Can Grace Save Mormonism?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a problem. A historical problem. A problem disclosing the difficult parts of its history to its members. This problem exists because the church’s current outlook on itself and its leaders makes it difficult—and at times, impossible—to craft the entirety of its own history into a faith-promoting narrative. Those parts that cannot be safely included are instead quietly omitted.

Evidence of these omissions is abundant. Ex-Mormon disaffiliation narratives frequently revolve around some point in a person’s journey wherein the member learned something about church history not previously known before, something that became a catalyst for loss of faith. The recently published (2011) Daughters in My Kingdom manual makes no mention of the first Relief Society President’s defection from Brigham Young’s faction of Saints, or 19th century Mormon women regularly performing blessings and anointing with oil, or the fact that the Relief Society was shut down in 1844 because Emma Smith was using it to oppose polygamy, making DiMK but one of many official church manuals to carefully tiptoe around the problematic aspects of the church’s history. More obviously, the Church’s official Joseph Smith Web site says not a word about polygamy. It mentions the existence of some of his polygamous wives, like Eliza R. Snow, but it fails to mention that they were married to Smith. When it comes to potentially troubling details in LDS history, the church’s unspoken policy seems to be something to the effect of, don’t ask, don’t tell.

Unfortunately for the church, its history has a habit of getting loose in very public and embarrassing ways despite its best efforts to sweep it under the rug. This was recently seen in the saga of BYU religion professor Randy Bott’s remarks on race to The Washington Post. I won’t go into an extensive summary of that issue here as others (myself included) have done so elsewhere. Bott’s rehearsal of long neglected but never formally repudiated Mormon teachings on race to a widely-read, national newspaper set against the potential backdrop of a white Mormon and a black man competing for POTUS tore asunder an old wound that many believed to have healed sufficiently. How mistaken they were.

In the wake of Professor Bott’s innocent but disastrous blunder, many asked the question: would the the LDS church finally acknowledge and apologize for its history of institutionalized racism? Would it take advantage of this moment to repudiate its former teachings on race once and for all? The answer to both of these questions, of course, was “no.” Instead the church issued a press release denying that Bott’s remarks represented “the teachings and doctrines” of the church without ever acknowledging that they used to represent the teachings and doctrines of the church. The church also issued a general condemnation of “any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church,” but again avoided acknowledging any wrongdoing in its own history of institutional racism.

MatthewC at the Mormon Expressions Blog has a post worth reading in full entitled, “Why The Church Hasn’t Condemned Its Racist Past.” He hits on the crux of the problem: the LDS church claims to have leaders who commune with and speak for God. Its one thing for said leaders to engage in personal sins, but it’s quite another for those same men to lead the entire church down a sinful and harmful path, all the while claiming that they have been inquiring of the Lord and he has revealed that the sinful and harmful path is his divine will. It raises the possibility that the LDS church’s leaders do not have any greater access to the mind of God than any other church, and that they are every bit as capable of mixing their own prejudices and failings with the will of God as any other woman or man. Or worse: it raises the possibility that the heavens are indeed closed and the LDS leaders are getting things so tragically wrong because no one is really answering.

I propose that what the church needs is not a mere apology for its past wrongdoings and/or the past wrongs committed by its leaders. It makes little sense to call for such apologies when its current paradigm leaves precious little room for anything of the sort. What the church needs is a paradigm shift. One that allows for it to acknowledge and apologize for the wrongdoings of its past whilst retaining its claim to being the “one true church” possessing apostles and prophets who speak for God. I propose that such an answer may be found in a more grace-centered theology (or ecclesiology, if you will). Grace can save Mormonism.

A grace-centric paradigm would hold that the LDS church is God’s church, not because the Mormon church is more righteous or more holy than other institutions, but because God has graciously chosen it to be his church in spite of its failings and flaws. A grace-centric paradigm would maintain that LDS prophets and apostles do speak with God. However, they are capable of letting their own sinfulness and hard-heartedness cloud his voice, even to the point of misleading people for a time on important points of salvation, and it is by God’s grace that they remain as his servants in spite of their hard-heartedness.

The church’s current approach to the race issue is to insist that it was from God, that former leaders did not err in blocking people from a fulness of salvation based on the color of their skin. A grace-centric approach would allow the church to acknowledge the wrong-doing inherent in its former policies. This grace-centric approach could even give the church room to acknowledge that polygamy was wrong—whether in its very nature or merely in the way that so many Saints (Joseph Smith included) practiced it—yet through the grace of God, this “wrong” practice still became the vehicle for a kernel of truth: i. e. eternal families.

I need to stress that this proposal could only be of help in allowing the church to speak freely of its own history, particularly those problematic actions and teachings on the part of its leaders. I have no suggestions for other problems facing Mormonism such as the historical challenges to the Book of Mormon, the First Vision, the restoration of the priesthood, or Joseph Smith’s abilities as a translator of ancient documents (for my own part, I view these things as unresolvable). However, in regards to the church’s historical difficulties, I believe the paradigm shift I am proposing could be very useful. The days when the church could safely keep the difficult parts of its history from the majority of its membership are long over. Something needs to change. That something could be this.

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This entry was posted in grace, Mormon history by Bridget Jack Jeffries. Bookmark the permalink.

About Bridget Jack Jeffries

Bridget Jack Jeffries is a graduate student and human resources assistant living in Chicago. She holds a BA in classics from Brigham Young University with a minor in Hebrew and is finishing an MA in American religious history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. She is a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church and a single mother of two. Her interviews on religion have appeared in *The Washington Post* and *Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.*

93 thoughts on “Can Grace Save Mormonism?

  1. Pingback: ClobberBlog » Can Grace Save Mormonism?

  2. Interesting proposal, Ms. Jack. While I agree that the infusion of grace into Mormonism would be great on many levels, I think the probability of that happening is extremely low. As someone born and raised in a devout Mormon family, my experience growing up in the LDS church did not include grace on any level and in fact it was very much the exact opposite. I think the reason that this will never happen is because Mormonism is a pharisaical religion that requires people to obey laws and ordinances in order to earn their way into the highest heaven. If the church were ever to own up to past failings in the way you’re suggesting, the basis for the entire religion would be undermined. I was taught that Joseph Smith was chosen to restore the true gospel because he was the most righteous man to have lived since Christ. This idea of worthiness is central to Mormonism (think temple recommends and partaking of the sacrament) and to ever officially acknowledge that Mormon history may contain things that indicate even a hint of unworthiness on the part of it’s prophets just isn’t going to happen.

  3. I am breaking my Lenten fast from religious blogs because the title of this post was too good to pass up. The post did not disappoint. AMEN, Jack. I LOVE this post. Thank you.

    What you advocate here is what I pray for often. We need to repent of our institutional sins — including the worthiness narrative Wes is referring to — and until we do, it will continue to be a spiritual weight on our people.

    One thought: you say that the crux of the matter is the LDS claim that we have leaders who commune and speak with God. And yet, then you go on to propose a position that can reconcile the idea of inspired, prophetic leaders with even colossal mistakes through a grace-based paradigm shift. So I don’t think the prophetic claim is really the crux of the matter. The crux of the matter is the pain, fear, and shame fueling the worthiness narrative, the unhealthy expectations, and the reticence to repent for our wrongdoings.

    I’ve said it before, but we have been persecuted enough as a people that it is still part of our collective psyche. We are terrified to step into the light of reconciliation, to don our sackcloth and ashes, for fear of being eaten alive by our detractors. I do not condone this — at some point you have to own your crap, no matter what caused it, and no matter what the consequences are — but I understand it, and I have compassion for it, while I call for it to change. The good news is that I believe that God is working with us to heal us now, and He will continue to do so, because of His tremendous love and grace.

    Anyway, if I’m good, I won’t be back until after Easter to check responses. :-) But I wanted to share some of my thoughts and reflections as a result of this wonderful, wonderful post.

  4. A grace-centric paradigm would maintain that LDS prophets and apostles do speak with God. However, they are capable of letting their own sinfulness and hard-heartedness cloud his voice, even to the point of misleading people for a time on important points of salvation, and it is by God’s grace that they remain as his servants in spite of their hard-heartedness.

    I am really not sure, do Evangelicals ever see the Bible this way?

  5. While this view would certainly help resolve issues in the string of past Prophets (Adam-God, post-Manifesto polygamy, Reed Smoot Hearings, the Temple Ban), it would lead quickly to the question of “What human failing is God allowing to work upon this Church through Thomas S. Monson for the greater good?” Which obviously would help promote a healthy humility about and among LDS Church leadership, but many LDS rely upon that sense of dependability. “Follow the Prophet: he knows the way.” I’m not sure that the LDS Church could survive such a shift with much of its membership intact. Of course, I don’t know if it will survive the next decade or two with much of its membership intact if it *doesn’t* make such a change.

    I don’t mean to sound negative. I *love* the idea; it resonates with me.

  6. This whole thread is at risk of raising presumptions to facts so I’ll just point out as a general commentary, that it’s a bit hard to divorce fact from opinion as we walk down this path. Like Wes’s comment above that; ” I was taught that Joseph Smith was chosen to restore the true gospel because he was the most righteous man to have lived since Christ.” Just a little tone of hyperbole, I suspect there. That’s not been what I’ve been taught. Likewise “problems” with the first vision are quite subjective as I’ve read and studied all extant accounts and have zero problems with them. Presuming contradictions between various extant accounts is not what I read in them. The “racist past” also would be about on par with the “racism” of the original church with it’s 2nd-class attitude toward gentiles, or Christ comparing the Samaritan woman to a “dog”. My point is not that Christ was a racist, but rather that trying to ignore all social, attitudinal, the emerging and developing infancy of all churches, is not something I have an ideological problem with. God’s working with humans, not robots, and he allows us to be wrong sometimes. I don’t view that as a theological conundrum personally. I’ll grant you the polygamy mystique should be more openly acknowledged, though, even the nitty gritty of that is still largely shrouded in mystery because records and details simply don’t exist to draw absolute conclusions of some things. Much of the sealing in that era was done with an eye more to the eternal theology beyond the grave. With all the wives attributed to J.S., and all the sex presumed to have been, with zero birth control in that era, we’d expect to find lots of kids born with all that sex going on. But we don’t. So what conclusions can we make, versus assumptions that would simply swing the pendulum as much in error in the opposite direction? I agree that lots of these issues are in an unresolveable vacuum, like “how” translation fits, or B of M historicity. That hardly requires deep angst and turmoil. It just is what is is. The same unknowns abound in all religions. So I’m agreeing with being more open, but I’m also aware that faith cannot always be anchored to proof, or there wouldn’t be any Christians either since they can’t prove the resurrection, walking on water, turning water into wine, etc. Apologetics are fine. But festering over what some critic demands proof for or full resolution of, is just as bad as ignoring the questions all together.

    Trendism is also a risk. By today’s standards Moses would have a lot to apologize for too…including polygamy, murder, blackmail, plundering, imperialism and genocide. But I’m not hearing any Christian or Jewish demands to re-write the political correctness of Moses to “apologize for past wrong-doings.” I’m all for honesty. Admit where we erred. But angst and hand-wringing only take you so far. Good example: Mountain Meadows Massacre–terrible event. Apology made. But some will not be satisfied till Brigham Young himself, personally, is hoisted on a petard as the planner, instigator, and perpetrator personally–which historical evidence refutes. Anybody see the “September Dawn” farce of a movie? Are we suppose to invent extra mea culpas, just to satiate the demands of those who insist only a massive coverup and conspiracy theory will satisfy them? Not sure the premise is right, so how can the outcome be right if self-flagellation is not acknowledged as the hidden agenda of some in this debate.

  7. I think the approach at root is the only way to look at any revelation. Expecting people to be “worthy”enough to speak with God is always going to end in let down. Of course, any organized religion often depends on some sort of reverence to important people. Mormons are stuck with a lot more information about the foibles of its founders than the older faiths- so a fuller understanding of grace is in order.

  8. I started reading this post expecting to disagree with it but instead finding myself in complete agreement. It is the way I see things. Really good.

  9. With all the wives attributed to J.S., and all the sex presumed to have been, with zero birth control in that era, we’d expect to find lots of kids born with all that sex going on. But we don’t. So what conclusions can we make, versus assumptions that would simply swing the pendulum as much in error in the opposite direction?

    Umm. . . we can conclude that Joseph was getting it on with a lot of women, even if he was not getting it on a lot with a lot of women.

    I think the whole grace thing is going to be hard because Mormons are never going to be comfortable with a guy who was as promiscuous as Joseph, even if all of it was sanctioned by God. The problem is not that Mormons don’t believe that God uses imperfect means to produce divine results, its that Mormons simply cannot accept Joseph for who he was AND believe he is a prophet. So basically you have general denial, and when you don’t acknowledge sin, looking at everything with a view of Grace does you no good.

  10. With all the wives attributed to J.S., and all the sex presumed to have been, with zero birth control in that era, we’d expect to find lots of kids born with all that sex going on. But we don’t. So what conclusions can we make, versus assumptions that would simply swing the pendulum as much in error in the opposite direction?

    Just to point out there was birth control then. But according to Sarah Pratt, John Cook Bennett performed regular abortions on women sealed to LDS leaders that were publicly single and other such services on an as desired basis.

  11. Garth, If I gave you evidence that Joseph had sex with his wives would it make a difference to you?

  12. There are really 3 problems that get intermixed:

    1) The LDS church has a few relatively minor issues in its history. Far less than most other religions on the planet.
    2) The LDS church has a long history of lying and distorting around these issues.
    3) The LDS membership seems unusually shocked by these issues.

    Take for example Mountain Meadows. I see Mountain Meadows as the territorial governor of Utah, having a hostile president of the United States trying to drive up war costs by running a terrorist operation in Wyoming. As the situation is particularly tense lower level leadership made the choice to attack a civilian heavy caravan, and the higher leadership decided to conduct a disinformation campaign to reduce political fallout. Our current and past presidents on both sides of the isle run terrorists ops all the time. Most Mormons and their critics are still Republicans even though George Bush did far worse than that to civilians in Fallujah, and then conducted the same sort of propaganda campaign to cover up what we did.

    As governor of Utah Brigham Young had a responsibility to protect his people. He did a good job of that as history shows. Politics ain’t bean bag, to quote another Mormon in the news. It would be fairly easy to the LDS church to just come clean on what happened at Mountain Meadows. They don’t have to apologize or ask for grace or anything else. Just state the facts and stand by it as a reasonable choice made during the course of the Utah war.

    In the same way I think polygamy is fully defendable.
    ____

    On the issue of racism and the priesthood ban they can’t distance themselves this way. They declared this to be revealed doctrine and indicated it was overthrown by direct supernatural intervention. Either they were:

    a) telling the truth in which case they cannot apologize for God and his ministering angels.
    b) lying in which case they have much more serious problems than the priesthood ban.
    c) badly mistaken in which case they have much more serious problems than the priesthood ban.

    There is no way a conservative church is going to adopt any position other than (a) as long as (a) remains viable. Just think about all the hideous monstrous immoral doctrines in the bible and the strong defense they get today from evangelicals. The bible has God quite casually advocating genocide as a solution to religious disputes. Is the bible:

    a) telling the truth but such orders haven’t been received lately.
    b) lying and no such orders were ever given
    c) badly mistaken as to God’s orders

    This is essentially the same question, and the answers evangelicals give are disjointed for essentially the same reason. Worse, evangelicals are still actively persecuting homosexuals based on terms (malakos / arsenokoitai) which probably are best translated as homosexual but for which there is plenty of room to interpret it differently, if we choose to out of some sort of basic humanity, for example by being ultra literal. So even where there is room to fudge conservative religions often don’t.

    The LDS church makes claim that its leaders get direct communications from God, understand then and transmit them faithfully. If that is false, then their whole basis as a prophetic conservative church is falsified. If Thomas S Monson doesn’t talk to God and receive accurate instructions from him, then the church has fallen.

    The LDS cannot handle this the way evangelicals handle problems with their leaders but rather the way evangelical handle problems with the bible. Thus a better model for the LDS might be the Catholic church, which has similar problems.

  13. Jack said:
    This grace-centric approach could even give the church room to acknowledge that polygamy was wrong—whether in its very nature or merely in the way that so many Saints (Joseph Smith included) practiced it—yet through the grace of God, this “wrong” practice still became the vehicle for a kernel of truth: i. e. eternal families.

    Polygamy could actually be a good story for the church, can’t think of a reason to apologize for that.

    I don’t the church has any need to apologize for Joseph’s behavior either, If Joseph was the prophet he claimed to be, you have to accept him as God sends him. This makes it complicated to denounce him. Mormons, through practice and spiritual experience are pretty much dead convinced that Joseph was a prophet. . . How could the Book of Mormon be true otherwise?

    So few LDS, talk about or even worry too much about Joseph’s shenanigans, even when you know they are there. Once a faithful member starts hearing about them they don’t want to hear any more, not because they think they will lose their faith if they find out the details, but simply its an unpleasant thing to think about. Its like the stain on the $5,000 Persian rug. You put a chair over the stain and not worry about it, because its too beautiful, and you have too much invested in that beauty to get rid of it.

    The entire church is this way really, from top down, and basically always has been. Nobody in the Church the church never advocated polygamy like Joseph Smith practiced it, even Joseph didn’t really encourage masses others to practice it the way he did. He was killed (for it) before he even went public. So, especially since polygamy, it has been easy to simply ignore Joseph’s sex life and make him to an icon.

  14. Garth, my statement was NOT hyperbole. I was emphatically taught that JS was chosen to restore the gospel because he was the most righteous person to have lived since Christ. I was also taught that the reason black people have dark skin is due to the fact that they were less valiant in the pre-existence war. These teachings orginated from different Mormon prophets and I would be happy to supply you with the references if you’re interested. Also, with regard to Mountain Meadows, Eyring was careful to place responsibility on local leaders and used the words “profound regret” which historian Will Bagley and some Baker-Fancher party descendents did not see as an apology. I can see their point, especially in light of the following statement from Hinckley in 1999 at the dedication of the new monument: “That which we have done here must never be construed as an acknowledgment on the part of the church of any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful and tragic day.”

  15. The LDS cannot handle this the way evangelicals handle problems with their leaders but rather the way evangelical handle problems with the bible. Thus a better model for the LDS might be the Catholic church, which has similar problems.

    Mormons also have the added problem of being new kids on the block, dependent on a big influx in membership. The native-born Mormon wouldn’t have near the problems that they have with Joseph Smith if the Church didn’t feel the need to make it look (literally) like “God’s gift to humanity”. Because Mormon growth is dependent on defection from other faiths, the is a massive tendency to distort Joseph the man and Joseph the Prophet. If Mormon kids were taught that Joseph was weird and flawed but still a prophet despite this, it would increase faith and trust in God. Of course that option is not really institutionally viable either. Its a huge institutional problem. You can’t have church leadership running around like Joseph did, so you have to downplay the grace of God, otherwise you would have every other bishop wanting to sleep with the hottest women in the ward, and a clear path to justifying it as “one of those things that God is willing to forgive”. So simply ignoring, just like Evangelicals and Catholics ignore the less desirable or provable parts of the bible, it may be the only path to maintain faith and institutional coherence.

  16. Also, with regard to Mountain Meadows, Eyring was careful to place responsibility on local leaders and used the words “profound regret” which historian Will Bagley and some Baker-Fancher party descendents did not see as an apology.

    Of course they blame leadership, that would be like Bush and the director of CIA accepting any blame for Abu Ghraib. They weren’t in Iraq, were they?

  17. Jared, Brigham was very much in Utah, and Will Bagley firmly believes he gave the order. I think it’s pretty hard to get around that, especially in light of the blood atonement he was preaching in the months leading up to the massacre.

  18. I’ll get back to these comments in more detail later (really pleased with most of the responses I’ve gotten so far), but just so we’re clear: even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints didn’t see President Eyring’s statement as an apology, and went out of its way to clarify that.

  19. Yeah right, and Bush and the CIA set the tone and policy that produced Abu Ghraib. How could such a good guy set the tone for such twisted stuff. Next thing you know you are going to be denouncing our president as callous and inhuman, when we all know he was a good Christian guy. No way in hell Brigham Young knew about the massacre or had anything to do with encouraging it. I mean come on, he explicitly told those armed groups he organized to let people pass in peace. How can you argue with that evidence?

  20. Jared, have you read the JOD sections on blood atonement where Brigham young says that the love of Christ is to shed the blood of your brother in order to save him? If not, let me tell you they’re extremely disturbing. I do not think it is a coincidence that those things were being preached from the tabernacle in the months leading up to the MMM. Beyond that, Bagley has shown very convincingly that BY gave the order.

  21. I’m breaking my Lenten fast again. Dang it. I suck at Lent.

    The LDS church makes claim that its leaders get direct communications from God, understand then and transmit them faithfully. If that is false, then their whole basis as a prophetic conservative church is falsified.

    CD-Host: I don’t know why Mormonism has to maintain its identity as a conservative faith. It’s not inherently conservative. It’s radical. Our conservatism has grown out of our need to be accepted by the mainstream. It’s time to let go of that, because, ironically, it’s so NOT Mormon.

    Katie, I’m curious what you think it would look like for the Mormon church to repent of the worthiness narrative?

    I don’t know exactly, Wes, but I think a change of focus from works-based righteousness to the Mighty Change of Heart in Alma 5 would be revolutionary. I imagine we’d start letting go some of the rules and regulations we’ve forced upon ourselves. We’d stop “othering” people who fall outside the “ideal” so much. We’d start being willing to be more honest about the pain and weaknesses we struggle with. I see this movement already swelling up in the church, and it’s a welcome change.

  22. Jared, here are some quotes from Brigham Young given by him in sermons the same year the massacre happened:

    “For some the only way to be saved and exalted with the Gods is to have their own blood shed. “Will you love your brothers or sisters likewise, when they have committed a sin that cannot be atoned for without the shedding of blood? Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood?” Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 219 (1857)

    “That is what Jesus Christ meant. … I could refer you to plenty of instances where men have been righteously slain, in order to atone for their sins.” Loving our neighbor as ourselves means spilling his blood if that is what is necessary. Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, p. 220 (1857)

  23. Katie, aren’t the rules and regulations part of official church teaching? The 3rd article of faith says obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel is necessary for salvation in addition to the atonement. Wouldn’t this have to be thrown out along with 2 Nephi 25:23 which says we are saved after all we can do?

  24. Wes, Next thing you know you are going to tell me that Bush actually had his legal team come up with some ridiculous justification for torture of “terrorists” to avoid condemnation through international law. Nice try, but Brigham Young is clean, just like Pres. Bush . Just because church leadership justified killing in extreme circumstances, doesn’t mean they actually advocated that the men in the field actually carry out a policy. Come now.

  25. Interesting interpretation, Katie. I get that you think many Mormons “misread” that verse, but when you’re taught what I was growing up in Mormonism (that the goal of life is to be perfect), you’re interpretation of the verse does not fit with everything else. It’s great if you feel the freedom to reject official church teaching, but I don’t think most Mormons feel that way (my parents certainly didn’t). Because of that, I think the church does more harm than good with it’s message of works-based righteousness that is ultimately oppressive and completely contrary to the gospel of Jesus from the New Testament.

    As for Jared, maybe you know something about him that I don’t because he seems perfectly serious to me. I can see that it’s probably pointless to continue that discussion any longer.

  26. As for Jared, maybe you know something about him that I don’t because he seems perfectly serious to me. I can see that it’s probably pointless to continue that discussion any longer.

    Damn strait.

  27. I’m not trying to make you wrong, Wes. I acknowledge it’s a common reading and that the strain of Mormonism you were raised with is alive and well. I was raised with it, too, and I am well acquainted with the harm it causes.

    My position is merely that there are other ways of forming narratives within Mormonism that are grace-based and healthier, and I sincerely hope the church continues to move in this direction (I believe that there large segments within the church that are doing so now). I don’t apologize (in the “apologetic” sense) for what I agree are misinterpretations of the gospel of Christ. I applaud the grace-based narratives that are emerging in Mormonism now and pray for this trend to continue.

    And now, for real, my computer is going to block me from all non-work related sites for the reaminder of the day. Hopefully by tomorrow I’ll have regained my self-control and you WON’T see me around for a while. Hahaha. :-)

  28. Jared, if you were being sarcastic, it was difficult to tell because I have interacted with a number of people on-line who have made sincere arguments that were very similar to yours. Very funny if you were joking.

  29. Yes Katie, I am familiar with the movement you are referring to and I am glad you all have found the freedom to question the leadership. I guess I am just really skeptical that anything will change from the top as a result. Grace and peace to you.

  30. I was about to be discouraged about how any productive discussion about how to fix historical issues that the LDS church might be facing leads to a denial that there are any historical problems. But then I realized that CD-Host and Jared aren’t even Mormons so their defenses are speculated from a position where no threat exists.

  31. Because Mormon growth is dependent on defection from other faiths, the is a massive tendency to distort Joseph the man and Joseph the Prophet.

    Jarod as a former missionary, what draws converts? What interests and excites me is the amazing combination of socially conservative with Hermetic Christian practice and theology. You mentioned offhand that it was the theology went down easily but I’m wondering if that is the draw or it is something else? I know some converts like the moral codes of the church, “the good values”. The friendliness…

    The reason I’m asking (besides being curious) is that I’m not sure how distorting Joseph Smith’s sex life increases the draw. Catholics are used to leaders and saints who have done far, far worse than any crimes that Joseph Smith or Brigham Young could have imagined. And Protestants were founded by people doing far worse while they were founding the faith.

    Maybe this plays into the whole “Mormon niceness” but… anyway I’d love you to take the floor on this one.

    You can’t have church leadership running around like Joseph did,

    I’m not entirely sure of that. There are quite a few religions and sects that do have pretty loose sexuality. But for the purpose of argument lets assume that’s the case… I don’t see why you couldn’t have a doctrine that what was OK for Joseph (being a prophet chosen by God and Moroni) isn’t OK for your average bishop who wasn’t chosen. Judaism has that sort of theology. They delight in David’s sexual prowess and taking pleasures like a lion while living chaste and upright lives themselves.

  32. I was a Mormon. . . and claimed to be so recently that this may be one of the first times I openly recognize that I am not. . . and that is how I dealt with it.

    Joseph Smith was a prophet, so I simply had to swallow the God would choose somebody that took advantage of his position. I was a bit shaken at first, but the evidence of the “truth” in the church in my life was so strong that I had to come to terms with the stuff that went down. I am a life-long Mormon, from a very educated, questioning, yet very devout parents. I read anti-mormon literature when I was 12 years old. So at 20 years later, I new all about polygamy, Joseph Smith’s life, mountain meadows, all of that, and it didn’t really shake my faith, because my experience with the church was much stronger than whatever doubts were produced by its history. In the end, there is no way to explain away Joseph Smith’s behavior, yet there was no real way to explain away what I experienced as a Mormon and a Christian. So, that made me perfectly happy not to worry about the history, but to completely ignore it. I had no problem with the church leaving Joseph’s personal life out of the manuals, because it didn’t make any difference really, and it would make it less comfortable to sit through church.

    I see that across the board in my family who remain active. Many (most all of the women) believe that polygamy was silly and they are happy not to have anything to do with it (maybe its like Christians view the crusades. . . seemed like a good thing to do at the time.. . ) But experientially the reality of the Church as a spiritual center is hard to deny, so the dissenters simply make jokes about it.

    The only way to be comfortable and consistent way of reconciling the truth of the church and the details of Joseph’s life would be to for Mormons to completely rethink what it means to be “worthy” to hear God’s voice . . . (hmmm. Maybe Jack is on to something ;) )

    But even if that is desirable, its a very very tall order given the way worthiness is talked about in the Church.

  33. CD,

    Jarod as a former missionary, what draws converts? What interests and excites me is the amazing combination of socially conservative with Hermetic Christian practice and theology.

    My experiences as a missionary were like watching people fall in love, and me participating somehow. It was absolutely amazing. I still sit back in awe. There is something to the church, no doubt. If I had been taught about Joseph from the beginning, I would have had far less problem. The problem is that many Mormons want to be good protestants as well and not seem weird. So they downplay all of this. The ultimate example is Emma Smith. She knew that Joseph was on to something (she started a church based on Him.) but she wasn’t going to think about Joseph sleeping around, so see ignored it.

    You can’t have church leadership running around like Joseph did,

    I should have said, . . . if you want to be seen as good Protestants. I think it could be possible to rationalize Joseph’s promiscuity, but it would cause a shift in the focus on being worthy.

  34. CD-Host: I don’t know why Mormonism has to maintain its identity as a conservative faith. It’s not inherently conservative. It’s radical. Our conservatism has grown out of our need to be accepted by the mainstream. It’s time to let go of that, because, ironically, it’s so NOT Mormon.

    Ah, now I see why you liked my Mormonism as Hermetic Christianity series. Great minds think alike :)

    I agree that the desire for acceptance seems to be extremely damaging to Mormonism. If I were Mormon I can’t imagine how I’d deal with Gordon Hinckley’s theological mush. I had a list from the article:

    * Sacramental theology especially expressed via. church / temple rituals with a magical flavor.
    * Legalism.
    * Diffuse ambiguous theology drawn from a multiplicity of conflicting sources and open acknowledgement of that rather than hiding behind dogmatic assertions.
    * Monotheism with an underlying polytheism.
    * Syncretism, an openness to multiple forms of revelation. In particular an open canon.
    * A desire to engage creation, to improve it, not to escape from it.
    * A desire to improve and develop one’s self. In particular the doctrine of metempsychosis, that human soul is perfected during a series of earthly lives; essentially purgatory on earth.
    * The idea that salvation is not binary but a degree.

    And frankly in a country whose dominant faith is American Protestantism, virtually everything on that list is radical. Everything is a rejection of the culturally dominant ideology.

    However, I do think legalism is part of Hermeticism. If earthly acts have supernatural effects “as above so below” you can’t separate the spiritual from the physical. The rejection of the essentially Gnostic doctrine that salvation is purely supernatural is core to Hermetic Christianity. However, what sorts of earthly acts are advocated that can change. While the church is too big to do this universally there is no reason it couldn’t bring back things like communities of Christian socialism. Mormon kibbutz in America. Make the temples truly magical experiences. Once morality is directly tied to spiritual practice rather than an austere worthiness it can be expansive like it was under Joseph Smith.

  35. a denial that there are any historical problems.

    Tim, it seems that the standard internet Mormon response in this case would not be that there are no historical warts – but that the Bible has much more, and you hypocritical Evangelicals don’t seem to mind much. (half joking)

    Seriously, I think your approach -Jack- is the only way to view Mormon history objectively and hold to the fundamental truth claims at the same time.

  36. Jarod –

    I understand what you mean. I’d probably be moving from fan to investigator if it weren’t for the requirement in believing in the historicity of the Book of Mormon. That being said, can you break out what they were falling in love with? What specifically about the church was drawing them in?

    The problem is that many Mormons want to be good protestants as well and not seem weird. So they downplay all of this. The ultimate example is Emma Smith.

    Agree with you on Emma, though she seems attracted to his earlier revelations. She founded 2 churches based on his teachings.

    if you want to be seen as good Protestants. I think it could be possible to rationalize Joseph’s promiscuity, but it would cause a shift in the focus on being worthy.

    I get what you are saying, but the odd thing is that Protestants don’t have anything like a worthiness doctrine. Worthiness would have played a much larger role in the Protestantism that existed in Joseph Smith’s time, but today’s Protestantism would consider such a thing “works salvation” and a denial of the gospel.

  37. CD – Almost all the individuals I saw join the Church, did so because of profound spiritual experiences. Whether or not that’s a Protestant trait, has been debated here before. #2 may have been the streamlined narrative of the Restoration. So ya, Jack’s proposal may not go over well as a 1st “discussion” with the missionaries. The community factor was a mixed bag – being that I served in So. Utah.

    As for BoM historicity, I saw more than one individual join – while openly rejecting the book as a historical narrative (they still believed it was the word of God). I asked my mission prez about this each time – he had no problem with these people being baptized. (cue a David Clark comment about phony numbers in 3..2..1)

  38. Watching the wide swings of this discussion, with some willing to compromise on human foibles as forgivable errors, and others expecting a pound of flesh, I can’t help but also observe that this absence of consensus is the very reason why ultimately achieving a universal “happy place” is not possible. No blanket “apology for past sins” is ever going to work. We can tweak some things here and there. Okay. But the church, even if it wanted to, could never please those who see only the hand of a charlatan and fraud in the lives of Joseph and Brigham. Wes is sure BY ordered the “hit” on the Fancher party, Jared C takes it as a fact that Joseph was ultimately a lecherous dude, CD-Host throws in some speculation about Bennett doing abortions thus eradicating Smith’s potential offspring, others view the LDS conservatism as just a feint to attract adherants…we’re all so sure of what we presume to know. How do you reconcile all that without just swinging the pendulum in another tangent that’s not necessarily any better than where it was before? And I would simply again point out that for me, I have no problem with God working with what he has. I never expected perfect vessels, since we’ve never had them in the Bible either. I agree with Christian J that the Bible has far more examples of human error of Godly men, conundrums, speculative mysteries, than the Mormons will ever have, yet Christians accept those with the same trust and faith for which they condemn the LDS. I’m use to deep waters and maybe I’m less perplexed because I look to the core issues, which once resolved make the rest more academic than essential, at least for me. Did we make some mistakes along the way. Sure. And we’ll make more tomorrow. I don’t make that the raison d’etre for God, to have perfect outcomes from imperfect beings, when as far as I can tell, God purposefully follows the Star Trek Prime Directive of “self-determination” as often as He can.

    I also, for 30 years have studied the darkest, most damning attacks against the LDS claims. (I’m even in the Book of Abraham anti-movie.) I know the meat of every argument and I’ve looked under every rock from the Tanners to the IRR to Decker and every one in between. But, I’ve also seen the cost of belief the very men we now question paid willingly. Even with their blood. No one seeing their sacrifices can doubt that “they believed it.” One might as easily look at Peter, or Paul, as imperfect as they were, and conclude they were frauds…until you look at what price they willingly paid. Then, I sit back, take a breath, and try to separate my intellectual sophistry from the greater witness of what kind of men would pay that kind of price, for a scam, or a myth? I’ve walked the streets of Nauvoo. I’ve read the sermons. I’ve studied the results and B of M and heard the attacks as well. Of course there are questions. So what? If Joseph had just wanted women, there were plenty of free ways to get them and risk nothing much. If Brigham had just wanted success in life, he clearly had the natural abilities to obtain it and risk no life-long cost of loss and stress. I also see the evidence of the results and find I truly admire and adore the results. For me, it all fits. The puzzle is only answered–for me–in the LDS doctrines. And the ones that aren’t yet fully clear, are far fewer than what I’d have to swallow in creedal-theology. So for what it’s worth, I accept why others equivocate, or struggle, or yearn for some reconciliation of every gray moment. I get it so never condemn those who let go of the rod. But, at the risk of being mocked or branded as just a blind-adherent (which anyone who knows me would likely refute), it still goes down pretty easy for me. I’m all for improving the trip I’m on, but do I for one enjoy the ride. I believe Joseph was what he claimed to be because the evidence for him, in my view, far outweighs the questions against him. He truly is known for “good and evil” by every nation… I’m in the health care field and realizing there’s more that I don’t know, than that I do, has just been a given in my career. The essentials are enough to move forward rather than letting the tangents derail. I guess my final point would just be, I at least for one would just the truth of what works remains undeniable to me, and the little tweaks of history are always going to be just stuffing for the nay-sayers, I never expected perfection in the first place. The validity of the 80% I do find true, is not negated by the imperfections hanging around the 20% of unknowable fluff (or even mistakes made), at least for me. And that applies to the Bible too. I don’t have to prove the flood, to believe it happened.

  39. The flaws in the Biblical characters are exactly Jack’s point; they are part of a narrative of grace. They don’t serve to enhance the prophets, the expand the meaning and impact of grace.

  40. Christian J –

    That makes sense then. Two serious strengths: direct spiritual experience and restorationism. That’s a powerful combination. I’ve read some on the 2nd point and the results:

    1. Christ organized a church.
    2. Men changed it.
    3. It has been brought back.

    Brings to light the vast majority of Christians are not rejecting #3 but rather have never considered #1 before. Once the position is understand 48% agree immediately with point #1. Of that 48%, 74% agree with point #2 immediately. And that probably corresponds to a all but a few percent of non-Catholics, And then from there 1/2 the people that agree to points #1 and #2 are willing to consider the Mormon claim for #3. Once this is understood as 3 separate claims:

    17% — Maybe Mormons are right
    36% — Mormons are probably wrong
    29% — Mormons are definitely wrong
    18% — No opinion

    As for BoM historicity, I saw more than one individual join – while openly rejecting the book as a historical narrative

    Don’t know what to say. We had a discussion about this on my blog. As a test I asked at mormon.org and they send… yeah it was a hard requirement. If you don’t believe Lamanites, Nephites, Jaredites and Mulekites existed even if you accept Joseph Smith as a prophet no dice.

    I could link off to the conversation but essentially it had to do with the baptismal and temple recommend interviews. I was saying that the earliest creeds in historic Christianity emerged from professions at the baptism rite and that history seemed to be repeating itself with those two playing the roles of a pre-creedal statements. In other words Mormonism was following the evolution of a creed, de facto while maintaining the de jure rejection of creeds. There was 150 years between the baptismal proto-creeds and the first actual creed so I probably won’t be alive to see this all turns out this time around.

  41. That being said, can you break out what they were falling in love with? What specifically about the church was drawing them in?

    Powerful spiritual experience, sense of religious community, making serious commitment to God, Jesus, the belief that God is acting in your life, positive energy. . . . all of the above put together.

    I have no doubt, BTW, that this goes on with Evangelicals as well.

  42. Responding to some of the responses that I’ve gotten . . .

    I realize that the blog is called LDS & Evangelical Conversations and I am an evangelical Christian, but I didn’t write this post as an evangelical. I’m not even certain that what I’m proposing would be an entirely desirous thing for evangelicals to want of Mormonism. I did my best to create a post that was religiously neutral, and never referenced another religion or compared Mormonism’s troubles in this area to that of other religions. So to respond to this post by arguing that the plight of Christianity or evangelicalism or other religions in this area is worse than that of Mormonism is to not respond to my post at all.

    I also decided prior to writing this post that I was not going to spend a lot of time arguing for the things which I see as problems in Mormonism against people who insist that they are non-issues (Garth, CD-Host, Jared C, etc.). I’ve had enough experience in this arena to know that I can offer no example of Mormonism doing wrong, no matter how obvious I think it is, without someone making some terribad argument that my example was not actually wrong, and then my thread gets derailed into a discussion of that issue instead of a discussion of my larger point. So I’m not going to make the case here that Joseph Smith had sex with his wives or that it is deeply problematic to have a leader who lied to his wife regularly about his marriage practices or that the way that the church covered up the Mountain Meadows Massacre was embarrassing and disgraceful. I’m not going to spend more time explaining why the race issue is so thorny than I did in my post. For my own part, that these things are deeply problematic can be seen in (1) the number of ex-Mormons who cite them as part of their disaffiliation narratives, and (2) the way in which the church attempts to avoid these issues at all costs. However, if you really believe that you can make a good case that those things are non-issues, then by all means, please write a post on that and submit it to a significant ex-Mormon community such as Main Street Plaza, or send in a critique of the articles found at MormonThink. Explain to ex-Mormons why things like Nauvoo polygamy and MMM and institutional racism should not be on their list of reasons for leaving the church. This is not a taunt; I’m genuinely curious to see how a skeptical community responds, since I don’t think they’ll be particularly impressed with arguments to the effect of “But Christianity/the Bible is far worse.” Please do it.

    I’m not going to edit anyone’s posts or de-invite anyone from this discussion, but I want to be clear that those are arguments and angles that I won’t be addressing.

    David ~ Claims that “We already do this” in 3..2..1…

    You know, I anticipated three types of responses when I created this post. One would be our usual “But Christianity sucks more” crowd (fulfilled). The other would be “Those things are so not issues, yo” (fulfilled). And the third was this. I thought some people would argue this for sure. And now I’m having kind of a Matrix-ie moment, wondering if the fact that this was the first comment in the thread scared off all of the would-be “We already do this” arguments.

    I certainly didn’t think so many people would like the post as much as they did. I thought it would be more controversial than it has been.

    Wes ~ I would be amazed if the church does anything other than what it is currently doing, i. e. sweeping its historical problems under the rug. This is not an effective approach anymore since the Internet makes it so easy for anyone to see what a lumpy rug it’s become, but the church has always been slow to change. Elder Jensen indicated that the church is working on something to address this. I’ll believe it when I see it.

    But, this wasn’t really a post about how feasible any of this is. It’s just theorycrafting for Mormon ecclesiology.

    Katie ~ The crux of the matter is the pain, fear, and shame fueling the worthiness narrative, the unhealthy expectations, and the reticence to repent for our wrongdoings.

    That is a really good point, Katie. If I ever expand on this theory, I will have to work in a discussion of Mormon “worthiness” culture and how that factors in.

    Here’s a thought for you though, if you haven’t disappeared completely: Mormons preach repentance as the second principle of the Gospel. So why are they so reluctant to embrace it?

    Tom ~ Good points. I agree that another huge aspect of the paradigm shift I am proposing would be that it would open wide the floodgates to questioning current leadership. But of course (as you seem to recognize), I’m not actually taking away “the prophet will never lead us astray.” That’s already gone, and those who disagree are simply out of touch with the facts. What I’m calling for is for Latter-day Saints to harmonize their worldview with the reality of the situation.

    Christian J ~ I think your approach -Jack- is the only way to view Mormon history objectively and hold to the fundamental truth claims at the same time.

    Thanks CJ.

    Jared C ~ I am really not sure, do Evangelicals ever see the Bible this way?

    No. Evangelicals view the Bible as inerrant and/or infallible in what it teaches. If you think that this is problematic and that evangelicals should reconsider how they approach the Bible, by all means, write a post on it.

  43. Hi Jack, not gone yet. Tomorrow. For sure I’ll be gone tomorrow. ;-) (Well, maybe…I like this post so well that I find myself continuing to check in…)

    Mormons preach repentance as the second principle of the Gospel. So why are they so reluctant to embrace it?

    I think the worthiness narrative itself is what makes it particularly difficult for Mormons to repent. And I think the worthiness narrative has arisen, to a large extent, as a defensive shield — a way of legitimizing ourselves both to ourselves, and to the world around us. If we can somehow be “more righteous” — “cleaner,” “nicer,” more chaste, less addicted, healthier, smarter, shinier, whatever — we can “earn” a place at the table…or at least, perhaps, assimilate well enough that people will stop persecuting us.

    I mean, just look at Garth’s comment above (I don’t mean to pick on you, Garth, but it’s a perfect example). I think it reflects the Mormon psyche so well. He says…

    I can’t help but also observe that this absence of consensus is the very reason why ultimately achieving a universal “happy place” is not possible. No blanket “apology for past sins” is ever going to work. We can tweak some things here and there. Okay. But the church, even if it wanted to, could never please those who see only the hand of a charlatan and fraud in the lives of Joseph and Brigham.

    As though repentance is about finding “consensus”! As though it’s about pleasing people who see Brigham and Joseph as charlatans and frauds! Repentance has nothing to do with what other people think. It is about purifying the inner vessel and getting right with God, other people’s hostile opinions be damned. But that’s where he goes first: “Why should we repent? We’ll never satisfy you guys anyway.” It actually breaks my heart, because as a people, we are still in this awful place of trying to make the case that we belong. We haven’t yet realized that we do belong already, have always belonged, that it’s time to let go of this now and start healing from some of this stuff we’ve been carrying around for a really long time.

    So we talk about repentance, Jack, and sometimes we even believe it — at least, many, many individual Mormons have had beautiful repentance experiences with Christ. But as a group, we are still too scared, too ashamed, too invested in “seeming okay” and avoiding the pain of past persecution, to really lay it all on the line and make amends.

    At least, that’s my read on the state of affairs in the Mormonville. I could be wrong…but I don’t think I am. :-) Thoughts?

  44. The flaws in the Biblical characters are exactly Jack’s point; they are part of a narrative of grace. They don’t serve to enhance the prophets, the expand the meaning and impact of grace.

    I understand that. But we are mixing metaphors.

    The simile is not
    Joseph Smith’s flaws :: Forgiveness of Joseph Smith
    David’s flaws :: Forgiveness of David

    because that is already a grace narrative. And as I mentioned, Mormonism can’t embrace that without doing violence to its theology. You and Jack aren’t aiming for grace you are aiming for repudiation of Mormonism under the term grace. Gordon Hinckley has claimed repeatedly that the priesthood ban was overturned by a direct dramatic supernatural revelation. You think he’s lying and that the priesthood ban was just sin on Brigham’s part and want the LDS church to acknowledge that.

    That’s not at all similar to discussing the personal foibles of biblical prophets, and saying their religion is true even if they acted wrongly. What that is, is attempting to invalidate the religion based on the foibles of biblical prophets.

    A more reasonable simile is:

    Joseph Smith’s flaws :: Biblical flaws
    Lying about LDS doctrinal history :: Lying about mainstream Christian doctrinal history
    Believing in Smith while acknowledging problems :: Believing in the bible while acknowledging the problems
    etc…

    Grace applies for the minor stuff, certainly something like:
    Mountain Meadows massacre :: massacre of Bigod’s rebels
    works fine under a grace narrative. And the massacre of the Bigod’s rebels was arguably more important in establishing Protestantism in Cumberland and Westmorland than Mountain Meadows was in winning the Utah war and buying Utah crucial time for another generation of LDS development.

    but you can’t take it much further than that.

  45. Katie; Actually, my point wasn’t “Why should we repent to satisfy you guys”? It was, there is no agreement on what we should repent FOR. We’re assigning “wrong” based largely on subjective opinion. Where there is actual “wrong” I already said we should own up to it. But did BY order murder? Are our standards from yesterday rolled into trends from today? Did Moses’ “sins”, which I enumerated, equate to rebukes by today’s standards. Does decision “X”, perhaps made with justification at time “X” always need correction? Is central “truth” a moving target, and if so how does one ever settle something we leave up to majority opinion? I mentioned that truth is not dependent on getting everything “right” with inherently “wrong” human beings. To the degree that there is no consensus on so many things, my point was that you’re in many cases swinging the “repentance apology” around like a cat by the tail. Focus on reality where appropriate. Admit errors when genuine. All for legitimate, verified human error mea culpas. But those who are set on being dissatisfied-even within our own ranks-will just keep moving the goal post farther out.

  46. Case in Point: In 150 years, if the world in it’s “enlightened” state in 2162 universally accepts that gay marriage is the right and proper rule, would the Mormons of that era need to “apologize” for the stance of the church in 2008? (I know some would already require that today as a precondition for reconciliation with the Church.) And if that future world looks upon gay marriage as the “obviously” only right course for mankind, would the Church of 2008 have been wrong or false or misled in 2008? Would this be a crowning evidence of the evil patriarchal hegemony of the conspiring villains led by Thomas S. Monson? Will a future blog site in 2162 be suggesting the church, now that we’ve become enlightened to the obvious evils of opposing gay marriage, be expected to offer an apology to “right the wrong” of Prop 8 support in 2008?

    Granted, not every issue we’re discussing is in this category. But the “trendism” of applying social norms of today to situations of the past does apply to some of the expectations of reformers of today. That is my point to illustrate what Katie, for one, may have missed in my earlier tome.

  47. Katie ~ Beautiful thoughts all around. I completely agree.

    CD-Host ~ You and Jack aren’t aiming for grace you are aiming for repudiation of Mormonism under the term grace.

    Wrong. I don’t have to aim for repudiation of Mormonism. The LDS church’s current narrative causes Mormonism’s own repudiation. If I had ill intentions towards the church, I would want it to do exactly what it is currently doing, because few paths could be more disastrous.

    Gordon Hinckley has claimed repeatedly that the priesthood ban was overturned by a direct dramatic supernatural revelation. You think he’s lying and that the priesthood ban was just sin on Brigham’s part and want the LDS church to acknowledge that.

    The two are not mutually exclusive. The priesthood ban could be a sinful wrong, and it could have been turned over by direct supernatural revelation.

    I don’t recall accusing GBH of lying on this matter though. That’s hardly the only option.

    Garth ~ But did BY order murder?

    Yes.

    But I don’t believe he ordered the MMM.

    I don’t believe there is much disagreement among outsiders at all that the church should apologize for the priesthood ban and the MMM.

  48. Katie –

    Love your 155 am post, beautifully written and very well argued.

    I think you are touching on the psychological issues, the desire for acceptance well. If I might suggest something in evaluating your own feelings about the Mormon community… you might want to look at the Jewish community in America. That’s another group that has very similar problems, roughly the same size and their struggle for acceptance.

    They have
    a) Very significant theological differences. Judaism is a religion of practice, it doesn’t even define religion the same way Protestant Christianity does. Moreover their religion is explicitly attacked in the Christian bible.

    b) Group cohesion and fear of persecution. Including an actual history of American persecution (though nothing comparable to European persecution).

    c) Political beliefs that have put them at odds with mainstream culture.

    d) A very strong desire to be accepted as a legitimate religion and people.

    e) A centralized body capable of action that they feel obligated to respond to (Israel and before that European Judaism) much like the LDS Church’s actions force a response from Mormons.

    A good deal (IMHO) of what you are seeing as unhealthy in Mormon culture is just a reflection of the tensions of being a distinct minority group in an aggressively assimilationist culture. Those sorts of groups have to make a case they belong, it is unavoidable. The advantage of the comparison is that Jews are a few generations ahead. In 1900 Jews were struggling to be considered white, in 1950 they got grudging acceptance of that, mainly. In 2012 most people can’t even conceive of the idea that Jews were ever not considered white.

    Mitt Romney assuming he gets the nomination and not the presidency, is likely going to end up being the Mormon, Louis Brandeis.

  49. Case in Point: In 150 years, if the world in it’s “enlightened” state in 2162 universally accepts that gay marriage is the right and proper rule, would the Mormons of that era need to “apologize” for the stance of the church in 2008?

    Yep. And you would see the same thing play out you do today. Let’s pretend it is 2162 and that the faiths handle their historical problems the way they do today.

    Protestants — True Christianity defense It is blatantly obvious to all that the bible perspicuously teaches that homosexual marriage is godly. It is a pity that in 2012 man’s fallen state and sin led them to misread the bible and be opposed to homosexual marriage; worse yet that they tried to justify their sin on what they claimed were biblical grounds. It is wonderful gift of the grace of God that we have been given scriptures to correct such sinful doctrines, which just proves ecclesia semper reformanda.

    Catholics — Development of doctrine The magisterium of Christ’s church has always taught that homosexual marriage is a godly sacrament and a Christian duty. There were debates in the 20th and 21st century on this topic, bishops on the other side of the issue. It may even have been the case they were the majority, but God infallibly guides his holy church. His Eminence’s 2158 encyclical has made homosexual marriage a matter of personal conscience so as not to cause schism with those remaining traditionalists. Bishops from all over the world are currently compiling historical information about their diocese’s historical pronouncements on the issue. After these are compiled national cardinals will gather the bishops into conferences to create a consolidated national report. These reports will be sent to the vatican for further study…. and finally in the 2318 encyclical attitudes towards homosexual marriage are no longer a matter of personal conscience

    Pentecostals — historical denial True Christians never believed homosexual marriage is ungodly, they can read the bible as clearly as I can. Teachings about fake Christian history like this are spread by ungodly secularists to discredit the Christian faith.

    Fundamentalist — holding fast Homosexual marriage is sinful and a denial of God’s intent for marriage as expressed in Genesis. Anyone can clearly see that by reading scripture, the convoluted interpretations that are popular today are nothing more than justifications for sin.

    Liberal Protestant — Progressive revelation Our churches were leaders on the move towards homosexual marriage and this is something we are justifiable proud of. While scripture itself is murky the direction of scripture is perspicuous. Our understanding of scripture as guided by the Holy Spirit has led our church to help rectify many past wrongs.

    Jews — restricted understanding It is important not to confuse a marriage between homosexuals and “Homosexual marriage”. Homosexual marriage is still banned as sinful. However, a proper understanding of Rabbinic law on the issue has led towards us assembling the 23 criteria that were present in homosexual marriages in the 21st century. Modern marriages between homosexuals do not fulfill criteria 5 and 16. For example #5 marriage at that time was a state contract recognized between states while today it is international and state recognition is automatic; since no act of recognition takes place no marriage in the 21st century sense is taking place today between homosexuals.

    LDS (a) — implicit denial The church simply revises manuals dealing with marital doctrine to fully embrace homosexual marriage with quotes from the bible and the Book of Mormon. Mormons who jack into the information matrix can get brain dumps from anti-Mormon sites and see a full history of revisions to this doctrine, which somehow is supposed to be a justification for Protestantism. Mormon apologists argue that the church’s stand in church manuals and on prop 8, even though it was directly funded by the church was never official doctrine.

    Everyone has the same problem.

  50. I like Ms. Jack’s post as well, even if she insists on limiting herself to one husband.

    She said, “What the church needs is a paradigm shift. One that allows for it to acknowledge and apologize for the wrongdoings of its past whilst retaining its claim to being the ‘one true church.’”

    In carrying out Ms. Jack’s instructions, one key sentence that they will need to change in their Gospel Principles book is, “The Lord will never allow the President of the Church to lead us astray” (p. 42).

    It has seemed to me that the problem boils down to their misconception of how God protects his prophets. But Ms. Jack is right—it’s about grace, too. I perceive that Mormon leaders know a lot about grace, but they will do well to extend the grace message to every aspect of their gospel, including how prophets operate.

    The following excerpt of Ms. Jack’s post is worth repeating:
    “[A] grace-centric paradigm would hold that the LDS church is God’s church, not because the Mormon church is more righteous or more holy than other institutions [I would add at this point, "not because God restored priesthood authority through Joseph Smith"], but because God has graciously chosen it to be his church in spite of its failings and flaws. A grace-centric paradigm would maintain that LDS prophets and apostles do speak with God. However, they are capable of letting their own sinfulness and hard-heartedness cloud his voice [because God's free agency extends to their hearing and interpreting God's voice], even to the point of misleading people for a time on important points of salvation, and it is by God’s grace that they remain as his servants in spite of their hard-heartedness.”

    For sake of maintaining grace in my own life toward my Mormon brothers and sisters, I would like to add that I recognize that it will be a MAJOR hurtle for them to change their viewpoint on the restoration of God’s authority. In their minds, their whole church would come tumbling down.

    I must be patient with them because I certainly need God’s patience. “Give and it shall be given to you” (somewhere in Luke).

    Thanks for a great post.

    Let me know if I’ve misrepresented LDS doctrine.

  51. Katie said:

    As though repentance is about finding “consensus”! As though it’s about pleasing people who see Brigham and Joseph as charlatans and frauds! Repentance has nothing to do with what other people think. It is about purifying the inner vessel and getting right with God, other people’s hostile opinions be damned.

    For the Win

  52. Hi Garth, I guess I just don’t think we need to reach consensus when deciding what to repent for. If we’ve done wrong, we should repent. Period. I take it as self-evident that things like the Priesthood Ban and MMM were sinful and deserve formal apologies. I suppose your mileage may vary, but from where I’m sitting, it still sounds to me that a main component of your argument has to do with what will “satisfy” other people (for example, this: “But those who are set on being dissatisfied-even within our own ranks-will just keep moving the goal post farther out”). Let me ask you, seriously: you say, “Focus on reality where appropriate. Admit errors when genuine. All for legitimate, verified human error mea culpas.”

    So what sort of real human errors do you see in church history? You leave room for them to exist. What are they? And I don’t mean what’s the “official” word? I mean, use your own conscience as your barometer. Where would you like to see some reconciliation?

    By the way, repenting from past wrongs doesn’t mean condemning those who sinned. Grace, remember? To borrow your gay marriage example, if in 150 years it becomes pretty clear that it was wrong to oppose gay marriage — just like we all pretty much agree today that racism was wrong — we don’t have to go all the way to “Thomas S. Monson was a conspiring villain” to make things right. If I may be so bold, that’s a pretty “Mormon” way of viewing sin and sinners (at least in a cultural, not necessarily theological, sense): that is, without much compassion.

    …as a former missionary, what draws converts?

    In my experience as a missionary in Germany: nothing.

    HA! Bulgaria, too. :-)

  53. CD host has a funny take on would Mormons (and all other religions) need to apologize in 150 years for their “old-fashioned” rejection in 2008 of gay marriage, stating; “Yep. And you would see the same thing play out you do today…” Witty. Some truth mixed with cynicism was fun to read, if not necessarily sharing your conclusions. We’ll have to agree to disagree about some of that. I think if I viewed the Church–or any church–as solely a social invention of man, I might concur more. Or does societal drift lead to the scriptural pride-cycle of apostasy and reclamation? I grant that some attitudes can and often should evolve as society evolves (like inter-racial marriage), but to view that evolution as a “failure” of the past generation, is also unfair. For example, I don’t blame our founding fathers for leaving slavery intact when the declaration of independence was signed in 1776. Abolition would have to wait almost 100 years. Franklin, Adams and Jefferson did the best they could with the society they inherited, while upholding the ideal, if not the application. They lifted as heavy a load as could be asked of them at that time and place and no condemnation or apology is required in my book. I would opine that there are also universal truths that should not be subject to the whim of future public opinion. Knowing the difference is the key. But blaming the past from the luxury of the future is not productive or necessary in most cases.

  54. You are mostly right, Kullervo. But loneliness, depression, and (yes!) batsh!t-craziness do get you the occasional convert in a First World country.

  55. You and Jack aren’t aiming for grace you are aiming for repudiation of Mormonism under the term grace.

    Nah, Mormonism is way bigger than its current conservative iteration. She is calling for a paradigm shift, but Mormonism can handle it. We’ve got this wonderful, fluid theology we can tap into.

    Thanks for your thoughts about Judaism. I haven’t really studied it, but I’ve often said that it *feels* to me like Mormonism is a distinct religious culture and community, almost like what the Jews have (we’re just newer and don’t yet have the benefit so much time and history behind us).

  56. Jack

    CD-Host ~ You [Tim] and Jack aren’t aiming for grace you are aiming for repudiation of Mormonism under the term grace.

    Wrong. I don’t have to aim for repudiation of Mormonism. The LDS church’s current narrative causes Mormonism’s own repudiation.

    I don’t agree with either part. The idea that the LDS church is capable of error in the sense you mean it, is a fundamentally Protestant viewpoint, you are demanding they adopt a Protestant ecclesiology as I’ve said before. For Mormons to adopt that viewpoint towards their church is to become Protestant and in the Mormon sense deny that they still have a church. If the LDS church taught the priesthood ban it is impossible from a Mormon viewpoint that the church is true and that this teaching was in opposition to God’s will. The only way they could apologize for an error like that is to repudiate the Mormon faith, not repudiate the priesthood ban.

    An apostate church according to Joseph Smith is one that meets the Timothy definition, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”, in Peal of Great Price, “for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible” . The LDS church can no more teach moral error via. official doctrine for a Mormon than the bible can teach moral error for a Protestant. The church cannot be in need of grace, because it is the very earthly instrument of grace. If it has reached the point of teaching error than it has lost the keys and it is a waste of time to join either priesthood. Engaging in the rites of fallen church, “virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ.”

    Once it is understood that “the church was wrong on a official doctrine” is off the table then there can be a discussion about what is still on the table. The idea that their is no true church, that is that the church can err like any other human institution is a rather modern Protestant innovation. You might want to read Mystical Body of Christ (1943) by Pius XII addressing this issue, more directly than I think the LDS does.

  57. Re: Mormons are like Jews.

    I am always astonished when this comes up, because having studied it a bit myself, I see almost no commonalities. I do see why Mormons _want_ there to be commonalities, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

    Jews are a distinct culture because the vagaries and vicissitudes of history forced them to be one, sometimes by law, usually out of self-preservation. There is a distinct Jewish culture (really two distinct Jewish cultures, Ashkenazic and Sephardic, but let’s simplify here) which has managed to preserve itself across space and time. It has been independent of the larger culture, though it often accretes features from the larger surrounding culture, the underlying Jewish culture is still there.

    Mormon do not have this. Mormons are so completely integrated into American culture that it’s laughable to think otherwise. To compare Mormon persecutions to Jewish ones is just laughable. But that has been the driving force behind a lot of Jewish culture, that they have been hated and kept apart. It’s not having the benefit of time and history, because time and history were always against the Jews.

    As for commonalities in religious thought, Jewish religiosity is based on reverence for Torah. That reverence expects debate and discussion, with no overarching religious hierarchy to declare winners and losers. There is also a profound reverence for the history that has built up around this as recorded in Mishnah, Talmud, and the great Jewish commentators. I don’t see how this open debate, reverence for historical ebb and flow of ideas, and lack of hierarchy can be compared in any way to Mormon culture. The LDS church has a massive and imposing hierarchy and debates nothing visibly. For crying out loud, you can read arguments from rabbis a thousand years ago going at it in debate, but the LDS church refuses to even acknowledge its own teachings from 50 years ago on blacks and the priesthood, preferring instead to pretend that it has stuffed it down the rabbit hole of “that was just his opinion” (even though it was declared revelation) and “we don’t know” (even though 50 years ago they knew).

  58. Katie said: “Nah, Mormonism is way bigger than its current conservative iteration. She is calling for a paradigm shift, but Mormonism can handle it. We’ve got this wonderful, fluid theology we can tap into.”

    So Katie, let me say that people like yourself, Joanna Brooks, Dan Wotherspoon and others come off as very nice, kind, and genuinely likeable individuals on many levels. I agree with a lot of the stuff you guys say about grace and what not and am sure I would enjoy knowing you in real life. With all of that said, I for the life of me just don’t get statements like the one you made above. Do you believe that Mormon prophets speak with authority? If not, how do you determine when they are speaking for God and when their statements are something other than that? Mormon leaders have made some very exclusive claims over the years that do not seem to gel very well with the idea of “fluid theology” from where I sit. Also, what do you do with books like “The Miracle of Forgiveness” by Spencer Kimball? Not sure if you’ve read it or not, but people often say it would be more appropriately titled, “It’s a Miracle if You Can Get Forgiveness” because it’s such a hopeless book that is all about worthiness. If you can so easily dismiss statements, positions, or entire books by men in your church who supposedly speak for God, what is the point of remaining a Mormon? If a restoration was truly necessary, wouldn’t Mormon teaching be way ahead in terms of loving one’s neighbor, etc.? Doesn’t it seem odd to you that there have been so many major problems throughout Mormon history that are in complete opposition to the message of Jesus? Please, help me understand how you reconcile these things, because I often find myself just shaking my head in confusion on how you do it.

  59. CD-Host ~ you are demanding they adopt a Protestant ecclesiology as I’ve said before

    Protestants believe that there’s an earthly “one and only true church” led by living apostles and prophets of God? News to me!

    If the LDS church taught the priesthood ban it is impossible from a Mormon viewpoint that the church is true and that this teaching was in opposition to God’s will. [SNIP] The LDS church can no more teach moral error via. official doctrine for a Mormon than the bible can teach moral error for a Protestant. [SNIP] If it has reached the point of teaching error than it has lost the keys and it is a waste of time to join either priesthood.

    If this is the case, then the only option is that the LDS church is false, because the LDS church has most certainly taught error even by its own standards (i. e. Adam-God). Good news for the church’s enemies at least.

    I disagree with you on all counts, of course, but I no longer find it worthwhile to devote serious time to your wall o’ text posts.

  60. Jack,

    A serious question. Would you view the disagreement between Peter and Paul (Gal 2:11-14) as a NT precedent for the type of move you are suggesting?

  61. If this is the case, then the only option is that the LDS church is false, because the LDS church has most certainly taught error even by its own standards (i. e. Adam-God). Good news for the church’s enemies at least.

    I disagree with you on all counts, of course, but I no longer find it worthwhile to devote serious time to your wall o’ text posts.

    Well OK I may be a waste of time but just in case there are others reading this thinking you actually know what you are talking about… This offers a good example to show how the church actually address this sort of problem.

    The church’s position on Adam-God is quite clear. They never taught it as official doctrine. The version popular in break away fundamentalists sects was always rejected by the LDS church. There are a small number of second hand reports of various sermons of this material which even in their language are inconsistent with themselves and the fundamentalist view. “It was not then and is not now a doctrine of the Church”. (adam god extended page) Where church authorities have commented on this they have unequivocally condemned this break away theology as false.

    Critics of the Adam-God theory who assert that such a theory was taught have been unable to even generate a consistent theology of the teaching. Once you start asking about the teaching and trying to reconcile their statements with these reports the entire theory falls apart. For example:

    a) If Adam is Elohim why does Brigham speak of “revelation given to Adam” revelation from whom?

    b) Why does Elohim refer to “my son Adam” in Brigham’s sermons?

    c) Why does he in these reports of the sermons say of Adam and Eve “they are the children of our Heavenly Father” and refer to us as their children which contradicts the entire supposed point?

    So far critics are completely unable to answer these kinds of questions. They have no ability what-so-ever to address what the Adam God theory was. Elden Watson covers this noting for example that unlike evangelicals Brigham understood Adam as a title

    ____

    I actually like the Adam-God theory and wish they had gone the other way… But if anything the mistake the LDS church makes is to try and sweep this area under the rug rather than create an official encyclical with all these reports and tear the argument to shreds that there was a unified teaching called the “Adam God theory” like Fundamentalist Mormons and Evangelical Christians claim. Elden Watson did a good job on this issue.

    The good news for the church’s enemies is that the church has just put out brief statements, asserting by authority what they should have asserted by argument and left the field wide open to their critics.

  62. Please, help me understand how you reconcile these things, because I often find myself just shaking my head in confusion on how you do it.

    Like this: I believe that LDS prophets, while they have a special and distinct calling from God, are fallible. They can be wrong. One of the things they’re wrong about is that they can’t be wrong. I think that’s simply obvious to anyone who is willing to examine LDS history even semi-objectively.

    Of course, I view the Bible and other scripture similarly. I don’t believe that the Bible is infallible or inerrant or anything like that. I do believe it is authoritative. But it’s a big leap from authoritative to perfect.

    As to how I decide what to believe: I am a grown woman and a free agent. I get to be the final arbiter of truth in my own life. So I search it out, pray it out, and come to my own conclusions as best I can. When there is a conflict between some external source of religious authority, be it a living authority or ancient scripture, and my inner conscience, my inner conscience wins. That doesn’t mean I think I’m always right. I know there are things I believe right now that I’m dead wrong about (though I’m not sure WHAT, or I’d adjust my view). :-) But one of the things I’m pretty sure about is that God doesn’t expect more from me than to do my best to live up to the light I believe He’s given me, because I believe He is a God of grace. And where I am wrong, I have hope He will forgive me. I don’t say that glibly, because I don’t approach any of this flippantly. But I believe that getting stuff wrong is just part of being human, and to a certain extent is actually kind of the point.

    As for why I remain Mormon: I find SO MUCH that is beautiful in Mormonism and its unique teachings. Like, so much. I’ve written about it elsewhere, so I won’t get into it here. But it feeds my soul. Also, God’s made it pretty clear to me that this is where I’m supposed to be, and I find it’s always a good idea to listen when you get direction from The Big Man Upstairs. :-)

    Helpful?

  63. The church’s position on Adam-God is quite clear. They never taught it as official doctrine.

    That you can assert this shows you really have no idea what you are talking about. There was no such thing as “official doctrine” in the 19th century. There was no need for such a concept. Truth be told, there is no need for such a concept today. It is completely ad-hoc and driven by the apologetic need to distance current church practice from past prophetic statements without dealing with those prophetic statements in any meaningful way. You simply don’t find the term even used prior to the 1980′s.

    So Adam-God wasn’t “official doctrine” in the exact same sense as Julius Caesar didn’t drive a car. Cars didn’t exist back then, therefore I can assert with impunity that he didn’t drive a car. BY’s teachings on Adam-God were not “official doctrine” because such a concept didn’t exist. Brigham taught it repeatedly, so did his subordinates, and Adam-God was part of the lecture at the veil in the temple. He thought it was true, he taught it as true, so who gives a rat’s a** if it doesn’t pass some contrived apologetic litmus test of being “official doctrine.”

    Critics of the Adam-God theory who assert that such a theory was taught have been unable to even generate a consistent theology of the teaching.

    No sh** Sherlock, neither could Brigham. Just because he taught it, doesn’t mean that it made any sense. I can’t make sense of Lysenkoism, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t official Soviet science for decades. It also doesn’t make any sense to insist on polygamy as a practice and then rail against the male saints when they couldn’t all get wives, both of which Brigham did.

    I actually like the Adam-God theory and wish they had gone the other way

    The FLDS church awaits you.

  64. Thanks, Katie. Are there any circumstances you can imagine that would cause you to abandon Mormonism?

    It’s not something I anticipate in the foreseeable future, Wes, but I never say never. I’ve learned that the hard way. ;-)

  65. That you can assert this shows you really have no idea what you are talking about. There was no such thing as “official doctrine” in the 19th century.

    I see. So the LDS church, which made this assertion doesn’t know its own history about when they switched from having no official doctrine to having one.

    There was no need for such a concept.

    Funny, Brigham seems to disagree. He was very concerned about 19th century prophetic revelations and their official status. For example JD 13:274-83. His concern, “, you receive your revelations from every foul spirit that has departed this life, and gone out of bodies of robbers, murderers, highwaymen, drunkards, thieves, liars and every kind of debauched character, whose spirits are floating a round here“.

    As an aside the early repudiations of this doctrine as having never been approved by the church come from people like Joseph Fielding Smith at the turn of the century.

    Truth be told, there is no need for such a concept today. It is completely ad-hoc and driven by the apologetic need to distance current church practice from past prophetic statements without dealing with those prophetic statements in any meaningful way. You simply don’t find the term even used prior to the 1980′s.

    If the church didn’t have doctrine prior to the 1980s then there is nothing to distance themselves from. You can’t have this both ways.

    He thought it was true, he taught it as true, so who gives a rat’s a** if it doesn’t pass some contrived apologetic litmus test of being “official doctrine.”

    This is even part of Protestantism, you should know this. People empowered from an inerrant church to speak inerrantly can themselves have errant opinions, they will not have errant opinions on those topics they speak inerrantly about. So for example Moses having had a poor understanding of particle physics does not disprove the bible. In the same way, when Brigham says something like “I’m really thirsty” this was not an eternal truth.

    No sh** Sherlock, neither could Brigham. Just because he taught it, doesn’t mean that it made any sense.

    I see. So your claim is Brigham taught a doctrine, quite officially in his prophetic office to the church, that self contradicted and made no sense in obvious ways and no one questioned the contradictions and in fact everyone believed it, even though they had no idea what this doctrine is. When within a generation of Brigham Young’s death the church repudiated these doctrines and denied this had ever been church doctrine everyone agreed, even though they wouldn’t know what church doctrine was another 70 years. We know this is true based on second hand reports that contain a few scattered paragraphs which don’t make sense.

    Yep, great reason to stop being Mormon there.

    Let’s try a slightly more reasonable version of history. We know that at the end of his life Joseph Smith was studying Hebrew and learning Kabbalah which does have a fully developed theology of a divine adam, Adam Kadmon, where Adam is used as a title and not the name of a prehistoric person. This idea also appears in Free Mason theology having come through Islamic hermetics. The Adam Kadmon theology is irreconcilable with Augustine’s theology of the fall. Brigham did learn this theory from Joseph Smith and preached on something related to this. But this theory makes no sense using an english language KJV bible because the nuances of the underlying Hebrew aren’t being captured. The reports we have are mangled because the people writing this down didn’t understand the doctrine, because of both the translational and the conceptual difficulties. Later fundamentalists sects completely misunderstood this doctrine and developed their own doctrine based on the English KJV and some scattered ideas.

    In other words the LDS church is telling the complete and total truth about Adam-God, Mormons of the 1850s weren’t idiots that believed nonsense because Brigham said it. Rather he was explicating a teaching of Joseph’s. Later evangelicals are misrepresenting a doctrine that appears in Philo and from there shows up in Judaism, Christian Gnosticism, the Clementine literature, Manichaeism, Druze and finally Hermetic Islamic literature because they’ve never heard of it even though Paul in 1Cor 15:45-50 refers to it directly.

    That seems a heck of a lot more likely.

  66. Katie; I think you summed it up well. I like the way you phrase your faith, but may I add one other slight nuance for perspective as to how you view fallibility in leaders? I have seen leaders in many settings, and a few times they have been dead wrong on certain decisions, as shown by time. But “wrong” is also relative. I would suggest the concept of “wrong” is also a function of time and subsequent choices. For example, when Samuel, the prophet of God ordained Saul as the first king of Israel, in deference to the will of the people, it was the “right” choice, given the circumstances. Saul was worthy, humble, godly, and righteous. He was indeed the best man in Israel and at the time of his call and ordination everything was “right” about it. The fact that Saul later fell (which God forewarned could happen) does not mean that Samuel made a mistake, nor that God only chose Saul to punish Israel for their arrogance. I don’t think God picks sacrificial humans just to rub our noses in it. (Sucks if He picks you to be the magnificent cautionary-tale for others to witness!) Likewise, Judas in my opinion, was likely worthy to be an apostle when he was called. Judas may have been the 12th most worthy Jew in Israel, bringing up the rear of the pack perhaps, but I suspect he started out with good intentions. Perhaps even in the pre-existence, Judas had earned a spot on that team. The only other alternative is to see God as picking a failure, knowing he would be a failure, wanting him to fail–and oh, by the way “it would be better for that man had he never been born”. Sucks to be Judas, who might otherwise have lived a very happy life fishing and dying of old age. Did God “throw away” Judas just to make the story more dramatic? Or were Judas, and Saul, and David, and Samson, the right men who had “earned” the right to their callings? So when we see a “failure” in the church, is it a failure from its inception, or is God somehow “bound” by the rules of fairness that He, Himself, has established? I bring this up just to point out, for example, that when the 3 witnesses were chosen, they had likely “earned” that right and privilege. Oliver Cowdery “earned” the right to serve in his station. The fact that they would all err later, has nothing to do with them being the “wrong” choice initially. Therefore, I leave open the theological probability that when we allege a “mistake”, we usually do it in hind sight. Do we forget however that God cannot punish someone before they sin? How can God withhold a blessing that we have earned, even if He knows we will later “un”-earn it? So to me, when I see a mistake made by BY, or JS or my bishop, or my stake leaders, or even in a church decision or policy, or a historical moment…I leave open the possibility that what BECAME a mistake, may have been absolutely “right” when initiated. Iron isn’t tested until after it’s been forged. I suspect God has rules that he accepts too.

  67. David P ~ It’s interesting to see how historical issues are addressed in the new Mormonism 101: FAQ at the LDS Newsroom site.

    Yes. By ignoring them altogether. I hope this isn’t what Jensen was talking about as being in the works.

    CD-Host ~ What David said (although I wouldn’t date the introduction of official doctrine as late as the 1980s). You claim that I’m the one who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, but I feel confident that any serious student of Mormon history would see that the reverse is the case.

    So the LDS church, which made this assertion doesn’t know its own history about when they switched from having no official doctrine to having one.

    Either the people making such statements do not know the history of the matter, or they are unable to stop themselves from viewing the development of Mormon doctrine anachronistically, or they are lying. If you don’t know that Mormon leaders have sometimes been less than forthcoming about the church’s doctrine, practices, and history, then you know even less about Mormon history than I thought you did.

    Personally, I’m with Blake on this issue: there is no such thing as Mormon doctrine. But reasonable people have disagreed.

    As an aside the early repudiations of this doctrine as having never been approved by the church come from people like Joseph Fielding Smith at the turn of the century.

    You mean Joseph F. Smith? Fielding Smith was named to the Quorum in 1910 when his father was president, but I don’t recall him being a significant mover in repudiating Adam-God as his father was at the time. He did become more involved in repudiating it later (1930s onward).

    and no one questioned the contradictions [in the Adam-God doctrine] and in fact everyone believed it

    It was contested by Brigham Young’s contemporaries, most significantly Orson Pratt, and it was questioned by plenty of faithful Saints at the time. Your own theory requires that Pratt and others must have been simpletons who couldn’t grasp this “Adam Kadmon” stuff and opposed Brigham Young for no good reason.

    In case anyone is interested in some actual history on the Adam-God doctrine.

  68. Gundek ~ Would you view the disagreement between Peter and Paul (Gal 2:11-14) as a NT precedent for the type of move you are suggesting?

    I’m not sure that I understand the comparison. Do you mean in the sense that Peter was in error in what he was teaching, yet remained an apostle and leader in the church by grace? If that’s wrong, feel free to elaborate.

  69. It was contested by Brigham Young’s contemporaries, most significantly Orson Pratt, and it was questioned by plenty of faithful Saints at the time. Your own theory requires that Pratt and others must have been simpletons who couldn’t grasp this “Adam Kadmon” stuff and opposed Brigham Young for no good reason.

    I did a blog on this. Of course there are plenty of good reasons to oppose Adam Kadmon even if it is understood. Someone can understand a doctrine and still disagree with it. See Thoughts about Adam-God. I address your theory of events rather directly and explain Orson’s opposition in terms of the Brigham Young / Orson Pratt disagreement on exaltation.

    As for the rest, I’ll give you the challenge I gave David. There are 3 questions above. Assuming your theory about Adam-God is correct, that Brigham preached what sects like the FLDS / AUB claim he preached why that use of language?

  70. Katie, I am curious what you think the special and distinct calling is that Mormon prophets have? Also, my experience growing up in Mormonism was that it either puffed people up (those who think they’re worthy, keeping all the Mormon laws and ordinances and thus are well on their way to the Celestial Kingdom) or beat them down (those who know they’re not worthy but keep trying to be anyway even though they’re probably only Terrestrial Kingdom material). Is the doctrine on the 3 degrees of glory something you reject as false or do you accept it as truth? I’m curious where you’re at on that because I have a hard time seeing it can exist alongside a grace narrative.

  71. Jack,

    You seem to get what I am saying. If Paul, who already had to defend his Apostleship, was able to disagree with Peter yet was still able to work with him despite his spite of failings and flaws why couldn’t the LDS church accept a paradigm of “flailing and flawed” apostles even with respect to beliefs, piety and practice.

    I’m asking because I assume that the LDS would read Galatians 2 quite differently than I would because of their belief in the continuation of the apostolic office, Peter’s error, and the belief that an apostle cannot lead the church astray.

  72. CD-Host ~ Your handling of the actual Adam-God historical material and the nature of this controversy, as discussed in your blog post, is a joke. For example, you write:

    To prove this rather substantial theory they whip out a few second hand paragraphs with some scattered quotes from sermon records of the time spread over two decades.

    I didn’t “whip out” a few scattered quotes. I linked to a substantial peer-reviewed historical article on the subject, one which discussed dozens of quotes from Brigham Young as well as the reactions of those who heard his Adam-God sermons and talked about them in their journals. The article then covered how later LDS leaders misrepresented what Young taught in their attempts to rescue Young from having taught it, and it covered the likelihood of Young’s claim that the doctrine originated with Joseph Smith. From what I can tell, your post doesn’t even begin to address the actual historical scholarship on Adam-God. But I suppose “to prove this rather substantial theory, evangelicals cite responsible peer-reviewed scholarship on the matter” just didn’t have the bite you were looking for.

    As for your “challenge” questions, the likely answer to all three of them involves Young’s teachings on a Grandfather God who preceded Adam-God. See Buerger, p. 18-19.

    Gundek ~ Yes, I think the Peter-Paul disagreement could be an example of what I’m suggesting. I’m afraid I don’t know how Mormons read Galatians 2.

    However, I do recall some discussion in my BYU Greek classes of whether or not Peter was commanded by Jesus Christ to deny him. I believe this was taught (or strongly implied) by Spencer W. Kimball, and one of my professors at the time had just released a book making the case that the Greek could be read in such a way as to see Christ as commanding Peter to deny him, so there was a lot of talk amongst us classics undergraduates about this. At one point, Eric Huntsman even let me and another young woman (my best friend) in the class have a brief debate on the matter (I know that I made a careful journal entry that day, but I can’t find that journal at this moment; will post if I find it soon). I’d have to find my notes to go into more on the technicalities of the Greek on this.

    The desire to rescue Peter from having actually failed and denied Christ struck me as part-and-parcel to the LDS tendency to not admit to mistakes and failing in their leaders. It was bizarre to my Protestant mind at the time that people would rather deal with the moral conundrum of Jesus commanding someone to lie than the conundrum of apostles who let people down. It’s not nearly so bizarre to me now, but I was young then.

    Hermes was in the classics program with me, btw, so he may remember some of this as well.

  73. I didn’t “whip out” a few scattered quotes. I linked to a substantial peer-reviewed historical article on the subject, one which discussed dozens of quotes from Brigham Young as well as the reactions of those who heard his Adam-God sermons and talked about them in their journals

    Yes you did site a peer reviewed journal. And that peer reviewed journal consists of a few scattered quotes on the topic reported by secondary sources, which is what I said. Remember you are arguing for (generically) are arguing something rather major that Brigham Young taught a doctrine that the LDS denies he taught and that he explicitly contradicted in more official sources.

    This is not a peer reviewed journal article by Brigham. It is a peer reviewed analysis of the available evidence. And not a particularly good one. John Buerger, the author of your article when on to write a book about the origins of the temple ceremony: The Mysteries of Godliness-A History of Mormon Temple Worship which talks about the creation story in the temple ceremony coming from Free Masonry. So if you want me to address your sources, I’ll say the source you picked changed his mind and by 2002 agreed with my position about the evolution of Mormon creation doctrine. But even taking the article as it stands and ignoring the fact its author repudiated the findings, the article itself doesn’t even answer the basic questions it cites Orson Pratt as asking: under this scheme if Adam is the Father of Jesus then how could Adam’s father say he was going to send his son after Adam fell?

    The article cannot address the basic question of whose child is whose when it tries to use the fundamentalist theory of Adam-God.

    As for the grandfather theory in Buerger that definition of Adam-God contradicts your entire theory that the fundamentalist version is what Brigham taught. Buerger quotes, “Elohim, Yahova & Michael, were father, Son and grandson. They made this Earth & Michael became Adam”. Because then Jehovah, the main God in the old testament is not Adam at all, Adam isn’t God but rather an archangel. That relationship is D&C 78, current Mormon doctrine. For your theory to be true, Brigham would have had to teach in opposition to this.

    As for Joseph not teaching it Buerger’s analysis is just plain wrong, “In both of these 1839 and 1840 sermons, Joseph clearly places Adam in a position subservient to Christ, a relationship seemingly incompatible with the Adam-God doctrine later articulated by Brigham”. That’s easy enough to disprove, by just citing standard Shia mysticism. For them, the 7 incarnations of Adam Kadmon are: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and the Mahdi which has Jesus as the son of the Adam Kadmon and superior to earthly Adam. That’s standard Islamic mysticism’s theology of Adam. I would have expected a guy writing an article about the theology of Adam to bother to know the teaching attributed to Ibn Saba about Adam which somewhere around 1/2 billion people believe, including possible some who ran into Brigham or Joseph Smith.

    Anyway he quotes in the article are very consistent with with Adam Kadmon:
    * When you see your Mother that bear your spirit, you will see mother Eve

    * Adam and Eve were the names of the first man and woman of every earth that was ever organized and that Adam and Eve were the natural father and mother of every spirit that comes to this planet

    So no the article doesn’t disprove much of anything, and the grandfather theory doesn’t hold up.

  74. Garth –

    Wanted to wait till things cooled down a bit before responding… Glad you and Hermes liked the other post.

    Anyway I agree with you that it is hard to blame older generations, they had different problems. There is that expression about walking a mile in another’s shoes.

    That being said, I tend to think in terms of analogies. So I agree with your comparison between gay equality since 1970 and racial equality, in terms of morality.

    I don’t hold our ancestors to our specific standards but hold them to general standards. And you need to be careful, because even there things have changed. For example just in the last 2 generations the attitude about open vices being worse or less bad than hypocrisy has really flipped quite a bit.

    The issue with the LDS is that the church has become so tremendously conservative politically for the last 2 generations. A great deal of the issues I’d have with the LDS church are issues I’d have with any powerful church run by conservative Republicans. Where you are on the left to right spectrum matters a great deal on how one looks at the church. As a liberal when I look at the priesthood ban, that was troublesome, but I see the impact as low. And I don’t see much difference with white evangelicals. That is while evangelical congregations are theoretically integrated just 5.5% of Christian congregations in the United states are not 80% mono-racial, so effectively religious racial segregation is still alive and well in both your churches. What I’m happy about is the fact that white evangelicals are distressed about this, while a generation ago they weren’t. That is real progress for them.

    For me, things like the huge amounts of money, and bodies the LDS church poured into New Orleans after Katrina, count as much more of an “apology” then any sort of statement from church leaders about the priesthood ban. That shows the LDS does value the lives of African Americans. Conversely (to use your analogy) the LDS’s churches actions on Prop-8 in my mind, indicate that if it was 1950 this LDS leadership would have made the same choices, and have considered the civil rights movement “communist agitation” rather than a legitimate quest to build an equal society. That being said, evangelicals turned out in huge numbers in 2004 to embed in their state constitutions anti-gay legislation which means they are doing the same thing.

    Going deeper things that have do have impact like the massive defunding of black schools from head-start through college in the last dozen years; white evangelicals have been massive proponents of these polices. The practical impact on blacks caused by cutting off income mobility in America has been massive. Conversely white evangelicals focused on dealing with AIDS in Africa and saved millions of lives, which is a massive positive impact. The LDS hasn’t really played much of a role in either of these issues.

    But if we are going to do a moral evaluation I’d look at a lot more about actions than teachings. And if we are going to dredge up the past there is just so much to go after. I’d like to know why evangelicals haven’t fully repented of the fact their leadership started the massive trend towards witch burnings and encouraged it every step of the way, while the Catholic church was trying to damp down on the hysteria. Why was it that the very first Protestants did such a terrible job determining God’s will on this matter?

  75. CD-Host ~ that peer reviewed journal consists of a few scattered quotes on the topic reported by secondary sources, which is what I said.

    You grossly misrepresent the nature and extent of the evidence. Buerger’s citations of Brigham on Adam-God specifically include at least eight sermons by Brigham Young that are only “reported by secondary sources” in the sense that he didn’t write them down himself. However, they were all published during his lifetime in official church publications in the years after he preached them, with his approval, therefore I would regard them as primary sources. He also cites, in numerous places, papers from the Brigham Young Collection in the LDS Archives which appear to have been written down by Brigham himself. From the latter comes “possibly his most forceful and detailed statement on Adam-God ever given” (26). That’s over a dozen sources that are not secondary at all, not counting sources from Brigham that provide some ancillary context but don’t necessarily illuminate Adam-God specifically.

    Add onto that the sources that are secondary in the sense of being recollections of Young’s words, most of them quite close to Young (reactions to Young’s speeches as recorded by his listeners, other apostles writing about their debates amongst themselves on the subject, sermons recorded on Young’s behalf by careful secretaries yet never published, John Nuttall’s 1877 journal entry recording the temple lecture at the veil, etc.) and your summary of the argument as resting on “a few scattered quotes reported by secondary sources” skyrockets past ridiculous.

    Those so-called secondary sources, btw, are still incredibly significant because they demonstrate how Young’s listeners and contemporaries understood what he was teaching. Who knew Young had so many evangelicals and fundamentalists among the Mormon masses?

    the source you picked changed his mind and by 2002 agreed with my position about the evolution of Mormon creation doctrine.

    I haven’t read Mysteries of Godliness. It isn’t in I-Share and my library tends to be awfully stingy about interlibrary loan items. You’ll have to forgive me if I take your summary of Buerger’s conclusions with a grain of salt until I can view it myself. (It looks like the book was published under Smith Research Associates in 1994, then re-published under Signature Books in 2002. I’m wondering if it was updated significantly between publications.)

    the article itself doesn’t even answer the basic questions it cites Orson Pratt as asking: under this scheme if Adam is the Father of Jesus then how could Adam’s father say he was going to send his son after Adam fell?

    It isn’t the responsibility of historians to make a historical figure’s theology consistent. While inconsistency may be a sign of misinterpretation, it may also simply be that Brigham Young never worked out the internal contradictions in his own theory or fully harmonized it with the remainder of LDS scriptures. That Young’s theory had a lot of difficulties and contradictions seems to have been a big part of the reason that people rejected it.

    For your theory to be true, Brigham would have had to teach in opposition to [D&C 78].

    I’m not understanding how the grandfather theory of Gods contradicts D&C 78, however, even if it did, I don’t think this matters very much. Brigham was willing to overturn prior Scriptures if he felt they contradicted Adam-God, as he did with the Genesis account, and as he did again later in life. John Nuttall recorded that, later in life, Brigham taught that Adam did not die, which contradicts D&C 107:53 and Moses 6:12 as well as his earlier teachings on Adam-God, so there is precedent for this. On top of this, Smith’s earliest versions of D&C 78 lacked v. 16, so Brigham may have felt that gave him leeway to contradict it.

    I would have expected a guy writing an article about the theology of Adam to bother to know the teaching attributed to Ibn Saba about Adam which somewhere around 1/2 billion people believe, including possible some who ran into Brigham or Joseph Smith.

    I think one would have to establish conclusively that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young had a connection to Ibn Saba, and that he was influential on their thinking, before one could fault Buerger (or anyone else) for omitting this from the discussion. Otherwise, there’s no more reason to reverse the plain meaning of what Joseph and Brigham say by superimposing a theology that they may have paid no attention to than there is for any other religious figure’s teachings.

  76. I’m going to skip Buerger for now since I think you are failing to understand the key argument,

    It isn’t the responsibility of historians to make a historical figure’s theology consistent. While inconsistency may be a sign of misinterpretation, it may also simply be that Brigham Young never worked out the internal contradictions in his own theory or fully harmonized it with the remainder of LDS scriptures.

    I’m not addressing the issue of consistency with the rest of LDS scriptures, that is irrelevant. The statements being consistent with themselves however is critical. The claim is that Brigham Young taught an Adam-God doctrine not that he gave a series of disjointed lectures about various inconsistent and irreconcilable Adam-God revelations. If he did the latter, that is there was no doctrine from Brigham, then the consistent form of the doctrine must of have evolved later, that is in the fundamentalist sects and not under Brigham.

    This is an absolutely critical point. Your theory requires a doctrine. You can’t walk away from defending a consistent interpretation of Brigham’s statements while attempting to argue that Brigham was teaching the FLDS doctrine.on Adam-God. Either Brigham taught the FLDS theory, or the FLDS developed this theory on their own based on statements from Brigham.

    If the latter then we are reduced to either:
    a) Brigham never had a theory which is the classic LDS defense.
    b) Brigham had a theory that was poorly expressed which is my defense.

    Buerger in the paper argues that Brigham was teaching the FLDS doctrine. Disagree with this and you are disagreeing with both of us.

    _____________

    I think one would have to establish conclusively that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young had a connection to Ibn Saba,

    Ibn Saba was dead 1100 years before Brigham was born, the connection would be through his teaching. If one is going to write a paper about Brigham’s theology of Adam, then that paper needs to address the prominent and influential thinkers on the nature of Adam. Obviously Augustine and Ibn Saba being the most prominent both today and during Brigham’s life. Given that Brigham is explicitly rejecting Augustine’s theory and that Brigham does contain explicit quotes about an Adam and an older Adam, it is only sensible to address the prominent theology that has both an Adam and an older Adam. Yes, Buerger has an obligation to be familiar with the major schools of thought on Adam and determine where Brigham fell within them. Which is the same thing you do with analyzing any theologian, discuss him in terms of the currents of his time. And moreover the same thing any historian of ideas does.

    As for contact with Ibn Saba, the evidence is Brigham’s own statements. He learned this theory from Joseph. Joseph I’ve already given 3 points of contact: Free Masons, studying Kabbalah and delving into Hermetic Christianity. Buerger doesn’t seriously consider that Brigham is telling the truth, because he unlike you, is putting forward the positive case that the FLDS theology represents Brigham’s thinking, and the FLDS theology does explicitly reject Ibn Saba.

  77. CD-Host ~ I’m not sure where you’ve gotten that I don’t think Brigham’s Adam-God teaching reflects what the FLDS teach. I do. Very much. The best anyone could say in his defense on the matter in terms of preserving LDS orthodoxy would be that he taught conflicting things it, which is what Bruce McConkie said in a private letter to Eugene England:

    Yes, President Young did teach that Adam was the father of our spirits, and all the related things that the cultists ascribe to him. This, however, is not true. He expressed views that are out of harmony with the gospel. But, be it known, Brigham Young also taught accurately and correctly, the status and position of Adam in the eternal scheme of things. What I am saying is that Brigham Young, contradicted Brigham Young, and the issue becomes one of which Brigham Young we will believe. The answer is we will believe the expressions that accord with the teachings in the Standard Works.

    I think you can give me credit for having a knowledge of the quotations from Brigham Young relative to Adam, and of knowing what he taught under the subject that has become known as the Adam God Theory. President Joseph Fielding Smith said that Brigham Young will have to make his own explanations on the points there involved. I think you can also give me credit for knowing what Brigham Young said about God progressing. And again, that is something he will have to account for. As for me and my house, we will have the good sense to choose between the divergent teachings of the same man and come up with those that accord with what God has set forth in his eternal plan of salvation.

    I repeat: Brigham Young erred in some of his statements on the nature and kind of being that God is and as to the position of Adam in the plan of salvation, but Brigham Young also taught the truth in these fields on other occasions.

    Bruce McConkie was neither an evangelical nor a fundamentalist, and I’m pretty sure from the context of the letter that “cultists” is a reference to fundamentalist Mormons. So he agrees that Young taught what the fundamentalists claim he taught.

    I agree with Buerger that the evidence that Young’s teaching originated with Joseph is very weak. It was par for the course after the death of Joseph Smith for people to claim that Smith had originated their teachings and claims. I’m actually a bit more cynical than Buerger, for while he tries to give Brigham the benefit of the doubt and grant that Brigham sincerely believed he got it from Joseph (but was misremembering or conflating other things Joseph said), I think he probably willingly put the idea into Joseph’s mouth to bolster his own claim. In any case, that no one else seems to speak of the teaching prior to Brigham’s sermon in 1852 is pretty strong evidence that it did not come from Joseph.

    What I would really have to see in order to be convinced that Brigham had Adam Kadmon in mind and was trying to teach that would be some listeners who understood his teachings in those terms. Yet again and again, what people wrote in their journals concerning what he taught was the fundamentalist Adam-God theology. Highly unlikely that they all got it wrong.

    In closing, I’d just like to say that I don’t think the Adam-God doctrine (as taught and believed by fundamentalists today) is crazy or stupid. At all. In fact, I think it’s thoughtful and provocative and has a certain degree of synergy with the rest of established Mormon theology. It never made a lot of sense to me to have a God and Goddess of flesh and bones who gave birth to spirit children, then created mortal tabernacles for those children by fashioning them out of the dust. For that God and his wife to create a world and then come to it themselves and start the human race via procreation is actually a flattering idea. The Adam-God doctrine’s real problem has always been its failure to harmonize well with already established scriptures, especially the doctrine of the Fall, though I think the idea has symmetry with the Incarnation.

    So, in maintainng that Brigham taught the Adam-God doctrine, I don’t see myself as attacking Brigham. I am only trying to do justice to who Brigham Young was and what he believed.

  78. Jack –

    Thank you for the less hostile tone!

    I’m not sure where you’ve gotten that I don’t think Brigham’s Adam-God teaching reflects what the FLDS teach. I do. Very much.

    Well the main thing is your grandfather theory and Elohim as a collective in Brigham’s theory. As far as I understand the FLDS theory:

    Elohim is a singular person not a collective.
    Elohim is the father of Yahweh. Yahweh is the God of the Old Testament (mostly) but not the original creator who is Elohim.
    Yahweh is the father of the Angel Michael who becomes Adam.
    Adam is the father of Jesus.

    Adam is not the biblical God in that theory but rather he is the son of God and “our” (meaning restored Christianity) God. In other words they are explicitly rejecting Jesus as the son of the God of Abraham.

    That’s a different theory than the one you were proposing which allowed for contradictions and inconsistency in role. The above theory is consistent about role but has other inconsistency with scripture in terms of Jesus’ statements.

    So he agrees that Young taught what the fundamentalists claim he taught.

    I think the McConkie is saying
    a) Young taught FLDS version.
    b) Young taught something other than the FLDS version as well.
    c) Young taught the current Mormon version.

    And he can’t explain why. That’s troubling for any student since clearly Brigham Young knew this was a controversial doctrine but for some reason held on to it.

    It never made a lot of sense to me to have a God and Goddess of flesh and bones who gave birth to spirit children, then created mortal tabernacles for those children by fashioning them out of the dust. For that God and his wife to create a world and then come to it themselves and start the human race via procreation is actually a flattering idea. The Adam-God doctrine’s real problem has always been its failure to harmonize well with already established scriptures, especially the doctrine of the Fall, though I think the idea has symmetry with the Incarnation.

    I agree with you. Though Mormons seem to mean “spirit” in the sense of hylozoism (Spinoza / Deism) not in a Orthodox Christian sense. In particular this means there is no meaningful distinction between body and soul. Again an idea one frequently sees in Hermetic Christianity. Separating the material creator from the material creator would make this distinction more useful. This is what makes Mormonism interesting, it plays with these theologies but seems to want to avoid going over the edge.

    Mormons reject the traditional doctrine of the Fall (Augustine’s) so that’s not so much of a problem. The real problem is getting Jesus as the son of the God of Abraham in this scheme.

    So, in maintainng that Brigham taught the Adam-God doctrine, I don’t see myself as attacking Brigham. I am only trying to do justice to who Brigham Young was and what he believed.

    Can I remind you of how this started your quote: “ because the LDS church has most certainly taught error even by its own standards (i. e. Adam-God). “. I agree with you the FLDS Adam-God theory fits nicely with the rest of Mormon theology. But it instantly falsifies the LDS church unless one argues the doctrine was fully rejected. The problem is parts of the doctrine were accepted.

    Yet again and again, what people wrote in their journals concerning what he taught was the fundamentalist Adam-God theology.

    I don’t agree. They seemed to believe that Jesus’ father was Adam’s God, not Adam.

  79. I’ve been gone for a while and have been getting up to date, so I’ll just say now that Katie L did a great job saying much of what I would have said. And while ours isn’t a majority viewpoint within Mormonism, I’d also say that we’re far from alone. The experience that Wes Cauthers had in the Church may be the typical one, but it isn’t the only one to be found. There are plenty in the Church who would be sympathetic to the narrative that Jack presented in her typically well-thought-out fashion.

    And on this fine Easter morning, I’d like to share this talk from last weekend’s General Conference. Yes, there is a place for grace in the LDS church:

    The Laborers in the Vineyard

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