Monday, October 18, 2010

Church-Wide Vanilla; Individual Flavoring

“Is it the Church’s duty to create a list called “dirty laundry” and then say, “These are troubling issues that some people have, and here is our best take on them”?

No, not “The Church” at the top leadership level. Their duty is to preach Jesus resurrected and His Church restored. If people want academic treatments, they should turn to academicians to provide them; if they want scientific answers, they should turn to scientists to provide them; if they want historical perspective, they should turn to historians to provide it; if they want “witnessing” answers, they should turn to witnesses to provide them.

I don’t want “The Church” to reincarnate Bruce R. McConkie expressing personal opinion on non-Gospel topics as official doctrine. I want Kevin Barney and Ardis Parshall and Armand Mauss and Richard Bushman and Jan Shipps and Bill McKinnon and Henry Eyring and Hugh Nibley and others to “explain” Mormon history and science and scriptural exegesis and other topics. I want the apostles and prophets to preach and minister and administer.

I don’t want “The Church” to spoon-feed me everything I should eat, pureed to a consistency any baby could digest. I have no problem with generic presentations and statements for the general membership, but I want to figure out how to digest the full feast in its complex form - or to put aside some of the food temporarily and not even try to digest it. I don’t mind if others help me decide what to eat raw, what to boil, what to grill, what to puree and what to discard, but I don’t want “The Church” turning everything into a blended shake that someone thinks should go down smoothly and not cause any indigestion. I like the diverse flavors and consistencies of my food too much to want pablum.


Richard Alger said...

I like the analogy

ji said...

Papa D,

In your first sentence, you speak of "dirty laundry." But you never develop the "dirty laundry" idea. Who should be airing (and cleaning) the Church's "dirty laundry"?

For myself, I have no problem with a local or general Church officer recognizing some matter that is troubling to some and offering explanations for their benefit. I hope they never abandon this important pastoral role to the crowd you named. We need to be able to differentiate between such helps and hard doctrine, individually and as a people, to be sure. But I hope Church officers are always free to offer these sorts of helps. I cannot feel comfortable leaving matters of such importance in the hands (and mouths) of thw crowd you identified, while the Church and its general and local officers are silenced.

I suppose I have misunderstood your intentions, but I want to offer this as my first reaction to your posting.


Papa D said...

Thanks for the input, ji. In rereading the post, I didn't make that part clear at all.

When I used the term "dirty laundry", I was echoing something someone else said in another forum - basically saying that the Church should publish a definitive answer for all questions that trouble or might trouble members. My response essentially is yours - that I want apostles and prophets to speak about fundamental doctrine and principles. I want them to testify and teach. I want them to explain spiritual matters. What I don't want is something along the lines of "Mormon Doctrine" (an exposition of all possible questions, no matter their nature or content) - for four reasons:

1) We believe in on-going revelation and increasing in light and knowledge, so anything that is published as an official, comprehensive set of answers hopefully will be "out-of-date" within a few decades. That concept is important to me.

2) There are SO many things that a particular, individual member might not understand fully - SO many things for which people might want answers - that it would be a full-time job for the apostles and prophets to try to address every single one of them. Further, there are enough ways to take any given issue or question that answering them never ends. I know; I'm involved in helping people find answers.

3) Giving everyone an "official" answer to every question or concern "on a plate" would remove totally the growth that comes when individual discover or have revealed to them answers that work for them. Most of my greatest spiritual insights, epiphanies and growth have come as I've struggled to understand something - and I don't want anyone to lose that by giving them a "laundry list" of issues and answers.

4) I REALLY, REALLY like hearing multiple perspectives on things and being able to sort through them to find what works for me. I like that from multiple apostles, and I like it from multiple experts in their own fields of study.

{ Bethany } said...

So what about spiritual answers? What about learning more about our Heavenly Mother? What about our roles in the afterlife?

The "church" does have a responsibility and should clarify these issues. If the whole point of our religion is that we receive modern revelation, and its being led by God Himself every day, then we should be able to have these HUGE issues cleared up.

Its crazy that half of the human population has no idea what their role was in the pre-existence, and has no idea what their role will be in the hereafter.

ji said...


The Church can only share what God has revealed, for doctrine, and what its leaders adopt, as practices. God has revealed almost nothing regarding our pre-earth existence, and almost nothing about our post-earth existence. Any answers to your question would necessarily be man-made answers, and man-made answers do not fit well as doctrine in a Church that calls itself the Lord's Church. There simply is no answer for your question.

You might read the fourteenth chapter of John, where the apostle Philip asked the Lord about the Father -- substitute "Mother" if you want -- the Lord's answer is the right answer -- we look to Jesus, and to Jesus only. Anyone looking for more is looking beyond the mark. One day, those who are valiant in their testimony of Jesus will be joint heirs with Jesus in all that the Father has, and will know everything there is to be known.

The notion of a heavenly mother is one of the threads in the tapestry of Mormon thought, but it isn't doctrinally "true" in the sense that every good member must believe in it. Maybe there is some truth behind the notion, maybe not. But it isn't important -- and it is looking beyond the mark.

Even though you're a woman, the source of your eternal and earthly happiness is the Lord Jesus Christ, and him only. All other things, whatever they are, come afterwards.

ji said...

I want to follow up on my last posting -- maybe I'm the one who is weak in the faith and is not ready to accept "true" doctrine -- and maybe some of these notions which are "true" to other and stronger Latter-day Saints are stumbling blocks to me -- if so, then I suppose I ask for some of the restraint or courtesy of which Paul writes in the fourteenth chapter of Romans. Please don't let your truth destroy me in my weakness.

I rejoice in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and praise him as my Savior, my Redeemer. I rejoice in the latter-day restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I am grateful to be a part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to hold a priesthood office to help build the Church. It is through the priesthood ordinances that the power of Godliness is made manifest to man on the earth. For me, this is sufficient.

Papa D said...

Bethany, I agree in essence with ji's response - that there are lots of things that simply have not been revealed yet, and the concept of Heavenly Mother is one of them. Our Article of Faith is explicit when it says there are LOTS of important things that have not been revealed yet.

ji, I don't think you are weak in faith, but I do agree totally with the principle in the following sentence you wrote:

"Please don't let your truth destroy me in my weakness."

I believe deeply in the concept of abstaining from meat in the prescence of those for whom abstaining from meat is important. I hope nothing I write ever leads to destroying the faith of others.

Also, I think you told me at one point how old you are, and I think (if I remember correctly) I am over twice your age - with children older than you are. If that is a correct memory, be patient. My faith and "truth" now is different than it was at your age - and I hope it is different than it will be in a couple more decades.

Matthew said...

I just wonder about the many things yet to be revealed, which haven't been.

I do agree that a point by point gospel doctrine is not the best solution, but at the same time, there has been so little official revelation since the early days of the church. Perhaps we, as a church, treat lightly what we have so far received and thus lose the opportunity to receive more. I don't know.

I just feel a lack, sometimes. I wouldn't mind seeing unambiguous top-down encouragement for multiple and deep engagement with what we have already got, so that we can prepare ourselves for more. It is doable on one's own, but easier in a community.

Forgive my weak writing here - I am having trouble saying exactly what I mean.

Papa D said...

Don't worry about your writing, Matthew. I think I understand what you are trying to say.

Fwiw, it took me a while to be as comfortable in not knowing and in having to figure things out for myself as I am at this point in my life. I think most of the foundational things have been revealed (the basic principles, if you will); for me, it's just the "details" that haven't been revealed in most cases.

I'm a jigsaw puzzle lover, so I don't mind working out how to put the pieces together to make a beautiful picture. Other people aren't as comfortable with that process as I am.