“… some LDS apostles, including Orson Pratt and Heber J. Grant, felt inadequate because they had not had such encounters.
“Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John. This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom; Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son— .” (D&C 88: 3-5.)
Therefore, as a singular appearance, should the Lord appear to you, you have received the Second Comforter. However, His ministry is to bring you to the point at which you can receive the promise of eternal life, membership in the Church of the Firstborn, and the promise of the Celestial Kingdom as your eternal inheritance. In the fullest sense, therefore, the final promise of exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom can also be called the Second Comforter, since that is the result of His taking up His abode with you.
True teachers will labor to help you understand how real, deliberate, attainable, and necessary this process is to engage in. They will not ask you to follow them. They will teach you how to follow God, and obtain from God knowledge of salvation. False teachers will distract you. They will tell you all is right, that there is enough good being done in your life to merit God’s favor, and that it is not necessary for you to do more than belong to a privileged group.
(I’m doing all the cooking today. And all the dishes, too. I think I’ll use TGI Fridays to get them done…)
Read the earliest of Mormon materials and you will be shocked by how differently they viewed themselves from how we now view ourselves. They were building a separate People. They invited all to come and partake of the covenant, renounce their prior errors, and return to living as one of God’s New and Everlasting Covenant holders.
These dynamics are worth very careful thought. There is an actual consensus among church leaders that this is the right way to proceed. A discussion about it among Latter-day Saints has not even begun at the rank and file level. The transition takes place over decades, and unless someone first creates a vocabulary for the problem, we don’t even have the capacity to discuss or notice what is happening and why.
So, rising from rancor of doctrinal dispute into a singular set of beliefs which could later become “orthodox” and all else be branded “heterodox” or, with time, “heretical” was essential just as Constantine knew it would be. Without there being a singular set of beliefs the faith which would eventually sweep the European Continent and beyond could not have brought any unity at all. So it was a good thing, right?
That is the argument for. It is quite compelling, actually. I do not underestimate its strength. However, it simply does not persuade me. Admittedly the violence was foolish and wrong. But the violent sects were never Christ’s anyway. They never got what He was teaching. Let them run their violent course and, in time, they will never attract a large audience anyway.
Additionally, the definition of “orthodoxy” was not based upon truth or revelation, it was based only upon what was practical. Constantine never concerned himself with the truth. The legacy of that error lives on. The descendants of that original council in Nicea all condemn us as “Non-Christian” because we reject their creeds, beginning with the Nicean Creed, which defined God.
Inside the Restoration there was an order which allowed tolerance (as Joseph originally envisioned it) of divergent views of doctrine. A consensus wasn’t necessary. Only knowing that we were united as a people was necessary. How we viewed different subjects or doctrines was to be left to each individual. The way such people became “one” is something I’ve already explained in this post.
We’ve had healthy and meaningful doctrinal disagreements inside the Church without any ill effects. President Brigham Young believed that God knew everything, was not progressing in knowledge, and that if he were progressing in knowledge it would make God’s plans vulnerable to overthrow by something which He did not understand. Elder Orson Pratt thought God was progressing in every respect, including gaining knowledge. He thought the principle of “eternal progression” was the greatest joy and happiness and God enjoys the benefits of that great joy. For him it was a principle of joy. These two never agreed.
Widstoe was in disagreement with Joseph Fielding Smith. Publication of Man, His Origin and Destiny was nearly a seditious act by Joseph Fielding Smith and incurred the rancor of President McKay. President McKay shut the thing down at that point and wouldn’t let either one publish further by adopting a rule that no-one who is a General Authority is permitted to publish without permission of the First Presidency.
We survived. We tolerated. There wasn’t a group of violent Widstoeites attacking the Smithites to overtake the Pioneer Ward building. We were civil. I do not think it did anything more than raise the blood pressure of the High Priests’ Groups. Something I believe preferable to the somnambulism of that assortment we see today. Doctrinal differences sort themselves out by persuasion, pure knowledge and love. Eventually, when the problem or confusion becomes acute and we need an answer, then we can all unite and go to the Lord in prayer, seeking mercy from Him for the dispute we cannot ourselves solve. Then, through revelation, we can come to a consensus as we hear from Him. We don’t use that model very often.
Right now the Correlation Department is actively polling to give updated information to the Brethren about what policies, programs and procedures are effective. I have a lengthy questionaire at my home to fill out right now. I don’t know if I’m going to do it. I’ve commented on that process and Elder Holland’s reference to it before. I think it is more dangerous to use the polling and focus group approach to manage the diversity of opinions than it is to tolerate them.
What loss is it to us if the church simply refuses to take a position on the Gay Rights Ordinance; while some Saints believe it to be appropriate and others believe it to be the sinful prelude to Sodom and judgments of God. These opinions can be discussed, debated and people can make up their own minds. Joseph’s position of tolerance worked, when we tried it. When we had keen and publicly expressed disagreements on doctrine between the First Presidency and members of the Twelve it did not harm us at all. It made us more interesting.
Now that we have chosen to establish “orthodoxy” we are risking the freedom to be individually accountable for our beliefs before God. We have also lost doctrinal adventurism. This is because of our critics.
You see one of the harms of tolerating divergent opinions about doctrine is the clamor of the critics. They take a quote here and juxtapose it with another quote there, and say that Mormonism is a bundle of confusion. We targeted that in the Correlation process and have attempted to entirely stamp out the divergent or disagreeing doctrinal statements or positions. We want “oneness” in a different way than Paul suggested it in the post I referenced above. In doing so, we have conceded the point to our critics, and now make unity of doctrine a greater virtue than freedom to progress and develop our own understanding by degrees.
Sometimes what you understand at one point is not what you understand at another. Hugh Nibley, for example, said nothing he wrote ten years earlier would be binding upon him because he continued to discover and learn. We would be benefited from a similar approach all the way from the top to the bottom. New converts will, by degrees, leave their earlier faith traditions behind them. Or they won’t. Instead they will bring with them an understanding from those traditions which have a resonance with the Book of Mormon or something in the Doctrine and Covenants which had escaped all our notice before. And we will all be “added upon” by tolerating their view, even embracing their view. Freedom always pays dividends which control cannot.
Well, I’m not trying to solve the issue. I’m only trying to raise the issue. It is important.
There were those who believed that Christ was a transcendent spirit, and never corporeal as other men were. They believed that He manifested Himself as if he were a mortal, but never truly was mortal. They did not believe it possible for God to become incarnate.
There were those who argued that if they were separate then it violated the idea of “monotheism” and therefore, God the Father, Christ and the Holy Ghost had to be one, single person. However incomprehensible that may be, there was only one being, manifesting itself in three forms.
The price we have paid to date for correlation is a fraction of what will ultimately be paid, if history informs us of anything. It is now possible to be a “Mormon heretic” for believing doctrine which someone else has determined should be discarded — a thing which was unimaginable at the time of Joseph Smith, even as a result of an actual error in doctrine. For Joseph, the way to reclaim some errant Saint was, well, confined to the means permitted by revelation: “only by persuasion, by long–suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.” (D&C 121: 41-42.) Today that has been expanded to excommunication for doctrinal errors. When such a thing takes place, years go by before such a person is re-welcomed into the church, and then only after receiving permission from the First Presidency. So the correlation of doctrine has slipped already into a coercive use of authority within the church. Instead of persuading using better doctrine to correct an error, we punish and silence them through a method that was alien to the original pattern.
History is an interesting thing to study. Particularly at the beginnings of any religious movement. It always progresses from movement to institution. Once it becomes an institution, as King Constantine realized, the institution itself must protect itself against disorder. That protection comes, as history shows, at the price of contradicting the original premise upon which the movement began.
The history of religion, generally, is a transition between the movement stage, where there is always a charismatic or gifted core from which it springs, to the institution stage. Unfortunately for the institution, gifted folks aren’t usually good businessmen. (Joseph Smith, for example, had a pending petition for bankruptcy when he was killed.) Once the movement gets underway, it gets co-opted by businessmen, managers and captains of industry. Folks like Emperor Constantine, who if nothing else was a consummate manager.
We are at a cross-roads. At the moment the movement is ending. The institution is at its pinnacle of complete triumph. When the process concludes, it will not welcome converts who will challenge the basic assumptions that they, having received revelation to come on-board in the first place, must now quash the Spirit which raises so many questions about how things are proceeding. Then to be Mormon will mean to be correlated. Correlated body and soul. An institutional man. No longer distinct, unique, or creative. Disciplined, orderly, subservient, and under control. Then the institution will become a remarkably appealing tool for not only the captains of industry, but also the heads of state. It will become an almost irresistible tool to be employed as part of governing the world. And so history repeats itself.
Well, these direful lessons are ones which can be either relived or avoided. But to avoid them people who are inside the process must step outside their own times and context and to view everything within a larger picture. I don’t think bankers, businessmen and lawyers do that often. Indeed, the well educated who lack inspiration are not qualified. Only the meek. Only the humble. As Nephi described us: “they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” (2 Ne. 28: 14.) That was the group to whom I dedicated my book The Second Comforter.
Then I pull myself back into the present reality, and let it all wash over me like a wave. I take a deep breath and I realize how grateful I am for any bit of goodness I can find anywhere. And in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I can find a lot of good. And I count my blessings and rise determined to remain a true, faithful, active Latter-day Saint throughout my life; and to die as an active and contributing fellow member. But reconciling everything, well, I’m told that’s not my calling to do anyway. And I’m grateful to sustain other men to grapple with the management of this historic trend, fraught as it is with the damnation or exaltation of the souls of men. Particularly when they claim to speak in the Lord’s name. For them there is only an “on/off” button. They can’t have it any other way. Either they speak truthfully in the name of the Lord and with His authorization, or they use His name in vain. I certainly wouldn’t want to be put into that spot. So I gratefully sustain those who rush to fill the offices when asked to do so. As one who is simply unfit to serve in such a call, I thank God for my disqualification.
I could go on, but I think it would degenerate into incautious words which will offend the average reader. Given my upbringing in Idaho, I will soon be making scatological references to bovine feces, reverting back to the lexicon of my pre-conversion youth. So I will meekly stop and settle back into the day’s work.