I have a few requests for the talk mentioned on this blog. I will send those out later today to the ones who have requested them.
This morning I finished reading the Book of Mormon again. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it through now. Dozens, if not hundreds. It still contains new information and powerful doctrine that I haven’t noticed before. It is apparent they had the Temple rites. They were in possession of greater knowledge than we have among ourselves.
A few days ago I had a conversation with a former Mormon who became Catholic when he left the church. He finished reading Passing the Heavenly Gift and wanted to talk to me about it. It was a wonderful conversation. He talked openly about his experience as a Latter-day Saint and how much the church changed during the four decades he was a member. He talked about how much he liked being a member at first, and how he thought it was the church that changed and not him. He thought it had become increasingly dictatorial and harsh over the years he belonged, and he was at last completely alienated from it.
I mentioned the historic excesses of the Catholic Church, the terrors exercised by their priestly authorities during the Dark Ages and the atrocities of the Inquisition. He admitted their historic shortcomings, but thought these errors were now all behind the Catholics. They had learned from their mistakes, and were now keenly aware that they cannot dictate to people in a modern, pluralistic and secular society. They were now more broad-minded, tolerant and accepting of freedom to think and behave than perhaps almost any other Christian faith. There are things such as abortion and homosexuality, which the Catholic Church condemns, but despite this, whenever personal failure occurs the church’s role is to forgive and to support. There is almost no thought given to church discipline, even in the case of transgressing priests who engage in pedophilia, and homosexual abuses. They accept and rehabilitate, condemn sin, but do not cast away the sinners.
As we talked, he said he expected that Mormonism, which is still in its infancy, will make the historic errors of the Catholic Church rather than to learn from history. He believed Catholicism’s great mistakes were in the past, but he thought Mormonism’s great mistakes are still in its future. He thought it was unlikely my LDS faith would learn from what I’d written in my book and turn away from its current direction. He thought my book offered an opportunity for Mormonism to reassess itself and turn into a more open, hopeful, helpful and tolerant faith because it would be necessarily more humble if it faced down its history.
Well, there were things we could agree on and things we will respectfully disagree. But I respect his faith because it is sincerely held. And he respects mine because he knows of my devotion to it. I enjoyed the open discussion. Neither of us felt threatened by the conversation and neither of us was trying to convert the other. We respected the choices each made in their faith.
As my wife and I walked and talked later that night, we discussed the problem of fear that is often an undercurrent when discussing religion with other people. Whether consciously or unconsciously fear is a great problem when the topic is religion. We puzzled over why that is the case.
With Latter-day Saints, the idea of a “testimony” can be an impediment to increased learning. That should not be the case. A person should be able to have a testimony and learn something new, even if it has the effect of changing their testimony. In fact, it is impossible for a testimony to grow if the new things must always conform to what is presently known. If a person’s understanding is limited, incomplete, or even mistaken, then when a new idea that conflicts with these incomplete, limited or mistaken ideas is encountered, the temptation is always to resort to measuring the new ideas by the old, mistaken ones.
The Nephites followed the Law of Moses. But when Christ taught them He informed them the Law was fulfilled in Him. (3 Ne. 15: 2-4.) Can you imagine what the result would have been if the Nephites chose to measure Christ’s message against their “testimony of the Law of Moses.” They would have rejected our Savior, knowing that He was false and trying to deceive them because He was teaching something that conflicted with their prior testimony.
Fear is a tool used to limit inquiry. Fear is a tool used to keep people from repenting and facing God. The path to God can only be found when you refuse to share in the confederacy of fear held by your fellow man. (Isa. 8: 11-13; see also 2 Ne. 18: 11-13.) For those controlled by their fears, they will view Christ’s way as a stumbling block and an offense. (Isa. 8: 14-15; also 2 Ne. 18: 14-15.)
What if your testimony is incomplete? What if your understanding is wrong? How can God ever work to your satisfaction if you refuse to acknowledge His gifts among His people? (Moro. 10: 24-25.)
As our conversation continued, my wife was of the view that fear is one of the most effective ways to prevent learning. It shuts more minds and curtails God’s gifts more than any other tool in Satan’s arsenal. It takes faith to allow your beliefs to be corrected by the Lord’s continuing revelations. He always imparts things that are unexpected, and which require you to adjust what you are thinking to a new, and greater light.