What do George Orwell, Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway all have in common? All three of them participated in the Spanish Civil War, a war which was won by the fascists and installed Francisco Franco as dictator for life in that country. The Spanish Civil War is viewed as a pre-cursor to WW2, particularly given that Franco had help from both Mussolini and Hitler. I recently returned from two and a half weeks in Spain. We stayed in a hotel overlooking a gorge that some citizens threw their neighbors into less than a hundred years ago over a political disagreement about who should rule the country (after a democratic election). While the reasons for the war were complex, the extremists on the right whose interests aligned with the nobility, the wealthy landowners, the Church, and (of course) the military, eventually defeated those on the left who were a loosely formed coalition of populists, intellectuals, socialists, Marxists, and Leninists. The left had fairly won an election before the uprising and was in power. The fascist right refused to honor this loss, and instead staged an uprising.
Leading up to the 2016 election, I was shocked to see a former ward member’s Facebook post stating that if Hillary Clinton won the election, he would literally join his fellow Republicans, take their guns to the streets, and commit violence to prevent her from becoming President. I didn’t know whether this was a valid threat or hyperbole, and since she lost the election, I’ll never know. The idea of citizens committing violence for politics in the US, at least at the time, felt too foreign an idea. With the increasing polarization, the constant propaganda and lies that culminated in the January 6th insurrection, and even the violence on airplanes caused by fighting between maskers and anti-maskers over individuals either following or refusing to follow the masking requirements on flights, the idea of an actual civil war feels closer than ever before in my own lifetime. Both groups want to be able to have a say in how we are governed, to have access to power and control over their lives, and for their worldview to prevail.
There was an Evangelical woman identified as a white Christian nationalist being interviewed on a Vox podcast before the election who was asked “Would you support democracy even if your candidate or party lost as a result?” She would not say yes. She said she would have to think about that. Protip: if you resort to violence when you lose the debate, that’s not a democracy; that’s not freedom.
When we returned from Spain, we went to see Black Widow  which prompted a re-watch of Avengers’ Civil War. In the film, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers face off ideologically. Tony has become convinced that they need a check on their power, and possibly even that the collateral damage that they inflict needs the cover of having been sanctioned by world governments. He doesn’t want to continue to make mistakes that others question that result in loss of life and other dire consequences without ensuring that those sacrifices couldn’t have been avoided. Steve, on the other hand, is skeptical that leaders always have it right, and he’s convinced that governments are often motivated by personal power, politics, and sometimes dark actors with hidden agendas who will turn them into puppets for bad causes, like Hydra did to his pal Bucky. What makes this particular Civil War interesting is that we expect these arguments to be reversed; Stark is the anti-authoritarian outside-the-box thinker and Steve Rogers is the good soldier, but in having them argue the opposite points from what we expect, we can see the appeal of these arguments, that they aren’t just black and white ways to look at things, that they may have merits to discuss and understand more deeply, that neither approach is without casualties.
I’ve recently listened to the Mormon Civil War podcast that refers to what podcaster Peter Bleakley calls “Pharisees” (those who seek to control behaviors and thoughts of individuals and create programs and policies that prevent diversity of thought, leader feedback and accountability and common consent, and who set up high level leaders’ ideas as a substitute for the gospel) vs. those who want more freedom of thought, more diversity in the membership, more ability to disagree with leaders’ ideas, and more allowance for individuality (a Church with more agency, free discussion, open debate, scientific inquiry, open-mindedness, fewer ticky-tack rules and enforcement, and more member involvement in decision-making and program-creation). The term Civil War feels a little over-the-top, but then again, maybe not. After all, Bleakley was just excommunicated for his observations.
This ideological difference is also the same war that we are taught happened before the world was, the war between Satan and the third of heaven who followed him who didn’t want to have to make choices and take risks and have personal growth and were willing to give the glory to the one controlling them, the one making the rules to prevent any of them from being lost, and Jesus Christ who agreed that not all would be saved because individual agency was more important and that individuals needed to be able to have the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them to become gods.
The Garden of Eden is another example of this ideological war: Adam believes in following directions, even when they don’t make any sense and are contradictory, so that he can retain God’s approval. He’d rather remain in ignorance and have plausible deniability about wrong decisions. Eve, by contrast, listens to the opposing argument and makes her own choice, causing the fall from Eden, but intentionally. She owns the choice when confronted by Adam, explaining her rationale, and allows him to make his own choice, to come with her or to stay alone in the garden. Adam is, initially, anti-choice, wishing to be protected and controlled by obedience, doing what he’s been told. Eve wants to gain knowledge and make her own choices, even if God disapproves and punishes her, and she also recognizes that God has given them contradictory instructions, that either way it’s a choice–a passive one or taking action. This is the same argument as so many of these “civil wars”: personal accountability, mistakes included, or living under the protection of an authority with plausible deniability and no personal accountability for mistakes. Even if a leader is wrong, you’ll be blessed for following them. Unquestioningly. Do people really believe that?
- When do you think violence or civil war is justified?
- How do you see the ideological divide in the Church currently? How do you think it will resolve?
- How much of these differences are about power and how much about ideology?
- Do you see the War in Heaven and the Adam & Eve story this way? Why or why not?
 In true fascist fashion, he denied that he had this assistance, instead lying to make himself look tougher. We stood in the square behind Gaudi’s church, the facade of which is pockmarked from violence. Franco claimed he shot dissidents there, but the “bullet holes” go up to the second story, disproving his lie. The truth from eye-witnesses and contemporaries is that Mussolini dropped a bomb in that square to help Franco win.
 Love, love, love Florence Pugh!
God was not arbitrary in the Garden of Eden. God does not require unintelligent obedience. After all, Adam and Eve knew God quite well having walked and talked together. They knew his character. Eve failed to heed the warnings and Adam chose his relationship with Eve over his relationship with God. In fact, Scripture is resplendent with God inviting questions and even arguments from his creatures.
The Good News is that God is not like how he has been portrayed by so many. In Satan’s words: “Did God really say…” and the lies began.
I think violence or civil war is never justified.
When a government becomes so corrupt that working within the structure of that government becomes almost impossible, a coup does become tempting. The problem with violence and civil war is that individuals are physically and financially harmed. Those individuals remember. Their families remember. Some of those families are powerful. Those grudges will last for generations. Those feelings and resentments easily lead to more violence. Violence and civil war sets a precedence. Once those attempts have been made, it becomes easier for others to do the same. A representative government system and continued work within that system is the only way to keep some sort of peace.
In the current US political environment, the corruption is not widespread. The current system works. The issue is that the far right feels that they are losing their place of relevance in society. What they have lost is religious identity and financial standing. The US is moving into a post-Christian phase and long-term economy issues has decimated the middle class. Neither is due to political affiliation and no single election is going to change the situation. Violence will not fix it.
Whenever science and religion collide in some way, science always wins. It might take a generation or two, but science wins every single time. Right now, race, gender divides, LGBTQ , political affiliations and a pandemic are pushing out the spiritualism of the church. The church will lose those battles. So much is done in the church due to thoughts, inspirations and a few wild hairs. Those have been used to control others. Scientific fact will need to play a bigger role in the future.
The second church issue that I do see tangled up with power is the diminishing cultural identity within the church. The local ward is no longer the primary identity for younger members. They do not have past memories of road shows, dance festivals and fun ward events to keep them involved. For so many of them, the church cultural experience is simply missing. They cannot find a fit for themselves within the church.
My thought is that the corporate church has decreased ward budgets to such a degree of thrift that the average ward is on the brink of social and cultural death. The culture and sense of community has been sucked out of local wards along with the tithing dollars. In order the save the church, I expect to see the corporate church start to leave more tithing dollars within the local church communities., I expect there to be more local control of those funds.
The story of the War in Heaven is really twisted. It is all about God supporting those who wanted to be more independent and taking the more difficult path. The most strict ones in heaven are portrayed as the demons who get thrown out.
The current LDS lessons tell people to not take chances, to choose the sure path and to stay in the path. The LDS church has forgotten that Christ was a social radical.
The Adam & Eve story is even more problematic. Eve is the one who allows individual thoughts and actions to happen. She is the one who allows sexuality to exist. Eve is also the one held up within the religious culture as the reason why women are not allowed to lead.
And do I expect to see a civil war in the US within my life? Yes.
Hawk girl raises some excellent points. There is a common theme in all of these problems, from the War in Heaven to the Spanish Civil War to the wars of today. That common theme is the failure of the masses to educate and inform themselves of the issues so they can do their own thinking.
The great hordes of today have taken this laziness and made it an art form. Instead of reading and researching the important issues of the time, they sit around in their sweatpants and crocs absorbing each new Fast & Furious movie through catatonic osmosis. Heaven forbid that they would read a newspaper.
This leads to blindly following a charismatic leader. It was the case with Franco, who was really just copying the techniques of Kaiser Wilhelm II, a madman who led the world into warfare that essentially lasted the entire 20th Century.
We must demand that educational and religious organizations teach their students how to learn and study the issues. That is the only way to prevent the rise of a new Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Typically the large conservative majority of LDS fall on one side of any given political/moral issue, as guided by LDS leaders. Those in the minority are used to it and just soldier on. With Covid, the split is much more down the middle, which is something new and unsettling for many LDS. The leadership is surprisingly muted, given how willing they have been to wade into other moral/political issues.
Civil War is probably my favorite Avengers movie. I like the Sharon Carter remarks in the funeral scene, which summarize the Steve Rodgers position, very moving. Compromise when you can, but when you are right and they are wrong, stand your ground, even if the whole world is against you. That’s also a very Mormon position to take, although we ought to think harder about when to compromise and when to plant and hold.
We also have the cautionary example of one Amalekiah, a large and might man, “and there were many in the church who believed in the flattering words…” (Alma 46:7)), who put together a coalition very similar to Franco’s. The proud, the rich, those desiring to be rich, those resenting Helaman to the point of being “exceeding wroth, insomuch that they were determined to slay them (Alma 46:2), and who desired Amalekiah to be king, “lower judges of the land, and they were seeking for power”. Amalekiah, “…a man of cunning device, and a man of many flattering words, that he led away the hearts of many people to do wickedly; and to seek to destroy the church of God, and to destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them (Alma46:10). Amalekiah was knew to flee battles he could not win, knew how to use flattery and deceit to gain power, how speak to “stir up the Lamanites to anger against them” (remembering that from Jacob 1:14 Lamanite means politically unfriendly, not lineage based unrighteous), and of course, he used proxies to spread his message, “yea, he did appoint men to speak unto the Lamanites, from their towers, against the Nephites.” (Alma 48:1), in Nibley’s apt term from his “Freemen and Kingmen” essay, “saturating the air waves” with grievances. He was a man who was willing to send people to fight to the death, and to kill, but did not personally go down to battle, despite being a large and might y man, perhaps because of bone spurs. “For behold, he did care not for the blood of his people.” (Alma 49:10). The rise of his brother to power after his death shows that he prefered to surround himself with loyal sycophants, submissive flatterers, rather than any who might speak the truth to power.
In contrast, the Nephites were “taught to defend themselves … if it were necessary; yea and they were taught neer to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.” (Alma48:14).
On July 1, Rachael Maddow reported on Ben Rhodes’s account of how:
“As I walked the class through a syllabus based upon country after country that had drifted to the nationalist authoritarian right, Hungary, Turkey, Russia, China, India, Brazil, it was glaringly obvious how interconnected these right-wing nationalists were.”
“They used common tactics, common narratives, and common conspiracy theories to legitimize their role. Many of them shared common forces of financing, corruption, and even political consultants.”
Her interview with Rhodes has him saying this:
“Look, when I peeled myself up off the ground after the 2016 election, I kind of went abroad looking for answers. Sometimes you can see more clearly what`s happening here abroad. And the starting point for me was I was talking to a Hungarian opposition figure and I asked him how has your country gone from being a democracy to a single party autocracy basically in a decade?
“He said to me, well, it`s quite simple. Viktor Orban, our prime minister, was elected on a right wing populist backlash to financial crisis, packed the courts with right wing judges, redrew the parliamentary districts to favor his party, change the voting laws to make it easier for his supporters to vote, enrich some cronies on the outside who bought up the media, created a right wing media machine that supported Viktor Orban, and wrapped it all up in a nationalist bow of us versus them. Us is the real Hungarians. Them is immigrants, Muslims, liberal elites, George Soros.
“And he is talking and I`m thinking, well, he could be describing what`s happened in America over the last decade with the Republican Party. And, oh, by the way, you know, Viktor Orban, he got that playbook from Vladimir Putin. I think what I needed to reckon with was someone in a position of power honestly. Because if I can talk to people like Alexei Navalny, talk to people like the Hong Kong protesters and that Hungarian situation.
“I had to resolute, how did America become part of this trend? What did we do to contribute? But also, what could we do to get out of it?”
We would do well to distinguish between the ideals of Moroni and the authorian playbook of those who fit the pattern of Amalekiah, the “authoritarian playbook”, and worry about what caused members of the church to fall for the “flatteries of Amalekiah”, and, like an earlier wave of Kingmen in the church, to “be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and set their hearts upon riches and the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful towards one another and they began to persecute those who did not believe according to their own will and pleasure” (Alma 4:8), and set themselves off with “even a mark of red upon their foreheads.” (Alma 3:13), a Maruf hat, so so speak.
In dealing with such divisions, Alma tried the word of God. Getting people to let go of grievances towards others, blaming others, scapegoating others, rather to become self reflective, self critical, and to “not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts on riches; therefore they were liberal to all (rather than conservative to all, transactional to all, always thinking of personal gain), both old and young, bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, [that is, not Victor Orban’s “Us” versus “Them” approach], having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.” (Alma 1:30).
“And thus did they prosper.” (Alma 1:31)
Great post. I think Damascene makes some great points, particularly about the people who think they’ve been in power (the far/middle right) and fear the loss of that power (of course, the wealthy influencers are the ones who have long been in power and have simply used the fearful right for their own purposes). I think one reason for the complexity and difficulty of the current situation is that many people in this country can’t tell the difference between power and freedom. It’s sad but expected, I suppose, that many folks only trust a system when they’re in control of it.
I also agree with Damascene that we will eventually (I’d say another 3 generations) get to a point where most of the country trusts science more than it trusts religion/faith. It may make people of faith nervous when I say this, but I actually think that.an entirely secular society is better for everyone than one that embraces arbitrary, archaic and really problematic moral codes . Imagine, just for example, what would happen in a workplace if its operating principles were based on the Mormon Church’s: Yes, supposedly love and kindness would theoretically be the end all/be all, but what if all of the exclusions that the church makes were also company policy. Women couldn’t hold power or authority equal to men, LGBTQ people could not become full shareholders/fully employed in the company, all of the leadership would be men in their 60s and older, the company would never apologize or address its racist hiring practices of the past, the women in the company would receive no leadership training, but would be taught things like how to make really good coffee and how to make the office cozy, etc. Most of us would recoil in horror at a business that would institute such rules/practices, and we should, but how many of us continue to make excuses for a church that does exactly the same thing?
And re the War in Heaven/Eden thing, I think it’s pretty clear upon a careful reading of both narratives that God values independent thought and agency and wants us to engage our own independent moral sense about things when making important decisions. I’ve always read Adam as a figure who just wanted to keep things the way that they were; in other words, he was against growth and progress because he valued obedience and the status quo more. And besides the weird Mormon interpretation of Lucifer, that he wanted to force everyone to be good (likely just Joseph Smith’s projection of good ol’ American paranoia of government overreach), most religious traditions cast Lucifer as a figure who didn’t like constraints or rules and so left Heaven to start his own thing, meaning he actually represents more of what God values than what God condemns. But Mormons tend not to like complex narratives like that, so we just get this whole “Lucifer is always bad and irredeemable” thing. Lucifer and Eve could teach us so much if we would let them.
My view is that it’s likely the United States may experience a civil war of sorts but I don’t think it will be a bloodbath like that of say WWII or the US Civil War. I’m not sure there is a tolerance for wide scale carnage of fellow Americans. I hope. There could certainly be pockets of violence or hundreds of people dying, but I speculate it will be more economic devastation and human caused famine than military slaughter of civilians or pitched battles between military factions.
I could see, for example, the West Coast simply considering themselves a de facto independent country and perhaps ceasing enforcement of certain federal laws. Or Texas doing the same thing but on the other end of the political spectrum.
I could be very wrong obviously as my crystal ball seems to be fuzzy lately. I do know that my own sister posted some very inflammatory stuff on Facebook after the Nov 2020 election and quoted none other than our own Ezra Taft Benson as justification of physical violence.
Which brings me to my next point. Between COVID and Trump the church is experiencing a Mormon Schism. My prediction is that the church will emerge technically a whole entity but in practice the average member will care less about obedience to the prophet. Which could be a good or bad thing depending on the topic (ie violence isn’t acceptable). The US will be the cash cow providing the financial means of operating the church but any growth and more leadership will come from Africa, Latin America, and Utah Valley. The LDS church will become increasingly irrelevant in the US to both left and right ideologies. It’s not currently progressive enough for the left and not conservative for the right.
One of the questions you ask is: “how do you see the ideological divide in the Church?” To me, this is one of the most fascinating aspects of the current Church. I’m no longer a TBM but I watch every minute of General Conference. I monitor the Church’s web site and Newsroom. Why? Because I’m very interested in how the Church will balance the needs of the progressives vs. the needs of the TBMs. I wouldn’t really call this a civil war. But there’s no doubt that these two groups require different messaging and are attracted to different approaches.
I really believe that RMN is trying to change things within the Church to make membership easier and at times he’s extended a hand to the progressives. But he doesn’t want to go too far and risk alienating the conservative base who pay the tithing and fulfill the callings (shout out to you progressives who do the same). Also, everything he does seems to be, in his eyes, a “revelation”. It’s fascinating to watch. And it’s quite interesting to take notice of how much influence the LDS president (a.k.a. “prophet) has over the Church. You would think that if the Lord were really in charge, individual presidents would not be able to change the direction of the Church the way they do. That’s why, unlike some of you, I’m very excited about the prospect of Oaks or Bednar in charge. It’s going to be very interesting to see if these men try to take the Church back. You know, make the Church great again (to coin a phrase).
Ah, Civil War is one of the best Avengers movies! I also really love Peter Bleakley’s perspective.
Church has felt like a civil war for the last few years. I’ve always been on the other side as most of my ward ideologically, but that doesn’t really impact by day-to-day experience or interactions with them. Enter Covid and that’s not true anymore. I’ve talked to a lot of people who say that their ward members’ responses to Covid has been harder for them than anything to date – even people who almost left over the November 2015 policy but stuck it out have found the Covid drama too much to bear.
@Toad, that’s an interesting prediction about the Church. I don’t know. I could see the Church going down a path where the only people who are left are the real Follow the Prophet people and everyone else has left. But your prediction is also plausible and would be welcome to me as leader worship is top of my “things that drive me nuts at Church” list.
@Josh H, I hear you, but it’s only possible to be detached & fascinated if you aren’t impacted anymore. Hate to use the word “privileged” but in ways it is. I have too many friends and family and neighbors deep in the Church, and I care too much about how the Church treats women and LGBTQ folks, to be fascinated as opposed to distressed. I can find Church history fascinating and not distressing anymore (because I’m not afraid of losing my testimony) but not current affairs.
An Oaks presidency would send the majority of remaining youth right out the door. Refighting cultural battles that have clearly been lost is not something that young people are interested in. In fact, they oppose it.
Brother Sky: “many people in this country can’t tell the difference between power and freedom” This is a salient point. I think we should change the word “freedom” to “power” in our rhetoric to shine a light on what people are really twisted up about. For example, when Oaks bangs on about “religious freedom,” he is 100% talking about “religious power.” Religion has always been privileged in the US, given carte blanche to discriminate against minorities, women, and the LGBT community, given tax exemptions, allowed to amass crazy amounts of wealth, etc. The freedoms of religions aren’t really in question, and they often enjoy an unlimited authoritarian power over their followers (so long as those followers allow it). There was a podcast recently that was talking about fascist leaders who portray obedience as freedom, cautioning that when obedience is portrayed as the only way to experience “freedom,” you might be dealing with someone who seeks to harness your free will toward their own aims (aka fascism) rather than creating an environment in which you can have moral agency.
LDS Inc. has become wealthy & powerful within the existing American system. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. However, having now purged itself of so-called intellectuals the membership now consists primarily of jackasses who don’t understand that one generally does not poop where one eats. Thus our Seers & Revelators, in their own short-sighted way, once again shot themselves in the foot. With the gatekeepers gone, the likes of Trump & QAnon run wild, and the members believe literally anything the Republican Party throws at them – and this regardless of what the Brethren may counter (halfheartedly) in response.
p: Do you think the Brethren’s half-heartedness is because 1) they are also Trumpists or 2) they don’t want to contradict Trump knowing his influence is larger than their own (as is the case with most *other* Republican politicians now)?
Elisa: I will acknowledge my privilege this way: 1. All four of my adult children were raised in an active LDS home and all four left the Church on their own. 2. My wife always had suppressed feminist issues with the Church and when I made my Church history discoveries, she was very accepting. 3. our family’s professional and social circles are not exclusively LDS. So yes, the price we’ve had to pay is quite low and I’m thankful for that.
@Josh H makes sense. I was reluctant to pull the “privileged” card because I don’t mean it as an insult and don’t think you’re being insensitive. Just that you’re having a very different experience from a lot of folks if you’re eager for a DHO / DAB presidency ;-).
Either scenario still means that Trump now heads the church. His ideology infects it whether it be from the leaders preaching him or the members ignoring what little they say in opposition to him.
I don’t think there will be a civil war in the church. I think already those who aren’t of a specific mindset will filter themselves out. It’s what has happened to me. I think it really began in 2008 and is only accelerating. Wards will shrink and the obedience/conservative-focused members will be all that’s left, and as the world continues to move in the other direction that pool of people who tolerate Mormonism will steadily drain.
That’s a good question, Angela. The Brethren seem now (post Prop 8) to pick carefully from both Left & Right in a manner that they perceive as keeping them somehow above the fray: involved and yet uninvolved at the same time – and yes, there’s certainly some commonality w/ Trump & Trumpism. They’re also pragmatic enough not to buck the Trump tide among Republican members who amazingly at this pt in LDS history display more fealty to a vulgar New York casino magnate than to the current leaders of their church, as if the ghost of Ezra Taft still held sway. The church seems directionless & moribund except for building temples and accumulating wealth.
foxinhikingshorts: Yes, Trump does absolutely head the Church de facto. There are still some pockets of sanity, but as p points out, nobody at the helm is willing or able (not sure which, hence my question) to change that through direct contradiction. That Trump has this kind of power has to rankle our leadership.
Why does there have to be a war at all? The most sensible thing would be to amicably separate. If some members of the Union are not happy with the arrangement, then they should be allowed to peacefully leave.
“ Yes, Trump does absolutely head the Church de facto. ”
What a HORRIFYING thought! (Yes, that was shouting)
I’ve never heard that so definitively and now I think I want to be sick. What could the Savior possibly think of that? And how could HF possibly let that happen? Even temporarily? My head is spinning.
I think the original posting imputes far too much intentionality onto Adam and Eve while in the garden. They were innocent, as little children, not knowing good and evil. At least, that’s how I see it.
ji: I like to think they had different instincts rather than well-reasoned rationales for what they did, but either way the story is ultimately about two completely different approaches to life, religion, and whatnot. When you don’t know stuff you either 1) want to know stuff (Eve) or 2) are OK not knowing stuff and just doing what you are told (Adam).
alice: I’m horrified too, but it’s hard to unsee it.
Once a fairly big Marvel Fan here. I don’t have time to read the comics often any more (my dad was a huge collector for a while), but I sat down for a few issues of the original Civil War storyline, in which the movie was loosely based on. The movie simply could not do it justice. Villains were brought in on it to do the work of “good guys,” and there were philosophical discussions to rival many from classic literature. I think a lot of comics are real literature in their own right. If I remember, there was one poll asking readers to vote for their overall favorite hero from the story, and their overall favorite villain. Tony Stark won both categories, which I think is a mark of good writing. Read it if you get the chance and haven’t already.
I do think there is an ideological divide in the Church, but I’m optimistic it can work itself out to the satisfaction of most. I have a fairly strict idea of what it means to be part of Christ’s Church (spent two years talking about it to others), but I’m developing a more nuanced view of what it means to be Christ-like. Far too many LDS go a little too far to codify the latter.
I’m enjoying Peter’s podcast, and gutted at the result of his membership council. He might be a tad hyperbolic at times, but no one can deny his passion. …
I am constantly concerned about the attitude of members who want just to be told what to do.. who absolutely believe they’ll be blessed even if the leader is wrong… so they don’t need to think… I still remember a statement from a talk a few years ago, where the speaker said … isn’t it great that we have a prophet so we just do what he tells us and don’t have to think about it… and the speaker who recently posited that if RMN asked us to bake cookies and throw them in the ocean we’d do that… we wouldn’t think he’d gone mad… er?! ..
“I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.” — Joseph Smith
I don’t see any condemnation here, Jonathan. In fact, an Apostle once said this: “More thinking is required, and we should all exercise our God-given right to think and be unafraid to express our opinions, with proper respect for those to whom we talk and proper acknowledgment of our own shortcomings. We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it. The church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts.”
The link to the talk by Hugh B. Brown is https://brightspotcdn.byu.edu/33/b4/85f307924e4ca01512072c8c8ba5/an-eternal-quest-freedom-of-the-mind-hugh-b-brown.pdf
“I don’t see any condemnation here, Jonathan.”
“For example, when Oaks bangs on about “religious freedom,” he is 100% talking about “religious power.” ”
“Thus our Seers & Revelators, in their own short-sighted way, once again shot themselves in the foot.”
“The church seems directionless & moribund except for building temples and accumulating wealth.”
“Yes, Trump does absolutely head the Church de facto.”
“There are still some pockets of sanity, but as p points out, nobody at the helm is willing or able (not sure which, hence my question) to change that through direct contradiction.”
It goes both ways, of course — those who worship their politics rather than God on the right can usually be seen by their demand for closed borders or their refusal to follow President Nelson’s not-so-subtle counsel to get the vaccine. But there are a number of examples of the very type of thinking that Joseph Smith was referencing here where they are in the right and the Church is in the wrong.
The claim for freedom of thought is a diversion — of course you have freedom of thought. But that is the same as saying that because agency is a moral good then the exercise of that agency to commit sin is also a moral good. It, of course, is not. Likewise, freedom of thought is a moral good. Using that freedom of thought to come to the conclusion that the Brethren “are out of the way, while he himself is righteous” is not a moral good.
It’s no skin off of my nose, really, as I will likely never meet the people posting here in real life — they’ll do as they like. And maybe you can justify why it doesn’t apply, despite the examples above. But if you are a believer that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and he gave the counsel above (“an eternal principle”), and you don’t want to apostatize, some introspection may be in order as to our relation to the individuals God has placed at the head of His Church.
Your mileage may vary, but the warning is still worthwhile for those who want to avoid the pitfall.
I worry about the scrupulosity of Saints who are so quick to call everything apostasy. None of the quotations cited by Jonathan constitute apostasy.
The context of Joseph Smith’s warning (see Jonathan’s reference to “eternal principal”) refers to leadership, who “rise up,” and not to the congregation.
Some Saints confuse the fact that the Church is not the Institution. Scriptures are full of accounts where prophets condemn their own religious institution. Opposition is not apostasy.
The ideological divide will not be lifted from the Church, until both the Saints and the institution deconstruct doctrine. The beliefs and belief systems of “Mormon” culture have come to pollute the Gospel. Most Saints can’t discern between faith and belief, so it may be a while.
It seems those who run the institution that administers the Gospel to the Church have a plot to purge membership, offend and put off any many families as possible, in order to consolidate a Utah-centric culture.
The institution can be corrupt, and the Church can be true, at the same time.
You are engaged in sophistry, my friend. For example:
“None of the quotations cited by Jonathan constitute apostasy.”
Well, look at the reference. Of those who engage in such faultfinding “that that man is in the high road to apostasy.” So, by very definition, you are disproving something not said and categorically different than is being said. On the road to apostasy and a statement constituting apostasy are clearly different. If you are on the road to somewhere, you are not there but on your way there. That being said, if it is somewhere you don’t want to end up it is worth questioning whether it is a road you want to travel down.
“The context of Joseph Smith’s warning (see Jonathan’s reference to “eternal principal”) refers to leadership, who “rise up,” and not to the congregation.”
That context you claim just isn’t present. Look to the text we have from Wilford Woodruff. (https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/discourse-2-july-1839-as-reported-by-wilford-woodruff-a/5#full-transcript ) Joseph is specifically talking to both “ye Twelve & all Saints.” All Saints means not just leadership. There is simply no evidence that this counsel against fault-finding is limited to those in leadership position — and that matches my experience that just about everyone who begins by saying the Church is true but the Prophet is wrong on this or that issue ends up leaving (or being expelled from) the Church.
“Some Saints confuse the fact that the Church is not the Institution. Scriptures are full of accounts where prophets condemn their own religious institution. Opposition is not apostasy.”
Joseph Smith made explicit that the Kingdom of God (the Church) is found wherever the Priesthood is found. At times, you are correct, the Priesthood has been found outside of the institutions of the religion (Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist, Amos, etc.). But unless you are claiming that the Priesthood is now found outside of the Institutional Church (a statement which ain’t on the road to apostacy — it is fully there) then the Church is the Institution at this particular time in history.
“The beliefs and belief systems of “Mormon” culture have come to pollute the Gospel.”
I don’t doubt the culture can pollute our understanding of the Gospel. But that doesn’t mean that whatever you like is from God and whatever you don’t is from the culture or whenever the Brethren speak they are only speaking from God if you like what they say. And, certainly, you must concede that the ‘beliefs and belief systems of “progressive Mormon culture” have equal likelihood of polluting someone’s understanding of the Gospel.
“It seems those who run the institution that administers the Gospel to the Church have a plot to purge membership, offend and put off any many families as possible, in order to consolidate a Utah-centric culture.”
“I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom…”
Jonathan: I disagree with your conclusion that pointing out the political machinations of leaders and members is in some way related to apostasy. If we can all get back on the same page that Jesus’ teachings are binding, but human leaders are fallible, that would sure help.
“For example, when Oaks bangs on about “religious freedom,” he is 100% talking about “religious power.” ” Do you characterize this critique as being about the Church or doctrine or Jesus or discipleship? I sure don’t. I fully disagree with Oaks’ politics. Am I to be subject to the lable “apostate” because I vote differently than he does and understand what he’s talking about when he says things like this? Come now.
“Yes, Trump does absolutely head the Church de facto.” This is commentary about the members’ throwing Church leaders’ advice out as soon as it contradicts their true leader, Trump. That’s why I said ‘de facto.’ Again, if that makes someone ‘apostate,’ it’s not me for seeing it.
“There are still some pockets of sanity, but as p points out, nobody at the helm is willing or able (not sure which, hence my question) to change that through direct contradiction.” As I pointed out, this is another political question. How do you (as a Church leader) contradict the leader the members have chosen over you? This question (which I think is totally valid in today’s climate) is not demonstrating *me* as an apostate. It’s showing that Church leaders have less power than they thought over the membership when the members have put Trump ahead of them, and I really don’t know how they outmaneuver that.
“The claim for freedom of thought is a diversion — of course you have freedom of thought.” Not necessarily when you have to attest verbally that your thoughts align with pre-written statements to your local leaders bi-annually.
“But that is the same as saying that because agency is a moral good then the exercise of that agency to commit sin is also a moral good.” Nobody is saying that here.
“Using that freedom of thought to come to the conclusion that the Brethren “are out of the way, while he himself is righteous” is not a moral good.” So you do want to police thoughts. BTW, leaders contradict each other all the time. They all have their own thoughts, opinions, and political views. Agreeing with them 100% is not possible since they are not a monolith. Look no further than evolution. There are leaders who believe in it, and there are others (including current top guy) who do not, AND it is taught at BYU. Untangle that knot if you will. Whichever side you come down on, by your impossible standard, the person is doing something you’ve deemed to be “not a moral good.” Pish tosh, I say.
I definitely see an ideological divide in the church. How will it resolve? What I see happening is a group of the “Pharisees” mostly running the church at local levels. They tend to be the most committed, the most guilt-prone, and the most unscrupulous about calling people to repentance. The Dehlins, Kellys, Runnellses of this world, who try to correct the church’s course, either tend to leave or be pushed out. Naturally the Pharisees have the advantage in church administration and decision-making. However, there is a steady stream of Pharisee-minded members becoming more open-minded. Many of these folks are on their way out of the church, but it could take many of them years to finally reach that point. Some will stay in indefinitely. As the church is starting to experience slowed growth rates, the Pharisees (often growth- and results-minded types) are growing more sensitive to these statistical realities and are increasingly having their hands forced on a number of issues.
I think that in anticipation of attrition, the leadership of the church has thrown a bone to the open-minded types in a few areas. For instance, the decision to shorten church and do away with lots of callings was such a gesture. This relieves local leaders the pressure to fill these callings. It also does not give as many opportunities for the Pharisees (many of whom eagerly await to fill these callings, or do so because guilt would rack their brains if they turned down a calling) to impose their rigid visions on the local membership communities, which can have the effect of driving away the open-minded types (I know it is has an effect on me, for I have not dared set foot in a Sunday School or Priesthood class (same thing in my mind, just that one is gender-exclusive) for years because of just how many nutty teachers I have had there). Church can have a more Catholic-like experience now, where many members can attend on Sunday for a couple of hours and call it a week. Not holding a calling. Not devoting an extra third hour to church. Kind of like attending weekly mass.
John W: “This relieves local leaders the pressure to fill these callings.” This is a really keen observation. Shortening the block really could relieve some of the pressure that brings out the worst in local leaders. Well said.
A couple of observations. Is there an ideological divide in the Church? Yes, but I don’t think it is a political divide as much as it is a temperamental divide–which I believe is what Bleakley (a Brit and so freed from American politics) is getting at. One of the most fascinating and information reads I have engaged in over the last few years in my attempt to understand what is going on in the country and my church, is John Dean and Bob Altemeyer’s “Authoritarian Nightmare.” Altemeyer is a U. of Manitoba professor who has been studying a particular personality type for decades. He has done it through an instrument called the Right-Wing Authoritarian (RWA) scale. Importantly, the “right” here does not refer to conservative right, but refers to the Old English word meaning lawful or proper. The RWA Scale measures submission or willingness to submit to established authority, engage in aggression in the name of authority, and conventionalism. The scale has nothing to do with political platforms or positions on issues. It turns out that the modern Trump Party overlays very, very well with those who score high on the RWA score. In fact, Trump’s positions on issues have almost nothing to do with his followers allegiance or loyalty to him. Nothing. He could pick whatever he wanted as a touchstone and it wouldn’t effect his followers at all. Curiously, Altemeyer finds a remarkably high correlation between modern US evangelical adherents and RWA scores as well–which group I will throw in a certain strain of Mormon. If seen through this lens, we can see that many modern Mormons are more Authoritarian than they are Conservative, and more Authoritarian than they are loyal LDS. It just so happens that a fundamentalist/literalist religion, which has often been a soft-landing spot for binary, rigid thinkers, who crave to be told what to do, will attract high RWA scorers. More than anything they want the security that comes with being right–and that being right can often hide behind the cloak of a Strong Man. Either a President or a Prophet, it doesn’t matter. A certain set of members is no longer getting the “Strong Man” they are looking for in the Church, so they will turn elsewhere. And when they come into conflict with their religion, they will pick the truly authoritarian figure. This element of society has always (according to Altemeyer) made up about 35% of the populous (no change in prevalence from the ’80s). And there is almost nothing that can be done to change how they think. I believe folks that score high on the RWA Scale tend to be the “pharisees” that Bleakley talks about. That element is disproportionate in Mormonism, and is overrepresented than in the general population. Just like the 1/3 host of heaven, they want to morally absolve themselves from the hard choice: “just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” That attitude of washing one’s hands of thought, deliberation, and resolve, I believe is fundamentally contrary to the whole proposition of this life.
As Hawk Girl points out, Eve wasn’t having any of it. She gets it. Adam, on the other hand, gets into the Telestial World and he builds an altar, just as he was told to do. An angel comes down and asks, “why are you doing that?” His answer? “I have no idea. I’m just doing what I was told.” What we miss in that story, I’m certain, is the disappointed angel shaking his head in frustration, and then slowly turning around to explain to Adam that there is, in fact, a reason behind what he was doing, and explaining that it would be nice if he would start to at least try and understand why he was doing what he was doing instead of wandering around mindlessly all the time.
Are we automatons, doing what we’ve been told to do (Satan’s Plan), or are we individuals who are trying to learn how to distinguish between good and evil for our SELVES, and only then, becoming like God? Well, I know what the Original Plan was. I become less convinced that the current Church culture is on board.
“Donald Trump is the de facto leader of the LDS Church.”
We should really devote an entire post to that claim and discuss it in 300 comments. I’m sure that LDS leadership is puzzled over the fact that The Loser Donald Trump somehow suddenly commands a lot more allegiance from active LDS than the LDS leadership does. It is puzzling for me as well. Perhaps the seeds of this revolution were planted by Ezra Taft Benson, who I’m fairly sure would have winked at Trump’s moral indiscretions and embraced his reactionary politics. I’m fairly sure that Correlation has laid the groundwork for this as well, making thinking for oneself somehow questionable or even sinful and making obedience the root of every virtue. And now most Mormons are just obeying the wrong leader. Surprise! Blind obedience has costs as well as benefits.
Dave B: There was a recent MormonLand episode interviewing the author of the recent ETB bio, and he disagreed that Benson would be pro-Trump. He felt Benson would have gone to a third party. I can’t remember exactly why that was, but it’s worth a listen.
Thank you so much for this amazing article and discussion thread. It’s just brilliant to wallow in thoughtful Letter-day Saints discussing the big ideas In ways that hardly ever happens at Church now.
As Ian pointed out, here in the UK and the rest of the international LDS Church our personal Mormonism is not defined by America’s political and cultural war, but a good percentage of us are absolutely horrified that we are all being held hostage to it in what the leaders are prioritising in their crusade for their ‘religious freedom’ to be homophobic.
The vast majority of us are utterly gobsmacked that Trump could possibly happen in what was once the flagship democracy of the world, and I love the analysis above about how the same ingredients are being borrowed from Putin by authoritarians in so many other countries now.
This is one of the major reasons I was a Brexiter desperate to get out of the European Union because it’s undemocratic institutions can be far too easily hijacked by the huge resurgence of fascist nationalism in Europe, ironically triggered by only the nationalist parties being willing to channel their citizens’ desperation to get out of the European Union while the rest are parts of a very pro-EU ‘establishment’ in most of their countries and totally unwilling to even contemplate it..
Several people have commented that they see and are experiencing the trends being the same that I am experiencing in my ward – the people who are the Eve-like seekers of knowledge and freedom to think for themselves are mostly finding they have to leave the Church to be safe, so increasingly the remaining members are the least capable of thinking outside the box the Pharisees feel cosy in.
The least ready to challenge the leaders who are driving the Church off a cliff and totally alienating the young who are never going to touch an organisation that is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and so thought controlling that its leaders have now declared it to be a sin we must regularly repent of to speak or even think of any of our leaders, global or local, having “human weakness“ – thanks for that Henry B Eyring in “The Power of Sustaining Faith.“.
Last year they added opposing “policies“ to the definition of apostasy requiring automatic church discipline.
We really have gone through the looking glass to become a bizarre totalitarian mind control cult. One of my reasons for hope is what someone else said in a comment that the Pharisees can be persuaded and like them the only scenario I see saving the Church at the last minute is that in the next few years enough of the local leaders stare into the abyss of nearly all their children leaving and then wards evaporating before their eyes, which is already well underway here in Britain and Europe and Latin America and Asia and most of the world, including a lot of wards in Utah now, and I have the epiphany that the problem isn’t themselves or the world but the leaders and their control freakery sucking the joy out of this religion that should be the most exciting and fun and appealing science-friendly denomination of Christianity in the 21st-century.
But the leaders made a pact with their arch nemesis and imitated the evangelical far right in America, who are also experiencing a mass exodus of their older members and their young now, so their model was absolutely the worst one to choose to follow.
Apart from the local leaders having that epiphany and starting to differentiate between the Christian religion they have been taught alongside the Pharisee one and pick a side, the other factor that I think is going to be decisive is whether we can offer enough hope to the people alienated by all of this to stay and fight for it.
I invite them to do so – it’s not a lifelong commitment. Either the Mormon Christians will win in the next five years or there literally will be no global LDS Church in the next 10 to 15 years, so please hold on a few more years if you can and step up being vocal and joining the struggle for essential reforms, such as common consent as the Scriptures describe to stop the leaders imposing their myopic worldview on all of us.
And if you’re not feeling the urgency yet, please hear the cries of the international church you left your Mormon Utah bubble to come and create on your missions. We are about to disappear, and with crashing numbers of full-time missionaries you will never be able to build us again from scratch. You have to save us now, in the next few years by abandoning this madness or it will all have been for nothing.
I’ll offer nuance to the Eden narrative:
Adam was obedient, but Eve was responsible. Here is a key: obedience is to commandment as responsibility is to covenant.
“Thou shalt not eat of the fruit,” was the belief system in the Garden of Eden. It was an ideological divide. But Eve knew the whole law: “Thou shalt not eat of the fruit of the tree, except in the season it is become ripe.”
The assumption is that Eve knows the season, and that this “knowing,” is what identifies Her as a “type” of Only Begotten: She is justified in partaking. (We read that Creation could not rest, until Eve was crowned Wisdom).
She embodies covenant: Responsibility for Creation, and Responsibility for One Another.
We might discover that Brigham Young, like King Josiah, redacted and purged Wisdom from the temple context.
In restoring Wisdom, we see the temple as fundamentally feminine–wellspring, water, cup, basin, grail, altar, tree, fruit, bread, garden, womb, tomb, Creation–point to Eve as the hero of the narrative.
As an instinctive anti-authoritarian who has long chosen to be an active participant in my local church community (aka ward), I am deeply disheartened by this post and most of the comments on this thread. I just stumbled on this post indirectly, but I assume that, like most blogs, this just functions as an echo chamber. Thus, I doubt that I can convey the extent to which the post and most of the comments are drenched in pride and arrogance. If you all could devote a fraction of the energy spent here on demeaning your fellow Saints instead on the opportunities for Christian service that local LDS congregations offer, I believe that you would find that your fallible fellow Latter-day Saints (including those burdened with leading the Church) are not the foul deplorables you seem to want to make them out to be.
I would imagine that Ezra Taft Benson would be pro Ron and Rand Paul. Suffice it to say I think ETB’s paranoid libertarianish spirit lives on in church culture. Oddly enough, however, Trump, during his presidency, made inroads among the libertarians with his relentless fear-mongering about the deep state and invention of all sorts of conspiracy theories, which libertarians are all about. I think that helped him gain support among libertarians and convert them from bothsidesist contrarians to Trumpists, hence getting more votes in 2020 than in 2016. Because hey, Trump was the only one who would save the libertarians from all of these freedom-suppressing fake crises. So I could actually see ETB being pro-Pauls in 2016 and more accepting of Trump in 2020.
Great post and discussion. One angle that hasn’t been touched on too much yet is the generational divide. I haven’t been to church for a few years so my view of membership is pretty narrow, but from what I see on social media from my active LDS millennial friends, they look pretty different from the MAGA-thumping automatons that it appears many of us have the misfortune of dealing with.
(Side-note: my millennial/gen Z friends are largely either musicians or theatre kids, so that probably skews this too). But, from what I can see, my millennial/gen z friends who are still active in the church:
—Focus heavily (at least on social media) on the more empathetic, altruistic aspects of the church’s teachings as well as personal growth and improvement, and not so much on obedience or purity.
—They’ve fully internalized the idea that it’s ok to grapple with questions about church history and doctrine, and this gives them license to take a spiritually intentional cafeteria approach to the gospel.
—They recognize the church’s teachings on sexuality and modesty are problematic. They share Julie de Azevedo Hanks quotes. They wear shorts above the knee and tank tops. Many have given up on day-and-night-garment-wearing or I’m wearing garments at all.
—They are all about Pride month.
I honestly struggle to relate to them, as I was the kind of Mormon who would have seen such disregard for exact obedience and prophetic counsel as weak or duplicitous (yeah, I was a real fun TBM). I couldn’t reconcile this stuff the way they do. When my faith crisis hit, I left. But I’m glad they find a way to make it work.
It gives me hope that if a good chunk of this generation does manage to stick it out, the more hardline generation will give way to a more progressive, compassionate church. Maybe, just maybe, the Oaks brand of homophobic Mormon evangelicalism will end not with a bang but with an “ok boomer.”
Angela, I remember that interview with the author of the ETB biography. He asserted that if Benson were alive today he would have strongly opposed Trump as a presidential candidate. He opined that Benson, despite all of his own faults and crazy political views, held himself to high standards of personal morality and expected the same of others, especially political leaders. Trump’s well-documented history of dishonesty and serial adultery would have disqualified him for any high office in Benson’s eyes, the author stated. Benson lent his support to segregationist George Wallace as a presidential candidate, because Benson was a bit of a racist himself (and believed God sanctioned the separation of the races, as many older Mormons did in pre-1978 times), but he had no tolerance for sexual immorality of any kind. But I think he would perhaps align himself with libertarians like Ron Paul.
Joe Hill: “foul deplorables”? Methinks thou dost protest too much. Literally nobody is saying that or attacking and “demeaning” individuals with personal insults. On the contrary, you seem to be the one raging on with your negative assumptions about the individuals in this discussion and the OP without comprehending what concerns them or the topic at hand. The point of the discussion is to understand the ideological divide we are witnessing in our congregations. I’ll add pride and arrogance to the list as accelerants to the dispute, although honestly, your comment sounds as prideful and arrogant as any. You come in swinging in a group you don’t know for basically no reason. Many of us do participate in charitable works in our local wards–so what? It’s not related to the ideological divide under discussion. Unlike a lot of other blogs, we don’t kick people out for disagreement because we try not to foster an echo chamber. You’re welcome to be here.
Y’all give Trump a lot of credit and blame. Powerful is the person who has been granted residency in our heads.
Angela C: “The point of the discussion is to understand the ideological divide we are witnessing in our congregations.”
Me: It seems that rather than trying to understand the divide, many of you are filling it with cement and creating something of permanence.
TC: You mean like people calling insurrectionists tourists?
However, I see no reason for your conclusion. Just because these types of divides have existed forever there’s no reason to think that people’s minds can’t and don’t change. On the contrary, in the wise words of Peter Bleakley, inside every Pharisee is a Christian trying to get out. We should all be so lucky as to suppress our inner Pharisee (in his terminology rather than the actual historical sense), our inner approval-seeking checklist-follower, in favor of the Christian, the reflection and personal growth that Jesus preached.
Angela: “TC: You mean like people calling insurrectionists tourists?”
Nope. Not even close…
While our nation is dividing along political fault lines, I’m not convinced a civil war is inevitable. American’s seem to be to be in the process of self sorting. Right wing Californians are fleeing to Texas (and right wing Californian Mormons are fleeing to Missouri), right wing New Englanders are moving to Florida. Left wingers are trying to get to the left coast. Heck, I’m guilty of this. We moved to the south with a job, and finding the culture and politics absolutely abhorrent, are actively looking for a new career path in either the northeast or west coast. I think if we give people 20 years to sort themselves out, different state regions can amicably go their separate ways. Ok, not really, but I’m only half joking. I’d really like to see how all the red states get by without being subsidized by the blue ones.
I’m not so sure about the conclusion that Ezra Taft Benson would’ve opposed Trump if he were alive today. Doubtless he would’ve gone for a different candidate in the primaries, but once Trump was anointed by the Republican party? How long is the list of men and women we believed to be upstanding and moral and steadfast in promoting family values who eventually caved and kissed the ring, licked the boot, and even bent over the barrel?
As I understand church doctrine, once covenants are made we are limited in choices we can make. If we fall short, we can sincerely repent. However, we don’t have the option to decide we’re not going to keep certain commandments, in other words rebelling, and still expect to receive the greatest blessing available that of eternal life. Rebelling against God moves us to lower kingdoms of glory or even to a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory (D&C 88:22-24).
Supporting the apostles and prophets, fallible though they be, is part of our covenants. We need to be careful in the choices we made as to how we feel and proclaim about them.
Re: Comments on “evidence of Apostasy”. I think the term, the declaration, the epithet of Apostasy has become nothing more than a modern day version of “the monster under the bed”. As people grow, learn, experience and explore they naturally learn that there are no “monsters under the bed”; and that it’s one’s own imagination and internal narrative which must be wrestled with. The “Church” uses an accusation of Apostasy as a weapon to create fear and obedience – and more and more people are laughing at the absurdity of the claim; and simply walking away. While “the Church” may survive on its’ immense wealth……the real heart, soul and warmth of what it could have been……are already gone.
I’ve been thinking about the question as to whether or not we’re headed for civil war in the United States. Sadly, I think it is possible; Heaven knows, there’s certainly plenty of “dry tinder” out there – and people are angry, scared, emotionally (and physically) exhausted and somewhat desperate with the constant drumbeat of CRISIS 24/7. I’ve learned from personal experience that “fatigue makes cowards of us all”. On a positive note, I don’t think it’s probable (at least for now) because there seems to be a “pressure relief valve” of sorts in that people are able to self-select as to where they want to live and the lifestyle they want to embrace. It’s interesting to watch an exodus of sorts – happening in parts of California and New York City; and of course Chicago has just become a “killing field”. Rather than a full scale civil war, I think there’s a greater likelihood of collapse, chaos and ongoing mayhem in some of our largest cities. Interesting times! Undoubtedly, it will be interesting (if not terrifying) to watch how the population shakes out in the so called “Blue States” and the “Red States”.
The day Trump fired Comey, he threw out the American press and brought in the Russian press to take photos of him laughing with those two Russians officials in the Oval Office —-my first thought upon seeing that photo was actually of ETB –how he would have had a stroke seeing that photo– and rightly so. Uchtdorf likely gave all the apostles a lesson on Fascism.
He made an animated video about his fleeing the Nazis as a child with his mother. It was on LDS.org for all to see.