The danger of fundamentalism to the living church

The only true and living church. It strikes me that when the voice of the Lord exclaimed unique pleasure in the nascent church, it was qualified with the adjective living. In this post I outline what I perceive to be a great danger to the living church: fundamentalism. In doing so, I am espousing the decidedly partisan position that the current LDS Church is “true.”

I believe that as any living thing, the church not only does change, but must change. The church is not the only thing that changes however, and fundamentalism arises from interaction with both internal and external dynamism. What follows is my short taxonomy of the fundamentalist threat.

Internal: Rejection of evolution and innovation in church doctrine, belief, policy and structure
With every major change in the Church we can generally find groups that reject the novel situation. They see these developments not as a line upon line advancement but as a deviation from the true church. A small sampling of early possibilities:

  • 1833-1836, Joseph Smith revealed new offices and rituals such as Seventies, Apostles and the Kirtland Temple liturgy. Church leaders also revised revelations found in the 1833 Book of Commandments to reflect these innovations and published them in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants along with the “Lectures on Faith.” The Hedrickites (Church of Christ [Temple Lot]) reject these changes and you can pick up copies of the Book of Commandments from their Independence temple lot offices. If you were a hundred years older you could have hooked up with the Whitmerites who rejected the 1831 innovations of highpriest.
  • 1839-1846, Joseph Smith revealed the Nauvoo Temple liturgy, including proxy salvific rituals, began polygamy in earnest and established the Council of Fifty. The Reorganization (now Community of Christ) rejects all the Nauvoo innovations and even the Kirtland temple liturgy. The Cutlerites retain the Council of Fifty and the Nauvoo temple liturgy, but reject polygamy.
  • 1890-1906, Church leaders reveal that polygamy and re-baptism are no longer part of our church. This is the territory of “Mormon fundamentalists” in the popular media. Pick your flavor.

Internal: Infalliblism
The living church is a blend of God and humanity and occasionally church leaders believe and teach things that are mistaken. Over the long term, the church generally outgrows falsities. Some people have a hard time accepting that our leaders can be wrong. When the Church does abandon previously held beliefs and practices, some tend to see apostasy instead of progress.

Adam-God
Brigham Young grew to believe in a cosmology that is very different than current Church orthodoxy. He clearly believed that Adam and Eve created all human spirits and that Adam was the father of Jesus Christ. Really, he was wrong or we are wrong. Faced with such a proposition, it is not hard for people with fundamentalist leanings to choose him over us. It is no surprise that Adam-God belief is popular among schismatic polygamists.

Racialist beliefs and the priesthood ban
Church leaders ordained several men of African descent during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, and Brigham Young commented favorably on one such elder after Smith’s death. Brigham Young et al., however, formalized the priesthood ban between 1847 and the 1880s, during which time and subsequently, church leaders developed explanations for the ban from prevalent racist theology in broader Christianity. After the revelation repealing the ban, Church leaders have disclaimed all theses “folk beliefs” or justifications for the ban. And while the church has not yet commented on the reason for the ban, we are left with three possibilities:

  • The ban was a mistake.
  • The ban was God’s will, but the people responsible for interpreting that it was God’s will were uniformly mistaken about it.
  • The ban was God’s will, and the reasons leaders gave for it were true.

Again, it is not surprise that like Adam-God, the ban and the reasons for it are still upheld by schismatic polygamists. We don’t like church leaders to be wrong; it can be disconcerting. That said, personally, I see no real advantage of taking the second position and I imagine that with time, most church members will choose the first position.

External: Rejection of secular advancements
Church leaders and the Church itself are bound to the broader culture in which they abide. The creation narrative of Genesis requires an ancient mid-east cosmology, in which the heavens are a dome holding back the waters. We view things a bit differently, with our helio-centric solar system, massive galaxy and universe. Just as Church leaders once adopted ideas about people of African heritage from the broader culture, they also adopt ideas about the universe in which we live. As our knowledge of the world expands, sometimes (though not always) some of our beliefs are exposed as no longer consistent. The resulting conflict is frequently exacerbated by individuals who are antagonistic towards one side or the other.

Now, this is not to say that all technological advancement is good. There are clearly moral ramifications to much of our scientific progress. I believe that the Church should accept all truth, but it should also be a resolute critic of its use. Joseph Fielding Smith would have been well served to have framed his argument against the lunar landing not in terms of possibility – he asserted that humans would not land on the moon as God declared that our existence was restricted to the earth – but in terms of morality. He was proven wrong. We went to the moon in one of the twentieth century’s finest moments. Had he asserted a moral argument against space exploration, I believe he would still have been wrong, but he would still have the possibility of influencing the use of the knowledge we have.

The fundamentalist tendency is to reject new knowledge. A world-wide flood which covered all the earth is repudiated by a deluge of evidence. The idea that there was no death of any creature or plant before 6,000 years ago is a fantasy in light of the living and the dead.

I am currently unaware of any schismatic group focusing on lunar hoaxes, or young earth creationism due to the apostasy of the BYU biology department; I still see the fundamentalist interaction with secular knowledge as a danger to the living church. You see, I believe that all truth is encompassed in one great whole. A fundamentalist world-view is simple and uncomplicated, and the alternative is messy, complicated and maybe even painful for some. Still, living requires change and the Church will survive.

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Wow, J., this taxonomy is terrific and very useful. I often express concern over fundamentalist tendencies among many of our people, but it is very useful to have the varieties of such tendencies spelled out like that. I completely agree with you.

  2. This is great. Thank you.

  3. Aaron Brown says:

    excellent.

  4. Thumbs up for this post. I too can think of few things more harmful to the LDS Church than fundamentalism. That kind of thinking expects perfection, will therefore always bring with it an angry disappointment.

    Reminds me of this quote from a Dune book: “Everything in the universe contains flaws, ourselves included. Even God does not attempt perfection in his creations. Only mankind has such foolish arrogance.” The fundamentalist doesn’t believe that they and their belief system, as good as they both may be, contain flaws.

  5. Sterling Fluharty says:

    I especially liked your last point. I was just reading a book about codependency and it opened my eyes to how fundamentalist religious beliefs, when not carefully examined in light of reliable psychological findings, can provide Mormons (and Christians generally) a dangerous validation and unhealthy sense of duty for activities like rescuing and caretaking. And there are a lot of other secular advancements in the social sciences that I wish were presented to and popularized for the Latter-day Saints.

  6. Amen, J. If we were obligated to maintain the church exactly as JS organized it in 1830, that would vitiate the need for a prophet or for continuing revelation.

  7. Actually, check that. There would conceivably still be a need for a prophet, but solely in an administrative capacity, not in a revelatory one.

  8. Sam, I think part of the problem is that we do not receive continuing revelation from our current leadership. We receive advice and counsel and policy declarations from them. Sometimes it seems that the period of continuing revelation or of further light and knowledge has passed (speaking organizationally and not personally). Part of the attraction of fundamentalism is that prophetic utterances were given with certainty and with reasoned explanations. We don’t have that today. We have obsfucation, lack of clarity and general platitudes that don’t provide the same spiritual nourishment.

  9. Thanks all.

    Michael, I don’t think that is particularly true.

  10. Left Field says:

    Wait a minute; I thought the Church of Christ Temple Lot were the “Hedrickites,” and the “Bickertonites” were headquartered in Pennsylvania.

  11. Thanks for the post J. This is very interesting. Could I throw out a theme that I see in some of these examples? Church structure, Adam-God, Priesthood ban, etc – these seem to me secondary issues to the central thrust of the true and living church, namely, salvation through Christ. It seems like many fundamentalist groups (or individuals) build a foundation of faith on things that are not the most important and by their very nature will change given the development of organization, society, and science. But the key doctrines of faith in Christ and repentance are much better foundation of faith and much more personally transformative.

  12. Great post and a very important point. Fundamentalism, according to Karen Armstrong, is always based in fear. I see that basis in these kinds of leanings with members of the church today and these fears help explain the fundamentalist forces reacting against science and other threats to simplicity. The complex and confusing fears we face in the modern world cause people to turn to the fundamentalist temptation, which promises simple readings of both scripture and life. I really like what you said here. Islam faced a similar crisis in the late Middle Ages when they were the absolute leaders in science. Today, they continue to struggle with the devastating effects of the fundamentalist turn they made then. The depth of both the scriptures and our lives is seriously threatened by this kind of take on the world and should be avoided at all costs.

  13. Michael,
    Ditto J. The prophet’s administrative role is essential, but that he acts in an administrative manner doesn’t diminish his revelatory capacity. And, while it has been several years since an earthshattering revelation, if we accept current revelati

  14. sorry, phone ran out of room. If we believe the prophet has a revelatory role, we accept that things could change radically tomorrow. That is, there was no signal that OD2 was going to happen that the general church population was aware of.

  15. Left field, you are correct, my bad. Wrote this on a plane and should have reread it. Thanks. I’ve corrected it in the original post.

  16. Natalie B. says:

    #11: I have noticed that it is harder and harder for me to respond to some of the ways in which we have traditionally channeled the spirit, particularly those that are emotionally based. I think this is because I largely believe in the modes of thought that dominate contemporary science, and I yearn to ground belief on evidence. Feeling this disconnect, I wonder sometimes if rather than rejecting science when it doesn’t conform to believe, we could innovate new ways of taping into the spirit that were more in line with how modern people process information and experience the world. A lot of my spiritual stimulation has recently come from sci-fi books that help me to think about God in contemporary ways.

    #7: I generally agree that what we hear from G.A.’s is no longer couched in the language of revelation. While I believe that revelation on little issues does happen, I too feel that we have moved in the direction where our innovations are more administrative and cultural than doctrinal. I’m not sure that this is a problem, but I agree with the description.

  17. Sam and J,

    Interesting point about the prophet’s administrative role. I will acknowledge the importance of that. However, there have been a number of important items over the past few decades that screamed out for continuing revelation and yet we got nothing but opinions and interpretations instead. I speak of more understanding of eternal gender roles (non-cultural constructions), the role of homosexual attraction in the restored Gospel (specifically Matthew 19), and the fascination of the Church membership with politics and warfare to the point of minimizing the concept of peace and national humility. As to your example of OD2, many people would classify that as spiritual confirmation of an agreed upon change in Church policy. It does not provide further light and knowledge as to the place of race in the restored Gospel. If one reads of Joseph’s or Brigham’s or Joseph F. Smith’s process in receiving revelation, the questions are asked, the Scriptures are searched, the issue is pondered, and a clear explanation is provided by the Lord for the edification of the whole world. OD2 does nothing other than confirm the decision to’ change the policy. The world still knows no more about the priesthood ban and race than it did before OD2.

  18. Michael,
    I take issue with your characterization of the 1978 revelation. It’s clear from Prince that McKay felt revelation was necessary to change the policy and in 78, the revelation was received. I don’t see any evidence from scripture that prophetic rev

  19. . . . prophetic revelation is intended to explain why. It would be nice if the prophet acted as a Greek oracle, answering the questions we have when we ask them. On the other hand, Greek plays usually turned out tragically, so maybe it’s good he’s not.

  20. Sam, I don’t mean to minimize the importance or joy associated with OD2. I am very familiar with the McKay and Kimball biographies and the reports of what happened behind the scenes. However, I would continue to ask if further light and knowledge was provided by the Lord concerning race and its place in the Restored Gospel. Have we received a revelation that allows us to address what happened for 110 years in a well reasoned way? When Joseph asked questions during his re-translation of the Bible, he received revelation that provided an explanation, context and the relation of the issue to Eternal Truth. We received none of that with OD2. It did not fit the established pattern for revelation. It still leaves the issue of blacks and the priesthood in darkness.

    Now I know that some will argue that such an explanation is unnecessary and that the context does not matter. They will say that all are now treated equally by the Church so it serves no point to seek more understanding. I would beg to differ. There are many wounds and continuing hurts which cannot be closed. That is not what revelation does IMHO.

  21. Michael,
    I seem to disagree with your conception of the substance of prophetic revelation. While the Lord certainly may explain why, I don’t find any support for the idea that he must, or even that He generally does.

  22. I should say, I don’t mean to minimize the pain the justifiably has resulted from the policy. And I agree that an explanation would be nice. But the lack of explanation doesn’t somehow negate that Pres. Kimball received prophetic revelation.

  23. Sam, we will agree to disagree on our definitions of prophetic revelation.

  24. Michael, I don’t know that you disagree as much as you think. If you believe that the policy was changed in 1978 by revelation from God then you only disagree in terms of how far such a revelation should go, or what such a revelation should include. That is to say, you base your view of what constitutes “further light and knowledge” on your own expectations, and a description of how Joseph Smith received some, not all!, revelations.

  25. B, I would probably classify OD2 as more of a “prophetic spiritual confirmation” than a revelation. I base my opinion precisely on the information provided in the McKay and Kimball biographies. I believe that the scriptures as well as church history provide evidence for “prophetic revelation” to be more substanative. But thanks for the support. I still believe in and sustain our prophet. I just don’t see revelation being used as extensively to address church issues as it was in the past. That does not mean it isn’t happening behind the scenes.

  26. JNS,

    Clarify this for me.

    Who in your worldview is a fundamentalist and what fundamentalist tendencies are dangerous?

    TR holder?
    Polygamist?
    Conservative SP’s?
    large LDS families practicing traditional gender roles and entering early marriages?

    I see some fundamentalists tendencies to be of value to maintaining a living church (large families etc). Others such as holding to pre-ban views on race are a danger.

  27. Michael,
    I don’t understand your dichotomy between revelation and spiritual confirmation. You seem to believe there’s a material differeence, as if revelation is what comes by surprise. But most if not all of JS’s revelations came in response to questions.

  28. Nice summary J. Good to have it in one place.

  29. From what I understand from the Joseph Smith papers, it looks to me like the preparation of the revelations in the D&C was not qualitatively different from the preparation of, say, the Proclamation on the Family. A primary difference, of course, is that Joseph held the revelatory power relatively close, but even so there were a fair number of revisions made under a sort of delegated power Joseph gave to others. As Grant Underwood put it (to paraphrase), the Joseph Smith Papers suggest that the revelatory process was one in which the “words of God were expressed in the words of man.” Had Joseph been no more than a human radio receiver receiving directly God’s precise words, the history of the revelations would be quite different from what it actually is. Elder Richard Scott has emphasized that receiving inspiration and revelation is not a one time event; that further reflection afterwards is necessary to refine or correct what our first impressions may have been.

    Revelation is an inspired, but not entirely precise seeing through a glass darkly. Some, like, Joseph, may be able to see a little more clearly through that glass than others. And perhaps the Prophets and Apostles are more gifted in this area than lay members. (Perhaps they are. Perhaps they are not.)

    I personally see the current process of revelation in unity (such as the case of the 1978 revelation) as preferable to a one person revelation process then asking everyone else to sign off (as seemed to be more common in Joseph’s and Brigham’s era). As President Faust often said, the scriptural requirement of unity (which is followed in our day (but not necessarily in Joseph’s or Brigham’s) reduces the likelihood of error.

    True, had there been a requirement of unity among the leading councils when plural marriage was introduced by Joseph, perhaps the Brethren would not have reached unity on the matter, and the practice would not have started. Or, if ultimately it had been approved by unified inspiration, it would have been introduced in a different manner and with different safeguards (perhaps there would not have been deception associated with it).

    Would that have been such a bad thing?

    Let us suppose a revelation is received by the President extending priesthood to all adults regardless of gender, or of changing the application of the law of chastity with respect to GLBT members in committed monogamous relationships. Or suppose there is a less revolutionary revelation on the matter. In Joseph’s Church, he might simply announce the revelation, regardless of the opinions of the other members of the FP or 12. In today’s Church, such a change would not be announced until all the relevant governing councils had reached inspired unity, and also until most of the difficult implementation and communication issues had been thoroughly debates, discussed, explored, and at least tentatively resolved.

    An example might be the relatively downplayed (outside the Bloggernacle) announcement of a fourth mission or purpose or dimension of the Church: caring for the poor and the needy. I think this is something close to the heart of President Monson, and if he had followed Joseph’s or Brigham’s style of leadership, he might simply have announced it right away before it was considered thoroughly by other leaders. I am pretty sure, in this case the addition of this additional purpose/mission/dimension has been thoroughly debated and considered, its implications taken into account, and that the Brethren reached an inspired consensus of adding it.

    I like charismatic and inspired leadership. But I prefer charismatic and inspired leadership combined with caution, debate, analysis, and inspired consensus.

  30. John Mansfield says:

    Thanks for taking the time to compose this, J. Stapley.

  31. bbell, the fundamentalist tendencies I view as dangerous to the church are those outlined in the original post. If a Stake President is rejecting new changes, for example, there is going to be a problem, same as with the average member.

    Fundamentalism doesn’t mean old fashioned. There are many reasons why a married couple might chose traditional gender roles.

  32. ummquestion says:

    In the OP it is illustrated how fundamentalism has caused various individuals or groups to leave the Church. A lot of other “isms” do the same thing. I am inclined to view them all as far more unfortunate and dangerous to those who leave than they are to the Kingdom of God. When the false and dead is removed from the true and living, it almost always produces a stronger, more fruitful result.

    The word fundamental is synonymous with words like essential, inherent, indispensable, and necessary. Some things are fundamental to and of the gospel and will never change, and some things are transient or temporary. Not knowing which is which, or lumping them all together under the umbrella of “doctrine” causes problems. If I personally interpret something to be a “fundamental/inherent/necessary” part of the gospel when it really isn’t, it will probably cause a crisis of faith if that thing is removed or adapted. The same thing can happen when I see something non-fundamental change and then believe that the same thing should or will eventually happen to another issue that really is fundamental and will not change.

    To Michael who said
    “When Joseph asked questions during his re-translation of the Bible, he received revelation that provided an explanation, context and the relation of the issue to Eternal Truth. We received none of that with OD2. It did not fit the established pattern for revelation. It still leaves the issue of blacks and the priesthood in darkness.”

    I disagree. What about the established pattern demonstrated in 2 Nephi 4:25 where the Lord reveals great things to Nephi and then tell him that he “should not write them”, and in 3 Nephi 27 when Nephi (son of Helaman) is told by the Lord to “Write the things which ye have seen and heard, save it be those which are forbidden”? Moroni says in Ether 13 that he was about to write more but was forbidden, and Joseph Smith began saying less and less about his revelations to the early Saints because they were not prepared to receive them.

    The men who were present in the temple that day in 1978 did not share many details about what happened. Were they commanded not to, or did they simply feel it wasn’t appropriate to share everything that was revealed to them? Who knows? Their silence doesn’t prove that THEY were not given an explanation. Either way, having prophets obtain revelation that is not shared with the public does indeed fit a pattern.

  33. Umm, I had a feeling that eventually the conversation would turn to the “saints are not prepared” comments. With all due respect, I find that has turned into one of the great LDS cliches of the last dispensation. While I don’t have time to cite all the counter-scriptures which hold just the opposite of what you posit, I feel there is just as much evidence that supports the saints in the latter-days being provided with further light and knowledge thru the living prophets.

  34. Thank you for this post and for those of you who have commented.

    On Sunday, a member of our bishopric taught the Sunday school lesson in our ward. It was intended as an introduction to the Old Testament. This individual, as I understand it, has made his livelihood in the CES. His basic message, if I understood him correctly — which is always in some doubt — was that “church doctrine” is something “perfect” and “on high,” and it can be manifested in varying degrees of lucidity, and it does often get distorted when it comes to earth.

    He started out with a question: does church doctrine ever change? Someone asked him to define what he meant by doctrine, but he never did answer that question. A member of the class then volunteered an observation about the changes in polygamy and in the priesthood availability to all worthy males. The teacher of the class strongly suggested that those particular changes were not “doctrinal.” In fact, relative to polygamy, he argued that we still believe in polygamy and suggested that polygamy will be practiced hereafter, that it is a permanent fixture of the gospel, and that it may come and go as God sees fit. He further suggested that the priesthood change was simply a change in a policy or a procedure — he even alluded to a talk, as I recall, recently delivered in conference.

    It would’ve been nice to have this posting to hear his comments about Adam-God and some of the other items mentioned in the OP. Perhaps, he believes Adam-God is something akin to polygamy and has just disappeared temporarily to reappear again. I don’t know.

    My question: doesn’t the notion of fundamentalism and the idea of church doctrine being something “perfect” and “on high” have a lot in common? It seemed to me there is some connection there.

  35. I am lying here in bed with it close to midnight reading RSR for the third time. I just finished the chapter where Brother Bushman writes about Joseph receiving, revising and publishing the revelations. I am still of the belief that there is a large difference between revelation (personal & prophetic), inspiration, and spiritual confirmation.

    I also believe that fundamentalism definitely becomes more enticing when the lines between all three are not kept seperate. The issues with polygamy can, to a certain extent, be attributed to a lack of clarity (in an eternal sense) for abandoning the practice.

    Just my thoughts.

  36. IMHO, sin is a bigger threat.

  37. Also, I think the safeguard against being too fundamentalist, or too liberal for that matter, is by following the LIVING prophet. We are here on this earth to learn and be tested, so that, through Christ, we can eventually attain exaltation. If we follow the prophet, we will get there. That’s what’s important.

    “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.”
    -Wilfurd Woodruff(Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.)

    “The Presidents or [First] Presidency are over the Church; and revelations of the mind and will of God to the Church, are to come through the Presidency. This is the order of heaven, and the power and privilege of [the Melchizedek] Priesthood. It is also the privilege of any officer in this Church to obtain revelations, so far as relates to his particular calling and duty in the Church.”
    -Joseph Smith Jr. History of the Church, 2:477; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Apr. 6, 1837, in Kirtland, Ohio; reported by Messenger and Advocate, Apr. 1837, p. 487.

    “I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.”
    -Joseph Smith Jr., History of the Church, 3:385; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on July 2, 1839, in Montrose, Iowa; reported by Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards.

    “I will give you a key which Brother Joseph Smith used to give in Nauvoo. He said that the very step of apostasy commenced with losing confidence in the leaders of this church and kingdom, and that whenever you discerned that spirit you might know that it would lead the possessor of it on the road to apostasy.”
    -Heber C. Kimball, Deseret News, Apr. 2, 1856, p. 26; spelling and capitalization modernized.

  38. An excerpt from Grant Underwood’s devotional at BYU-H about Joseph’s revelations:

    “I believe it enhances our appreciation of the Prophet Joseph Smith to see him as the extraordinarily gifted servant of the Lord that he was, who, as Orson Pratt remarked, received messages from God and then had to “clothe those ideas with such words as came to his mind.” Elder John A. Widtsoe of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “Seldom are divine revelations dictated to man. . . .Instead, ideas are impressed upon the mind of the recipient, who then delivers the ideas in his own language.” If, therefore, Joseph’s diction, vocabulary, and grammar, and even that of some of his associates, are discernible in the revelation texts, is that not impressive testimonial of the fact that even in communicating his word and will to his prophets, God does not override their humanity? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no official statement on the nature of the interaction between Divine Revealer and human revelator in the genesis of scripture, but, as we have seen, a number of its leaders have offered explanations of the revelatory process that allow for Spirit-aided, yet still mortal, articulation and refinement of the divine message. Thus, to borrow an ancient Christian affirmation, the revelation texts can be seen to be both fully divine and fully human.”

    I commend Underwood’s entire speech. http://devotional.byuh.edu/node/327

  39. ummquestion says:

    Michael,

    That “the saints are not prepared” was spoken by Joseph Smith himself on several occasions, and I never said that reason applied to every scriptural incident I listed where revelations were not to be shared. My point was not that latter day saints are not being given further light and knowledge thru prophetic revelation. I know they are. My point was that God reveals some things and forbids or withholds the revelation of other things and He always has. There IS a pattern for this.

    One can speculate that because the Church body was not given reasons and explanations as to the ban, that the brethren received no reasons or explanations either. But can also speculate that perhaps the brethren were given such answers but for one reason or another have remained silent on them.

    Something that reddyornot said in #34 is fairly close to my own personal beliefs. Let’s say that the practice of plural marriage is an eternal gospel principle or “doctrine” that allows for God to determine when it should be employed and when it should not be. In other words, the ability to start and stop the practice or make certain changes to it are within the power and authority of God and are an eternal component of the doctrine.

    If this applies to other eternal principles or “doctrines” as well, then changes in practice should be a part of my faith that the Church is “true” and that our leaders are “inspired” rather than a reason to doubt.

  40. I appreciate the original posting. It seems to me that it all comes down to sustaining others in their callings. Certain members of the Church are called to serve in the leadership councils of the Church — do I sustain them? Do I emphasize what they emphasize, and overlook what they overlook? Do I follow the course they’re pointing? Or do I emphasize matters which they don’t, and keep raising quotations from the past?

    There are fundamentals in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; viz., that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and that the gospel has been restored in these latter days. So much else of what we believe is practice or teaching or explanation or policy. So maybe “fundamentalism” means an overly broad or even misplaced definition of the fundamentals.

    Our practices, teachings, explanations, and policies can and should change as our understanding and circumstances change. Perhaps a “fundamentalist” is such because he cannot sustain those who are called to lead the church as they occasionally make changes in our practices, teachings, explanations, and policies. If one can sustain a local Sunday School teacher in his or her calling, and allow that teacher some flexibility and benefit o the doubt, cannot he similarly sustain the Brethren in their callings?

  41. Such good work, J. I’ve heard several general authorities debunk the myth of pre-mortal fence-sitting as a reason for the priesthood restriction, but I’ve never heard anyone debunk the idea of a curse. You already know that I think the “curse” paradigm was culturally ubiquitous and entered the Church like other traditions of the time–but that it was not true. I have wondered if some of the hierarchy still believe in it (perhaps because of the PoGP scripture that Pharoah was “cursed as pertaining to the priesthood”), and that this particular myth hasn’t been debunked because of that need for unanimity in Church leaders’ statements. No way of knowing. I do believe that eventually, some Church leaders will comment on this myth as strongly as they have on the others. Are you aware of any statements made about it already?
    A lot of people bring up Paul’s vision from the NT (“What God hath cleansed call not thou common…”) to explain that God has a timetable, and there was a TIME for blacks to receive the priesthood, which wasn’t until 1978 (often justified by the idea that whites weren’t ready until then). That particular interpretation of Paul’s experience hasn’t resonated with me. As the RESTORED gospel of Jesus Christ, why would we return to a time BEFORE all were considered “fellow citizens”? Why pick up a tradition of exclusion when the New Testament had already made it clear that God is no respecter of persons?

  42. Excellent, J; thanks for this.

  43. Terrakota says:

    Thank you for a very good post, J. Stapley. I love how the Church is changing, but sometimes it takes soooo long.

    Michael

    I so much agree with you that there is a tremendous need for some new revelations, and yet nothing is happening. I think one of such issues is garment. Now that we live in the 21st century and the Church is present in so many countries with such different cultures, climate, and economy, it seems ridiculous that we all (women, especially) are required to wear a 100-years old underwear. I’ve read somewhere, that apparently Pr. McKay suggested that garment should be worn only in the temple. But then he passed away and the subject was not considered further. I would not want to be a man in Africa, laboring every day under the extreme heat and sun in the garment. But the Church’s office in SLC is airconditioned, so it must be hard for the Church leaders to fully consider the needs of the growing Church. And God is unlikely to reveal something if not asked. This is sad.

  44. Natalie B. says:

    it seems ridiculous that we all (women, especially) are required to wear a 100-years old underwear.

    I couldn’t agree more. One thing I would suggest: Write the distribution center and express your concerns. I did so, and I was met with an extremely gracious and sympathetic response. They personally called me up to hear more about my thoughts.

  45. Margaret, I believe that the curse of cain/ham stuff falls under “folklore,” which are not to be perpetuated.

  46. Thanks for this post, J. I love this line in particular:

    A world-wide flood which covered all the earth is repudiated by a deluge of evidence.

  47. Margaret (#41), a different conclusion can be drawn from Peter’s vision to which you referred: that Peter was mistaken in attempting to restrict the Gospel (and by extension Priesthood) to ethnic Jews/Judaizers and that God set him straight. That is a scriptural lesson that can be instructive today as well.

  48. Terrakota says:

    Thanks, Natalie B., I know about that, my 30 pages letter is in the process.

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