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6 years ago  ::  Nov 29, 2008 - 3:28PM #1
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,207
I'm sorry that, of late, the only thing I've been able to really talk about has been this gay-marriage issue.  You all know how I feel.  I think the bandwagon on this issue is moving in the wrong direction.  But I'm not a one-issue guy and while I've never been shy about my reservations and misgivings, I never wanted to spend this much time over one issue.

When Brigham Young began teaching Adam-God, Apostle Orson Pratt felt comfortable enough to disagree.  His dissent was an obvious annoyance to Brigham Young as the two men traded replies back and forth, not unlike the debates we are having here.  But Brigham Young never excommunicated Pratt for thinking - and saying - Young was out to lunch on this issue.  They may have had some pretty warm exchanges, but Brigham respected Orson and the issue didn't divide them irrevocably.  Later, Orson's position became the official position of Joseph F. Smith who publicly renounced Adam-God as heresy (though, to be fair to JFS, he argued that Brigham Young was misquoted).

I'm disappointed that the machinery of the Church has been used, even if to create an off-the-property "spontaneous" political organization that miraculously showed up with millions of dollars in hand.  I agree with those who think, when all the dust has settled, that the Church will have been dealt a serious setback by exchanging one set of goals (respect among the mainstream) for another (leadership in the culture wars).  I can almost get the Church's decision to make nice with a Bush administration that had a lock on all three branches of government - especially in the light of what that Bush administration did with any group it thought it could demonize after 9/11.  But 9/11 was eight years ago and the "more is better" philosophy of marching with the Bush/Cheney/McCain/Palin people - right off a cliff - looks more like a case of thinking the world of today will be the world of tomorrow.  Republicans have long known they could count on Mormons as foot soldiers, so when 9/11 created a gap between political and social "haves and have-nots" - it might have made sense, in a Machiavellian way, to side up with the stronger side.  But by 2008, it should have been obvious that "the times, they [were] a changin'. "

As happened in the case of the Hoffman forgeries, where top-level church leaders brokered private purchase of these smoldering papers - only to later learn that they were frauds - Holy the Ghost failed to show up as a b.s. detector.  For all the talk about how the Church runs on constant IMs from Heaven, it turns out that people are people, including people who sit in big red seats during Conference.  The same prophetic spirit that gave us the lost 116 pages of the Book of Lehi has reared its ugly head time and time again - whether it was Brigham Young telling that last batch of handcart pioneers to walk right into a deathmarch or the First Presidency bashing evolution before a truckload of data turned the literalists into a rainforest full of monkeys.

For anybody who wants to be a Mormon, and maintain the tradition despite these periodic setbacks, some decisions have to be made.  You can take the position that prophets are never wrong, that general authorities are never allowed to let their human side push them into later-regrettable situations.  You can take the position that the Mormon Church is evil and call it lots of names, like "cult."  Or, you can see the Church for what it is - an organization that mobilizes people to go on missions, teach classes, get home-teaching done, sponsor boy-scout troops, give a home to the Relief Society, ordain men to stations in the priesthood and otherwise support Mormons in their attempt to live their religion.

If you take the first option, be prepared to put your head in the sand every time something like this comes along.  Get used to blaming everybody else.  Get used to lines like, "All is well in Zion" and "Zion prospers."  Learn how to view any criticism - however reasonable - as a satanic attack on the Lord's Chosen People, who are as under siege as the Branch Davidians at Waco.

If you take the second option, submit your resignation before they excommunicate you.  Also be prepared to embrace some pretty crazy people, staked out in shifts as they head for the temple with pamphlets in hand.   Get ready to turn all things Mormon into something out of a Hitchcock film. 

But if you take the third option, understand what it means.  To quote the sometimes bombastic Joseph Fielding McConkie, "Who the hang is the Church?"  As my one-time stake president, McConkie wasn't ignoring the fine folks in Salt Lake City.  He was asserting each individual's right and responsibility to follow one's conscience.  Quite often, when people convert to the faith, they hear "The Church, The Church, The Church" so many times, they are led into an unwitting case of ecclesiastical idolatry.  Every time I heard someone get up and say, "The Church is true," I have to wonder if they've simply adopted a popular phrase (complete with its defects) or whether they are actual idolaters.  For the record, the Church cannot be a true, just as my house can't be true, the planet Uranus can't be true and the sky can't be true.  The Gospel, on the other hand, can be true - which is what I suspect these people are trying to say.  There's an obvious difference between saying, "The Gospel is true" and "The Church is true."  The former is an assertion worth considering.  The latter is an incoherent grunt.

Propositions have truth values.  Institutions, no matter how beloved, do not.

As an emotive grunt, "The Church is True" is less dangerous, if taken as "Go, Mormons!" than if it becomes an oath of loyalty.  Many people see themselves as wards of the Church, to be told what to do by their priesthood leaders.  A fair amount of time, this works out for the best - as the advice and counseling dripping down from the pulpit is usually more wholesome than the messages coming at us through the tube.  But sooner or later - and I suspect sooner rather than later - if you give your brain to someone whose claim to it is the mere fact they were given a church calling, you are screwed.  Sooner or later, you will have to deal with the dilemma of either being disillusioned or perform your own personal lobotomy on an issue-by-issue basis. 

I'm sure Mormon means "more good."  I'm sure the Book of Abraham was actually translated from something other than the Book of Breathings.  I'm sure God turns people dark when they reject the Gospel, and that black people are the race of Cain.  I'm sure the 10 Commandments didn't apply when Brother Joseph would show up, while the husband was out, and convince the man's wife that God wanted her to give herself to the prophet.  I'm sure the Kirtland Anti-Banking Society was a good idea, particularly on the eve of the Panic of 1837, America's first depression.  I'm sure Zion's Camp was a swell idea.  I'm sure nobody ever made a mistake along the way and that innocent people weren't caught in the crossfire.

Then again, maybe not.
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 29, 2008 - 3:29PM #2
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,207
I can remember the call I got, as a missionary serving in Evanston, Wyoming, late one night before a zone conference in Rock Springs.  My district leader had learned, through the grapevine, that a pop-quiz car inspection was scheduled for the next day.  As two sets of elders shared a car, and my companion and I happened to have possession of it, he wanted us to take the car out to a car wash.  I don't remember whether it was late fall or dead winter, but it was cold and we had already called in (we were required to check in every night).  To go out past our curfew was a violation of mission rules.  To do so after calling in was a serious violation and dishonest to boot.  I initially balked at the request, then stood firm when it became an "order," then gave in when my district leader began to berate me about refusing a request from a mission leader.  I was 20.  What went through my mind was the fact that: (1) taking the car to a car wash was hardly a major crime; (2) this guy would get into trouble for dirt we should all have cleaned off; (3) the snap-inspection was a bogus assertion of authority by APs who were drunk with authority to begin with; and (4) I cared more about the slight to this guy and his dreamt-of status as a "superior officer" in the priesthood than I cared about the den-mother controls foisted upon our mission by folks who assumed, at the outset, that we were all a bunch of screw-ups.

Long story short, we washed the car and went to bed.  The next day, the car passed inspection, which was more than we could say for the mileage logs we periodically doctored.

If you're going to hang with this Church over the long haul, the healthiest position you can take is to see the Church as a gift to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.  It's a vehicle for mobilizing ordinary people to do good, nothing more.  Attend your meetings - not to win praise from, or prove your devotion to, the Church - but to accomplish your own spiritual goals, which are between you and Heaven.  Live your religion, not to keep your membership intact, but to find joy and happiness through wise choices and personal growth.  When a calling is extended, don't base your decision on whether you like the calling (or whether it's a "cool" calling) but don't just say yes, either.  Go home and pray about whether this is right for you at this time.  Don't seek popularity or praise, not even from your bishop or stake president.  And don't limit yourself to thinking inside the box. 

Jesus blew people's minds by saying the sabbath was for man, not man for the sabbath.  By the same token, you don't exist for the Church; the Church exists for you.  Of course, it doesn't exist solely for you.  As an institution, it expresses the devotion and sacrifices of many, which is how it can fund temples, a board of directors, stake centers and chapels, as well as newspapers, magazines and TV and radio stations, not to mention BYU. 

People regularly try to use the Church to validate their personal ambitions.  Some of those ambitions are modest and end up serving as motivation for acts of service that benefit others.  I don't think there's any harm in the buzz one gets in getting a calling, or a promotion to a higher office in the priesthood, or a leadership position in a presidency - particularly if one reciprocates through honest and diligent service.  If the typical cast of movers-and-shakers in the typical ward were compensated minimum wage for their efforts, their hours of service would add up to a tidy sum.  People do a lot - just to contribute to their community.  But when ambitions get more grandiose - particularly among those who see themselves as future general authorities - some pretty weird things can happen.  I remember talking to a woman whose stake decided that every home in Dallas would have a copy of the Book of Mormon.  Was it a worthy goal?  Sure.  Was it remotely realistic?  Not hardlly.  By year's end, people were being told to give the Book of Mormon as a gift to all of their friends.  Surely, this wouldn't alienate anybody.  Surely, this wouldn't come off as nutty.  Under a quota deadline, people apparently wrapped the Book of Mormon up like a gift and practically tossed them onto people's doorsteps.

The local Goodwill was soon deluged with all these unwanted, unsolicited, copies of the Book of Mormon.  Now, were there also some happy stories?  I'm sure there were.  Maybe somebody, finding a copy of the Book of Mormon on his or her lawn, sat down and read it.  Maybe that same person was impessed by what he or she read and gained a testimony.  I'm willing to imagine that conversions were made.  But at what cost?  If the worth of souls is great in the sight of God, should the net increase in conversions also be offset by the number of potential conversions blunted by a campaign that reinforced the message that Mormons are nutcakes?

In the end, I go back to the words of McConkie: "Who the hang is the Church?"  The Church is not an army or a "family" in that Manson or creepy corporate cultist sense of the word.  It is an organization of people helping one another practice a faith and tradition known to the outside world as Mormonism.  I cannot respect Joseph Smith or Brigham Young if I have to take their every utterance at face value - as the Word of God.  But by the same token, I can't respect Moses, Jesus or Paul if I have to take their every utterance literally.  Religion only works when it is used to help people.  When it comes down to varying degrees of "Drink the Kool-Aid," I must respectfully withdraw.

I remain a member of the LDS Church in large part because I have friends and family who would be injured by my departure.  But while I take counsel, I also keep my own.  Converts are typicaly quite enthusiastic about the faith, with their zeal in energy disproportionate to their knowledge of the faith beyond the safe confines of the missionary discussions.  The real struggle is what to do with it when you've seen the human side of it and have to come up with a sane alternative to blissful ignorance or a cultist's denial.  The Christ of the book of Revelation might accuse me of being lukewarm, but at least I've never slept with another man's wife, excommunicated my best friends, demanded blind obedience or anathematized the rest of the world.  I do have a food storage, though it's for disasters and unemployment.  I am not planning to make any treks to Missouri to stake my claim at Adam-Ondi-Ahman.  I'm not worried about armageddon.  I've got enough to worry about Monday through Friday.
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 29, 2008 - 9:37PM #3
MMCSFOX
Posts: 1,564
I'm disappointed that the machinery of the Church has been used, even if to create an off-the-property "spontaneous" political organization that miraculously showed up with millions of dollars in hand.
********
Here I stand proudly as one who worked long and hard and knocked on many doors in my neighborhood for what I believed to be the right thing in my state which is opposite of what you believe. Yet here I fully support you and your views as you have different experiences, training and learning than myself.

I do not believe that an apology for your opinion is necessary. It was nice of you to do this but not necessary.

I hope that I am also always able to support you and others in other honest opposing opinions. I have always found honest discussion to be necessary in the exercise of agency. For if we do not continually seek information and learning then we can never fully understand the idea or principal or know where we want to stand.

Yes Bill we need you and your sometimes lengthy insight into various situations, agendas and problems.

I must also admit that each time I have time to look in here to our forum I look for your comments first, for I know that I will get a thoughtful summary of the subject matter. You have been a beacon here in not needing to abuse or slam other posters when disagreeing with them, which not all of us have done in the past.

SO BILL keep posting and we will reserve the right to agree or disagree as we see fit. Mainly please stay here and make us think about or rethink the various subjects that come up.

Jesse F.
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“The man who is anybody and does anything is surly going to be criticized, vilified and misunderstood. This is part of the penalty for greatness, and every great man understands it; and understands too, that it is no proof of greatness. The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure contumely without resentment.”
- Elbert Hubbard
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 29, 2008 - 10:12PM #4
imbobbbb
Posts: 226
great post!,as usual bill.I always enjoy your insights,keep them coming.
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 30, 2008 - 2:38AM #5
moksha8088
Posts: 4,994

imbobbbb wrote:

great post!,as usual bill.I always enjoy your insights,keep them coming.



Bill continually presents items for forum discussion that could never be voiced at the Sunday meetings.

Cry Heaven and let loose the Penguins of Peace
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 30, 2008 - 7:44AM #6
ProfitOfGod
Posts: 1,020
[QUOTE=moksha8088;926738]Bill continually presents items for forum discussion that could never be voiced at the Sunday meetings.[/QUOTE]

Why do so few of us see that as a problem?  :(

Thanks for yet another home run, Bill.
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 30, 2008 - 2:38AM #7
moksha8088
Posts: 4,994

imbobbbb wrote:

great post!,as usual bill.I always enjoy your insights,keep them coming.



Bill continually presents items for forum discussion that could never be voiced at the Sunday meetings.

Cry Heaven and let loose the Penguins of Peace
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 30, 2008 - 7:44AM #8
ProfitOfGod
Posts: 1,020
[QUOTE=moksha8088;926738]Bill continually presents items for forum discussion that could never be voiced at the Sunday meetings.[/QUOTE]

Why do so few of us see that as a problem?  :(

Thanks for yet another home run, Bill.
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 30, 2008 - 1:20PM #9
Vergilisvaticanus
Posts: 123
Whether he posts things that are appropriate for Sunday School or not is irrelevant.  Its fine that he posts his opinions though they sound more truculent with a pinache of agenda behind them.  As long as the facts are there I don't see a problem.  I appreciate his desire for all members of the church to be perfect all the time.  I am sure that he may even believe it.  But for me it sounds way too much like someone who desires failure.  Some do this to boost one's own self view that "hey, maybe they aren't so bad".  Others because they inherently need something to grouse about, that small flaws are what make the tapestry of life, not the great things that are accomplished, even with errors along the way.

I am he feels better about himself, and really, isn't that what posting in such forums is about sometimes.
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6 years ago  ::  Nov 30, 2008 - 6:01PM #10
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,207
Jesse, Imbobbbb, Moksha, POG, thanks for the words of support.  I didn't mean to make this about me.  I started off with an apology because, of late, I find myself coming onto this thread offering more criticism than praise.  It's easy to get sucked into a debate and to forget that people are as important as issues, and that it's as important to be nice as it is to be right.

Somewhere in explaining myself, I found my comments drift towards other issues - old and new.  But the point I began with (which may have gotten buried in the verbage) was that I appreciate you all, regardless of how you do the math on this issue or that.  That includes you, Jesse.  I don't care if you campaigned for Prop 8.  If you thought it was the right thing to do, I salute you for following your conscience.  You could have gotten offended when I found myself going back over some of these old issues.  Instead, you replied with words of great generosity and kindness, which impresses me all the more.

Jesse, I wonder if you remember The Trial of Billy Jack, the sequel to the old hippie classic.  There's a scene where, after coming home from prison, Billy finds things worse than when he left.  For some reason I can't remember, Billy Jack ends up in a trance (I think he was bitten by a rattlesnake).  In this vision, he goes through a kind of spiritual journey where the Spirit takes him on a personal Groundhog Day.  In one scene, somebody throws a punch and Billy punches back.  In a second scene, somebody throws a punch and Billy chooses nonviolence but ends up arguing with the attacker.  In the third scene, somebody throws a punch and Billy transcends it. 

I did not mean to throw any punches, but Jesse, you were Billy Jack in that third scene, transcending any offense.  Your words of wisdom were awesome.  I have friends on this board who see the world in similar ways.  I also have philosophical opponents who think I'm out to lunch.  Every now and then, I pick up somebody who thinks I'm evil incarnate.  You, Jesse, are someone who reminds us of the difference between elders and high priests.  Tonight, you taught me a lesson about the Christlike walk.  Thank you.
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