I’m sure you’ve heard the term “the end of history.” It comes most recently from American scholar Francis Fukuyama and his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man. The gist of his argument (and feel free to expand on this if you have actually read the book) is that liberal democracy in the form of states with rule of law, free speech, and free and fair elections has carried the modern day, so to speak, in the historical contest or competition for the most efficient and desirable political and economic governing system. The French Revolution was a messy and violent affair, but when the dust settled the Ancien Regime was permanently discredited. You have probably noticed a conspicuous lack of small authoritarian states run by corrupt dictators that proclaim themselves to be The Corrupt and Authoritarian Dictatorship of X. Nope. They all proclaim themselves to be The Democratic Republic of X.
Fukuyama just published a piece at The Atlantic defending his thesis in the context of 2022: “More Proof That This Really Is the End of History.” He notes that “Russia and China both have argued that liberal democracy is in long-term decline, and that their brand of muscular authoritarian government is able to act decisively and get things done while their democratic rivals debate, dither, and fail to deliver on their promises.” That’s a familiar critique of how actual democracy works, the trains are late and all that. Is global democracy really in decline and at risk? Fukuyama’s rejoinder is this: “Over the past year, though, it has become evident that there are key weaknesses at the core of these strong states.” He argues that “supporters of liberal democracy must not give in to a fatalism that tacitly accepts the Russian-Chinese line that such democracies are in inevitable decline.”
Here are the two weaknesses in those regimes that he highlights (underlining added):
The weaknesses are of two sorts. First, the concentration of power in the hands of a single leader at the top all but guarantees low-quality decision making, and over time will produce truly catastrophic consequences. Second, the absence of public discussion and debate in “strong” states, and of any mechanism of accountability, means that the leader’s support is shallow, and can erode at a moment’s notice.
So here’s my question. Those features characterize the LDS Church as well as the authoritarian states Fukuyama critiques. One can argue that yes, those are weaknesses for the LDS Church as well and represent a threat to the long-term viability or at least the continued success of the institution. Or one can argue that no, those are actually *strengths* of the LDS system, that in the LDS system a single all-powerful leader results in high-quality, not low-quality, decisions and that the absence of public discussion and accountability improves leadership and overall institutional health rather than the opposite.
Leaders at the Top
One of the problems with a single all-powerful political leader is that they just won’t go away. China managed, post-Mao, to put in place a practice where the senior leader served a couple of terms, then passed on leadership to a successor. But Xi Jinping is discarding that system and is remaining in office. Russia, too, can’t seem to get rid of Putin. In America, Trump didn’t want to leave, even after losing a free and fair election, but in the end (all of his various schemes to the contrary having failed) he did. I guess America can now downgrade its longstanding claim of a tradition of “a peaceful transfer of power” to “a more or less peaceful transfer of power.”
The LDS system is strangely mixed. At most levels, those in leadership roles quite happily leave office voluntarily. Bishops, stake presidents, mission presidents, and temple presidents all seem content, even pleased, to terminate their service and give up what institutional power they have when their term of service ends. Only at the very top, at the apostolic level and particularly in the office of the President, do leaders serve for life. I suspect that if an age limit of 80 were put in place through legitimate and appropriate channels, all of these would follow the example of lower leaders and quietly leave office at the appointed age.
But that’s not the system. The senior leaders serve for life. Which opens the system up for Fukuyama’s critique that such a system leads to “low-quality decision making” that “over time will produce truly catastrophic consequences.” Any low-quality decisions you can think of? Ditching the name “Mormon” perhaps? Does the continuing anti-LGBT posture of the senior leadership (it’s wrong to say that’s the position of the membership at large) and the resulting loss of large chunks of the current youth cohort constitute an institutional catastrophe?
Discussion and Accountability
What about the second of Fukuyama’s points? He ties “the absence of public discussion and debate” and the absence of any mechanism of accountability not to low-quality decisions but instead leading to “the leader’s support is shallow and can erode at a moment’s notice.” I’d be inclined to think the lack of public discussion, like the first point, is a problem because it leads to low-quality decisions, not to lack of support. Within the LDS system, you might argue that any resulting lack of support impels those so afflicted to leave the Church. So from the point of view of the Church, that’s sort of a self-correcting problem, at least until the exit rate gets high enough that membership starts to shrink and tithing revenue declines.
But you can make the same point for Putin’s recent conscription decree. From the outside, seeing tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of young Russians leaving the country to avoid conscription to go fight and quite possibly die in Putin’s Ukraine War is an obvious sign of Russian weakness and failure. From the inside, I’m sure some are arguing that it’s just fine that such unpatriotic and unreliable people leave Russia and they probably would have made bad soldiers anyway. The better view is that successful countries and successful institutions maintain loyalty and participation of their citizens and members. Wholesale defections are never a sign of strength.
For the LDS system, there is another rejoinder. Hey, it’s 2022, there is plenty of public discussion of LDS topics, decisions, and practices. There is Sunstone and Dialogue. There are blogs and podcasts and Salt Lake Tribune editorials and Netflix documentaries. But all of that is outside the LDS Church proper. Members are implicitly guided and sometimes expressly directed to avoid those kinds of discussions. Imagine a General Conference session where the conducting officer announces a point of present discussion and some disagreement among top leaders, with Elder X speaking next to advocate a new and possibly beneficial view of the doctrine or practice, followed by Elder Y speaking in favor of retaining the traditional doctrine or practice. Then inviting the membership to submit letters with their own views to the senior leaders as they continue their discussion before coming to a decision at some point in the future.
A final point. Most corporations fall somewhere in the middle on both these Fukuyama criticisms. Institutions are different from governments and states. Yes, there are Boards of Directors above CEOs in corporations, but CEOs nevertheless exercise considerable power in the corporation. Yes, sometimes there are business meetings where different proposals are debated or a pending proposal is critiqued to identify weaknesses or problems. But there are plenty of meetings where the manager or VP or CEO has made a decision, things are moving forward, and it is a very bad idea for you to pipe up and point out problems with the new product or program. So you can argue that, like corporations, the LDS Church has a powerful but not all-powerful leader, and that in the Church there are some meetings where broad input is welcome and some meetings where it isn’t.
The Bottom Line
Is there one? I confess I started with the Fukuyama article because I have read more than a few books and articles the last couple of years that bemoan the sudden ascendancy of authoritarian states and leaders on the global stage, even right here in River City. So I liked Fukuyama’s optimistic (for the fate of liberal democracy in the world) conclusion:
Celebrations of the rise of strong states and the decline of liberal democracy are thus very premature. Liberal democracy, precisely because it distributes power and relies on consent of the governed, is in much better shape globally than many people think.
It might be stretching it to apply his points to the LDS Church, but I think it is fair to compare and contrast governmental institutions and operations (political science) to civil institutions (organizational behavior). Maybe we learn somthing. But we’re not talking about starting from scratch, designing a new church. There is a given status quo. Tradition endures because any change is a risk as well as an opportunity for improvement. It’s one thing to say “Things could be better.” It’s another thing to come up with specific proposals or initiatives — starting from where we are right now — that promise benefits that outweigh the likely costs.
So here are some possible discussion points.
- Would delegating more power away from the First Presidency to local authorities, whether to Area Presidencies or stake presidents, be a good thing or a bad thing?
- Is it better to have more power-sharing between the Twelve and the President (as was traditionally the case), as opposed to the current system where almost all power is in the President, be an improvement?
- How can the Church be more open to public discussion without going overboard in a rush of criticism? Can you open the discussion door just a little bit or would it swing wide open?
- How can the Church offer venues of public discussion that are truly open (that is, where one doesn’t get a call from the bishop the following week to reprimand you for participating in open discussion)?
We know that the Church is literally a large corporation and therefore it seems valid to compare its leadership and decision making process to other large corporations. We can all identify the Church’s organizational shortcomings and all of us could make a list of suggestions as to how this organization could be more effective, and efficient.
But of course, while the Church is literally a large corporation, it is also a religious organization. And because it’s a religious organization, decision making is rooted in imaginary forces like revelation and inspiration and authority from God. These forces are much more important to the average TBM than operational efficiencies. And they allow for a lot of latitude.
For example, take the temple initiative under the RMN administration. It seems like this is a reflection of the personal agenda of RMN himself given that the temple attending population of Church membership is not increasing to a degree that would justify such temple growth. But who is going to question it? If the membership and / or the Q14 believes that RMN is receiving revelation that we should go on a building binge, it’s going to happen and happen without criticism.
This is all like the Wizard of Oz except that people aren’t looking behind the curtain.
It’s been nearly two decades since I read Fukuyama’s book, but, despite his protests to the contrary, I think the rise of China really undercuts his arguments, Xi Jinping notwithstanding. Sure, maybe centralization of power to Xi brings about the downfall of the CCP or at least strong rebuff from its citizens and/or erstwhile allies. Somehow, though, I greatly doubt that as the Chinese government has invested heavily in social engineering and monitoring to avoid and undercut internal threats to power while also continuing to expand the belt and road initiative to seduce semi-democratic or undemocratic (but strategically placed countries) into taking its money with out all of those pesky human rights strings that the West so often places on its own largesse. Unlike Fukuyama, I just don’t think that a democratic society is truly inevitable (but then I make a lot of references to Mad Max in everyday life so you can probably guess how I expect the future to go).
How does all this play out with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Probably a lot differently, I suspect. The church is being dragged ever so slowly behind the slow march of Western, and specifically American, cultural norms. Sometimes it gets 2-3 generations behind and then catches up to being only a single generation behind, but, slow as it may seem, the church continues to move forward. Given the church’s history, I just don’t see it being willing to shed a large amount of membership simply to achieve one set of elderly leaders’ ideological purity. If they weren’t willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for plural marriage, I don’t see them dying on the LGBTQ hill, or the ordaining women hill, or the issuing an apology for the priesthood and temple ban hill, or the Book of Mormon historicity hill (or fill in whatever hill you like).
Further, sure, the church is a high demand religion, but it has nothing like the Chinese ability to spy on its members (feel free to argue that family members and ward members police each other) and people who find that they just can’t deal with it have the real option to leave (and many have – and yes I recognize the emotional and psychological toll that leaving causes on the person and their family and friends). Chinese citizens by and large don’t have a similar option.
I will admit that the church has done a bit of Chinese belt and road initiative-style credibility building with Evangelicals and other Christian churches as well as the NAACP by throwing money around, but I would be hard-pressed to identify any truly concrete advantages that has given the church. We’re still a very small minority religion that is either shrinking or not growing in developed countries (and many developing countries) and that is most famous for polygamy and becoming increasingly famous for being anti-LGBTQ.
Interesting recap. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve been digging into these topics a lot through other sources, and my global business experience and personal travel have exposed me to a lot of this as well.
To Josh’s point, the Mormon Church does see its leadership as holding power due to divine revelation (that’s the party line anyway, although a few top leaders have been honest about the process being mostly personal “wisdom” rather than an actual mandate from God). But it certainly doesn’t have to be that way! There are many many churches that are not run this way at all. Some have local leadership only (no HQ oversight) with a loose coalition of megachurches. Others have a democratic style governance, a synod or presbytery. In theory, if you believe the D&C, the church was supposed to have a sort of referendum-style leadership for changes under the “by common consent” umbrella, but that has completely gone away in time. It’s a sham to say that sustainings are anything like it, just as it’s a sham to say that Ukrainians voted to become Russians (at the point of a gun). The Word of Wisdom was voted on (was it 1921?) by the membership, which is why it became “binding.” Before that it was really a mixed bag in terms of observance. But in the last 10 years we had E. Robinson telling everyone that there is no such thing as feedback upward. All the feedback flows downward, and it’s your job to shut up and get in line. Although I do think that Joseph Smith was pretty egotistical in how he ran things, it wasn’t quite the dictatorship it is now.
But leaders also know that they (like the Supreme Court) don’t have a militia at their command and can’t really force change. They sure are trying, though.
Mormons believe that this is God’s church and that He is directing His leaders through revelation and inspiration. If this truly is the case, then while concentrating power at the top of secular world governments will always lead to low-quality decision making with catastrophic consequences, the exact opposite should be true for God’s church. If the leaders of God’s church are receiving instructions from a perfect God, how could they possibly make low-quality decisions?
Despite the Mormon belief that God is constantly guiding the Q15, the absence of public discussion and debate does lead to shallow support from many members. If the Q15 enjoyed deep widespread support from membership, they wouldn’t have to devote *so much time* to reminding people to just follow them in their messages to Church membership. Just a few weeks ago at a BYU devotional, Oaks defended why BYU should be different from other universities and who was going to decide how BYU would be different, “When leaders such as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Commissioner Clark G. Gilbert and President Kevin J Worthen repeat the same counsel and give the same challenges, hear it for what it is: inspired direction for what BYU and we must be and become.” Let me rephrase my understanding of this statement, “We know that much of the BYU faculty and student body disagree with some of the things BYU has done recently (presumably referring to no confidential ecclesiastical interviews for faculty, discrimination against LGBTQ students, no on-campus demonstrations, no on-campus videos, etc.). Well, sorry, but those people are all wrong. How do I know that they are all wrong and Holland, Gilbert, Worthen, and I are right? Simple. We are inspired of God to know what is best for BYU, and all of you are not. With all this awesome inspiration we’re getting, we really just can’t understand why everyone is complaining instead of just blindly following us. It’s really annoying to have to keep reminding you all over and over again about how we’re inspired and you aren’t. Will you please just shut up and do what we say?” This devotional by Oaks was only months after Holland’s devotional at BYU where he defended the Church’s stance on LGBTQ issues (the infamous “musket” talk) and told everyone at BYU to get in line to get in line with the Church’s view of LGBTQ and other issues. Every GC is full of remarks reminding people that they need to ignore their own conscience and personal inspiration (where it conflicts with Church leadership) and just get in line and follow the Q15. This constant barrage of telling people to follow the Q15 would not be required if they had broad and deep support from membership.
If the Church is going to continue to insist that all the decisions are inspired of God, then I’m not sure how it can ever make changes to involve the rank and file membership in decision making. Jokes are often made in lessons about how other churches gather to vote when important decisions are made. Voting? What a joke of a church! Thank goodness we belong to God’s One True Church where decisions are made by vote not by the votes of men! It seems like any talk of trying to distribute power and decision making in the Church any differently is moot unless Church leaders are willing to start admitting that they aren’t actually inspired in all of their decisions.
It seems like the LGBTQ issue could be used as a springboard to shift some decision making power away from the Q15 to the rest of the Church. I feel like the Church will absolutely have to make changes to allow LGBTQ individuals to fully participate in the Church. I don’t know when this will happen, but in my opinion, this is inevitable. When this happens, the Q15 could acknowledge that they were wrong for not changing their stance earlier and that this failure, like the blacks and the priesthood/temple ban (and wouldn’t it be great if they’d actually name a bunch of the other lesser-know mistakes that have been made over the years–polygamy, birth control, evolution, women working outside the home, etc.?), demonstrates that the Q15 isn’t always inspired of God. As a result, the Q15 could enact a big change in the decision making process of the of the Church. The justification for this could be based on D&C 58:26, “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.” In other words, if the Q15 doesn’t feel inspired about an issue, then rather than sitting on their thumbs until the inspiration comes (or, should I say, until certain members of the Q15 finally die), then some other way of making a decision could be employed. Whatever this other way of making decisions looks like, I would definitely want it to allow for a lot of power to be held by some group of rank and file members instead of only Church leadership (bishops, stake presidents, area authorities, GAs) since Church leaders tend to be selected because they always fall in line with whatever upper leadership wants. This sort of change is, of course, probably just wishful thinking. Given how the Q15 seem to talk about themselves and their ability to guide the Church, I don’t foresee them abdicating any power away from themselves anytime soon.
The church ultimately isn’t a state. It isn’t responsible for infrastructure or education of the young population. It doesn’t go to war or raise a military. Its decisions aren’t binding on the population at large. So in that regard, I don’t think Fukuyama’s criticisms quite apply. I believe that the church would falter if the Q15 let go of the reins too much and allowed local authorities more power in decision-making. Its integrity and future flourishing are based on concentrated power.
In the more general political arena, I think Fukuyama is wrong. He drastically underestimated the power of local tradition throughout the world after the fall of the Soviet Union and failed to recognize how the various local traditions could and would not fully accommodate the expectations and values of an overwhelmingly Western philosophical creation of liberal democracy. Consider the US’s utter failure to install liberal democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq. Consider how the Taliban, whose legitimacy was rooted in much of the deep culture of Afghani local power holders and communities, persisted in spite of the US toppling the government it had set up and enabling new US-allied Afghani power-holders to try to root out and destroy the Taliban. Liberal democracy mostly seems normal to those who grew up with its value system and feel part of the larger liberal democracy-cherishing community. To those who grew up outside it, be it in sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab World, or China, liberal democracy is nothing more than a political value system promoted by Northwestern-European-descended peoples around the globe that is sometimes unjustly foisted on them in order to suit the geopolitical and economic interests of the US, UK, France, Germany, and a handful of other European and white-British-descended countries such as Australia.
OP says: “the historical contest or competition for the most efficient and desirable political and economic governing system.”
I think a case can be made for a kingdom.
13 Therefore, if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you.
The church represents the Lord’s kingdom on earth today. Although it does not function as a political governing system in our society, it fits the bill for what King Mosiah is describing.
OP says: “even after losing a free and fair election”
Many don’t accept this statement as fact. If one believes that the US government/world governments have been infiltrated by “Gadianton robbers”, it’s not hard to believe that the truth about this last election has been hidden, that “false truths” have been fabricated out of thin air, that the airwaves have been saturated with controlled information, people have been paid off, judges have been paid off, etc.
OP says: “at least until the exit rate gets high enough that membership starts to shrink and tithing revenue declines.”
You think that church policies & doctrines are tied to tithing revenues? You think the Lord will make changes to His church policies and guidelines if He isn’t bringing in enough money?
OP says: “with Elder X speaking next to advocate a new and possibly beneficial view of the doctrine or practice, followed by Elder Y speaking in favor of retaining the traditional doctrine or practice.”
This already happens, just not in General Conference. It happens at all levels of the church, even the highest councils. I think it’s naive to think that the FP, Q12/Q15 don’t have discussions just like this. It happens at stake and ward levels. It happens in church disciplinary councils. My understanding is that the FP & Q12 don’t move ahead with anything until all have had an opportunity to voice their concerns and not until all are in agreement.
OP says: “It’s one thing to say ‘Things could be better.’ It’s another thing to come up with specific proposals or initiatives — starting from where we are right now — that promise benefits that outweigh the likely costs.”
I like how you wrapped it all up in your final paragraph, and I agree with your wrap-up statements 🙂
Point 1 about “a kingdom”: well, read the rest of the verses after that. Talk about prooftexting! And, no, kingdoms are hav not won out in “the historical contest or competition for the most efficient and desirable political and economic governing system.” I mean, whatever you think you are saying, you’re not. Or else you know almost nothing about either secular or religious history. Let’s go with the first option.
Point 2: got it. “alternative facts” and all that. You must realize belief and comments like what you just wrote are THE reason that liberal democracies are losing their status. Because people like you are being duped. I don’t say this often, but your worldview is a dangerous as hell. And wrong. I understand why you have it, but your wrong, and I pray that your thinking goes the way of the dinosaur fast. The world needs to it. To promote the level of mass conspiracy that you are suggesting is beyond rational. Yes, I’m saying that you are, in fat, irrational on this point.
Point 3: The OP is making the case about the Church, not the Lord. But then, again. It’s already been established that your ability to read and analyze is obfuscated by your adherence to political and religious dogma, not reason.
Point 4: Again, you don’t address the point. The OP writes what if X in Z condition and you say, well, X in S condition. Again, logical thinking and argument is not working for you here.
Point 5: So kind of you.
A church has few objective metrics by which to judge leadership performance, unlike a nation. Nations can lose wars, cause economic collapse, exacerbate environmental and natural disasters, and more if led poorly. A church can lose money or members. Unfortunately, if we asked God whether or not the Church was living up to his standards, we all would come back with different answers, so we cannot judge it on this metric. The LDS church is not currently in danger of running out of money, and probably wouldn’t be for several generations even if it randomly decided to do away with tithing. When you get down to it, we really just don’t have much substantial to judge the “effectiveness” of church leadership structures.
Not a Cougar,
Sure China is on the rise, but what about Brazil, or Mexico, or India, or Nigeria, all of which I believe have (mostly) functioning democracies? China is on the rise not because it is authoritarian, but because it is big and has a lot of people and resources. It would be on the rise no matter what it’s government is. What about Taiwan? Taiwan didn’t start as a democracy, but it ended up as one, and it had a prosperous and developed economy decades before mainland China did. Or we could compare South and North Korea, but that’s kind of low hanging fruit. I’m not trying to make the argument that democracies lead to prosperity or power, but if democracy doesn’t, then I’m damned sure authoritarianism doesn’t either.
There are many non European or European descended countries that have developed stronger democratic traditions since the fall of the Soviet Union, especially in sub-Sahara Africa and East and South East Asia. Authoritarian East and South East Asian countries are very much outnumbered. Not sure about Africa, though the economically strongest like South Africa and Nigeria have democracies. Nigeria even has competitive political parties. South Africa sort of does, but it does have one major party that usually has a majority in the legislative and always wins the executive. This could be a legacy of it taking down apartheid though, and not a reflection of institutional corruption.
I think the Arab world (which you are likely unconsciously focused on because the USA has had a lot of interests in it lately) is an outlier because of a fairly unique focus of Islam on religious jurisprudence. Even in medieval Catholic-dominated Europe (prior to Martin Luther), there were few actual theocracies. Yes, there was great amounts of interplay between the Cahtolic church and monarchic power, but European religious influence on governance was still nothing compared to the very real Islamic theocratic Caliphates. I am making no value judgements here, I am just stating that Islam simply has a stronger tendency towards theocracy or religious based governance than any other world religion. As for the former Soviet Republics, they are still well within Russia’s influence. The fact that few countries have jumped to democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union doesn’t prove democracy is weak, it simply proves that new authoritarian leaders are capable of filling a power vacuum, which is something that has been clear since the dawn of human history.
Point 1: I know there is a BIG “if” in the verses of Mosiah that I referenced AND that historically human civilizations/governments are definitely NOT a good fit for sole power in one (or a few). The BIG “if” is about whether you can continually find righteous men to be your kings. History has proven that this is not possible, so then you get all the problems listed in the subsequent verses as you pointed out. One of the points of the post, though, is to discuss whether the Church of Jesus Christ might be better off switching from a “power in a few” model to a “power in many” model. With Christ as the King, or the leader of the church, Mosiah’s BIG “if” is taken care of. Turns out it is the best model for the church.
Point 2: I disagree with you on all points.
Point 3: You say: “The OP is making the case about the Church, not the Lord.” — The Church IS the Lord, or rather, it is overseen by Him.
Point 4: The OP invites us to imagine a scenario in General Conference where potentially 17 million members are invited to write letters to senior leadership with their ideas on a particular subject. I don’t think this is reasonable, but I thought I understood the point(s) he was trying to make – that it would be nice to allow for the “commoners” to have their voices heard and included in the decision-making process and that it would be nice to not have a dictatorship style of decision-making. My point is that the church does not follow a dictatorship style of decision-making. There are many people involved in decisions at all levels.
bwbarnett – your suggestion that Gadianton robbers have taken over the govt and stolen the election is 180 degrees wrong. This is the oath of the Gadianton robbers:
That they would protect and preserve one another in whatsoever difficult circumstances they should be placed, that they should not suffer for their murders, and their plunderings, and their stealings. . . . that whatsoever wickedness his brother should do he should not be injured by his brother, nor by those who did belong to his band, who had taken this covenant. And thus they might murder, and plunder, and steal, and commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness, contrary to the laws of their country and also the laws of their God (Helaman 6:22-24).
This describes what the Republicans are doing with Trump. Trump the tax cheat; Trump who has committed sexual assault; Trump the thug; Trump who plunders and steals. Whatsoever wickedness he does, his brothers will make sure he is not held accountable. Are you listening to the January 6 commission? Do you really think that every person is lying? Wake up, man, if you want to spot the Gadianton robbers in the government right now, look long and hard at the Republicans who are gritting their teeth and lying about what Trump did on January 6, and pretty much throughout his entire career.
Your political opinions are dangerous, wrong and unsupportable. You drag the entire discussion off topic with your wild and unfounded conspiracy theories.
Point 1: your understanding of church history is outstanding naive or your ability at mental rigor has been overpowered by misguided loyalty (a common flaw). Not sure which one to assume here. Perhaps both. Try Joseph Smith and the printing press or Brigham Young and Mountain Meadows on for size.
Point 2: doesn’t make you right.
Point 3: the first claim you make here is in no way doctrine. For your second claim, see my point one.
Point 4: you are misreading the OP.
At this point, I’m realizing that I’m either responding to a troll or someone naively certain of their rightness even in the obvious face of their wrongness. Pergaps both. Look I know that every time a remotely poltical post occurs, you jump at the chance for a soap box, but it seems like you’re asking us to play chess with a pigeon more than meeting the OP or the comments where they stand. There are places and people that welcome such empty platitudes. I’m not one of those people. Bringing a bit more rigor will do wonders for how people respond to you. If you feel I’m not meeting you, it’s because it’s quite exhausting, to read comments of yours that don’t even attempt to meet the OP in a serious manner, regardless of how sincere you feel you portray yourself.
If my memory of political science classes servers, the defining factor in any organizational structure, but in democratic government particularly, is legitimacy. Only so long as citizens see their government as legitimately elected and hewing, by and large, to the will of the people will they be permitted to stay in power. At least that used to be the idea of how things worked until sizeable portions of the electorate started to embrace whack-job, evidence-free conspiracies like those espoused by bwbarnett. Now legitimacy is based on perceptions unsupported by evidence or even a coherent argument. What a brave new world.
The Chinese government is much more legitimate to Chinese citizens than is the Russian government to Russians. Russia is a society in which people must work around the system; China is a society in which the system is God. The Chinese leadership has engineered a miraculous rise in living standards and mostly avoided any prolonged backlash regarding free speech issues and other hallmarks of western democracy. Putin, in contrast, has maintained a basic living standard in which a handful have gotten rich but the overwhelming majority just muddle along. That’s what makes the war with Ukraine so dangerous. Putin’s legitimacy was based on continuing to exist as a petrol state and providing for very basic needs. If he can’t sell oil and gas, he can’t do that. Russia is a one-trick pony.
Internationally, removing Russia from the economy requires alternative sources of energy, which is not an easy task but also it is not insurmountable. The country would be far more crippled now if China and India were not still buying Russian oil and gas. Cornering China in the international economy is a whole other challenge, which would seem to indicate that while Xi has become more dictatorial, the importance of China to the global economy would give him far more cards to play than Putin has. And if Xi makes too many disastrous decisions, he could eventually be removed and replaced by a politburo-style structure in which decisions become a group task but the overarching goals and structure remain.
Of course, the legitimacy of the Russian, Chinese, American, French, etc., governments is still mostly based on decisions that have real impacts on human lives, notwithstanding the nutso ideas retained by so many in the internet age. The church’s legitimacy is based on whether or not members think the leaders actually speak for God. For many, there are no tangible standards by which to judge the truthfulness of the church, which bases the whole shebang on whether or not a person gets a “spiritual witness” of the truth. If I replace legitimacy with relevance, however, the church has a problem, particularly with younger members who are jumping ship. The world has changed dramatically, younger generations don’t really see the church as relevant and often view it as a hostile environment, and old leaders can’t get their heads around what’s happening.
Can the church become more relevant by opening itself up to public discussion and opinion? I don’t believe so. The organizational structure is built on respect for authority, accepting leaders as intermediaries elected by the CEO, not the rabble, and retained group belief in core foundational myths. Lose much of that foundation and legitimacy starts to erode. Young people are proving that relevance already has.
Thanks for the comments, everyone.
Not a Cougar, you win this week’s Hero of the Book award for actually reading Fukuyama’s book.
mountainclimber, good points on the shallowness of support. With LDS, there is certainly a lot of support for the Church. At least it appears that way. People can shift religious allegiance fairly quickly, it’s just that relatively few LDS do. Strangely, the biggest threat to that loyalty has lately come from conservative politics, with many members perhaps surprising even themselves that they suddenly find themselves more attached to their politics than to their religion.
bwbarnett, thanks for dropping in and sharing your views.
Janey, nice analysis. If hyperpartisanship and blind party loyalty describe the Gadianton approach, then I suppose an avowedly independent candidate like Evan McMullin is at the other end of the spectrum. Strange that so many voters decry polarization and partisanship, and even express dissatisfaction with both major political parties, yet so few independent candidates get much traction with the voters.
@Janey says: “You drag the entire discussion off topic with your wild and unfounded conspiracy theories.”
Every one of my comments was a direct response to something said in the OP, so please don’t accuse me of dragging us off topic. If you don’t want to talk about the last election when you know it is still questionable in the minds of a lot of people, then don’t say things like “free and fair election” in your post. If you say things like “free and fair election”, then you can expect that someone might have a “wild and unfounded conspiracy theory”. And I, as the one with such a theory, can expect to have a mocking finger pointed at me. And I was expecting it, so I’m good.
Such diversity here on W&T. We even have folks who believe Trump is Captain Moroni II
BW-Barnett-I think it’s always wise to reread Elder Oaks’s address the GC right after Jan. 6 regarding the Constitution. He’s very clear and knows his audience is mostly republican.
Mez, thank you for referencing President Oaks’ April 2021 General Conference address. Here is a link to it.
It’s a dangerous and unfair practice to automatically assume that someone who questions the 2020 election results is some sort of wacko who supports the Jan 6 capitol riot. I think too many people just lump me, and others, in with the small minority of Republicans who get all the airtime with the media. I loved Pres Oaks’ talk on the Constitution and wholeheartedly accept it and do my best to incorporate it in my life.
I think it is entirely reasonable to assume that someone who still questions the 2020 election results is some sort of wacko.
“‘OP says: “even after losing a free and fair election’
Many don’t accept this statement as fact. If one believes that the US government/world governments have been infiltrated by “Gadianton robbers”, it’s not hard to believe that the truth about this last election has been hidden, that “false truths” have been fabricated out of thin air, that the airwaves have been saturated with controlled information, people have been paid off, judges have been paid off, etc.”
Man, you guys are such pathetic sore losers. As is Trump. It has been so obvious that Trump is a whiny little crybaby who won’t accept defeat from the day he descended that escalator in 2015. He made it up that he lost the election. He knows he lost the election. Everyone around him knows he lost the election. If anyone is making things up out of thin air, it has been Trump, his cronies, and all the sycophants around him. Sixty lawsuits from Trump about a “stolen election” and all were tossed. There is zero evidence that there was election fraud on a scale that would have affected the results of the election. That you loons continue to believe that Trump is honest, was honest, or has any history of honesty and telling the truth is not just disgraceful, it is extremely dangerous. Now whenever a Republican doesn’t win you just cry fraud on no evidence. You guys are the threat to democracy. You’re a threat to the very republic upon which the US stands. You’re a bunch of clowns who will lie and promote conspiracy theories all to avoid accepting the obvious and something you damn well know is obvious. Shame on you!
Thanks for your reply. You are correct that there are some non-European and European-descended countries that are functioning liberal democracies. According to the rankings on Democracy Matrix (https://www.democracymatrix.com/ranking), the only non-European/-descended countries that are considered Working Democracies (the highest ranking) are Costa Rica, Japan, South Korea, and Israel. Although, I wouldn’t include Israel on the list at all, since 5.3 million people living in lands under its control cannot participate in the Israeli government at all. In fairness, the list does include the Palestinian Territories/West Bank and the PT/Gaza, which it fairly and rightfully ranks as Hard Autocracies. The highest ranked sub-Saharan African country on the list is Cape Verde, ranked just below the US as a Deficient Democracy. The US is similarly ranked as a Deficient Democracy. Other sub-Saharan African countries ranked as Deficient Democracies are South Africa, Botswana, Seychelles, Mauritius, Namibia, Ghana, Sao Tome and Principe, Lesotho, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Malawi, and Liberia. So you may be right that sub-standard forms of liberal democracy have taken root in some of Africa, most notably Ghana and Malawi, which have rather large populations, 33 million and 20 million respectively, and almost no citizens who have European ethnic origins, such as South Africa. Burkina Faso should be downgraded in light of the recent Sept. 2022 coup d’état. The others on the list have rather small populations. Still, the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, which constitutes the bulk of the sub-continent’s population, is under Hybrid Regimes, Moderate Autocracies, and Hard Autocracies.
That some people believe the last election was “stolen” in the face of overwhelming evidence that it was not, and which even the purveyors of ” Big Lie” propaganda admit was nonsense, does not mean that they or their feelings need to be respected or given weight. People believe all manner of things that are silly, irrational, or false. For example, some people believe that whole civilizations existed on this continent within historical memory while leaving not a shred nor shard of evidence. Feelings and beliefs are not particularly strong foundations for reality.
bwbarnett, do you know the saying about how if everyone you meet is an asshole, maybe *you’re* the asshole? I’m not applying it to this situation; I’m just citing it as a nice pithy statement of Occam’s razor. If every judge you take your case to throws it out, maybe it’s not that *all* the judges happen to have been bought out by some Gadianton Robbers. Maybe it’s that your case is empty.
To echo vajra2, I know that in a Church context, it’s to your credit if you can make statements of certainty without any evidence, and often, even in the face of evidence. That just doesn’t fly as well in the rest of the world.
@Ziff says: “That just doesn’t fly as well in the rest of the world.”
Yes I understand I’m in the minority. I’m okay with that. And I’m not really even trying to debate or change people’s minds here. I’m taking advantage of my freedom of speech is all. I have opinions/beliefs/faith just like all others here. Mine differ greatly from most here. I know I will get 10 down votes for every up vote (or maybe the vote algorithm used by W&T has been hacked like the election software of 2020 and I’m actually getting more up votes??) Just kidding sorry 😉
Bottom line is I like participating here, and learning about all of your opinions and beliefs.
Of course you’re free to exercise your right free speech. But, as your compatriots in the “Big Lie” conspiracy are finding out, your can’t choose to avoid (and lose) the lawsuits! Good luck with that.
Anyone who talks about “democracies” AS IF a real democracy ACTUALLY EXISTS ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD (or has existed at any time) is evidently living mindlessly and blindly in the propaganda world fed to them since a kid and/or is part of the (unconscious, ignorant, naive, willful) crowd who disseminates this total lie — see “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room” … https://www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html
“Separate what you know from what you THINK you know.” — Unknown
(CAVEAT — only read the 2 pink elephant article if you’re GENUINELY interested in the truth and therefore “CAN handle the “inconvenient” truth” …)
Isn’t it about time for anyone to wake up to the ULTIMATE DEPTH of the rabbit hole — rather than remain blissfully willfully ignorant in a fantasy land and play victim like a little child?
@bwbarnett, “It’s a dangerous and unfair practice to automatically assume that someone who questions the 2020 election results is some sort of wacko who supports the Jan 6 capitol riot.”
The ninth January 6 Committee hearing, held one week ago on Thursday, January 13 is available to watch, in its entirety, on YouTube.
Like the previous hearings, it is gripping. Not tedious at all. (Except fast forward to its actual start time.)
An overwhelming majority of the information came directly from Republicans who were closely involved as the events unfolded.
The Committee draws a direct line, starting well before the election, connecting election denialism to the January 6 Capitol riot. (Many loyal Republicans have refused to call it a riot, so kudos to you.)
The January 6 riots were the next step BECAUSE the earlier efforts to overturn the election’s results failed. It was a last ditch effort.
One thing to note as you (or anyone) studies it out, is the difference between what a person says using his/her/their free speech rights, with what they say when they are under oath, and there are penalties for lying.
10/13/22 Select Committee Hearing.
I think the church bears some responsibility for BWB, and the members like him. For years they have been undermining science (fact) and saying to trust your feelings. Trump does the same thing.
We just had a conference before an election, and no one spoke to Trumpers and put them straight. Oaks tried it a few years ago but was too general. Now when democracy is on a knife edge; nothing.
We have a new argument that the ideal is not democracy, but monarchy. The scripture quoted to support this is part of an argument against kings, but for judges which can be replaced (like politicians). So no the BOM does not prefer kings over democracy. Neither does God. Agency!
BWB, surely you don’t want Trump for King. He was not a benevolent president and would not be a good king. The big differences between a president and a king is that the president has 4 year term, and there are checks on his power. A king in the sense you talk of is all powerful. Which is very bad. See Putin as an example.
I struggle to see how someone one week is for small government; and now wants a KING, which is totally centralized power?
Jeff, I’ve met quite a few folks like you who believe that a link to a single website will reveal all this “truth” to me that will blow my mind and that I might just be too scared to read it and know the truth. They’re often surprised to hear me tell them that I did read through their linked narrative and have found all sorts of half-truths, logical fallacies, and outright lies. I then point them to dozens upon dozens of peer-reviewed literature written by experts often times with decades of experience in the field spent teaching classes and doing collaborative projects who have produced a wealth of well thought-out and well-argued information. More often than not the person who promoted the website to me in the first place doesn’t want to bother to read my links or consider how the information they sent me is actually deeply flawed. It makes me wonder sometimes who exactly is scared to hear the truth.
On democracy, I often hear people say that we don’t live in a democracy here in the US, we live in a republic. My response: 1) a republic is a type of democracy, an indirect democracy. The connotation and meaning of democracy has changed since the days of Aristotle, as well as since the days of the Founding Fathers. It’s definition is sharper, more clear-cut, and more meaningful than it used to be. A democracy is a system of government where people have access to participation in the government and can influence the government’s decisions through advocacy and assembly. It is a system where majorities rules and minorities have an array of rights protected and access to systems of power in a variety of ways. Every leading political scientist considers the US a democracy and acknowledges the existence of liberal democracy throughout the world.
@Geoff-Aus says: “BWB, surely you don’t want Trump for King.”
Absolutely not! I don’t want any government’s of men to have centralized power, as I agree with you that it is bad (Putin). I was putting forth an argument for the “government” of the church, whose King is Christ – always righteous, good, trustworthy, wise, just, merciful…
@bwbarnett–I like this quote from CS Lewis’, The Screwtape Letters (Chapter 2). This is a quote from a fictitious demon giving advice on how to lead the souls of men (the “patient” in the quote) away from God to his nephew demon in training…
“One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham gothic erection on the new building estate.”
The demon speaking in the quote is able to see the unseen things that mortals can’t see. He is able to see both the perfect, eternal Church of God that mortals can’t see as well as the earthly approximation of God’s Church which unfortunately is merely a “half-finished, sham gothic erection”. If you read a little further, CS Lewis says that the main reason for the imperfect condition of the Church on earth is the flawed people therein. The demon encourages his nephew to be sure to point out the flaws of all of the people in the Church as a means to cause the human he is assigned to tempt to become disillusioned with the Church and abandon God. This chapter is certainly a warning for people like myself, as I do see many flaws in the Church and its leaders, so I sometimes have to work hard to not allow myself to completely turn my back on God because of the flaws of the humans I see in the Church, including the Q15.
However, if we flip things around, there could also be a warning here for people like yourself who may have a tendency to conflate the unseen eternal and perfect Church with God at its head with the “half-finished, sham gothic erection” we have to deal with here on the earth. The Church here on the earth is run by mortals, even the Q15, and as CS Lewis says, the mortals may try hard, but even at their best, the Church they are able to build certainly isn’t perfect and is sometimes quite ugly–it is unfortunately just a gross approximation of God’s eternal Church. In other words, don’t confuse Christ’s eternal Church with Christ’s earthly Church. These are two very, very different things. Christ may always be righteous, good, trustworthy, wise, just, and merciful, but His Church, at least in its earthly form with its mortal leaders, is sometimes not so righteous, good, trustworthy, etc. Just because Christ may have His hand in creating and running His Church does not necessarily mean that He is constantly directing its every action. In fact, our Church is old enough for us to be certain that this cannot be the case, as there have been massive screw ups from the Q15 over and over again since the earliest days of the Church until today (blacks and the priesthood/temple ban, the recent Policy of Exclusion enactment and subsequent removal only 3 years later, birth control, oral sex, women working outside the home, just to name a few–there are so many others, but the Church never teaches them to membership, even in its own “Church History” classes because it would like membership to believe that the Church is and always has been almost perfect).
Sure, if Christ himself were physically present on earth to rule His Church, then your King model of governance would be wonderful. Unfortunately, we don’t have Christ. At least it appears that much of the time He isn’t frequently heavily involved in Church governance on the earth. Instead, we have mortals–currently Nelson and the rest of the Q15. Sure, Christ may give His Church direction from time to time, but history shows that He often allows His Church and His leaders to make (big) mistakes. As a result, I’m uncomfortable with having Nelson (or Monson, Hinckley, etc.) as my King. I think it’s generally a good thing that it appears that the Q15 is at least able to check some of the power of the president of the Church (so maybe the Church really has more of a BoM “judges” model of government than a monarchy right now). As I said in my earlier comment on this post, I personally would like to see at least some of the decision making power that is now concentrated in the Q15 somehow distributed out to more of the membership (including some significant decision making power held by rank and file members). As Angela C pointed out, this was at least somewhat the case in Joseph Smith’s days with a “common consent” model that was actually in use where sometimes members actually voted down the proposals of the leaders. Just as Putin has turned Russia’s votes in parliament into a formality, so has the Q15 usurped the Church’s common consent model of governance and turned it into a rubber stamp.
This started out as a pretty good article. I read until you interjected politics into the narrative; then stopped. I don’t come here for witty, inciteful political narrative; which is provided by 1000’s of “talking heads” – all across the country – 24/7. Good luck next time.
LHL, that seems like quite the disingenuous comment. This OP starts with politics. Literally, the third sentence. It doesn’t profess to be anything other than what it is. Good luck next time.
Dispersal of power is the way the zLord set up the church The 12 were only to have power outside the Stake During Joseph life time no member of the 12 ever serve in the First Presidency Common consent was taken literally and members often refused to support decisions Look at Joseph’s attempt to get rid of Ruffin as his counselor It failed because the congregation voted against it Read Section 107 the stake hc is equal in authority to the 12 You idea of mandatory regional misses the real history of the idea. Hugh B Brown suggested that when a GA turned 70 and he volunteered to be first The 12 lead by Joseph Feilding S vetoed the idea but then later accepted it for everyone other than themselves That is how we got emeritus status The harsh reality is the church does not run like the Lord said it should Rather beginning with Brigham and down to the present day it runs like a hedge fund pretending to be a church
On Sunday Oct.23 2022, 60 Minutes did an interview with the fellow who runs Dominion, the voting machines Trump blamed. It’s a shame what that man and his family and his employees and their families are still going through. Anyone who questions the validity of elections should see that episode of 60 Minutes. Nothing is ever new regarding fear and conspiracies. Ken Burns just made an outstanding documentary on “The Holocaust and the U.S. ” that recently aired on PBS .The ending of the last episode really ‘brings it home’ .
The Democracy Index, while a valuable resource, may be underselling the point for the sake of this argument. While I don’t disagree that the forms of democracy in Africa are typically substandard (and as an aside, I don’t even disagree with its rating of the US as “deficient”), for the most part, this argument is about whether or not China’s and Russia’s style of autocracy is some sort of legitimate alternative to democracy that will takeover. Despite being imperfect democracies or even “Mixed Regimes”, according to that resource, the countries in sub-Sahara Africa do not fit China’s style of government because they have multiple centers of power. Even if those centers of power do not compete in free and fair elections (likely the Hybrid Regimes and Moderate Autocracies, though I note there seems to be no section for Oligarchies in the Democracy Index?), they still aren’t autocracies that spell doom for Fukuyama’s predictions. The trend over the past half century since the decolonization of Africa and Asia has been to become MORE democratic and better democracies.
My point wasn’t necessarily that democracy already holds in every country, my point is that there isn’t really any widespread cultural pushback against democracy, as you claimed. Democracy isn’t some “Western” idea that’s only pushed for the sake of imperialist agendas. Most people want stable, working democracy in most of the world.
Dominion Voting Systems CEO speaks out against conspiracy theories
The U.S. and the Holocaust | Full Documentary
@ John W, October 20, 2022 at 2:35 pm
“They’re often surprised to hear me tell them that I did read through their linked narrative and have found all sorts of half-truths, logical fallacies, and outright lies. I then point them to dozens upon dozens of peer-reviewed literature written by experts often times with decades of experience in the field spent teaching classes and doing collaborative projects who have produced a wealth of well thought-out and well-argued information.”
Well, you only use rhetoric here on what a hero you are supposedly yet provide ZERO of what you claim to be. So it’s just postering and hyping of yourself. Claiming to be a master debunker and actually demonstrating your alleged debunking skills are two different pots. Looking at all the “likes” you got for your comment proves that most of the readers here haven’t caught onto that game either. Pretenders attract pretenders. Yikes…
Your bit on “democracy” is just the indoctrinated script everyone has received, and is blindly accepted by most, including you. It confirms my notion above that you are merely a poser with no real interest in reality.