Liberals don’t have testimonies?

August 17, 2014

liberals_585“One time I asked one of our Church educational leaders how he would define a liberal in the Church. He answered in one sentence: ‘A liberal in the Church is merely one who does not have a testimony.’” ~Harold B. Lee, “The Iron Rod,” General Conference 1971.

As jarring as that statement is, might there be *some* truth to it?

Both liberals and conservatives value (or rather, have “testimonies” of) compassion, fairness, and liberty. However, liberals in general do not value authority, loyalty, and sanctity, while conservatives do.*

Clearly those extra 3 values are a part of the mainstream church.

So if you’re a “liberal” in the church, the next time someone questions your testimony, you can clarify: You *do* have a testimony of charity. You just don’t have a testimony of authority.

*See/read Jonathan Haidt’s work for more info:

Tags: , , ,

31 Responses to Liberals don’t have testimonies?

  1. Howard on August 17, 2014 at 6:55 AM

    I was born in captivity to a church that had earlier been hijacked by conservatives and asserts by conflation, folklore, implication corrulation and indoctrination that conservative philosophy is God’s philosophy in spite of Jesus clearly not subscribing to it. Now my profound testimony of the gospel and it’s restoration isn’t a testimony at all because I’m unwilling to blindly assign my autonomy to conservative blind guides? Respect is earned not legislated. The truth is Joseph had many profound successes to offset his occasional profound failures. With our modern authority (in place of power) we continue to experience the occational profound failures but without the profound successes! Authority replaces chaos with organization but it offers little more. The current “faithful” meme that attempts to substitute authority for God’s power is a self evident example of being guided by the blind. Fairy tale belief is on a collision course with reality here.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 14

  2. anonymous on August 17, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    or maybe they believe that loyalty should go both ways, common consent and whatnot.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  3. ji on August 17, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    D&C 112:20 might be helpful…
    Whosoever receiveth my word receiveth me, and whosoever receiveth me, receiveth those, the First Presidency, whom I have sent, whom I have made counselors for my name’s sake unto you.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  4. Nate on August 17, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    “You just don’t have a testimony of authority.”

    It is true that liberals have issues with authority. Buy they shouldn’t have issues with authoritIES (plural). A liberal can embrace Haidt’s arguments about the importance of authority and purity, as long as they exist within a pluralistic environment that respects the differences of culture and individuality that lead people to adopt other authorities or other standards of purity. LDS authoritarianism exists to enrich the diversity of our pluralistic society.

    A liberal can respect the authority of the LDS church within the small, strait and narrow way of the Mormon experience, or Jewish experience, or Early Christian experience before it was corrupted and universalized by Constantine. These spiritual authorities existed within a plethora of secular authorities.

    Conservative Mormons may seek to universalize their “strait and narrow way that few find” and judge all earthly authorities by it. But since their advocation is usually done by invitation only, not coercion or political activism, their universalist beliefs should not be seen as threatening to liberals. Universalism is only dangerous to pluralism when force is involved, but there is no force in Mormonism.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  5. fbisti on August 17, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Nate: You said… “LDS authoritarianism exists to enrich the diversity of our pluralistic society.”

    Did you mean that LDS authoritarianism serves the *function* of enriching…? Because “exists” implies it was purposely created (by God?). I agree that it is one type of belief, among others in our LDS culture. Ergo, it adds diversity. I don’t agree that God meant to create it–remembering that “authoritarian” is different from “authoritIES.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  6. Owen on August 17, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    “However, liberals in general do not value authority, loyalty, and sanctity, while conservatives do.”

    That has got to be one of the most idiotic things I have ever read. What orifice did you pull this idea out of?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 13

  7. Jenonator on August 17, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    Owen I think it’s an accurate statement. Liberals want change in the world and they see any traditional authority as something that needs change or replacement. Look at feminism. If sanctity gets in the way of change they are no longer loyal to it.

    Conservatives, on the other hand, may desire change, but they value sanctity and authority too much to xmcompromise their loyalty to the church.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  8. Nate W. on August 17, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    Both liberals and conservatives value (or rather, have “testimonies” of) compassion and fairness. However, liberals in general do not value authority, loyalty, and sanctity, while conservatives do.

    It would be more accurate to say that “liberals in general do not value authority, loyalty, and sanctity as much as conservatives do.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 10

  9. Nate W. on August 17, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    And it’s not obvious that “value” is the same thing as “have a testimony of”—as your math teacher told you over and over, you don’t get credit unless you show your work.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  10. Jenonator on August 17, 2014 at 1:31 PM

    Liberals and conservatives both want to help others and make the world a fair one.

    The main difference is that liberals want to operate through the legal framework of the country and use collected taxes to do it. They view this as carrying out the gospel as a people and take individual and collective credit for it.

    Conservatives want to carry out the gospel on a personal basis as they believe personally it brings them closer to Christ and brings out the best of humanity.

    I see value in both approaches but I also see destruction in the liberal side. When we legislate help (entitlements) for people, the church isn’t needed for that and people miss out on the miracles of getting relief through others and help on a personal level. When hey don’t get the help from others or when they recieve entitlements, they miss out on the opportunity to cry out to HF in prayer.

    When entitlements come, they are not as creative and industrious and relational to others as Gid designed them to be.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 4

  11. Owen on August 17, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    You’re mistaking a lack of respect for *your* preferred authorities and different conceptions of sanctity for a general lack of respect for any authorities and holding anything sacred. Find me a “liberal” who frowns upon McConkie and I’ll find you a “conservative” who isn’t quite comfortable with BHRoberts. Find me a “conservative” who would let a mother die to avoid aborting a fetus and I’ll find you a “liberal” who would do the opposite, both citing the sanctity of life.

    You are being terribly reductionist, poisoning the well against “liberals” by setting up a straw man version of a group that isn’t even an identifiable group, just a bogeyman of the old and frightened.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 14

  12. Nate on August 17, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    Owen, “preferred authorities.” When you get down to specifics, it’s true that Haidt’s generalizations break down completely. For example, socialism, often associated with liberalism, is highly beholden to authority. It may have started through a revolution, but then it just becomes another traditional authority. Socialist governments force people to care for the poor, through taxes. Conservative governments “invite” private organizations to do so, sometimes through incentives.

    According to Haidt, this use of force by an authority would be something conservatives would smile upon, and liberals would rebel against. But in real life, it is the opposite.

    It may be that modern liberals in the US see themselves rebelling against an entrenched puritanical culture, represented by conservative religious views. They see government as hopelessly conservative. So they are “rebelling” against it to create a new conservative government.

    But conservatives see it entirely differently. They see government as a failed socialist experiment that needs to revert back to traditional values.

    Thus liberals, even though they are natural rebels, find themselves defending the government authority, which even though it is too conservative in their mind, is being dismantled even more by conservatives. And conservatives find themselves rebelling against government authority, commonly the domain of liberals. It gets confusing when you try to apply these generalities to real world politics.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  13. Jeff Spector on August 17, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    I clearly do NOT have a testimony of modern-day Republican politics spouted off at Church or elsewhere. I embrace ideals that might be considered liberal and conservative that makes sense for me and my family. And nothing a politician says will ever make sense or guide my religious life.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 12

  14. JRSG on August 17, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    @Jeff Spector: Exactly. Well said.

    This really happened to me:
    On a different LDS blog, I said I was an Independent, sometimes voted Republican and sometimes Democrat. I was personally attacked by some lady saying I could not be a member in good standing and my Temple Recommend should be revoked, if I even had one. She also said any member who was not Republican should not get a TR. I mentioned to her that there were GA’s who were Democrat and there were Democrat members in high political offices. She did not believe me until I listed names. I know I busted her bubble.

    I am the type of person that likes to know all sides of issues, all perspectives, and tries to see the other persons point of view. On any subject. I will not talk to people who will not give me the same respect. LDS or not.

    I do have a strong testimony of the Gospel and will defend it, and I do defend it. But I do not tolerate false doctrine, folklore, and human opinion as authority and un Christ like behavior when members try to impose these things on me.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 13

  15. hawkgrrrl on August 17, 2014 at 5:55 PM

    JRSG – sounds like you’ve met my niece.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  16. JimD on August 17, 2014 at 7:26 PM

    I’m not convinced Lee was referring to *all* liberals; only a certain subset of them. The quotation, in context (from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1971/04/the-iron-rod?lang=eng):

    Unfortunately, some are among us who claim to be Church members but are somewhat like the scoffers in Lehi’s vision—standing aloof and seemingly inclined to hold in derision the faithful who choose to accept Church authorities as God’s special witnesses of the gospel and his agents in directing the affairs of the Church.

    There are those in the Church who speak of themselves as liberals who, as one of our former presidents has said, “read by the lamp of their own conceit.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine [Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 373.) One time I asked one of our Church educational leaders how he would define a liberal in the Church. He answered in one sentence: “A liberal in the Church is merely one who does not have a testimony.”

    Dr. John A. Widtsoe, former member of the Quorum of the Twelve and an eminent educator, made a statement relative to this word liberal as it applied to those in the Church. This is what he said:

    “The self-called liberal [in the Church] is usually one who has broken with the fundamental principles or guiding philosophy of the group to which he belongs. … He claims membership in an organization but does not believe in its basic concepts; and sets out to reform it by changing its foundations. …

    “It is folly to speak of a liberal religion, if that religion claims that it rests upon unchanging truth.”

    And then Dr. Widtsoe concludes his statement with this: “It is well to beware of people who go about proclaiming that they are or their churches are liberal. The probabilities are that the structure of their faith is built on sand and will not withstand the storms of truth.” (“Evidences and Reconciliations,” Improvement Era, vol. 44 [1941], p. 609.)

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  17. Nate on August 18, 2014 at 1:58 AM

    Thanks JimD for putting this in context. I’m frequently amazed at just how thoroughly the church has managed to unify its message so that talks like these are now unthinkable. It might be what many GAs would like to say today, but GAs have become really good at sticking to the correlated message, one of the great advantages of correlation: the church would be MUCH more conservative without it.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  18. Jeff Spector on August 18, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    You have to be a bit careful of the word meanings in statements made 50 or 60 years ago or more. Liberal to them probably meant taking a ride in an auto or shopping on Sunday, Not women asking for the Priesthood.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  19. shenpa warrior on August 18, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    “That has got to be one of the most idiotic things I have ever read. What orifice did you pull this idea out of?”

    That “orifice” would be the Stern School of Business at NYU.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  20. shenpa warrior on August 18, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    But you know, research is hard to accept when it goes against what we already think. Haidt acknowledges that rational argument doesn’t work well for that very reason. So you may continue in your assessment of idiocy. ;)

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  21. shenpa warrior on August 18, 2014 at 10:23 AM

    Nate W – “It would be more accurate to say that “liberals in general do not value authority, loyalty, and sanctity as much as conservatives do.” – I think Haidt would agree with that. Some liberals may indeed have those other values, but as has been mentioned above, authority/loyalty/sanctity do NOT trump compassion/fairness/liberty. The latter are usually always more important to liberals, while conservatives may view them more equally.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 5

  22. Douglas on August 18, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    Three points to consider:

    1) What one labels their beliefs, be they “liberal”, “conservative”, or “Martian”, tends to be self-defined. That is, we have as many defintions of “liberal Mormons” as we have liberal Mormons, so stereotyping tends to fail.

    2) It’s been my experience that most fellow LDS, when their politics differ from mine (most do), do so in good faith. If I’ve seen anything posted in this forum which would of itself point to a “loss” of testimony, sure, I’d point it out, but I’ve seen signs of “apostasy” from self-styled conservatives as well as liberals. And, to be fair, some mine consider mine own views not merely “out in left field” (pun intended), but twenty rows back in the bleachers! One thing that particularly irks me is fellow LDS picking on Sen. Harry Reid. I disagree vehemently with Brother Reid’s politics, but I’ve met the man, and as far as I can tell, he is as faithful and sincere a Latter-Day Saint as any I’ve met in thirty-five years of being LDS. Where does ANYONE get off presuming to judge his worthiness? Does he not have a bishop and Stake President for that? I would trust that they are doing their jobs and if there’s anything untowarded in Brother Reid’s conduct as becomes a member of the Church, they are sufficient to deal with it.

    3) We have to be careful quoting a long-dead Apostle as if every utternace from his lips or everything he scrawled constitutes direct revelation from the Heavens. We believe in ONGOING revelation, and John Widtsoe is DEAD. If a member’s politics were important enough to discipline them for political activity which SOME members don’t like, we’d have seen the directives come down. Thus far, all I’ve seen is the quadrennial declarations of the Church’s political neutrality. That tells me that we’re taught correct principles, and we use them to (literally) govern ourselves. If you want “order”, go ask Palaptine to form us into the First Galatic Empire, for a “safe and secure” society!

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  23. Jeff Spector on August 18, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    Like I said on FB, it depends on how you define the terms. What does “authority” mean. Compassion? Fairness?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  24. shenpa warrior on August 18, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    @Jeff – Great question – they are all covered in his talks and books. The TED talk is only about 15 minutes I think…

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  25. Jeff Spector on August 18, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    I’m going there this afternoon to have a listen. Who knows i might actual agree….

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  26. Jenonator on August 18, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    Dont mean this as any insult to anyone, but in my repeated and predictable observation, liberals are more emotion lead in their voting choices and conservatives are more logic oriented in voting.

    Now, I live in an extremely liberal area where conservatives are voting independent of the group-like rebels. Because of that, the conservatives may be thinkers more by nature.

    The same might be true for liberals in a conservative area- they may be thinkers more than the sheople liberals around Seattle.

    Seattle has a higher level of education per capita (probably due to the rain!). The ivory tower liberals voters in my area dominate the conversation in a bullying fashion. They simply cannot imagine anyone disagreeing with them nor can they even recognize the argument. Perhaps that us why they come off as elitists to me.

    I’d trade houses with any if you more liberal folks who don’t feel like you fit in where you live!

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  27. Jeff Spector on August 18, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    “liberals are more emotion lead in their voting choices and conservatives are more logic oriented in voting.’

    Dumb alert! Remember the tea party rallies?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 6

  28. New Iconoclast on August 18, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    Politically today, “liberals” and “conservatives” differ only in which authorities they kowtow to, and what they want that authority to mandate and force upon everyone. That’s why I am no longer either a liberal or a conservative, a conclusion to which I’ve come in recent years which has only been reinforced by the collection of truly frightening responses from all sides to the Ferguson, MO situation.

    *Sigh*. Ultimately, I think I belong to the party of Greta Garbo – I just vant to be left alone.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  29. Nate on August 18, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    Jenonator, you may have a point about liberals being more emotion oriented. I don’t think being a “thinker” is necessarily always a virtue. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Fundamentalism and conspiracy mindsets are born of a too great emphasis on rationality, without necessarily having the emotional intelligence to recognize when a belief has become crazed or fanatical.

    I’m not saying that most liberals are like this, but I think that true liberalism (as opposed to idealist progressivism) must be very humble: accepting a plurality of voices as being equally valid. Contradictions are unsupportable for the purely rational mind. But an emotional mind is able to embrace contradiction. Pluralism is not rational, it is protected by emotion, by love, by care, by seeing people’s thoughts, cultures, and personal values as real. Like from What Dreams May Come: “What’s true in our minds IS true, whether or not others know it.” It makes no sense rationally, but it is true from the emotional perspective.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  30. mem on August 19, 2014 at 2:58 AM

    How funny. I’d say it’s the conservaties who are emotional and the liberals who are the thinkers.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  31. Craig Thomas on September 23, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    One of my favorite TED talks, but it isn’t loyalty generally it is “in group loyalty”. The feeling that prods us to enforce rules soothers don’t cheat, and excludes outsiders. Liberals may be loyal to ideals, but they tend to be soft on law enforcement {maintaining the in group rules) and are absolutely against exclusion so the score very low on “group loyalty”. Purity is another matter, where Liberals tend to see the body and the environment in need of being kept clean, or free of pollution while Conservatives seem to hold to chastity as their focus.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe without commenting

Archives

%d bloggers like this: