There was an article in the Church News about a symposium at BYU dealing with the “Organization and Administration of the LDS Church.” The article can be found here: http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/58903/Symposium-deals-with-the-institution-of-the-Church.html. The article mentions a paper delivered by Professor Bushman titled “Joseph Smith and the Routinization of Charisma.” Among other things, Professor Bushman asserts the church’s “genius can be largely explained in the fact that the expectation of divine revelation has been built into the very administrative structure and offices of the Church, an expectation attributable to the Prophet himself.” This is what he asserted also in Rough Stone Rolling.
From the two thousand year example of the Roman Catholic Church, I fear presumptions like these. There is a profound difference between actual revelation and an “expectation of divine revelation … built into the very administrative structure and offices of the Church.” He uses comments from Joseph Smith to support the assertion, while ignoring the revelation in Section 121 cautioning that while many may be called, few are chosen. He ignores the revelation that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority as they suppose they begin to immediately exercise unrighteous dominion. Without confirming revelation given to every member of the Church, as a constant check on abuse, the destiny of Mormonism will be a repeat of the history of Catholicism. A Holy American Empire will replace the Holy Roman Empire, both of which have or will resort to blood and horror as the means to reign over mankind. The bedrock of the Gospel is the testimony of Jesus. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev. 19:10.) That is the charisma the scriptures tell us to trust.
There is absolutely no historical precedent we can point to which confirms that charisma can be safely institutionalized. There are an abundance of examples, however, of men abusing religion to gain control over others to satisfy their pride, to exercise control and dominion over others, and to gratify their vain ambition. The only check against this are the individual testimonies of the few, humble followers of Christ. Nevertheless, we are told that in our day even they are going to be led into error oftentimes by those who teach them the precepts of men. (2 Ne. 28: 14.)
I do not know President Monson personally. But his history is well known to all of us. He was a Bishop while in his 20’s, a Stake President shortly thereafter, and then called in his late 30’s to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. He worked for Deseret News before becoming a full time General Authority. Essentially his entire life has been church service, both in his profession and in his calling.
If you want to see what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would produce if a life were entirely the product of the institution and experiences derived from serving in and under that institution, you have that in President Monson.
It is clear to me that he absolutely trusts the system which produced all his significant life experiences. The last two vacancies in the Twelve were filled by the senior president of the Seventy. This would make Elder Ron Rasband the next one in line to fill a vacancy in the Twelve. He (Elder Rasband) is a member of my stake.
In addition to what I posted earlier about baptism rates, there is another number which is somewhat misleading. The total member numbers reported in General Conference never deducts for those who are excommunicated or who voluntarily ask to have their membership terminated. There is likely a doctrinal reason for that. When a person is excommunicated they are re-baptized to return to membership, but they are not re-ordained to the priesthood. They are given a blessing to reinstate their covenants and blessings, including authorization to begin using priesthood again. But they are not re-ordained. Although they are excommunicated, they retain some affiliation despite the severance. Nevertheless, most people do not assume someone who has been excommunicated would be counted in the number of total members, but it is my understanding that they are.
Also, I’ve heard estimates from as little as 25% to much more than that as the percentage of members for whom the Church has completely lost contact. That is, there is some significant number of members whose membership is so tenuous that the Church has nothing but a record. There is no address, no way to contact them, and no information about whether they are living or deceased. These people continue to be counted in the total membership number despite their complete absence of contact with or from the Church.
With the significantly lower fertility rate, and an aging population, the Church’s future will not be anything like the projections of Professor Stark. That is, unless something changes.
I agree that there may be many reasons for the decline. However, the most prominent of reasons in my view is the de-emphasis on doctrine. As a convert to the Church I know what attracted me to become a Mormon. It had nothing to do with the formulaic discussions of the missionaries, slick marketing or good arguments. It had to do with doctrine. I DIDN’T WANT to be a Mormon. Quite the contrary. But I knew I should become a Mormon because their doctrines came from God and answered questions other faiths could not begin to answer.
I’d like to see the trend return to a dramatic increase of numbers. In fact, I think there are many millions in the United States alone who are only kept from the truth because they do not know where to find it. (D&C 123: 12.) We won’t attract them to the Church until we begin again to emphasize doctrine.
The feet of those who walk upon the mountains crying peace are beautiful (Isa. 52:7
) because they are clean from the blood and sins of their generation.
In the ancient ceremonies involving animal sacrifice, blood was shed upon the ground and the feet of those involved in the rites became bloody. The blood of the sacrifice upon the feet became a symbol of the sins for which the sacrifice was offered.
The feet of those who walk upon the mountains crying peace are cleansed from that blood. Christ’s washing of His Apostles’ feet was to symbolize this cleansing which He alone could provide. He employs no servant to provide such a cleansing. (2 Ne. 9: 41
.) These feet, washed by Him are, therefore, beautiful because they connote the sanctity of the one crying peace.
“Crying peace” because the only thing which stills the mind of man, and brings rest from the trouble of this world, is the atonement of Christ. That is why it is called “the rest of the Lord.” When cleansed, it becomes the consuming desire of those who are clean to bring others to partake. Just like Lehi’s dream, when those who had eaten of the fruit of the tree of life ate, they immediately invited others to come and join them.
“Upon the mountains” because the mountain is nature’s symbol of the ascent to God. The climb represents repentance and purification of the soul. When a person stands upon the top of the mountain, she appears to be part of heaven itself and no longer earthbound. Her profile is with the sky, symbolizing the completion of the ascent back to God.
It is beautiful. All of it is beautiful. All of it is a reflection of the purity and intelligence of God, whose ways are higher than man’s ways as the heavens are higher than the earth. (Isa. 55: 8-9
There was an article on Mormon Times about the declining baptism rate the Church is experiencing. The article can be found at: http://www.mormontimes.com/mormon_voices/mckay_coppins/?id=12892. I thought it was odd to approach this subject in an article which maintains there is nothing unusual about a declining rate of baptisms.
The prophecy of Daniel was that the stone cut out of the mountains without hands would roll forth, grind to dust the prior world orders, become a great mountain, and fill the whole earth. (Daniel 2: 34-35.) Daniel’s interpretation included that God will establish a kingdom in the latter days which shall never be destroyed, nor left to other people. It will break into pieces and consume all other kingdoms and stand forever. (Id. verses 44-45.)
To the extent the Church claims to be this kingdom, or rock rolling forth, it should be expected to increase in size, and momentum, as it rolls forth to fill the earth.
The Church ceased to distinguish between baptisms for “children of record” and “converts” some years ago. Numbers are given in April General Conference. Last April’s conference statistical report included this statement: “Converts Baptized: 265,593.” There was a separate category for “Children of Record.” but there was no separate category for “Baptisms of Children of Record.” That used to be a separate category. Since it’s elimination, I have had the impression that “Converts Baptized” included all numbers, including baptisms of “Children of Record.” If that is so, then for the last recorded numbers of baptisms you would need to go back to eight years earlier, take the number of Children of Record, and subtract that number from the “Converts Baptized number to get the actual number of Converts. Eight years earlier from the number given in last General Conference, the statistical report announced that there was an increase of 81,450 Children of Record. So the actual number of baptisms of Converts alone would be 184,143. That appears to me to be the real number of Converts, exclusive of baptisms of Children of Record.
Now the Church hasn’t provided this separate number for Children of Record for about a decade now. And I can’t be certain that the “Converts Baptized” category is actually an amalgamation of the two. But I think it is. If so, the decline from the time of President Kimball to today is more than significant, it is catastrophic.
I believe the only reason to convert to our faith is our doctrine. Since the Church has de-emphasized doctrine, the trend of lowering missionary success has confirmed my belief in the necessity of teaching doctrine. Not just in the Teach My Gospel program, but in every aspect of the Church, from Sunday School and Primary to Stake and General Conferences. Doctrine is what distinguishes us.
Deseret Book has actually told me that “doctrine books do not sell.” They are interested in fiction, which can be read in one or two settings.
In relation to the world’s population there are statistically fewer LDS each year. Our birth rate is declining and our baptism rate does not even begin to keep up with world population growth. In other words, each year there is far more temple work to be done than there was the year before.
Yvonne Bent has been researching sacred geometry for over ten years. As a result of her research, she submitted an art project that was displayed in the Church’s 8th International Art contest at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City. A photo of her work was in the Ensign magazine, as well.
Added to her study of the Articles of Faith and sacred geometry, a milestone connection was made to demonstrate the same pattern as we see in the Hebrew literary style called chiasmus appearing in other fields and even in nature itself.
Yvonne Bent has organized a conference on May 15, 2010 at the Rose Wagner Auditorium in downtown Salt Lake City to have various presenters address conference attendees on the widespread sacred patternism, including chiasmus. She invited me to speak, and I will be among those who will participate in the program.
The conference will consist of lectures from persons who have discovered remarkable chiastic patterns in art, literature, architecture, science and math. In the evening there will be a concert to demonstrate the chiasm pattern in music.
I do not yet have the final information about the event, but thought I’d put this brief announcement on the blog for those who may be interested.
Abraham’s great test in sacrificing his son Isaac was all the more difficult when you consider he was nearly sacrificed when he was younger, by his father, on an altar, in a false religious practice. When the true God whom he worshiped asked him to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac, Abraham was put in the exact position he knew from his own past experience to be evil.
Despite this, Abraham complied.
Then God Himself provided a sacrifice. (Gen. 22: 8
Not the ram found in the thicket on that day, but a living Son, later– in a direct corollary to what had first been asked of Abraham.
Many have stood back in amazement and considered the task given to Abraham to be outrageous, inexplicable and offensive. It was. But it was designed to make us realize how outrageous, inexplicable and offensive the sacrifice of God’s Only Begotten was on our behalf. Abraham was one of the few men whose experience allowed him to identify with God the Father.
I was asked about a list of “commandments” to keep. The person was sincerely trying to keep the commandments, but lacked a comprehensive list of them.
It is not possible to list all commandments. In one sense there are only two: Love God. Love you fellow man. All others are extensions of those.
If you love God you will do what He asks of you. Whenever something comes to your attention He would have you do, you do it. For example, Christ was baptized and said to “Follow Him.” So because of your love of God, you follow Him.
But Christ also showed repeatedly, that the second commandment was greater than the rules. Keeping the Sabbath day holy, for example, was subordinate to loving and freeing His fellow man. He freed men from sin on the Sabbath by forgiving sins. He freed them from physical injury or disease by healing on the Sabbath. Both were considered work, and therefore an offense to the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy.
Your individual path back to God will begin with following the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At some point, however, you will find that individual service and obedience to God’s will for you will create disharmony between you and others. Can’t be avoided. If you’re following Christ, you will find the same things He found. Helping someone in need will take you away from Church meetings on occasion. You can’t make a list and keep it, because as soon as you do the list will interfere with loving God and loving your fellow man.
So the whole matter can be reduced to this: Follow Christ, receive the ordinances, accept the Holy Ghost, who will teach you all things you must do. Any list beyond that will inevitably result in conflicts and contradictions.