This subject causes a great deal of anxiety for saints. The fact it causes anxiety is proof that the saints have become conditioned to a mythology which requires everything to be good, all to be well, our current path a direct line to Zion itself, and all questions concerning the current state of affairs to be wrong. More than “wrong,” questions are evidence of weak faith and the road to apostasy.
From the questions which started as soon as this subject began, I see I need to reiterate what I said at the first. I have a testimony, I am active in the church, and I am not in a position to change things. I support the brethren, pay tithing, serve where called and do not challenge the right of the regularly constituted authorities to manage the affairs of the church. I rise when President Monson enters a room I am in, I sustain him with my vote, my prayers and my confidence. I admire him. I posted about him a few days back. I meant what I said. I do not envy him nor aspire to church leadership. I am not called and do not anticipate I would ever even be considered; in part because of things like this subject appearing on this blog and concerns raised in books I have written.
I love the church and I am content as a Latter-day Saint. I love my ward and serve gladly wherever I am called.
The fact that those clarifications need to be added again, although it should have been apparent from the beginning remarks, is again revealing how shaky the saints are today. We do not have a foundation that allows us to consider alternatives. We have a single “on/off” switch for all subjects and for our testimonies. That is NOT as it should be. We should be able to confront dilemmas, difficulties, troubling news and failures by leaders while we suspend judgment and tolerate dissonance. We want instant messages, instead of having the patience to see the Hand of the Lord work over decades to bring good things from bad.
An open, candid and critical look at ourselves is not possible with people who are so insecure that they feel threatened. The progression of these insecurities will be disastrous unless at some point it is reversed. When those who raise questions are excluded, told they are weak in the faith and are on the road to apostasy, eventually everyone who is thoughtful is chased away from the church. Instead of celebrating their critical thinking and working to understand issues better, we chase some of the best minds out of the church. I wish all our critics were active members. I wish all our discussions were open enough to allow the marketplace of ideas inside the church to air everything. As I have said before, I believe the truth will prevail. You can knock it down, burn it, pave it over, kill it and threaten it, but it will prevail. A whisper of truth will overcome a hurricane of opposition. It endures. It will triumph.
I’ve only touched on a few matters here. I’m not going to go further at this point. However, the greater mischief we face at present is the de-emphasis of doctrine. We are raising a new breed of Latter-day Saint today whose familiarity with doctrine is negligible. They understand only a fraction of what has been restored, and for many of the doctrines, their understanding is incomplete, or so skewed that they are incorrect. Doctrine has become less important. We feed upon “inspirational stories” that salve the emotions, but do not edify the soul or bring the personal changes necessary to return to God’s presence. More and more of the saints grow up inside this new environment and have never even gained a fundamental command of the doctrines which Joseph Smith restored. Gospel Doctrine classes rehash the same material every four years, which is quite challenging to those who have a memory which goes back decades. The format adopted for teaching involves group discussions, and the teacher becomes a “discussion leader.” Little is learned. The group is made to share fellowship, and feel better for having attended, without any forward momentum in understanding the doctrines of salvation and exaltation.
When, over time, the leadership is replaced at all levels by those who are raised in the current milieu, the church will have completed a transformation back into a Protestant, powerless body of good people who want to do right and feel good about themselves. But the power of godliness will have fled them.
President Packer again sounded the alarm in General Conference. It was a brilliant talk. I use the term “brilliant” to describe the light within it. He said we had done a “good job of correlating” the priesthood “authority” but we had failed to disburse any “power” in the priesthood. I think it was a wonderful talk. What I would like to see discussed is whether there is a cause-and-effect between the correlation process on the one hand, and the admitted failure of priesthood power on the other hand. That discussion, however, cannot happen in the current environment. To ask the question about the underlying wisdom of the correlation process would be to directly challenge the “inspiration” of the prophet Harold B. Lee, who created this process. Therefore, any questions about correlation demonstrates that the one asking questions is weak in the faith and on the road to apostasy. So the discussion cannot occur. That is until we become a little more secure in our faith and are willing to de-mythologize the cult of personality and recognize that questions are the first step to getting answers.
I love the church, and my fellow saints. I mourn many of the changes. However, I also celebrate the fact that the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with all its gifts, privileges, opportunities and power remains still on the earth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints administers the fundamental ordinances of that Gospel. How far you take it is up to you.
There was a talk in General Conference given by a Seventy named Poleman, in which he distinguished between the church and the gospel. The talk is still available on-line in its original form. However, he was required to re-record the talk to conform to the correlation department’s challenge to any statement which distinguished between the church and the gospel. Right now testimonies within the church recite the mantra “I know the church is true.” The correlation process has made the church into god. People’s testimonies of the “church” have supplanted their testimonies of Christ. Read any Ensign issue of any Conference held within ten years after the triumph of the correlation process, and consider how many of the talks focus upon the church and the church’s processes and goodness, in contrast to how many of the talks focus upon Jesus Christ and His doctrines. Christ’s role has been diminished by the emphasis upon the correlated church.
These are trends and traditions. They are at their incipient stages. We are a 180 year old church. Barely out of the cradle, so to speak. But trends endure. Add another 200 years of progression of these trends and you will vindicate the fellow who said: “When Mormons have been Mormons as long as Catholics have been Catholics, the Mormons will be more Catholic than the Catholics.” If you want to see the future of the church in its present course, attend Mass this Saturday evening (held on Saturday so as to keep your Sunday open for basketball playoffs and MLB play now starting).