Is It More Important that the Church be Good or True?

By: hawkgrrrl
August 13, 2013

The church: not just for serial killers.

Which  is more important:  that the church be good or that it be true?  Obviously, we would like it to be both true and good, yet as our leaders remind us, people (including all of us and them) are imperfect and make mistakes.  Likewise, anyone who has looked at all has found that elements at least of the way the church portrays itself are not “true” or accurate.  A recent internet discussion yielded several good points to consider.

Why Good Isn’t Good Enough

If we heavily weight the church being “good,” the problem is that we are capable of being good on our own with or without the church.  As an analogy, if your parents are not good people, you can still be a good person despite your upbringing.  You can transcend their teaching and poor example.  Consequently, if they are bad, you really don’t need them. While you can ultimately grow up and leave your parents’ home, leaving the church is far easier than leaving your family (even as an adult) if you find the church to be a bad moral actor.  That’s why immoral acts and unChristian behavior, particularly if they stem from the leadership level, are intolerable to those who feel it is important that the church be “good” without caring if it is true.  The other issue is that one’s perception of “good” is tied to one’s own moral values (which usually correlate with political values).  The church need not only be “good,” but it must be better than we are independently, and good enough to bring out the best in us.

Theoretically, the value of the church from a “goodness” standpoint is one of community.  We can do more good collectively by pooling resources and specializing than we can do individually.  A charity can accomplish things that charitable individuals cannot alone.  And a community can improve our desire to do good acts through support and peer pressure.  We see ways to contribute, examples of others around us that give us new ideas of how to improve, and our community holds us accountable on some level for our actions.

Oh Say What Is Truth?

You can’t tell people to believe without seeking.

But if we are independently good (and even better than the church, at least in our own estimation), then the church being “true” is the only compelling reason to stay in the church.  But “true” is a strange concept.  When speaking of religious “truth”, it is something that cannot be proven but requires faith.  Truth generally means we believe things like that God exists, the priesthood was restored, the first vision happened or the BOM is historical.  All of these things cannot be “proven” beyond a reasonable doubt.  So belief in the church’s “truth” gives the church psychological influence on us.  If we believe the church is true, we will try hard to evaluate our decisions to align with principles the church teaches.  We suspend our skepticism and take Pascal’s Wager.

Why are people unwilling to take this wager?  One of the issues that erodes faith is that the simplistic morality-tale version of history presented by the church doesn’t match actual historical accounts.  The church’s version in correlated materials is usually a black and white affair with little nuance.  Reality is always more complex and can’t be neatly tied into narratives of villains and heroes; the morals to the story are not so clear cut.  For some, this becomes a “truth” problem.  If the church is inaccurate in its storytelling, and other versions of the same stories cast the church in a bad light (certainly by contrast), then maybe the truth claims aren’t true.  But it’s a “goodness” problem, too.  If the church hides its past, maybe it is deceptive and lacks integrity.  While I agree that whitewashing is problematic and can indicate a deficit of integrity, I tend to think both these views are reductionist thinking.

I am bothered greatly when the church deliberately hides the ugly aspects of its history or rewrites the past.  But that could mean that it is simplifying complex information to protect simplistic people from wrong conclusions.  It connotes a lack of trust on the part of some leaders in members’ ability to deal with contradictory evidence.  But that lack of trust may be an accurate reflection of how people deal with complex facts where not all the information is known and narrators are often unreliable and biased.  Reading an original historical account does not make it accurate; it is still full of the bias of its author.

One (anonymous) comment that summed it up well from a disbelieving perspective:

For me, Mormonism was powerful because we had Christ’s church restored with its power and authority, scriptures that were real witnesses of Christ’s coming to the American continent, and prophets that were mouthpieces to dictate God’s will for his people. Once that fell apart, it was hard for me to find anything from a religious standpoint that was “uniquely”valuable, even though I still see value in the community. The LGBT and women issues are just reminders that we don’t really have prophets who lead and guide us as I once believed. Value can still be found in the BOM, and in certain parts of Mormon cosmology, but not enough for me to carry the same power and meaning.

For others, literal belief is not as critical as willingness to suspend disbelief:

Historical stuff doesn’t get much traction for me. Religious belief is, by nature, weird. It involves suspension of reality. ALL religious belief requires this. And when people say that the church “lies” or even that JS “lied,” I just don’t see it that way. Lying implies knowingly, intentionally deceiving. I don’t think it’s fair to say that church leaders are or were doing that to members.

Social Issues

Reject or be rejected.

As with the above disbelieving comment, often when people state that the truth claims didn’t add up and give a logical explanation for their disaffection from the church, there are additional issues at play (in the above case, conflicting values).  Like history, it’s complicated.  So, questioning whether something is true is one element, but then the treatment one receives for questioning can create a new issue:  the church (locally in this case) not being “good” to individuals with issues.  This is entirely subjective and varies from person to person and ward to ward.  It’s also a common phenomenon in other faiths.  Doubters are often treated as enemies because the organization and its members feel that their closely held values are being rejected by the skeptic.

Why do people who have doubts stay?  Many reasons, but often because they don’t encounter poor or rough treatment at the hands of local leaders which would be the death knell otherwise, making it easier to leave than to stay.

For others, the social issues actually precede looking into truth claims.  In these cases, feeling like an “other” or an outcast or someone whose values are being stepped on at church can be the impetus to searching for truth.  When the church is either institutionally or locally unwelcoming to feminists, homosexuals, intellectuals, divorced people, singles, working moms, people from different cultures, Democrats, or others, those individuals become more likely to scrutinize the church’s truthfulness.  They already have reason to question its “goodness” in that they may not have been treated well or welcomed.  The church has rejected them and they experience dissonance with their values and what vocal members are saying at church.  In some cases, their identity, who they are, is being criticized by vocal ward members in an open and approved manner on a regular basis.  This gives some justification to their searching to see whether there is good reason to stay or not.  For those who are given reason to look, there is plenty of information out there that will justify a choice to leave it.

We can’t dismiss people’s values and finely tuned desire for social justice as wrong without giving them due consideration.  Doing so is just exercising group think.  The more homogeneous a group is, the further to an extreme its thinking will be.  The more diversity in the group, the more its thinking will be moderate.  If we intend to be a worldwide church, welcoming to all, then we need that diversity.

In my own case, I have had several disconnects with some vocal members’ (and in some cases leaders’) stated opinions.  But I also see others who disagree with those views, including in highest levels of leadership.  I don’t believe some of the things I have been taught.  But I also see that some of those things have changed, even in my lifetime, with greater understanding and time.  So I don’t see the church as always good or always true, but for me, it’s been good on the whole and true enough.  It’s been a good influence in my life and the lives of my kids.  And like Givens, I haven’t found a compelling case that disproves its truthfulness, even if proving it is likewise impossible; the value of its truthfulness is psychological.  That might not be the case if I were gay or if I had encountered much more judgmental wards than I have in which case my motive to be compelled would be greater.

Discuss.

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29 Responses to Is It More Important that the Church be Good or True?

  1. Mike S on August 13, 2013 at 8:19 AM

    Why do I stay despite all of the issues so nicely stated above?

    When someone asked the Dalai Lama to become a Buddhist, the reply was: “Please don’t. Stay in your own religion, and meditate … It is better to stick with the wisdom traditions of one’s own land than to run from them pursuing in exotica what was under your nose all the time.”

    There is good in both the Mormon faith as well as in other faiths. There is truth in both the Mormon faith as well as in other faiths. There are problems in both the Mormon faith as well as in other faiths. Like any organization, there are various issues, but probably no more or less than in any other organization. And ultimately, this is the faith of my fathers (and their fathers and their fathers and so on). So I go forward with faith…

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  2. Justin on August 13, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    I once had the wife in a family I home taught tell me a story — and the moral of it at the end of it was that she had to choose [in that situation] if she would rather be right or be happy. The point of her story was that she swallowed her pride and “went along to get along” in her anecdote because she believes “it’s better to be happy than to be right.”

    I’m quite the opposite — when she was telling her story, the first thing that popped-into my head was the quote from some old talk by Gordon Hinckley, “It’s true isn’t it? Then what else matters?“.

    I’d rather know what’s “right” first — and then try to be “good” within that context. Sure, knowing the right rules of a game like chess and how each piece should move, etc. won’t make you a good chess player [in and of itself] – but, if you’re going to be a good player, then your strategy better not include things like moving the Knight diagonally [which is inconsistent with the rules of the game].

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  3. alice on August 13, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    I think the question is if something is true why wouldn’t what’s fundamentally good intrinsically work toward aligning itself with the truth? Don’t each of us have to be diligent and scrupulous in trying do that in our personal journeys?

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  4. allquieton on August 13, 2013 at 10:49 AM

    When people ask me if I think the church is true, I ask for clarification. B/c the question doesn’t inherently make sense.

    Plus “the Church” can mean the church members, or the church doctrine, or the church leaders. But then to further complicate things, church leaders don’t all agree on doctrine or policy.

    Better to single out specific statements as true or false. And examine who said them and why.

    I think it’s more interesting to ask people if they believe the book of mormon is an actual record written by actual prophets. It’s a sort of dividing line in my opinion.

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  5. Justin on August 13, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    Plus “the Church” can mean the church members, or the church doctrine, or the church leaders. But then to further complicate things, church leaders don’t all agree on doctrine or policy.

    I don’t understand how “the church” can mean anything other than . I mean, in the scriptures, the Lord always speaks about “the church” as something that could repent and be forgiven, something that the Spirit could strive with, and that could be both collective and individual.

    The organizational structure of church leaders does not fit that, nor does the doctrines of the church — as these are things or concepts, and not people. Only people can repent. The priesthood power is also not people — but is a thing or concept as well. And though all the general authorities are people — they did not exist at the time of the revelations in which the Lord refers to His “church”.

    Thus, the only definition for the term “church” that fits the scriptures is “the Lord’s people” — meaning the baptized people of the Lord. We, therefore, are the church that the Lord said was “true”. So what does it mean to say we’re “true” — well I believe that refers to our ordinance of baptism, which is truly authorized and valid, being performed by actual, recognized priesthood. It is our valid/true baptism that allows us to become one of the actual [or "true"] people-group belonging to God.

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  6. Justin on August 13, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    Oops — I forgot to finish my first sentence. I meant to write:

    I don’t understand how “the church” can mean anything other than the people that make up the group that the Lord calls “His church”.

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  7. nate on August 13, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    In the Bread of Life sermon, Jesus preached cannibalism: “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” And when the disciples heard it, they left Him because cannibalism was neither good nor true, according to their understandings.

    But the apostles stayed. Why? Because they had heard the call “come follow me” and knew from revelation this was The Christ. “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it but my Father in heaven.”

    Yet they were confused about this insane miracle man they followed and Jesus kept them in the dark about His true mission till well after the ressurection.

    Likewise, we who stay, in spite of the apparent craziness of some of the actions of our prophets, we only do so because we to heard the call: “come follow me. Don’t attend your father’s funeral, the dead will bury the dead.”

    So here I stay, not because the church is good, nor true, but because I heard a call. “Even if there were no heaven, I would love thee, even if there were no hell, I would fear thee.”

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  8. Jared on August 13, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    It is amazing to contemplate all the reasons people go to or stay in the LDS church!

    Each of our points of view is shaped by our experience. I am involved with the church because the Lord, for whatever reason, has given me sacred experiences. Without these experiences, I don’t believe I would be involved. I attend church and earnestly serve out of gratitude to the Lord.

    The Lord has been there for me when I’ve called upon Him. Is it because I’m more spiritual? No, I don’t believe so. I’m convinced the Lord gives everyone a “gift(s)” and they will be judged how they used their gift or “talent”.

    My gift for example, I am able to testify of the higher manifestations of the Spirit on one hand, then on the other, I have to deal with the trials that come with it. There is opposition in all things.

    Last night, I went for a walk in my neighborhood and ended up visiting with our Stake President. It was an interesting conversation. He was candid and shared some things that allowed me to understand that his calling isn’t always a joy. I’ve known him for nearly thirty years. I don’t believe he could share a specific spiritual experience that changed his life. It could be that he has never applied himself in such a way that the Lord extended a powerful spiritual manifestation to him, or it could be that the Lord never intended that he experience such a gift. I don’t know the answer.

    We talked about Hans Mattsson and I could tell he is troubled by it. He did say that he hasn’t had anyone come to him to discuss the issues of church history. This surprised me.

    The bottom line in my mind is that the Lord extends all kinds of gifts to people. Some gifts are seen as spiritual while others are thought of as secular. In truth, they are all spiritual but we don’t see it that way.

    A talented surgeon, business person, scientist, and etc may not even believe in God but do many things to bless mankind. They will be judged accordingly because their gifts came from God.

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  9. N. on August 13, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    For what it’s worth, here’s my opinion.
    God spends a lot of time giving farming, husbandry, and building analogies to his kingdom and the church. We maybe should think of his declaration of the church as “true” in those terms, and not in terms of “factually verifiable”. In building, a “true” thing (wall, foundation, stone, board, surface, etc) is something that you can rely on for guidance in building other parts of the structure. Things must be constructed in a harmonious relationship to a “true” guide. This is why carpenters use compasses and squares to gauge what’s true. True means “suitable for guidance and safe structures”.

    Seeking for the Platonic ideals of Truth, Beauty, fact, or whatnot might not be what God means when he says to seek for truth.

    Using this point of view, the church can be good AND true AND factually verifiable, or it could also be good AND true AND NOT factually verifiable.

    Just my 2cents

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  10. kd on August 13, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    Is there really a difference between something being good and its being true? For example we can easily praise the moral atheist vs. a hypocritical stake president. However, is the atheist truly that moral or good if there is a God and an afterlife which requires not only good behavior but religious ordinances in order to access? In this case the atheist might live “love one another” as a moral guide but at the same time can lead herself and others to a negative situation. Interesting enough this line of thinking condemns that stake president all the more because not only is he acting bad, but he is betraying his covenants and preventing others from accessing God.

    Secondly, evaluating the church’s truthfulness and goodness through methods outside of the church is an intellectually questionable task. If the church is true, wouldn’t the way it describes finding truth (Alma 32 or Moroni 10) be the only way to access that truth? If the church is of God and God is perfect, than at least the doctrine would be correct and therefore the only measure of morality the church would be accountable to?

    Also, how is “the church” defined in this post? Last time I checked, LDS doctrine doesn’t reject people and while critical of immoral behaviors, Apostles have always said people engaged in them needed to be treated in a Christlike way. However, there are members in the church who do act maliciously, but they are hardly representative of the ideal member.

    On a final note, I take issue with saying that the church is deliberately trying to obscure its history. How exactly is the church supposed to disclose all of its history? In Sunday school? That isn’t the place for the highly specialized historical research and certainly the average teacher wouldn’t be qualified for it. Which is exactly why I have no problem with the idea correlation (although I acknowledge there are trade offs). It has the benefit of giving a unified message designed for spiritual needs for “the weakest of the saints” and allows almost any member to teach that message. Its not designed nor should it be for the academic rigor to cover issues like polygamy or the translation process. However the church and faithful academics have many other resources for those issues and they are in no way hidden or hushed.

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  11. LDS Anarchist on August 13, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    Which is more important: that the church be good or that it be true?

    What’s the difference? Isn’t good and true more or less the same thing in this context?

    And there are none that doeth good except those who are ready to receive the fulness of my gospel, which I have sent forth unto this generation.

    And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—for I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven; and he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts.

    And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship.

    If you receive the gospel that God sent forth unto Joseph’s generation, then you do good, becoming His only true and living church which worships the only living and true God. The church of God, then, can only be either both true and good, or both false (hypocritical, violating one’s covenants after entering into them) and bad. It cannot be one or the other.

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  12. brjones on August 13, 2013 at 9:59 PM

    This is a somewhat circular question, at least for those who accept the church as “true”. If one believes god speaks through the church, then how could he or she possibly dispute what the church defines as “good” in addition to what it defines as “true”?

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  13. KT on August 13, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    If you’re going to make truth claims, then you better be able to back it up. So in other words, what does it matter if it follows our ideals of ‘good’? Who knows if our ideals of good are even actually good? If you’re going to say you’re the one true Church, then you should be, and that should be the reason people are members, and that’s all that matters.

    @kd:
    “How exactly is the church supposed to disclose all of its history? In Sunday school? That isn’t the place for the highly specialized historical research and certainly the average teacher wouldn’t be qualified for it.”

    I grew up in a different religion, and let me tell you, there is PLENTY of room for the Church to be open and honest about it’s history. The Church does way, way more teaching about it’s history and past than the Lutheran church I grew up in. You’d think that if they were going to write up manuals, have an organized curriculum, and have teachers across the country teach it, they’d at least get it right. A few years back, I had to teach ‘History of the Church’ to a primary class from the Church’s manual. That was a real testimony shaker for me because I knew what I was teaching to be a very white washed version of history. Either teach it accurately, or don’t teach it at all, which is what some other religions seem to choose. This is why the Church gets a bad rap, and accused of deliberately hiding it’s history.

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  14. Geoff - A on August 13, 2013 at 11:17 PM

    The way I deal with this question is to separate the Gospel (true) from the church. Most of the problems I see with the church are the result of culture, usually ultra conservative Utah culture, being treated as though it is all part of the Gospel.

    So hiding things from history, obedience is the first law of heaven, the ever darkening world, being under attack by those we deny, opposition to gay marriage, opposition to priesthood for all worthy members, top down view of revelation, trials from the lord, the succession of leaders requiring 10 of 12 to be over 80, lack of recent revelation etc etc.

    All these things together make for a toxic environment for those whose view of the world isn’t ultra conservative.

    But I believe in God and Christ, believe the Gospel was restored by Joseph Smith and that in 10 years or so when the octogenarians die off and the church takes a lurch to the left we may return the church closer to the Gospel. So I stay and hope.

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  15. kd on August 13, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    @kt
    My point is that in our global church that has both Phds and the barely literate in its fold, deep historical issues are not appropriate to discuss in Sunday School (and in primary less so). For example, if my children were to ask about WWII, i’m going to tell them that the Allies (the good guys) beat the Axis (the bad guys). Ill tell them how heroes like Audey Murphy or George S Patton led us to victory. I’m not going to tell them about Patton’s racism, the bombing of Dresden, or the fact that American GIs were almost as bad at killing Japanese prisoners as the Japanese killing American prisoners. Why? Because those are deep historical issues that they frankly wouldn’t understand. The history I’m telling them isn’t for their intellectual health, but rather to reinforce moral truths. In other words, I’m teaching them a mythic understanding of WWII. Am I lying to them? No, because I’m fully prepared to tell them about these complicated issues once they are older and can understand them better.

    Sunday School isn’t for our intellectual curiosity, its about spiritual enlightenment and moral education. Thus a more mythic teaching of church history is presented because thats all that is necessary in church, because historical information is not necessary for salvation nor. However, the church is very proactive in the academic world. That is where the church should and does address these issues.

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  16. Hedgehog on August 14, 2013 at 1:30 AM

    kd #15, that’d be all well and good if the picture we are taught re. history got more complex as we went through to teens to adulthood, especially since our history re. the restoration features so strongly in our truth claims. The facts can be presented in a way that those you describe as barely literate would be able to follow them, and it is both patronising and condescending to assume otherwise.
    The point is, that if the church doesn’t take on that teaching role, there are plenty of people who don’t view the church so favourably that are willing to point out the difficult stuff to members they come into contact with. Where would we rather they first came across that information?

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  17. nate on August 14, 2013 at 5:07 AM

    Hedgehog, would you be comfortable with the church teaching difficult history in Sunday School in the apologetic FARMS style? Because that is how it would have to be presented in order to maintain faith in the simple members of the church. It would turn us all into confrontational little apologists.

    I prefer to view difficult issues as real, spiritual conundrums, the meat before the milk. Not as mere anti-Mormon obstacles to beat back.

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  18. Howard on August 14, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    For me the restoration, inclusive family values and observing our faith together are good and valuable reasons to be involved but the modern church (not the restored gospel) represents a gigantic dilemma in the form of a logical contradiction, setting spin and mental gymnastics aside the church simply cannot be what it professes to be! Given the significant time and money investment expected to participate and the damaging, misguided and sexually repressive messages it indoctrinates our children with overlooking this glaring authenticity problem is no small thing. I have little problem believing the brethren are well intended and take their stewardship seriously but so were/did the pharisees. The church claims continuing revelation yet that is precisely what it lacks and needs to outrun it’s current challenges.

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  19. Hedgehog on August 14, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    Nate, Perhaps you should have been our our gospel doctirne class on sunday. No-one was a confrontational apologist. The teacher had prepared the lesson, from the standard materials. There was an eclectic mix of people, some members for very long years, some recently reactivated. And a whole mix of knowledge. We all got to contribute, as questions were asked by both the teacher and class members. We were doing the lesson on baptisms for the dead & the Nauvoo temple. One class member mentioned that the Nauvoo endowments were different to those now – another class member demanded to know why, and so ensued a discussion on the fact that the endowment ceremony has changed quite bit. The questioner was happy with the discussion. Then another asked about sealings, so I was able to contribute reading I had been doing about the 1894 revelation to Wilford Woodruff, and funnily enough it was the class member who’d questioned the changes to the endowment who mentioned that they knew about the rather different sealing practices in the early church. It seems people can pick up odd bits of information a be happy with it.
    They simply want questions answered in a straightforward manner when they have them. As would I, in fact. Don’t we all.
    I find your “that is how it would have to be presented in order to maintain faith in the simple members of the church.” to be condescending in the extreme. We need to trust our members more, and stop making decisions on their behalf about the kind of information they should have access to.

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  20. KT on August 14, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    @Hedgehog
    Agreed!
    “that is how it would have to be presented in order to maintain faith in the simple members of the church.” That’s a justification for hiding information. Not only that, but you (Nate) seem to then be saying that allowing members to maintain faith is more important than presenting truthful information…

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  21. kd on August 14, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    Geoff
    I agree that the culture of the church needs to be less conservative. However, though I don’t want to be nit-picky, you point goes to one of my points in my first comment. I don’t think the church should be more left per-say, in that that imposes a value system that the church doesn’t need. We shouldn’t judge the church based on our imperfect and rather arbitrary political spectrum. The church already has a way to evaluate its cultural strength and that is in the doctrine. While living up to that doctrine might move us on the political spectrum, we shouldn’t count certain political stances as having reached a moral stepping stone. By using outside value systems we might actually make it more difficult to reach the ideal position described by doctrine.

    Hedgehog

    I’ll concede the church itself doesn’t actively present the more complicated historical issues. I would be fine with the church having a pamphlet with a bibliography of historical sources or even commissioned a manual written by prominent Mormon historians that can be used either in individual counseling or as needed in church. However, the main reason i bring this up is because I don’t see the church going out and actively distorting history either. There are many sources (Bushman, Givens, BYU Studies) who address pressing issues. They are in good standing with the church and the church often props them up. That doesn’t justify the level of accusations thrown at the church.

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  22. Howard on August 14, 2013 at 1:56 PM

    Well, once history is distorted to the church’s liking there is no need to continue to actively distort it since it’s already distorted. :)

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  23. Justin on August 14, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    I think the question that hasn’t been answered is — can a person be “morally good” without belonging to the “one, true religion”.

    Christopher Hitchens had a line of questioning that essentially hinted at the fact that any human could be moral or immoral [that's OK], but that it took a religious human to be uniquely immoral, in a way that atheistic humans could not be — and that no believer in a true religion has ever shown how they could be “good” in a way that a non-religious person could be.

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  24. Jeff Spector on August 14, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    In the grand scheme of things, the Church’s history is of little consequence to its message of “Come Unto Christ and be perfected in Him.” I know people like to make a huge deal of it, but the term ” The Church is true” is totally meaningless.

    The true part is that Jesus is the Christ and that He died that we can return to the presence of the Father. Jesus has proscribed the path to make that happen.

    The Church is the clearly imperfect vehicle to help us make that happen. Even if the Church was the most purest vehicle for that, it cannot get us there. Only we can do that.

    The correct question is “Does the Gospel have to be true” the way is it is.

    In my opinion, being good is much better. The fact is many good people, not in the Church will be standing along side us in the eternities because of their goodness.

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  25. Heber13 on August 14, 2013 at 6:03 PM

    OP: “Truth generally means we believe things like that God exists, the priesthood was restored, the first vision happened or the BOM is historical.”

    oh, dang. I was with you there all the way up until the word “historical”. I think the BOM is true even if it is not historical.

    Good seems to be a relative thing…it is good to me when it meets what I value, which is that it aligns with what I believe is true, or produces results that help me or that I can have faith that it will produce the best results sometime in the future or next life.

    Truth is difficult to nail down, since I have a hard time perceiving it, even if it may be universally there.

    As Colbert says:
    “We’re not talking about truth, we’re talking about something that seems like truth – the truth we want to exist”.

    For me, I would value goodness, and have faith it includes truth that can stand the test of time, and not a fleeting goodness that changes from day to day.

    If the day came that I had to choose…I would believe in my heart I could do without the church despite its truth claims, and rely on God and personal revelation to lead me to what is good and true. In other words, I like Geoff (#14) approach of separating the church from the gospel.

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  26. Mary Bliss on August 14, 2013 at 6:33 PM

    I think that if you asked people who use the phrase, “the church is true” what that means, you’d get a wide range of answers, including the one you articulate, as they tried to put into words what they meant when they said it. It’s a phrase that is used for a variety of meanings (as well as when one is standing at the podium and simply feels a need to close his remarks). And this causes problems.

    So it’s interesting to look at “true” in LDS scriptural parlance:

    Ether:4:11, You can know that a thing is “true” if it persuades men to do good.
    Moroni 4:1, if a thing is being done according to the commandments of Christ then we can know that the way it is being done is “true”.
    Moroni 10:6, if a thing is good and does not deny Christ, it is “true”
    3 Nephi 8:1, if a thing is carefully done by a just, good and repentant man of faith, it is “true”.

    So, by this Book of Mormon definition, everything about the church (or for that matter, any other organization) that persuades men to do good, that is done according to the commandments of Jesus, that is done with integrity by people who, though imperfect, are just, good, full of faith and repentant, and is simply good and acknowledges Christ, is “true”. And there is a lot of that both in the church and in the rest of the world.

    All of those things about the church would also fall into the category of “good”. “True”, by this definition (instead of the definition you express so well), is not distinct from good. It is a subset of good.

    Conversely, everything about the church (or any other entity) that doesn’t fit the above description, whether it is good or bad or inbetween, does not fit this Book of Mormon definition of “true”. (And there’s a fair amount of that both in the church and in the rest of the world as well.)

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  27. Rob on August 15, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    And, the problem with us defining what is “good” and “true” is our shared ability to take those definitions and force it upon other people. We may not physically force it on them, but mentally we do it all the time – judging people and assuming things about them simply because we have what is “good” and “true” in our life. Using such terms to define who we are, who “they” are, and the like, creates many a division.

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  28. [...] kind of follow up on Hawkgrrrl’s post earlier this week, I’d like to start a discussion on what you think is good about the LDS Church. On the [...]

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  29. nuovoiconoclast on November 15, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    Late to the party, as usual…

    I was fascinated to hear this from President Uchtdorf at October conference:

    And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.

    I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.

    To make a long story short, I have two friends, both of whom are divorced. Both had husbands who, in effect, neglected them and made bad decisions on how they spent their time and money (I’ve only heard the wife’s side of the story, but just roll with me here). Each of these sisters felt that they were not taken seriously by their bishops and other ward and stake leaders, and that the church rallied around the husband.

    One had a testimony of the church, and when the church failed her, she left it. Her young children went with her.

    One had a testimony of the gospel. When the church failed her, she was angry and frustrated, but she knew the difference between the people and the programs and the earthly structure, and the eternal truths. She stuck, and is as faithful as ever.

    I admire them both greatly. But my heart hurts for the first.

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