Monday, November 26, 2012

When Someone Says, "The Church is perfect, but the members aren't."

"Perfect" is defined in Matthew 5:48 as "complete, whole, fully developed".

Based on that definition, the Church isn't perfect, since it isn't "complete, whole, fully developed". At the most fundamental level, our Articles of Faith say as much ("He will yet reveal MANY great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.") - and the organizational development continues to evolve.

To me that's so basic and obvious that I just have to laugh inside when I hear someone say that the Church is perfect but the members aren't. I don't dispute it much publicly, but I do address it whenever the situation makes it possible to be productive and not seen as threatening.

19 comments:

ji said...

I also believe the Church isn't perfect -- but it is the Church established by the Lord Jesus Christ through His prophet in these latter days. The Church doesn't have to be perfect now, just honest and diligent -- perfection will come later. Similarly for each of us -- we don't have to be perfect now, just honest and diligent -- perfection will come later.

Howard said...

Ji,
Is the church honest?

Ben said...

Yes, the church is honest. I think the word perfect is the most overused, misapplied word in the Mormon language. It needs to be removed.

Papa D said...

Yes, Howard, I believe "The Church" is honest - even though many members and leaders aren't in all situations, and even though we have had a few higher leaders for whom honesty was a big issue.

Frankly, "honest" is an incredibly amorphous, subjective term - and even Jesus himself can be accused of being dishonest on more than one occasion, depending on how the word is defined and applied.

Just as a simple example, many things that draw charges of dishonesty because people say they were hidden are things that I read in books and heard in official church classes growing up. In my Sunday School class just yesterday, when I asked the students how the Book of Mormon was used in the earliest missionary work one of my students said, "They used to sell it to people." He is in high school, and he knows about that - because it was recorded and published by "The Church".

That is true of almost every issue imaginable: We know about it largely because it was recorded and published by "The Church".

Finally, "honest" too often is defined to mean "stated or done in a way that I consider to be right". By that definition, no honest person has lived in the entire history of this world.

Howard said...

So portraying Joseph as monogamous is "honest"?

Papa D said...

Yes or no, Howard - depending on the portrayal - and it's not dishonest at all to phrase the answer that way.

If someone who knows better makes the statement, "Joseph was married to only one woman," or, "Joseph was monogamous," those are dishonest statements. However, Joseph was not "a polygamist" in the way that most people picture when they hear that term (living with multiple women and supporting families made of children with those women, like was the case with Brigham Young and during his leadership in Utah). In fact, the evidence points quite clearly, imo, to Joseph not consummating his "marriages" with most of his wives. In practical terms, he lived a "monogamous life" much more than a "polygamous life" - so if "portraying Joseph as monogamous" means showing him with only Emma in the daily events of his life, then that is not dishonest in the slightest.

Finally, the modern LDS Church doesn't "hide" Joseph's polygamy and, to my knowledge, hasn't denied that he was sealed to more than one woman. It's out there and available in multiple sources published by the Church itself, including the D&C. Not stating it normal "portrayals" that have nothing to do with it isn't dishonest.

Howard said...

So misleading in a way that falls short of blatant dishonesty is "honest"?

Howard said...

Are people wrong to expect a high honesty standard from an organization that claims to speak for God?

Papa D said...

As I said, Howard, the Church hasn't denied Joseph's polygamy in my lifetime, and it has published lots of materials that admit it. How is that misleading in any way?

Serious questions:

How, exactly, are "portrayals" you've seen or read in the last 30 years "dishonest"?

How, exactly, do you want the Church to do more to say, for the upteenth time, that Joseph married more than one woman?

Exactly what "portrayals" do you want in the name of total honesty, as you are defining it?

I don't want a theoretical discussion; I want specifics.

Howard said...

I'm out of town blogging from my phone while visiting friends so I am disadvantaged in providing "exactly" the evidance you are demanding. But as I recall the manuals ignore his other wives leaving the impression there was only Emma. Similarly Temple Square sports a statue of a happy Emma with Joseph which I suspect took place at some point in their relationship but ignores Emma's anger about and the existance of his othet wives again leaving the impression of monogamy.

Papa D said...

The Seminary and Institute manuals explicitly state that Joseph instituted polygamy. I know, because I've taught from them.

Papa D said...

and that image is 100% accurate.

Any image from any moment can't be a comprehensive view of a person or a couple. My wife and I disagree sometimes, but the portrayal you described would be an honest, but incomplete, portrayal of our marriage.

Howard said...

Do they make it clear that Joseph was married to many women? Do the presthood manuals?

Papa D said...

Yes, the Seminary and Institute manuals do make that clear. The Priesthood manuals focus on the teachings of the prophets, especially those teachings that are relevant today, so it wouldn't surprise me if the one about Joseph doesn't deal with polygamy at all. I'd have to check.

Howard said...

Is an incomplete portral of of a very controversial issue regarding the Prophet founder something other than misleading? Did this likely occur by chance or accident? Or is this more likely the misleading impression the church wants to portray?

ji said...

PapaD,

Maybe I should apologize for using the term "honest" and starting this diatribe from Howard. But yes, I do believe the Church is honest. Fools will mock and point the finger, and will look to make a man (or the institution) an offender for a word. You can't reason with fools.

I hope this can end the threadjack and future postings here can focus on your original posting.

Papa D said...

Two things:

1) Again, the Church doesn't deny that Joseph instituted and practiced plural marriage. It's admitted over and over and over again in lots of places and never once denied in them.

2) I checked some manuals. The results:

a) D&C 132 is listed as a resource explicitly in the "Gospel Principles" manual in the chapter about marriage.

b) In some of the quotes in the Brigham Young manual, "wives" has been changed to "[wife]" - but that's not dishonest, since the brackets make it clear that the original word was changed. I'm OK with that, since it makes it apply directly to us now - but I would have preferred the original wording be left in place, since everyone knows Brigham Young had lots of wives.

3) Polygamy, as understood by anyone who is not Mormon, doesn't exist any more in the Church. I have no problem with the Church not talking about it outside of the hundreds of references that already exist about it - especially given the first point above. We don't teach Pres. Young's Adam/God theory anymore, and I'm OK with ignoring it in the manuals, since the manuals are supposed to be about what pertains to us now - and since there are tons of other resources that do talk about it.

Likewise, I'm fine with the Church not characterizing the Apostle Paul as sexist or homosexual, even though there are lots of resources that paint as either one or both. Those who believe strongly that he was either or both might label those who portray him as neither as dishonest - and they might say that about those who ignore those things and don't mention them at all. Personally, I don't care enough about either of those things to talk about it, unless someone else brings up the topic. I certainly don't expect to see them mentioned in a Sunday School manual entitled "Teaching of the Prophet, Paul" or in a Seminary or Institute manual. There's WAY too much other stuff to discuss for me to care about prioritizing those things, as valid as I think they are.

Papa D said...

That was three things. *grin*

Thanks, ji - but Howard and I go way back with this type of disagreement. We agree about a lot of things and disagree about a lot of things. I'd like the discussion to go back to the point of the post, as well, but I'm OK with this conversation when it's with Howard - even though I wouldn't be with lots of other people.

Howard said...

Ji diatribe is hyperbole in this case, now isn't it?