If We Truly Want To Spread The Gospel More Effectively…

by: Mike S

October 12, 2011

While there is a decline in numbers in some denominations, one religion has been experiencing great success in the United States.  It grew approximately 170% in one decade (1990-2001).  It has grown nearly 10-fold in the past few decades.  Is this religion that is “rolling forth like a stone” the LDS Church?  Nope.  It’s Buddhism.  But wait, some people may say, those numbers are misleading.  There are good reasons for that:

It’s a small religion, so percentage growth is misleading. Nope.  The most recent estimate for the number of people who actively identify themselves as Buddhists in the United States is around 6 million, or roughly the same number as the number of LDS members in the US.  And the number who actively identify as LDS is smaller.

- It’s due to an active missionary force. Nope.  When was the last time you saw a Buddhist missionary?  When was the last time you saw an ad on TV for Buddhism?  When was the last “I’m a Buddhist” billboard you saw?  Just like in the LDS Church, there are books and magazines and websites out there for people interested, but they aren’t necessarily promoted like our.

- It’s an “easy” religion. Nope.  For someone truly following Buddhist principles, it is actually at least as rigorous as our LDS faith.  There is daily meditation.  There is an attempt to control one’s thoughts and words and actions throughout the day.  Buddhists avoid intoxication.  Many avoid meat all together.  They even avoid jobs in industries that don’t promote certain ideals.  Buddhists are generally very anxiously engaged in the whole world around them, not just with other members of their faith.

- It’s due to Asians immigrating to the United States. Nope.  There is some growth because of people moving from predominately Buddhist countries, but this only accounts for around 30% of the growth.  The majority of the growth is from “converts”, or US-citizens who change over to Buddhism from their prior beliefs.  This means there are over 3 million converts in the past 2 decades alone just in the United States, not including natural growth or immigration.

- It’s due to older people looking for something they can’t find in traditional faiths. Nope.  The majority off converts are people aged 30-49.  They are generally well-educated, many with at least some college education.  They are younger people who are yearning for spirituality which they hadn’t found in other faiths.

And the growth isn’t limited to the United States.  Western Europe, Australia, the United Kingdom, and many other areas are also experiencing explosive growth.  Why?  Why is a religion like Buddhism growing, while the growth of the LDS Church is slowing down significantly?  Some might argue that it is a loss of spirituality in general, but I would argue that is it something very different, something from which WE can learn if we, too, want to spread the gospel more effectively.

Buddhism is a very old religion.  Siddhartha Gautama was born in 563 BC, or around the time of the early Nephites.  Buddhism spread throughout SE Asia and flourished there for a combination of religious, political, and social reasons.  Like most religions, it developed in the context of and in reaction to religions existing at that time (in this case Hinduism – and just like Christianity from Judaism or Mormonism from Christianity).  For millennia, Buddhism was largely confined to one main area of the world.  And like other religions, many social customs became incorporated into Buddhism.

Buddhism was first introduced to the United States just before the turn of the century in 1893 at a congress of World Religions.  For the next few decades, growth in the United States was predominantly among immigrants from Buddhist countries or their descendants.  One branch of Buddhism (Zen) began to have some growth in the 1950’s, but even as recently as 1970, there were still only an estimated 150,000 Buddhists in the US.  But then it began to flourish, and it has grown at an ever increasing rate.  So why?

There was much discussion in the “early” days of Buddhism on how to “share” the good message.  People had their lives significantly changed by what they experienced and wanted to spread the news, much like we do in the LDS Church.  One issue they faced, however, was many of the customs that came to define “Buddhism” in SE Asia.  Many of these seemed very strange to Westerners, who wouldn’t accept them and couldn’t incorporate them into their lifestyle.  So a concerted effort was made into determine what it actually meant to be “Buddhist”.  People went back to the source – what did Buddha actually teach?  What principles were essential to Buddhism?  What is the “core” of the message?  These principles were them incorporate into a Western context and presented that way.  Because of this, there are a number of differences in the way Buddhism might be practiced day-to-day in the United States vs Thailand, for example.

But, and this is important, a practitioner in both places still values the SAME PRINCIPLES and is improving their lives in the SAME FUNDAMENTAL WAYS.  The core of Buddhism has been lifted out of the society in which it has developed, and has been adapted to other societies around the world.  And it has flourished.  Growth is increasing.  It is having an increasing impact on the societies in which it is found.  And the fundamental principles of Buddhism are appealing enough to people that this is all being done WITHOUT a missionary force.

So what does this have to do with spreading the gospel more effectively?

I would argue that the exact same thing is what is holding our own Church back.  The core of our message is beautiful and appealing.  We have the priesthood.  Families can be together forever.  We have the potential to be like God.  Messengers can still speak to God and bring His words directly back to mankind.  And so on.  It is a beautiful message.  It is universally appealing.  It is powerful.  But it is lost.

Today, our message is lost under cultural baggage that encumbers it.  When it comes to what it practically means to be a Mormon, we don’t talk about that.  We get talks on what things we should do on Sundays.  We get messages on earrings and tattoos and white shirts and beards and keeping our little girls’ shoulders covered and the evils of Coke.  We get societal racism institutionalized into our canon for over a century.  We get United States Prohibition bans used to change the Lord’s supper from using the wine that He Himself instituted.  We get sermons on the current “correct” name of the Church.  We get shopping malls and hunting preserves and multi-billion-dollar for-profit corporations.  We get slick ad campaigns.  We have no new addition to our “open” canon for decades and decades.  We heard on national TV from our leaders that we don’t really teach that we can become like God, and don’t even really know what that means. None of these have to do with our core message, and therefore our missionary program is broken.

And what do we do?  We rearrange the deck chairs.  We come up with a new way to teach the discussions – teach principles, no memorize word-for-word, no teach principles.  We get “inspired” programs that are only replaced by more “inspired” programs a few years or even months later when they don’t work.  We guilt our missionaries with promises that they will be more successful if they are even more obedient.  We show ads of people skateboarding.  We come up with program after program after program.  We try to implement our franchise model of religion throughout the world, with a common handbook and an exportation of Wasatch Front culture to the world and a cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all building style and meeting plan.

But it’s not working.  Our convert baptisms as a percentage of membership are 50% lower than they were even a decade ago.  Our one-year convert retention rate is only 20-30% throughout much of the world.  We are losing a whole generation of young people, even along the Wasatch Front which is our bastion of strength, where YSA activity rates are in the teens.

So what should we do?  I would take Buddhism as an example.  We should step back and refocus on the core.  We should focus on what is essential to being a Mormon.  We should talk about the beautiful truths that God lives, that Christ is His Son, that the Church can help us get closer to God and toward fulfilling our eternal destiny.  If we claim an open canon and continuing revelation, we should add to it.  We should jettison all of the generational and cultural opinions that are taught as pseudo-doctrines.  We should stop building malls and start building people.

I’ve listed a few specific ideas in the “If I Were In Charge” series, but there are many more, from many people.  Real voices need to be heard.  If someone raises a concern, they don’t need to be branded an apostate.  There are myriad people who care deeply about this Church who have been marginalized because they disagree with some non-doctrinal thing and who have been made to feel uncomfortable.  Open the doors.  Invite them back.  Don’t just say they are welcome, but truly change the non-essential things that drove them out in the first place.   And invite the world to see our beautiful message.  Change the things that are keeping the work from going forward.  Stop making incremental readjustments, but shift paradigms.

Maybe I’m too positive, but I think an increasing number of people are yearning for spirituality as evidenced by the growth of Buddhism.  In a recent Gallup/USA today poll (2010), 92% of Americans say they believe in God. The number of Americans who say religion is “very important” in their life (as opposed to “fairly important” or “not important) was 56% in 2008, compared to 52% thirty years ago. So, we are still a spiritual county.  And this yearning for spirituality is taking place in a large and wondrous and beautiful world, filled with amazing people of different cultures and races and backgrounds.  Instead of telling everyone they have to become us, let’s meet them halfway.  Let’s stop clinging to non-essential things that make our message non-appealing.

Let’s spread the good news more effectively…

Questions:

  • What do you think has contributed to the rise of Buddhism in the West?
  • Do you think people are more spiritual or less spiritual than the past?
  • Do you think it is possible for an institution like the Church to actually change this fundamentally?
  • Will changing the focus to the core of our message work?

——-

Tags: , , , , ,

82 Responses to If We Truly Want To Spread The Gospel More Effectively…

  1. Paul 2 on October 12, 2011 at 4:20 AM

    “Will changing the focus to the core of our message work?”

    I believe senior GAs consider correlation to be the process that has already accomplished this over the past 40 years. They would see the repetition we get as emphasis of that core message.

    “Do you think it is possible for an institution like the Church to actually change this fundamentally?”

    Often, being in the church is like being in a plane that is in a holding pattern. You can’t get out of your seat or else the flight attendants get irate. The same territory is covered over and over from 30,000 feet. People get irritated but stay passive. The air is stale.

    I don’t know any active members that expect the holding pattern to change significantly.

    Of course sometimes church involvement is very inspiring. It is not a black and white picture. But the holding pattern seems to be what we are basically on.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 11

  2. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 12, 2011 at 6:15 AM

    The LDS community used to be an ethnic group whose lives centered around the chapel. Now they are people who go to church once a week.

    Huge difference.

    The Church, back in the 1980s, started focusing on the core message and on just being a Church.

    All of that has led to what we have now, where there is a disconnect between many of people’s social and other needs and the religious message.

    We actually have a lot less cultural focus than we did when the growth and retention rates were higher.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  3. John Mansfield on October 12, 2011 at 6:56 AM

    A lot of people seem to take the scriptures about a white field ready to harvest—so thrust in your sicle with all your might‐to apply to the entirety of the earth from 1830 onward. A couple decades ago as a stake missionary, I experienced an astonishing year that saw 72 people converts baptized in our ward. The year before that was nothing like that and neither was the year after, and I couldn’t see anything we did differently. We can plant, and we can water, but God gives the increase. Harvest is a season that comes and goes and returns again later. Fields don’t ripen year-round, week after week.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 7

  4. the narrator on October 12, 2011 at 7:12 AM

    “The Brethren” (TM) should take seriously what they keep telling the membership to do: actually read the Book of Mormon. If they would do that they would see that the most successful missionary in the history of missionaries was a service missionary: Ammon. He went out with the objective of serving others, and it was that act of Christian service that caused Lamoni (and eventually Lamoni’s father) to ask Ammon questions, leading to the conversion of thousands.

    Not only was Ammon the most successful missionary in all the scriptures, but Mormon carefully constructed the narrative to juxtapose the power of service over mere preaching. Mormon immediately follows the story of Ammon’s success through service with Aaron’s total failure at evangelizing with words (those he preaches to are offended by his claims of religious/moral superiority and throw him in prison). To emphasize the point that it is through service that missionary service is most effective, Mormon then has Aaron mirror Ammon’s early offer of service, to which Lamoni’s father (having already been influenced by Ammon’s love) accepts and desires to learn the source of that love.

    I have not doubt, whatsoever, that if the Church were to actually follow the Book of Mormon (which was supposedly written for our day) and focus its missionary labors on acts of service, that conversion rates would rise significantly.

    Unfortunately today, instead of being known as a Church and gospel of Christian service and charity for others, we instead are seen as a Church full of holier-than though, gay-hating, condemning Pharisees.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 24

  5. mark gibson on October 12, 2011 at 7:45 AM

    “What do you think has contibuted to the rise of buddhism in the west?

    Partially a yearning for individual wholeness, and partially a rejection of institutionalized religions. Gene Rodenberry had no belief in a supreme being yet he selected Buddhism for his marriage ceremony.
    The popularity of transcendental meditation was similar; “I don’t have to go to church to do it”.

    While I agree that the Church can get bogged down in programs that cause some to lose focus, many “regulations” are designed to help us be “in the world but not of it”. Buddhism teaches its followers to be “islands unto themselves”. Look at the welfare/charity programs of the church and ask if that level of alleviation could be done by a group of buddhists?

    One more thing: with all the flak we get about our supposed worship of Joseph Smith, isn’t buddhism the worship of a man,albeit an enlightened on, who lived and died here on earth?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  6. SilverRain on October 12, 2011 at 7:52 AM

    I think you missed the most important reason: It’s trendy.

    And I know you tried to debunk “easy,” but it is. It may not be easy in the sense of unchallenging, but it is easy in the sense of YOU decide exactly how much challenge to take on. No one is bugging you to reach further, examine your beliefs more closely, do things that are uncomfortable or inconvenient except yourself. And you don’t have to deal with pesky co-worshippers who may interpret things differently.

    This way, we can feel “spiritual” without having to feel like we owe anyone anything.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 12

  7. John Mansfield on October 12, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    The Pew Forum U.S. Religious Landscape Survey puts the adult population of America as 1.7% Mormon, 23% of whom are converts, and 0.7% Buddhist, 73% of whom are converts. That would mean 0.39% Mormon convert and 0.51% Buddhist convert. The survey also says that 70% of those raised Mormon are still identify as Mormon, and 50% of those raised Buddhist are still Buddhist.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  8. Cowboy on October 12, 2011 at 8:46 AM

    SilverRain:

    I think you are right, that we can’t fail acknowledge that there is something of a fashion statement inherent with trendy Americans adopting Buddhism – but I think you miss a point that you made.

    “It may not be easy in the sense of unchallenging, but it is easy in the sense of YOU decide exactly how much challenge to take on. No one is bugging you to reach further, examine your beliefs more closely, do things that are uncomfortable or inconvenient except yourself. And you don’t have to deal with pesky co-worshippers who may interpret things differently.”

    If I were to adopt a religious perspective, this is how it would appeal to me. Religion should be introspective. We teach about Eternal Progression in Mormonism, but how can that happen except I will myself to improve. A religion that causes me to reflect on myself, my thoughts/actions/attitudes/etc, is just what it would take to really accomplish this. A Church that nags me all the time to just “follow your inspired leaders” transfers the obligation for decision making through thoughtful introspection, to another person. I am to just “do what is right”, which is anything my leaders tell me, within the Mormon paradigm. Whether Buddhism is easy or trendy really then just depends on the religious sincerity of the person practicing it. However, as a substitute Mormonism may be more of a difficult religion to live in, how does the intrusiveness of leaders prying into “worthiness” accomplish the goal of fostering the required sincerity for salvation, rather than just promoting lip-service? Many Mormons live the difficult lifestyle as a way to just conform, but not in a manner that truly progresses them internally towards self-improvement.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 18

  9. Cowboy on October 12, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    MikeS:

    How would a Buddhist model become profitable? I’ll admit to being overly simplistic, but frankly the shopping mall, elite hunting preserves, etc, tell us everything we really need to know about the Church. I think your suggestions would make drastic improvements to religious experience of Mormonism, but in reality I don’t the Church cares. They just want to sell hamburgers.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 7

  10. Mormon Heretic on October 12, 2011 at 9:10 AM

    Mike, very interesting post. I’ve recently met Phil McElmore, and started a meditation routine. Phil believes that meditation is fully in harmony with the gospel of Christ, and wrote an article in Sunstone called “the Yoga of Christ.” He indicates that many principles of Buddhism are compatible with Christianity. I’ve found meditation helpful, though my schedule has made it more difficult to meditate lately.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  11. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    #1 Paul2: Often, being in the church is like being in a plane that is in a holding pattern. You can’t get out of your seat or else the flight attendants get irate. The same territory is covered over and over from 30,000 feet. People get irritated but stay passive.

    I like this analogy. You can say what you want as long as it’s within correlated guidelines. The give-and-take of the earlier days of the Church where even senior Church leaders would publicly debate various issues is over.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  12. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    #2 Stephen M (Ethesis): The Church, back in the 1980s, started focusing on the core message and on just being a Church.

    All of that has led to what we have now, where there is a disconnect between many of people’s social and other needs and the religious message.

    I think the correlation movement that occurred that time has helped lead directly to where we are now. Our wards have become sterile and monochromatic franchises. The lessons have been dumbed down to the least common denominator. The independence of groups like the Relief Society has been subsumed into the whole with a loss there.

    And while correlation technically “simplified” things, I think it’s been window-dressing. The one thing they did NOT simplify is the whole point of this post. They have NOT been focusing on the core of the gospel. In the past decade or so we have have INCREASED emphasis on many of the non-core things listed above (earrings, tattoos, shirt color, etc). And while it is not necessarily “doctrine”, the reality is that in many areas of the Church the practical implication is that someone who doesn’t follow these non-doctrinal things is looked at askew as if they were in “apostasy”. Their loyalty to God is questioned because they have a different opinion than someone else. So, I would argue that while correlation may have simplified the number of meetings, the pseudo-doctrine has been made MORE complex rather than less.

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

  13. Jeff Spector on October 12, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    I don’t buy into any of this Buddhist stuff, other than to agree with SilverRain that is a trendy thing to do right now. As it was when I was in High School to become a Born-again Christian, just like in certain Hollywood circles it is or was trendy to become a Scientologist or Kabbalah/Jewish.

    but I do agree with Stephen that the Church’s focus away from the social aspects of the Church has created a great void in many people’s lives. It has driven our youth to other activities, which have not always been good. Social interaction can assist in reinforcing our common values and beliefs and that is not pretty much gone.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 9

  14. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    #3 John: We can plant, and we can water, but God gives the increase. Harvest is a season that comes and goes and returns again later. Fields don’t ripen year-round, week after week.

    I agree completely. But at the same time, we need to use some common sense. For agriculture, we may ultimately be dependent on the rain for our harvest, but there ARE things farmers can do to change crop yields. If we still used techniques for farming that we used 150 years ago, we wouldn’t be able to feed our population.

    Similarly, our Church exists in a surrounding society, and we HAVE changed in response to it, although largely in a reactionary fashion. We eliminated polygamy, not because we were told it was wrong, but because we were shown what would happen if we persisted in doing it. We changed our policy on blacks and the priesthood. We changed the temple endowment.

    So, while we wait for God to provide the “harvest”, why not proactively look for ways to reduce as many barriers as possible for people and focus on the essential?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 9

  15. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 10:06 AM

    #4 narrator: I have not doubt, whatsoever, that if the Church were to actually follow the Book of Mormon (which was supposedly written for our day) and focus its missionary labors on acts of service, that conversion rates would rise significantly.

    I agree with your entire comment. In fact, my post last week was about this very topic: Creating Service Missions.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  16. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    #5 mark gibson:

    Partially a yearning for individual wholeness, and partially a rejection of institutionalized religions.

    I do think this is a trend. I will copy part of a comment I made on Jeff’s recent post.

    And I think this is a natural evolution which will lead us into the Millennium. Prior to the Reformation, a central Church essentially controlled one’s access to God. After men like Martin Luther, etc., personal access to God has increased. The founding of America was initially driven by even more personal access to God. And the trend has continued. People are increasingly attracted toward being “spiritual and good people” as opposed to “religious people”.

    In the context of the LDS Church, this is true. There are many things that define someone as a “good” and fully engaged Mormon to the average member of their ward – white shirt on Sunday, no tattoos, 100% home teaching, full weekly attendance, callings, etc. There are similar things in other religions. For example, someone who drinks coffee may be considered by many of their peers to be a “bad” Mormon, but it doesn’t mean they are a “bad” person or any less spiritual than someone who doesn’t.

    So, people aren’t necessarily rejecting God, they are just rejecting these cultural trappings of religion. And the trends will continue. People will remain spiritual (and will become more so as time progresses). Religions that focus on the spiritual and not the traditional superficial trappings will become successful. Those that don’t will continue to dwindle.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 4

  17. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    #5 mark gibson: Look at the welfare/charity programs of the church and ask if that level of alleviation could be done by a group of buddhists?

    One more thing: with all the flak we get about our supposed worship of Joseph Smith, isn’t buddhism the worship of a man,albeit an enlightened on, who lived and died here on earth?

    Two comments: As I explain in more detail in one of my prior posts, while the humanitarian efforts of the Church are very nice, they aren’t as much as we think. For example, we spent between 50-100x as much on a mall as we do per year on humanitarian issues.

    And while Buddhism may not have the same level of institutionalized organization as the LDS Church, on average, I would argue that Buddhists are MUCH MORE engaged in service to their fellowman than we are. A fundamental premise of Buddhism is that we are truly all interconnected, and that what we do affects literally everyone. And the service is pure service, ideally done with no expectation of return or of converting someone to Buddhism.

    Regarding your second point: Buddhists do NOT worship Buddha. He was merely man who found a way where he was enlightened. He taught this to others. People respect him for what he taught. But they do not worship him.

    It’s actually the same thing we do with Joseph Smith. Many people have statues of Joseph Smith or books about him. We have had celebrations of his birth with tens of thousands of people. We make movies about him. We honor what he brought us. But we don’t worship him either.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 9

  18. BrotherQ on October 12, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    A wonderful and important post, Mike S.

    I would like to think that the Lord, in his due time and through his chosen leaders, will provide direction and inspiration such that those leaders can and will make important, orderly, and necessary changes to the way the Kingdom is found on earth. Perhaps a bold, inspired and fearless leader will have the courage to call certain things that were previously identified as “revelation” what they really were (of man). Perhaps systemic and fundamental changes can be brought about in so many things (missionary work, meetings, doctrinal focus, etc.) Perhaps the windows of heaven will open, and new sections will be added to the D&C. I pray for that day. I pray that the chosen general leaders of the Church will set aside their earthly concerns, the culture and traditions that can hinder and obfuscate the truth, and act solely in harmony with the inspiration that comes their way, with courage, with power and authority.

    I can see a Dieter Uchdorf doing this. I can see a Neil Anderson doing this.

    Time is measured only to man, and we are very impatient. We need to trust God, and hang in there.

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

  19. KLC on October 12, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    I would agree with the comment that it is mostly a rejection of institutionalized religion without rejecting spirituality. And there is no more institutionalized religion than early 21st century mormonism. I work for a large corporation. It is becoming more and more difficult to see where that life ends and my religious life begins.

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

  20. alice on October 12, 2011 at 10:58 AM

    I just want to say how much I enjoy reading your entries. Mike, and how profoundly I wish the church were more like your vision of it.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 7

  21. Jenkins on October 12, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    Mike S, great posts!
    In my opinion it’s time for the church to have an actual prophet give us some guidance. I don’t doubt Thomas Monson is the President of the church, however, I do doubt that he has ever heard God speak to him.
    If any of these things are going to be changed they will have to be done by a true prophet of God and I don’t believe any of the men in positions of authority in the church today are qualified to be considered a prophet of God.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 8

  22. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    #6 SilverRain: I think you missed the most important reason: It’s trendy. … And I know you tried to debunk “easy,” but it is.

    Regarding “trendy”, isn’t that what we’re trying to do in a way with our multi-million dollar ad campaigns? We show “cool” people on skateboards, designing Harley-Davidson motorcycles, etc.

    Regarding “easy”, I would somewhat have to echo Cowboy here. Both “Mormonism” and “Buddhism” can be easy if someone is a lukewarm follower. And they can also both be very challenging for a devoted member.

    I would argue that the Buddhist model is perhaps more formative to an individual. Things are too complex to cover in a single comment, but for a simple example, take alcohol. The approaches are very different.

    The LDS version is “Do not drink alcohol”. It is “enforced” through withholding things like being able to confirm your child or even see a child get married. Some people may not want to drink regardless, but many don’t drink out of a fear-based paradigm – they don’t want to suffer the consequences of loss of fellowship or damnation. This method enforces behavior, but not necessarily intention.

    The Buddhist method is different. Their precept is “Avoid intoxication”. Each person then decides what this means for themselves. Many Buddhists avoid alcohol entirely. Some may have a glass of wine with dinner but that’s it. Some carry intoxication further and avoid many drugs and other stimulants. And some interpret the precept to also include situations or environments that might stimulate unwanted feelings or actions.

    At the end of the day, both methods might get someone to avoid drinking, but I would argue that the second is a “better” method. Getting someone to internally decide what it means to avoid intoxication is a higher principle than telling someone they can’t drink, or else…

    It is somewhat of an echo of a plan we heard at one time – where one method was to “force” people to act with specific behaviors and the other method was to teach principles and let people develop behaviors.

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

  23. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    #10 MH: …Phil believes that meditation is fully in harmony with the gospel of Christ, and wrote an article in Sunstone called “the Yoga of Christ.” He indicates that many principles of Buddhism are compatible with Christianity.

    In various studies, at least 20% of “Buddhists” also maintain a belief in God and/or Christ. And Buddha never said there wasn’t a God – he just said that the question is unimportant. Our focus should be on developing our behaviors here in mortality. He argued that it is the right thing to do whether there is or isn’t a God.

    And I have found it an extremely valuable adjunct. It seems that we are told WHAT to do in the LDS Church (ie. forgive others, have charity, be kind, etc) but we aren’t given very good tools to actually develop these qualities. The answer to everything is the same – pray, read your scriptures, pay your tithing…

    Buddhism gives us actual practical methods in HOW TO DO these things. There are practices to develop loving-kindness towards our neighbors, there are practices to learn to have compassion for even our worse enemies, there are practices to learn to love and accept ourselves as the divine beings we are, there are many, many other things. And they work.

    So, I absolutely believe that many things in Buddhism can be incorporated into our religion, and I think we would be much better off for doing it.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 7

  24. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    #13 Jeff Spector: I don’t buy into any of this Buddhist stuff, other than to agree with SilverRain that is a trendy thing to do right now.

    Have you actually studied any of it in any depth before making that statement? That’s like someone saying “I don’t buy into any of this Mormon stuff” without having read any of the Book of Mormon or really given it anything more than a superficial glance. As missionaries, we tell people the admonition to “Prove all things, hold fast that which is true” in an attempt to get them to take an honest look at what we have before judging it. But are we willing to do the same towards other beliefs? And if not, how can we expect them to do the same to us?

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 7

  25. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    Multiple people:

    People are calling Buddhism “trendy”. If anything is “trendy”, it is Mormonism. We have slick ad campaigns. We have “The Book of Mormon” musical. We are on the cover of magazines. We have 2 candidates for US President. We are certainly much more “trendy” and in the media than Buddhism.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 11

  26. Justin on October 12, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    What do you think has contributed to the rise of Buddhism in the West?
    As a Westerner — my introduction to Zen Buddhism came from reading/listening to Alan Watts.

    Will changing the focus to the core of our message work?
    No.

    Having a message with this-or-that focus doesn’t make a person more or less saved. All we should be worried about is faith in Jesus Christ — being totally obsessed with Jesus. Because only the truly obsessed are the ones with faith in Jesus, and only they are the ones who have the miraculous works of the Father manifesting in their lives.

    Being a faithful or focused Christian, Mormon, or [add religion here] only tells me whether one follows the tenets of their religion — it tells me nothing about their faith in Jesus Christ.

    Faith in Jesus Chist is centered in Jesus Christ alone. With faith, we may know the truth of all things — but the second we shift our faith to the doctrine, we cease producing the fruits of spiritual manifestations.

    Meaning, I’ve always seen that most will shift their faith to the truth — instead of keeping it centered on Jesus. So, though Mormons, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. all have much truth — they have by and large put their faith in their doctrines.

    “Don’t have the correct beliefs,” they say, “and you go to hell/stay stuck in the cycle/whatever “bad” thing.” When the truth is, if none of them manifests the works of the Father — they’ll all go to hell together b/c they lack faith in Jesus Christ.

    Meaning — none of this has anything to do with our religion or our church [or its respective focus on things]. All things are measured as “good” or “bad” based on how they measure up to the Son of God — and if they point people towards or away from Him.

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

  27. Jeff Spector on October 12, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    Mike S,

    “That’s like someone saying “I don’t buy into any of this Mormon stuff” without having read any of the Book of Mormon or really given it anything more than a superficial glance. ‘

    And someone is NOT allowed to do this? They must consider Mormonism? I don’t think so. We can ask people to read the Book of Mormon, consider our doctrine. they don’t have to.

    I do not need to examine Buddhism to know that it is trendy. And I am not interested in converting to Buddhism. I am quite happy with the religion I have. I’ve already done that.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 1

  28. Will on October 12, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    Mike S,

    You must understand the message of the Savior; it is not to bring everyone together. It is not to be inclusive, or accepting or tolerant. They didn’t hang him on the cross because he was kind and considerate, which of course, he was; rather, they hung him on a cross because he stood up for what he believed and did not back down.

    The church is not supposed to be large or dominating or have wide acceptance. Two key concepts from the Savior help us understand his kingdom on earth. 1) ‘Straight is the way and narrow the gate and few be there that find it’. It will be small in numbers. 2) It will act as a sieve. It will be divisive; and, ultimately it will separate the wheat from the tares, with the great separation at the harvest. Both of these concepts will intensify the closer we come to the second coming.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 4

  29. Justin on October 12, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    Will:

    Yeshua — comes from the Hebrew root word for “salvation” [yasha]. Literally, it means:

    to be spacious, amble, and broad

    So your comment, “You must understand the message of the Savior; it is not to bring everyone together. It is not to be inclusive, or accepting or tolerant.
    Makes me think about Jesus as the bringer of yasha — or the provider of ample space.

    I don’t hear a lot of spacious room in your characterization of Him.

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

  30. Justin on October 12, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    Oh yeah — Will — I also just thought about Eph. 1:10:

    That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

    So, I in fact do think that Jesus [Yeshua] is about “bring[ing] everyone together” — making ample room for a spacious gathering of tribes.

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

  31. Will on October 12, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    Justin,

    So you are suggesting God is a failure as he was not able to bring all of the spirits together in the pre-existence? After all, 1/3 don’t even get a change a life.

    Of course the goal of our father is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. The reality, however, is that the purpose of this life is to determine our final resting place – to distribute the souls of men among the various kingdoms of our Father.

    Thus, the ultimate goals is not to bring everyone together, but to distribute them.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  32. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 3:35 PM

    Will:

    I suppose I am much more optimistic than you, and have much greater faith in the true potential of man. I also think God is more successful rather than less successful.

    And like we do in the LDS Church, we can all pick scriptures to support our preconceived ideas. I see your “strait is the way…” and raise you D&C 65:2 which says:

    The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.

    I don’t see this as the Church’s destiny being a small and dwindling force in the world. It appears much more bold than that.

    And at the end of the day, we have ALL sinned, in the LDS Church or out. We are ALL dependent equally on Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9

    For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

    Again, these quotes don’t “prove” anything any more than yours do. I think some people are much more inclusionary/we’re all in this together, while others are much more exclusionary/I’m one of the elite few. There are scriptures to support both, and we just come at it differently.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  33. Will on October 12, 2011 at 3:38 PM

    Sorry.. ‘a chance at life’

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  34. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    #18 BrotherQ

    I, too, am patiently waiting for more than a “caretaker” prophet. I am waiting for someone with vision and dynamism. I am waiting for someone to once again say, “Thus saith the Lord …”, for someone to say, “I talked with Christ and He said …”

    Perhaps that’s not to be in my lifetime. Perhaps we will continue to get inspirational talks mixed with opinions and stories of finding quarters. Who knows?

    Siempre hay esperanza.

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

  35. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    #19 KLC:

    My thoughts exactly.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  36. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    #26 Justin: Being a faithful or focused Christian, Mormon, or [add religion here] only tells me whether one follows the tenets of their religion — it tells me nothing about their faith in Jesus Christ.

    This is the essence of the whole post. We have encumbered the core of the gospel, which should be focused on bringing us to Christ, with non-essential things.

    Interestingly, Buddha talked about this over 2500 years ago. He likened his own teachings to a small boat. If the goal is to get to the other side of the river, the boat is useful. But once you get to the other side, there is no sense carrying it around.

    It should be the same way with the Church and Christ. The Church should be a vehicle to bring us to Christ and NOT an end in itself.

    Interestingly, a General Authority tried to teach this concept. In October 1984, Elder Ronald E Poelman spoke in General Conference and said:

    As individually and collectively we increase our knowledge, acceptance, and application of gospel principles, we become less dependent on Church programs. Our lives become gospel centered.

    Sometimes traditions, customs, social practices and personal preferences of individual Church members may, through repeated or common usage be misconstrued as Church procedures or policies.

    Occasionally, such traditions, customs and practices may even be regarded by some as eternal gospel principles.

    Under such circumstances those who do not conform to these cultural standards may mistakenly be regarded as unorthodox or even unworthy. In fact, the eternal principles of the gospel and the divinely inspired Church do accommodate a broad spectrum of individual uniqueness and cultural diversity.

    This goes along with your thoughts perfectly – the Church exists to point us to Christ, and as an individual gets closer to Christ, there becomes less need for the institution in that person’s life. They access the divine more directly.

    Unfortunately, you won’t find this on lds.org. The Church rewrote Elder Poelman’s talk before publishing it in the Ensign and had him rerecord it in an empty Tabernacle with an added “cough track” before releasing it on videotape. The revised version takes out the goal of the Church as pointing to God, and reinserts the Church as the main conduit through which we access God. The same section now reads:

    As individually and collectively we increase our knowledge, acceptance, and application of gospel principles, we can more effectively utilize the Church to make our lives more gospel centered

    The eternal principles of the gospel implemented through the divinely inspired Church apply to a wide variety of individuals in diverse cultures.

    (NOTE: If you are interested in all of the changes made to the talk, here is a link)

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 7

  37. Bro. Jones on October 12, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    Mike said: “Perhaps that’s not to be in my lifetime. Perhaps we will continue to get inspirational talks mixed with opinions and stories of finding quarters. Who knows?

    Siempre hay esperanza.”

    This blog is making me cynical. I too long for the kind of refocusing in the Church you describe, but I don’t think we’re going to see it at the institutional level. Like Joseph Smith, the Buddha was a revolutionary, turning centuries of ossified Hindu doctrine on its head and declaring open access to self-betterment and (a kind of) salvation for all. But I’d argue that the sense of revolution is as absent from modern Buddhism as it is from Mormonism. Doesn’t mean there’s nothing left that’s worthwhile, but makes me wonder how to interest my daughter in the Church as she grows up.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  38. Justin on October 12, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    Mike:

    Yeah — I think Buddha and Christ may have came to the same conclusion [i.e. that the "self" is something that ought to be denied] — but I disagree on the way Buddhist characterize the whole thing.

    From their context — the self is denied by withdrawing. I think about this post from Elephant Journal — about how Buddha viewed his firstborn son as “burdensome” and then went out on a seven-year “spiritual journey” at the expense of his wife — basically going on a selfish journey to discover there is no “self”.

    Whereas, I see Christ’s message being quite the opposite. The concept of “self” is lost as we get in there and get to work serving and ministering others. The more connected I make myself with others — the more the line that divides my “self” from humanity is blurred.

    Buddhists seem to come from a spiritual tradition where connectivity is a spiritually “lower” path — as compared to a “higher” path that is more restrictive. Like Catholic monks, etc.

    Also — Buddhists deny a real, captivating power of Satan. In such traditions, “sin” becomes an ambiguous concept — rather than how a literal being of power binds a person to himself. When we lose a concept of the power of the devil — we lose the understanding of what the salvation of Jesus Christ is supposed to be saving us from.

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

  39. jake on October 12, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    I believe President Uctdorf addressed most of these concerns and more in October 2011’s priesthood session. His focus on welfare as the root of the discipleship really shattered all my previous LDS perspectives:

    “Sometimes we see welfare as simply another gospel topic—one of the many branches on the gospel tree. But I believe that in the Lord’s plan, our commitment to welfare principles should be at the very root of our faith and devotion to Him.”

    It is an astonishing talk, one that I’ve listened to and read over and over. I even taught it in our high priest’s meeting last Sunday. I think it is THE key to our missionary work, hometeaching, and other spiritual endeavors. I’m curious what others think. I believe it to be one of the most important sermons ever given in this era.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  40. Brutus on October 12, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    It all comes down to D&C 10:69 and the signs of the last days that are already here. Once the elite globalists are done with us and the rest of the world, the crap will hit the fan and only then will we see major changes in religion.

    I can see why following some fat Rogaine-deprived Buddha would be more appealing than following corporate archetypes who provide Life 101 advice.

    Organized religion is not as effective it used to be. The symptoms are obvious so is the change in church marketing.

    Just like Buddhism, Atheism is also growing. Why? Millions of people are sick and tired of pre-packaged religion, especially the ones where a living person or persons are in charge.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  41. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 12, 2011 at 6:35 PM

    For what it is worth, I still remember a professor of mine, who joked about listening to people going “Neti, Neti” and responding “and not that either” (referring to the speaker).

    Anyone ready to apply calculus to the arguments against gradual enlightenment and in favor of sudden enlightenment?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  42. honey on October 12, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    I’m 61 years old, female just returned missionary who just spent 18 mo. teaching Jesus Christ and serving others (helping them move, get utilities, tutoring everyday. Preach my gospel is teach Jesus Christ and bring others to Christ on almost every page. That is also what we heard in the MTC. I believe you mischaracterized what the church teaches. And in the last three conferences I have heard multiple pleas for senior missionaries to go and do the same. I read just this week that the senior missionaries entering the MTC has doubled since those talks were given. All of you who are dis-satisfied, get ready to serve!

    Like this comment? Thumb up 4

  43. Henry on October 12, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    Will:
    Generally I agree with your posts but sometimes you seem puffed up. Ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. You up here and everyone else down there. If I am wrong please correct me.

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

  44. Will on October 13, 2011 at 4:03 AM

    Henry,

    I don’t know what was puffed up about my comment. I was simply reciting the ultimate objective of the plan of salvation. It will not bring everyone together. Just the opposite, it will
    divide everyone into the various kingdoms. I was just quoting the Savior.

    Now, if I were to say ( which I am not) that only
    Me, or only Mormons were going to make it to the top that would be puffed up. A lot of the separation spoken of in the parable of the Wheat and the Tares will be within the church. And, of couse Celestial beings from all walks of life will ultimately accept the gospel.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  45. Bro. Jones on October 13, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    #38 Justin – I agree with your observation of Buddhism. It’s a similar criticism that can be made of Hinduism: salvation involves not just denial, but obliteration of the self and worldly attachments. Christianity’s salvation involves losing oneself in God and service, a far more appealing position (which is why I didn’t follow the Hindu traditions of my fathers).

    #40 Brutus: If having a full head of hair is required for religious leaders, then I’m leaving Mormonism tomorrow and taking up something else.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  46. Cowboy on October 13, 2011 at 9:08 AM

    Honey:

    Thank you for sharing that. I have close friends who were just sent on a foreign senior mission. They were very excited, as they are both enthusiastic Mormons. He was particularly excited because he is a convert who joined the Church in his late twenties. All of their children have served missions, but he always felt this weight hanging over his head since he never had the opportunity. Anyway, case and point – they get out to the mission field ready to share the gospel, and guess what happens? They are both stuck in the office! It appears that in the Lord’s mighty plans laid from before the foundations of this earth, my friend was foreordained to manage the Lord’s fleet of Ford Focus’s. His wife, she is responsible for the mundane secretarial services required by the Mission President (heaven forbid he answer his own phone and keep his own schedule). Needless to say, both of these people have related their dissatisfaction (though they are trying to keep their chins up) with this arrangement. They both have a lifetime of accumulated gospel knowledge, service, and experience, plus they actually sincerely prepared for this experience, yet they are reconciled to the most menial functions available in “service” missions. They self-funded an opportunity to share the gospel, and were instead relegated to clerical activities that in all other spheres amount to the dreaded “dead end job”.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 9

  47. kevinr on October 13, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    #42 Honey, Thank you for your service, you are truly doing it right. Although I have seen many “service” missions end up like the story in #46, I still think there is potential in service missions like you, Honey, describe. However, the problem I see is after the service missionaries or even the regular missionaries go away, the converts are left to go to a church where earrings and modesty are the more important priorities, are the markers of a good Mormon, which often, it seems, causes the convert to lose enthusiasm for The Church.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  48. Joe S on October 13, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    Mike:

    Your posts leave me depressed.

    Seriously, I read your no-nonsense posts, and think “These ideas are no-brainers. Why aren’t these things happening?”

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

  49. Glass Ceiling on October 13, 2011 at 3:50 PM

    This is a good post and somewhat suggests that the Church is a bit divided. It is interesting how there are so many pink posts …that are not saying anything objectionable, IMO.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  50. Glass Ceiling on October 13, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    Also, I must make the comment that I also believe the Church has its fractures, but not to the tune of the OP.

    Here is what I see as the biggest problem in the Church: the Singles program. We preach family constantly. But we don’t carry through with how to make that happen at any age level. It affects everything, especially retention.

    Does Buddhism require celibacy before marriage? Marriage at all? I believe you are free to do what you want sexually, as long a no one gets hurt.

    I think we can tout Buddhism all day long while flogging Mormonism, and it may indeed hold some value, or not. But let’s at least keep it real. Marriage is hard, and it is a requirement in Mormonism. As Mormons, we need to find better ways of helping Mormons marry Mormons so they can have families, and to help broken families become new families. That would help Mormonism and all of its programs more than anything.

    Marriage is hard and celibacy is harder. Neither is required is Buddhism. In Buddhism you just, you know, do what feels good.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  51. Jane on October 13, 2011 at 8:22 PM

    “We have the priesthood. Families can be together forever. We have the potential to be like God.”

    Here’s the deal. I’m a twenty something non LDS person of vaguely christian background but would best describe myself as an agnostic.

    The core message doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. I have a very hard time thinking of it being universally appealing. Its probably not going to appeal to many women (half the population), many people with divorced parents or other family issues (a large number of people), or people that think that religion naturally involves personal improvement (odd that you have to spell it out). Its fine that other people love it, but it isn’t for me, and probably isn’t appealing to many others.

    “Will changing the focus to the core of our message work?”

    No. Because the proselytizing missionary program is often considered ineffective and/or awful from an outside perspective. Many people only talk to missionaries to be polite.

    The last time LDS missionaries knocked on my door it was late in the afternoon of December 31st. I was busy getting ready for a party. And it wasn’t my door- they were hitting doorbells in my apartment building. A lovely old building that had… no intercom system, in a city that generally doesn’t have anyone soliciting in apartment buildings. Mom was sick at the time, and since no one I knew came across town to visit me without calling first… Well, my first thought was that she was in the hospital or worse, and that my brother had rushed over to give me the bad news in person. So, I ran to the door, and was faced with… missionaries.

    It was all I could do to look at their name tags, say ‘no thank you’ before they could say anything else, and shut the door. Good intentions didn’t matter that much to me in the face of their awful behavior. They didn’t get to ‘hello’.

    So to sum up: I don’t think the LDS core message is appealing, and I think that tracting is a good way to make people very unhappy with missionaries. Think of a few hundred people getting ready for party guests on new years eve and hearing the doorbell hours too early. Memorable, but not in a good way.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 8

  52. Lee F on October 14, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    “”The core of our message is beautiful and appealing. We have the priesthood. Families can be together forever. We have the potential to be like God. Messengers can still speak to God and bring His words directly back to mankind. And so on. It is a beautiful message. It is universally appealing. It is powerful. But it is lost.”””

    “”We have the priesthood.””
    So does everyone else Catholics Anglicans Lutherans and then there is the priesthood of all believers. So nothing compelling or unique in this point for the LDS.

    “”Families can be together forever.””
    I’ve NEVER met ANY Christian who doesn’t believe they will be reunited with loved ones in heaven. So again nothing compelling or unique.

    “”We have the potential to be like God.””
    Becoming like Christ or imitating Christ seems to be a big point among Christians and since they believe that Christ is God (somehow) they see themselves as having the same potential. So there is not much appeal in this either.

    “”Messengers can still speak to God and bring His words directly back to mankind.””
    Do you watch TV? Quite a few people believe God speaks directly to messengers who bring His words back to mankind.

    I agree the message appears to be appealing since just about all Christian religions fit the bill. But from the decline in religious affiliation and the fact that the fastest growing area are people who are “spiritual but not religious” it seems the message is not “universally” appealing.

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

  53. hawkgrrrl on October 14, 2011 at 8:54 AM

    When church leaders are revolutionary and make radical requests, people don’t like the changes. When leaders are not revolutionary enough, people say they are unqualified caretakers with no gift.

    When church leaders are bad with money and make poor financial decisions, people say “fallen prophet.” When they make good investments and the church becomes wealthy, people say “the church is just a big corporation.”

    I do see some of the current leaders focusing on applying spirituality in a modern context. Others are more administrative, but we do have both. Those looking for flaws will find them, at least in others.

    And the idea that Buddhism in the West bears any resemblance to Asian Buddhism is laughable. True Buddhist practices (meditation, awakening) don’t contradict or compete with religions. They complement. That’s why so many Westerners claim a Buddhist hybrid with another religion. So, sure, you could create a new age version of Mormonism that might appeal to people, but most Western Buddhism is just secularism with some non-religious spiritualism mixed in. It’s just a rejection of religion. There is a growing belief that religion stifles spirituality, which is probably because some fairly vocal adherents are religious but not spiritual.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 4

  54. Jeff Spector on October 14, 2011 at 10:27 AM

    As I mentioned above, I find the term “spiritual” as sort of a catch-all for folks who shun traditional religions but do not want to appear as heathens.

    It is a nebulous term which cannot be defined very well, so it gives some people a big out.

    I’m sure some folks are very spitirual. I just cannot define it the same way as if someone said they were Catholic or Mormon. I know what that means even if I cannot assess their level of comittment to it.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 0

  55. Cowboy on October 14, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    The reason the message isn’t appealing is because it’s so generalized that it is meaningless.

    1) We have a Prophet here on earth today:

    Okay, so what is the meaningful implication? Afterall, what useful thing has the Prophet taught or revealed that set’s his message apart from all the other religious leaders out there? What does President Monson provide us that we could not get within some reasonable variation from some other source? It’s just an empty benefit.

    2) We have the Priesthood:

    What does that even mean to a non-Mormon? What does it mean to a Mormon? In generic discussion it is the power to act in the name of Christ – yet in practice we have nothing but urban legend to support it. What is the actual experience with the Priesthood? Well it is nothing more than a right of passage that entitles/prevents some men to participate in Church ritual and bureaucracy.

    3) Families can be together forever:

    This one is really ambiguous. What does this mean? Even more ambiguous in Mormon terms of the three degrees of Glory. If my parents go to the CK, and I merely recieve Terestrial Glory, does that mean we can never get together for a barbecue? What if we all go to the TK? Can’t people in those realms interract?

    4) Salvation for the dead:

    Most people believe that God is the perfect judge, and that nobody will get anything less than they deserve. All Mormonism offers is the mechanics.

    Fan Favorite! Do you like this comment as well? Thumb up 9

  56. KLC on October 14, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    Jane, they knocked on you door, you shut it in their face before they had a chance to say anything and THEIR behavior was awful?

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  57. Mike S on October 14, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    KLC: Given that comment, I assume you listen to every telemarketer’s pitch before deciding you aren’t interested in what they have to offer?

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

  58. Jenkins on October 14, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    #54 Jeff, “It is a nebulous term which cannot be defined very well, so it gives some people a big out.”

    A big out from what? From my experience spiritual not religious people have just as much varying degrees of commitment as religious people do. If I don’t want religion or spirituality I certainly don’t need to claim I’m spiritual unless it’s to try to keep a religious person from judging me.

    Believe me, I get frustrated with the New Agey spiritual movement and I think a lot of those people are misguided but I’m not sure it’s any worse than a lot of religious people. There are just different challenges.

    As far as Mormonism getting back to it’s core principles I think the core principle of Mormonism is what Joseph Smith said it was when he said,
    “One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism, is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” (Disc. of the PJS 199)

    I think Sunday School should be much more open to what the members want to study together. Whether a group wants to study the Book of Mormon, Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching, Koran. Let them read and study and get what truth they can from it.

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

  59. Jane on October 14, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    Some people came to my door during the holidays, unannounced and unwanted. I saw that they were representing a church known for proselytizing efforts, and said ‘No thank you,’ to them when I opened the door. I then shut the door. I was not obligated to open my door to them (but it is prudent to appear to be home avoid break ins), say anything to them at all, or listen to their message. If they had appeared injured, were holding a map and looked lost, or their car had its hazard lights on in the parking lot, I certainly would have tried to help them.

    This occurred in a place where generally, no one solicits at apartment buildings. Not even girl scouts selling cookies. I’d gone half a decade in that city without anyone unexpected knocking at my door.

    Locally, it is thought to be rude to have persons soliciting or canvassing for charity, political office (or other reasons) at apartments. Hitting multiple doorbells or having people standing and chatting in building lobbies/doorways can be noisy and crowded. It can encourage burglary (they’d like to know who is or isn’t home), vandalism, or mail theft. Having strangers in and out of the building certainly doesn’t make me feel safer (do they make sure the doors shut and lock behind them?). You’d think that the missionaries would have known or cared about the local customs.(Or seen that the building was three stories tall and had no intercom system).

    I consider their behavior awful, in the context of ignoring local customs and their interrupting my holiday preparations.

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

  60. Joe S on October 14, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    @28 Will

    Perhaps you are misreading Matthew 7 (by narrowing in on just a few verses)?

    IMHO, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-8), the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40), and many other passages make it very clear that His message was to “be inclusive, accepting, [and] tolerant.”

    Furthermore, according to John 6, it is the will of the Father for ALL to be saved (through Christ):

    “35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

    To callously dismiss (most) people by implying ‘only a few are really worthy anyway’ seems a bit harsh.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  61. Joe S on October 14, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    @55 Cowboy

    COWBOY SAID:
    “1) We have a Prophet here on earth today:

    “Okay, so what is the meaningful implication? Afterall, what
    useful thing has the Prophet taught or revealed that set’s his
    message apart from all the other religious leaders out there?
    What does President Monson provide us that we could not get
    within some reasonable variation from some other source? It’s
    just an empty benefit.”

    I think this perception is having a greater negative impact on The LDS Church than any other thing.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  62. Jeff Spector on October 14, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    Jenkins,

    “A big out from what? From my experience spiritual not religious people have just as much varying degrees of commitment as religious people do.’

    Commitment to what?

    “Whether a group wants to study the Book of Mormon, Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Tao Te Ching, Koran. Let them read and study and get what truth they can from it.”

    I do not think you get the insitutional church to do this, but there is nothing stopping members who are interested to do this.

    I do not necessarily think this is what Joseph Smith had in mind, though. He did not appear to have embraced or incorporated any eastern religion into the Church, as far as I know.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  63. KLC on October 14, 2011 at 2:16 PM

    Mike, no, I don’t listen to their whole spiel but I don’t call their behavior awful which is the point of my comment.

    Jane, your justifications are flimsy. Not your justifications for declining the missionaries, you have every right to do that, but your justifications for calling their behavior awful. Awful behavior would be them sticking a foot in your door so you can’t close it or walking into your apartment uninvited, not knocking on your door.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  64. Jenkins on October 14, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    Jeff,

    I think it’s a commitment to their own personal set of beliefs and spiritual practices. What is ‘religious’ persons commitment to? A church? A dogma? Or their beliefs and spiritual practices as defined by a church? You never answered my question. What are they getting out of?

    I agree I don’t think the institutional church would make the kind of change I think would be valuable.

    “One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism, is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” (Disc. of the PJS 199)
    What do you think Joseph Smith meant? It seems to me he’s giving a fundamental principle of Mormonism. I’m not saying to only look at eastern philosophies, I think you find truth wherever you find it. He also said,
    “We should gather up all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true Mormons.” (Teachings of the PJS pg. 316)
    It seems to me the institutional church would say something like “We should gather up all the good and true principles we’ve received so far and only listen to what the prophet and general authorities say.”
    I believe Mormonism should be less correlated and more inclusive of people that see the world in a different way.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  65. Jeff Spector on October 14, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    Jenkins,

    “I think it’s a commitment to their own personal set of beliefs and spiritual practices.”

    But, it does necessarily mean anything in particular.

    If you are a member of a particular religious group, there is a dogma, a doctrine, a creed, a set of beliefs that is fairly defined,not matter how closely it is adhered to.

    If someone says they are Jewish, you have a fairly good idea what they mean. Even if they are totally secular.

    But, claiming to be “spiritual,” means nothing on the surface, must be explained and cold be nothing more than they feel a higher power when watching “Star Wars.” It does define morals, or any particular anything.

    “I believe Mormonism should be less correlated and more inclusive of people that see the world in a different way.”

    Funny, I think that guy Jesus told us to be “in the World, but not of the World.” Good people of the world are always welcome.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  66. tosaneara on October 14, 2011 at 7:54 PM

    If we truly want to spread the gospel the effectively…we would simply live what we believe the best way we know how. This does not seem complicated to me. If others observe and are truly interested in what they see, they will ask questions.

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

  67. Mike S on October 14, 2011 at 10:01 PM

    #40 Brutus: …some fat Rogaine-deprived Buddha…

    Your comment isn’t even worth addressing. If there was someone who called Joseph Smith a “womanizing, fortune-telling, religious swindler”, you would realize from the start that that person is so blinded that there is no way you could have an intelligent discussion with that person about the LDS Church.

    Comments like these say nothing about Buddhism but everything about the person making the comment.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 3

  68. Mike S on October 14, 2011 at 10:12 PM

    #38 Justin:

    I would disagree with your characterization of Buddhism. In Buddhism, especially branches such as Mahayana, there is a true sense of interconnectedness with the world, NOT a withdrawl. Because of a belief in reincarnation and the nearly countless times it takes us to get it “right”, there is a very real sense that literally anyone could have been your brother/sister/mother/father in a previous life. Whether this is true or not, it certainly changes your level of engagement with those with whom you come in contact. Keeping this idea in my head as I’m seeing patients, for example, has brought an entirely new level of empathy to my interaction with them.

    And additionally, the ultimate goal of a Bodhisattva is completely selfless and completely different of how someone like Will sees the world. A Bodhisattva is someone who is unwilling to accept their ultimate reward unless literally EVERYONE also receives the same reward. Like the Three Nephites, they are willing to continue to toil, for eons if necessary, until EVERYONE gets there. And in this life, they will literally put everyone else’s welfare above their own.

    Again, this is idealistic, but if you consciously think of this each day, it changes your life 100%. It has made an amazing difference in my life at a much more profound level than anything I have experienced in the LDS Church. And it is MUCH MORE universal and interconnected with the world than the thought than “I am part of an elect few. I’m getting my reward. And that’s what’s important”.

    So, I think by focusing inward, the ultimate goal of Buddhism is to focus outward. It is profound.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  69. Mike S on October 14, 2011 at 10:15 PM

    #42 Honey: I’m 61 years old, female just returned missionary who just spent 18 mo. teaching Jesus Christ and serving others (helping them move, get utilities, tutoring everyday…

    Thank you for your service. That is wonderful that you gave of your time like that. As I mentioned in a post last week on service missions, I would change ALL missions to primarily service missions. Discussions of the gospel would likely follow, but even if they didn’t, we would still be out there serving people.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  70. Mike S on October 14, 2011 at 10:18 PM

    #46 Cowboy:

    I related many experiences of couples just like yours in last week’s post referenced in comment #69. That’s why I would change things.

    When I get to that point of life, I would rather volunteer on a medical mission and go spend a year directly helping people rather than counting bricks in a building or updating baptismal dates in the Church records.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  71. Mike S on October 14, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    #50 Glass Ceiling: Does Buddhism require celibacy before marriage? Marriage at all? I believe you are free to do what you want sexually, as long a no one gets hurt … Marriage is hard and celibacy is harder. Neither is required is Buddhism. In Buddhism you just, you know, do what feels good.

    You are correct in saying that Buddhism approaches sex differently, but it’s not as caviler as you suggest (just do what feels good). The requirement is to not hurt anyone else sexually. In some ways it is “easier” than our teachings, in other ways it is “harder”.

    For example, in Buddhism you shouldn’t just “sleep around”. Having sexual relations with someone with whom you are not in love is “hurting them”. But in a deeply committed relationship, it is ok. Technically it doesn’t matter if you’re married or not. In most predominately Buddhist countries same-sex marriage is frowned upon, but in others, it is treated the same as any other committed relationship.

    But there are some potential advantages. Even within a marriage, you should positively try to fulfill your partner. You should respect them. Just because you are married it does NOT give you the right to dominate them. And for things like masturbation, the LDS Church creates a tremendous amount of guilt in the 90+% (?) of youth and people who do it anyway. Buddhism perhaps has a more realistic approach. If it consumes your life or hurts someone else (ie. porn, etc), don’t do it. Otherwise, it’s probably not that big of a deal.

    So, it’s not like Buddhism has a free-for-all, do-what-you-please. There are some ways that it is better than our black-and-white world.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  72. Mike S on October 14, 2011 at 10:30 PM

    #51 Jane:

    I’m sorry for your experience with missionaries. Tracting is truly a terrible thing, both for those we bother and for missionaries. On my mission in Europe, I was in a small town with no members, where missionaries hadn’t been for 30+ years. We once tracted for 2 weeks without getting in and without teaching a single discussion. But there was literally nothing else to do, so we continued to knock on doors.

    I would change missions to actually serving people. I bet if you saw the same missionaries truly serving people – helping in a senior’s center, tutoring underadvantaged kids, helping to build a playground, assisting in a medical clinic for the homeless, etc. – and saw an article on them, you would have a very different impression. You might even think that they were servants of Christ serving the people. You might even think that was something in which you were interested.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 2

  73. Mike S on October 14, 2011 at 10:33 PM

    #52 Lee F:
    #55 Cowboy:

    I agree. I think that MOST religions teach that we will be with our families in heaven – otherwise it wouldn’t be heaven. Similarly with the points you both brought up on priesthood, eternity, etc.

    It reminds me of a quote I heard in the context of polygamy, blacks and priesthood, etc., as well as beliefs we think we have a “lock” on but which are in reality just like everyone else’s: “The good things about Mormonism aren’t unique. The unique things about Mormonism aren’t good.”

    Like this comment? Thumb up 4

  74. Mike S on October 14, 2011 at 10:37 PM

    #54 Jeff: As I mentioned above, I find the term “spiritual” as sort of a catch-all for folks who shun traditional religions but do not want to appear as heathens. It is a nebulous term which cannot be defined very well, so it gives some people a big out. I’m sure some folks are very spitirual. I just cannot define it the same way

    Just because you cannot define spirituality doesn’t mean other people can’t feel it. Not everyone fits in little boxes or categories to make it easier for others to figure them out.

    I have met many profoundly spiritual people who don’t belong to any particular religion. And there are many other examples. I would consider Bono to be an extremely spiritual person, yet he doesn’t have much use for organized religion.

    At the end of the day, spirituality is the relationship between an individual and God. Religiosity is the relationship between an individual and an organized religious group. Ideally, religions are designed to improve spirituality, but it doesn’t always happen either way.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  75. hawkgrrrl on October 15, 2011 at 2:41 AM

    Personally, I think Buddhist principles are a great complement to religion. Do no harm sexually makes sense of the law of chastity. Do not become intoxicated makes sense of obey the word of wisdom.

    As I said, I don’t see these principles really being embraced by Asian Buddhists. When any religion becomes a majority, it encompasses true practitioners and everyone else. Many insider criticisms of Mormonism are criticisms of people adhering to the letter of the religion without understanding the spirit of it. Same thing.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  76. Jeff Spector on October 15, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    Mike S,

    “Just because you cannot define spirituality doesn’t mean other people can’t feel it”

    I agree. but like may things, it can be a catch-all type phrase used to eschew organized religion and nothing else.

    “At the end of the day, spirituality is the relationship between an individual and God. Religiosity is the relationship between an individual and an organized religious group.”

    Not necessarily. That is the labels you chose to to differentiate and make your point.

    To deeply religious people, there is no difference between the two.

    “Ideally, religions are designed to improve spirituality, but it doesn’t always happen either way.”

    There is probably have a better chance in a religion than as a free lance “spiritual “person. At least in a religion, there is a prescribed path.

    BTW, I don’t know Bono. To me, he is a performer.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  77. Daniel on October 15, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Jeff:

    Sometimes I wonder if you argue with Mike just for the sake of argument. You express disdain for many of the points he raises, and it’s been going on for months here. Perhaps you think he’s sounding like a broken record, but so are you.

    Take this for instance:

    “At the end of the day, spirituality is the relationship between an individual and God. Religiosity is the relationship between an individual and an organized religious group.”

    Not necessarily. That is the labels you chose to to differentiate and make your point.

    To deeply religious people, there is no difference between the two.

    “Ideally, religions are designed to improve spirituality, but it doesn’t always happen either way.”

    There is probably have a better chance in a religion than as a free lance “spiritual “person. At least in a religion, there is a prescribed path.

    You are doing the exact thing you get irked at Mike for doing and, as for me, I find your classifications incredibly lacking. According to you, a “prescribed path” is the best route. According to you “deeply religious” people see no differentiation between spirituality and religion. Emphasis on according to you.

    I happen to think of myself as a “deeply religious person” and there is a night and day difference between spirituality and religiousity. I happen to think that “prescribed paths” are more of an hindrance than anything else. Everything in life, according to me, is an unique adventure. No two lives will ever remotely approximate each other and no two individuals have the exact spiritual needs, contrary to what you and many others assert. As such, the whole notion that everyone must go through the same “prescribed paths” in their attempts to interact with the divine is amusing. Mormonism works for some. Buddhism works for others. And many others for other people… and, at the same time, Mormonism doesn’t work for some, Buddhism doesn’t work for some and on and on. Until we can think outside our own self imposed boxes about what God can and can’t do with us as individuals, we’ll continue to be mired in this “one size fits all” religious mindset that does very little good at the end of the day.

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

  78. alice on October 15, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    I suspect the Pharisees were deeply religious people. At least the form, hierarchy and discipline of religion was of great importance to them. They sought to ensure that there was a high degree of compliance/obedience to the religious order of things.

    Jesus seemed to find their spirituality lacking.

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

  79. Mike S on October 15, 2011 at 3:18 PM

    Jeff:

    I’d explain what I mean; I’d give quotes showing how profoundly spiritual yet not religious Bono is; I’d talk about how religious yet not spiritual the Pharisees were; I’d show how profoundly different the two things are; etc., but as mentioned, it doesn’t really matter what I say – you’d always disagree. So, it’s not worth my time.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  80. Jeff Spector on October 15, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    Well, it seems time to give up the conversation because it appears we are all missing each other’s points.

    My only point is that someone declaring that they are “spiritual” does not make them so. Any more then one declaring they are a “Good” Mormon makes them spiritual. I have found, in my experience, that many people declare themselves spiritual but have no clue what it means and cannot explain what makes them so. They have tended to use that as a shield from organized religion, which they are entitled to do.

    I am certain, as I have agreed all along there are deeply spiritual people who are not part of an organized faith tradition and I am sure it works for them. I just have not met many, if at all.

    I am a believing member of the LDS Church, therefore I adhere to that path to better myself, both spiritually and otherwise.

    I admire anyone who follows their religious tradition and tries to make themselves a better person according to that tradition. the world is a better place for them trying.

    In spite of the way my comments are painted, I am not so absolute in the way I pose them. For example, I never wrote that “a “prescribed path” is the best route.” I said “At least in a religion, there is a prescribed path.” It is only a “best route” if it works for you. I was only making the point, that for some, it is an easier way.

    I could also go on and on about the Pharisees, but let it suffice to say, that you have no idea if the average member of the Pharisaical sect was spiritual or not. You can only go by how Jesus interacted with their leadership. So I would not paint all Pharisaical Jews with the same broad brush. In all likelihood they were only trying to serve God in the way they were taught.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 1

  81. [...] my post last week on what we should do if we truly wanted to spread the gospel more effectively, there was some discussion in the comments on being spiritual vs being religious.  Is one possible [...]

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

  82. LDS Anarchist on October 23, 2011 at 2:07 AM

    “What do you think has contributed to the rise of Buddhism in the West?”

    Is not the coming religious consolidation (creating a single world religion for the one world government) going to be based upon Buddhism? It doesn’t surprise me to find Buddhism on the rise at this time, as this is all according to some very old plans.

    “Do you think people are more spiritual or less spiritual than the past?”

    Do more people raise the dead, have angels visit them, miraculously heal the sick, prophesy, speak in tongues, turn water into wine, and do all the other works of the Father, than in the past? If the answer is yes, then people are more spiritual. If the answer is no, then people are not more spiritual. If the answer is no one does these things anymore, then people are spiritually dead, regardless of their professed beliefs.

    “Do you think it is possible for an institution like the Church to actually change this fundamentally?”

    I assume you mean a change in spirituality. Possible? Yes. Probable? Not likely. The church is going to go to hell in a handbasket in its next stage of existence.

    “Will changing the focus to the core of our message work?”

    This is what you wrote about the core of our message:

    The core of our message is beautiful and appealing. We have the priesthood. Families can be together forever. We have the potential to be like God. Messengers can still speak to God and bring His words directly back to mankind. And so on.

    That ain’t the core. If you think that is the core and we “return to focusing on it,” that will not create spirituality.

    The core message of the gospel is to exercise faith in Christ unto repentance with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, working out your own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord. That’s the core. If you do not manifest a broken heart, a contrite spirit, fear, trembling, faith and repentance, you do not live the gospel. Period. Only the truly penitent will be saved from the fires of hell. So that message, which is the core, will work to create a spiritually alive church. Everything else will keep us lukewarm and dead, or cold and dead, take your pick.

    Like this comment? Thumb up 0

Archives

%d bloggers like this: