The more I hear about the new 2009 Gospel Principles manual, the more I feel for my thoughtful, ecumenically-minded LDS friends.
My own LDS husband has always hated the Gospel Principles manual and (by extension) the “Gospel Essentials” class. He applauded Robert Kirby’s suggestion that all “Gospel Essentials” courses ought to be held in the church parking lot. It looks like, with the advent of the new manual as the text for Priesthood and Relief Society meetings, holding the second and third Priesthood/RS meetings of the month in the church parking lot might not be such a bad idea.
A chapter that seems to be getting a lot of attention lately is Chapter 16: The Church of Jesus Christ in Former Times. In addition to being historically faulty in almost every way imaginable, this chapter seems to be giving the Gospel finger to a decade or two of Mormon attempts at a kinder relationship with the rest of the Christian world. Here’s a relevant excerpt (emphases mine):
Soon pagan beliefs dominated the thinking of those called Christians. The Roman emperor adopted this false Christianity as the state religion. This church was very different from the church Jesus organized. It taught that God was a being without form or substance.
These people lost the understanding of God’s love for us. They did not know that we are his children. They did not understand the purpose of life. Many of the ordinances were changed because the priesthood and revelation were no longer on the earth.
The emperor chose his own leaders and sometimes called them by the same titles used by priesthood leaders in the true Church of Christ. There were no Apostles or other priesthood leaders with power from God, and there were no spiritual gifts. The prophet Isaiah had foreseen this condition, prophesying, “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5). It was the Church of Jesus Christ no longer; it was a church of men. Even the name had been changed.
I especially appreciate that second to last line. Yes, the non-LDS Christian world is the church of men, as opposed to the LDS church, which is what? The church of women? (Remember us?) The church of God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, who (as far as LDS theology goes) are also men?
I have a hard time deciding what to think of the 2009 Gospel Principles manual given how little we know about the church correlation process and who is involved in actually producing and revising these manuals. I imagine that these lines have been changed little (if at all) from the original 1978 version of the manual, which would certainly explain some of the harsh rhetoric and outdated understanding of ancient church history. Nevertheless, someone higher up must have looked at this chapter and ok’ed it for publication, and someone decided it would be a good manual to teach to the entire church for two years.
Maybe I should open the floor to my LDS friends. What’s a non-LDS Christian to think of all this?
“Those called Christians” and their “false Christianity” by Loyd at Project Mayhem
2009 Gospel Principles criticizes the “pagan beliefs” of those “called Christians” in “false Christianity” by Aaron Shafovaloff at Mormon Coffee
The Pierian Spring, Aquinas’s new blog for more internal LDS matters. He has been reviewing the Gospel Principles manual chapter by chapter, but Chapter 16 is not done yet. Chapter 1 is here.