Bringing The Good

by: Hedgehog

January 2, 2014

Are we a multi-cultural church?

In light of the current emphasis on missionary work, and the apparently lessening (or broadening) grip of correlation over the last year, I wanted to take a look at this statement made by President Gordon B. Hinckley in an address given during General Conference October 2002:

“God be thanked for His marvelous bestowal of testimony, authority, and doctrine associated with this, the restored Church of Jesus Christ.

“This must be our great and singular message to the world. We do not offer it with boasting. We testify in humility but with gravity and absolute sincerity. We invite all, the whole earth, to listen to this account and take measure of its truth. God bless us as those who believe in His divine manifestations and help us to extend knowledge of these great and marvelous occurrences to all who will listen. To these we say in a spirit of love, bring with you all that you have of good and truth which you have received from whatever source, and come and let us see if we may add to it. This invitation I extend to men and women everywhere with my solemn testimony that this work is true, for I know the truth of it by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

Having been raised in the church throughout the 70s and 80s, my experience was one in which I mostly observed what I would now describe, on a grouchy day, as cultural imperialism. So many things imposed from above which really shouldn’t have mattered, and which crushed British and English culture, whilst imposing a Utah culture. At times I feel a gaping hole has rendered me separate from my nation, has made me observer rather than participant, always on the outside, always other. And that makes missionary work difficult for me on several fronts.

I’m not the only one with grumbles. A more recent complaint seems to be that other nations are allowed more latitude for cultural exceptions than Britain.  I’ve wondered before whether this is because Utah think they are the same as us (we are not the same) having so many British ancestors, or whether it’s a language thing. Do other English-speaking nations have the same experience? Many of the things I find attractive in the current worship and music of the Church of England, things that feel quintessentially English, were developed during the Victorian era, post-Restoration, and would not have travelled with the British Saints.

Maybe Salt Lake are loosening the reins a little, but if so our local leaders need to be told in no uncertain terms which things don’t matter any more, because any whim, small or large, imposed by an Area Authority can persist for years after his particular tenure has ceased. Is bringing the good something that can only be done by the individual, or can this be done on a national level too?

A few things, and whilst it might be argued that some of them might not be intrinsically ‘good and true’,  neither so far as I can see are they ‘bad’ or ‘false’ and to be discarded:

Christian festivals – as a church there is no inbuilt observance of the Christian festivals. On the one hand this ought to provide flexibility between nations. Eastern Orthodox and Western Christianity tend a follow a different calender for instance. However, the very rigid timetabling of General Conference often interferes with the celebration of Easter. Britain is a Christian country. The church claims to be Christian, but appropriate celebration of Easter is a very hit and miss affair. A few years ago whilst visiting family, I attended a beautiful Easter sacrament service to which local dignitaries had been invited and which included more music, readings from the scriptures, and only one talk. It is the only such service I have ever seen. Typically ward leaders feel compelled to follow the old 4 hymns, 3 talks structure common to most sacrament meetings, even though this is no longer mandated by the handbook. In contrast, I once attended a Japanese ward on an Easter Sunday, in which there was absolutely no acknowledgement of Easter whatsoever. True, Japan is not a Christian country. There are other Christian denominations present in Japan who would most certainly have celebrated Easter, however. Perhaps, chameleon-like, encompassing all truth, the church isn’t actually as typically Christian as it likes to appear in Christian nations?

The same basic ingredients.

Celebration of Christmas would appear to be similarly hit and miss. See this recent thread over at BCC. Growing up, my ward would would always have a nativity performed in the chapel by the primary-age children. At some point this was banned from sacrament meetings, and in some wards I attended was assigned to the Sunday School slot, but in my current ward doesn’t happen at all. And my husband tells me that treatment of Christmas at church in a Japanese ward in Japan is much the same as the treatment of Easter – nonexistent. I can’t help but wonder whether some national flavour correlation could set a model for British Mormonism, bringing the good from traditional English church practice, or Japanese Mormonism or whatever, so that there is a least some consistency in services for the Christian or other festivals between wards in the same nation. Similarly this could also help in recognition of other national events commonly celebrated in the churches or faiths of the individual nations. For Britain, I am thinking particularly of Remembrance Sunday (discussed in a post here), and Harvest Festival.

Music – I long to have more of our favourite hymns in our hymn book, many of them post-Restoration. A British hymn book as opposed to an English language hymn book (which comes complete with favourite US patriotic hymns, but what about those of the other English-speaking nations, and whilst the British national anthem is included – it’s the King not Queen version of the words, even though we had a Queen at the time of publishing and she’s still here).

Beards – I recall edicts given in stake conference in the 70s that members should be clean-shaven. Get rid of those beards. Why? More recently, I’ve heard grumbles that members in France have been given a pass, so far as beards go, for cultural reasons. But not Britain. Some wards and stakes are more tolerant than others, but for temple workers beards are a definite no no. And it isn’t as though there aren’t cultural elements of Britain where beards are common. As a university student I noted that all the male chaplains had beards. Back before I was an SAHM, three out of the four partners in the firm I worked for had beards. One was a free-mason and scout leader. Another had spoken with the missionaries years previously, and requested a copy of the Book of Mormon shortly before I went on maternity leave. All of them were good, moral, upright and professional people. To bring things up to date, at least half of the male teachers at my children’s school have beards. Can we just stop it with the war on facial hair?

Modes of address – Once upon a time when all members were addressed as Brother and Sister it was equalising. Now that we have incorporated hierarchical titles (which I loathe) for some callings, it emphasises status or lack thereof. Once upon a time, in a more formal world, to address each other as Brother and Sister made for closeness. In nations where people are very quickly on first name terms it creates distance. Yet I have attended wards, and met members, who have insisted that the Brother/Sister Family Name form of address is only correct way to speak to each other at church (with use of titles similarly enforced). Seriously?

There is an argument for keeping things at an individual and very local level however. That our societies grow ever more multicultural is perhaps a point against too much alignment with individual national cultures, including Utah culture. In giving greater comfort to the majority culture with our religious observances, would we be pushing away the minority? Even as I feel a greater desire for better observance of the traditional Christian festivals, for my Japanese member husband New Year is also important, as is being able to visit the graves of his ancestors with his parents.

  • What cultural exceptions exist where you are?
  • How do you see bringing the good?
  • Do you think there is room for national flavours of church service, and should they be correlated at a national level?
  • How can we rid ourselves of the whims that persist?
  • What would you like to see in your services/nation?
  • What are the key elements that need to hold us together as an international church?

Discuss.

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30 Responses to Bringing The Good

  1. New Iconoclast on January 2, 2014 at 9:48 PM

    Since I wouldn’t know where to start to comment on this, I’m just going to step back and applaud loudly. I’ll just say this:

    When LDS chapels first started being built in Minnesota in the 1960s, they were built on a plan that came out of Utah. (For the benefit of the non-Americans, Minnesota is farther north than Utah and has winter. Real winter. The paltry snowfall and occasional brisk temperature Utah has compare to a Minnesota winter like watered-down chamomile tea to a stiff espresso.) Those plans had water pipes running along the outside walls. “Those pipes will freeze,” said the locals. “That’s God’s chapel plan,” said the Utahans.

    And the snow fell, and the wind blew, and the mercury dropped, and the pipes froze. And the chapels got, shall we say, a little damp inside.

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  2. Brad on January 3, 2014 at 7:22 AM

    Amen to that, happened in South Dakota as well. We came in to seminary one morning to an inch of water throughout the whole building; the sheetrock in the cultural hall had gotten wet and collapsed when the pipes froze and burst. But fine, we’ll do it your way, Utah.

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  3. Hedgehog on January 3, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    NI, Brad, The building I grew up using has chronic roof problems – a southern Utah / Arizona building plan I’m told, designed for arid climate with sudden heavy bursts of rain that would simply run off the concrete roof, totally unsuited to the cold, damp, rain and drizzle of Britain. Also built in the 60s.
    I think the message I’m getting back so far is that those of us on the ground locally would like some input, and to actually be heard in connection with the decisions that affect us.
    It’s not happening yet. Recent rebuilding of the pulpit in that same building being a current example – only one point of access – at the farthest end from both the doors and instruments (and given only one of the instruments is on the stand, tricky to move between the two), and happening at the same time the church was bragging about restoration of a period chapel, built by the Saints in Utah, this change was bulldozed through inspite of opposition locally, and the building having been built by the British members (albeit to the Arizona specs), because the pulpit was non-standard for today.

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  4. Jeff Spector on January 3, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    OK, let’ dispense with the silly part first. It’s not a like a Minnesota or South Dakota pipe has never froze or burst when architected and built by folks in those states. So, that is a spurious complaint.

    Who says you have to personally conform? so, don’t. I’ve had a beard for most of the time I’ve been in the church even serving in the Temple with one until Imoved to Colorado.

    “You don’t want me to serve there now with a beard?”

    “Fine, i won’t.”

    There are many other ways to serve until someone gets their head on straight.

    One would think that there is a direct line with each and every leader in each and every country with SLC HQ dictating every move the local leaders make.

    They are all different. To the extent that some want to conform to the tried and true Utah model, they chose to. Those that don’t, don’t. If the handbooks allow for flexibility, some choose to be flexible, some don’t.

    There are a few things that are totally dictated, some not so much. It is up to local leaders to get inspired to do something different.

    Let’s not blame Utah and HQ for that.

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  5. Hedgehog on January 3, 2014 at 8:59 AM

    Jeff,
    1. Problem is, even though the handbook is now more flexible, many things perpetuate from that more rigid era – current leaders grew up hearing them, and they have not been formally disavowed. Hence my question on how we can rid ourselves of those things that persist but don’t need to.
    2. The conversation is not two-way between local leaders and Area Authorities even now. My brother is a Bishop in a different stake (same area), and feels it is much like talking to a brick wall most of the time. They don’t want to hear the problems that need to be adddressed at a higher level to before the goals set can be met.
    3. The building stuff is really a diversion (though I’d have thought pipes outside a building in that climate asking for trouble) and not the main point of the post. I’m most interested in experiences outside Utah, how bringing the good can work in some places – such as the remembrance day post I linked, what else could be done etc. Do you have any ideas or experiences to contribute?

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  6. Howard on January 3, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    Interesting post! I’ve read similar complaints from Australians.

    OMG! Broken buildings? So divine micro managing doesn’t extend to the church architects? Where are the apologists to tell us why winter wet chapels are actually God’s plan for Minnesotans?

    While we’re on buildings, given: truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit how about adding some windows? Modern church architecture fails to display a major gospel message: light! Take a look at the tiny skylight above the cave of a Conference Center from which the brethren emerge from underground tunnels to broadcast God’s light to the world. Pretty ironic! Isn’t it?

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  7. Hedgehog on January 3, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    Howard, I did read an article by the architect of I think the Washington Temple – apparently the idea of life and truth was major element in the design. Local chapels are poor relations to our Temples.

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  8. Hedgehog on January 3, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    That would be light, not life. Mobile device…

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  9. ji on January 3, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    I learned a while ago that my span of influence is only myself (completely), my family (significantly, especially when younger), and my neighbors (somewhat) — that’s all — I can’t change the church. Indeed, I don’t want to.

    But change can happen from the bottom up, when people respectfully engage in dialogue and ask questions and make suggestions. Such a discussion, to be fruitful it seems to me, must not begin with complaints about Utah — people get defensive and start digging trenches, so to speak.

    There is some truth in Hedgehog’s posting, and also in Jeff Spector’s comment. An important teaching from D&C 121 is that nothing in the pastoral church is done by pressure or guilt or shame or compulsion of any sort — anyone errs who exerts such, and also anyone errs who allows such to impact them negatively. Everything is voluntary. Everything is a gift. Every member is self-determining. [This principle may not be perfectly understood everywhere in the church.] :-)

    Here’s an example regarding the rule that meetinghouses kitchens aren’t for “cooking” but only “heating” — one bishop might require the pancakes for the ward breakfast to be “cooked” offsite, and another later bishop in the same ward might allow for the pancake batter to be “heated” in the kitchen on the griddle until golden brown. Both bishops had a responsibility, both were called and sustained by the same authority, and both made reasonable decisions that could be sustained by the ward members. Of course, either one could also be criticized. Pity the poor bishop in either case.

    I’m happy trying to influence only my own ward. I don’t always win. Faith, hope, and charity, and all of these centered in Jesus Christ, are more important than everything else.

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  10. Jeff Spector on January 3, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    Well, I had one particular experience whilst serving on the High Council. The Stake President asked me to attend a Ward that supposedly was having a Hymn Sing instead of a Sacrament meeting according to the pattern.

    So, before attending I went to the Bishop and ask him about it. He said, no, they just sang a couple of extra hymns, shortened the talks a bit and only had two speakers. And they did it maybe, two or three times a year just to be a bit different.

    So, I attended and enjoyed it tremendously. Not only were the songs great ones, but the whole congregation actually sang!!! Great spirit in the meeting. So I reported back to the SP that all was well and not to worry about it.

    BTW, the way I understand the building program to work is that the Church in the US, has standard designs, which the Stake can choose from and then the Church hires a local architect, sometimes not a member, to insure it meets local building codes and to put in necessary adaptations.

    The buildings I attended and seen in Britain look nothing like church buildings in Utah. I did a post on Mormon Matters a few years ago about the buildings:

    http://mormonmatters.org/2010/07/09/cookie-cutter-church-buildings/.

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  11. Howard on January 3, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    Hedgehog,
    I agree that light has been worked nicely into some of our temples but many not. Most of our meeting houses look more like banks (ironically) than chapels but some not. The Conference Center which serves as a Mormon center piece to the world fails miserably in this regard not to mention that the exterior is butt ugly with it’s dreary slab wall prison look.

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  12. Geoff - A on January 3, 2014 at 8:26 PM

    I believe a large part of the problem is the Area Presidency, who I heard described by an ex Stake President as Aspiring Apostles. They often try to make their sphere of influence more Utah than Utah.

    In Australia the financial year ends on June 30. This year we had tithing settlement as usual in July August. Then an edict came out that we had to have tithing settlement in November December. No explanation I’m aware of just do it, so we had 2 tithing settlements this year.

    How many of you are able to stand for the intermediate hymn in sacrament hymn? I persuaded our Bishop to do it and the next week a high council person told him it was wrong. Bishops are not allowed to argue/question, just obey, so no more.

    We also have the idea that a good members is a Utah type conservatives, but as we do not hear the subtle changes we are still expected to hate gays (like in the 70s), and marriage equality. There are a whole other set of beliefs that go with “obedience is the first law of heaven”, which are also accepted as Gospel. There is not a major political party that is as far to the left as the Democrats, let alone the Republicans.

    So the church in my area is uber conservative, and a very unpleasant place to be if you are not. This is in a quite progressive community where for example 90% of people under 40 are OK with marriage equality. Tho only other people as extreme as us have some very unpleasant views. Racists, neo Nazis etc. So who are our potential members.

    Before we had area presidencies, the SP or Bishop could set the tone of his ward. I lived in one wonderful ward in the 90s where the music leader had us doing Gregorian chants, and the Bishop was very progressive, and had studied Hebrew at Uni, and we discussed all possible views of the Gospel. Now we are frowned upon if we don’t give the copy book answer.

    We have had problems with our buildings too. Shingle roofs are not used in Australia and we have had them used in cyclone areas,(they blow off) and also chapels with flat roofs in areas where we can have 300mm of rain in 24 hours.

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  13. Howard on January 3, 2014 at 11:29 PM

    Murmur, murmur, murmur. The problem isn’t bad building design, it’s obviously a lack of faith! If you Aussies and Minnesotans had more faith the weather in your area would easily be brought up to Utah standards.

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  14. Hedgehog on January 4, 2014 at 7:23 AM

    Great comment ji. You are probably right about the sphere of influence, and progress will likely be slow. and do appreciate your attitude.

    Regarding moaning about Utah, that’s been going on for decades where I am. Long-established stalwart members have a well-developed sigh and eyeroll, along the lines of ‘here we go again’… Just because they’ve stuck it out so long, it doesn’t mean they like it, or agree with it. And every now and then there are skirmishes, of sorts. My favourite story involves the use of furniture (couple of chairs and a table I think) no longer required for the temple in the foyer of a chapel (this was back when the London temple was remodelled and refurbished internally). The area church office staff complained. The church had not approved this furniture. ‘Oh really’, came back the response, ‘The church hadn’t approved the temple furniture. Surely that couldn’t be right?’. The member won that argument, and the furniture stayed. My brother has a funny story about a church kitchen argument heard in a ward council back when he was on a mission (Idaho) – apparently ending something along the lines of ‘well the prophet’s ward cook in their kitchens!’

    The thing is this though. If we to achieve this apparent goal of doubling membership (even though we are already short of parking space), where’s that new membership going to come from? Geoff has a point when he asks who our potential members are. And that’s why every time I hear about hastening the work, it’s Pres Hinckley’s remark that comes to mind. What can bringing the good look like? Will the existing members expect them to conform to current church cultural norms that were beaten into us during the 70s and 80s? Or will the existing membership be able to relax sufficiently and allow the good to come? Because if we (collectively) can’t, I don’t know that I want to be about persuading people to change their beliefs when they are perfectly happy with the beliefs and worship they already have, and which I envy.

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  15. Hedgehog on January 4, 2014 at 7:41 AM

    Jeff, I’d hope that lessons were learned during 60s so far as buildings were concerned. The chapel I mentioned is the only one I’ve ever seen here with that type of roof (impossible to take off and replace because of the weight I’m told), and the building NI referred to also dated then. However, I don’t think our chapels are as different as you suggest. A couple of years ago someone bore testimony about being able to find the chapel they were attending on holiday, somewhere in eastern Europe I think, because they recognised the distinctive green railings, which certainly seem pretty ubiquitous here in Britain too. They may not be used in the US. The Hyde Park chapel in London is distinctive, because of it’s location, but most are much the same, that I’ve visited.

    That said, I did go to a presentation by an architect when the Preston temple was to be built, and they did tour British and European cathedrals and churches for inspiration, we were told, so that’s a plus.

    Also, I love the variation in sacrament meeting you mentioned. My Dad was on a Bishopric when the new handbook came out, and explained to the congregation that things had changed, and there was more room to vary things, compared to the pattern they were used to, and that he was just explaining this to them, in case in the future they might be disturbed or worried by a change in the pattern of the meeting. But I don’t think that’s an approach seen often enough. It’s my observation that some local leaders don’t feel sufficiently empowered however, and I do think there should be training encouraging that empowerment coming from the Area Authorities. I can’t help but feel the reverse to be the case on occasion.

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  16. Hedgehog on January 4, 2014 at 7:47 AM

    Geoff – A, my sympathy. I agree area authorities can be a big influence for good or bad. Our last group were good in the way they interacted with the membership (don’t know about with leaders), but I don’t have feel for the current group. We’ve lost the European contingent, which I think had a softening effect. Now we have a Brit, but IME senior British church leaders are very much of the Utah mold so…

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  17. Nate on January 4, 2014 at 7:48 AM

    My brief experience with the LDS church in England seem more eager to conform than churches in the US. English churches seem particularly conformist in dress and facial hair.

    Someone mentioned in an earlier post that churches in Europe were largely created post-correllation, and thus the church doesn’t have any of the diverse 19th century legacies to look back on, or question correlation. Correlation was embraced as the whole identity of the true church, and thus new converts were taught and prepared to abandon everything for whatever the true church happens to look like in the form instituted by US missionaries.

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  18. ji on January 4, 2014 at 8:23 AM

    Hedgehog,

    I’m a convert who has never lived in the center place. When you ask about doubling our membership, my thought has been that we sometimes seem to tend to over-emphasize or over-sell the church as a social institution and tend to under-emphasize faith, hope, and charity all centered on Jesus Christ. I tried to explain in a recent priesthood meeting that for me, my faith in Jesus comes first and my membership in the church is secondary or incidental — I’m a member of the church because I accepted the gospel message and restoration message; I’m not a member because I wanted to join a social organization. I don’t know that my spoken words there well portrayed my thoughts and feelings. But it seems that for some, the church is first — come join our church! – rather than Jesus is first — let me tell you my testimony of my Savior! With a church-first focus, it’s natural to focus on order and following the pattern of the center place and so forth, and what you describe are symptoms of that focus. I don’t offer this as criticism of fellow saints, just as an observation that has been helpful to me in reconciling what I see with a personal conviction that loyalty to the church is important.

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  19. Handlewithcare on January 5, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    Great to read a post from a fellow Brit, and would generally concur with your observations, although I’m very uncomfortable with the singing of a national anthem at any church meeting. In our ward we have a German sister raised during the war and married a Brit post war. Her husband was a journalist, and has expressed his perception that any celebration of national identity is divisive.That gives me pause for thought-when we have many nationalities in our meetings, I don’t want them to have to grapple with difficult feelings around their own history in relation to a previous colonial power…big things to forgive and to be faced with in a sacrament meeting.

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  20. Hedgehog on January 5, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    handlewithcare, Thank’s for commenting. I can understand your reservations. There are a lot of nationalities in our ward too. Hence my musings in the final paragraph of the post.

    Personally I think things have moved on somewhat for anthems, in their place – I don’t think celebration of nationality in the Olympics was divisive for instance, more a celebration of the world coming together. Our ward sang the national anthem for the Diamond jubilee as I recall. Otherwise, for Remembrance Sunday we opt for I vow to thee my country. For a Remembrance Sunday, really an acknowledgement of the horrors of war, acknowledgement of all war dead, and gratitude for peace and freedom are perhaps where we need to dwell, and on which I’d hope all can agree. Our last ward it was the husband of a German member (not a journalist) who would read ‘We will remember them’ before the 2 minutes silence (only the one appropriate verse), and my husband is always very careful to wear his poppy. Many of the European countries were at one time colonial powers, as you mention though, which could result in difficult feelings as you say, for some.

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  21. Hedgehog on January 5, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    ji, I’d agree with you on the overselling of the institution. I’m not one for socialising, so it certainly isn’t that that keeps me there. And I’d agree that Christ should be the focus. How to differentiate between our message about and worship of Christ from those of other Christian faiths though, especially as their worship can so often seem much more Christ-centred. Why would they want to change?

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  22. Sara K on January 5, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    I agree with ji that focusing on Jesus Christ, rather than the institution, is paramount. The first principle of the gospel is, after all, Faith In the Lord Jesus Christ. I do love the Church, but it is secondary. I have a disability that, coupled with living in an area distant from the meetinghouse and most church members, limits my ability to participate. Were it not for my spiritual life, I would have been lost long ago.

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  23. New Iconoclast on January 6, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    difficult feelings around their own history in relation to a previous colonial power

    Don’t worry, handle and hedge, most Americans no longer think of Great Britain as a colony. ;)

    But, seriously, folks, that is an issue which is starting to be addressed in some of the wards in my stake, especially as people of other colors, countries, and cultures are starting to be integrated into the English-speaking wards instead of having their own wards. The stakes in and around Minneapolis/St Paul have had Spanish-speaking (a multi-cultural experience in its own right) and Hmong wards/branches at various times, but we’ve also had strong Ethiopian, Liberian, and Ukrainian presences, among others, in English-speaking wards. Independence Day isn’t as clear-cut as it used to be!

    Ji and Hedgehog raise another issue that I’ve pondered without reaching any satisfactory conclusions as well. Our central message should be that of Christ – “the Gospel” in its actual meaning. However, in my area as in many areas in the US, Britain, and Europe, the population is at least nominally or culturally Christian. How do we set ourselves apart from the rest of the Christian world? Well, there’s the Restoration – and all of a sudden, we’re talking about the Church and not the Gospel. It’s quite a conundrum. It took me a number of years, as an adult convert, to find my own balance. I think I was mostly rescued by the fact that my conversion experience was so purely Spirit-driven, but I would have to say that I was a committed Mormon before I was much of a Christian.

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  24. ji on January 6, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a wonderful message, and incidental to that is the establishment of the Church.

    I think the Gospel (and the Church) can work in any culture — capitalist or communist, free or slaves (slaves were converted in New Testament times), north or south, east or west, young or old, rich or poor. Even in places where men and boys don’t play basketball — and they don’t have to start playing basketball to be complete Mormons.

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  25. Hedgehog on January 7, 2014 at 1:21 AM

    NI, It sounds like the integration of those wards will be fascinating to observe. In my area of Britain at the moment many of the new converts are immigrants from eastern Europe, or Portugal.

    ji, the restoration is a message we share, but all too often it gets presented in a you are wrong, you have lost kind of way. I enjoyed this current post over on T&S (http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2014/01/varieties-of-divine-eclecticism/) in connection with how we share the gospel. I favour a mutual exchange of beliefs in an atmosphere of respect, but currently missionary work is getting the big push where I am, and it seems to be all about getting more people through the doors, and are we doing enough etc.
    I also read ‘the salt of the earth’ article in the current Ensign yesterday online. (http://www.lds.org/ensign/2014/01/the-salt-of-the-earth?lang=eng) Not sure why we haven’t had one delivered since November though, our subscription shouldn’t expire until March, and I saw your comment on that theme on the T&S post. But the Elder Oaks quote in the Ensign did grate somewhat for me: “This requires us to make some changes from our family culture, our ethnic culture, or our national culture. We must change all elements of our behavior that are in conflict with gospel commandments, covenants, and culture.”
    What precisely is gospel culture, and what does he mean by it? I can go with eliminating those elements of a national culture that go against the gospel. But I don’t think we need to adopt a Utah culture, or that a Utah culture and gospel culture are one and the same thing. Though I fear many may read it that way, after a fashion, and it feels to me that there is a certain degree of tension between Elder Oaks statement, and Pres Hinckleys invitation.

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  26. ji on January 8, 2014 at 5:05 AM

    I hadn’t seen the Ensign article yet until you pointed it out. My purpose was to illustrate that a hundred pounds of ham can be saved from spoiling by one pound of salt, so to speak — and that if the ham is mankind generally and the salt are God’s covenant people, then we as a minority can be saved with them (without turning the ham into salt). God has always intended to save all of his children, and yet He has always insisted on using one set of people as his covenant people. I don’t know why this is, but it gives me some comfort knowing that there is a plan.

    You are right to be concerned that Elder Oaks’s quote in the Ensign might have the practical effect of enforcing Rocky Mountain culture everywhere in the Church, because many saints cannot see the difference between Gospel and culture, and center place culture must necessarily be equivalent to Gospel culture. This isn’t what Elder Oaks’s is intending, I suppose, but it is reasonable to predict the unintended consequence, especially in the light of real experience.

    Here’s something for thought (not intended to cause dismay): in any particular matter, the arbiter regarding whether any particular matter is or is not part of Gospel v. Utah culture will likely be a person thoroughly colored by the Utah culture, and if not, with a zeal to be faithful to that culture. This means there will be some dissonance, and there will be some errors. It all depends on the people, both the leaders and the followers.

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  27. Hedgehog on January 8, 2014 at 6:27 AM

    Good point, about not everyone being required to be the salt, though missionary efforts generally don’t acknowledge that.
    As to the rest, I guess we come full circle to our own spheres of influence as per your first comment.
    Thanks for the conversation.

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  28. New Iconoclast on January 8, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    As a collector of hymnals old and new (not just LDS but from all faiths), I’m a big fan of music that goes beyond the Green Book (especially music that isn’t “I Believe In Christ”). As a fairly ward choir director, I’m able to indulge that passion in an apparently acceptable way. I’ve used Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, and Catholic hymns in simple four-part arrangements, vetted for doctrinal accuracy. I even had the choir sing a simple arrangement of the 1836 original shape-note version of “Poor Wayfaring Man” that would have been what Joseph actually heard in Nauvoo, and John Taylor actually sung in Carthage Jail. Shucks, I’ve even done a couple of solos that weren’t written by Janice Kapp Satan.

    I have yet to have anyone tell me that I should be limiting myself to hymnal songs or creative arrangements thereof, and I think being able to sing something new and different is starting to increase interest in my traditionally understaffed ward choir.

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  29. New Iconoclast on January 8, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    “fairly new” ward choir director.

    ji, technically, the centerplace is Jackson County, Missouri. Although you’d never know it from the culture. ;) Really, though, you raise a good point, which is a little dismaying whether you meant it so or not. When I read Elder Oaks’s quote, I think of things like the English drinking tea, or Germany’s Oktoberfest, and things like that as “elements of our behavior that are in conflict with gospel commandments.” I’m not even sure what “Gospel culture” is, but I fear that you may have hit the nail on the head.

    That may be less of a personal adjustment to me than for a tea-drinking Brit, or a brewery-owning German, or an African from a traditionally-polygamous family (like a former colleague of mine from Cameroon), since American Midwest culture is in many respects similar to Utah culture. However, I do find it dismaying, since I don’t think that the unity we have in the Gospel needs to squelch the joy we find in cultural and personal diversity.

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  30. Hedgehog on January 15, 2014 at 5:33 AM

    Just to add a link for this excellent and highly relevant article by Wilfried Decoo:
    http://ijmsonline.org/wp-content/uploads/IJMS/2013-6/Wilfried%20Decoo%20IJMS%202013.pdf

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