Ceasing to say “we:” recovering our spiritual agency

On a typical Sunday my Young Women are asked to imagine how they would act when a non-member encouraged them to participate in any one of the stock activities – drugs, underage dating, or parental disobedience – that we Mormons find outside our fold.  These conversations are often surprisingly enjoyable, serving as moments when the Young Women solidify their bonds with each other as they contrast themselves to various others.  But inevitably these conversations take a turn into the more disputed aspects of Mormon culture.  From minor debates over a topic like the Mormon stance on Coke emerge spaces where a variety of Mormonisms emerge that disrupt the group solidarity our role-plays foster. 

Out of these moments of rupture often comes the suspicion that our deepest threats to our “Mormon” identity come not from the world without but from within.  What these stories of Mormons v. the world mask is that the deepest challenges to our faith, in other words, often spring from the members we wish to support us or assume censor the version of faith we practice.

It’s easy to repeat the standard complaints about how hegemonic Mormon culture discourages those who question and doubt.  And perhaps there is strong reason to complain.  Certainly Mormon culture does not discourage questioning; it does, however, often prescribe what types of questions are appropriate to ask.  While practical questions that help us reach decisions or overcome obstacles are staples of the Mormon experience, questions that doubt the premise of Church authority rarely receive serious attention.  And, yet, that said, it seems to me time to ask why we “dissenting” Mormons often take decided pleasure in playing up our perceived differences from normative Mormons and what our insistence on our difference means for our faith.

Which means it is time to stop using “we.” 

I increasingly believe that I have allowed myself to limit my own spirituality and agency by allowing myself to believe that every Mormon I meet is a “representative” Mormon.  Whereas I strongly cling to the idea that I practice a unique faith that is personally my own, I generally set my faith in opposition to the “representative” Mormon faith that I assume others practice.  I have wondered whether I belong in the church and I have considered in the past leaving, because I felt that I could not conform to what everyone else believed.

These views, I now recognize, were deeply flawed.  More importantly, clinging to these views curtails my potential to exercise agency, spiritually develop, and fellowship others. Through these views, I denied other people the same uniqueness I claimed for myself, refusing to look beyond the Mormon label I applied to them.  And, more importantly, I outsourced my agency to other people by making decisions on the ground of what I thought other people believed, ceding responsibility for my choices to my flawed understanding of what others demanded of me.

The point I wish to make is that in order to take personal responsibility for our faith and to engage in real dialogue, friendship, and debate with other members, I believe we must stop considering other people as representative Mormons and begin treating them as people of unique experiences and evolving faiths.  When people no longer feel the burden of being “representative” and instead claim personal responsibility for their faith, I suspect that a great deal of anxiety, confusion, and loneliness in church will be replaced with surprising friendships and plural beliefs.  I believe that missionary work will flourish as people no longer face the anxiety of speaking for the church and can instead respond to a non-member friend (who, mind you, should be treat as a friend and not as representative non-member) with genuine thoughts that spring from one’s own beliefs and experience.  I believe that we will no longer feel the immense stress to defend or dissent from church beliefs if we can cease to brand ourselves as Mormons first and individuals second. 

But, in the meantime, I have a pointed question for the friend whose doubts have prompted me to write this series of posts: If you leave the church, are you doing it because it no longer speaks to what you personally believe or because of what you think other people think the doctrine is?  Are you willing to let other people dictate the choices you make?

Comments

  1. Aaron Brown says:

    Some really great points. In responding to questions about what “I” believe, I so often choose to answer them in two parts: (a) this is what your typical orthodox Mormon believes (which is what I often assume the questioner is asking about, and my assumption is sometimes, though not always, correct); and (b) this is what I personally believe, which may or may not be the same as (a). I like the idea that we should answer as individuals with a potentially unique set of experiences and views, rather than as an automatic representative of some imagined “correct” version of orthodox Mormonism.

    “If you leave the church, are you doing it because it no longer speaks to what you personally believe or because of what you think other people think the doctrine is?”

    I can easily imagine leaving the Church out of a conviction that, whatever one’s own spiritual experiences or convictions born of one’s Mormonism, what other people “think the doctrine is” REALLY IS what the doctrine is.

    Aaron B

  2. I am not leaving the church but I have to admit, it is sometimes tempting. I feel that culturally, Mormons can be very defensive and self righteous and I absolutely hate it. Culturally I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of the church. Doctrinally I can’t say I agree with everything. Generally speaking I like the guidance and lifestyle we are given. But this “us” versus “the world” rubs me wrong. Not sure that answers your question but I enjoyed your post. If I do leave the church, it’ll be due to a bit of doctrine a whole lot of what other people think is doctrine and their uncanny ability to look down on others who feel differently.

  3. Steve Evans says:

    Wow, Natalie, what a great post. It sounds to me like you are wrestling with an adequate definition of community in the LDS context, which is a topic that has flummoxed people ever since the Church was founded.

    Your question is a tough one. Is leaving the Church because you are different from the community any ‘better’ than leaving the Church because of a personal disagreement with articulated doctrine?

    AB, I can easily imagine you leaving the Church as well. Zing!

  4. I also agree as to the greatness of this post (notice I said the same thing as the others, but in a different way – you know, individually! Do I get brownie points for that? :) ) I also wonder many times why I feel like I’m the only one who feels like this, and then I go online, and I find there are plenty of other narcissistic, cynical, asocial types like me, particularly Steve Evans!!! :)

    In all seriousness, you raise intriguing questions for the folk who feel on the fringe. I seem to find that when I think I’m a “Borderlander”, that in the course of my conversations with other members, a lot of the doubts and inadequecies I feel are very much shared. We don’t bring it up at church, but it is there.

  5. Thomas Parkin says:

    Another great post, Natalie. I completely agree that viewing oneself as one type of Mormon or another is pointless and creates unnecessary tensions within ourselves and in our community.

    Real quick, Ephesians 4 came to mind as I read ‘evolving faith’ and ‘plural beliefs’ and your strongly positive feeling for what is not only individual but ‘unique’. There we read that the work of ‘perfecting the saints’ is to proceed until ‘we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man … henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine … grow(ing) up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ’

    For me, the emphasis isn’t on uniqueness;, these is no emphasizing to ourselves or others the ways that our sensibilities, inclinations and beliefs relate, but whether or not we are on this described road that leads to ‘unity’, ‘knowledge’, ‘growing up’ into ONE thing, Christ. Evolving indeed, but toward what? It seems to me that the end of the road, the ideal, has little to do with ‘plurality’ but with ‘seeing as we are seen and knowing as we are known.’

    I thought, when I read you from here, “When people no longer feel,” to here, “genuine thoughts that spring …” of some phrases from our ward mission plan:

    “We do not make friends only in order that they join the church. Instead, a true friend is a faithful friend regardless of circumstance … We need only be ourselves and talk about our actual experiences and views in a way that is natural to us.”

    Groovy.

    ~

  6. Steve, you stinker!

    I agree that there is a tendency for me to look down on others who I perceive as not having thought deeply about subjects I hold to. Most people I have come across are less concerned about my ideas than they are about my fidelity to the leadership of the church. If I hold a minority view on a doctrine, I often find that a former prophet or GA has also held my view at times. One of the things I loved about Blake Ostler’s books is that he presents various “schools of thought” within Mormonism, instead of promoting a “Mormon Doctrine”.

    I see the advent of the book “Believing Christ” in the 90’s as a paradigm shifter for the church, and “The Peacegiver” having a similar effect in this decade.

    Just wait a while and sometimes your ideas may become more representative of the “in-group” of the church and then you will be part of the establishment!

  7. I’m not really sure what a “dissenter” is, in the context of “we.” I typically find that us vs. them mentality is not productive at all in the Church. That said, I must be part of those from which you dissent (though I am not certain). I think there are definite cultural benefits from exclusive language, speaking of the Church as a whole. Perhaps I am simply ignorant to issues that you have at play here.

  8. InTheBorderlands says:

    For most of the many years I have spent in the Church, I have stayed despite feeling quite isolated from the dominant culture and community of Mormonism. I have also realized that much of what other members believed and taught was not actually consistent with what I understood to be the core doctrines of the Church.

    But as long as I maintained belief in the fundamentals, I did not, and do not, consider these as valid reasons to leave. I thus agree with what Steve Evans says in the 2nd paragraph of #3.

    It is the questions about the fundamental claims of the Church (what Joseph Smith did or didn’t see in the grove, plates he did or did not physically obtain, ‘revelations’ that were or were not from God), along with doubts about the basic concept of a personal God, that may yet result in moving completely away from the Church.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    Provocative post!

    AFAIC, this is my church, it belongs to me, so I’m not leaving it, even if other people might understand some things differently than I do. I believe a lot of things your average Mormon doesn’t (I support gay marriage, I think not giving blacks the priesthood was a mistake, I wish we would give women the priesthood, I don’t like the policy of not letting people go to the temple immediately after a civil wedding, and the list goes on and on.) But I’m confident that this is my church, that my heterodoxies are within the acceptable realm of belief, and I’m not threatened by that diversity, and I think the tent of the church is wide enough to hold people with all sorts of divergent opinions about things.

  10. I’m not sure I get this whole “us” and “we” and “them” thing, but then, doctrinally I’m pretty orthodox, at least compared to a lot of you. Like wacko KB above. :P

    I don’t fit in with most Mormons I know, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. I love them, actually. My lifestyle is pretty different from most Mormons I know. I live very differently. I don’t socialize much with Mormons (or anyone, really). I’m debating asking a woman at church if she’d want to go to the Geddy Museum with me. We have very little in common, except that we both love to read and we love to jabber. So I think two hours in the car and a couple hours walking around a museum might be doable. I bet she won’t have time to go, though.

  11. Natalie, thank you for this post. It is so personally timely. I wonder if you felt inspired to write it. I have been thinking about this subject all week long, and this post, and some of these comments, encapsulate what I have been feeling.

    I have self-identified myself as a “doubting Mormon” for something like four years now, and probably internally more like “not believing.” I felt like a fraud at church, even though I was still living the commandments – because I didn’t believe in IT. I am just starting to realize that maybe there is no IT. Maybe I don’t have to believe in IT. I’m just starting to realize that all Mormons are probably doubting mormons about something, and that there is no need to define myself that way.

    I doubt I am expressing this well, but realizing that I am still able to be faithful, without having faith in everything, without being exactly in sync with every item in the manual, and with every other “faithful” person, has been a relief. I can just believe in what I can believe, and still be a member, one of many with individual degrees of faith and belief, who are all working toward a closer relationship with the divine.

    I wept yesterday, realizing, I don’t have to think of myself as a wanderer anymore. Anti-mormons like to call us sheep, but actually, I think that is apt. I AM a sheep, milling about a bit, making a bit of noise when I’m uncomfortable or pushed to hard, but ultimately, trusting that the Shepherd is going to bring me back in – not into the fold, or in with the other sheep, but back home.

    And from the bottom of my heart, sincerely, I am so deeply grateful for the nacle – for the people who’ve argued, debated, and fought over hundreds of different issues, showing me over and over again that there are a lot of different ways to believe, a lot of different ways to be faithful. If there IS a war for souls going on, you guys all helped to save one. So thanks.

  12. Having recently visited my old ward with great pleasure, I still find that I fit in with many Mormons. Certainly not all of us will see eye to eye, and there are pockets within Mormon culture that seem less like the way I understand the Gospel, but even having encounters in Utah, I find an amazing array of active Latter-day Saints with whom I find commonality.

    I agree that in disagreeing with a perceived normative culture we often make others into people they are not–the same behavior many of us associate with them in a negative way.

  13. A home run, Natalie.

    There is something to be valued in the way we bear testimony. We can say words like “My experience has been . . .”, and it is OK. It is often the beginning of wisdom to realize that another person has a unique background and set of experiences which allow for a different perspective. And I really like Kevin B.’s attitude. While we believe that God’s will is manifest in the church, we also believe that the church is no better than the people who claim membership. Ultimately, there is something unappealing about allowing somebody or something else to determine our level of activity. I can well imagine that Gordon B. Hinckley has days when he’s not thrilled with the church either, but he recognizes the tremendous amount of good in it, squares his shoulders, and does his best.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

  14. Wonderful thoughts, Natalie. Two experiences, from opposite ends of the spectrum:

    I know a man who stopped attending Church because of a few people who just were too hypocritical. You know, they taught things they couldn’t live. I couldn’t help him see not only the judgmental attitude but also the irony of that view. He knew what he had felt (deeply); he knew what he had experienced (often); he set himself against other members – in this case condescendingly. He railed against hypocrisy while exhibiting it himself. It was sad, since he was unable to see it and blamed others for his decision – and dragged his entire family away with him.

    I appear to most people to be a classically orthodox Mormon. I hold a position of authority in this area; I have six children – the oldest in college and the youngest in kindergarten; my wife did not work outside our home until this fall, when our youngest started school; I always wear a white shirt and tie to church; I support the Priesthood leadership in public, almost without exception; I live a very conservative life; and on and on and on.

    However, many of my religious and political views defy classification of my collective beliefs. Some are conservative; many are moderate and nuanced; some are very liberal. I have spent years carefully considering and altering my perspective on many issues. Even so, I constantly have to respond to assumptions that, because of my general appearance, I believe the most extreme conservative things imaginable – even from other members and even on public blogs like this one. I often write something and then have to respond to a response by saying, “Wait. Read it again. I didn’t say that.” I want to be judged by what I actually say, not by what others have said that gets lumped in with what I said – so I try hard to grant others that same courtesy.

    Misplaced assumptions happen to me and to others, regularly – I believe because it is very easy to read certain buzz words and phrases and jump to conclusions based on previous experiences with the attitudes and beliefs of others. Sometimes it is hard to read slowly and carefully and thoughtfully and avoid assuming too early, “Ive heard that one before” – often stopping and responding at that point without finishing a comment or comments. If there is one frustration of public conversations like this for me, it is when I see the emotions roil and stereotypes get attacked when no such stereotypes have been stated.

    As Sue showed so eloquently, when we come together in sincerity and attempted understanding – not to convince each other but to learn from each other, great things can happen. When we position ourselves against each other (like I do sometimes), great things rarely happen. Ultimately, I believe, as Natalie said, the responsibility is mine for what I give to and get from any gathering – whether in a building or in the Bloggernacle. I can’t blame anyone but myself if I leave a potential feast only partially filled.

  15. I believe that church is a richer experience when it involves people with all different thoughts. I think that, as much as we would like to pretend we know it all, the church still has much to learn. Without different perspectives we may never learn what we need. What someone else believes has no effect on what I believe.

  16. As I read the thoughts expressed here I felt a kinship with much of what has been expressed. There is a difference though. My challenges that make me feel apart from the representative member originate in the fact that the Lord, for whatever reason, has given me and abundance of spiritual experiences. For a long time I didn’t realize I had an abundance compared to others, so I’d bring the subject up and before long I realized caution is necessary.

    I ache to talk to others who have similar experiences. That is one reason I decided to blog.

  17. Eric Russell says:

    Jared, we likewise ache to hear your experiences.

  18. Hi Steve–based on my experiences the Lord does give gifts in abundance. Consider music for example. Some people have an abundance of talent in music. Now take that idea and carry it over to any area of talent and the same things is evident. When it comes to spiritual gifts should it be different?

    I think the bell curve must be operative in the area of talents and spiritual gifts.

    A little over a year ago I decided to be more open about my experiences with other members.It’s been interesting.

  19. Steve Evans says:

    Jared, interesting is the appropriate adjective.

  20. I would like to author a post as Natlie has done here. I don’t know how these things are done in CC. Just how does one come to be an author or guess author in CC?

  21. Jared,

    You clearly have been given the gift of (spiritual) awesomeness in abundance. Perhaps you ought to launch a blog to share your gift with the entire internet. (See blogger.com)

  22. Eric–If the opportunity comes I would like to discuss “things of the spirit”. I feel that blogging might be an appropriate forum for this topic. I think scared things need to be dealt with in a special way, but to virtually ignore the subject is not the right way. When I go before the Lord I don’t want to be the one who buried my talent because I was afraid of this, that, or the other.

    Time for me to call it a night.

  23. Geoff J–I don’t know what to expect so I am feeling my way. I willing to give it a try.

    I need to explain what I mean by an abundance so as to avoid misunderstandings.

  24. I can well imagine that Gordon B. Hinckley has days when he’s not thrilled with the church either

    I think he calls that day “Tuesday.”

  25. “…stop considering other people as representative Mormons and begin treating them as people of unique experiences and evolving faiths.”

    Beautiful!

  26. Struwelpeter says:

    Natalie,

    Your opening sentence, in which you refer to “my Young Women”, suggests both that you feel ownership in the Church, and serve it in a representative capacity. Callings, and the sense of affiliation/representation that are inherent in them, render it very difficult to fully separate ourselves from the collective, but I’m convinced that isn’t a bad thing.

  27. I think you bring up some really good points. It’s too easy to go to the ‘we’ or the ‘they’ in vague yet potent ways (ways that affect our behavior, sometimes causing us to abdicate our personal agency and give it over to some generality). I have gained more and more appreciation for the personal nature of our spiritual journeys.

    That said, I would be interested in your thoughts on the unity factor that does come into play in our doctrine. At some point, I do feel there needs to be a sense of ‘we,’ a sense of community, a sense of ‘unity of the faith’ (Eph. 4:13). We are told that we can’t be saved alone, without others. At some point, the celebration of individuality can distract from the quest for Zion, can it not? Not that we are all to be cookie-cutters of each other, but if there are not some things that unite us, that define us as a people, I believe we lose some of the power that is in our religion.

    I suppose in reading that verse from Paul that coming to a unity of faith is something that is likely still in the future (at least in its fulness), after we have each individually worked out our own salvation with fear and trembling . But I have to say that I have caught a glimpse of the power of the ‘we’ in my current ward, where we do define what ‘we’ believe, not always so concerned about drawing personal boundaries around our experiences. When you get a group of people together who have shared experiences enough to do this, it is a pretty amazing thing.

    So anyway, I’m interested to hear others’ thoughts on what seems to be a tension of sorts…a need to recognize and respect personal spiritual journeys while acknowledging the (eventual?) place for a one heart/one mind/unity in the faith/no disputations of doctrine kind of state.

  28. More importantly, clinging to these views curtails my potential to exercise agency, spiritually develop, and fellowship others. Through these views, I denied other people the same uniqueness I claimed for myself, refusing to look beyond the Mormon label I applied to them. And, more importantly, I outsourced my agency to other people by making decisions on the ground of what I thought other people believed, ceding responsibility for my choices to my flawed understanding of what others demanded of me.

    That portion brought literal tears to my eyes. It reflects an incredibly deep insight that I applaud you for. Probably the most frightening/sobering realization that one can have is that “the ultimate outcome of anyone’s life, is a matter of personal choice.”(-Andy Andrews)

    Do you suppose that perhaps that fear can be felt even without the realization becoming a gelled thought…that perhaps it is why we all try so hard to avoid thinking it at all…and then often refuse to accept it once we have?

  29. Jared-

    Deep in your heart you know you are not alone and that the ache is homesickness. :-)

    Feel free to contact me if you wish
    therusticranch@gmail.com

    P.S. or anyone else…like maybe Steve if he wants the nightmares to stop….muhuhahahahhaa :P

  30. As usual, your post has enriched me. Thank you. I think those pointed questions are especially important.

  31. Sue,

    It is a very liberating and wonderful feeling when we stop caring about other people’s opinions of our “orthodoxy,” or lack thereof.
    Like Kevin expressed in #9, we have a lot more autonomy in our belief and disbelief than we often suppose. For example, when the Church website says

    Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church

    that is a statement that allows us an immense amount of epistemological freedom. I believe the Garden of Eden was in the Middle East, I think the denial of Priesthood to blacks was a mistake rooted in racism, and I believe Joseph Smith was a much more active participant in the “translation” of the BoM than the word translation implies. Those are just a few of the many areas where I part company with most people I go to church with.
    Disagreement with the majority of Church members on many doctrinal issues is uncomfortable at times, but it’s tolerable as long as I have our core beliefs in common. If that were not the case, I would make an amicable departure.

  32. A touch Orwellian. The Mormons as a people don’t altogether please some, so they prefer to not recognize that Mormons exist as a people? Like Lennon’s Imagine, it strikes me as a totalitarian sentiment. No countries, just billions of atomized individuals prohibited from forming attachments to others.

  33. #31 – Even my decent education left me scratching my head with that one.

  34. John, I don’t think Natalie’s post needs to be read in the extremes you’re taking it to, although I agree such would be the result were we to completely abandon our interrelationships.

  35. m&m
    “At some point, the celebration of individuality can distract from the quest for Zion…a tension of sorts…a need to recognize and respect personal spiritual journeys while acknowledging the (eventual?) place for a one heart/one mind/unity in the faith/no disputations of doctrine kind of state.”

    You make a good point, eventually we need to become like Christ, resulting in a “pretty amazing thing”.

    In the mean time, we are all trying to find our way. The peer pressure for “cookie cutter” unity can push people away. I think of it as a funnel, we enter the large end and if we endure, we exit the small end.

    Jesus spoke in parables with rich multi-level meanings, providing something for everyone. He wanted to keep everyone on the path.

    Jared,
    Email me to discuss “things of the spirit” – HDirkson at cox dot net

  36. m&m: “We are told that we can’t be saved alone, without others”

    I’d like to suss this out. Where does this come from? Is it just reasoning that starts from D&C 131 (see today’s Firestorm) and goes from there? I don’t think that this is really doctrinal. Yes, it’s somewhat common sense, but in terms of salvation we still believe in a personal salvation.

  37. 31 appears to have missed the point. I don’t understand Natalie’s argument to be the rejection of group identity and most important, coherent community, but rather the decision not to assume things about internal states of others in destructive ways. Membership in a community can be quite robust without completely specifying the characteristics of every member.

  38. I agree; I think Natalie’s post addressed unity of belief, which can only be possible on a very small set of core doctrines at this point. As long as the current leadership of the Church does not see fit to sift through the vast trove of statements by past Church leaders and identify where those leaders were wrong in their thinking, the burden is going to lie squarely on the individual to determine what s/he believes on the vast majority of Church teachings.

  39. In my opinion, unity is more likely to be achieved by overlooking differences than by doing away with them.

  40. So what happens to sayings like ‘if ye are not one, ye are not mine’. Or when Christ prayed that those who followed Him would be one like He and the Father are one. It seems that should be the goal, even if it is not the current condition.

    I also may be misreading some of the post, but should we not want to search for what is true, instead of defending our personal beliefs? I am talking about a mindset, and not necessarily objective truth (although I tend to believe in such a thing).

  41. I’m thinking unity will be achieved when we have sanctifying experiences through the Holy Ghost–where we become more like the Savior in degrees. This will come about as individual members continue to do what we’re doing in CC and at church; coming together as fellow travelers and learning from one another. And all the time allowing for differences by forgiving others, and when we see a side of ourselves that needs change-repent. I see this motif through out the Book of Mormon.

    And the wonderful thing about the Book of Mormon is that we can see what will happen to us in the future by observing what happened to the former day saints.

    For example:

    King Benjamin’s people
    King Lamoni’s people
    Aminadab and associates

  42. Steve Evans says:

    Eric: “I also may be misreading some of the post, but should we not want to search for what is true, instead of defending our personal beliefs?”

    I don’t think you’re too far off. This post is basically saying something similar but equally important: should we not want to search for what is true, instead of defending our collective beliefs?

  43. Steve:

    Thank you for a response.

    In the long run, if we really have a sincere searching for truth mindset we will be just fine – I believe. Since I tend to believe truth to be objective (when all the facts are in), I also expect truth to be consistent. If I find myself believing things that most people in the church do not believe – especially long experienced church leaders – then I suspect that I am missing something. Not the other way around.

    Didn’t RT(JNS) do a post something along the lines of a safety in numbers thing? That post popped into my mind. This does not mean he would necessarily agree with me on this.

  44. Steve Evans says:

    Yeah, that’s a favorite topic of Frank’s as well. Again, numbers are no guarantee of Truth, but they can be at least an indicia of what is acceptable to the community.

  45. Steve,

    I totally agree with what you said in #41. My goal is to seek for “what is true” even if it conflicts with what I believed in the past or believe now. I have all confidence that God’s truth is supreme to my own, or that of any other human being, and it is HIS truth that we have to embrace and submit to if we wish to gain exaltation.

    The “oneness” that m&m and others have mentioned allows for uniqueness of personality and understandings even as it unites them all in the same purpose, same glory, same heart. I think sometimes it is viewed as some kind of Borg existence and our human natures of course fight against such a thing. But if we fight too hard, we never allow ourselves to discover the beautiful truth, nor do we allow Christ to claim us as His own.

    Our salvation is individual because we are directly responsible for our own thoughts and actions, not to mention the depth of our faith. But unless we strive to serve and bring others to Christ and to the truth we aren’t really following His example at all.

  46. I’d like to suss this out. Where does this come from? Is it just reasoning that starts from D&C 131 (see today’s Firestorm) and goes from there? I don’t think that this is really doctrinal.

    What I had in mind was more along these lines:

    For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time.

    D&C 128:18

    I think also of the city of Enoch (a group, not a bunch of individuals). I think of scriptures talking of Zion as a city, a community, a group of people. Sure, individuals are striving for salvation, but the purpose of the earth is about saving groups (families in particular), not about simply saving individuals. If it were not so, the binding links we focus on (and that are focused on in the scripture above (plus those about the earth being smitten with a curse without the sealing keys and powers) would be unnecessary. Put another way, what’s the point of welding together dispensations and generations if salvation is purely individual?

    A few other thoughts:

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Four 1839–42, p.159
    The Kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed. The mustard seed is small, but brings forth a large tree, and the fowls lodge in the branches. The fowls are the angels. Thus angels come down, combine together to gather their children, and gather them. We cannot be made perfect without them, nor they without us;

    Orson F. Whitney:
    The Welding Link.—But these hearts must not only be turned toward each other; they must be bound together, and beat as one….Perfection is the great end in view; and without unity there can be no perfection….There is to be a General Assembly, a universal union, in which sainted souls from glorified creations will join. [I see both individual and community there.] All things that are Christ’s, both in heaven and on earth, will eventually be brought together, and the divided and discordant parts attuned and blended in one harmonious Whole. (Saturday Night Thoughts, p.195-6)

  47. Re: 26, 35 & 45
    m&m; “We are told that we can’t be saved alone, without others”

    JS taught that “the greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead,” and that “those Saints who neglect it” do so “at the peril of their own salvation.”

    Elder John Taylor explained:

    We need, it is true, the assistance and guidance of the Almighty, and the Holy Priesthood behind the vail also requires our assistance and our help. Paul, who understood these things, said, “that they without us should not be made perfect,” and we without them cannot be made perfect. They in their day had obtained a knowledge of God and his law, and we are permitted to obtain the same. God has been pleased to restore the same principles and to place us in communion with him and them. Hence, while they are operating in the heavens we are operating here upon the earth. We build Temples and administer in them. They are attending to those who have died without a knowledge of the Gospel, and who will communicate from time to time with us to show us our duty.

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