The hepatization of the body of Christ

Recently, I discussed the image of the body of Christ as a compelling metaphor for the church community and its integrated diversity. In this followup post, I want to consider the risks of the body becoming only one organ, one “member” in the phrase of Saint Paul. Paul at the time was advising the Christian church at Corinth, Greece to learn how to deal with diversity within their ranks, to be whole in Christ despite a variable distribution of certain types of spiritual gifts. He may also have had in mind some of the controversies that seemed to roil early Christianity with reasonable frequency.

I believe that Paul understood something about the nature of church community that matters a great deal even today. While he was focusing on skills in the performance of particular types of religious acts—tongue-speaking, healing, spiritual exercises—Paul’s concern is of relevance even in a church less worried over the distribution of charismatic gifts. While we in the modern LDS church see less of those charismatics gifts, we worry instead over behavior and language and ideology. The lessons of Saint Paul are no less powerful in this new landscape. I see the point Paul was making as this: it is too easy to substitute apparent uniformity for Christian love, what many Christian authors call agape (the Greek word) and the King James translators generally translated as “charity.” Paul seems to have believed, and Joseph Smith agreed with him, that Christian love is what cements us together in the body of Christ. That love is able to accommodate differences as stark as that between eyes, ears, and feet. For all of the gravity we attribute to our cultural and theological differences, they are not as stark as the contrasts Paul employed in his sustained metaphor of the body of Christ.

If I may, I would like to extend slightly Paul’s metaphor. Specifically, I would like to propose that conservators of orthodox belief may function in some respects as the liver of the body of Christ. The liver is absolutely essential. Removal of the entire liver leads to certain death within a matter of hours, as physicians know all too well. The liver detoxifies blood, filters nutrition and bacterial debris from the bowel, produces the proteins our bodies need to form blood clots. Without the liver, the body dies. But the liver on its own is a blob of blood and soft tissue and bile. A liver alone is good for little beyond terrifying children with the threat of eating it fried, on a bed of onions. A body made entirely of liver would be no body at all.

The difficulty, and here the physiological analogy breaks down, is that at times the liver can seem to drive out the other organs from the body. The body may begin to see itself as mainly or exclusively that liver. It has been my impression over the years that certain types of members have left the church body more than others, and some element of those departures is the difficulty they have in seeing a body that could welcome a toe or a lymph node or a coronary artery, when the body has seemed to present itself primarily as a liver.

When a friend leaves the body of the church, I feel (with a mournful tip of the hat to John Donne) a lessening of the “Continent” of humanity, not because the friend is dying or because church membership statistics are of any particular interest to me, but because the church body becomes less with the departure of that member.

On a more practical level, when those who do not belong to a particular conservative core abandon the institutional church, the whole of the church moves closer to that conservative extreme. This is a trivial statistical fact, but it has substantial possible effects in the real world. Over time, attrition of all non-liver tissue will lead to the hepatization of the body of Christ. It may reach a point of positive feedback after which the attrition of non-hepatic membership rises dramatically. This would be a problem.

I do not mean that this is or will be easy. The suggestion that we should only be able to criticize people with whom we are willing to be yoked can be difficult in practice, particularly when it comes to incredibly divisive issues like the stability of sexual norms or family structures. Disputes in the body of Christ can and should be strenuous and careful and incisive. They will not, however, be the same as disputes within a political party. Controversies and disputations must be grounded in mutual love and respect. Arguments must not arise out of a mere hunger to be heard or a frustration with the carelessness of another’s words.

I have made and continue to make mistakes, sometimes grievous ones. It is hard for me not to be dismissive of certain extremes within the church body’s liver. It is hard for me to bite my tongue when I see some new expression of political sensibilities that seem diametrically opposed to mine. But cruelty and dismissal at best define a new body without its liver, and that won’t live long at all.

Comments

  1. Brian F. says:

    A very timely piece. I do like the extension of the metaphor. Too often we get too focused on our own individual parts of the body that we forget love. I think of love as the atomic bonds that bind all of the parts together. It is the very core of what keeps us as an entire, whole body. Full disclosure, I used to be part of the very conservative, orthodox liver. I’m glad I grew up and learned more. I’m not sure where I fit, or what body part I would be, maybe a tendon or sinew. We all belon in the body of Christ and the church. Let’s never forget that.

  2. The same Paul you write of also wrote regarding contentions and disputations about matters of religious practice that there should be no disputation — that every person should be fully persuaded in his or her own mind, and that no one should place a stumbling block in front of his or her neighbor.

    How wonderful when the liver and the foot and every other part recognizes its part in something bigger, and falls into the background to quietly and diligently do its part for the greater good of the body as a whole.

  3. It is good to remember that we have need of each other.

  4. Great post Sam MB I like your analogy!

    While we in the modern LDS church see less of those charismatics gifts. While this observation is true it was not the case in Joseph’s day and it speaks to the corporate church that retains the authority but has lost the power that comes from Prophets who were chosen and trained by God himself.

  5. I really enjoyed this post, Sam.

    “it speaks to the corporate church that retains the authority but has lost the power that comes from Prophets who were chosen and trained by God himself.”

    Name them, just as an enlightening exercise.

  6. Oftentimes I think those of us whose experience with the “liver” has been hurtful, demoralizing, and in extreme cases abusive, are even more careful to prayfully ask for confirmation of callings we may be given, leaders we are asked to sustain, and positions that people claim are revelation, but are not canonized or do not fit with teachings that the Holy Ghost has previously confirmed.

    I consider myself blessed to have come out of several experiences where unrighteous dominion was practice, with my faith still intact. I don’t believe that would have happened without my strong belief in personal revelation and seeing it work in my life. My grandmother always encouraged me to “pray about it myself” whenever a new General Authority, Bishop, Stake President, or leader was sustained. I don’t need to have that witness to sustain someone as they are called, but if I have had that confirmation early on, then knowing that they are the Lord’s chosen leader for that calling allows me to accept their counsel more easily, without the past problems foremost in my mind I still pray about specific issues that seem contradictory to me, but I don’t have to throw the whole liver out, just because part of it turned out to be a cancer pretending to be liver.

    This may be taking the metaphor too far, but I think that sometimes we forget that the difference between good liver tissue helping to guide and mold the body through cleansing toxins can be hard to distinguish from cancer eating everything that comes and simply disposing of good things the body needs.

    I find this to be especially true when members attempt to influence other members politically, in raising their children, where they focus their non-church service, and what is acceptable to talk/discuss/blog about. I have two blogs that I “abandoned” because of the contention created when “well meaning livers” decided that they should not only decide to judge me, but that they needed to take that judgment far beyond the realm of constructive feedback. It has led me to make three rules about how I deal with church life, and blogging:

    1) My political views are my own. I don’t talk about them outside of my family, and then only if I want to. I occasionally donate money to causes or candidates I believe in. More often I attend political rallies that are issue based, rather for a particular party. Occasionally there is a candidate that I am delighted to find fits within my moral framework, and I then spend my time and talents to their campaigns. The vast majority of the time, I simply encourage people to exercise their right to vote at least as much as the exercise their right to complain. (I am so very happy I live in a state where I can register to vote as a nonaffiliated voter, so I don’t have to choose any party.)

    2) I speak only for myself, and preface most opinions with an overt statement that it is only my opinion. If I am quoting a scripture, article, talk or comment that came from someone else and give them credit. I may say I agree with them, or that I have felt the Spirit confirm them to be true, but I do not get in to debates about whether there are different understandings of any scripture, revelation or program of the church. I assume that everyone has circumstances that vary from the ideal and that they have the right to receive revelation for themselves and their families. That doesn’t mean I won’t answer questions of share my experiences if they are asked for, but I try to be very respectful of the fact that my experience is so different from everyone else’s that no one should do what I did, just because it was right for me at that time in my life.

    3) Everyone needs a chance to be heard, whether I agree with their choices, process or conclusion. I believe many people choose to have blogs as a way of publicly expressing their opinions, thoughts, beliefs and choices. They may or may not want direct input, but usually they ask for specific feedback if they want it. Even if they don’t want your suggestions for how to change their lives, they do want to know that someone “out there” is listening, and they are not simply whistling in a vacuum of silence.

    That feeling of “whistling in the dark,” and wondering if anyone is really listening is what made me come up with my June contest, declaring June “Follow Your Heart Month.”

    There are so many wonderful and unique voices in the blogosphere, and so many bloggers who wonder if anyone cares. I am hoping that everyone will step outside their comfort zone and read and comment on blogs that they have never visited before. If everyone took the time to find new blogs and new voices that speak to them, we might find some of those who feel as if the liver (at church, at work, at home, or in their whole lives) and give them the confidence to try again, or something new. So many people I meet through following their comments here or on other blogs I frequent, and then going to their blogs to see what is important to them, are starving for some spiritual nourishment. Some feel isolated by “liver experiences,” while others feel so out of the mainstream of whatever group they most strongly identify with, that they are simply trying to express themselves in hopes that there are others “out there” like them, where ever “there” may be. I biggest group of bloggers I find when I go searching (oftentimes I feel like I am searching for the one has wondered away from the ninety and nine) are incredibly lonely and just want to be heard. A simple comment or choosing to “follow” their blog absolutely makes their day, week and sometimes month. I am always saddened when I come across blogs that have been abandoned after 5-30 posts, many of which share the hurt, pain and loneliness they feel, and who never had a single comment from another person on their blog. Most of the time they don’t give a reason for the abandonment of that blog, but oftentimes the ones that do leave a “final post” cite the fact that they don’t feel like anyone is listening, and so they are just giving up.

    In my own small way, I am trying to challenge the readers of my blogs, and the blogs I regularly read and follow to reach out to those who they haven’t met, but who need tgeir friendship and support

    I have named June “Follow Your Heart Month!” If you are curious to learn more, like contests with cool prizes that you could win just for doing the right thing, or just want to see if you can find something to slam in my poetry; please join us. Just go to:

    Poetrysansonions.blogspot.com

    And scroll down to the post from June 1st, 2012!

    I hope to be part of the “heart” in the body of the gospel, one comment, one blog post and one “follow” at a time. I hope that whether you are a liver, pinky toe, elbow or spine, you will decide to add some heart to your role, not just in the church but to all of our sisters and brothers on Earth!

  7. themormonbrit says:

    Julia, amen!

    I thouroughly enjoyed this, Sam MB. I think all religions come in various flavours, and there are different approaches to take when studying and following any faith tradition. This is especially true of a theology so broad, vast and expansive as mormonism. There are always different ways of interpreting and applying the doctrines of the gospel, and all approaches add something to the richness and diversity of mormonism, and show its universal applicability.

  8. Ray,
    Name them? What’s the point? It’s easy to see just compare any of the prophets since say Brigham to Joseph or Moses or Christ who comes closest and how large is the gap? The gap is huge and it’s obvious! The title prophet seer and revelator is very misleading and helps hide this from common view, President is more accurate and more discriptive of the role they fill. The Pharisaical church has lost much of the power of God while retaining the authority. Today enlightened people outside the church enjoy powerful divine charismatic gifts while those inside the church follow the “prophet” and focus on things like waring white shirts or cap sleeves and doing their Home or Visiting Teaching on time. Today the Spirit is being freely poured out upon the inhabitants of the earth and the church is largely oblivious to it!

  9. “What’s the point?”

    The point is that you said there were lots of prophets whom God trained himself – but you can’t name more than a handful throughout 6,000 years of recorded history (excepting those who actually lived in the time of Jesus of Nazareth) – and it’s arguable that only three or four of them really were “trained by God” in any significant way. Comparing he founders of major movements to those who follow and dismissing those who follow as not being like the founders is silly. Of course, they weren’t like the founders. History shows that in crystal clear terms.

    The point is that you’re setting up an impossible, unrealistic standard – based on our actual scriptural canon. You’re blasting modern prophets for being, essentially, exactly like the vast majority of prophets throughout time who followed their respective founders.

    Name two, just two, prophets in the past 200 years whom God trained himself – of whose personal training by God we have record. You can’t do it, so your hyperbole is just that – hyperbolic and inaccurate.

    Today, the Spirit is being poured out upon the inhabitants of the earth, including many members of the LDS Church. If you can’t see that, oh well. It’s happening all around us.

    Sorry, everyone, but dismissive, inaccurate ridicule bothers me.

    /end of threadjack

  10. Especially in a thread about a post that is trying to teach us to value all members of the body of Christ, including those who lead this particular part of that body.

  11. Ray my friend, I’m not blasting anyone or setting standards, I’m deconflating. Your comment is not up to your usual high standard, you’ve misquoted me and spun much of your response from that. But we do agree; today’s follower prophets aren’t like founder Prophets, which was one of my points. Ray if it happening all around us within the church why does Sam say “we in the modern LDS church see less of those charismatic gifts”? Is he wrong about this?

  12. I see a problem when the liver accepts that the big toe is necessary to complete the body, but then pretty much ignores it’s existence because that toe is so far below the liver on the body after all. As a kneecap myself, I really prefer toes to livers. They are often much more down to earth.

  13. I came back to apologize, Howard, for the harshness of my comment and read yours. I truly regret the final commentary. I’ll tie this comment to the point of the OP.

    Charismatic leadership in religion isn’t a totally good thing. Look around the world at the results of such leadership, and I think we’ll agree on that, as well. Frankly, charismatic leadership works just fine for counter-culture, emerging movements (of pretty much any type) and to enrich the charismatic leaders (Joel Olsteen, for example), but I personally will take our current organizational structure and stability over the free-wheeling, chaotic, intensely divisive, dangerous, confrontational early years in a heartbeat.

    Yes, Joseph was charismatic, but I think the Church would have flamed out young and hard if he had lived a few more decades – or if Brigham, another charismatic leader, frankly, had tried to lead the Church somewhere other than in relative isolation. Bruce R. McConkie was a charismatic leader in a very real way; do you want a return to that heyday?

    Finally, I have seen and experienced a wide range of spiritual gifts in my life, coming from a wide range of members of the LDS Church. They are less prevalent in our modern, cynical societies than they used to be, but they are here – and they still thrive in the Church in areas where they are accepted more readily. I don’t see it primarily as a Church thing but more as a societal thing, into which many church members buy.

    How does this relate to the post? I think it does directly, since I think it highlights a tendency to value some people over others – to long for the days when some people were more visible than they are now, even though those days also had other issues that were FAR worse than in our own day. I think we tend to value certain body parts over others – sometimes to the point where we appear to be wishing we had five eyes and two brains, even if that means we end up with serious cataracts or internal warfare between those brains.

    You know me well enough to know I don’t believe all is well in Zion. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m just saying it’s unrealistic to pine for the conditions that existed when a new religious movement started and demean the leadership now for not being only the good we emphasize in former leaders. In doing so, we tend to overlook the bad in those leaders. I love Joseph, as much as I can only being able to study him, but I’m not certain I would have survived his leadership, frankly. I don’t pine for him and his time – and I don’t compare his strengths to our modern leaders’ weaknesses. I strive to make my time the best my time I can – and part of that is accepting the circumstances of my time while trying to influence them the best I can without holding others to an unrealistic standard.

    Iow, I don’t compare current eyes to former eyes and current arms to former arms in a way that demands those current parts be exactly what the former ones used to be. Yes, they are weaker than the former ones in some ways – but they also are stronger in other ways. I think it’s important to realize that – with regard to both average members and leaders.

  14. Moreover, given that one’s role in the body might not be a choice but rather an innate characteristic (there are strong connections between unchanging personality traits and political ideologies), rejecting someone born as a toe who doesn’t convert into liverdom seems to disqualify a large portion of the human family from meaningful membership in Christ’s body.

  15. academic fail: when I use “charismatic” I’m not using the word in the (sociological, see Weber’s Prophet) sense of a compelling individual able to inspire (as opposed to a bureaucrat, see Weber’s Priest). I’m referring to particular worship forms–speaking in tongues, prophesying in public worship, worshipful trances–which were common in early Christianity, in important pockets in early Mormonism, and are now largely present in certain strains of Pentecostalism. Sorry if my religious rather than sociological use of “charismatic” made things less than clear. The question of Sect vs. Church, Prophet vs. Priest, etc. vs. etc., is a totally separate discussion that can go on endlessly (and indeed has historically).

  16. I am the (for lack of a more BCC appropriate term) hind-hole. Here in my neck of the woods, we appreciate the liver, but we are normally on the outs. The liver has no appreciation for us/me.

  17. Ray,
    I used charismatic gifts in the way Sam meant them. I wasn’t calling for Charismatic leadership necessarily, rather greater spiritual leadership aimed at enlightenment and increasing our gifts of the Spirit. To the church’s credit members are encouraged to seek personal inspiration and revelation but it fails to teach much beyond seeking a “burning in the bosom” feeling which most people don’t seem to feel. So much more could be done to teach increasing communication with the Spirit but it is largely ignored by the church while pursued by many who are on spiritual paths outside the church!

  18. Thanks for the additional input, Sam and Howard. Re-reading everything, that should have been obvious. It was the “trained by God” phrase that threw the wrench in it for me.

  19. themormonbrit says:

    I think this metaphor of ‘the body of Christ’ as being the church could be extended, tying in to our discussion here. Building on your comments, Ray, I think all religions require a somewhat charismatic (in the sociological sense), enthusiastic and inspiring founder and an early core membership which is radical, eager and somewhat excitable. At the same time, I think all religions must eventually move on to a more stable, safe and predictable state if they are to survive successfully. So, in that sense, the body of Christ metaphor can apply not just to our attitudes to various groups within the Church today, but also to our attitudes towards the Church in past, present and future years. We cannot say to the early, charismatic, somewhat wild days of Church history: “I have no need of thee”. But nor can we turn up our noses at our current era of pre-written conference talks, somewhat dull sacrament meetings and the correlation program and say: “I have no need of thee”. All of these things must come in their appropriate time and places if Mormonism is to survive and take its place amongst the world’s major religious traditions.

  20. themormonbrit (20) I can’t bring myself to agree about stabilization. In my mind (and in my experience) when forces stabilize and “mellow out” they become stagnant and stale. God is radical, Jesus was probably one of the most radical people ever, why should we be visiting banks every Sunday? We shouldn’t be on our backsides droning out Hymns that even call for a spirited singing. It drives me crazy sometimes. Doctrinally we are a radical Church–why is our current incarnation not only reflecting this, but seemingly shying away from it as well. I say we shake things up a bit, and get into some down and dirty “HEAR ME ROAR” worship.

  21. *not reflecting this…sorry

  22. themormonbrit says:

    EOR, I agree that Mormonism offers a uniquely radical worldview, Jesus was one of the most radical preachers in world history and the church has historically been a very radical and controversial addition to Christianity. However, I think all religions have to eventually stabilise or they just falter and die, ripped apart in a state of internal chaos. Do you really think the church would have survived to become the powerful force for good in the world that it is today if we had not abandoned, or at least downplayed, some of the more ‘radical’ elements of our early history? Do you think the church would be touching as many people’s lives as it is today if we were still practising plural marriage? How about if we still asked our members to donate literally everything they owned to ‘zion’, and taught the law of consecration? How about blood atonement? What about if we knocked on people’s doors and said: “We’re missionaries from the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we’re here to help you become a god”. Many of these things have not been fully eradicated from out theology (for which I am often grateful, as they keep mormonism distinctive). But if they were still emphasized to the same degree as they were in the early church, I am unsure if the church would even still exist. Perhaps the mormon fundamentalist movement is a good example of what can happen when a religion emphasises some of the more controversial, radical aspects of their faith at the expense of some much-needed stabilising and sobering.
    Like you, I am often frustrated by our current correlated church, and I often long for some “down and dirty HEAR ME ROAR worship”. But I think we also need to acknowledge that if we over-emphasise the radical elements of our belief system, we risk being torn apart from the inside and fading away in a flurry of chaos to become nothing but a footnote in American history.

  23. themormonbrit (22) I can see your point of view, but I would rather die a quick death after an amazing ride than draw it out wheezing, choking, and suffocating. Stabilization would be wonderful if it did not come with the stagnation that it has. While we are all different shapes, and different races and ethnicities I feel like a lot of Mormons look the same. There is a creepy conformist undertone to almost every thing. I like bold worship, I like bold speech. Either the Church is true or it is not, and if it is then I don’t think any force save God himself could have taken it from the Earth again. There was not going to be another great apostasy. However, a tweak there, and a downplay here eats away at the heart of truth and bit by bit it becomes unrecognizable. I have only been a member for less than 17 years, and large parts are already unrecognizable to me. It makes my soul hurt.

  24. Rachel Esplin Odell says:

    An excellent post, Sam MB. Reminds me of Elder Wirthlin’s excellent April 2008 General Conference talk, “Concern for the One.” http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2008/04/concern-for-the-one?lang=eng. Quoting from that talk:

    “Some… feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.

    “Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.

    “This variety of creation itself is a testament of how the Lord values all His children.”

    And some related scriptural favorites: 3 Nephi 11:28-30; Moses 7:18. If we are to become a Zion people in our homes and our wards and our communities, we (I) need to be a lot more loving and a lot humbler.

    And I appreciate your implication that it goes both ways. For all that BCC’ers tend to focus on the liver’s excesses, it probably wouldn’t hurt if liberal Mormons took their own preaching to heart and were a bit more magnanimous in their approach to conservative Mormons. And it would also help if all of us were a bit less hasty to generalize about the Other within the LDS community, since most (or at least a sizable chunk of) Mormons actually probably don’t fit into either category, especially when you consider the worldwide church.

  25. Thanks Rachel. I have seen many patients without a functioning liver, and their plight is a sad one indeed. I feel great tenderness for the many different members of the body and feel it a duty (that I do not always, to my regret, honor) to love and respect the others.

  26. I had a conversation with a non-member friend recently in which I shared my view of BCC and the community that has grown as part of it. The thing that most interested him was the idea that there were LDS people who had conflicting views and still listened to each other, trying to understand the positions and experiences of each other.

    This friend spent part of his teenage years in Utah when his father was stationed there. (I know his dad was in the military, but beyond that I have no idea exactly what he did or even which branch he worked for. The few times I have brought it up there has been a very rapid change of subject, so I don’t know if his father’s job while in Utah played a part in his feelings and perceptions of LDS classmates, or not.)

    Whatever the circumstances that brought him into the Utah “heartland,” his experiences there were almost completely unhappy or stifling. He felt not only discriminated against as an outsider, but he was even more disillusioned by the treatment of his LDS classmates whose independent thinking seemed to leave them ostracized or belittled. We became friends when we worked together, and it is fortunate that we were good friends already, when I invited him to my son’s blessing, and he realized I was LDS. Over the years he has told me on a number of occasions that he considers me an LDS anomaly.

    So, sharing BCC with him was partly because I thought he would enjoy the conversations, but was also because I wanted to introduce him to all of you and to all of our interesting and varied opinions and voices. I am not aware of any comments he has published here, but I know he is lurking and listening because he knows both of the names I comment under, and will send me emails with his thoughts on that thread or on my particular comments.

    I got an email from him today with the thought that most of the LDS people he met as a young man, who offended him in the way they talked and acted towards him were probably in the liver category. He said, “I guess you may be right that there are many more kinds of members of your church than I met in Utah. I wonder if BCC was a ward or stake if they would have a lot more people wanting to join them and be dunked into the church.” (Dunked = baptism)

    I am glad that BCC exists, and that I get to be part of it. I am even happy that all parts of the body of the church seem to show up in one way or another, including livers. Most important to me is that this is a place that we can come, discuss, make errors, have those errors pointed out, agree or not agree with being corrected, and still recognize each other as legitimate members of Christ’s church. I think the messiness of some threads and the contrasting view points are infinitely more valuable than a lecture, as I live the messy and contradictory life that is my mortal experience.

    Thank you everyone (even and especially you Tim, even though you just lurk for now) for agreeing, disagreeing, thinking, loving and questioning the gospel and faith that I try to live each day.

  27. themormonbrit says:

    EOR, I can understand why you would be frustrated with having to make a religion that is by nature radical, more respectable, acceptable to society and stable. I can see why many would object to this ‘diluting’ of the faith. But the fact is, I want mormonism to survive. Now, if that requires changing and adapting it slightly, if that means we must make occasional compromises with popular opinion, then I am willing to reluctantly go along with that from time to time. Perhaps that makes me a traitor to Joseph Smith and his teachings, and to be perfectly honest, I feel dirty and evil while writing this. But I can’t change the fact that I love this faith tradition, and this religious community so much that I want it to be available, in some form, for people to benefit from hundreds of generations from now, and I’m prepared to make certain concessions to society, popular opinion and the establishment in order to do that.
    One of my greatest heroes in church history is Wilford Woodruff. A man more devoted to the purest strand of mormonism, as delivered by Jospeh Smith, you could not find. He was unfailingly stalwart in defending the most radical elements of mormon beliefs and practices. He was completely devoted to the practice of polygamy, and firmly supported it throughout his life as one of the core practices of the restored gospel. Yet when the moment of crisis came, when he saw the church he loved and the gospel he was devoted to threatened by such a frightening array of poewrful enemies, he made a compromise. He abandoned what he had once been devoted to as one of the key practices and most radical teachings of the church. He issued the manifesto and abandoned polygamy (officially), and in so doing, he gave up one of the more radical elements of LDS teachings in order to ensure the survival (in some form) of the church he was completely devoted to.
    Spencer W Kimball. Same deal with blacks and the priesthood.
    What’s interesting is that both these people were widely known to be very conservative church leaders. They were devoted to the original, purer form of mormonism they knew and loved from their youth. Yet when the time came for them to make a decision, they couldn’t bear to see the religion they loved falter and die because it was too radical for the people to bear.
    I don’t know. Perhaps I’m just a dirty, treacherous sellout who should be showing more loyalty to the purity of mormonism. But I don’t think, if I was in that knid of position, I would be prepared to consign mormonism to the dustbin of history simply out of a desire to preserve our radical theological purity.

  28. The main problem this essay has is seeing the body of Christ as coterminous with the contemporary church.

    I would argue that persons outside the Church and outside our time period can both be part of the body.

  29. themormonbrit says:

    Well said, Adam G. I agree. I think the commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves extends not only to our neighbours who happen to be members of the church. All should be respected and loved as children of God.

  30. Loved the post, SMB and completely agree with #28, Adam G., though I don’t see it as a problem with the post so much as a comment that contributes to the discussion.

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