The “Historic Christian” faith fragmented because of centralized control seeking to govern even the thoughts of “Christian” believers. The creed I quoted in Part 1 says Christians “must think thus” about God. The rulers of the church were not content to claim they held the keys, but wanted to micromanage even the minds of their followers.
On November 1, 1478, Pope Sixtus IV issued his edict titled “Exigit sincere devotionis” which authorized the appointment of “inquisitors” to assure the thoughts of faithful “Christians” were doctrinally pure. This authorization allowed the Catholic kings of Europe to not merely preach the religion, but also to police and compel orthodoxy. Those who were regarded as non-conforming were to be treated as heritics and to be persecuted, even destroyed.
If what they were doing was good, then in the eyes of the hierarchy no deed done in pursuit of the “true Christian faith” was to be avoided; even if the means used involved treachery, deceit and torture. The “truth” was just so important that it justified whatever needed doing to accomplish it.
To incentivize the inquiries, the kings were allowed to confiscate heritics’ property. Thus it was financially beneficial to the kings to determine there were heritics among them. In the extremity of torture, almost any person would confess they were heretical to end their pain.
The Inquisition was made possible from the work done two centuries earlier by the man now known as “St. Dominic.” He envisioned the idea of moving from persuasion to excommunication to compel conformity among “Christians.” If that failed to reform, then he thought it well to engage in even more coercive means, such as confiscation of property and corporeal punishment. This would allow the wayward to be reclaimed. After all, if the church held the keys to save people, then using those keys in coercive ways was justified by the ultimate goal of saving souls. Pope Pius XII would cooperate with Hitler in the Balkans using the same justification.
St. Dominic conceived of a religious order that would be devoted soley to the duty to combatting heresy and propogating the “true Catholic faith.” This order, now known as the Domicans, was known by other, earlier nicknames. They were initially the Militia of Christ. They took St. Dominic’s name only after his death. Much later, after they headed the effort to eradicate heresy by policing the Inquisition, they were known as the “hounds of God” or the “dogs of God” because of their zeal in shedding the blood of heretics.
When a religion abandons the obligation to persuade, and resorts to intimidation and coercion, it has lost the battle. Whenever this happens, the faith declines. “Christianity” was already losing its grip when the Pope Sixtus IV Bull was issued. The Inquisition that followed guaranteed there would be protests against the greatly altered church which benefitted and promoted the Inquisition.
In Mormonism there is a doctrinal bulkwark in place to prevent this kind of historic error from being repeated. Our scriptures decry the use of any means, however slight, to compel conformity. We have no “orthodox” creed in Mormonism. We welcome all truth, from whatever source. We have the following statements in our scriptures:
“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dicates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” 11th Article of Faith.
We condemn those “whose hearts are so set upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson –That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. …[W]hen we undertake to cover our sins, or gratify our pride, our vain ambitions, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” (D&C 121: 35-37, emphasis added.)
Our faith permits one means to “control” members: “[O]nly by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul.” (D&C 121: 41.)
We are hemmed in, curtailed and cannot behave as St. Dominic deemed necessary, and as the Holy Inquisition performed. We are relegated to use only persuasion. If we hold a truth as correct, then the burden rests on us to advance it persuasively and to bring others to voluntarily accept it. Our only power, as a church, is in the meek advancement of truth by our persuasion and example. Force, dominion and control is not ours to use. So in this sense also Mormonism departs dramatically from Historic Christianity.
Furthermore, a well respected official LDS Church Historian published an article in the BYU Studies magazine titled, “I Don’t Have A Testimony of Church History.” In it, Assistant LDS Church Historian Davis Bitton explained that when it comes to the LDS Church’s history, we are free as church members to believe and express our beliefs on any topic because we do not have an official version. For example, he remarked specifically he did not have a “testimony” of the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
One of the great strengths of my religion is the open willingness to allow freedom of thought, and to require the better view to be established only by persuasion, and never by coercion.
We should never lapse into the darkness of policing the thoughts of Mormons by a central hierarchy bent on extinguishing different thought among Mormons. We have no “orthodox” criteria which can be used to carve some believers out and relegate them to the status of “apostate” or “heretic,” and thereby dismember the membership. Our faith was established on a scriptural and doctrinal foundation which precludes it. Each Mormon is responsible for what they believe and to provide reasons to persuade others of the correct view.
This necessarily requires a good deal of work for Mormons. We are required to research and gather the information for ourselves. We are free to believe as we will, but to defend our religion we must undertake some work to find it. Therefore, the most devout members of the religion are also among the most studious of the church. We are permitted to believe as we will, but the church is under no obligation to do the work for us. We study, research and ponder this faith individually. For we believe salvation is individual, not collective.