Why we need theology

Image

Something about proving contraries?

It’s a well-worn trope that Mormons don’t do theology. To the extent that this is true (it probably is), it is to be regretted. I believe that “doing theology” is essential and its absence leads us into all kinds of religious dead ends.

Absent theology — i.e. reasoned argument about the truth of God — we are left with little more than noise and counter-noise. To apply this to a current controversy, here are some rather ad hoc thoughts on the usefulness of a theology of women:

  • Over at FPR, gwesley argues that “apostle” does not imply priesthood in the New Testament. The implication seems to be that the New Testament does not present a view of priesthood that is really congruous with current practice. This may or may not be true, but that is a decision that needs to be made by looking carefully at the text. It was the layering of tradition over scripture that characterises the Great Apostasy in Mormon eyes.
  • Before we claim that theology undermines revelation, let us remember the Roman Catholic tradition. Take Aquinas’s theology of natural law and add it to the papal encyclical Evangelium Vitae and you have a revealed, authorised, and logically coherent doctrine of sexual and reproductive ethics. I may disagree with the Catholic stance on abortion but I can at least examine it on its merits. It is consistent and defensible if one accepts natural law and papal infallibility, and therein lies the argument, not in some tedious claim the Vatican is “out of touch” or that we should “obey the Pope or else.” So, we need theology but also revelation; we need revelation but also theology.
  • I think a case can be made for a separation of male and female roles in the church. For example, one could argue — and it would be reasonable to do so, I think — that at the very least the Levitical priesthood is for males. In a Mormon context, that then retains baptism, the eucharist, etc. as rites that must be performed by men, who act in the male persona Christi. That is an argument that serves the Catholic church well.
  • Those of you who read my last post will notice that the argument above is at odds with my own interpretation of Gregory of Nazianzus, but that’s the inherent inexactitude of  theology, which is fine. It is in such debate that bad ideas should ultimately be rejected, bringing us closer to the truth. Does the presence of female deacons in the Early Church mean that an argument for a male Levitical tradition is flawed? Perhaps, but that is all a part of “studying it out in your mind” first. (Again, for the record, I do not think Christ’s maleness is essential beyond biological necessity to his salvific incarnation.)
  • A small, somewhat random proposal: Could we read the New Testament to validate the presence of women as witnesses to sacred ordinances? Given Mary Magdalene’s presence at the empty tomb and role as the first witness to the resurrection, are not women mandated to be witnesses (perhaps above men) at baptisms and temple sealings? Including women in such rites — indeed making them pre-eminent — would be theologically sound and might combat the unthinking “priesthood creep” that excludes women where such exclusion is unnecessary. Etc. Etc.

These examples of what could be but what isn’t serve in my own mind to highlight the large vacuum into which we are currently pouring in our angst, to not much avail. I honestly do not fully know what I think about women’s ordination. I was moved by the images of women being turned away from the Tabernacle on Saturday night, but my empathy does not constitute an argument. I am sometimes persuaded by the separate-but-equal paradigm that someone like Nate Oman seems to promote; I was interested in Rosalynde Welch’s thought experiment on a female priesthood; I find the Roman Catholic catechism on priesthood to be coherent; but I am also persuaded by the aforementioned post at FPR that suggests that we have been fundamentally wrong in our premises about Christian priesthood.

Mostly, I am tired of General Conference being used as a weapon. Those pro-OW can show us a picture of a garbage truck and make us angry; those against OW will hit us over the head with this talk or that. Such bludgeoning is not healthy for the Body of Christ but I think it exists in some part because we simply do not know how to talk about these things. Might I suggest we try a little theology? When the theology comes to an impasse we offer our prayers and submit to God, in that order. It’s right there in D&C 9. I don’t think we have yet done it.

Comments

  1. I agree, and with respect to the questions swirling around OW, we might begin with the theology of the church. It seems to me that the question of administrative priesthood (as J. Stapley calls it) can’t be addressed without having an ecclesiology in place. The issue is that our current ecclesiology does not provide enough official venues for the exercise of women’s spiritual gifts, in all their diversity–and I suspect that this is due to historical accident as much as anything. Resolving this quandary may or may not require ordaining women. At minimum, I think that we owe ourselves some heavy reflection on 1 Cor. 12-14 (minus the interpolated verses at the end of ch. 14, of course). At the same time, though, the experience of the Westminster Assembly makes it pretty hard to believe that ecclesiological questions can be resolved by appeal to the Bible alone. With respect to LDS scripture, we’re hampered somewhat by the very limited way that, for instance, Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo theology has been canonized. The work of theology is tricky in an LDS context, precisely because establishing widely acceptable first principles is difficult.

  2. Nate Oman says:

    Ronan: I agree up to a point. Certainly, I’d agree with you about the problem of pouring one’s angst into a vacuum, which strikes me as a very good description of many Mormon intellectual discussions. I have two interrelated quibbles. First, you present a story about apostasy that strongly prioritizes scriptural exegesis and denigrates tradition. I would point out that this is a very, very Protestant reading, a kind of Mormon radicalization of Protestant historiography. (Reminds me of Nibley’s use of Harnack. Harnack thought there had been a falling away from true Christianity, which looked like turn of the century German liberal protestantism. Nibley grabbed all of the same arguments and then simply inserted Mormonism for liberal protestantism.) It seems to me, however, that one can tell a far more “Catholic” story about the apostasy in which it was primarily the loss of authority and the destruction of the megistarium. On this reading, apostasy was less a theological than an administrative or ecclesialogical event. On this view, tradition may actually be entitled to a fair bit of deference so long as the tradition has been cultivated by those with proper authority. My second quibble is that theologizing always raises issues of authority. One of the things that it tends to do is shift authority from office to discourse, from apostles to theologians. I suspect that it is discomfort with this implicit shifting of authority rather than a discomfort with theologizing per se that makes Mormons uncomfortable with theology. We have to come up with ways of theologizing that respect that structure of authority or else the discussion will appear — and in my view in fact will be — apostate.

  3. Nate Oman says:

    And a hearty Amen about using General Conference as a club. It’s one of the reasons that I have decided to tune the Bloggernacle out during GC. I’d rather experience GC as a moment of personal devotion rather than an occasion for ideological score keeping.

    (The garbage truck, by the way, strikes me as a classic example of motivated perception. Sounds to me very much like the protests in this study, an example of what Dan Kahan calls “cognitive illiberalism.” It’s fascinating if rather depressing stuff.)

  4. Theology has my vote.

  5. Paul Brown says:

    Priesthood creep, indeed. Perhaps a separation of administrative functions from sacerdotal functions would ameliorate some of the current angst. Let Priests (well, Elders -according to the D&C) pray over the bread, but allow all to participate in counting the tithes, ringing the bell at conclusion of class time, determining “worthiness,” etc.

  6. God makes the universe. And then jumps into it. Levels of discourse, like the McConkie–England exchanges are hard to feature in any sort of theologically grounded domain. And that seems to make theology a mighty struggle.

  7. I love your phrase “priesthood creep”. It explains so many odd little rules we have regarding tasks unrelated to priesthood authority that for whatever tradition have become male only. A lot of those decisions sure seemed tied to priesthood correlation.

  8. Chris Kimball says:

    But in a restorationist religion by way of modern revelation and a fresh start line of authority, the perception–many would say the reality–is that theology doesn’t matter. That anything and everything can in theory change, can be “new again”, without reference to law, scripture, precedent, tradition, or reason. (This is old stuff. I’m stating it in a “for the record” sense. And to be clear, I personally find it troubling. It isn’t my view of the world or the church.)

    It might help to specify the question. I would suggest that if the question is “ordain or not?” then the modern revelation view will carry the day and theology will get no time or attention (at least within circles that have a chance of seeming orthodox). But if the question were “how can women best, most expansively, most faithfully, most creatively, participate and contribute Within the Current Paradigm?” then a theological discussion might have some traction.

    At the risk of sounding critical, I do wonder whether there is a serious interest in that second question, among current church decision makers or among advocates for ordination.

  9. More later, but Nate, the theologians I most admire tend to be Catholic not Protestant. It’s not just about scriptural “exegesis” but a rather splendid (even when I disagree with it) blend of scripture, tradition and papal imprimatur. The three together count as theology in my mind — Mormons only do the latter two and we’re poorer for it. Thus we do do theology but one missing something fundamental.

  10. Whatever the issue at hand, ultimately someone/s have to be in charge and make decisions, and ideally God will be involved in that process more often than not. But I see no reason why there should not be rigorous discussion before and even after a decision is made (and re-made), with leaders and rank-and-file both engaging in theology (together) that stands or falls based on its usefulness rather than the authority/reputation of any one person or group of people (or what is [understood to be] said in scripture). Theology is no doubt a bad word for many Mormons. But in a sense we have been doing theology from the beginning; we just have not been doing very good theology at times, arguably. And we have seldom been open about what we’ve been doing, preferring instead to attribute our God talk more or less directly to God.

  11. Ronan : I should be the first to defend theology. However, almost all the issues you discuss are not really or merely theological. They are primarily political and sociological. The arguments may fit into an overall theological system — but it is an overall worldview that begins with an understanding of who and what God is and how the world relates to God. I often wonder if those writing in Mormon tradition even understand theology or what the Latins would call scientia.

    Moreover, a carefully reasoned theology could defend the primacy of positions based on authority of those called in the community to be representatives — especially on issues where there is no certain, definitive or even consensus answers. Joseph Smith wasn’t the founder of this dispensation because he was the best educated, had the best arguments, was aware of the long and robust tradition of Christian theology or even because he was bright. Here Kierkegaard’s Difference Between a Genius and an Apostle is most apt.

    Further, who gets to participate in the dialogue? Those with Ph.Ds and advanced intellects? Those with the best arguments? How about those with the most effective rhetorical skills? Nibely argued for the primacy of the prophetic precisely based on the sophistry of rhetorical persuasion. Ironically his argument was rhetorical in nature — but that did not stop him from making his point. I would listen first to the loving German sister in my ward who couldn’t formulate a theological argument if her life depended on it.

    Finally, won’t that leave us like those who are in apostasy precisely because they refuse to listen to prophetic voices? Is the authority of the Catholic Papal Bull based on authority or the strength of the arguments? I suggest it is almost always both/and.

    I see theology as a useful tool for those seeking to more lovingly embody their faith. I don’t see it as an arbiter of decisions that require a prophet to resolve.

  12. Nate Oman says:

    RJH: Agreed. FWIW, I also most admire Catholic theology, precisely because it almost grapples with tradition and authority. Besides, if we are going to do just scriptural exegesis the models I like most are not Protestant but Jewish and Islamic, but that’s just the lawyer in me…

  13. Nate Oman says:

    ALSO not almost

  14. Ronan, I strongly disagree that Mormons don’t “do scripture” when it comes to how we approach doctrine and spiritual enlightenment in the pursuit of revelation and the establishment of theology. We speak of using the Word of God as the basis for seeking understanding, identifying key principles and understanding God’s intent. What is Section 138 if not a demonstration of a Prophet, Joseph F. Smith, studying a scriptural account and finding a direct understanding as his spiritual eyes are opened to the reality of what Paul described.

  15. Jason,
    Westminster Assembly + Mormon prophets (who prayerfully decide between competing theologies) = a great, unrealised Mormon utopia.

    Paul,
    I agree. Sometimes you have to name a thing to suddenly see it for the first time, which is why absent anyone in the church knowing what “sacerdotal” means, little progress can be made.

    WVS,
    Mormonism would benefit from more “mighty struggles” over truth.

    Marcella,
    I got that term from somewhere but I cannot remember where!

    Chris,
    That is a good question.

  16. Sorry, that should be Peter…

  17. KerBearRN says:

    Ronan, thank you for this. And also Chris, I love your second paragraph. I too am unsure what I think regarding ordination of women. And so, Chris, I think your question about how women can contribute is excellent. I was incredibly touched in seeing the humility (and apparently even the good humor) with which our sisters approached the Priesthood Session on Saturday evening. Some of those images will be forever imprinted on my mind and heart, and I do see it as part of a very healthy and necessary discussion of Chris’ well-phrased question. And I am so proud of strong people who are willing to stand up and stand out for something they cherish. However, I fear that turning this into some sort of publicized debate rather lessens (or at least gives the appearance of lessening) our support of and belief in divine revelation. And in using Conference as a “weapon”, or at least a punctuation mark on whatever we are debating or promoting, I fear instead we may be falling into what I think of as the “democracy trap”– that we get some sort of “vote” on practices or doctrine. And this then seems all too much like some modern Council of Nicea. (and please understand, I am not drawing these simplified comparisons to insult anyone’s point of view or to be disrespectful. It is just easier for me to express what is in my mind in a more simplified way.). At what point does thoughtful discussion of theology, beliefs, or righteous desires descend into lobbying for votes? Can we have this discussion without flirting with apostasy? I ask, because I honestly don’t know. And it bothers me, because I guess I am a little bit frightened of the whole thing. (this is probably colored by my memories of the ERA battles of the 70s and how angry they became. I want women to have a better voice. But I don’t want to do it at the risk of testimony.)

  18. Blake,
    I think we are in agreement, actually, if you will permit me to reformulate your final sentence thus:
    “Theology can provide potential solutions that the prophet then resolves.” I am just saying that we don’t really bother with the former.

  19. As a convert of a month and a half, I’ve come to realize that theology is essential to understanding God, Christ, scriptures and the Church.

    Theology is figuring things out and leads to a much deeper understanding of the things of God.

  20. J. Stapley says:

    Good stuff, Ronan both in the post and in the comments. Part of the problem is that despite our deep reliance on tradition in all facets of governance and lived religion, we don’t actually recognize it as such. Some self awareness would help a lot here, I think.

  21. Christian J says:

    Ronan, regarding scriptural inquiry, I don’t think Mormons are going to like what they find (at least as far as the Bible is concerned) with any serious examination beyond our culture of rampant proof-texting.

  22. Westminster Assembly + Mormon prophets (who prayerfully decide between competing theologies) = a great, unrealised Mormon utopia.

    Now that’s my kind of math — thanks for this thought-provoking post!

  23. OD,
    I guess we can say that we haven’t done it for a long time, then.

    agonzalez,
    Welcome!

    Stapley,
    Yay for self-awareness. The other thing I thought was that the Catholics almost certainly cheat, that is, they have tradition and the Pope and then they retrofit the theology. But that’s fine because it tends to be more than just proof-texting and thus the theology helps show that the revelation is coherent and reasonable (and thus an actual revelation).

    Christian,
    Too bad, I suppose, although you are right that it doesn’t always go down well.

    KearBear,
    I agree that the question is fraught with danger.

  24. N.B. “Priesthood creep” is a Stapley/Wright-ism.

  25. I really like the term “priesthood creep.” It’s a very apt description. I will admit that a large part of me would like to see women ordained, but I honestly think that allowing them to have an equal role and voice in all administrative capacities and restoring their privilege to participate and administer in blessings of comfort and healing – to men, women, and children – would go a long way for me. Neither of these would require giving women the priesthood, adjusting the definition of priesthood, or changing anything other than current practice.

    I also like what you suggest about using theology to expand women’s opportunities – to act as witnesses in ordinances, perhaps help pass the sacrament, hold their own babies during infant blessings, etc. I believe there are many, many ways in which women could be much more involved, to the benefit of the entire church, that wouldn’t require ordination to the priesthood (though I think that will come, if not in this life then in the next).

    I have mixed feelings about the OW movement, but there’s a great post over at FmH called “I will have mercy” that seems to me to be the right way to regard the men and women who are part of OW. Regardless of whether I agree with everything they do or say and how they do or say it, I do believe Christ is asking me not to judge them but to love them.

  26. “Theology can provide potential solutions that the prophet then resolves.”

    There is much truth in this. As someone actually studying, academically, systematic theology (and the Catholic kind, no less!) there are some deep problem with mapping their system onto ours. This sentence encapsulates, in my opinion, what Mormon theology can be. We can ask questions. However, we do not get the authoritative answers to those questions.

    My basic approach to Mormon theology is to A) try to fit the pieces that we do have together and come up with a coherent theological/doctrinal system. This maps pretty well onto systematic theology, and I think it’s something we all do with varying degrees of rigor and success. Then there’s B) figuring out which pieces we do NOT have, and speculating about what they might be like. Only some authoritative voice can actually fill in the gap. The rest of it remains speculation. I would be deeply uncomfortable with anybody seeking to fill the gaps authoritatively with their own speculations.

    Option B doesn’t map onto anything in any other Christian denomination. I vote we call this “chaotic theology.” In one of my classes at CUA we were discussing how Augustine was presented with the Vulgate while he was writing his commentary on Matthew (I think it was Matthew, might have been all of the NT). i.e., suddenly there was a new edition of the Bible, and there were some relevant changes in important passages. “Can you imagine what it would be like if at any moment the canon of scripture could change?” asked my professor, incredulously. All my Catholic colleagues in that class all thought that was crazy talk, their view of a deposit of faith inimical to such a concept.

    I raised my hand. “Actually, yes, I can.” They all laughed, but there you had, starkly outlined, the difference between Catholic and Mormon theology.

  27. J. Stapely: exactly.

  28. KerBearRN says:

    “Priesthood creep”:
    1. Like bad underwear, only with (usually) better intentions; 2. That strange guy with greasy hair who asks all the friendly girls to dance at the YSA dances, then announces he has had a revelation that that drop-dead gorgeous (or very popular) girl over there is supposed to marry him.

  29. RJH – if it worked in practice as you suggests, with prophets being given primacy and the last word to resolve issues, then we would indeed be in agreement. It seems to me that there is an irredeemable commitment to reason over revelation that is the bedrock of theology and that is in fact the source of apostasy with both small and capital “A”. That is the danger of theology. I suspect it is why LDS don’t really do theology as if it were a Magisterium that resolved issues not previously put to rest. Further, theology is always a cacophony of voices and disagreement and contention and dispute that is never-ending. Hence, the Reformation theologies and the many strands of Catholic theologies. Theology is always searching and studying and publishing and never coming to a knowledge of the truth.

    Take the OW movement. The prophet and apostles have addressed the issue repeatedly. Yet the issue is not resolved. The historical and theological arguments take precedence in the OW views as far as I can tell. More importantly, they assume that the kingdom of God must be like a liberal democracy where all can have identical callings despite any accidental biological differences. Their political demands are more important and I believe that their theological arguments are most often ad hoc arguments to justify a position they would hold regardless of the theological merits of the case. Indeed, most often they adopt the political long before being aware of any theological arguments to justify their demands. I would like to be proven wrong on this one though.

  30. Could theology be defined as “the philosophies of man, mingled with scripture?” Is there a line to be drawn in the sand where this threshold is crossed?

  31. Jim, that’s exactly why I would like Mormon theology to be merely deciding what we don’t know for sure and then asking questions. Questions themselves are never bad, if asked in the correct spirit. If theologians start to supply the answers . . . that will fundamentally change Mormonism, and not in healthy ways in my opinion. I’m with Blake that if we don’t retain primacy of apostles and prophets, we rapidly begin to fall into the traps that other Christians do with theology, whether because of Catholic’s “deposit of faith” or Protestant’s “sola scriptura” approach, or the flaws he points out in what has happened with OW, who seem unwilling to countenance the possibility that God will simply say (or has said, depending on how you view it) “no.”

  32. “Absent theology — i.e. reasoned argument about the truth of God — we are left with little more than noise and counter-noise.”

    This bold statement could certainly use some kind of support. Talk about a false dichotomy!

  33. As I contemplate the questions in this tread, it occurs to me that while revelation is a messy process, what Joseph Smith did in his work toward re-translating the Bible and in several sections of the Doctrine & Covenants demonstrated precisely why a single mouthpiece for God authorized to speak for Him on earth completely trumps theology. If the prophet can ask God what was originally meant in any particular passage of scripture then there is no longer room for interpretation which is generally what theology is all about.

    What is being argued here, and I believe by OW, is whether the prophets, seers, and revelators can benefit from historical education on particular issues and whether that history properly characterized can help frame the manner in which they approach specific questions for which they should seek revelation. One could call the revelation outlined in Official Declaration 2 as a period of Reformation. So long as those calling for change, as carljc and Blake state, remember that God is in charge and He has a mouthpiece through whom revelation is delivered, then a conversational process is appropriate.

    But Blake, while I am not a direct supporter of OW and their methods, I am not convinced that the prophet and apostles have directly addressed the question being posed. Instead they have obliquely addressed it and left openings that say the Lord could still reveal otherwise. The question is calling for broader access to women in ministration and administration. If President Monson came out and said, “We’ve inquired of the Lord and the Lord said yes/no,” then the question would have been answered. That is all OW is asking for.

    My guess is that this is an issue that various members of the Twelve and the First Presidency have differing perspectives on, even if they all agree with the current line on what the scope of ministration and administration through the priesthood represents. And as such, it’s not clear that the question will be properly evaluated at this time. And that is the reason for silence and oblique statements on the question. Will that change in the future? Only they and the Lord know.

  34. it's a series of tubes says:

    I am not convinced that the prophet and apostles have directly addressed the question being posed.

    I ask, sincerely: What evidence is there for this point? What makes you confident that the question has not been asked? It seems that many have confidence on this point because, frankly, they have not received the answer they want; ergo, the question must not have been asked.

  35. “Theology is always searching and studying and publishing and never coming to a knowledge of the truth.” Thanks, Blake. I don’t want formalized and systematic theology. I believe what read in D&C 1, that every man can speak in the name of God.

  36. I don’t know. I’d say that if you applied Mormon Theology (which does exist) to just your first example, you find that G. Wesley’s argument that apostle in the New Testament is outside of Mormonism’s theology. Mormon Theology, in the Book of Mormon and in the Doctrine and Covenants, and in the teachings of the church, dictates that the position of apostle was a priesthood office in the New Testament. Thus no heuristic is needed to show the new testament can be read otherwise, because we have direct information to the contrary. To ignore those items is not to say the church has no theology, but is rather to ignore the theology it does have. To that point, I think it is a false dichotomy to say revelation is damaged by theology or vice versa, as revelation is central to our theology. I am not sure where this attitude comes from.

  37. Why have such a focus on long analytic arguments when the truths taught by the Church are simple enough for a child to understand?

  38. Kyle,
    My daughter does not understand why she cannot pass the sacrament like her brother when she is 12. “Because God said so” is not a tool for understanding. A little theology might help her. She’s bright enough.

  39. Tubes, I’m sincerely puzzled by your question. I don’t have an issue if that’s really the answer. But please show me one clear statement by the prophet that they have actually asked the question sincerely to the Lord and sought revelation on the matter?

    Look, when the Church posts the following on Mormon.org quoting President Hinckley:

    “Women do not hold the priesthood because the Lord has put it that way. It is part of His program. Women have a very prominent place in this Church. Men hold the priesthood offices of the Church. But women have a tremendous place in this Church. They have their own organization. It was started in 1842 by the Prophet Joseph Smith, called the Relief Society, because its initial purpose was to administer help to those in need. It has grown to be, I think, the largest women’s organization in the world… They have their own offices, their own presidency, their own board. That reaches down to the smallest unit of the Church everywhere in the world…

    They’ve left an incomplete answer. Because he and others have publicly stated that the Lord is always the final answer on this or any other question of Church doctrine. Let’s examine the quote that is touted from his interview with David Ransom from Compass

    http://www.abc.net.au/compass/intervs/hinckley.htm

    DR: At present women are not allowed to be priests in your Church. Why is that?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: That’s right, because the Lord has put it that way. Now women have a very prominent place in this Church. They have there own organisation. Probably the largest women’s organisation in the world of 3.7 million members. And the women of that organisation sit on Boards. Our Board of Education things of that kind. They counsel with us. We counsel together. They bring in insight that we very much appreciate and they have this tremendous organisation of the world where they grow and if you ask them they’ll say we’re happy and we’re satisfied.

    DR: They all say that?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes. All except a oh you’ll find a little handful one or two here and there, but in 10 million members you expect that.

    DR: You say the Lord has put it that way. What do you mean by that?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: I mean that’s a part of His programme. Of course it is, yes.

    DR: Is it possible that the rules could change in the future as the rules are on Blacks ?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: He could change them yes. If He were to change them that’s the only way it would happen.

    DR: So you’d have to get a revelation?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: Yes. But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it. Our women are happy. They’re satisfied. These bright, able, wonderful women who administer their own organisation are very happy. Ask them. Ask my wife.

    So explain to me, what exactly is the difference between the two statements? The difference is that one makes it sound like the answer is definitive. The second says, we believe this is what the Lord wants but we haven’t really indulged in that question because no one is asking to inquire.

    Hence the OW movement. We’re a Church of questions. They’re taking the question to the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve in a largely faithful manner. Their methods may not be ideal, but they are standing at the door and knocking.

  40. Some things we don’t know, but understanding the simple core issues is infinitely more important, and such an understanding makes other issues much less relevant. Any woman who understands the importance of motherhood, as clearly taught by the Church, cannot feel slighted in any other church responsibilities, as she knows she is given the most important responsibility a person can have in this life.

    Another inherent problem with theology is that it by definition provides logic to arrive at new doctrine. This is fine, and important to do, individually, but looking to others for such logic sets others up as sources of doctrine, when the Lord has given them no such authority. I say they are set up as sources of doctrine, because logic can be misleading or premises can be slightly skewed, in ways that are very difficult to detect (I say this as a logician, I do logical research, and this happens by accident all the time in academics). This simply opens people up to deception, and to no meaningful end, as all the knowledge we need is freely available in an easy to understand way and through the proper channels. And, if there ever were any doctrine not available through official Church teachings, the Lord would certainly provide it by personal revelation to those who need it and who sought it from Him properly, leaving unordained orators completely unneeded.

  41. OD: You sure read Pres. Hinckley differently than I do. He says that it is “because the Lord has put it that way.” That isn’t a lack of an answer. Could God send a new revelation? Of course, but it would take that. Who are the OW to demand that the Prophet address an issue that he addresses as settled because “that’s a part of his program.” What we have here is a basic effort at theologizing.

  42. Blake we agree that President Hinckley states that the policy concerning the Priesthood is established “because the Lord has put it that way.” But what has preceded any revelation, including the first one that Joseph Smith received? A question. And what President Hinckley expresses is that a change would be received in the same manner than any previous revelation of import has been received, that a question must be asked and the Lord answers.

    He didn’t say it was settled, he said this is what we understand the Lord’s will to be at this time. Was the policy on polygamy settled or did President Woodruff have to go to the Lord to seek understanding before a change happened? Was the policy on the priesthood and the blacks settled or did President Kimball agonize over it and finally find an answer to that question?

    Who is anyone in this Church to go to the prophet and seek enlightenment from the Lord? If the question is important enough, and it’s fair to argue that this one could be, then please explain to me what is wrong with asking? Are we not taught “Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened?”

    A Church of revelation is a Church of questions. We as Latter Day Saints should never find ourselves in a position of scorning an honest and faithful question.

  43. it's a series of tubes says:

    But what has preceded any revelation, including the first one that Joseph Smith received? A question.

    A faulty premise leads to… well, you know the rest.

  44. OD: You and I see what OW doing very differently. You say that they are just questioning. That is easily and more properly done by writing a letter and asking a question. When one shows up to sit in a meeting after having already been told that they will not be given an entrance ticket, one is not questioning; one is fomenting.

    The question has already been asked: Q: “Can women hold priesthood offices?” Answer: No. (Note I believe that women are given priesthood power in the endowment; that it different than being ordained to a priesthood office). Q:.”Why not?” Answer: That is the way God set it up. Q: “Could it change?” Answer: Yes. Q: “How?” Answer: Revelation. Q: “Has the Church received revelation on this matter?” Answer: Yes. Q: “Where?” Answer: “Read Book of Abraham 1 and D&C 107 among other places.”

    Now for the big question: “What if I don’t like the answer and refuse to accept it?” Here is how I see that answer that question from some in the OW: You will just have to wrest the scriptures to your benefit, create a theology that places the answer in a different light so that the answer is different, and above all continue to foment and demand more revelation.

    How about this for an answer: “We will let you know when God says so.”

    Q: “Can women have a larger role in Church administration and other roles than they now have?” Answer: We are looking into it. We have changed some things and will likely change others. We’re open to suggestions but we prefer loyal members rather than ex-Mos and long inactive members to make the suggestions.

  45. Blake, when was the last time you read Handbook 1? There’s a pretty blatant statement there where it indicates all correspondence with General Authorities is discouraged and that any letters written will likely be referred back to the local Stake / Bishop. So, pray tell me, how does one raise a question to the leadership unless they agitate openly for it?

    Now, I’ve studied Abraham and D&C 107 and I find little evidence that several of the priesthood offices MUST be a man. Go back and search and see if it states Deacons, Teachers and Priests are male. And how much of what was written by Joseph there, in the context of men, was assumed given the culture of his day? But that is not really a path I’m interested in pursuing. You’re saying the question has been answered in the scriptures. I think that’s open for question and that is why we have a prophet.

    I’m not theologizing here nor am I wresting the scriptures. I hold to the answers I gave in my last temple recommend interview when it comes to sustaining the prophets, seers, and revelators. If the question has been answered then the brethren would save themselves a great deal of grief by simply standing up saying see D&C 107 and Abraham 1 – the answers are plainly there for all of you to see that the priesthood offices are for men only.

    Oblique answers leave uncertainty.

  46. Really? And you believe that it is encouraged to show up and demand tickets after being told “no”? You think that the Priesthood Handbook has authority? Then why did they not go to their local leaders? That is the Handbook says to do. I do not think that OW care one whit about the Handbook.

    We are going to disagree on the scriptural mandate. The patriarchal nature of the priesthood and the rights of the fathers and that the priesthood is limited to males could hardly be clearer in my view. The answer of Pres. Hinckley could hardly be clearer.

    Like I said, Q: “What if I do not like the answer?”

    But let me make clear — I have daughters and a wife who has had far more leadership positions in the Church than I have. I would be delighted if God saw fit to send a revelation to give them priesthood offices. But until he does, I think we have our answer.

    Nevertheless, please let me apologize if I gave you any basis for thinking that I am questioning your own loyalty. I am not. You seem to be a really great person from what I can tell. I am willing to give you the benefit of any doubt.

  47. I’m no theologian, but I think theology is important.

    I’m concerned that we don’t ask enough questions in our culture. There seems to be a certain deference to general and local authorities in some wards and branches to a point that asking questions is a failure to sustain leaders.

    More troublesome, asking questions can leave one branded as a heretic and apostate, or if not that extreme, as someone who is playing with fire.

    I find that curious when, if we think about it, this church was founded because a 14 year old boy had the guts to ask a question.

    Revelation does not come to an unquestioning mind. It comes after studying things out. After wrestling with God as the Old Testament describes it.

    Revelation is work, and as such it takes effort. It takes asking questions.

    I don’t know where I stand on the OW issue. That being said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong in asking the question. It’s part of the process.

  48. NRB, your comments are very much in line with things Pres. Uchtdorf has said repeatedly.

    I think the Church is still very young, and feeling its way through. It’s a bit like a new rider on a motorcycle; there’s some fishtailing at first, and swerving, but moving in the right direction, and eventually stability is achieved.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,658 other followers