If you’ve ever been to the Southeastern US, you’ve seen kudzu. It’s everywhere. In the 1930s, this Japanese vine’s popularity rose among poor American Southerners seeking a cheap and easy way to provide shade in their sweltering summers. Because it grew very quickly, those planting it were told, optimistically, that all they had to do was prune it regularly to keep it from taking over (insert nervous laugh). Nicknamed by southerners “porch vine,” it quickly draped across verandas, houses, trees and even powerlines.
Now, its proliferation has led some to call it “the plant that ate the south.” It grows like the weed it is in the hot, humid climates in the Southeastern US, and chokes out the plants and trees it smothers. The only other plants that can defeat it are also invasive species that wreak their own havoc on native ecosystems. It prompted the poet James Dickey to pen his famous, if controversial, poem .
In his poem, kudzu is both its own problem in that it grows so quickly, taking over everything, but it also creates peril by providing cover for dangerous snakes who use it to conceal themselves and access the cows of the farm. The poem ends on the hopeful yet exhausting note of “rooting it out” so that the farm and its people can live.
Likewise, certain ideas have invaded the Church over my lifetime. Due to the pandemic pause on attendance and then moving to a new ward, this became even more obvious when I returned. Those who are disaffected say “pray, pay and obey,” and that’s part of it. The first two meetings after I returned were at least 80% focused on obedience to human leaders. One lesson even asked the question “What’s the difference between obedience and blind obedience?” and the only acceptable answer was that obedience came with a pause first, but never was there ever a valid reason to disagree with leaders over anything. This included non-religious and bureaucratic ideas as well.
I was also struck by how many times talks and lessons included quoting leaders, including quoting leaders who were quoting other leaders! If I had to guess what percent of quotes were from leaders vs. Jesus, it would definitely be well over 90% quoting leaders. I really am not even sure Jesus was quoted even once, but we stopped studying Jesus’ words a long time ago, and instead we just study what leaders have told us they mean. That’s not always how it has been, although perhaps in my own childrens’ lives maybe it has.
These ideas have slowly crept in, providing cover for other testimony-killers like the conflation of GOP culture war priorities with gospel principles. I’m not sure what’s left at this point. All I can see from where I’m sitting is the religious kudzu, and I don’t think anyone has the will or strength to root it out. If we are waiting for the leaders to do it, they certainly will not. Local leaders are the only hope, and many of them can’t really tell the difference anymore. So long as there is moral cover, we don’t care where it comes from. We can point to a leader and say “even if they are wrong, I’ll be blessed for following them.” Really? That’s completely the opposite of what Jesus taught. Why do we not say so?
In response to the rising disaffection of women in the Church who are unhappy with so little representation from women in the leadership ranks, we frequently trot out the wives of the apostles who have no title of respect, and whose primary job seems to be the public adoration of their husbands, testifying of the importance of their husband’s role. Does anyone really think that this approach demonstrates women being involved in decision making? I can’t imagine any women being fooled by this.
It feels particularly on the nose that kudzu proliferated in the Southeastern US, because most of these religious ideas appear to have wormed their way into Mormonism via the conservative bedfellows of the deep South, via the GOP, whose sexism, racism and homophobia historically outpaces even our own. Evangelicalism, while perhaps not inventing current Mormonism’s worst ideological shifts, has certainly emboldened these tendencies and given them language to emerge. They give easy cover to the deeper problems of misogyny, racism, and homophobia. I thought I would never see the day that Mormons were unironically using lesson aids taken from Evangelical sources, but this is now the norm!
Before the Civil Rights Act, the South mostly voted Democrat. In the 1970s, the Republican party deliberately made an appeal to aggrieved white voters in the south on the basis of racism, providing cover for Jim Crow laws and other racial repressions that were designed to counter any attempts at equality for black people. This was called the Southern Strategy. Republicans used coded language to woo these racists into their conservative party, disenfranchising black voters, but altering the Republican party forever. And Mormons went right along with it because secretly (or not so secretly) many of them were also not bothered by racism or sexism. These ideas from the South have taken the Republican party to its current form, complacent with racism so long as taxes remain low, complacent with sexism, so long as white men continue to have power.
Peter Bleakly, a podcaster from the UK, calls this a Mormon Civil War between the Pharisees and the Christians. I don’t see a war at all. The war is over, and the kudzu has won. The members want the comfort of hearing the same things over and over, substituting propoganda for learning. They don’t want open discussions of real issues. If they do, they are finding them outside of our congregations.
- What religious kudzu do you see in the Church?
- How do you think these ideas can be rooted out, if at all?
- What gives you hope?
Japan invades. Far Eastern vines
Run from the clay banks they are
Supposed to keep from eroding
Up telephone poles
Which rear, half out of leafage
As though they would shriek
Like things smothered by their own
Green, mindless, unkillable ghosts
In Georgia, the legend says
That you must close your windows
At night to keep it out of the house
The glass is tinged with green, even so
As the tendrils crawl over the fields
The night the kudzu has
Your pasture, you sleep like the dead
Silence has grown Oriental
And you cannot step upon ground:
Your leg plunges somewhere
It should not, it never should be
Disappears, and waits to be struck
Anywhere between sole and kneecap:
For when the kudzu comes
The snakes do, and weave themselves
Among its lengthening vines
Their spade heads resting on leaves
Growing also, in earthly power
And the huge circumstance of concealment
One by one the cows stumble in
Drooling a hot green froth
And die, seeing the wood of their stalls
Strain to break into leaf
In your closed house, with the vine
Tapping your window like lightning
You remember what tactics to use
In the wrong yellow fog-light of dawn
You herd them in, the hogs
Head down in their hairy fat
The meaty troops, to the pasture
The leaves of the kudzu quake
With the serpents’ fear, inside
The meadow ringed with men
Holding sticks, on the country roads
The hogs disappear in the leaves
The sound is intense, subhuman
Nearly human with purposive rage
There is no terror
Sound from the snakes
No one can see the desperate, futile
Striking under the leaf heads
Now and then, the flash of a long
Living vine, a cold belly
Leaps up, torn apart, then falls
Under the tussling surface
You have won, and wait for frost
When, at the merest touch
Of cold, the kudzu turns
Black, withers inward and dies
Leaving a mass of brown strings
Like the wires of a gigantic switchboard
You open your windows
With the lightning restored to the sky
And no leaves rising to bury
You alive inside your frail house
And you think, in the opened cold
Of the surface of things and its terrors
And of the mistaken, mortal
Arrogance of the snakes
As the vines, growing insanely, sent
Great powers into their bodies
And the freedom to strike without warning:
From them, though they killed
Your cattle, such energy also flowed
To you from the knee-high meadow
(It was as though you had
A green sword twined among
The veins of your growing right arm–
Such strength as you would not believe
If you stood alone in a proper
Shaved field among your safe cows–):
Came in through your closed
Leafy windows and almighty sleephttps://genius.com/James-dickey-kudzu-annotated
And prospered, till rooted out
The religious kudzu that I see in the Church today is the idea that families can be together forever but only if its members comply with a list of behaviors and standards. And by definition, some members of the family will never be able to do so unless they deny who they are. There is nothing more ironic about the Church than the fact that it prides itself on being the most pro-family organization on the earth while at the same time dividing families like few other religions can. It’s true that Mormons aren’t the only ones who define people (including family members) as “them” and “us”, but few religions promote doctrines that place us in different eternal categories. And this isn’t LDS culture I’m talking about. Our president (RMN) said very openly in his “sad heaven” talk recently that “time is running out” for us to get our act together in order to be together forever. That’s religious kudzu 101.
Great post. To answer the last question first, nothing gives me hope for substantive change in the church. At least not in my lifetime. There are very small, incremental victories, usually followed by retrenchment, so no progress is ever really made except on a few simple things, like the tiny moving of the needle regarding how the church talks about (not treats) members of the LBGTQ community.
There’s lots of kudzu: gender disparity, the racism and jingoism that is still at the heart of the Book of Mormon and which has not been firmly and vehemently condemned, the refusal to contradict previous church leaders because of the risks of making them seem more human (that’s what really prevents meaningful change, IMHO), the casual misogyny, the ever-present anti-intellectualism and suspicion of science/facts/non-whitewashed history, the vast oversimplification of deeply profound and meaningful spiritual principles, the ingrained suspicion of those who have an expansive and complex view of the gospel of Christ. I could go on, but you get the point.
I don’t think these ideas can be rooted out, really, unless a substantial number of more nuanced Mormons stay in the fold. And of course, that’s unlikely since the church itself, despite its supposedly inclusive rhetoric, is actually designed to be exclusionary; what I interpret as the pharisaical, harmfully alienating nature of the church would be interpreted by a true believer as the church doing exactly what it should be doing: separating the wheat from the chaff. Thus, when lots of more nuance believers leave, the true believers proclaim it as victory. When that kind of ideology of intentional alienation is hard-wired into a religious organization, it’s pretty hard to get it to budge in any meaningful way.
I think you mischaracterize the GOP. Here is one paragraph from a longer article.
The mythmakers typically draw on two types of evidence. First, they argue that the GOP deliberately crafted its core messages to accommodate Southern racists. Second, they find proof in the electoral pudding: the GOP captured the core of the Southern white backlash vote. But neither type of evidence is very persuasive. It is not at all clear that the GOP’s policy positions are sugar-coated racist appeals. And election results show that the GOP became the South’s dominant party in the least racist phase of the region’s history, and got—and stays—that way as the party of the upwardly mobile, more socially conservative, openly patriotic middle-class, not of white solidarity.
“certain ideas have invaded the Church over my lifetime … These ideas have slowly crept in, providing cover for other testimony-killers like the inflation of GOP culture war priorities with gospel principles”
While I mostly agree with the tenor of the post, I don’t think these ideas slowly crept in to the Church over hawkgrrl’s lifetime. I remember them all from the 1960s. What has happened is that they have grown rapidly in pervasiveness, in part because of alliances with both Catholic churches and with evangelicals, but also because we lost the few counter-balancing voices among GAs (like Hugh B. Brown) and because of the failure to get rid of the BRMcConkie gospel promptly after its first unauthorized publication or the JFieldingS “Man, His Origin & Destiny” promptly after its first unauthorized publication. The impression of newness (as opposed to pervasiveness) and, indeed, some of the pervasiveness may be partly geographical. I would have no reason to expect someone raised in the eastern US and accustomed to international living to be happy with the Church in Arizona. In some parts of the Bay Area the Church seems quite unlike the Church in Arizona. One Church leader in the Bay Area remarked that graduate students who came from intermountain universities often thought they’d landed on a different planet. Where I am now, the climate is somewhat in between.
I have no hope of institutional change in these respects — at least not in my lifetime. But I have been able to make some small changes in the experience of some of those around me.
cachemagic, you might have chosen a more compelling source than Claremont. It’s remarkable that the entire article you link to does not mention the name Lee Atwater, the architect of the Southern Strategy. It might save time to simply pay attention to who Atwater was. He is the common thread through the Southern Strategy to Reagan’s policies to the Willie Horton ad. While Alexander’s argument is largely that we should allow for principled, non-racist opposition to things like busing, federal intervention, tax cuts, etc., what Atwater understood was that he could use those issues in a way that enabled southerners who didn’t want to see themselves as racist to still vote in ways that helped him and his candidate win. The outcome is the same, and white southern votes can have a clear conscience.
Don’t believe that Atwater knew what he was doing by substituting seemingly relevant concerns for racial animus? Listen to the man himself.
“You start out in 1954 by saying, (familiar racial epithet repeated three times). By 1968 you can’t say (racial epithet)—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a by product of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites and subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But, I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract and that coded, uh that we’re doing away with the racial problem one way or another you follow me cause obviously saying we want to cut this, is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than (racial epithet repeated twice), you know? So, any way you look at it race is coming in on the back burner.”
These characterizations of the GOP were, in my opinion, more debatable in Atwater’s time than they are now.
Wondering: I think your point about whether these ideas were slow to take hold or represent a more recent invasive sea change are valid questions. It’s hard to tell with the increasing polarization in this country, particularly with some of the most McConkie-ite very political very conservative leaders at the helm currently. IIRC, only 3 of the current apostles were not registered Republicans, but they also weren’t registered Democrats (this might have changed with Gong joining the ranks, but I don’t know). And to your point, growing up in the East, our branch was more diverse in every way imaginable and needed all its members, unlike most Utah wards where conformity can be demanded by a majoritarian rule. Likewise internationally. AZ has been a mixed bag, somewhere in between, but only because I have never lived in the East Valley (Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler) which are apparently worse than Utah County from what I have heard. My current ward is still new to me, but the bigger issue than political conformity seems to be blind obedience, lack of critical thinking, and leader worship.
I suppose a lot can be traced to the creeping of correlation, the rise of intolerant hard-liner leaders, the eventual fruits of a gerontocracy, and the political polarization in the US. If you listen to the Mormon Civil War podcast I mentioned in the post, it is amusing that Peter points out (quite rightly) his British view of American politics and culture, essentially a huge eyeroll. We should all take it with this grain of salt. Unfortunately, our leaders and members mistake their terrible political views for gospel truth.
cachemagic: I am not convinced. The article you cite is a book review from 2004. In our current political climate, post-Obama, the GOP chose the most openly racist candidate since Woodrow Wilson, who then proceeded to embolden white supremacists, calling them “very fine people,” and defending Jim Crow statues. Now that he’s lost, the GOP takes aim at voting rights and teaching of Critical Race Theory which they are defining as anything that teaches that America engaged in systemic racist policies throughout its history. Evangelicals (who favor homeschooling) literally call slavery the “African migration” to avoid dealing with racism. So, great for you if you find that convincing. Actions speak louder than words.
Yes, Angela. An acquaintance from Chandler told me it’s even worse than Mesa! I also had a friend in a Phoenix ward that is rather mixed economically, ethnically, and as to sexual orientation. As a single gay man (and known to be such) he was well-accepted there, as he had been in his prior Mesa ward. So I guess it isn’t just general geographical location that makes a difference.
“providing cover for dangerous snakes”
If you have ears to hear you may realize like in my case that you have a bishop who is a closet apocalyptic homophobe or dudes in EQ that are strongly right wing based on veiled comments on Oaks’ talk on the Constitution. Normally I am inclined to skip EQ but that was an interesting discussion.
I have some relatives who just moved to Utah County after years in Brooklyn and San Fran – I won’t be shocked when they become disillusioned with living in “Zion.”
Hawk girl is absolutely right that a kudzu has invaded the Church. It is the kudzu of laziness.
In the past, members worked hard and o provide for themselves. There was no expectation that one could skimp on work, spend what little on had on an atv or big screen television, and then go to the bishop for rent money. This is all too common these days.
In the past, members went to the church house several nights a week to fulfill callings, perform service, and participate in cultural activities. Now, the bellyache if they have to spend more than two hours a week on church activity.
As several of the above posts infer, most younger people only want to hear messages that praise and comfort them. They don’t want messages that call them to reform themselves or work harder.
So yes, hawk girl, there is an anti-spiritual kudzu attacking the Church. The only question is whether the members will do the work to eradicate it before it is too late.
I think the kudzu has been well-identified between the post and the comments. Any other examples I can think of would just extend from those main ones. I don’t know if I’m a victim of an echo chamber, but following LGBTQ Mormons and allies on Twitter gives me hope. Gen Z gives me hope. Wait for it: “the world” gives me hope. The Church always seems to be behind 30+ years on social progress while other institutions are much quicker to catch on to anti-racism, gender equality and LGBTQ rights. Widespread acceptance of LGBTQ people among younger people and the world more broadly is a harbinger of things to come in the Church as the current generation of leadership dies off and is replaced by younger and younger people. As was alluded to in another recent post, it would certainly be preferable if we had more diversity in the Q15, but with the current system in place, we just have to wait extra long for the changes to come.
Finally! JCS is questioning the commitment of the current Church leadership! We have obviously apostatized from the true faith by going to the three- (and now two-) hour block on Sunday, doing away with the plethora of faith promoting, work encouraging, and testimony building meetings during the week. And, of course, roadshows, Green and Gold Balls, and all of the other cultural events of that bygone era of decades past must be brought back if we are to save the Restored Gospel from the laziness of our current leaders. And I really need to get on board this widespread Church-provided rent/mortgage train…..
Seriously, however, to suggest that the GOP’s Southern Strategy had nothing to do with race is ahistorical. One could debate the degree to which race played a role in the evolution of politics in the South since the 1960s–there were other factors at play as well, including demographic changes and the fact that the memory of Republican Reconstruction policies faded as the 20th century progressed, making it acceptable for conservatives in the South to actually be members of the GOP and have a legitimate chance to get elected–but anyone who says that Richard Nixon, Strom Thurmond, and other (although certainly not all) Republican leaders during the late 1960s and early 1970s did not see the political utility in using race to the party’s advantage does not have any real understanding of post-World War II U.S. history.
Finally, I think that the previous comments regarding the pernicious influence of leader worship are exactly correct. This has become an increasingly problematic aspect of LDS culture/practice/rhetoric since I joined the Church in 1976, and I do not see any indication that things are going to change (in a positive way) in the immediate future.
John Charity Spring, I think your characterisation of the young in particular as being too lazy for your hard working, out every evening kind of Mormonism is entirely failing to understand the realities and pressures of the modern world. In my country house prices have risen so fast that it has been impossible for decades for families to afford rent or a mortgage unless both parents are in pretty much full time employment and my impression is things are the same in the USA. This changes everything. The old culture of having evenings free to do Church things as you describe depended entirely on having mothers being homemakers all day so the evening was free, whereas today both parents come home exhausted from work and then have to START doing house work and food shopping and dealing with the kids and their homework and suchlike. They are working their socks off, not being more lazy. Overwhelmed. And every year what the Church is offering them and their children becomes shallower and shallower and more control freaky and shamingly judgmental and end times apocalyptic rather than joyful and hopeful about the future.
Here’s my recipe for Kudzu killer: for just one year prohibit quoting leaders and all use of the word “obey.” Just one year. Force everyone to go back to the scriptures and to have discussions about them without quoting leaders who tell people what they are supposed to think about them. In one year, a lot of the kudzu would be gone, and we could deal with the occasional creeping back in. That’s my fantasy.
I think the post & lots of comments nailed it. We have abdicated our moral decisionmaking responsibility & authority to our leaders, and we judge an idea based on the priesthood rank of the speaker rather than its merit. I think this kudzu is what houses the snakes of right-wing unthinking conservatism, sexism and homophobia, etc.
The only solution is for people to take their authority back. Perhaps if they see people around them in their congregations do so they will realize they can do the same thing, but I’m not sure most people even want to. Maybe we really are too lazy, although not in the sense that JCS means.
I remember one fellow ward member of mine who was the nicest guy but prided himself on several occasions in Elders Quorum of seeing things “black and white” making a comment in response to a lesson I gave about obedience. He said that he thought of himself as a critical thinker because sometimes “he had to pray about things before accepting them.” I didn’t have the gall to ask him if he ever thought he received an answer from prayer not to obey some “counsel.” I remember whispering a sarcastic jab to myself of, “oh wow, such critical thinking.”
It is a basic fact that the rank-and-file don’t like to admit but love to act out which is that they obey very, very blindly. They like to openly boast about how obedient they are. They even enjoy the idea that the so-called “world” (the boogeyman/strawman image they have of non-LDS folks) sees them as weird and peculiar. “When the leaders speak the thinking is done” is almost a mantra for them. In fact I remember asking what members thought of that exact phrase once in an EQ class and they all seemed to think that that was just how things were. Didn’t bat an eye. Nodded in agreement.
Folks like these are the future of the church. Real critical thinkers, who do more than just pray about it, are likely to play either sidelines roles or just leave the church altogether.
In the OP, you said, ” the inflation of GOP culture war priorities with gospel principles.” I think you meant conflation, and yes that is certainly a problem. It’s probably too easy to blame Republicans, the South, and Evangelicals. In the 19th century, the North was almost as racist as the South, it just wasn’t suited to plantation agriculture. The way Mexicans, Indians, and Asian immigrants were treated in the West offers no claim to any better approach. What is sad is that now, in 2021, in the Church, we could be doing much better. There just doesn’t seem to be much institutional recognition that there’s a problem, much less identifying a solution and charting a better course.
I just got through compiling all of the digitized notes of Sacrament Meeting talks I have given over the years. So when I read this, my inner Ziff kicked in and I did a quick statistical analysis of whom I quoted in those talks by decade. Rather to my surprise, it confirms Hawkgrrrl’s observation. Here are the results (in percent):
1990s 2000s 2010s
Scriptures 83 80 47
Dead church leaders 0 0 6
Living church leaders 0 10 35
Other 17 10 12
This is not a 100% sample of my talks–the undigitized ones might change the results. But I will nevertheless repent (if I am ever asked to speak again).
Dave B: Yes, conflation. Bizarre mistake, but I fixed it. If it were inflation, no doubt the conservatives would be freaking out about it!
lastlemming: Fascinating analysis. Wow, that is something. Thanks for sharing that! We have become really immune to it, I suspect, and if we started to listen for it, I bet we would start fixing the problem.
Brother Sky mentioned “casual misogyny.” This is the vine, and polygamy in particular, that choked out my daughters’ testimonies. They didn’t get that at home from their parents, but I was not at all persuasive when feebly attempting to “put it in context,” a phrase apologists adore.
There are so many good men in the church. That they don’t or can’t rise up and clear out this ugly patch is sad. I don’t mean this to criticize anyone here, or my own husband, because he’s a salt of the earth guy who loves and serves his family. So I just watch the kudzu grow, a little wistful that my kids had to move so far away to be free of it.
ANY institution able to accumulate $120B long ago entered “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mode. Period.
This a very good analogy. Being quite familiar with North Carolina (where my wife came from), I repeatedly saw how the once-beautiful roadside woods, of which there are a lot in that state, are completely overrun by kudzu.
I see both hopeful and concerning trends in the Church. On the positive side, it has been many years since I have heard any references to Bruce McConkie in the Church. When I joined the Church in 1974, no one ever mentioned the grace of Christ. When I (who had actually read the BOM)
Referred to Christ‘s grace, I made many people squirm. I think there is an increasing acceptance of the need for Christ‘s atonement. There is also growing acceptance of interracial marriage.
Jana Riess‘ surveys point to a huge and hopeful generational gap in Mormon culture‘s views. According to Riess, 80 percent of Mormons 40 and over voted for Trump, 18 percent for Biden. For Mormons under 40, voting broke 47 percent Biden, 40 percent Trump. Eventually, the crackpots will die off.
Last Lemming‘s analysis of his Church talks, on the other hand, was disheartening. I think this is the result of having an increasingly aged leadership. But, on the hopeful side, Mormons do eventually jettison untenable positions. We don‘t come out and say that past beliefs were wrong. We just eventually stop quoting embarrassing leaders.
And, on a personal note, I bore my testimony last Sunday about scattering my wife‘s cremated ashes, and people thanked me for my uplifting remarks. I was pleasantly surprised that I got no raised eyebrows. I wouldn‘t have cared, anyway, but the reaction was nice. There were no self-appointed doctrinal Right Hands of God.
lastlemming’s analysis is interesting. I wonder:
1. why no quotes from JS in the 1990s
2. whether there is any correlation with when we began the Teachings of the [carefully selected and heavily and sometimes misleadingly edited] Presidents of the Church in RS/Pr (1997) and when we began assigning GenConf talks for 4th Sunday RS/Pr discussions (Nov 2004).
3. whether there is any correlation with the beginning, whenever that was, of the growing, but not universal, practice of assigning a GenConf talk as a “subject” for a sacrament meeting talk — rarely with any instruction that the assignee is NOT to give a talk about a talk, but rather to give a talk about its subject with some reference to GenConf.
Oh, well. I was resigned to boredom long ago and sometimes find value in it as well as in the occasional break from it.
On the other hand, for a Church that claims to have 15 living prophets, seers, and revelators, it makes little institutional sense to avoid quoting their words in favor of quoting the words of dead prophets, seers, and revelators from the scriptures. That would seem to be a major obstacle to use of Angela’s recipe for Kudzu killer, however much I would like the latter.
What about all the ideas that spread, and then the church decided that they are bad, and they try to kill it, but just like kudzu, are impossible to kill?
1. Blacks were less valiant in the war in heaven/skin color is an indication of worthiness
2. Caffeine is the reason we don’t drink hot beverages
3. LGBTQ individuals are making a choice
And many more. Part of the reason is the church waited way too long to try and kill them, and when they did only used a half effort to do it.
“It makes little institutional sense to avoid quoting their words in favor of quoting the words of dead prophets, seers, and revelators from the scriptures.”. I know that’s the justification, but hear me out on this. We already hear from them directly twice a year. I’m actually more interested in hearing people quote only what is directly attributed to Jesus in my thought experience. Certainly THAT would be an upgrade. The other issue is that “prophets, seers and revelators” is a fairly modern claim. BY said he was no prophet. We’ve heard a few claims of revelation in the last few years that strain credulity. Avoiding quoting the leaders would go a long way towards reverting to a community of disciples rather than an authoritarian cult of personality. The number of times Nelson is quoted while he’s sitting right there is frankly unsavory if we believe in humility and worshipping Christ.
All of Christianity, and particularly Mormons, need to take a look at their practice and doctrine. And then take the necessary steps to return to a more Christ-centered religious belief structure. There has been a lot of kudzu added to all forms of Christianity through the centuries. Mormonism is no exception.
I’ve always wondered about work for the dead. Would Christ really have wanted this obsession? I can see it as a hobby, but not as a doctrinal practice. As I’ve stated before, the living should have a higher priority than the dead.
Our temple construction is bewildering. Why are our temples so elaborate? Why are we still building when our membership numbers are stagnant? Temples have become a legacy item for Church presidents.
Angela, I do like your thought experiment (not “experience” I think), especially now that it’s limited to words attributed to Jesus in the scriptures and not to the scriptures generally (though that can still be a problem with the D&C). But institutional walking back on the 15-prophets-seers-and-revelators claim, however appropriate, seems to have been more than I could even imagine in a thought experiment. (I do like imagining it now that you pointed it out.)
BTW, I think “unsavory” is an understatement. “Revolting” might be appropriate.
why no quotes from JS in the 1990s
My sample size for the 1990s was small–6 quotes in two talks. One of those quotes was Joseph Smith, but it was from D&C 130 (in Joseph’s voice), so I counted it as scripture. The only quote from a dead church leader did, in fact, come from the Brigham Young manual. And the trend of using Conference talks as the topic for Sacrament Meeting talks definitely had an influence. If I’m trying to put a spin on a living guy’s message, it feels like I need another living guy to help me out. Uchtdorf served that purpose for me in one case (with a big assist from Elizabeth Smart).
I go to Millennial Star, and Meridian magazine to see how the 70% think. Right wingers claim to believe in free speech, but both have banned me from commenting.
On Meridian magazine there are 2 articles headed by the stars and stripes. The first one is titled What is your role in the future of America? I thought there might be some discussion of not voting for someone who said he would not accept the result of the election unless he won, because it could lead to an insurection, which if successful would mean america was no longer a democracy. The author does say freedom is a fragile thing, but refers to religious freedom. She recommends that you protect and defend the US and teach the rising generation to do likewise. Patriots will not allow negative talk, such as that America is systemically racist, or talk of global warming. You should learn the gettesburg address, and the national anthem.
The other message starts
I believe we live in the “latter days”, or what the Apostle Paul described as “perilous times” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). These are times when he said that men would “not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3).
There are those who say that there are “systemic” problems with America.
These seem to fit in here. If you are righteous you do not see the problems with the church or country, if you want to fix the problems you are the problem. Where growth or progress fit into this republican view of life I can not see.
I’m all for banning the words “obedience”, “worthiness” and “perfect”. “Worthiness” and “perfect” are just as bad as “obedience” because a) nobody is worthy in this fallen world except for Jesus Christ, so trying to force people try to make themselves worthy before God is impossible and is only possible through God’s Grace, and b) the Greek word used in the New Testament that is translated as “perfect” does NOT mean not ever making mistakes but rather means fulfilling the reason that you or something was created for. This is what happens when church leaders are too worried about members actually reading scholarly Bible commentaries, and they don’t bother to do the hard work themselves. Serious errors like this that damage generations of members creep in because of a combination of ignorance laced with hubris-hey, we know better than everyone else because we have the capital T Truth. My mother’s toxic perfectionism began because her widowed mother demanded absolute technical perfection just like they talked about every week at church, and it has all but destroyed her by this point in her life. (My sibs and I all got help to overcome this horrible way of living and are now recovering perfectionists.) She chronically feels unworthy of any and all blessings. Sad as it is, I know far too many other church members who’ve been raised this way and also feel hopeless because they’ll never be “perfect” the way the talks and the lessons explain perfection. Wondering, I’m with you on the leader worship being thoroughly revolting. It’s the reason that I can’t sustain the Q15. The red cushy chairs and the big stand need to go. Let them sit with the real people and walk up to the Rameupmtum, um stand to speak in conference. I’d also like to see the Q15 be required to have have to take a sabbatical where they are required to do nursery duty, teach any Primary class or rowdy SS class of teenagers far away (think outside of the US or at least outside the western US) from their home ward and not be called by their special title. At the end of the year they would have to report back on what they learned. Can you imagine DHO or Bednar in the nursery or with Sunbeams? I’d pay to see that!
Adulation was poison to President Hinckley but it’s mother’s milk to President Nelson. Have you noticed that every speaker at GC quotes President Nelson at least once?
Definitely leader worship is its own invasive vine. It has reached the point where there exists a cult of personality surrounding whoever the current president of the Church is. Orthodox members are constantly tripping over themselves in giving effusive praise of Pres. Nelson, his surgical prowess (despite the fact that he hasn’t picked up a scalpel in over 30 years, and that the last cohort of surgical residents he trained are probably all retired by now) and how he will probably be the one to welcome Christ’s return to earth. And oddly, this creepy leader worship culture seems to extend retroactively to past presidents. In recent years I have been hearing so much gushing about how wonderful Joseph Smith is/was (he is often referred to in the present tense as if he were still alive, which seems weird to me), despite the fact that the unsavory parts of his life are now more well-known than they were before. When I was growing up, JS’s polyandry, peep stones and other misdeeds were not widely known, but we weren’t talking about him as if he could leap tall buildings in a single bound either.
On a somewhat tangential note, I lived in the southeastern US for several years and am familiar with the engulfing properties of kudzu. I once attended a survival course in that region, where the instructor repeatedly reminded us that every part of the kudzu plant is not only edible, but quite nutritious. He further went on a diatribe about how the South could solve widespread hunger and survive any major disaster if the people would only learn to subsist on kudzu salads. And doing so would also help keep the kudzu growth in check. This doesn’t exactly relate to the OP topic, except to remind us that are often creative solutions to be found for seemingly intractable problems.
CM have you ever noticed how much Sister Nelson enjoys the adulation too? She practically purrs with satisfaction as she hangs onto her husband in every photo that I’ve ever seen her in (which are too numerous to count)since RMN became the president of the church. It’s embarrassing because it’s so obvious-even to those not of our faith! I’m embarrassed to have to explain “leader worship” as a Mormon cultural phenomenon in the church to my non-Mormon friends especially if they live outside the US. The gist of the comment that invariably comes up in these conversations is “According to the New Testament Jesus didn’t call attention to himself as He went about teaching, healing, and doing good nor did he lay by vast amounts of money that could’ve been used to bless the lives of everyone that He served regardless of gender, economic status or any other “qualifier”. Why then would the leader of a church that claims to be the exact same church that Jesus formed on earth 2000 years ago and was restored again crave the attention and praise from all of his followers and “the world” while hoarding vast riches that could easily bless the lives of millions and alleviate their suffering instead of wasting it on more and more ostentatious buildings that few people are able to use and, in many cases, are vanity projects because they are being built in places that are already saturated with these edifices or in locations where there are too few people to warrant such an expense?” How would you answer this answer?
One form of gospel kudzu that has not been mentioned yet is the prosperity gospel. But then, I guess it took over so long ago that it is no longer “spreading” like wildfire. For as long as I can remember it has been a part of the church, openly taught as a blessing of paying tithing. And used as a shortcut to picking righteous leaders, with bishops and up being selected from the “better off. “ The poor have been blamed for being poor and welfare has been seen as a handout to the lazy who just don’t want to work as hard as us righteous people.
But, like others, I have no hope of the leader worship and unquestioning obedience being rooted out in my lifetime. It is still increasing and our current top leadership openly encourage it.
A Poor Wayfaring Man: “She practically purrs with satisfaction as she hangs onto her husband” Next time you do an endowment session, listen closely to what eternity is supposed to be for women. She’s modeling it. No thanks. I see it as wishful thinking on the part of BY, the first one to write down the endowment. His ego knew no bounds.
Jack Hughes: Kudzu SALAD? It’s taken me a decades to get used to eating kale (which was a salad bar garnish when I was growing up, not something we ate). It will take me another few decades to warm up to that idea.
Anna: When tithing went from paying on “increase” to “income,” the prosperity gospel was inevitable; how else do you justify a regressive tax on the poor?
” In one year, a lot of the kudzu would be gone, and we could deal with the occasional creeping back in.”
Having first hand experience at killing kudzu, I’m not certain if one year would be enough. Also, agreeing with Bishop Bill, one cannot make a half hearted attempt at killing it. The tried and true method starts with cutting the vine back to about 18 inches from the root, collecting all the cuttings and soaking in diesel or ethanol so it burns completely, then spraying the 18 inch with Roundup to kill the roots. Like strawberry plants, kudzu can drop roots whenever a leaf cluster touches the ground. Be prepared for a long hard time to eradicate it. It must be removed all at once, otherwise it grows faster than you can kill it back.
Comments above hint toward places in the church that are mostly free of the issues; others are infested beyond recovery. It will take a concerted effort on all levels to solve. I’m not certain if we can get the multiple levels of membership and leadership to come together enough to be successful.
In GC, it would be great for talks to cite non-Church religious scholars, saints, and scripture. Talk about Mother Teresa’s and St Francis’s example. Quote Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama. (The latter won’t happen because we don’t want to offend the Chinese government.). Mention the teachings of Lao Tzu. Quote from early Christian scholars and some of the Books not included in the NT. Truth and guidance can be found outside Mormon sources.
Roger Hansen: Here is a quote from Pope Francis that can be used in GC: “As long as the church is placing its hope on wealth, Jesus is not there. It is an NGO for charity or culture, but it’s not the church of Jesus. Poverty is at the center of the gospel.”
I believe the beginning of the end (the introduction of the first invasive doctrinal kudzu) was likely the spiritual imagination and subsequent lies of JS, but really kicked off with the ascension of BY to the head of the church. The ensuing power consolidation into one single position (president) as well as the elimination of common consent approval of church doctrine and policy further spread the kudzu. Add this to the arrogant notion that the leaders spoke for god and couldn’t be questioned or criticized, and we find ourselves in the inevitable predicament today where our leaders are praised and quoted more than Jesus himself, who have also amassed an unfathomably stupid amount of wealth not used to care for the sick and poor, and are blinded by their own biases that they can’t see how they are harming those on the margins. Roger Hansen has it right, we should care more for the living, who we know need help now, rather than the dead, who we only speculate need help, or that the work can only be done now and not in the millennium. The temple is just another way we have to separate ourselves from the poor and destitute (who wouldn’t have the time or money to attend the temple) into incredibly opulent and spacious buildings and perform “work” for only a fraction of the humans who have ever existed whose names have been recorded. It has all been downhill from BY and I don’t think it will change. The leaders of the church have no need for the members, their approval, or tithing anymore. And if pushed hard enough, will likely entrench and simply allow all but the most strident and orthodox of members to leave, insulate themselves from all others, and survive in perpetuity on interest from the hundreds of billions in stocks and other holdings. Critical mass has been reached.
And perhaps I have waxed into the hyperbole of the worst case scenario. Perhaps the leaders will still care what others think about the church (hopefully less of the evangelical and literal persuasion, and more along the lines of Christ’s teachings and nuanced) and can be influenced to turn away from the suffocating kudzu of black and white thinking. I don’t think this is likely though. I don’t have much hope for change based on the leadership’s actions.
DThamilton: Here’s another quote from Pope Francis – “When something is uncriticizable, it becomes an idol”
I know this comment will be “red meat” on this topic; but that’s okay. (I love the kudzu analogy – by the way)
For me, I worry about the steady creep and growth of Democratic Socialism and Marxism into the United States. Yes, yes I know the hawwkgirl and many others loath the GOP and Conservatives and it’s their right to do so. I in turn, loath the Uber Left and Socialist/Marxists. So, I imagine our country (and who knows maybe the World) is headed for a great clash of philosophies and a desired way of living: in fact I think we’re in the early stages of this already. I think we’re headed for some very ugly times : but I do hope I’m wrong The great irony to me is that once freedom and liberty are lost and subverted (In thought, speech and action) our most sacred, loved and sought after social justice programs go to hell: and fall by the wayside. Cuba, Venezuela anyone….anyone?
(Oh, by way….I do despise all organized religion – most definitely Mormonism – so my desire for freedom has little to do with scriptural teachings: but rather, the harsh realities of life and the inherent cruelty of nature).
I had no idea what you mean by “the steady creep of Marxism and growth of Democratic Socialism and Marxism into the United States.” So I looked up freedom as you refer to it later and found these https://time.com/5882978/freedom-definition-history/ and this https://www.salon.com/2012/08/31/ten_ways_americans_have_lost_their_freedom/ this one I understand and agree with, but I doubt it is what you mean.
Could you please give some examples, as I have no idea what you mean?
Here we are discussing what motivates China as the likely clash of philosophies, and ugly times coming.
Kudzu is a twining perennial vine that belongs to the family Fabaceae, the pea family of flowering plants. It can completely cover entire barns and homes within a full summer. https://catalyticministries.com/sheep-among-wolves/