Today’s guest post comes from Cornponebread.
I started this out as a “Mormons vs. Latter-day Saints” article. There had been a few things lately which bothered me about those who practice the “Culture of Mormonism” as opposed to those humble seekers of truth; the followers of the true doctrine of the restored Gospel. What I ended up with was far different from what I had started with.
The more I got into it, the more I realized what an open-ended issue this is! As I thought about it and asked friends in different wards, I realized that each ward has its own culture. For instance, this last Sunday I went away from my testimony meeting feeling empty, frustrated, and most certainly not edified. In my current ward, the “culture” dictates that testimony meeting is a combination of small kids getting up and repeating what their parents tell them to say, the usual suspects with their life-threatening event of the month, the ensuing one-upmanship, the name-dropping, the “I was sitting in the temple” stories… You get the picture! And in all this, very little if any actual testifying. Our poor Bishop has really tried to change this, but to little or no avail. He has suggested in the past that we leave out the stories (after which the RS president promptly got up and told a story) and concentrate of actual testimonies, that those who usually get up and give lengthy testimonies shorten theirs and give others a chance (after which prime suspect number one went on for over 10 minutes), and has gone so far to assign people in advance to give “proper” testimonies. Nothing has changed!
Once my ward was finished, I listened in on the ward that follows ours. Whereas my ward never lacks for people taking advantage of “open mike” time, I was surprised at how few took the stand in this other ward. It reminded me of my ward growing up. It was about an hour and a half of silence, punctuated by a few testimonies, the substance of which I can’t recall after all these years. (Back in the day, sacrament meeting was much longer, about an hour and a half). I returned from my mission, and nothing had changed. Imagine my surprise when a few years back I attended a testimony meeting in that ward for the first time in over 20 years, AND NOTHING HAD CHANGED!!!
So it seems clear from this example alone that there is a culture from ward to ward, in addition to the culture within the Church as a whole. Further to this, the culture changes from region to region, depending on whether or not the Church is a long-established institution in the area (Utah, Idaho) relatively new OR geographically removed from the Utah-Idaho area (like it was when I was on a mission), or somewhere in between.
The danger of having specific cultures or sub-cultures is that they breed dissonance. People come from other cultures and don’t do things the same way. Sometimes they are ostracized. Sometimes they feel like they don’t belong. I’ve heard many times that the Church is the same in Salt Lake as it is in London as it is in Madrid as it is in Tokyo. And while it’s true that they teach out of the same manuals and have access to the same materials, the culture is definitely different from place to place. And I’m not talking about the obvious socio-economic conditions. I’m talking about the way the Word is interpreted and applied.
As I asked and observed, I found that a lot of this “culture” is fostered by arrogance and hypocrisy. People look down their noses at others because they are “different”, when in reality they should be more Christ-like and accepting. People are quick to judge and point fingers, to scoff in self-righteous indignation. Now my personal observations are too few to be scientifically valid, but my conversations with others from around the Church in different areas and countries seem to point to the same problems.
How is it, then, that a culture of hypocrisy has taken hold within the membership of the Church? It is surely not preached from the pulpit. It is not preached from the conference center. It is not preached in the magazines. Why, then, is there so much hypocrisy within the Church? As far as I can tell, the answer is that because although the Church does not actively preach hypocrisy, it most certainly and actively practices it! Here are a few examples:
- The Church tells us to refrain from participating in, attending or watching sporting events on Sundays. The Sabbath day is holy, after all. Many times stories have been printed in the Church News, Ensign, New Era and Friend about individuals who gave up a chance at a championship or a professional career because they would be required to do so on a Sunday. A few years back the BYU women’s rugby team went to the nationals but due to a scheduling error were required to play on a Sunday. The players elected to remain true to their standards and were forced to forfeit their game, thus eliminating them from the tournament. They were lauded by the leadership of the Church for taking this difficult stand. OK, so why does the Church-run KSL television station show six hours of football on Sunday? Why doesn’t the Church take a stand? This is hypocrisy.
- The Church warns us to avoid pornography in all its forms. The Bible tells us not to uncover one another’s nakedness (Lev 18:6-19) yet at Church-run Brigham Young University in their art program, the painting and sculpting of nudes is part of the curriculum. Granted, the models don’t pose nude, but it is left to the artist to “fill in the blanks”, in a manner of speaking. Now I don’t want to enter the art vs. pornography debate here, but consider this: Before internet porn there were porn magazines. Before magazines there were pornographic photos. Before the photos, there were pornographic drawings and paintings and sculptures. I’ve always maintained that pornography required one of two elements to be considered such: the intent of the one producing it, and the intent of the one viewing it. It thus follows that a painting or a sculpture, no matter how undeniably skilled the artist, can be viewed as pornographic. If we are to avoid pornography in all its forms, why provide the means for someone to derive a pornographic experience? This seems hypocritical to me.
- Ephesians 4:14 tells us not to be carried about with every wind of doctrine. Yet how does the Church explain its own doctrinal changes? The softening of the Church’s stance on homosexuality comes to mind. The Church’s stance that all indigenous peoples in the Americas are literal descendants of Lehi, since debunked by DNA testing, has now been somewhat altered by a change in the text to the introduction in new editions of the Book of Mormon. Previously, the introduction said that the Lamanites “are the principle ancestors of the American Indians” Now it says the Lamanites “are among the ancestors of the American Indians”. So which is it? It is documented that Pres. Hinckley referred to the people of Central America as descendants of Lehi in several dedicatory prayers he gave for temples in that part of the world. Now it seems this is not the case after all! Yet several prophets have made comments to the effect that the Church is either true or it is false. President Hinckley himself, on the PBS documentary “The Mormons”, said “it’s either true or false. If it’s false, we’re engaged in a great fraud. If it’s true, it’s the most important thing in the world.” Truth, as I understand it, is unchanging, immutable, eternal. Truth does not change with every wind of doctrine. A subtle change in wording, even just one word, is still a change. Hypocrisy!
- And what’s with the censorship of Pres. Packer’s talk at the last conference? Either he said what he said, or he didn’t! Why is the “official” version sanitized? I thought D&C 68:4 taught us that what these men say is scripture? If it is scripture, why change it? What then is the Church’s stand on homosexuality? Is it as Pres. Packer said, or is it something else? Why can’t the leaders agree on it? More hypocrisy!
- Matthew 6:1-4 (also 3 Nephi 13:1-4) warns us to do alms in secret, and not to sound a trumpet before us so that others can know what we are up to. Yet the Church spares no expense in trumpeting its own alms, done in the form of humanitarian aid, to the world. It seems there is always a camera there to record the moment for posterity. This is totally contrary to biblical (and Book of Mormon) teaching, yet there they are, never missing a photo op. Still more hypocrisy!
I haven’t even gotten into the usual tired arguments that the “anti-Mormons” put forward. Some of them are bunk, but some of them hold water. There are several dark “secrets” in Church history which the leadership is aware of, yet if anyone dares bring them to light, they are excommunicated. Brigham Young taught the doctrine of blood atonement. He taught in the temple that Adam and God were one and the same. IN THE TEMPLE! The Church does not accept these doctrines currently, but at one point it did. Isn’t that hypocrisy?
We are shocked by allegations that Warren Jeffs was not only a polygamist, but married girls as young as 12, making him a child molester. What does the Church have to say about Joseph Smith marrying Heber C Kimball’s 14 year old daughter? (This, by the way, is documented in Church-produced materials, including FamilySearch.org) Was he a child-molester as well? If I brought this up at Church, I wonder what would happen?
What other examples of hypocrisy do you see in the Church?
Do you view the above examples as hypocrisy, or do you view them in a different light?
Why does the “true” Church change its doctrines, or at least put a different spin on some of them?
Do these changes bother you?