Some Youthful Apologetics

Mike and I have just returned home from Voree, where we spent another entire week pouring through the records housed in archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite). We’re working on an institutional history of the church since the martyrdom of James Strang in 1856, the first ever composed. It’s been a fantastic experience because the Strangites have been excellent record keepers and because the church has given us unrestricted access to the archives.

We brought back another two file cabinet drawers worth of xeroxes, including copies of many of the church’s past periodicals. I was paging through one of these and found an article readers here might get a kick out of. The church has a very active youth group and publishes a fairly lengthy periodical entitled Crossroads, filled with articles written by young members. The May 1978 issue includes a submission by a thirteen-year-old boy, entitled “False Prophets.”* The article begins by summarizing the Strangite Mormon understanding of true prophets:

A Prophet or Lawgiver is also called an Apostle, Seer, Revelator, and Translator. The way a man gets this degree of Priesthood is by the direct word of God. The man we usually call a Prophet — the Lawgiver — is ordained under the hands of angels.

After explaining the prophet’s function and citing the authority of scriptures, the author lists examples of true prophets and touches on the distinctive Strangite view of Jesus:

The names of some of the Prophets are Enoch, Moses, Noah, Elijah, Peter, James, John, Joseph Smith, and James J. Strang. Jesus Christ was also a Lawgiver, but after his resurrection he was given more power from God than has ever been given to any other man. That power is called the Keys of Death and the Resurrection. That means he can raise people from the dead and live forever.

By contrast, the young writer points out that “false prophets are men or women who get an idea they think is from God and then they trick people into following them.” We learn:

Sometimes they are even tricked themselves by Satan. This can happen because they don’t take time to read in the books and see if their ideas match what the true Prophets have taught in every detail. False prophets start by getting some beliefs they think is right, but which is really counteracting the true church…. We know they are false because most of them don’t claim an angelic ordination, and they don’t function after the true pattern.

And if you thought the Strangites had become conciliatory in the past ten or twelve decades, the examples of false prophets will set you straight:

Some names of false prophets are Brigham Young, Mohammed, Buddha, and today [1978] one of the most famous is Sun Myung Moon of the “Moonies.” But I will talk only of Brigham Young. He was one of Joseph Smith’s Twelve Apostles. The first thing he did wrong was claim that the Twelve would lead the church after Joseph’s death. The second thing was when he got the people of the church to vote that they didn’t want any more prophets. And, of course, he refused to accept James J. Strang as Joseph’s successor — so therefore he was guilty of rebellion.

More lengthy scriptural examples follow, but our young author assures us, “Brigham Young was just one of many false prophets that have come upon the earth. There are many today. All of them put forth their own ideas of what they think is God’s will. Because of them, many people are led away from the church.” He concludes:

Brigham Young was not punished in the flesh and he became a rich and powerful man…. Brigham Young’s punishment will be in the hereafter. He will be cast into hell. So that is why we must go only by the written word and be careful not to follow false prophets who think they have dreamed the will of God, or teach things which are not allowed in the law of God, or who stand in rebellion to the scriptures.

The young author has thoroughly internalized what we’ve identified as a key difference between Strangite and Brighamite (LDS) interpretations of Mormonism. Whereas LDS members frequently anchor their testimonies with feelings of spiritual confirmation, Strangite Mormons are quite wary of these manifestations, instead putting their trust solely in the scriptures. Any inspiration not totally consistent with the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Book of the Law of the Lord, is rejected.

Anyway, I thought you might find this article by a budding faithful Mormon apologist as fascinating as I did.

___________________________
* Michael Falk, “False Prophets,” Youth is the Crossroads of Life, Combined Issue No. 1 (May 1978), [Artesia, NM: Latter Day Youth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite)], 10-12.

Bookmark Some Youthful Apologetics

Comments

  1. Awesome! Thanks John.

  2. “Any inspiration not totally consistent with the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Book of the Law of the Lord, is rejected.”

    Yep. We Brighamites are all about accepting things that are at odds with the written word of God. That’s just how we roll, I guess.

  3. Scott B (#2): Since the LDS Church has a Prophet, a First Presidency, and Apostles, Brighamites have access to continuing revelation. Of course there is emphasis on scripture, but previously published scripture is not the sole source of truth in the LDS Church, the way it is for the Strangite Church.

  4. Steve Evans says:

    Scotty, heaven knows we Brighamites do stuff that isn’t necessarily in the Standard Works…

  5. John, I’m no theological expert, but it occurs to me that the Strangite vision of truthseeking, as explained here, has a lot in common with many Protestant denominations that stress Biblical authority. It’s my understanding that the LDS focus on continuing institutional revelation is fairly unique. I do think, however, that most other Christian denominations rely on a spiritual affirmation of truth similar to LDS beliefs.

  6. Reed Russell says:

    That is indeed fascinating, John. Thanks. Any idea how many issues of Crossroads were ever compiled?

    The church “has” an active youth group? Even today?

  7. MikeInWeHo says:

    What is the Strangite church up to these days, John? Growing? Do they seek converts?

  8. Karen (5): Exactly — you could make a comparison between Baptists who believe that the Bible is the sole infallible and inerrant authority for Christian faith, and Catholics, who find truth in scriptures, but also in the teachings of the church fathers, the traditions handed down since antiquity, and in the authority of church leaders. (Obviously other Mormon tradition churches are more like the LDS Church on this question of an open canon, e.g., the Community of Christ, and still others are more like the Strangites, e.g. the Temple Lot church.)

    Reed (6): Looks like there’s been about 80-90 issues so far — about 2 or 3 issues each year since the mid-1970s. Yes, their youth group continues to be pretty vibrant. In addition to the paper, they hold regular youth conferences, where they gather the kids from all over the country.

    MikeInWeHo (7): The mainline Strangite church has had a sustainable membership population for over a century; not growing, but maintaining its replacement rate. They do have new converts — we spent some time last week with two very committed, high-enthusiasm members who had only converted and been baptized within the past year. The church has members in every age group, including lots of kids and teens, but also 20-somethings and 30-somethings. I think the church is in pretty good shape for the forseeable future.

  9. #2: Scott:

    “We Brighamites are all about accepting things that are at odds with the written word of God. That’s just how we roll, I guess.”

    I suppose we don’t necessarily accept things “at odds” with the written word of God, we just continually reinterpret it to mean diametrically opposed things. A few simple examples:

    – There were whole books and pamphlets and talks given showing why blacks not having the priesthood was in accordance with the “written word of God”. Yet when things were changed, the new policy is also in accordance with the “written word of God”
    – For a time, women were not allowed to speak in Sacrament meeting (nor unordained males), again in accordance with the “written word of God”. This, too, changed in the 1970’s and women now make up an important and vibrant part of our meetings up through the General Conference level

    There are many more examples of times when we do things completely opposite from how we did them before, yet claim a scriptural basis for both ways. So I wouldn’t be to smug.

  10. Karen H., yeah, this post also made me think of other Christians’ theological guideposts. The one I hear frequently from my Methodist friends is a reliance on four main principles: scripture, tradition, reason & experience.

    (We Brighamites probably like to say that we downplay that second one on the list, tradition (or we might re-name it as “revelatory precedent”), but we clearly adhere today to certain patterns.)

  11. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    Anon, I’m not sure you have it quite right that women couldn’t speak in sacrament meeting — although there was a period during which they couldn’t offer the opening prayer in sacrament meeting. See discussion here.

  12. Sorry. Prior post came out as Anon.

    #11: Thanks for the clarification. I appreciate it.

  13. John,

    Scott B (#2): Since the LDS Church has a Prophet, a First Presidency, and Apostles, Brighamites have access to continuing revelation. Of course there is emphasis on scripture, but previously published scripture is not the sole source of truth in the LDS Church, the way it is for the Strangite Church.

    Okay, but that’s not what you said in the OP, and in fact is kind of a 180. In the OP, you said that the “anchor” of our testimonies is often a feeling; here you say that “of course there is emphasis on scripture.”

    The comparative context you couched the observation in implies that the two groups differ in the decision rules they choose for rejection–and asserts that the Strangites reject anything that is not “totally consistent” with the Bible. That is wonderful, except that it’s kind of misleading, because iirc, one of the primary problems young Joseph Smith had
    in going to the grove to pray was that everyone disagreed about what was consistent with the Bible and what wasn’t.

    Presenting the idea that a group–LDS, Strangite, Catholic or whatever–takes the written word more seriously than another is very shaky ground to me.

  14. Scott B (13): My shorthand above was certainly too quick. We’re sortof steeped in this stuff right now, which puts me on a slightly different page than everyone else except Mike and a handful of others.

    The main point I was trying to make with that aside is that the Strangites give primacy to the written word of the scriptures over the direction of leaders or reported (or even personal) manifestations of the spirit.

    Folks above have pointed out the examples of the LDS Official Declarations. The Manifesto (OD #1) was issued by a leader and it reversed scripture (D&C 132); likewise OD #2 reversed a practice previously justified by scripture (Abr. 1:26-27). That wouldn’t be possible in the Strangite Church. If the Presiding High Priest of the Strangite Church brought teachings in that manner at General Conference — even indicating, as SWK did, that they were associated with a spiritual manifestation — Strangite members would almost certainly reject the teaching as contradicting the scriptures. (Side note: Neither of these teachings in these particular LDS examples are operative in the Strangite church, since they have different scriptures.)

    Some of the earliest conference resolutions in the Strangite Church make this exemption explicit. There is a resolution not to raise rebellion against church leaders “unless such opposition is justified by the Law.” In other words, if a member can make their point with the scriptures, that supersedes all.

    Hopefully, that distinction makes sense now that I’ve sketched it out in more detail.

    A second point I was throwing in there, again too quickly, is that Strangites (in the records and in interviews) are routinely quite negative toward reports of feelings of the spirit. Someone will state that they feel they have spiritual confirmation in some practice or belief. There’s almost always an immediate response that the Law (scripture) supersedes such manifestations, and that trust should be put in the Law and not in feelings. By contrast, I have observed during LDS testimony meetings that LDS people often recount spiritual experiences as the essential bedrock of their testimonies. (That doesn’t mean that LDS people’s spiritual feelings contradict the scriptures; often the feelings confirm belief in the scriptures, e.g. the Moroni challenge.)

    The standard of “contradicting the scriptures” — rolled in too quickly above — is the Strangites’ own avowed standard for interpreting the Law. Obviously, for an outsider like me, this is a complicated standard since I personally believe that the scriptures contain internal contradictions. Obviously the Strangite faithful are able to reconcile these contradictions.

    Likewise, I personally believe that LDS OD#1 contradicts D&C 132; however, as a faithful LDS member, you can certainly believe otherwise — if that, indeed, is your interpretation and belief.

  15. Scott B.,

    If I said that Anglicans privilege interpretation of scripture over authoritative pronouncement as a source of doctrine, would you think I was saying one was better than the other?

    I think that’s essentially the distinction John’s drawing, and I don’t read any pejorative intent in that. What are you seeing that I’m missing?

  16. John, you brought up Moroni’s challenge as an example of how we interpret the manifestation of the Holy Ghost as some sort of feeling the prods us to believe and follow. This challenge and its result seem very central experiencing the Book of Mormon, at least for me. Do you have any insight on the Strangite interpretation of what Moroni is asking of us as he wrapped up the record, and what we should expect as the fulfillment of the promise?

  17. Kristine,

    I’m not talking about better or worse–that’s your word. All I am saying is that it’s not logical to say that the Strangites–or anyone else–reject beliefs inconsistent with the scriptures and that LDS do not because we incorporate the teachings of people we believe to be Prophets. At the end of the day, all one can say is that the Strangites reject beliefs they believe to be inconsistent with the scriptures according to their readings/interpretations of the scriptures, which is identical to how LDS people feel about their beliefs.

    We incorporate our views into our reading, they incorporate their views into their reading, and making a generalized decision rule contrasting the two just does not follow.

  18. Scott, that’s true enough, but I think it’s also true that LDS testimonies, class discussions, etc., more frequently appeal to spiritual experiences or authoritative pronouncements than to scriptural exegesis as the foundation of personal beliefs or doctrinal assertions. We tend to privilege narratives of emotional impressions over extended intellectual parsings of scripture, don’t you think?

  19. Scott,

    “Presenting the idea that a group–LDS, Strangite, Catholic or whatever–takes the written word more seriously than another is very shaky ground to me.”

    Actually, unless you are an Orthodox Jew, I think there is no serious attempt to take every written word of the Canon seriously. I assume you do not plan to put your children to death if they curse you (actually, even the Haredim only impose a figurative death sentence, as in “you’re dead to me”).

    Or how about D&C 77:12?

    We are to understand that as God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day he finished his work, and sanctified it, and also formed man out of the dust of the earth, even so, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years…

    Does “as” mean that God actually made the world in six days? Or is it as in logic a false protasis that makes the apodosis vacuous? Or is this all figurative (or is it literally 7000 years?) And if this is figurative, then, umm, what else is figurative?

    I think “exegesis” will always be problematical when the facial meaning is so clearly out of step with scientific evidence or our modern enlightened conscience in women’s/children’s rights.

  20. We tend to privilege narratives of emotional impressions over extended intellectual parsings of scripture, don’t you think?

    Not all of us! :)

    For the most part, John’s explanation in (14.) was enough for me. Although I have likely already worn out my welcome in this thread, I just re-emphasize that, in whatever religion, sect, or household in which the scriptures are open on the table, someone is interpreting them and deciding for themselves–or others–what they mean. Just because the largest heap of “authoritative pronouncements” was made 150 years ago (or whenever the “earliest conference resolutions”–when are we talking about, John?), doesn’t mean that their doctrines today are any less influenced by a non-scriptural authority. We may get a new pair of glasses every few decades in the LDS Church, but in my opinion that is not substantially different from looking through the same set of glasses for centuries–all of our eyes are screwy and personal.

    Now, I will quietly fade away before the bannination stick shows up.

  21. Cort (16): I’ve never seen the Moroni challenge quoted in any of the writings I’ve gone through and I’ve never heard anybody mention it at Strangite Church. I can’t say for sure that they don’t emphasize it, but my feeling at this point is that they emphasize it less than LDS people do.

    When making their case to converts, I think Strangites are more likely to emphasize their understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ in opposition to the “Sectarian Christian” Trinitarian doctrine. Although the Book of Mormon and the D&C get lots of use, the additional standard work translated from the plates of Laban, The Book of the Law of the Lord, seems to be the real workhorse. There’s a lot of emphasis on the restored 4th commandment, which it turns out is the same as Jesus’s 2nd great commandment.

    Obviously, everybody picks different things out of the scriptures. Mormons have probably quoted 1 Corinthians 15:29 more times than all other Christians in history combined. As far as I can see, the Moroni challenge isn’t on the Strangite scripture chase rolodex, but I’ll have to ask them for more information.

  22. “earliest conference resolutions”–when are we talking about, John?

    I should say, among the earliest for which we have records in the period we’re studying. Obviously the Strangite Church claims the 1830-1844 period as its own the same as the LDS Church does, and in this study we’re not working on the period of Strang’s ministry 1844-1856.

    The resolution I was thinking of comes from an important branch conference on April 6, 1895, in the San Luis Valley in Colorado:

    Resolution No. 11.: No one shall stand in rebellion to the authorities of the Branch — unless the Books of the Church will sustain them in so doing.

  23. Scott–don’t go away yet!

    It seems to me that bit Hamer just cited is key–in the LDS church, not all interpretations of scripture are created equal, and the ones that are deemed authoritative are so not because they are logically convincing, or supported by scholarly argument, but because of the authority of the interpreter–my bishop’s exegesis always trumps mine, and the Stake President’s trumps his. There’s no sense among LDS that the scriptures can, themselves, authoritatively set policy or resolve disputes.

    Is that the difference you’re getting at, John?

  24. Kristine,

    Okay, one more.

    but because of the authority of the interpreter–my bishop’s exegesis always trumps mine, and the Stake President’s trumps his.

    Is this what Mormons believe? If so, then call me a heretic, because I sure don’t buy it for a second. I believe that there are only 15 people who are able interpret the scriptures and declare doctrine in any kind of meaningful or binding way in our Church. Now, if we want to talk about policy implementation–i.e., how welfare in a ward is handled or how VT supervisors are called, then sure–the Bishop’s opinion trumps mine; but the idea that the Bishop’s reading of Alma or Revelation is somehow authoritative relative to my own by virtue of his calling (or anything else)? Nah.

  25. Mike Karpowicz says:

    To shine some light on where John is coming from, I have just read through a letter sent in 1977 between members of the Strangite church, where the author is making her case for a particular interpretation of some points of procedure in the church.

    She sat at her typewriter and typed out 32 pages, primarily of quotations from scripture and church publications, to build the case for her own interpretation of the matters at hand. Her sources include:

    Old Testament
    New Testament
    Book of Mormon
    Doctrine & Covenants
    Book of the Law of the Lord
    Times and Seasons
    Northern Islander
    Evening and Morning Star
    Zion’s Reveille
    Chronicles of Voree
    Gospel Herald
    Voree Herald
    Elders Journal
    History of the Church
    The Diamond
    Revelations of James
    Beaver Island Record
    Various General Conference Minutes

    All this to make her case about a question of the jurisdiction of the High Priesthood.

    Having spent weeks up to our necks in Strangite documents from the last 150 years, we have realized that this is how the Strangites operate. In the absence of a prophet to provide authoritative direction and interpretation, the members have no choice but to scour the written sources for evidence of how to govern church and personal affairs. Individual spritual confirmations of these decisions are not part of Strangite practice.

    It is worth adding that the woman writing this lengthy letter is a Teacher, a priesthood office available to women in the Strangite church, and many of the Teachers take their priesthood calling very seriously, contributing substantially to church decision-making by writing what are in effect advisory briefs to the High Priesthood on important questions facing the church.

  26. There’s no sense among LDS that the scriptures can, themselves, authoritatively set policy or resolve disputes.

    And this just comes back to the same thing–the scriptures cannot, themselves, set policy or resolve disputes for the Strangites, either! In our Church, it’s the Prophet; in the Strangite Church, if what you say is true, it is (ostensibly?) the person who can persuade others that their reasoning is “logically convincing, or supported by scholarly argument.” Either way, _someone_ is doing the interpreting and convincing. The books don’t simply open themselves up and spit out answers. The only difference here is who is interpreting–not what they’re interpreting.

    I guess this is where I felt the OP was misleading (until John explained more in 14.)–it implies that the “what” is somehow different, and I think that is inaccurate.

  27. Dan Weston (19.)

    I’m confused–by the start of your comment, I think you were disagreeing with me; but I agreed with virtually every word of your post, so…

    …every word except these, anyway:

    I think there is no serious attempt to take every written word of the Canon seriously.

    To that, I can only say, Oh HUH!

  28. Scott, of course the scriptures don’t interpret themselves. (Sorry, I’m a lit. crit. type, remember? I thought that went without saying). But the point is that the process Mike describes–a research project–is not at all how any decisions are reached in the LDS church. If you go to your bishop with a thorny question, he’ll probably read a few verses with you, might consult the CHI, and after that, he’d pray with you, exhort you to get your own answers to prayer, and you’d then discuss the impressions each of you received and come to a decision. OR he’d consult with the Stake President to get an authoritative pronouncement. It’s highly unlikely that the appeal to the scriptures (in anyone’s interpretation) would be the primary means of adjudicating. That’s what I meant by saying that the scriptures themselves don’t provide authoritative answers. Sorry I wasn’t clear.

  29. Kristine,
    I curse you for tempting me back into this morass and swear this is my final comment.

    OR he’d consult with the Stake President to get an authoritative pronouncement.

    I guess we just disagree here. As I said in (24.). I just don’t view the SP’s “pronouncement” as “authoritative” in any meaningful or binding way. Wise? Good? Well-intentioned? Sure! Authoritative? Nah.

    But the point is that the process Mike describes–a research project–is not at all how any decisions are reached in the LDS church.

    Many things here.

    First–my beef was with the OP, which John explained in (14), and Mike’s explanation (in my opinion) contradicts the OP (but not 14.) to a large degree. The OP said:

    Whereas LDS members frequently anchor their testimonies with feelings of spiritual confirmation, Strangite Mormons are quite wary of these manifestations, instead putting their trust solely in the scriptures. Any inspiration not totally consistent with the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Book of the Law of the Lord, is rejected.

    Without further explanation (as in 14), this statement ignores salient points–first, the “spiritual confirmation” mentioned is confirmation of a particular (i.e., LDS) interpretation of the scriptures.

    Second, and this really gets to my biggest disagreement, (ie that the comparison in the OP is not meaningful at all) we’re comparing the decision making of an organization with millions of people to one with (according to Wikipedia) three hundred! My ward is over 2x bigger than that! Just practically speaking, it’s not reasonable to expect that “authoritative” decisions regarding the beliefs and doctrines of such ridiculously different-sized organizations would be similar because the coordination problems are entirely dissimilar.

    (Also, are you sure the research and convince method isn’t used in the LDS Church? I don’t personally know what the leadership of the Church does before making big declarations, because they don’t make such very often. The only anecdotal evidence I can think of was when the top brass had BRM do a scriptural analysis of the Priesthood ban, which resulted in evidence that it was not scriptural, contrary to what everyone had thought in the past.)

    Moreover, the statement that Strangites put “their trust solely in the scriptures” is just not a fair statement, especially because of how Mike himself states it:

    …where the author is making her case for a particular interpretation of some points of procedure in the church…She sat at her typewriter and typed out 32 pages, primarily of quotations from scripture and church publications, to build the case for her own interpretation of the matters at hand.

    Lastly, after explaining the process, Mike wrote:

    In the absence of a prophet to provide authoritative direction and interpretation, the members have no choice but to scour the written sources for evidence of how to govern church and personal affairs. Individual spritual confirmations of these decisions are not part of Strangite practice.

    To me, those two sentence more or less contradict each other. We can call it “spiritual confirmation” if we want, and in so doing, make it some kind of abstract, undefinable notion, but the truth is, at the end of the day, it all boils down to “I think it’s like this, because that’s what I think is right.” Call that “intellectual conviction,” or “spiritual confirmation,” or whatever you want–but at the end of the day, it’s just your opinion about how things ought to be.

  30. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    Scott, of course it boils down to what people think is right. But you’re smoothing over too much. Can rank-and-file members in the LDS church successfully mount a public challenge to any decision by the president whatsoever? By contrast, among Strangites that’s apparently unproblematic.

  31. JNS,
    Unproblematic because there are only 300 people. In the early days of the Church, rank-and-file members had access to Joseph Smith and the top brass, too. This is a coordination problem, plain and simple.*

    *In my opinion.

  32. Gah! I broke my promise!*

    *Again

  33. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    Scott, it isn’t just a question of access, although the town-hall democracy idea wouldn’t work well in a church of millions. It’s also a real difference in principle. LDS Mormons for the most part believe that our very highest leaders have access to revelation in a different sense and/or a different scope than the rest of us. For the Strangites, that isn’t true, with the result that leaders’ decisions are much more readily contestable. It’s a logical consequence of their belief in angelic ordination as the only way a prophet can be called, and I think this post points out an interesting consequence of it.

  34. Cynthia L. says:

    Wow, 3 BCC permas all rushing to defend proof-text scripture quote dropping as a functional debate culture.

    Now I’ve seen everything!! Quick, m&m, get a screen capture of this thread! ;-)

  35. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    Cynthia with the functional snark! (That makes 2 times the word functional has been used on this thread. Oh, three!)

  36. Just to be a humorless twit about it, I’ll note that I’m NOT defending either mode of ecclesiastical problem-solving, only trying to insist that there’s no reason to be offended by the distinction being drawn. I think both modes are legitimate, and each has benefits and drawbacks.

  37. Scott B: I think everything Mike and I have said here is internally consistent. Moreover, I find our comparison wholly consistent with your own avowed belief, stated in response #24:

    I believe that there are only 15 people who are able interpret the scriptures and declare doctrine in any kind of meaningful or binding way in our Church.

    From the perspective of the individual member, your statement indicates to me that the authority of the leaders in the LDS Church takes primacy over that of the scriptures, since the leaders enjoy the sole right to interpret and reinterpret scripture for the church. That belief would be utterly alien to the Strangites, whose religion authorizes and even demands that individual members challenge the leadership’s interpretations of scripture. Mike’s example illustrates how this idea plays out for individual members. The teacher he mentioned went on to admonish the then-current Presiding High Priest of the Strangite Church for what she saw as failures of his leadership. Her arguments may well have contributed to the course change that soon followed, and she remains in full standing in her priesthood and membership today.

    Since I still haven’t been entirely sure about the distinction you’re trying to make, I’ll speculate that you may be suggesting that in either scenario, the churches as whole have to have some mechanism to decide among competing interpretations of scripture. In the Strangites’ case, the mechanism is the General Conference, which has the capacity to pass resolutions for the church, to silence priesthood, and to remove or replace presiding officers, including the Presiding High Priest of the church.

    “Functionally,” therefore, you could argue that the Strangite General Conference provides the same filter separating the individual member from the authority of the scriptures, which the fifteen apostles provide in the LDS Church. However, the fact that the individual Strangite member is a full, co-equal participant in the General Conference, while all but fifteen members of the LDS Church do not share in apostolic authority, detracts somewhat from that argument.

    I agree that comparing individual believers in a small organization to individual believers in a large one is complicated. However, both philosophies and systems of church government are potentially scalable. Fifteen men could rule an organization of 300; their connection to individual members would simply be more personal and direct. Likewise, individual members in a large church could still publish their scriptural interpretations and arguments widely, and then pass resolutions in General Conference, which (like the Community of Christ) would likely need to be composed of representatives, elected by the various branches or Stakes of the church.

  38. Steve Evans says:

    John, I think the traditional LDS view is that the authority of the LDS prophets have primacy over the scriptures, if only in part because the scriptures afford this power to the prophets.

  39. Steve Evans (38): No argument; I think that’s what I’m trying to say.

  40. Steve Evans says:

    high-fives all around then.

  41. John,
    The part of my comment you quote regarding the 15 men has virtually nothing to do with your OP; rather, I was responding to Kristine’s statement about her SP and Bishop having a trump card on scriptural exegesis. Sorry for the confusion.

    Your (14.) largely resolved my issues with the post–most everything after that was just responding to other comments, not the post.

  42. John Hamer, I just wanted to say that, in addition to the opening post, I’ve enjoyed the thoughtful and informative follow-up comments you’ve provided. It’s been great to learn a little more about this part of the Latter Day Saint movement. Great stuff. Thanks.

  43. Agreed, Hunter. Thanks John.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,823 other followers