I am in the middle of watching the Netflix series The Family, about the so-named secretive Christian foundation that operates in American politics and runs an organization out of the DC suburbs. The series describes its method of recruiting members by referral to live in a fraternity-style environment and be involved with the group’s Christian aims in American politics. A former member of the group describes his experience when another “brother” committed adultery with his wife, clearly a sin-based violation of the group’s principles. The former member complained to the group about this other member’s actions, and the adulterer complied with the group’s requirements to write a letter of apology, agree to do better, and break off the affair. However, he left this meeting and immediately went to a hotel to meet with his lover, the other member’s wife. Because the adulterer was a higher ranking politician with more power and influence, ultimately the group backed him instead of the wronged individual.
The basis for this refusal to hold the member accountable was that his position was evidence that he was “chosen” by God. As part of the group’s indoctrination, they discussed the story of King David who was favored by God, but then slept with Bathsheba, got her pregnant, and had her husband killed. The moral of that story, according to these documentary interviews with former members of The Family, is that if you are “chosen,” like King David, it doesn’t really matter what you do. There’s no accountability in this life or next. God has chosen you, so nobody can touch you or reduce your power and influence. How do you know someone was “chosen by God”? Because they held high office and had committed to the religious group The Family.
If you think that’s a terrible notion, well, it should sound familiar at least. You may recall that when the Church was first being organized, Joseph was struck by the question about Old Testament figures, like King David and others, who had multiple wives, and gee, wouldn’t it be grand if . . . and the rest is polygamy history. What is it with men and wanting to get off scot-free for horndoggery? I suspect we know the answer to that question.
There was recently a meeting with top Church leaders in the UK, a sort of “British Rescue” if you will. In this meeting, E. Holland made some unusual remarks about apostles who have a “permanent pass” and don’t have to worry about their salvation anymore because that’s a sure thing. He appears to be referring to the secretive Second Anointing that former Mormon Tom Phillips revealed having received, causing a bit of an uproar several years ago. The Second Anointing, while not something most members are familiar with, is pretty well documented for those interested in Mormon history. It even has a Wikipedia page.
While I was at BYU, I had a religion class from George Pace, a charismatic teacher who was taken to task very publicly by Bruce R. McConkie over his teaching that all Church members can become “chosen” or have their “calling and election made sure,” not by invitation from higher ups in the Church, but through a direct personal manifestation of the savior. He even wrote a book on the subject. The controversy is also outlined in his Wikipedia page. McConkie’s harsh criticism, on its face, seems to be about seeking a personal relationship with Jesus rather than praying to Heavenly Father only. In retrospect, though, I can’t help but wonder if part of the critique was against the notion that an average person can receive this kind of witness rather than it being reserved for the apostles only (many of whom have pretty openly said they did not receive it), and the notion that having one’s “calling and election made sure” is available to all and sundry without relying on the Church as a mediator. After all, if you don’t need the Church as a mediator between you and your salvation, you might create a schism like Denver Snuffer (who claims to have personally seen the savior). Perhaps there is also some insecurity around the institutional role (or lack thereof) of individuals who have received this personal manifestation, but who don’t hold high office in the Church. Who’s to say?
I had a conversation over a decade ago with a friend of mine about the leader worship among the membership that we both found a bit alarming. He noted that most apostles really were aware of and trying hard not to foster this, curttailing the excesses that tend to happen in area visits. I pointed out that it’s pretty hard to be humble when you believe you’re saved and that the rest of the people around you are still subject to God’s judgment. He said sure, but that he believed they all had to work out their own salvation with fear and trembing just like the rest of us. Sure, Jan.
What do you think?