Challenges to the Acceptability of Mormonism

February 24, 2009    By: Matt W. @ 10:20 am   Category: Life

Currently, I believe we can lump the challenges our faith faces to it’s modern acceptance as a legitimate faith choice by outsiders into the following categories: Issues regarding Race, Issues regarding Traditional Family Values, and issues regarding Christian doctrine.

Below I will enumerate these issues and discuss them. 

Christianity Issues

1.       Potential Polytheism/Non-Trinitarianism

2.       No Creatio ex nihilo/Pre-mortal existence

3.       Literal Physicality of divine beings

4.       Man’s divine potential

5.       Modern Revelation can and does happen

6.       An Apostacy happened

7.       Grace and Works

8.       Prophets and Apostles essential to a valid church of Christ

9.       Theodicy

10.   Cult like traits (murder, sex, deception)

This is one area in which I feel the Church is doing very well. At a inch-deep level issues 1-8 are covered fairly succinctly in the basic missionary discussions and I think these are issues that members in general feel comfortable with. Issue number 9, other wise known as the problem of evil, has become more of an issue, but it is a burden we share with all of our theist constituents as we enter into dialogue with our non-theist counterparts. Though we are less familiar and comfortable with this issue, I think the last few general conferences have especially focussed on the suffering in the world, and that the Book of Mormon is especially equipped with doctrinal jumping points with which Saints are equipped to more deeply dive into the issue. Issue number 10 is mainly a derivative issue, but I think it also legitimately rises from certain points in our church history, and is a legitmate issue the church needs to deal with. It boils down to the simple idea of lack of trust. I think recent moves toward a more “warts and all” approach by believing historians to openly discuss some of the low points in church history, such as mountain meadows massacre or polygamy, or dannites, etc. has really helped the church in this area, if for no other reason than that these sorts of data points are more available to saints as things to be aware of and be innoculated of. Anther key facotr here is the available of possitive data cheaply via the internet. Fair-LDS is just a few mouse clicks away, and one need not special order a manual from Utah to answer one’s Baptist friends in South Texas. 

 

Race related issues

1.       Pre-1978 Church statements regarding Race leaves non-whites feeling racism at church

At the surface, the church has done well lately to repudiate former policiies related to race (President Hinckley spoke on the issue in General Conference) and has proudly and accurately pushed itself away from it’s former segregated state. However, there are issues that have arisen from this race issue which the church will need to publicly address at a future time in order to really get closure on this issue. One issue is whether or not the policy of priesthood denial was divinely mandated for the time it was in effect, and if so, why? If not, the question becomes how could God’s true church have been so wrong about something so large? If the church is wrong about this, what else could the church be wrong about? On top of this, you have the real challenge of the current memberships’ discomfort with discussing the topic, which often leaves new African American Converts blind-sided when they are approached by their non-member associates regarding the issue. More innoculation is needed here.

Traditional Family Values issues

1.       Historical Church Polygamy as an outlier to traditional family values

2.       Accusations of sexism in propagating gender roles

3.       Accusations of bigotry for having an anti-homosexual agenda

4.       Issues of singles or other non-traditional families feeling unwelcome and being “left out” at church

Perhaps the biggest pickle the church currently faces is that it’s current divine mission focuses so tightly on traditional family values, with it’s history including what is perhaps one of the greatest outliers of traditional family values, polygamy. Polygamy is the number one concern most outsiders have with the LDS faith, and is also perhaps the fact most outsiders are aware of regarding the faith. While the church does a good job of saying “we don’t do that now and are against it” what perhaps is needed is a more nuanced “We did that then becasue… and we don’t do that anymore because… Our doctrine regarding that is….” . Currently the questions around polygamy are everywhere from members wondering if they will be required to practice it post-mortally to  non-members seeing the church as hypocrtical due to their once acceptance of a non-traditional family in light of their current rigidity regarding these issues. Like the race issue above, the polygamy issue may be unanswered because the church as a whole and church leadership do not have the answers to the questions that are being asked. If this is the case, thay does not mean they should not bring up the issues, but that they should bring them forward and at least give us the “we don’t know the mind of god on these issues” answer. This way, atleast the church is able to defuse the “cult” issue somewhat as mentioned under christianity above.

Other issues, outside of polygamy in the traditional family values set are also important, and should be addressed just as well. The Church needs to work out a clear answer to the paradox of presiding priesthood man with equal partner wife. On Homosexuality, the church has made a definative stand on the issue, but needs to deal with issues around metaphysical being regarding this issue. On retention of non-traditional families and singles, the church needs to assess the needs of these members (perhaps via surveys) and push to meet these needs.

 

In sumary, The church has done an excellent job of addressing many of it’s theological issues, at least at a layman’s level, however, there are some historical points that the church needs to more fully address as well as issues around the cultural push for traditional family values which need more clarity. These issues impact the theological clarity of the church and dilute the brand value. Until these issues are clearly and concisely addressed in simple repeatable soundbites, the church will continue to have fundamental challenges in gaining acceptablity from outsiders, much less adherants.  

Note: This post is not an invitation to bash on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is an attempt to openly discuss some of the challenges the church is currently facing. I love the Church, and believe in it sincerely and emphatically. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have it’s challenges, nor that they need not be discussed. I am not looking for apologia or accusation, merely conversation that will lead to understandng. It is my hope that by openly talking about them, we can take a step, however little, toward overcoming them. I believe sincerely that that is what God would want. Thanks for your participation in that effort. 

69 Comments »

  1. MattW: excellent work here. Could I add a small sub-category? “Worship Style.” For many, the Church feels more like business than a church—and a business run by men.

    Comment by BrianJ — February 24, 2009 @ 10:56 am

  2. I agree with you on the perceived benefit for the church to address these issues in an open way to take some of the sting out of some members (with a usually fundamentalist world-view) being blindsided by antagonists.

    I personally believe that a fundamentalist world-view (as held by most Evangelical Protestants) is the most dangerous thing facing members of the church because it creates expectations that are not in line with how God really acts in this world.

    The issue with blacks and the priesthood (revelation vs. policy) is one that illustrates the conflict with world-views very well. On the one hand, if a prophet was wrong about that, which affected (albeit temporarily in this life) the exaltation of some of God’s children, what else can they be wrong about? We seem to be cool with Brother Brigham being wrong about people on the moon, but not on the other issue. What is doctrine? When do we “follow the prophet?” These are issues that are coming more to the front now than perhaps at any time in the past as we seem to be leaving fundamentalism behind.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — February 24, 2009 @ 11:23 am

  3. Matt,

    Very interesting. I wonder if the church’s approach to science is not another category we add, even if it is less prominent than the ones you have listed. It is another area where we have very divergent approaches in our history and in our current membership/leadership and in our current society pro-science vs. anti-science is a huge dividing line I think.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 24, 2009 @ 12:03 pm

  4. Also, you list several issues where you would like the church to clarify its position. I think that would be very helpful. Even if the church made a very public pronouncement that we acknowledge the question but have no answer, I think this would be a step in the right direction.

    Take the race issue, for example. If the prophet said something in general conference not just decrying racism, but saying that this raises the questions you mentioned in the post and that although God spoke in 1978 he has not seen fit to reveal to us how the ban came about, whether he originated it, or whether he had reasons for perpetuating it, this would would be a step in the right direction I think. I don’t think we should be afraid to admit what we don’t know. It will seem to some that this makes us too vulnerable to attack, but it is my feeling that people respond better to this approach than the one we generally take.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 24, 2009 @ 12:10 pm

  5. BrianJ: Good point. From my catholic background, the worship style of Mormonism is more informal and less organized and ritualized, so I don’t know what percentage of outsiders hold to the overly business-like position as opposed to the “too much like hanging out at mcdonald’s play land” position. I know my catholic mom was seriously offended that the woman in front of us was tacky enough to brush her hair during a sermon, for example. And child noise is a big issue for many. Of course, you could add to that the regular “you’re church is how long?” and that about sums up my non-member relatives. But yes, Worship style is problematic to a large group. To some we are too much, to others, to little. I’m not sure what can be done on that front, any ideas?

    Kent(MC): The fundamentalist or literalist world-view seems to be a front we are improving on. However, looking at our history, this seems to be something we seem to have some seasonality on. We go from being too loose with our guidelines too being too rigid and back and forth. While I don’t see any retrenchment into literalism, it could be coming.

    Jacob: I tend to live in a bubble of denial on the science front, and like to think much of that is behind us, but there still is the occasional creationist testimony that irks me. I guess it is still there, like the politics issue for some, but I think the best the church can do for these issues is emphatically state a status of non-position on them, and from the prophets mouth, if possible. Also, I completely agree, It would be a very powerful thing for the president of the church to stand on sunday morning and say “regarding these very important issues, we don’t know” The worry there, I think, is the member in puxatawnie who thinks s/he does know and has personal revelation on the subject. But I am pretty sure the member in puxatawnie is there one way or another.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 24, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

  6. I tend to live in a bubble of denial on the science front, and like to think much of that is behind us

    Really? Stand up in Gospel Doctrine next week and tell them you don’t believe in a world-wide Flood, you think the Adam/Eve story is primarily an allegory, and you fully embrace evolution including common descent etc.. If that goes over okay, I will consider moving to your ward.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 24, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

  7. Jacob, that would go over well in my ward in Provo.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — February 24, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

  8. Sorry, as great as my time was in Provo, that is not enough to get me to move back. Out of curiousity, what is the average age and educational status in your Provo ward?

    Comment by Jacob J — February 24, 2009 @ 2:15 pm

  9. I think there are many people my age(24) who feel quite comfortable with evolution, Garden as allegory, and a localized flood (if any). However, once you go beyond my generation openness and consideration seem to break down. So Jacob’s right when it comes flustering our protective brothers and sisters.

    I still remember my grandmother’s reaction to my views on the creation.

    It went like this:

    “I don’t care what quote you have or who said it, I won’t believe it!”

    I think the Prophet Joseph Smith’s put it well (in more than just one instance) when he said:

    “I offer to you a few of my reflections on this subject, and if they should not meet your mind, it may open a door for an exchange of ideas…the doctrine of the Latter Day Saints is truth…the first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same…And again, we believe that it is our privilege to reject all things, whatsoever is clearly manifested to us that they do not have a bearing upon us.” (emphasis mine)

    -Joseph Smith
    Times and Seasons, February 1, 1840 pg. 53-54

    Comment by Riley — February 24, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

  10. Sorry, I should point out that there are many of all ages who too consider thoughtfully these ideas. Not just the “inlightened 24 and younger’s” :)

    Comment by Riley — February 24, 2009 @ 2:40 pm

  11. I am sorry if I seemed dismissive of the science claim. I do know it is a sticking point for many, and is a very healthy area of debate. Perhaps I should take Theodicy, Politics and Science and put them in their own bucket(secular issues?). Personally, I am of the opinion that science issues and theodicy issues are improving, while politics issues are getting worse. Is that a fair assessment?

    Also, I thought of another bucket, issues regarding practice, this includes:
    1. Garments
    2. Word Of Wisdom
    3. Law of Chastity
    4. Abortion and Birth Control
    5. Worship Style
    6. Tithing

    On this, I think all are well addressed with the exception of Garments.

    I’ll update the original post later to add these two buckets.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 24, 2009 @ 3:08 pm

  12. Jacob,

    I think the official position of the Church on many questions really is that we just don’t know all the answers yet, but we expect to learn more eventually. If you have a particular question you want to know more about, go for it. Study and pray. I think the Lord really does want us to learn all that we can and is quite willing to help, just (1) don’t expect it to be without effort on your part, (2) sometimes the answer is “not yet”, and (3) don’t let your questions get in the way of the basics (i.e. faith, repentance, prayer, scripture study, home teaching, etc.)

    As far as the Priesthood Ban goes, I was somewhat surprised last summer when I read “Lengthen Your Stride” the biography covering the presidency of Spencer W. Kimball at how strongly I felt the Spirit. I was only 10 when the Priesthood Ban was lifted, but I knew then that it was an important and wonderful thing to happen. “Lengthen Your Stride” spent at least 3 full chapters on the Priesthood Ban. The origins of that ban are not still not clear, but the Spirit manifested very strongly to me that the ban was ended in the correct way at the correct time. I know that God really is in charge of His Church (despite the imperfections of its members and leaders)!

    I personally don’t believe in a world-wide flood and I have some vague theories about Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden (I think they are real people, but I don’t believe in “no death before the fall”), but I don’t worry too much about this. I think a lot of members have similar views. We have confidence that the full details will come out eventually. However, standing up in Gospel Doctrine or Elders Quorum and arguing about obscure details is not particularly useful or enlightening.

    I enjoy obscure details, but as a frequent EQ Instructor I have often been impressed with how the Spirit nudges me toward simplicity and basic doctrine as I teach lessons. Studying up while preparing lessons is a different matter. Then the pondering and prayer about the scriptures and teachings of the prophets lead to many pleasant insights on my part, but these insights are usually hard or even impossible to share during a lesson (see D&C 50). Somethings must be received individually.

    I must admit to having read and enjoyed Cleon Skousen’s “The First 2000 Years” when I was a teenager. It tells quite a good story, but I don’t believe in Young Earth Creationism. I have consciously avoided introducing it to my kids, but I am still a bit troubled by evolution (Are we the same species as Heavenly Father?) I think that Correlation has suppressed a lot of folk doctrines, but there remains a lot of room for speculation. Hopefully, we can keep or gospel hobby-horses from stampeding.

    Comment by Tom D — February 24, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

  13. Jacob, my ward is highly educated with the majority being college graduates with several BYU professors in the mix. The average age of the head of household is probably in the 30-40 year old range.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — February 24, 2009 @ 4:02 pm

  14. Oops. That last line should have been: “Hopefully, we can keep our gospel hobby-horses from stampeding.”

    Comment by Tom D — February 24, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

  15. Tom,

    I think the official position of the Church on many questions really is that we just don’t know all the answers yet

    I, on the other hand, think that the official position of the Church on most questions is impossible to establish, given that we don’t have an an institutional agreement on what constitutes an “official position” when it comes to our beliefs. Put another way, it doesn’t really matter what you think our official position is if someone else disagrees and there is no way to arbitrate that disagreement. As one of one million examples, you may be familiar with a blog called “No Death Before the Fall.” Go tell ndbfGary you think the official position of the church is neutral on evolution and observe how that discussion unfolds.

    BTW, I am reading Lengthen Your Stride right now and it is quite an enjoyable read.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 24, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

  16. Catholic background, the worship style of Mormonism is more informal and less organized and ritualized, so I don’t know what percentage of outsiders hold to the overly business-like position

    I don’t mean formal/informal. I mean that LDS services come across like something established by IBM. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and others are more formal, but they’re also way more ritualized—you know you’re in a church. Other Christians are on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of being informal, but the style of music, preaching, etc. are totally un-businesslike. You could give a report to your supervisor at work dressed the same and talking the same as you in sacrament meeting.

    Jacob:

    If the prophet said …that although God spoke in 1978 he has not seen fit to reveal to us how the ban came about, whether he originated it, or whether he had reasons for perpetuating it, this would would be a step in the right direction I think. … people respond better to this approach than the one we generally take.

    Amen.

    Comment by BrianJ — February 25, 2009 @ 12:25 am

  17. I just had a discussion today with a friend about how much the Church “should” address some of these issues. I don’t want people going to unreliable, unofficial sources to get answers. And clearly people have questions. So on one hand, I would like to see some simple answers to some of these questions.

    But then again, on the other hand, I think there ARE simple answers to many of them but people don’t seem to be satisfied with them. For example, people want the priesthood ban to be wrong and polygamy to be wrong and they are embarrassed about those things and so they try to explain them away. Our leaders simply acknowledge that they happened, and then move on. They don’t apologize for these things. They don’t belabor them. They acknowledge them and then take the focus back on our basic principles and ordinances, and on the Savior.

    I can’t help but wonder if they ARE giving us answers in their examples, by the way they are dealing with these issues.

    So I am left thinking that sometimes we as members might contribute to the “challenges to acceptability” by not being more willing to more readily accept our own faith ourselves, by belaboring some of these issues, and/or by trying to explain what we don’t have authority or knowledge to explain.

    I also wonder: Do new converts who are of African-American descent (an example given above) or do any of us, for that matter, *really* need to have any other answers than “I know God loveth his children; nevertheless I do not understand the meaning of all things” (1 Ne. 11:17) Or, “I don’t know everything, but I know enough“? I would love to see more acceptance of simple faith and testimony as a perfectly reasonable answer to hard questions. Because to me, that’s where it all begins. We build on simplicity and faith and testimony at the basic levels, and the Lord can teach us line upon line.

    It’s not that I don’t love chewing on things. I do. But think about it — the Church is led by the Savior — who constantly taught with paradox, left people to ponder and find truth in parables (which left a lot hidden to people who didn’t like His teachings), etc. Did he not teach things that were ‘unacceptable’ in the culture of His day? Has He not always expected a lot from His followers, a lot of faith and willingness to let go of the need to know and understand everything?

    I am left wondering if the goal should be “acceptability” as is often defined. I don’t want to be grossly misunderstood, but I’m not surprised when we are, and in the end, I expect at some level that we will be. I just end up thinking that a key element to the strength of the Church is in encouraging and building simple faith, the foundation to understanding more.

    Sorry…I know this isn’t what you were looking for, Matt, but I do feel strongly about these things, and think they are relevant to the discussion of how “the Church” (which includes all of us) can do “better.” It’s not all about what kinds of answers we do or don’t get from our leaders. There’s much more to consider, imo.

    Comment by m&m — February 25, 2009 @ 1:51 am

  18. And I know this isn’t the prophet in General Conference, but I think it’s worth something… Elder Holland, re: the ban:

    I think, to the extent that I know anything about it, as one of the newer and younger ones to come along, … we simply do not know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place.

    I think we as members can easily give an answer like that, and just let it go. It’s a lot better than giving explanations we aren’t authorized to give (even an apostle would not make an official declaration when given the chance!), and (imo) risking creating MORE folklore that Elder Holland was trying to get us away from.

    Comment by m&m — February 25, 2009 @ 1:59 am

  19. Sorry…I know this isn’t what you were looking for, Matt

    M&M, not at all, I enjoy having your perspective. I want to be clear I am not saying the status quo is wrong, I’m just saying that if we are looking for more retention, more converts, and more ecumenical acceptability, there are things that should be thought about and discussed.

    For example, the average orthodox member, when asked about their “magic underwear”, doesn’t exactly have a good response.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 25, 2009 @ 6:55 am

  20. “I want to be clear I am not saying the status quo is wrong, I’m just saying that if we are looking for more retention, more converts, and more ecumenical acceptability, there are things that should be thought about and discussed.”

    Well, I don’t want any of those other than as a misplaced human desire. I agree with m&m that in trying, the members and the LDS Church could be giving away our soul to gain the whole world. There are more important things even for gaining converts.

    There are tons of explanations both unofficial and official on all of the listed topics. If I was to go through General Conference I bet I can find answers to all those tough questions even if “we don’t know” ends up the answer. From my own experience I have found both members and non-members simply don’t accept the answers. They have already reached their own conclusions and are just as quick to have answers to counter the other answers. Understanding and acceptance are a personal choice and not a set of textbook or official statements said just right.

    The major problem I have found is that Mormonism, regardless of Mormons themselves, is neither conservative or liberal. For this reason there is no making friends because it angers both sides. That is at least from an American and European viewpoint. The only way for Mormonism to become acceptable is to deny the faith outright. By that time there will be no Mormonism to speak of. It would be nice if the members could embrace the distinctive teachings, practices, paradoxes, and uncomfortable history and let the dogs bark.

    Comment by Jettboy — February 25, 2009 @ 7:17 am

  21. It would be nice if the members could embrace the distinctive teachings, practices, paradoxes, and uncomfortable history and let the dogs bark.

    Jettboy: Wiccans are prooving that this simply isn’t true.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 25, 2009 @ 7:44 am

  22. To elaborate further.

    If you can find all the answers from general conference talks on lds.org to the issues I and others have sighted about, I suggest you compile them and post them, because I assert they don’t exist in any substantial fashion. Further, the average member doesn’t read back issues of general conference.

    I agree that Mormonism will always differentiate itself from the pack, but it could make major strides in acceptability, regardless of that, simply by addressing some of these issues in a more regular fashion. Sunday School Manuals need to address these issues. The answers to these issues need to become part of our walk and talk.

    Until a Saint can feel comfortable in their garments talking about race, gender, and polygamy, we have work to do.

    Let me put it to you this way, while I love Richard Bushman, I think it is a shame that a member is more likely to turn to him than an Apostle for what our 21st Century of Polygamy is. (And I think Bushman would say the same)

    Comment by Matt W. — February 25, 2009 @ 8:05 am

  23. Jacob J: re #15, I totally agree.

    Brian J: Do you think that has more to do with the class room setting and that our lessons are typically set up like a “soft skills” training course. I actually like that, I guess, but yeah, I could see where it could bug people.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 25, 2009 @ 8:13 am

  24. Will we someday, perhaps 30 years after, debate whether the former gender ban as to the priesthood was a doctrine or a practice?

    Comment by Paul B — February 25, 2009 @ 8:19 am

  25. One more thought:

    In thinking on this, I don’t want the church to have an answer for everything like we did when we published Mormon Doctrine. ie- I don’t want to throw out answers that we’ll later regret. I guess the best answer to most of these questions is “We don’t currently know, but we believe it will be revealed when we are ready.” which goes back to Jacob’s 15 and why “We don’t know” is a better answer than no answer.

    In any case, in throwing out this post, I think I just realized a little bit the intense pressure someone like McConkie must have been under, trying to answer every question he’d received as best he could with what data he had available. It was a very noble effort, as was the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Both of these works still hold wild popularity today because members want answers to their questions. We thirst for deeper answers and for prophetic guidance on the next steps of our journey. Maybe it is an indicator we are doing things wrong and aren’t getting direct personal revelation, but I still think we as a membership need a better handle on these challenges to our faith, so that we can be better guides to others.

    Hope this makes sense.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 25, 2009 @ 8:25 am

  26. “while I love Richard Bushman, I think it is a shame that a member is more likely to turn to him than an Apostle for what our 21st Century of Polygamy is.”

    I like what was said at T&S in the discussion about explaining Mormon theology to outsiders: Critics complain that it appears that FARMS, FAIR, and other apologists are defining what the church believes rather than the prophets; but in a nation of prophets what can they expect?

    I also like your own response, particularly, “We have tons of lacunae in our revelation, and while it is easy to create a ‘fill the gap’ response, it isn’t always wise to do so.” I think in many respects the questions you present above have the same problems. Also, my definition of the mission of a Prophet and Apostle might be different than your own. I see no reason for them to answer significantly for any of those questions except as individual members of the LDS Church. They are to preach and declare the words of Christ; not apologists and historians.

    Finally, I still don’t understand your response about pagans. What are they proving and how are they proving it?

    Forgive

    Comment by Jettboy — February 25, 2009 @ 8:48 am

  27. Pagans are proving you can be acceptable yet different to other religious groups.

    I don’t think we disagree so much. I am just saying these are issues that the church as an entire body needs to be better at, if we want to improve the church’s brand. Brand clarity is very important to the success of a brand, and I think this is something the Church and the Lord would want. I don’t think we are selling our souls by trying to have better answers for these issues.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 25, 2009 @ 9:09 am

  28. I don’t know quite how to understand the assertion that we don’t know how or why the priesthood ban started. Brigham Young’s statement in 1852 says a)black people have the mark of Cain, and b)They will never have the priesthood until after the earth is redeemed.

    In the sermon, he tells us that he is starting the ban, and he tells us why. What’s the big mystery? In the same speech, he explains that while he is personally opposed to slavery, he thinks people should be glad that God ordained blacks to be servants, and he wants Utah to be a slave territory. He also elaborates on the doctrine of blood atonement. Do we accept any of that as being inspired by God?

    I think we also need to think a little more about the role of questions in the revelatory process. After reading Pres. Kimball’s biography, I’m convinced that the work done by David M. Kennedy and Lester Bush’s work published in Dialogue were some of the means by which God lifted the ban.

    Comment by Mark Brown — February 25, 2009 @ 9:41 am

  29. The most blatant problem that comes to mind reading this is why the mainstream church has this obsession with:

    “….it’s modern acceptance as a legitimate faith choice by outsiders…..”

    Why do you care? The early prophets of the restoration let us know that when we find ourselves fitting in with “the world”, something is wrong.
    Get some b@lls for heavens sake…
    Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, etc. would get physically ill if they saw the sellout that the mainstream church has become.
    As a convert to fundamentalism, it’s difficult sometimes to read these blogs that spew the same old tired message: How can we fit in secular society and somehow deny our history?
    That’s really ugly.

    Comment by Bruce in Montana — February 25, 2009 @ 10:33 am

  30. Bruce: So I’m guessing that you were bumbed when Mel Gibson left out the close-up shot shot of Mary’s virgin child crowning along with the realistic violence… (sorry to all the others, but I’m sure Bruce appreciates communicating with balls) *Note, I had the courage to actually write the word out.

    Just because something was said or actually happened, I personally think that wisdom is needed in deciding when and where and to whom things should be properly flushed out.

    The reality is, sometimes our current understandings are simply based on past viewpoints which were seen and interperted through dirty lenses. We need to always be mature and willing to try and flushout an understanding.

    Comment by Riley — February 25, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

  31. Mark: I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic with the hole BY thing.

    Bruce: I think it’s what God wants. I think he wants his Gospel to be clearly understood and taught. If it is not clearly understandable, it makes it more difficult to evangalize. I’m not saying we deny anything. Rather I am saying it is better that we deny nothing, but are more forward with what we have (or don’t have). I am also saying in my response to Jettboy that we need to be careful with what we think we know, because if we spout off things we think are true lightly, the are only just as valid as any other basic guess.

    Of course we do also need the ability to create a space for speculation and question asking, like this blog.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 25, 2009 @ 12:42 pm

  32. Matt,

    No, I’m not being sarcastic. Brigham Young gave a sermon where he tells us that he is starting a policy of restricting black men from the priesthood, and he then he tells us why he is taking that action. None of this is even in dispute, and I take the man at his word. We might not like his reasons, and we might like to think that he had some kind of prophetic warrant for his actions. Maybe he did, but if so, he didn’t say so. So I think it’s odd that we already know the reason for the ban, but continue pretending that we don’t.

    Comment by Mark Brown — February 25, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

  33. Mark B. I am aware of BY’s speech before the Utah State legislature on 5 Feb. 1852 where he states that blacks cannot have the priesthood because of the mark of Cain (a very widely held view among evangelicals in the 18th and 19th centuries BTW). He doesn’t say that he is starting the ban at that time. He also says that there are no white people and that all are black due to the fall of Adam. Is that the speech you have in mind?

    Comment by Blake — February 25, 2009 @ 1:49 pm

  34. Blake, I using Mauss’s FAIR article as a reference. This is what the footnote says:

    The 1852 declaration was recorded in Wilford Woodruff’s journal for January 16, 1852: “…any man having one drop of the seed [of Cain] …in him cannot hold the priesthood, and if no other Prophet ever spake it before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ…” [Matthias Cowley, Wilford Woodruff (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1909), 351]. Questions had arisen about the ordination of black members in some of the eastern branches of the Church in the late 1840s, so it is possible that a de facto restriction on the priesthood had already begun unofficially before 1852. See Newell G. Bringhurst, Saints, Slaves, and Blacks: The Changing Place of Black People within Mormonism (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1981), 84-108.

    Comment by Mark Brown — February 25, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

  35. Until a Saint can feel comfortable in their garments talking about race, gender, and polygamy, we have work to do.

    OK, but I still would say that that in large measure is up to the members to get comfy with.
    I agree with your comment that “these are issues that the church as an entire body needs to be better at, if we want to improve the church’s brand.” But how to do that? We already have so many tools at our disposal. Are we using them? I think sometimes we make answering these things harder than they need to be.

    I also think that ‘speculation’ ought to be more openly acknowledged as simply that. It’s fine to muse and speculate, but too often, I hear people making definitive statements that aren’t theirs to make. And as Jettboy pointed out, and as I mentioned earlier, sometimes people create more problems by trying to fill gaps that aren’t theirs to fill.

    But back to tools that we can use. The index at lds.org is a good one.

    Take the entry on polygamy, for example.

    The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. At certain times and for His specific purposes, God, through His prophets, has directed the practice of plural marriage (sometimes called polygamy), which means one man having more than one living wife at the same time. In obedience to direction from God, Latter-day Saints followed this practice for about 50 years during the 1800s but officially ceased the practice of such marriages after the Manifesto was issued by President Woodruff in 1890. Since that time, plural marriage has not been approved by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and any member adopting this practice is subject to losing his or her membership in the Church.

    I realize that this issue can get more complicated, but maybe it’s OUR job as members to keep it simple. This little paragraph lets us know that polygamy was from God, that it was practiced, that that is not outside of the doctrine of marriage, and that we don’t practice it now. (I really don’t think we need Richard Bushman to address this question. If anything, I would say let’s give a simple answer and move on, not insist that there needs to be complicated historical analysis to be ok with this issue.)

    Let’s take another topic: garments. See temples, the index says, and we find the following:

    “The garment provides a constant reminder of the covenants made in the temple…. Wearing the garment is an outward expression of an inward commitment to follow the Savior.”

    I think we have to acknowledge that some of the challenges come because people either don’t know about what simple explanations exist, or don’t accept them. Even gender issues really don’t have to be complicated. God’s plan is pretty simple at the core, and the Church structure, ordinances, and family life both testify that ‘neither is the man without the woman in the Lord.’

    We can acknowledge the fact that people have questions but still just testify that God’s ways are not our ways, and it really does go back to faith.

    e.g., You read Elder Oaks or Elder Holland on race, and he acknolwedged struggling with the pre-1978 situation, but went back to faith.

    Comment by m&m — February 25, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

  36. Wow, so much to respond to and so little time.

    m&m, Your solution doesn’t seem like much of a solution to me. You want us to just acknowledge stuff and move on without embarrassment and without having to explain it. But what am I acknowledging? That there was polygamy and there was a ban (etc.)? Of course, everyone acknowledges those things, so it seems you answer boils down to the idea that we shouldn’t want to understand what the existence of those things implies or how they came about in the first place. The idea of a church where you just accept that things are a certain way and don’t question them is about as far removed from the Mormonism I accept as anything I can think of.

    jettboy: in trying [to retain our members and gain convers], the members and the LDS Church could be giving away our soul to gain the whole world.

    Let me get this straight. By trying to clarify our doctrine and explain parts of our history that may seem problematic to a potential convert, you think we are giving away our souls to gain the world? Somehow I think Gordon B. Hinckley would disagree with that, since retention and missionary work were near and dear to his heart. Also, if we were to apologize for the priesthood ban, as an institution, would that be denying the faith outright? I am curious of your take on that.

    Mark Brown, I think we also need to think a little more about the role of questions in the revelatory process. Exactly. The people who never want us to question anything would cut us off from revelation fully if they had their way, since all revelation comes in response to questioning.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 25, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

  37. Perhaps somewhere down the road there might be another split: conservatives and internationals versus American mainliners. Mainliners will tend to stay with whatever the culture of America.

    Comment by Todd Wood — February 25, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

  38. Jacob,
    I think you have misunderstood what I’m saying. I never said ‘just accept things’ as though questions are bad in and of themselves. I think it should be pretty clear by now that I’m not opposed to discussion, addressing hard issues, asking questions, etc. I have been doing that for years in my own life and online.

    But if we are talking about being consistent in our answers as a people, and trying not to be afraid of addressing hard questions, then I think we need to accept the reality that simplicity will usually be better. Not everyone will want to address details of history. Not everyone will have the capacity to do so. We have to acknowledge the ability to answer some questions at a simple level and then allow people the opportunity to find out more if they want to on their own. To address lots of detailed concerns to me doesn’t seem to be the responsibility and focus of the Church as an institution…even as I think the Church actually does a lot toward trying to address questions.

    I did a post on this topic a while ago. I think Nephi’s approach to history (saying “if you want to know more, you can study it on your own, but my calling is to focus on the sacred, simple truths that lay the foundation for you to come to Christ”) is similar to what our leaders do, and I think it’s entirely appropriate. I don’t think we should expect our leaders to be about the kind of thing Richard Bushman does. If people are interested in what he (or equivalents in other fields) does/do, great, but let’s not make that level of detail a requirement for the Church…as though that would somehow to be more “acceptable” to the world.

    In the end, imo, without a foundation of faith, any examination of history or other ‘issues’ will be pretty empty anyway. I don’t want to shield people from facts, but neither do I think it is a *requirement* for them to have all the details and all the answers and all the facts to begin with faith and a testimony. And then I am satisfied that they, on their own, can seek for answers, revelation, etc.

    I think too often people put too much on the leaders in the asking questions process, and expect that all the answers and resolution of concerns and questions will come from the institution of the Church. I think that is a potential very problematic assumption and approach.

    So in fact, I support questions more than you think. But it’s about how and when they are asked, and by whom (or Whom) we expect them to be answered.

    Comment by m&m — February 25, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

  39. Ugh. I was in a rush and mixed some of my thoughts without finishing them. I said “as though that would somehow to be more “acceptable” to the world.”

    What I was trying to get at is that I think it’s setting us all up for more problems if we create expectations that detailed answers are a requirement to be more ‘acceptable’ to the world, or as a requirement to be a member, etc.

    To put this another way, I have not shied away from hard issues and questions with my children. Being on the ‘nacle has increased my desire to help them know some basic stuff so they aren’t surprised as they get older. My oldest is only 10, but they know about polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, gender issues, etc. But they don’t need to know everything about these things to be ‘inoculated’ or in order to accept the Church, or to have faith. As time goes on, if they have more questions, I will address them as clearly as I can. But I don’t need to be an expert, nor do I need to focus a lot of time and attention in order to help them navigate these issues.

    And ultimately, if they want more detail, that will be up to them to pursue on their own. I won’t expect the Church or myself to be able to help them solve all their questions. That is for them to do with God.

    Comment by m&m — February 25, 2009 @ 4:36 pm

  40. Todd, I just don’t see fundamentalism in the worldviews of most members I’ve interacted with abroad or at home. If the church were to split along those lines it would be because the hierarchy started requiring an affirmation to a type of creed, and the Brethern have been trending less fundamentalist over the years. Who are the young apostles who hold a fundamentalist worldview? I just don’t see it.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — February 25, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  41. Kent,
    Good points.
    The “brethren” are in a bit of a fix.
    If they affirm fundamentalist views, they risk having to admit that the church has fallen away and is in a state of apostacy.
    If they follow the world, the membership starts bowing down to things such as:
    -allowing the government to force trading priesthood for statehood by issuing “manifestos”
    -allowing blacks to be granted priesthood ordinances (not that the priesthood is really being conferred)
    -taking a watered-down view of abominations such as abortion and homosexual acts
    What can they do but lean toward mainstream secular society and water down the past as much as possible.
    It’s understandable…it’s just sad. It will do nothing but get worse.
    A stream is always purest at it’s source.
    At some point, the fundamentalists (at least the AUB) and the church will reconcile but I don’t see anyone coming up through the ranks that can facilitate that yet. It will take a real 2×4 upside the head to get the “brethren” to admit that things are in disarray and things have been hidden from the membership for a long time.

    Comment by Bruce in Montana — February 25, 2009 @ 6:13 pm

  42. m&m,

    We have conversed online over the span of years now, so, yes, I am well aware that you are open to discussion. However, I try to read what you are saying and I see #37 as being very different than #17. In #17, you said:

    Our leaders simply acknowledge that they happened, and then move on. They don’t apologize for these things. They don’t belabor them. They acknowledge them and then take the focus back on our basic principles and ordinances, and on the Savior.

    You held that up as the example we should all be following. Accept that it happened and then move on. You went on to ask if anyone really needs any answer other than: “I don’t know everything, but I know enough?” I don’t know how else to interpret your comment. You clearly allow for someone asking God for more of an explanation, but you do so while simultaneously saying that they shouldn’t need to since we make things worse “by not being more willing to more readily accept our own faith ourselves” and by “belaboring some of these issues, and/or by trying to explain what we don’t have authority or knowledge to explain.”

    Comment by Jacob J — February 25, 2009 @ 6:26 pm

  43. Bruce,

    As Matt said in the post, this post is not an invitation to bash the Church. If you want to provide perspective from a fundamentalist standpoint then that could be fine, but you are flirting dangerously with the moderation queue so be careful if you want to stick around.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 25, 2009 @ 6:31 pm

  44. Jacob (and anyone else),
    I’m sorry if you interpreted my comments as church bashing.
    We feel that the Church is a divine institution that has simply gone astray in several important doctrines and will soon be put back in order.
    My apologies for not being a little more sensitive…I’m a fairly recent fundamentalist convert and a life-long mormon.

    Comment by Bruce in Montana — February 25, 2009 @ 8:46 pm

  45. Bruce: A stream is always purest at it’s source.

    How do you reconcile this with your overt and blatant racism Bruce? Joseph Smith ordained black men to the priesthood — he is certainly “upstream” from anyone in the modern church on the subject.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 25, 2009 @ 9:54 pm

  46. Jacob (42) I think I see where my comments seem contradictory. Let me try to explain.

    When I talked about following the example of our leaders, I am talking about how we deal with these issues at the public, general level (which is in my mind what Matt is talking about — about how to respond to people’s questions and concerns). Or how we can encourage new converts to respond when people can’t understand why they joined a church that ___________ (fill in the blank with whatever hot-button topic people might be concerned or confused about). Or when a friend asks one of those hard questions.

    I think it would go a long way if we as members were all willing to give simple, consistent answers…not our own speculative answers or opinions, but answers that leaders have given, that have official sanction. Anything more can risk adding to confusion (after all, we all know that there is a wide variety of opinions within the church on these hot-button topics). We, imo, can become part of the problem if we don’t somehow agree at some level on how to approach questions. And if we try to explain things that even our leaders won’t explain, or haven’t yet addressed.

    This just came to mind, from Elder Ballard:

    The Public Affairs Committee, on which I serve, has learned that there is a great need for clear, simple statements that present those who are curious with the basics about the Church as it is today.”

    I think it’s interesting to note that the emphasis is on how it is today. That takes me back to what I feel Nephi was doing, too…he felt impressed to focus on doctrine, not history. Not that he avoided it…he just pointed people to doctrine because that was his mission. I think in the end, that is our mission, too, first and foremost. Gospel truths are simple at the core. With a foundation of faith, people can then sort through questions and concerns with the Spirit’s help. (I think of Jacob’s allegory and trees in the allegory died because the branches overcame the strength of the roots. I think we ought to help people with the roots before we focus too much on branches.)

    Also, as Elder Ballard has encouraged us to get involved in conversations about the Church, he has made it clear that we should not attempt to speak authoritatively for the Church. Keeping answers simple can, imo, help avoid the appearance of authority that we don’t have when answering hard questions. We can acknowledge questions and concerns (even acknowledge, if applicable, that we share some of the questions) BUT can help them feel how our faith helps us as we try to sort through them.

    Sooo, simplicity and consistency is what I see from our leaders, and what I think is worth emulating when we are addressing people and their questions about hot-button topics. Again, this is to me what is relevant to Matt’s concerns. I think simple is good in trying to maintain a consistent image.

    And now I am repeating myself, but I’m too tired to go through and edit more. Sorry!

    That to me is different than how we sort through things personally. I don’t see the two as being contradictory, or at least they don’t have to be.

    Does that help explain my thoughts?

    Comment by m&m — February 25, 2009 @ 11:10 pm

  47. m&m: I think it would go a long way if we as members were all willing to give simple, consistent answers…not our own speculative answers or opinions, but answers that leaders have given, that have official sanction.

    It would be nice if these simple authoritative answers from leaders existed m&m. But they don’t in most of the cases Matt brought up. That is Matt’s point in the post. He wishes those simple authoritative answers did exist for us.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 25, 2009 @ 11:20 pm

  48. Geoff,

    Hm. With the examples he shared later in the comments, I would disagree…I found something on polygamy, garments, a couple of interviews about the race issue (not completely official, but worth something, imo — and there are statements from prophets about the revelation, at least, and its timing). There is a plethora of stuff about gender issues as well.

    Polygamy: it was divinely mandated for a time, but is not now. Marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God.

    Garments: they are an outward sign of our covenants and inward commitment to follow Christ

    Race issues: we aren’t sure why the ban existed, but we know that the revelation that removed the ban was divine and that, as declared by those present when it was received, it came at the right time

    Gender issues: Men and women are equal before God, but do have some different roles in the Church and in family life. The man is not without the woman, neither the woman without the man in the Lord.

    And to singles and others who may feel left out, mentioned in the OP, there is a LOT of material on such subjects.

    Things like grace and works and other doctrinal discussions also, imo, require the Spirit. There is no way to adequately address these kinds of things without that, imo. Again, simple answers can usually bring the Spirit more easily than trying to explain things intellectually, logically. (And I’m not saying logic and thought doesn’t have a place in the process of faith.)

    I dunno. I just don’t agree that things are as bad as the OP makes it sound.

    Comment by m&m — February 26, 2009 @ 1:42 am

  49. m&m:

    I am trying to strike a balance here. I am not saying things are all that bad. I am trying to say they could be a little better.

    For example:

    Polygamy and Eternal Families: Will you be required at some future point to have sister wives? If Men have more than one wife and women do not have more than one husband, does this mean anything in terms of equality? I don’t think there are any authoritative statements on these questions. The closest I’ve come to an authoritative statement is this, and I don’t necessarily trust that blogger to keep his facts strait.

    Garments: That is a good answer, and you have a good point here. But that answer is from a talk given in 1997 by Carlos Asay. It’d be nice if there was a little more current exposure for that answer.

    Race Issues: I love what Elder Holland and Elder Jensen said during the PBS special. I love what President Hinckley said in General Conference. There is still tension here, so keep up the good work and don’t stop.

    Gender Issues: I think a lot of the issues around gender stem from Polygamy. Yes there is also the priesthood issue, which could use some clarity around some points, but most people I know are ok with it. Points that need clarity are what authority women perform ordinances in the temple by. I would think it is by the priesthood. (priesthood = authority of god to perform ordinances, after all) Others disagree.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 26, 2009 @ 8:20 am

  50. m&m: With the examples he shared later in the comments, I would disagree…

    I thought you might say that. Fine. Please share with me the “simple, consistent answer (not our own speculative answers or opinions) that leaders have given, and that have official sanction” to this question he posed:

    “Was the policy of priesthood denial divinely mandated for the time it was in effect?”

    I will need references too because I don’t just want anyone’s private answer.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2009 @ 8:29 am

  51. Bruce: the black woman at the well

    What black woman at the well? Look you racist knucklehead — Jesus called your German ancestors “dogs” too in that comment. Everyone who wasn’t Jewish got the same treatment in that episode.

    Enoch preached the gospel to everyone except the blacks.

    Oh really? What makes you believe that? Oh, maybe it is because Joseph Smith made some comments to the effect? The same Joseph Smith who ordained black men to the priesthood.

    Brigham Young taught that the blacks are not to receive the priesthood until all the rest of Adam’s children have that opportunity.

    Brigham Young, for all of his strengths, was a racist and wrong on that topic. He contradicted the prophet Joseph on the subject.

    That’s pretty “divine” stuff Geoff.

    No, it isn’t. Brigham’s racism is entirely man-made in my opinion. Yours is too.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2009 @ 10:44 am

  52. Paul B (#24),

    It is obviously not a “former gender ban” at the moment, but that is already debated now, don’t you think?

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2009 @ 10:46 am

  53. I’m putting Bruce in Moderation for a bit. His racism is outside the scope of what I am hoping to discuss here. Hope all is ok with that. He has served to demonstrate the need for greater clarity coming from CHQ though.

    I found a comment by M&M that got caught as spam (#35) that I think will give her more context. There is a typo in it (olygamy) that gave me a really hard time. She means Polygamy. [Admin - Fixed in original comment now]

    Comment by Matt W. — February 26, 2009 @ 11:20 am

  54. m&m (#46),

    So if I understand, you are making a distinction between how people individually deal with issues and the public face we put on them. I don’t think there’s any doubt that we treat these two differently, but I think there are some things that make your approach rather difficult to follow in practice. If I deal with another person one-on-one, how do I give the simple answer and move on? Do I just tell them their question is not important ? (that would seem bad) Do I tell them they are free to work that out on their own, but we don’t discuss those kinds of problems openly? (ugh) Or do we just tell people we don’t know the answer, even though the church is not willing to admit that publicly? I’m not sure how to apply your suggestion if I am talking with another person directly about a hard issue.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2009 @ 12:22 pm

  55. In the beginning of this string it was quoted that we are open and accepting of all truth. It seems pretty tough to distinguish any truth in the priesthood ban and a lot of other topics because just like here any discussion revolves more around emotion and our willing to denounce any opinion than our own as racist or evil. So what is the truth and since our leadership has abandoned the pursuit of truth and just throw out the I don’t really know answer the rest of us are left without their wisdom. You would think they could do better. They could assign a few BYU professors to spend a summer or two researching and give the result an official stamp of approval would certainly cool this down.

    Comment by Jerry — February 26, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

  56. So I get moderated for attempting to enter opinions respectfully and someone who assumes himself to be more spiritually knowledgeable than Brigham Young gets to stay.
    Nice.

    “Brigham’s racism is entirely man-made in my opinion. Yours is too.”

    Actually Geoff, the term “racist” is what is “man-made”…God has always supported both curses and blessings to different races of his children.
    With respect…

    Comment by Bruce in Montana — February 26, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

  57. Bruce,

    In doctrinal areas where Brigham Young contradicted Joseph Smith I generally side with Joseph. You can side with whoever you want. Just do it elsewhere.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2009 @ 5:12 pm

  58. It’d be nice if there was a little more current exposure for that answer.

    That’s actually from lds.org under the index, fwiw.

    Geoff,

    I already acknowledged that the race question is a little more fuzzy, although the fact that more that one prophet has said the removal of the ban came at the right time (which to me implies that before would not have been — why? I haven’t heard any official explanation at that). I have no problem saying, “We don’t know why it all happened, but we know the ban was lifted, and we rejoice in that.”

    As I have read on this issue on lds.org and public affairs, I think the official answer focuses on where we are now. In a sense, that suggests to me that we ought not wring our hands too much about the past…acknowledge it, acknowledge even that we struggle and wonder about it, but then help someone move on.

    Jacob: If I deal with another person one-on-one, how do I give the simple answer and move on? Do I just tell them their question is not important ? (that would seem bad) Do I tell them they are free to work that out on their own, but we don’t discuss those kinds of problems openly?

    I think I already sort of shared what my approach would be. Of course I wouldn’t minimize their questions, but I think these are situations where we can acknowledge the question, acknowledge that it’s hard, share what our leaders have said, and then help them see how our faith helps us move forward. I think one could also, as impressed to do so, share personal thoughts — but then just make sure that is clarified. “I have no idea what the official word would be past this point, but some thoughts I have had as I have speculated about this are….”

    We don’t have to shut people down, either. But, imo, it’s important to be clear about the boundaries between official stuff and personal stuff, and not be afraid to say, “You know, we really don’t know much about that. But we DO know….”

    Comment by m&m — February 27, 2009 @ 12:01 am

  59. Matt…I should probably clarify again about the info about garments…I found that on lds.org in the index. When I clicked on ‘Garments’ it said ‘See Temples’ — and that was where I got what I shared here. I would take that as current.

    Comment by m&m — February 27, 2009 @ 12:33 am

  60. m&m: I have no problem saying,…

    I have no problem with anyone saying that either. I just wanted to use that example to make it clear to you that your suggestion that we members should be “willing” to:

    give simple, consistent answers…not our own speculative answers or opinions, but answers that leaders have given, that have official sanction.

    Makes no sense. Who among us isn’t willing to do that? The problem is that on many answers that simple, clear, and officially sanctioned answer does not exist. So, like with this example I gave, you were forced to come up with your own personal answer.

    I have no problem with that actually. I am mostly focusing on your earlier assertion and demonstrating the point that many of these official answers have never been given (sort of the point of Matt’s post).

    Comment by Geoff J — February 27, 2009 @ 8:36 am

  61. Geoff,

    I think I agree with you more than you think I do. I already recognize that some answers may not exist. And then my point would be that maybe we ought not worry about those questions so much. It’s not like the leaders are unaware of the issues, imo.

    And did I make up an answer? I actually tried to assimilate what has officially been said, so I don’t see that as the same thing. :)

    Comment by m&m — February 27, 2009 @ 1:28 pm

  62. m&m,

    You are fairly slippery on this and I don’t know why. We probably all do agree to a large extent. However, we are trying to zero in on the part where we disagree so we can hash that part out.

    You said:

    I think one could also, as impressed to do so, share personal thoughts — but then just make sure that is clarified. “I have no idea what the official word would be past this point, but some thoughts I have had as I have speculated about this are….”

    When challenged on that you equivocate though:

    And did I make up an answer? I actually tried to assimilate what has officially been said, so I don’t see that as the same thing. :)

    I don’t know if the smiley face is supposed to convey that you know you are playing the slippery eel, or if it is supposed to convey that the two things are not the same, Geoff out to know that and the smiley should take the edge off your setting him straight. (Probably it is a third option.)

    In any case, I feel like I am trying to narrow in on the specific kernel of disagreement between us so we can give it more scrutiny but I’m having a hard time. I suspect (althought I don’t know) that it is because you have a different goal in the discussion. If I acknowledge that we largely agree, can you state our disagreement in a concise and pithy way? I wrote a post called On Discussion specifically so I could link to it on occasions such as this.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 27, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

  63. m&m: my point would be that maybe we ought not worry about those questions so much

    Really? That’s your point? Well we are all free to worry or not worry about whatever we want I guess.

    It’s not like the leaders are unaware of the issues, imo.

    How does that statement interact with Matt’s post?

    And did I make up an answer? I actually tried to assimilate what has officially been said, so I don’t see that as the same thing. :)

    Hehe. And yet it is the same thing.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 27, 2009 @ 5:59 pm

  64. Hm. Can I ever be pithy? Hah.

    I’m having a hard time zeroing in, too. I hear Matt’s post saying, “There are questions we don’t have answers to.” I’m saying, “On some of these things, we do have answers. And if we don’t, maybe that’s ok, or maybe there is a reason for that.”

    Geoff, you say: “I am mostly focusing on your earlier assertion and demonstrating the point that many of these official answers have never been given (sort of the point of Matt’s post).”

    And so, I would ask why have they not been given? Could it be that it’s best that we not focus so much on these things? These hot button topics end up often being bottomless pits, imo. (They are largely why the ‘nacle exists…we go around and around on these topics, and people never agree, even historians and theologians and other ‘experts.’ I really think it’s unwise to go into too much of this with people who have no foundation of testimony. People WITH testimony sometimes lose their faith by focusing too much on these questions.

    I confess to not fully understanding why my point seems so weird – the fact that I believe our leaders are fully aware of these hot-button questions and choose not to go there is worth noting. I don’t know exactly *why* this is the case, but I’m ok just sort of trying to follow their approach in dealing with hard topics. As a church, I think it behooves us to follow their example rather than insist that we need to have more info in order to be more liked or accepted.

    Not that there isn’t room to grow as a church. But, imo, I think as members, we ought to get better at basic answers *first,* with what we DO have, rather than trying to delve into more questions. People are still squirmy with the topics alone (didn’t Matt say something about this?) I’d rather see us get ourselves more familiar with and comfy with what answers we do have, even if they are basic and don’t cover all follow-up questions. A good PR person knows when to steer questions elsewhere. I think we need to all be better at that. If we were a little more comfortable with ourselves, maybe others would be too. That’s my view.

    Does that help, or just frustrate you more?

    Comment by m&m — February 28, 2009 @ 2:16 am

  65. And did I make up an answer? I actually tried to assimilate what has officially been said, so I don’t see that as the same thing. :)

    Hehe. And yet it is the same thing.

    Help me here. Maybe I’m dense, but I don’t see how studying what the prophets have said and trying to pull those thoughts together as a response is the same thing as making up an answer.

    I suppose if you are looking for a conference “Thus saith the Lord” quotation to include on all our blogs, then I can see where you are coming from. But I feel that at least I can know what has been said by current leaders and share that…not to be ‘official’ but to help in the process of answering with what we have been told.

    Isn’t it sort of like any other issue? Like gender issues, or the balance of marriage and education, or grace and works. Some of being a member is to me about simply knowing what they say and trying to talk about what they say in a balanced way, no? I can’t see how that is the same thing as making up an answer.

    What am I missing?

    Comment by m&m — February 28, 2009 @ 2:22 am

  66. BTW, brethren, if all I’m doing at this point is annoying, I’m happy to step back from the conversation. You know I like a good back-and-forth discussion, but I also know that sometimes it can come to loggerheads. If you think we are there, let me know. I’ll even let you have the last word if you want. :)

    Comment by m&m — February 28, 2009 @ 2:25 am

  67. And maybe the whole point you are trying to make is that it would be a whole lot easier to not have to go searching for a sentence here or an interview there.

    I don’t disagree. I just try to consider that there may be reasons they don’t go there, and so I try to do the best I can with what they have said.

    (That was a little shorter response at least. hehe)

    Comment by m&m — February 28, 2009 @ 2:29 am

  68. m&m: I don’t really have any more to say on tis thread, but I did want to say that if this is the pithy you, I like it!

    You’ve made some excellent points. I concede that the index at LDS.org does have answers to some of these things. I also agree that it could be a lot easier to find some of these answers (New Sunday School Manuals would be nice). And I think there could be more depth and clarity on some of these points, if only to seperate them from future church doctrine.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 28, 2009 @ 6:40 am

  69. m&m: And so, I would ask why have they not been given? Could it be that it’s best that we not focus so much on these things?

    How should I know if the answer hasn’t been given? However, I see you like to speculate that any time we don’t have an answer to a hard question it must be because we aren’t supposed to think about that. You are free to make such speculations of course. Such head-in-the-sand approaches aren’t really my thang though.

    the fact that I believe our leaders are fully aware of these hot-button questions and choose not to go there is worth noting

    Ok, duly noted. But what does their avoidance mean to you? I’m not sure what your point is by repeating this over and over.

    Does that help, or just frustrate you more?

    Frankly, most all of your responses frustrate me more since it all sounds like spin and double-talk to me. And as usual I hardly know know what we are even talking about in this thread at this point.

    Maybe I’m dense, but I don’t see how studying what the prophets have said and trying to pull those thoughts together as a response is the same thing as making up an answer.

    Simple — because it your your own personal answer to questions they have not explicitly answered. It is your own speculation on a mythical unified answer pulled out of quotes from lots of people who probably never agreed with each other to begin with. There is nothing wrong with coming up with our own speculations of course — but it is healthy to acknowledge them as such.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 1, 2009 @ 3:21 pm

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