“Woe is me! The end is nigh! Only the Apocalypse can save us now! Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war! All is lost!”
It seems like this is what I hear all the time now at Church – thundering cries of despair and panic echoing from the pulpit and out of the classroom doors. Tormented souls in Stake Priesthood Leadership proclaiming their disillusioned anguish about missionary efforts failing repeatedly to gain the momentum they once seemed to have and disappearing into the hellish void. Speakers at General Conference choking out proclamations of pain and doom in the face of insurmountable odds as the Conference Centre takes on the gloomy ambience of a global crisis in the United Nations General Assembly or the war room in Doctor Strangelove.
….Well, I may be exaggerating slightly, but on the current trajectory we might as well start behaving like this now because it is where we will all be in 5 years at this rate I reckon.
I should be used to this by now – I was a Mormon teenager in the 1980’s, pretty close to the front line of the Cold War in Southeast England where we were told to expect a 4 minute warning of Soviet nuclear strikes compared to the 30 seconds that Germany had. The TV and newspapers were very clear that there was a high probability that we were all going to be killed by, or even worse survive, a nuclear apocalypse at some point, unless a highly improbable political miracle occurred and the entire USSR collapsed without an atomic exchange.
My generation of young Mormons were also being told, in time honoured tradition, that we were the most super-special, saved for the last hour of the last days to witness the Church fill the earth… and then to have the ‘privilege’ of watching it all go up in plague and famine and flames and behold the returning Christ with his red robe of vengeance kicking some communist butt, hopefully rescuing some of us at the last minute. The details change a bit, but it is heart-warming to see our grandchildren starting to be told the same story about their challenging and noble destiny. Bless. I presume it’s this sort of thing Elder Ballard meant in his October 2016 General Conference talk ‘To whom shall we go?’ when he said “Where will you go to find people who live by a prescribed set of values and standards that you share and want to pass along to your children and grandchildren?”
The Prophet of my teenage years was Ezra Taft Benson, a right wing nut job who wrote books about the Red Peril that my parents lapped up. As an Apostle he had declared to the world in October 1967 General Conference in his eye-watering talk ‘Trust Not in the Arm of Flesh’, after first asserting the divinity of the racist priesthood ban, that the civil rights campaigners were naïve stooges being led and controlled by communists, and allegations of police brutality against the Negroes were part of this deceitful conspiracy.
Shortly before President Benson possibly had a machine sign my mission call to Alabama to find out for myself what the Civil Rights fuss had really been about and slipped into a coma, I had the privilege of a school trip to Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia in February 1989 to catch the last moments of totalitarian communism before Perestroika unleashed the miracle. We swapped chocolate and biros for Soviet flags and badges with the huddled masses and spoke to young people our own age whose further education and careers had already been decided for them by the government. I hope freedom came just in time for them to start choosing their own destiny rather than being trapped in the aftermath of a flawed 10 Year Plan that was never going to work decided upon by regional level bureaucrats without consulting them. As my Church region stares into the scary end if the 2010 Europe Area 10 Year Plan to double sacrament attendance amid falling attendance and the inevitable conclusion that whatever ‘Hasten The Work’ was meant to mean it has in reality slowed ‘The Work’ down…a lot…I have growing empathy for the demoralising experience of dysfunctional totalitarian systems that was the stuff of their lives.
While I was having a wonderful time navigating the apartheid communities and cultures of racist Alabama (where ironically the Mormons were one of the very few local churches with racially integrated congregations) everything got turned on its head. The Soviet Union did collapse without nukes going off. The First Gulf War began the replacement of goose-stepping Commies with radical Muslims as the new antichrist warriors of Armageddon. “Maybe Saddam ‘So Damn Insane’ Hussein is the prophesied antichrist?” the Bible Belt was wondering to itself out loud around me as we watched the midnight bombardment of Baghdad on TV, tied yellow ribbons around trees, and prayed for the men and women of the Alabama National Guard to come home safe while an understandably jittery USA engaged in its first proper war since the debacle of Vietnam.
After my mission I started to hear some truly weird stuff from Gordon Hinckley, the genial new prophet. He seemed to think the end wasn’t quite so nigh after all. He seemed to think that maybe Armageddon and the return of Christ wasn’t definitely happening in the next 10 years. He seemed quite perky about the awesome possibilities the modern world offered us. He was happy to chat to the media like a friendly and open human being, an essential skill in the 1990’s when it was still possible to project and control a coherent impression to the public through the limited number of media outlets that everyone depended upon for information. He even told us Young Single Adults in a broadcast to plan for the future, expect to raise grandchildren and need a pension, and told us to stop being fatalistic snowflakes. He lived through the actual Great Depression at our age, and nothing we were going through was really worth getting all doomy about compared to that. His generation survived and thrived, and was reaching out from history to slap some common sense and a reality check into us with a cheerful chuckle.
Well, that was a pleasant surprise! We were allowed to be hopeful, not take ourselves too seriously, and take our ‘attitude of gratitude’ into a sunny future where we could fill the world with the Gospel, and maybe actually enjoy it for a while before the wars and plagues. Doom was still inevitable of course, but for the first time we were allowed to start questioning the urgent timetable for it that Cleon Scousen and the ward preppers had always seemed so sure of.
And so we entered what seems like a brief golden age now, like the Edwardian summers before the Great War. Our wards in the International Church (which includes the Deep South outside the Deseret Motherland of course) had matured to the point where a stable Seminary and YSA program and going on a mission were the norm rather than the exception. The internet was something you did inefficient research for university on. Social media was still a dream for a future age. The Church social life was great; the black Mormons were marrying the white Mormons and making beautiful babies, sometimes in that order, and noone freaked out with visceral racist bile. The secular youth culture of the time was about neo-hippy love, tolerance, environmental awareness and having friends who were gay and legal. The world was becoming a kinder and gentler place, and it felt like the Church’s rhetoric and culture was becoming the same under Gordon’s mostly benign leadership.
They even rewrote the whole missionary program to be flexible and put the investigator and their interests first rather than railroading them through a one size fits all straight jacket of artificial dialogue, and seemed to care more about retention than targets and numbers.
Hinckley also purged the really terrifying and creepy bits out of the temple Endowment and basically made the Church safe enough for my Granny, who had raised a huge clan of Mormon children and grandchildren, to finally join it herself. She became a great fan of Gordon and Marjorie Pay Hinckley, whose vision of embracing the world with non-judgmental, down to earth compassionate love so closely chimed with her own. Gordon had worked closely with my medical student Grandad on various LDS youth projects during his pre-War mission in London at the start of both their long lifetimes of service in the Church, and had now poetically become a crucial player in completing Grandad’s eternal family dream when his Best Beloved was baptised just before he died.
And to top it all off, serious scholars like Rodney Stark were projecting exponential growth and a Mormon membership of 265 million by 2080.
So where did all that positivity and hope go?! Why, instead of each of us being a stake president of a multitude of recent converts as we were told to expect in our youth, am I surrounded by people who have given up hope for growth and are blaming everyone but ourselves as an institution for our plummeting Church attendance rates? Why are we haemorrhaging so many of our brightest and best young people, and even experienced leaders, who can’t stand it any longer? Why are our steadily falling conversion rates per full time missionary now so bad that 2016’s overall growth rate of 1.59% was the lowest we have had since 1937 when my Grandad finished school and headed to London?
Why have we got more people in the Address Unknown Files than the ward lists, and most of the people still on ward lists are inactive? Why does the gentle embrace of the world in a warm hug in an increasingly tolerant and politically neutral Church seem like such a distant memory as we pick through the aftermath of another wave of brutal, polarising and divisive doctrinal and political Mormon attacks on civil rights and equality, this time against the “counterfeit” relationships and families of people based on their sexuality rather than their race?
Why do a lot of the leadership seem to be having a collective stroppy sulk after inevitably losing the battle over Gay Marriage that they never stood any chance of winning, despite their claims to be prophets with wisdom and foresight who have a clearer overview of what the future holds then the rest of us? Why are they stomping about the earth promoting a persecution complex by obsessing about imaginary threats to religious freedom when we are less persecuted than at any time in our history? Why has Utah’s government declared pornography a state of emergency public health crisis while Utah’s religion is still unable to talk about teenage sexuality with common sense and healthy honesty to our conflicted and guilt-ridden young people?
And why are they spiritually throwing actual babies and children, along with several fundamental scriptures and Articles of Faith, under the bus with the tragicomedy of errors that has burst out of the November 2015 Policy…in whichever of the 4 forms it has now been presented to us it even exists? I’m all for getting with the march of 21st century science, but to have my trust in the leadership’s competence severely rattled by a policy/political statement/doctrine/Revelation that exists as a sort of quantum probability wave that resolves itself into radically different forms depending on who is explaining or observing it is something I definitely was not expecting. Crazy times.
I am just relieved that Gordon and Marjorie and my grandparents are not here watching this car crash with me in the last twilight of their lives. This is the Great Depression my generation has to find a way to survive.
The apostles for a while now seem to have been bred more to be dependable managers of the many institutions and investment wings of the Corporation of the President / Presiding Bishopric of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Deseret Management Corporation than to be sophisticated theologians and historians, cocooned from our realities by a General Authority salary beyond most of our wildest dreams as we have discovered this year. They have also clearly been taken as much by surprise by the poisoned chalice of suppressed information and inaccurate history telling their predecessors handed us all as we have been after the internet information tsunami of the last 10 years blasted through all our front doors.
Somewhat to their credit, they haven’t even pretended to know what to do with or about all that and have delegated the job in total to friendly professional historians, apologists and lawyers who have written the important stuff for them, such as the Gospel Topics Essays, the Joseph Smith Papers Project, new more accurate biographies of Joseph Smith, and allegedly even a lot of the content of the Proclamation on the Family, which was initially created to assist the early campaign against gay marriage legislation in Hawaii.
The problem is though that the ministering wing has hardly begun to process and offer spiritual and emotional context and support to the membership in dealing with the fallout from the radioactive information bombs being dropped by the industrious new information wing of the Church. At first there was uneasy radio silence in the mainstream formats for communicating with the membership – the Church magazines and General Conference; just more of the default mode steady patter of dire warnings against seeking information about Church history and doctrine from the internet while carefully avoiding naming any of the herd of elephants in the room. As anyone knows who actually uses the internet for research every day (i.e. all the developed world’s school children and most of the adults) this is the exact logical equivalent of telling the entire membership not to depend on researching in libraries if you want accurate information. Just trust one ideologically biased publisher which has just admitted a lot of its previously published materials were very inaccurate.
Elder Ballard, car salesman by training, has stepped up and been earnestly urging everyone to get familiar with the Essays and the new materials and “know them like the back of your hand” as he said in his address to the CES teachers last year. Of course, typically, that single punchy and memorable phrase was edited out of the version of his talk published in the Ensign in December 2016 because someone somewhere is apparently still very keen that we don’t actually get to know the Essays quite THAT well because…well…have you READ them?!!! They reveal a horror story of deceptions, racism, adulterous betrayal of male and female spouses, and undermine several key pillars of our collective beliefs about ourselves and where our religion came from.
So we are in a strange period of radical transition where the left hand if the leadership really don’t seem to have fully understood yet what the right hand is doing, or how to help the membership cope with things like the seer stone appearing in photographic form in the Ensign, and cartoon form in the Friend magazine in February 2017.
There is a general cacophony of ‘OK, yes something major is afoot and the Good Ship Zion has indeed crashed into some rocks, but stay in the boat anyway, everything is fine…if you see anything disturbing or confusing don’t look too hard at it, remember what a great ship this is when it isn’t sinking and concentrate on that! The people who have jumped off and run ashore were just too weak and lazy to hold on.’
We start to notice individuals we recognise becoming caricatures of themselves as they cope with the crisis by holding tight to their personal ‘happy places’ where they feel most confident and secure, and trying to shore up the heart and head of the stranded Body of Christ. Eyring and Holland are taking care of emotional business – Henry weeps endless stigmatic tears like a comforting Pieta while Geoffrey is getting cross and ranting about ‘taffy pulling’ wimps, not breaking your Mother’s heart by leaving the Church even though we expect people to do that to join it, and declaring yet again that noone could fake even a page of the Book of Mormon. It’s all nonsense, but reassuringly familiar and delivered with that same uncomplicated confidence from the happy days before nuanced reality and sceptical analysis of what they were actually saying came and spoiled it all.
The Autistic Spectrum Male Rationalists Oaks and Bednar are working on the head rather than the heart, fixing everything with their version of logic by explaining that the problems we think are there don’t really exist. We have all simply misunderstood the true meaning of WORDS, and they are helpfully teaching us the real meaning of the words in the ship’s operating manual…and the dictionary, which people so often get so wrong. If we will just listen to their helpfully thorough explanations of the etymology of reality and words like ‘loyal opposition’ and ‘homosexual Mormon’ everything will make sense and we will realise the ship is actually still sailing along fine out there in the sea over there, not run aground here, despite our befuddled perceptions that have got lost in translation.
Oh, and conveniently there is no need to actually apologise for anything bad or deceitful or harmful they or their predecessors did because (pay attention to the “Prophetic Voice” now! Can you feel it?) “I know that the history of the Church is not to seek apologies or to give them.” “I am not aware that the word apology appears anywhere in the scriptures – the Bible or the Book of Mormon. The word apology contains a lot of connotations in it and a lot of significance…blah blah etc etc” (His ACTUAL words!) Well, that’s sorted that misunderstanding out then. Thanks Elder Oaks!
With a few very noble exceptions in each Conference, pretty much everyone else has reverted to basic 1980’s mode to cope with failure and decline – it’s because the world is becoming more wicked, and the other churches are declining too, so it’s inevitable really.
The thing that enrages and terrifies me in equal measures about this increasingly universal negativity narrative is that it is a complete betrayal of everything we are meant to be about. Of course the other churches are declining – to paraphrase the immortal Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch, they are apostate! They’ve passed on! They are no more! They have ceased to be! They’ve expired and gone to meet their maker! They’re bereft of life! They rest in peace! Their metabolic processes are now history! They’ve kicked the bucket and shuffled off their mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!!
WE, however, are the true and living Church with the real priesthood and power of God and living prophets. We are the stone made without hands rolling forth to fill the world. “The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing.”
Making it acceptable to decline in the same way as other churches in an increasingly secular world is to declare that all of the stuff about being the only true Church perfectly suited and prepared for the latter days and better than the rest is nonsense. It is totally deserting the ramparts, abandoning the battlefield, surrendering. We should be hoovering up the disillusioned multitudes fleeing the dead churches. We should be swamped by Millennials, not demoralised and scared by them – we have the gospel for the modern age and the Hubble universe. Our theology embraces the positive social action and community they crave AND the trillions of galaxies with their hundreds of billions of solar systems teeming with life. Every Stake boundary is full of millions of decent, tolerant, compassionate human beings who care about freedom and feeding the poor and not bullying people for their race or sexuality. People who will flock to the True Church if only they can be shown where to find it. This is the moment we have been preparing and working for – but apparently that party has been cancelled.
Instead we are going to obsess about opposing gay marriage and alienate people with compassionate instincts for justice and mercy. We are going to invest billions in expensive property developments for the rich instead of building cities of light on a hill for the poor. We are going to tell people that obedience rather than love is the first law of heaven, and that ignorance and blind faith are more holy states than education and honesty. Instead of fixing the many obvious and easily reformable flaws in our outdated programs and strategies so they can work again, we are going to wait for an apocalyptic cataclysm like the wars and famines that humbled people in the Book of Mormon in the futile hope that this will motivate people to rush to our pews.
Come on people! If you really have no faith any more that our Church can and should be experiencing exponential growth before I shuffle off this mortal coil, attractive for its own merits without needing a cataclysm, for goodness’ sake stop bed-blocking and make way for, or at least listen to, the thousands of us who are brimming with ideas and inspiration about how to do all this a whole lot better. Seminary scripture Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-29 told us in 1831 that ordinary Church members already have permission from God to innovate and get creative in our ministry, and even that this is the only way to avoid collective damnation. It really isn’t rocket science. But the fear of change or innovations coming from the grass roots rather than octogenarian white Utahns is so overwhelming that time and again the Mormon with the temerity to suggest a better way to fulfil Joseph Smith’s vision of global triumph is slapped down, patronised, suspected of apostate rebellion and called an antichrist online, or to their face by ecclesiastical leaders.
So our steady decline into a small remnant of unimaginative and defeatist homophobic Amish with food storage instead of farms will inexorably continue. We are being sucked back into the pre-Hinckley feedback loop of impending doom.
Well, we need to nix this negativity narrative – kill it dead! Every time the doctrine and self-sabotaging excuse of despair and blaming the world instead of ourselves for our incompetent and too often pharisaical methods and attitudes rears its ugly head, we need to speak up and slap it down.
Just take the April 2017 General Conference. If people quote Elder Mark A Bragg’s completely delusional propaganda – “The Church is a beacon of light to a darkening world. This is a wonderful time to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! The Church is stronger than it has ever been and quite literally grows stronger each day as new members join us, new congregations are formed, new missionaries are called, and new territories are opened to the gospel. We see those who have slipped from activity in the Church for a time returning as the rescue envisioned by President Thomas S. Monson brings daily miracles.” – we need to gently but firmly point out the real statistics and the waves of falling attendance and closing wards and stakes and suggest this isn’t the time to rest on our laurels, because there aren’t any.
When they get doomy like Elder Nelson – “My dear brothers and sisters, we live in a most difficult dispensation. Challenges, controversies, and complexities swirl around us. These turbulent times were foreseen by the Saviour. He warned us that in our day the adversary would stir up anger in the hearts of men and lead them astray” – we need to remind them that the Silver Fox apostle dropped another Dieter Bomb of hope and common sense as he struggles to co-pilot the Good Airplane Zion away from the looming tornado of despair he can see clearly on his radar:
“One of the ways Satan wants us to manipulate others is by dwelling upon and even exaggerating the evil in the world. Certainly our world has always been, and will continue to be, imperfect. Far too many innocent people suffer because of circumstances of nature as well as from man’s inhumanity. The corruption and wickedness in our day are unique and alarming. But in spite of all this, I wouldn’t trade living in this time with any other time in the history of the world. We are blessed beyond measure to live in a day of unparalleled prosperity, enlightenment, and advantage. Most of all, we are blessed to have the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which gives us a unique perspective on the world’s dangers and shows us how to either avoid these dangers or deal with them. When I think of these blessings, I want to fall to my knees and offer praises to our Heavenly Father for His never-ending love for all of His children. I don’t believe God wants His children to be fearful or dwell on the evils of the world. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” He has given us an abundance of reasons to rejoice. We just need to find and to recognize them. The Lord often reminds us to “be not afraid,” to “be of good cheer,” and to “fear not, little flock.”
Elder Uchtdorf is massively out-numbered like the rest of us in the Church who are still active AND hopeful for a future of real growth and progression if we can just throw off the mountain of pharisaical sediments he spoke about in October 2015; but I believe he is right, and truth can only prevail if we have the courage to keep speaking truth to power like he does.
Really excellent insights here.
Wow just wow. You said it Brother! Sharing
Excellent synopsis of the current state of affairs. Many thanks for reading my mind (and undoubtably many others).
Nature always finds a way. May we all evolve peacefully.
AMEN and AMEN!
The main item I came away from conference was that it seemed to me that Elder Uchtdorf was just shy of calling out the majority of fellow conference talk presenters for being so “gloom and doom” and using fear. I just wonder how many of those that gave talks looked at what he said and contemplated if they maybe had gone overboard on the use of “the world is going to hell”.
Very well articulated as usual Peter
Excellent essay! Enjoyed reading very much. It seems that you may have become a Mouthpiece for those of us who cannot express these frustrations more fluidly.
Good grief Peter –
Has the rainy English climate got the better of you? Maybe you need to move to a sunnier clime. Or come visit us where never is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.
The Church is growing – around here we see new stakes and wards. But that is not important. The Book of Mormon teaches that the Saints will be few but worldwide. How many do we really need anyway to really get things going after the Second Coming?
I was recently released after almost 3 year as a Young Single Adult Ward Bishop – we had 60 ward members ward get married during this time – only two were not temple weddings. All seem to be doing well.
Elder Benson?! Are you serious? That was half a century ago. Did you not notice that in the manual we studied on him there was no mention of his political opinions. The Brethren are not stupid. And you mention conspiracy theorist Cleon Skousen? Wow – you really had to dig deep for that one.
We are now in somewhat of a golden age with scholars working hand in hand with the Brethren. There have never been so many really good historians and other types of scholars in the Church. It’s hard to keep up with all the good stuff being published.
Our religion is a glorious work in progress; it is a divine/human enterprise. Why focus on the human foibles and not on the divine aspects?
“Angels from heav’n and truth from earth have met, and both have record borne; Thus Zion’s light is bursting forth to bring her ransomed children home.”
Hi Ken! I’m definitely up for visiting where the skies are not cloudy all day and very pleased you are experiencing growth. Unfortunately that is very far from the typical experience here in Europe where there is a steady decline occurring with wards and stakes being consolidated and falling attendance. This was probably starting while you were here but seems to be picking up pace, particularly in Holland. Same in Latin America. We probably only have around 3 million active members globally if there are 30,000 wards and we assume about 100 active members each on average.
Benson and Skousen are not ancient history for me – they were dominant influences throughout my formative teenage years and fed into the collectively held and still prevalant idea that the Second Coming is always around the corner – just a few Signs of the Times to tick off and we are there. You seem to have reiterated that worldview in your comment, saying in effect it doesn’t matter that we are not very good at growing or missionary work because we are just in a holding pattern to wait till the Second Coming when the real work will begin. What if the second coming isn’t for another 300 years? The early Christians thought it was imminent, as did the first Mormons nearly 200 years ago. We could be converting millions of people here and now with the right strategies. They deserve it now and need it now. My opinion is rather than being overwhelmed by the size of the world’s population and despairing that we can become a majority religion, our lowest level ambition should be at least to conclude that surely we can convert one person in 100 and have a membership of 72 million. As I said in the essay, the message I have always got is we are meant to be the saviours of dead Christianity and we have a living prophet and modern scriptures and a second witness of Christ and unique access to Spirit and priesthood that should all give us a massive advantage compared to other Christian denominations, so if some of them are still growing faster than we are something has gone very wrong indeed.
I agree very much the Church is a work in progress we should all work on and welcome the new honesty in history, but that knowledge is still not being processed by a lot of members and the Salt Lake Tribune reported this week on yet another Gospel Doctrine teacher released because they quoted the Essays in their lesson as instructed to but the uninformed members couldn’t handle it and freaked out.
When we are told to pay very close attention to every word coming out if the mouths of the Prophets Seers and Revelators and treat them as infallible as many members and leaders do, including quotes affirming that in the Ezra Benson study guide, then the ‘human foibles’ in what they teach and do become the foibles of the whole institution of the Church and therefore matter profoundly in ways that cannot be ignored. Members quote Apostles all the time and use every word they say to guide their beliefs and attitudes and how they judge each other.
Some people get very uncomfortable when I specifically quote or criticise the preaching of a particular General Authority, but they have a huge responsibility and claim in some cases far more than they should have, so they should be held accountable for what they say and do, just as we are constantly scrutinised and judged for what we say and do by them and local leaders. They aren’t snowflakes and they are quite happy to bully me from the pulpit at times or label me as an enemy of the Church as an intellectual feminist like Boyd K Packer did. I haven’t begun to match the specific hostile verbal attacks they have launched against me and my friends and family members over the years, too often driving them out of the Good Ship Zion. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander 😉
Hey Peter –
I am serious about a visit (best during a summer) and bring the family. We have plenty of room. This year is Canada’s 150th birthday – a lot going on.
Good point about the millennium could be far off and I like your positive attitude.
I think members are starting to realize that “. . .Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. . .” as Pres Hinckley put it. It is interesting that Joseph Smith never once gave a sermon on the Book of Mormon. He disagreed with the hell and damnation approach of some of the zealous Nephite Prophets. He was at heart a universalist.
One note about Elder Packers statement about feminists, gays and intellectuals – I don’t take that too seriously. I saw a video where somebody questioned him on it and he said something to the effect. “did I say that?” and then sort of joked about it.”
We have some great scholars in the Church. I just finished reading the blockbuster, “Science the Key to Theology” by Steven Peck. I highly recommend it:
I am not the surprised about a few souls in deepest darkest Utah or Southeastern Idaho* freaking out over the Essays. Speaking of ships, despite all the now public horrors of the current While House, many of the Saints still cling to the good ship GOP. (-:
*and some Canucks wherever FOX “News” can be found.
Hey Peter when I first read your article I thought you were suffering with PTSD from serving in Alabama. You know the edge of outer darkness! But it appears you had a great Mission. Thank you for serving! Then I thought a “Secondary Teacher” … as Willie T (from LA ..lower Alabama)used to say “he be smarter then the rest of us”. Or as you Brits say “more intelligent”! But it is very apparent you had your feelings stepped on.
So instead of building faith and testimony you complain, tear down, and disdain. It is obvious you do not like old white Utah men. Especially used car salesmen. Good thing there wasn’t any fisherman in this group. So my friend of all your complaining, tearing down, and disdaining you are adding to those woes you speak of about the Church. I am sure I probably heard you bear your testimony ( in one of those small Wards/ Branches in Florida, Alabama, or Mississippi) about how you sustained the Prophet, the Apostles, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was the only true Church. Come on my friend your a better man then this! Roy B
Well written Peter! Lots of spot on insights. By the way I served a mission in Alabama 87-89. Nothing like being a missionary in the Bible belt!
Thankyou Nathan. Yes! It was weird being one of the less crazy churches in the neighbourhood and one of the least racist! I found it fascinating seeing the absolute worst of Evangelical / Pentacostal Christianity in full flow with every exploitative corruption imaginable. After my mission I was very involved in my university’s Christian Union which was dominated by rather naive British Happy Clappies very excited by a pretty mild form of Pentacostal shennanigans called The Toronto Blessing and thought this was the great hope for a mass conversion of the country and I wanted to take them all to Alabama to have a close look at the horror they were heading towards. I adored the Bible Belt though – everyone was very respectful of what we were doing and the hospitality was incredible. I was in the Florida Tallahassee Mission which at the time had north Florida, south Alabama and a county each from Mississippi and Georgia just in case it wasn’t Deep South enough LOL.
Thank you!!!! I agree and am hopeful that we will see some amazing changes in our wonderful church.
A long article indeed. At least a couple of sittings were required to finish it. I was so enthralled that I didn’t want it to end!!
I love your reference to D&C 58:26-29. We are not to be commanded in all things. But, Jesus did give us a commandment in D&C 28:13 & 26:2. “All things must be done by common consent.”
The verses you referenced, tell us that if we “receive a commandment with doubtful heart, and keep it with slothfulness, the same is damned.”
Until the membership starts obeying the commandment of consent, we are damned to keep getting the same leadership style and the same declining membership results. The ball is in our court, not in that of the apostles. If we keep voting in agreement, they will keep doing whatever they want to do. The restored church was meant to be run with a system of checks and balances. We have given up the rights and privileges that Jesus Christ gave the general membership by means of the Law of Common Consent. The corrections you are looking for will only come when the wisdom of consent it applied. It’s a beautiful law. Ugly things are happening from casting it aside.
Kia ora Peter. Chris Poipoi New Zealand. Loved your article. I especially enjoy your many tongue-in-cheek rhetorics. You made this Sunday morning additionally enjoyable!
You may have noticed (or not) that I no longer engage in discussions regarding the Church. For me the answer to every piece of hypocrisy comes back to one conclusion – God didn’t and doesn’t direct it.
However, I do think he had and has a hand in trying to inspire LDS man to do good, just like he has inspired many other humans throughout history (and I’m not just talking about White Male Utahns!).
My engagement is now on favour of actually trying to aid all humans, not just ones with a Baptism certificate.
Nice to hear your thoughts.
The church is beyond saving! Jump I say! I’ve had it with the hypocrisy, and as you yourself outed
“We are going to tell people that obedience rather than love is the first law of heaven, and that ignorance and blind faith are more holy states than education and honesty.”
The handbook changes but more so the church’s actions, stance on homosexuality are beyond intolerant, void of love or compassion and abhorrent to me ~ in fact quite evil. This is not the “one true church” ~ the “essays” indicate that very fact. Jump the sinking ship! There is no ballast and it’s taking on an inordinate among if water! Even the rats know it
I can certainly empathise with your perspective. It is not encouraging to wade through all the lies and embarrassing hidden details of our history that are starting to see the light of day outside the ‘anti Mormon literature’ and reach mainstream members in different ways. Personally I still see great ‘Unique Selling Points’ in Mormonism’s theology that I will try to explore in future essays that I still put in the balance, but a painful renegotiation of one’s relationship with the Church and its history and message becomes necessary to carry on.
I identify with your sentiments and insights into LDS doctrine/principles. I agree with how fallible the Prophets and Apostles have been. There have been some inspiring men speak from the pulpit, just as there have been some terrifying revelations made which marginalize women and non white races.
I was always frustrated that JS took so long to recover the Gold Plates, after his first vision and visitations from Moroni. The first of a succession of events that never quite made sense to me. I remember as a child of the 50’S listening to my mother explain polygamy to a woman investigating the church. I had no concept of man/woman love or sexual conjugal activities, but in spite of that I was appalled at not being the only woman married to my husband. My “Shelf” started to build pages well before I turned 8. I could not understand why “the Saints” were persecuted for following the Gospel of the True Church. That really bothered me…but why…it didn’t make sense. So, it was a relief to find that the persecution was as a result of Joseph Smith’s activities and defiance of the Law, and it was not only non-members who were questioning of his authority, and divinity as spokesman for God. I do think JS was a person of vision, but I don’t believe he met with God, Jesus Christ or an angel named Moroni. I think he was a dreamer, with a fantastic imagination, who as a young man was earnestly seeking to know “Which church is true?”.
I enjoyed reading this. The last paragraph resonated. We tried speaking up with courage. They excommunicated us for it. “Leadership roulette” prevails, to be certain. So much for 40 years of dedicated service…
We now see the LDS church for what it really is and wish we would have jumped ship sooner. Cheers.