn’t dumbing down? What is it then?
God doesn’t need to condescend to be understood by us?
Do the 10Cs equal the beatitudes? Of course not! Nuance carries knowledge that is lost in it’s conversion to simplified black and white and God has knowledge that exceeds our lived experience and our human adaptation to date so revelation must be filtered through the frames of references of the prophets receiving it resulting in a dumbed down approximation.
Yes, it’s dumbed down!
Analog (nuance) cannot be converted to digital (binary black & white) without loosing information (truncated and polorized). Digital cannot be converted to analog without adding information that does not exist in the digital file.
Analog =/= digital
Digital =/= analog
So analog must be dumbed down in order to convert it to digital.
You haven’t provided any support for your interpretation, only rhetorical questions, analogies and assertions of questionable relevance.
Can you actually give other people a reason to believe that the gospel taught by the church is something we are supposed to graduate from or is it something you simply happen to believe for yourself?
Howard, I agree that church culture seems to run a bit like the OT in all the rules and regs (which, honestly, isn’t surprising when you consider how much the OT influenced early church leaders). What people don’t seem to grasp though, is that God still expected OT Israelites to internalize the spiritual aspects of the law – loving their neighbor, caring for the widows and fatherless, loving God over idols (the law written on the fleshy tablets of the heart, etc.). The later OT prophets made it quite clear that rote obedience to rites and ceremonies was insufficient when not accompanied by loving actions toward God and neighbors (Hosea 6:6). It was well understood among Jews at the time of the NT that the Mosaic law could be summarized in the two great commandments of loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. Jesus wasn’t introducing a new concept in that statement. Mormonism’s emphasis on ritual and ceremony, Word of Wisdom and other regulations does not inherently preclude true conversion/baptism by fire. Can people get distracted by all the surface stuff and miss the heart of the gospel? Definitely, but that is not a problem unique to Mormons. The scriptures prove this is something people have been struggling with for a long time.
Support can’t be rhetorical questions? Sure it can! Watch. The church doesn’t teach the beatitudes yet Jesus made a point of doing so! Why? If all humankind needs are the 10Cs and an LDS checklist what exactly was Jesus’ point with the beatitudes?
The beatitudes focus on a spirit of love and humility rather than compliance to rules backed by threat of enforcement or damnation! It’s a totally different attitude, philosophy and gospel than what the church implies and teaches today.
So I suppose one can choose to either be LDS or Christian but in spite of the church’s reverence for the entity of Christ himself LDS is (paradoxically) far too Pharisaical and Mosaic in practice to be considered mostly Christian. Sad that it ignores this part of Christianity by jumping over it to merge a mostly Mosaic gospel with Joseph’s revealed Temple Ordinances. It leaves the potential be becoming Christianity Plus behind by ignoring Jesus’ centerpiece sermons behind.
Jesus reframed OT concepts into less black and white, more nuance, less enforcement, more love and humility, less rigity more flexibility. That is one of the primary differences between OT and NT between a Mosaic church and a Christian church.
I’m still just not seeing how any of that is supposed to be persuasive to another person. (I’m not necessarily knocking you for believing it yourself.) A living prophet revealing new commandments to their flock 2000 years ago is hardly the most convincing example of people graduating from listening to their leaders.
Well Jeff G in the event of contradiction I’ll take what Jesus had to say any day over the words of the fallible mall builders.
Like I said, I don’t have any problem at all with what you personally believe. But when you start using those beliefs to correct others, I have a hard time seeing where you’re coming from.
Thanks for letting me know Jeff.
Ah, that ever present OT vs NT tension. If Christ fulfilled the law then what commandments remain…erm… set in stone as it were? The record indicates that he was accused of being a Sabbath breaker, and drunkard, and one who hangs-out with sinners. His direct responses to at least two of those charges had to do with doing good and reaching out to others. Something like all the law and prophets hanging on a couple of primary principles.
The checklist is easier, but the heart…well that’s the real test isn’t it? The rich young man had the commandments down, but they profited him nothing…..
Now sing along with me to one of the greatest melodies ever penned, “We believe the bible to be the word of God. As far as it is translated correctly.”