Mormonism 101: A Confusing FAQ

March 15, 2012

Given the increased media interest in the Church over the past year, the Mormon Newsroom recently published a document entitled “Mormonism 101: FAQ” .   Overall, the document does a good job of clearing up some misconceptions about the Church, and it is very well written, but I do have an issue with some of the manner in which doctrinal things appear to have been changed.  To start with, there are some things that I really like about the FAQ:

I like that the focus is on Christ.  From the document:

In addition to the above, Latter-day Saints believe unequivocally that:
1. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the Son of our loving Heavenly Father.
2. Christ’s Atonement allows mankind to be saved from their sins and return to live with God and their families forever.
3. Christ’s original Church as described in the New Testament has been restored in modern times.

In the FAQ, I also like the description of whether we are “Christian”, claiming the title through our belief in Jesus Christ, yet simultaneously accepting that there are some differences with other Christian faiths in our interpretation of what “Christian” means:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian church but is neither Catholic nor Protestant. Rather, it is a restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ as originally established by the Savior in the New Testament of the Bible. The Church does not embrace the creeds that developed in the third and fourth centuries that are now central to many other Christian churches.

There are many other aspects of the FAQ I feel are really well-written.  However, there are some aspects that bothered me when I read it, especially when compared with what I learned growing up in the Church over the past 4+ decades.  It seems that the Church no longer wants us to be seen as a “peculiar people” with unique doctrines that set us apart, and in reading through Mormonism 101, you would think that we were like everyone else – just another denomination.  This doesn’t bother me that much in and of itself, as I think there are many more commonalities between religions than the differences which we often emphasize.

The thing that perplexes me the most is that it appears that some fundamental doctrines seem to have been altered.  Again, this doesn’t necessarily bother me either, as we teach that through continuing revelation our doctrine can be changed, but what seems strange is the process.  Instead of addressing these things in General Conference with our prophet or an apostle teaching us new doctrine, or instead of presenting these as revealed additions to our scriptural canon, these unique doctrines seem to have been changed by press release.

So, what are these things – what has changed from what I thought was doctrine?

As Man Is, God Once Was…

One of the most profound things about the LDS faith that I learned as I grew up is our eternal potential.  I was taught that God was once a man, like we are now; and importantly that we each have the potential to truly become like God.  The best explanation for this teaching is from the Ensign in Feb 1982.  According to the Ensign, in 1840, Lorenzo Snow had the following experience:

“While attentively listening to his explanation, the Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon me—the eyes of my understanding were opened, and I saw as clear as the sun at noonday, with wonder and astonishment, the pathway of God and man. I formed the following couplet which expresses the revelation, as it was shown me  … “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.”  “I felt this to be a sacred communication…”

When Elder Snow told Joseph Smith about this in 1843, the Prophet replied: “Brother Snow, that is a true gospel doctrine, and it is a revelation from God to you.”  Joseph Smith himself taught this doctrine the next year in the King Follett Discourse, saying: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens.  That is the great secret… If you were to see [God] today, you would see him like a man in form – like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man.” He also taught that men may go “from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation … until (they) arrive at the station of a God.”  This teaching was reemphasized by other prophets after Joseph Smith.  In 1971, for example, President Joseph Fielding Smith praised President Snow, saying: “This same doctrine has of course been known to the prophets of all the ages, and President Snow wrote an excellent poetic summary of it.” The Ensign article ends with the following sentence: “It is clear that the teaching of President Lorenzo Snow is both acceptable and accepted doctrine in the Church today.”

So, this is the doctrine I was taught growing up, and is likely accepted by the majority of the members of the Church today.  But, is it STILL our doctrine?

In 1997, there was a Time Magazine interview with President Hinckley.  Here is a portion of the transcript of the interview:

Q: Just another related question that comes up is the statements in the King Follet discourse by the Prophet.
A: Yeah
Q: … about that, God the Father was once a man as we were. This is something that Christian writers are always addressing. Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?
A: I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.

It seems like there was a distancing from the doctrine in the press.  And in the current Mormonism 101: FAQ, that distancing seems to continue.  Here is what is being offered to the press.  In the response to the question “Do Latter-day Saints believe they can become “gods?” there is the following:

Latter-day Saints believe that God wants us to become like Him. But this teaching is often misrepresented by those who caricature the faith. The Latter-day Saint belief is no different than the biblical teaching, which states, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17). Through following Christ’s teachings, Latter-day Saints believe all people can become “partakers of the divine nature”

Is this the same thing?  Is “partakers of the divine nature” the same thing?  Do we really not teach that we can become like God?  If our leaders “don’t know a lot about it”, what should we believe?

Polygamy

This is a touchy subject which has been touched on in many posts before.  I don’t understand it at all.  I especially don’t understand what our prophets and teachers have taught about it.

From President John Taylor: “the one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people” From Brigham Young: “Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men … this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers…  Why do we believe in and practice polygamy?  Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practices it.  And is that religion popular in heaven?  It is the only popular religion there…” And so on.  There are quotes by other apostles and prophets extolling the virtues of polygamy and the evils of monogamy.  It was accepted as doctrine and still exists as a doctrine in our canonized scripture, although we no longer practice it in mortality.

Among active LDS members in early Utah, the percentage of people practicing it varied.  It was certainly very common among prominent Church leaders.  In areas like St George, approximately 30-40% of the families in the community were polygamous.  Other estimates range from 20-30% for different communities.  So, while polygamy was practiced by a minority of the members-at-large, it was still a fairly high number.  Additionally, a majority of the higher ranking leaders lived the doctrine and taught it as the standard for God’s people, with monogamy being an evil.

From the Mormonism 101 FAQ:

There are more than 14 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and not one of them is a polygamist. The practice of polygamy is strictly prohibited in the Church. The general standard of marriage in the Church has always been monogamy, as indicated in the Book of Mormon (see Jacob 2:27). For periods in the Bible polygamy was practiced by the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, as well as kings David and Solomon. It was again practiced by a minority of Latter-day Saints in the early years of the Church. Polygamy was officially discontinued in 1890 — 122 years ago. Those who practice polygamy today have nothing whatsoever to do with the Church.

Granted, practicing polygamy today is strictly prohibited and will get you excommunicated, but is the press-release trying to whitewash our history by going further? Has the general standard or ideal for the Church “always been monogamy” as stated in the press-release, or was it actually taught as doctrine by prophets and apostles?  Reading teachings of actual leaders at that time makes you at least suspect that it was the latter.

Race

This has been addressed in a number of recent posts, so I won’t go into any detail here.  But here is the FAQ from Mormonism 101:

People of all races have always been welcomed and baptized into the Church since its beginning. In fact, by the end of his life in 1844 Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, opposed slavery. During this time some black males were ordained to the priesthood. At some point the Church stopped ordaining male members of African descent, although there were a few exceptions. It is not known precisely why, how or when this restriction began in the Church, but it has ended. Church leaders sought divine guidance regarding the issue and more than three decades ago extended the priesthood to all worthy male members. The Church immediately began ordaining members to priesthood offices wherever they attended throughout the world.

Really?  Prophets and apostles taught as doctrine that blacks could not have the priesthood.  It took a major revelation to change the doctrine / policy.  Yet we don’t even know where the doctrine came from?

Location of the Garden of Eden

I grew up back East, although my grandparents lived in Utah.  Nearly every year, we would take a car trip back to visit, stopping at many interesting sites along the way.  These included Church historical sites as well as non-religious sites.  One of the areas that captured my young imagination was visiting Adam-ondi-Ahman.  We read scriptures like D&C 116:1, which states that “Spring Hill is named by the Lord Adam-ondi-Ahman, because, said he, it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people…” We also read D&C 107:53, which states “Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing.”

These are heady concepts.  To be standing in the place where Adam and Enoch stood was profound.  I looked around and imagined the Garden of Eden nearby.  There are stories of Joseph Smith even identifying stones that were used by Adam for the altar when he was kicked out of the Garden.  And even more profound things were promised for the future.  Prophets and apostles taught that in the last days, the leaders of the Church would be called back to the same place.  Christ would appear and receive all of the keys back from the leaders of the various dispensations, thereby ending things back where it all started.  Again, it is something that I always accepted as doctrine.

But now from Mormonism 101: FAQ:

We do not know exactly where the original site of the Garden of Eden is. While not an important or foundational doctrine, Joseph Smith established a settlement in Daviess County, Missouri, and taught that the Garden of Eden was somewhere in that area. Like knowing the precise number of animals on Noah’s ark, knowing the precise location of the Garden of Eden is far less important to one’s salvation than believing in the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

I don’t know what to make of this.  After canonized revelation and statements from prophets and apostles, we don’t know the vicinity where the Garden of Eden is?  And it’s not an “important or foundational doctrine”, even when we teach that one of the most vital things to occur in the last days prior to the Second Coming is a gathering in that area?

———————-

So, I have mixed feelings.  I’m confused.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are many things I like about the Mormonism 101: FAQ document.  I like the emphasis on Christ.  I like the emphasis on serving others.  But I do wonder if white-washing things is the best approach.  Are we splitting hairs in our press-releases, arguing over what the definition of “is” is?  Are we trying to skirt the uncomfortable things at the cost of integrity?

And more importantly, what IS our doctrine?  If things taught as doctrine by prior apostles and prophets in talks, General Conference, magazine articles, etc.  are merely dismissed by saying that we don’t really know what they were saying or what they really meant by what they were saying or if they really said what we thought they were saying in the context in which they said it or…  You get the picture.

So, I’m confused.  Do we believe that God was once like us or not?  Do we believe that we can become like God or not?  Was polygamy taught as an important doctrine, or has “the standard of the church always been monogamy”?  Do we really not know how a doctrine as important as blacks and the priesthood came about even though it took a revelation to change?  Do we believe that Adam-ondi-Ahman has any significance or meaning in our church or not?  And finally, how do we define doctrine?  By addressing it in a conference talk?  By including it in our canonized scriptures?

Or do we define what we “believe” by press release, even though it may contradict prior apostles and prophets?

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165 Responses to Mormonism 101: A Confusing FAQ

  1. LetMeBeFrank on March 15, 2012 at 5:05 AM

    It would have been nice if they had clearly pointed out that the Pew Survey they used was gathering data from self-identifying active members. The way it is used in the info-graphic gives more fodder to those who are critical of the Church for selective truth telling.

    Also, I have yet to attend a Sacrament meeting that was 100% focused on Christ. Did they mean the Sacrament ordinance specifically or the entire meeting?

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  2. Jake on March 15, 2012 at 5:11 AM

    A very interesting document, as it seems to establish some of the changes that have happened. I agree that it seems to simply make us into a slightly quirky christian sect rather then a peculiar people.

    One change that I am thankful for is that they have said that they don’t know where the Garden of Eden is. I have always had a problem with this. Whilst, distancing from the teaching is hardly significant as knowing where it was is not vital for salvation as they say the problem however, is that Joseph Smith had that location revealed to him from God, and is in the Doctrine and Covenants. If he was mistaken in that, then how can we trust him on face value with all his other revelations? That for me is a far more crucial and difficult issue that is raised by that passage. It essentially seems to imply some of Joseph Smiths revelations were wrong.

    But then perhaps this is just the church trying to obscure things through clever word play and misrepresentation. They don’t know ‘exactly’ where the Garden of Eden was. That still leaves room for them to say ‘well we know generally where it is’ whilst not appearing kooky and weird by saying they know exactly where it is.

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  3. Jeff Spector on March 15, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    I guess I would say that you are nit picking a bit.

    I find that FAQ quite a bit more straight forward then what we have been used to.

    A few examples:

    Location of the Garden of Eden: Seems to me the fact that the document says it was in the general area of Davies County is pretty precise given that no other site, even in the Middle East is that precise and that would not be agrred with by most non-LDS bibical scholars. To say it is not important to our salvation is a correct statement just as knowing Jesus eye color is not imortant as recognizing Him as Savior.

    As Man Now is: I suspose one can interpret it as Pres. Hinckley running away from the issue, but frankly, when was the last time you heard it spoken of in Church? And to enter into a long answer to really explain the doctrine behind it might still not have people fully comprehending it. The shorter explanation can suffice for most non-members. Do WE really know a lot about it?

    Race: I am not sure I think the brethren were teaching doctrine, but merely creating an explanation for a practice of unknown origin. Sure, the members may have treated it this way, but it was not doctrine as we have found out. We do not really know if there was a doctrine behind it or not.

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  4. Brian on March 15, 2012 at 8:04 AM

    “It is not known precisely why, how or when this restriction began in the Church, but it has ended.”

    Gee, we just had breakfast one day and looked on the table and there was this no black priesthood holder thingy.

    Nice post. Makes you wonder just who is in charge.

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  5. Howard on March 15, 2012 at 8:23 AM

    Politically correct correlation via. press release. More spin, less revelation. Where’s the beef?

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  6. Last Lemming on March 15, 2012 at 8:24 AM

    Do we believe that God was once like us or not?

    We don’t know. And all of the statements by Lorenzo Snow and Joseph Smith notwithstanding, we were never sure enough to canonize that idea. Long after the fact, we canonized the revelations now found in D&C 137 and 138, but never the Snow revelation or the King Follett discourse.

    Do we believe that we can become like God or not?

    Yes. D&C 132:20 still stands, and although the FAQ comes across as weak tea (so to speak) it carries the same message.

    Was polygamy taught as an important doctrine, or has “the standard of the church always been monogamy”?

    I’m with you on this one. If “The general standard of marriage in the Church has always been monogamy” is a true statement, it is only so by virtue of truly Clintonesque contortions.

    Do we really not know how a doctrine as important as blacks and the priesthood came about even though it took a revelation to change?

    Our best historians are still struggling with this one. They’ve come up with some fascinating conjecture (and racism is at the core thereof), but the record is too thin to really nail it down. As for taking a revelation to change it, can you imagine what BYU religion professors would be teaching if had only been a “policy change?”

    Do we believe that Adam-ondi-Ahman has any significance or meaning in our church or not?

    I must be missing something. D&C 116 says that it is where Adam will come to visit his people. We still believe that. It says nothing about the Garden of Eden. D&C 107 talks abut something that supposedly happened three years before Adam’s death. I guess we believe that as much as we believe anything else involving a 900-year old Adam, but it still says nothing about the Garden of Eden. The whole Garden of Eden thing has always been uncanonized speculation, much like the “as man is, God once was” stuff.

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  7. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    #1 LetMeBeFrank:

    I do agree that some of the graphics are misleading. For example, the picture of the Church with the words: “77% of members attend Church at least weekly”. So of all 14,131,476 members reported in the same graphic, a full 77% go to church each week?

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  8. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 8:52 AM

    #2 Jake: One change that I am thankful for is that they have said that they don’t know where the Garden of Eden is.

    I actually agree with this. There is no archaeological, geographical, historical or any other evidence to support anything besides an Old World location of the beginning of humanity. Perhaps this is a softening of the statements of prior prophets and apostles concerning a New World location. If we are no longer as sure as to the location of the Garden of Eden as prior leaders were, maybe someday we can suggest it was where all the evidence points.

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  9. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    #3 Jeff:

    And I nitpicking? Sure. But that’s what we do in the LDS Church. Having articles in the Friend about little girls in sundresses being immodest because 20 years later they may be wearing garments is surely nitpicking. Our implementation of many things is also nitpicking.

    But in reality, is it REALLY nitpicking? As man now is… Just because someone hasn’t said that couplet for a while, does that mean the DOCTRINE has actually changed? Or is that something we still believe? Down the road, 300-400 years after Joseph Smith, are we going to have a council and decide that people might not fully comprehend this doctrine and teach just that God is an all-pervasive spirit who came down in the form of Christ, and that someday we can be “partakers of the divine spirit”. Or will we still believe (if we do) that God was once a man and we can be like Him?

    These aren’t just semantics. These are doctrines that are “evolving” – not through proclamations of prophets but through press releases.

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  10. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 8:59 AM

    #4/#5 Brian/Howard:

    I suppose this is what bothers me most about it – the document seems pure spin. Ah shucks, we don’t really know where our doctrine comes from.

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  11. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 9:01 AM

    #6 Last Lemming: we were never sure enough to canonize that idea.

    And this is the crux of the issue. Does our doctrine ONLY comprise things that are officially canonized? If so, since we haven’t canonized things for years, is everything taught us by prophets and apostles for the last century just opinion?

    truly Clintonesque contortions

    This is how much of the document seems to me. We brush uncomfortable parts of our doctrine under the rug and think that no one will know. I think this is a big problem with growing and retaining membership for 2 reasons:

    1) Proclaim the gospel boldly. Prior ages of the Church proclaimed the gospel more bluntly. It is what it is, take it or leave it. Do you think Brigham Young would have watered down things like this?
    2) People read this, and a 30-second Google search can give actual teachings by actual prophets and apostles – NOT “apostate” literature, but ACTUAL STATEMENTS. When they try to reconcile the teachings they read with this FAQ, they are not going to look for nuances in wording, or what the definition of “is” is. They are simply going to see it as an organization being dishonest and move on to something that seems more genuine.

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  12. why on March 15, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    why do we allow the church to spin a distortion that “we don’t know when or why the priesthood ban came into effect”

    we know exactly when and why it happened. Brigham Young said that blacks can’t have the priesthood, and he was in charge. and everyone after him stuck up for that policy, despite outside pressure against it. its pretty simple. just say you were right, say you were wrong. anything but ” we dont know “

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  13. Jeff Spector on March 15, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    Miks S,

    “Just because someone hasn’t said that couplet for a while, does that mean the DOCTRINE has actually changed?”

    No, nothing has changed? Who said it did? It could be pointed out that this is not canonized doctrine that God was a man as we are. Even Joseph Smith comments to Joseph F that it was a revelation FOR him.

    “Down the road, 300-400 years after Joseph Smith, are we going to have a council and decide that people might not fully comprehend this doctrine and teach just that God is an all-pervasive spirit who came down in the form of Christ, and that someday we can be “partakers of the divine spirit”. ”

    Highly doubt it. It could happen, but it isn’t the way the Church operates today.

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  14. Last Lemming on March 15, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    Do you think Brigham Young would have watered down things like this?

    Depends on who his audience was. Publicly, he maintained the line that “The general standard of marriage in the Church has always been monogamy” clear up until 1852.

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  15. Howard on March 15, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    It is proposed that we sustain the staff of Correlation Department as prophets, seers, and revelators of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those in favor may manifest it. Those opposed, if any, may manifest it.

    It is proposed that we sustain the staff of The LDS Newsroom as prophets, seers, and revelators of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those in favor may manifest it. Those opposed, if any, may manifest it.

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  16. Nerdherd on March 15, 2012 at 9:48 AM

    These news releases make taking the church serious impossible. It really makes it hard to understand what should be followed and what should be ignored.

    When answering sincere questions with, “that is not important to your salvation” you are minimizing not only the concern for the person asking the question but also the role of the prophets. The truth is that the person could respond back to the church that tithing and the word of wisdom are not important to my salvation. If everything boils down to faith in Christ than nothing is really that important and all that is left is another Christian sect with a rather bizarre history.

    What is it that the church now provides that any other church provides?

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  17. Jeff Spector on March 15, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    “The truth is that the person could respond back to the church that tithing and the word of wisdom are not important to my salvation. ”

    But that wouldn’t be true.

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  18. Nerdherd on March 15, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    If I responded with a press release would it then be true?

    The point is that at some point the church keeps on changing its mind on what is and isn’t doctrine. So the reaction from the church member will be, what is the point of following anything if it is just going to change and won’t be important in the future. If you want to go the canonized route than the fact is that the word of wisdom in canonized scripture is not a commandment. So how can you say that is isn’t true?

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  19. Jon on March 15, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    One word:

    Bureaucracy.

    It happens to all organizations. Luckily we can individually believe just about anything, I don’t believe the church exes people like they used to for “odd” beliefs.

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  20. Bob on March 15, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    #17: Jeff,
    “But that wouldn’t be true:.
    It is true. I can get Salvation without paying a dime in tithing or living the Word of Wisdom.

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  21. Cowboy on March 15, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    Jon:

    You and I are in agreement!

    I was thinking the same thing, more or less. Rather than Bureaucracy, I was thinking that the Church is getting too much PR advise from Lawyers. Just deny everything, and say very little. What they don’t seem to realize is that this is good legal strategy, but absolutely poor marketing strategy.

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  22. Jeff Spector on March 15, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    Bob,

    I think they issue was importance to salvation. So if you wish the lowest level of salvation, have at it.

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  23. Syphax on March 15, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    I totally agree with this post, and after reading apologetic and CES manuals for a decade, I’m still just as confused as ever. As we continue to back off the obscure and unique doctrines of the church, I’m continually left wondering what exactly DOES make us different than other denominations that justified something as striking as a Restoration?

    If all we’re left with is priesthood, vague theosis, non-trinitarianism and eternal families, then it seems like that’s a pretty weak reason for angelic ministrations, a new prophet, a course-correction after 2000 years of false doctrines, etc. But I could be wrong.

    I do have a question about the priesthood ban that I haven’t had fully answered before. During the priesthood ban, wasn’t it the case that the restriction of the priesthood from blacks also, by extension, meant that black families couldn’t be sealed together as families in the temple?

    If so, then it’s a bit disingenuous to say (or imply) that blacks could enjoy all the blessings of the church except priesthood. That is HUGE.

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  24. Howard on March 15, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    With regard to bureaucracy; When you consider First Presidency > Stake Presidency > Bishopric, the church is an amusingly flat organization especially when you realize that this occurred pre-computer. To me this accomplishment is evidence of divine guidance. But administration at church headquarters seems to be an entirely different matter, from the outside it reminds me of a tall 1950s corporate top down organization. To me this situation is evidence of outdated human guidance.

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  25. Bob on March 15, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    #22: Jeff,
    One can reach the highest order of Salvation (CK), without paying a dime in tithing or living the Word of Wisdom.

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  26. Bob on March 15, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    #21: Cowboy,
    “What they don’t seem to realize is that this is good legal strategy, but absolutely poor marketing strategy”.
    I think the term is “lawyering up”.

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  27. Nick Literski on March 15, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    This press release (which I noticed a day or two ago) is a perfect example of how I lost faith in LDS-ism (the religion of Hinckley/Monson) and then Mormonism (the religion of Joseph Smith Jr.). Over the past 20 years in particular, the distinctive teachings have been sidelined, downplayed, and turned into relics of history that “we don’t know much about.” Now we have young people graduating from BYU who deny that certain things (i.e. the teachings in the King Follett Discourse) were ever taught in the LDS church, or dismiss them as mere “speculation.” The recent ascendancy of the public relations department has accelerated this doctrinal decline in the wake of the SLC Olympics, Romney’s desperate grasping for POTUS power, and other high-profile events.

    In the last couple years before my 2006 departure, I increasingly saw that the LDS church was really offering me nothing that couldn’t be found in any church down the street, aside from a persistent claim to exclusive priesthood authority. If not for the fact that downplaying the latter would decrease influence and control over the membership, I’ve no doubt that it too would be tossed aside in the pursuit of public acceptance/admiration.

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  28. Joseph McKnight on March 15, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    I take all the blame for all of it. I invented the polygamy thing, as I know now the church always taught only one man and one woman. I made up the priesthood and temple ban from blacks and taught it in Sunday School again and again until 1978 when I heard the announcement from KSL TV and I thought the world was going to end because I had preached that blacks would only get the priesthood after everybody else had gotten it and no sooner. I was the one who made up the couplet about God being like man. I love taking the blame, too, from Elder Holland and others, because I AM the common folk. It was all folklore and I am the folk who made it up. I just love being part of this common folk church where I get the finger pointed at me whilst the Ensign tells me to follow the leaders who can’t lead me astray. Me, the common folk. And may I add, I am Queer as Folk, too!

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  29. SteveS on March 15, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    nothing like a good anonymous press release or faq to tell us what we believe so we can all be on message.

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  30. Cowboy on March 15, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    Howard, that kind of organizational structure is taught everywhere from the Bible, to military strategy, to even voting precincts or “wards”, which is where the system was initially modeled from.

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  31. Cowboy on March 15, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    Continued:

    Take a bunch of people, then put a guy in charge (Bishop). Then take a bunch of groups of people and put another guy in charge (Stake President). And so on, and so on. Not that there is a problem with the system, just that it was far from revolutionary when it was built.

    Take a State, then put a guy in charge (Governor). Take a bunch of States, put a guy in charge (President).

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  32. Jon on March 15, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    Top down organizations work well when the people at the bottom retain most of the control, call it liberty, free will, what you will, but that is how it works best, it is only when people abdicate their free will and conscious that you start seeing problems (the people’s minds become “darkened” if you will).

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  33. Remlap on March 15, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    I remember when I was on my mission teaching people that having a church without a prophet was like having a ship without a rudder. Now I see that the church not only does not have a rudder but I don’t think it has any sails either. Leadership by committee is not leadership.

    While I disagree with almost everything that BRM and BKP have ever said, I at least admire the fact that they had the balls to get up and say what they thought (I guess BKP still has his balls).

    What I wouldn’t give to have a leader, a Prophet of God, get up in General Conference and state without any BS what is the Church’s true history and current stance on the priesthood ban, polygamy, polyandry, etc, etc, etc.

    And if girls are really only supposed to have one set of ear rings then state that “Jesus doesn’t want you to have two sets of ear rings”. Keep your personal opinions to yourself or at least don’t state them over the pulpit.

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  34. dpc on March 15, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    I’m surprised that no one mentioned the question regarding modern-day prophets. It says that the church is led by apostles (3 apostles in the First Presidency and 12 apostles in the Quorum of the Twelve). That, to my mind, represents a significant change. Is an apostle the functional equivalent of a prophet?

    Thoughts?

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  35. Jon on March 15, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    dpc,

    Apostle=Special Witness of Christ
    Prophet=Someone that believes Jesus is the Christ and shares it with their neighbor.
    Seer=Someone who divines the future.
    Revelator=Reveals God’s will to others.

    Not being called a prophet directly doesn’t seem to be a big deal since I think it is implied that anyone that professes Christ is a prophet including you (if you believe and profess) and me. I don’t see any problem with that.

    As for the seers and revelators have they ever pushed that much beyond temple recommend interviews?

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  36. Bob on March 15, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    #36: Jon,
    BY did not like being called “The Prophet”. To him, only JS had that mantal. He like President Young, or called himself “Just a Yankee Guesser”.

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  37. Howard on March 15, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    Cowboy,
    The wards I am familiar with have maybe 500 names perhaps 1/3 of them are active. Their needs are attended to by 3 part time guys. The relationship of Bishoprics reporting to a Stake President is unremarkable compared to other organizations. But in 2005 there were 2,701 stakes theoretically reporting to the First Presidency. This is nothing like business or the military and governments do not hold weekly meetings with 1/3 of their citizens. I find your cavalier comment unconvincing you have not considered function, span of control or number of layers in your sweeping discount.

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  38. Jon on March 15, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    Howard,

    Don’t the Stake Presidents report to the area authorities first?

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  39. Amanda L on March 15, 2012 at 3:28 PM

    Wow, that is a very big thing hidden in a very small seeming thing. Those statements change the religion I grew up with. Those statements change Mormonism in a very sneaky way.

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  40. Amanda L on March 15, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    (By the way that was my initial reaction, not a reaction to any of the comments.)

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  41. Howard on March 15, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    Yes Jon you’re right. Stake presidents report to and receive direction from the Presidency of the Seventy or the Area Presidency.

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  42. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    #13 Jeff: It could be pointed out that this is not canonized doctrine that God was a man as we are. Even Joseph Smith comments to Joseph F that it was a revelation FOR him.

    Jeff, I expect more than this. Didn’t you read the post? Multiple prophets have taught this as doctrine. There is a link in the post itself to an Ensign article in Feb 1982 that ends with the statement: “It is clear that the teaching of President Lorenzo Snow is both acceptable and accepted doctrine in the Church today.”

    What more do you want? It has been taught by multiple prophets. It has been EXPLICITLY stated that it’s accepted Church doctrine in the Church’s official magazine over 140 years later. If that doesn’t define “doctrine” in the Church, really what does?

    A serious question: FOR YOU, if this isn’t enough, what standard would it take for YOU to accept something as doctrine? It would obviously take more than being taught by multiple prophets and being published in the closest thing we have to on-going official publications. What would that be?

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  43. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    #14 Last Lemming: Depends on who his audience was. Publicly, he maintained the line that “The general standard of marriage in the Church has always been monogamy” clear up until 1852.

    Perhaps that is true. But there is a BIG DIFFERENCE. The Church may have a “public” policy about something currently that if feels different about privately. I accept that.

    But in this case, they are playing revisionist history. To say that the standard of the church has “always been monogamy” in a press release given our history is simply disingenuous. It makes whoever is in our PR department either incredibly deceitful or else incredibly uninformed. And neither alternative is really that appealing.

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  44. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 4:08 PM

    #15 Howard:

    It is sad that we haven’t really received any “official” guidance on any of these issues from any leader besides the Correlation department or else the Mormon Pressroom. In a vacuum, I suppose that’s all we have.

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  45. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 4:13 PM

    #16/18 nerdherd: The point is that at some point the church keeps on changing its mind on what is and isn’t doctrine. So the reaction from the church member will be, what is the point of following anything if it is just going to change and won’t be important in the future. If you want to go the canonized route

    This is EXACTLY the point of one of my posts a few weeks ago. In case you didn’t see it, it was about Reopening the LDS Canon for DOCTRINAL things so issues like this don’t happen. Let doctrine be defined by our Church leaders and our canon as opposed to confusing press releases from our PR department.

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  46. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    #21 Cowboy: Just deny everything, and say very little. What they don’t seem to realize is that this is good legal strategy, but absolutely poor marketing strategy.

    Our ever decreasing conversion rates and growth rates suggest this is true.

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  47. Will on March 15, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    Mike,

    As always great post.

    First and last impressions are always the best and the most significant. Let’s look at what the Savior did when he left as a resurrected being; and, when he first appeared to the Nephites.

    Upon leaving, he asked Peter three times if he loved him and each time Peter responded in the affirmative and the Savior all three times then responded to “feed my sheep/lambs” That is the last impression he gave.

    Upon arrival in the America’s the first thing the Savior taught is ‘his doctrine’, which is effectively to repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost and endure to the end. In his words, this is all that matters.

    By their fruits shall ye know them. The fruits of the church are good. It is a great organization to raise productive and good kids. If you follow the tenants of the faith you will be better off. I think people get caught up in things of the past that have no real relevance to the doctrine of Christ.The important thing is to live the doctrine of Christ.

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  48. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    #23 Syphax: If all we’re left with is priesthood, vague theosis, non-trinitarianism and eternal families, then it seems like that’s a pretty weak reason for angelic ministrations, a new prophet, a course-correction after 2000 years of false doctrines, etc. But I could be wrong.

    I agree. It brings to mind another couplet: The good things in the Mormon Church aren’t unique; and the unique things aren’t good. I certainly hope we don’t jettison the amazing concepts such as man’s potential, etc. for the same of mainstream media acceptance.

    I do have a question about the priesthood ban that I haven’t had fully answered before. During the priesthood ban, wasn’t it the case that the restriction of the priesthood from blacks also, by extension, meant that black families couldn’t be sealed together as families in the temple?

    If so, then it’s a bit disingenuous to say (or imply) that blacks could enjoy all the blessings of the church except priesthood. That is HUGE.

    That is true. Black families were NOT allowed to be sealed in the temple as far as I have heard. If anyone knows otherwise, please correct me.

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  49. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    #27 Nick: Over the past 20 years in particular, the distinctive teachings have been sidelined, downplayed, and turned into relics of history that “we don’t know much about.” Now we have young people graduating from BYU who deny that certain things (i.e. the teachings in the King Follett Discourse) were ever taught in the LDS church, or dismiss them as mere “speculation.”

    This is true. The Church effectively threw Professor Bott under the bus for repeating nothing more or less that what other prophets and apostles have taught. And they stated that they didn’t even know where that came from.

    I increasingly saw that the LDS church was really offering me nothing that couldn’t be found in any church down the street

    I fear this is happening in increasing numbers. Our retention rates are down, especially among the younger generation. And press releases like this do nothing to help.

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  50. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    #33 remlap: While I disagree with almost everything that BRM and BKP have ever said, I at least admire the fact that they had the balls to get up and say what they thought

    Not exactly the words I would have chosen to express the thought, but I agree with the thought exactly. We have become milquetoast, with talks about finding $5 bills that made it through the wash.

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  51. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 4:23 PM

    #39 Amanda: Wow, that is a very big thing hidden in a very small seeming thing. Those statements change the religion I grew up with. Those statements change Mormonism in a very sneaky way.

    That’s what I thought when I read it. Hence this post.

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  52. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    #47 Will: By their fruits shall ye know them. The fruits of the church are good. It is a great organization to raise productive and good kids.

    As always, thanks for your great comments and testimony. It is always great to see your focus on Christ.

    I don’t know that we can simply rely on “fruits” as a sign of “truth”. There are amazingly great people raising incredibly great families in other faiths, and even in no faiths at all. Does this mean that those faiths are true as well?

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  53. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    All:

    Thank you for the comments so far. An issue I have with some of the comments is that people imply that some of these things “aren’t necessary for salvation” and we shouldn’t be worrying about them. I would argue that things like our potential to be Gods, or God once being a man, or Christ appearing in Adam-ondi-Ahman, or blacks and temple blessings, or all of these things are MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than numbers of earrings, shoulders showing on 5-year-old girls, tattoos, drinking a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, etc. Yet we spend an inordinate amount of time on these trivial things, elevating them to a high importance, and ignore much more profound things.

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  54. John on March 15, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    I think it’s important to remember that the 101 graphic was probably intended to serve as a primer or brief introduction to those not familiar with the LDS faith- not intended for members, per se.

    I don’t see why everyone is griping because theosis, Garden of Eden, etc. are not talked about more. I bet if we talked more about that stuff, people would get mad because we don’t talk about Christ enough.

    I think this post is the equivalent of saying “why isn’t baptism for the dead in the book of mormon?”

    Perhaps the prophet and apostles are taking this approach because there is not enough faith in Christ in the church – i don’t know.

    All this discussion reminds of the Jews of old, nitpicking this and that and missing the main message.

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  55. Jeff Spector on March 15, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Mike S,

    “FOR YOU, if this isn’t enough, what standard would it take for YOU to accept something as doctrine? It would obviously take more than being taught by multiple prophets and being published in the closest thing we have to on-going official publications. What would that be?”

    I am not the one who is disputing it as doctrine, even if it was never canonized by the Church officially, I believe it. I don’t think I am the one with the issue about it.

    I agreed with Pres. Hinckley’s assessment, we don’t talk that much about that doctrine and we frankly don’t know much about it.

    I also do not need a Church Press Release to tell me what I do and don’t believe. And i am not bothered by it.

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  56. Jon on March 15, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    And the lesson we learn from all this? The same that Isaiah taught:

    For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts. Therefore will the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush in one day. The ancient, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail. For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are bled of them are destroyed. Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows; for every one of them is a hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

    In other words, leaders are fallible and it is unwise to rely on the arm of flesh. We should seek the Lord first and trust in His doctrine and not man’s.

    Thank goodness doctrines have changed over time (like polygamy, etc.). But it is sad to see other doctrines to go away. Luckily we can read and learn of ourselves what the true doctrine is. As in Mike’s previous post someone commented that today’s prophets are more heads of the church like high priests of the church of old and that we should be grateful for the good works they do. In the end our own salvation and understanding is relegated to ourselves and no one else.

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  57. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    #55 Jeff: I also do not need a Church Press Release to tell me what I do and don’t believe. And i am not bothered by it.

    I agree. But isn’t this the definition of “cafeteria Mormonism”?

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  58. Cowboy on March 15, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    Howard – You are making too much of this. It is just a bottom up accounting system. While “theoretically” it sounds nice that the First Presidency is communicating with these various Wards/Stakes/branches, “realistically” they are just collecting aggregated data. And yes, other organizations keep track of their branches and regions just as well.

    Lastly, the kind of information that is generally passed up is nothing too spectacular.

    -How much tithing was collected
    -Number of member baptism
    -Number of convert baptism
    -etc.

    It’s really not too earth shattering of stuff.

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  59. Jon on March 15, 2012 at 5:44 PM

    John,

    I don’t see why everyone is griping because theosis, Garden of Eden, etc. are not talked about more. I bet if we talked more about that stuff, people would get mad because we don’t talk about Christ enough.

    That’s not what everyone is griping about. What people are discussing is the changing of doctrine through bureaucracy and the presidents of the church changing previous doctrine without much discussion and just passing it off as if it were not a big deal without directly speaking to the members of the church but changing the doctrine through the media.

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  60. Jake on March 15, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    I would just like to say that the comments so far have been superb. I feel like I have been on a liking frenzy with so many clever, witty, and thoughtful comments.

    What I look forward to is the inevitable reaction to this document in 20 years time, when the doctrine has changed again and the apologists start saying ‘well that is not binding upon members as doctrine because that is a press release, and doctrine only comes from words uttered from a prophet.’ Its great using a press release has given them a ready made get out clause for any potential problems it may throw up in the future.

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  61. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    #58: Cowboy:

    Agreed. There are stats passed up, but the upper leadership doesn’t seem too concerned with actually getting input from anyone “below” before they make decisions. In the ideal world, ALL decisions would be exactly the will of God and there wouldn’t be any need for input from “below”, but the fact is that (as stated by BRM), sometimes even the prophets and apostles are “wrong”.

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  62. Mike S on March 15, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    #59 / #60 Jon and Jake:

    I “like” both of your comments. Didn’t just want to click thumbs up.

    And in an additional response to:

    I don’t see why everyone is griping because theosis, Garden of Eden, etc. are not talked about more. I bet if we talked more about that stuff, people would get mad because we don’t talk about Christ enough.

    This is the point. We should talk of Christ. We should talk about our future as Gods. We should talk about where God came from and how He got to where He is now. We should talk about how this all started and how this will all end.

    All of this is MUCH more important than talking about covered shoulders and earrings and tattoos and such. Yet we get entire sacrament meetings about those subjects.

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  63. Jeremiah S on March 15, 2012 at 7:32 PM

    This press release disturbed me. Lately, I have had the impression that the Church is saying one thing to the World through its press releases, and another to the members internally.

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  64. Stephen Marsh on March 15, 2012 at 8:03 PM

    For some fun read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divinization_%28Christian%29

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  65. Stephen Marsh on March 15, 2012 at 8:05 PM

    And http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monolatrism

    Maybe I should do an alternative SS lesson the concepts?

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  66. LovelyLauren on March 15, 2012 at 10:42 PM

    I don’t feel like the press release is all the different from the stuff we get fed in SS every week, but I have mixed feelings.

    On one hand, I understand distancing ourselves from the weird doctrine of the past. It certainly makes accusations easier to deal with. At the same time, I don’t like sweeping documented history under the rug.

    I don’t know. I kind of like being a peculiar people when I feel like I’m being left alone. I like the doctrine of becoming like God. I think polygamy is worth talking about (particularly since our certain sealing habits make it still relevant.) Anyone who joins the church is going to encounter this stuff eventually so I wonder if the glossiness of a press release is even worth it.

    However, on changing doctrines, I think it’s worth noting that it happens. It happens in the past and will continue to do so.

    Like I said, I don’t know.

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  67. Douglas on March 15, 2012 at 10:51 PM

    #55 – (El Jefe)…well said. It’s either amazing or it should give you great concern that two brethren, so different in political views, should see eye-to-eye on Gospel fundamentals. Though I “feast” on the (inspired) words of the living Prophet and the Apostles, I don’t need clarification on every niggling point or an official statement to define everything I believe. That I have the Lord Jesus Christ, the Priesthood that he bestowed, and the Holy Spirit to guide me is sufficient. The most important thing is that I have a heart to feel and a brain to think which Heavenly Father gave me. That’s a reason why I could care less what GBH would or wouldn’t discuss in an interview with Larry King.

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  68. Jeff Spector on March 16, 2012 at 7:51 AM

    Mike S,

    “But isn’t this the definition of “cafeteria Mormonism”?

    No, I don’t think so. I am not sure I know a definitive definition. In the broadest sense we are all “cafeteria everything” because we are individuals.

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  69. Jeff Spector on March 16, 2012 at 7:55 AM

    Douglas,

    Miracles happen at every level! But I also suspect that if we were F2F, we would be in agreement more than disagreement.

    “That’s a reason why I could care less what GBH would or wouldn’t discuss in an interview with Larry King.”

    Exactly. I always thought that GBH was forthright about what is core and fundimentally important to the Church today.

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  70. hawkgrrrl on March 16, 2012 at 8:26 AM

    A quick comment on the lauding of BRM and BKP’s willingness to have some balls and take a stand. I think the problem with that is that the “stands” some have taken, which coincide with some of what we are distancing ourselves from here (BY’s decrying of monogamy for one) are simply strident justifications of personal prejudices. I’m having a hard time thinking of an exception. And Prop 8 (under TSM) is a similar stand; it’s just so out of step with society, and the church is no longer isolated, that it can’t be as strongly or unanimously enforced as other things have been in days of yore (prejudice against blacks, women, and justification of polygamy).

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  71. hawkgrrrl on March 16, 2012 at 8:40 AM

    Do we believe that God was once like us or not? Do we believe that we can become like God or not?

    The apologetic answer I read about Hinckley’s disavowal of the couplet was that we do teach the human potential to become gods like our father, but that we don’t really talk about where God came from (Kolob, *cough*, *cough*).

    Was polygamy taught as an important doctrine, or has “the standard of the church always been monogamy”?

    Well, again this answer seems to be hair-splitting. BY’s statements of polygamy self-justification certainly sound like it’s the ideal (vs. monogamy), but it is true that there was never a majority of members who practiced it. Of course, this is a perfect example of using the numbers to tell the story we want to tell (figures lie; liars figure). We say there are over 14M members, then say 77% from the Pew survey attend church weekly, which is definitely not 77% of the 14M. But we dilute the % that practiced polygamy by using the largest denominator possible.

    Do we really not know how a doctrine as important as blacks and the priesthood came about even though it took a revelation to change?

    We don’t know because there was no originating revelation, but leaders we call prophets are on record stating that there was.

    Do we believe that Adam-ondi-Ahman has any significance or meaning in our church or not?

    I’ll go out on a limb and agree with Jeff that when stuff hasn’t been canonized, it’s hard to defend it as core.

    And finally, how do we define doctrine? By addressing it in a conference talk? By including it in our canonized scriptures?

    I mentioned in a different post earlier this week an observation about the fluidity of contracts in Hong Kong. A written contract is subject to being trumped by verbal agreement later. It’s not just confusing; it’s chaos.

    Or do we define what we “believe” by press release, even though it may contradict prior apostles and prophets?

    Apparently we do now. Great post.

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  72. Sue on March 16, 2012 at 10:03 AM

    I was hoping to see at least one comment on “Do Mormon women lead in the church”.

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  73. Heber13 on March 16, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    To me, it is interesting that we have gone from a prophetic church, with statements about where the Garden of Eden was, who the American Indians were ancestors to, and specific things like a skeleton belonging to a white Nephite…to today’s church making statements like:
    “We do not know exactly where the original site of the Garden of Eden is.”

    “It is not known precisely why, how or when this restriction began in the Church, but it has ended.”

    “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made.”

    We’ve become less sure of ourselves. Or maybe we’ve matured to see we aren’t so much more enlightened than the world around us.

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  74. Jam on March 16, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    No matter what a recent Pew poll reported, the people who prepared this graphic must know that there is not a 77% activity rate. Based on the numbers given there should be over 370 active members per ward/branch. My own (limited) experience suggests that the real number is less than half that amount. I doubt that exaggerating the numbers like that can have any positive effect among the target audience (whether that’s current members or non-members).

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  75. Mike S on March 16, 2012 at 10:00 PM

    Sorry. Just traveling home from the Radiohead concert last night in Phoenix, so got a bit behind in responses. Brilliant concert, by the way, I’d highly recommend it. Anyway…

    #64 Stephen: Thanks for the link. This makes the Mormonism 101: FAQ look like even more of an attempt to equate us with many Catholic and other faiths. For example, here is from the article at the MormonNewsroom website when asked if we think we can become Gods:

    Through following Christ’s teachings, Latter-day Saints believe all people can become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

    Here is a Roman Catholic teaching from the Catechism of the Catholic Church from the article:

    The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”: “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”

    We seem to be creeping even closer and closer to some of the other beliefs in denominations around us. Certainly a far cry from BRM deriding the Catholic Church as a harlot.

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  76. Mike S on March 16, 2012 at 10:16 PM

    #70: hawk

    I do agree that some of the “stands” ultimately ended up being the personal opinions of various church leaders, in retrospect. I do respect them for standing up for their opinions, however, as it was much more inspiring than the blandness we currently have.

    I think the “blandness” we have now comes because current leaders are actually afraid to express their opinions BECAUSE of things like this. They are men with experience, however, so I would like to hear their insights and opinions. That’s why having a mechanism where we can actually have DOCTRINAL things defined (perhaps by adding revelations to the D&C like we used to) would be freeing. It would allow great men like Elder Bednar and others to give their personal opinions on things and reasons, WITHOUT having it thought of as “doctrine”.

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  77. Mike S on March 16, 2012 at 10:23 PM

    #71: hawk

    I like this entire comment. With regards to this part: I’ll go out on a limb and agree with Jeff that when stuff hasn’t been canonized, it’s hard to defend it as core., ironically, Adam-ondi-Ahman is one of the FEW things that actually HAS been canonized in our scriptures. It is mentioned in at last 4 chapters of the D&C.

    Also, I did like your post about the fluidity of contracts in Hong Kong. There is much to be said about doing a deal where you can trust someone to keep their word and don’t require an army of lawyers.

    I do agree that there is a certain fluidity to doctrine, especially in a church that is based upon “living prophets”, etc. That being said, however, I would expect 2 things:

    1) Hopefully, doctrine is defined as such over the pulpit, and even more ideally, through canonized revelation as we used to do – and not in some press release likely unknown to a majority of members of the Church.

    2) And hopefully, there are certain aspects to the concept of God being the same now and forever that WOULDN’T change. We may not drink wine like Christ did, but I wouldn’t expect other things to change. Either God was once a man like we are, or He wasn’t. I don’t see how that can change. And we can either literally become Gods through the same process He went through, or we can’t. I don’t see how that can change.

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  78. Mike S on March 16, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    #72: Sue

    I considered that, but the FAQ was technically correct with what it stated for women. I tried to point out things that differed with things I had been taught, not just things with which I might like to see some changes. This has been the issue of other posts, and will be the topic of future posts.

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  79. Mike S on March 16, 2012 at 10:28 PM

    #73 Heber: We’ve become less sure of ourselves.

    I does seem that way. But I think it is out of fear of not wanting opinions taken as “doctrine”. We need a better mechanism to actually define “doctrine”.

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  80. Mike S on March 16, 2012 at 10:29 PM

    #74 Jam: No matter what a recent Pew poll reported, the people who prepared this graphic must know that there is not a 77% activity rate

    Agreed. I’m not sure why they put it out there. It’s so obviously wrong that it makes other things suspect.

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  81. Taylor Berlin on March 16, 2012 at 11:41 PM

    Sue: I see why Mike S. didn’t include this part of the press release, but it really disturbed me. Sure it’s *technically* true, but it is completely and utterly misleading. No mentioned of that pesky “preside” word, no mention that women do not give prayers in conference, no mention that usually around 90% of the talks in conference are given my men, no mention that women are ALWAYS under the subversion and direction of male leadership even if they hold their own leadership positions in the church, no mention that all Prophets and apostles are men, no mention that women can not hold the Priesthood, no mention that the RS’s autonomy was stripped away a few decades ago, . . . I could go on.

    The section of women reminded me of Michael Otterson’s statement (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/post/what-mormon-equality-looks-like/2011/04/14/AFn7zpfD_blog.html)–except this new press release did a much better job at obscuring the reality of women’s role in the Church.

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  82. SilverRain on March 17, 2012 at 7:21 AM

    Perhaps, for those of us who are believing members of the Church, the best approach would be, rather than indignation and anger because things aren’t being handled the way we would like, to pray that the leaders and spokespeople of the Church will be guided by the Spirit and by revelation.

    They are just people, not essentially different from any of us. They need our prayers and support as the Church goes through a time of increased scrutiny and criticism. We could be a party of moving the body of the Church closer to the Lord, and inviting the power of the Spirit back into our daily lives. What a beautiful opportunity!

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  83. Mike S on March 17, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    #81 Taylor:

    I agree that the press release obscures the role of women in the Church, but since it’s always been that way and hasn’t changed, I didn’t include it.

    The way I see it: The Church was established in the United States in the 1800’s and many things reflect that society. The Word of Wisdom reflects views of that time. Blacks were still slaves at that time. Women couldn’t even vote, let alone preside. We found doctrinal justifications for all of these things.

    As societies change, our interpretation of doctrines change. We jettisoned polygamy when the outside pressures became too much, even although we had “doctrinal justification” for it. We jettisoned blacks and the priesthood even though it was justified. So, who knows, maybe someday we will say regarding women and the priesthood, “We were wrong”.

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  84. Taylor Berlin on March 17, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    #83 Mike S.

    I agree with everything you said. I think what really troubles me about the Church and this press releases is that a few of the items I listed would not require any doctrinal changes at all. Simple changes like inviting more women to speak in conference would be very helpful and would probably help the Church in the PR department, too. “Yes, the current organization of the Church is a patriarchy, but we value women’s voices as much as men. For example, in annual conferences as many women speak as men”. I would see that as a very positive move forward–I think this little, easy change would set the stage for further improvement.

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  85. Chino Blanco on March 17, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    “They are just people, not essentially different from any of us.”

    Oh, there are plenty of essential differences between me and my crew and a bunch of eighty-year-old rich white guys trying not to be remembered as the gang who drove the company into the ditch.

    Anyway, Mike S seems to be one of the least confused Mormon commentators I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

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  86. Ray on March 17, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    Mike, the only quibble I have with this post is my belief that it’s totally fine to try to explain our unique beliefs in words that others reading will understand. I think it’s MUCH better to do that in order to gain some level of understanding than to ignore common terminology, phrase something in ways that are “foreign” to the audience and end up with continuing, totally divisive misunderstanding.

    For example, in the case of becoming like God, it’s perfectly fine when writing to people who generally are going to be Christian (or, at least, fairly conversant in Biblical references) to frame our beliefs by quoting the Bible. Therefore, I’m totally fine with a press release to “others” (mostly Christians) that explains our belief that we can become like God in the way this document does. (and, frankly, that particular doctrine IS Bible-based at the core, not based on anything in the Book of Mormon or primarily in other uniquely Mormon scriptures. That’s important to remember, imo.)

    As to the idea that God once was a man, just like us, I really don’t care if that is being de-emphasized, because I personally don’t believe it and never have. I didn’t hear it preached over the pulpit growing up in the Church, and Pres. Hinckley’s interview was completely correct factually, imo. I get it that you and others would be upset that it’s getting ditched, especially if you and others believe it, but I just don’t care – again, because I don’t believe it and never have.

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  87. Bob on March 17, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    #86: Ray,
    “I didn’t hear it preached over the pulpit growing up in the Church”. Well, I sure did.
    I don’t see where the logic breaks down for you? If you believe a man can become a God__why can’t you see a God was once a man?

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  88. Jettboy on March 17, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    Ray, I am another Mormon who has never believed that God was once a Man (just like us). In fact, I think its a misreading of Joseph Smith’s teachings on the subject. A close reading of The King Follett Discourse has me convinced that Joseph Smith was comparing Heavenly Father to Jesus Christ, and our own Divine potential to becoming like Jesus Christ. I do not believe it links us directly to Heavenly Father. The Ensign might say the couplet is Mormon doctrine, but I don’t see the Ensign as canonical any more than a Press Release.

    I will go even farther and say that if people are really that concerned about the watering down of doctrines, they can always become Mormon Fundamentalists. Shouldn’t the New Order Mormons be absolutely excited by these “doctrinal de-emphasis developments” since its that much closer to mythologizing the whole religion? I think people just like to complain for something to complain about and not out of any true feeling that the past is getting lost.

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  89. bonnieblythe on March 17, 2012 at 2:14 PM

    I’m not bothered that Sunbeam lessons teach that God loves all his creatures. It would be pretty hard to fold all the truths this gospel puts at our disposal into an infographic with a beginner-level audience. The other night we had a family council and I talked to my 5 teens still at home about human sexuality. Again. We speak frankly about issues that face them, but I didn’t tell them everything I knew. I’m not offended that every document that goes out doesn’t tell everything we know, nor that the prophet chooses not to discuss everything he knows with someone who doesn’t have a foundation to understand it. I see no refuting of a crucial doctrine in Pres. Hinckley’s discussion. People get all up in arms when you say, “we choose not to discuss it” (well, some people do – when I said, ‘we choose not to discuss that’ in family council everyone nearly fell over with relief.) It’s sometimes easier to shroud the issue for the unschooled and let the well-schooled take care of themselves.

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  90. Mike S on March 17, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    #86/88 Ray/jettboy:

    I really don’t care if that is being de-emphasized, because I personally don’t believe it and never have.

    The Ensign might say the couplet is Mormon doctrine, but I don’t see the Ensign as canonical any more than a Press Release.

    Really, both of you are getting at the same thing, and it’s something which has merit. You both basically articulated that if a prophet says something with which you disagree, you don’t care – you’ll still think he’s wrong.

    Ultimately, I agree that our primary relationship is between God and us. Period. The Church exists only to facilitate that relationship. Prophets and apostles might teach whatever they want – people can believe whatever they want.

    But my questions: Do you think the Church itself will ever espouse this attitude? And do you feel the same way about things that President Monson might say (take some, leave some), or do you only ignore things you don’t like that dead prophets have said?

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  91. Jettboy on March 17, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    “Do you think the Church itself will ever espouse this attitude? And do you feel the same way about things that President Monson might say (take some, leave some), or do you only ignore things you don’t like that dead prophets have said?”

    Obviously I’m an orthodox Mormon, at least as my detractors have defined me. I think it already does espouse the attitude, perhaps too much to my liking. Despite my own protestations for a more authoritative action, most of those who leave do so on their own. Also, I don’t think that Lorenzo Snow is per-say wrong either; just stating things in too simplistic a way to cover the whole idea. Since its the simplistic over the complicated that has been taken as “doctrine” by some, then in that way I don’t believe in it.

    On the other hand, I take Brigham Young at his word. He says don’t believe everything just because he and other prophets say something. I have studied the gospel for most of my life and have come to the conclusion that most of what the prophets teach is correct enough to trust them far more than not.

    My problem with today’s questioners is that they are making excuses, linking hands with enemies of the Church, murmuring and not actually discussing things with best intentions. They trust their intellects more than the Spirit and then act as if they are one and the same. If detractors (both out and especially in the Church) weren’t so loud I wouldn’t say much myself. I respect people who leave the Church quietly or whisper their dissatisfaction, rather than those that come out kicking and screaming. You don’t see me, for instance, writing a paper decrying the “couplet” and why its so wrong. Why should I? There are more important things to focus on that I do believe.

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  92. Bruce Nielson on March 17, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    Mike,

    Just a quick overview of the issues that you are overlooking that the PR group had to face in trying to explain something complex into a sound bite:

    “As man is God once was…”

    While widely believed, it’s well known that (unlike the other half of the couplet) that there is no scriptural backing for it. Therefore, there is a fair amount of difference of opinion on this topic, all of which is considered “orthodox”.

    “Polygamy”

    The difficulty here is whether or not you’re going to assume that monogamy was the default and polygamy the exception or polygamy the default and monogamy the exception.

    Modernly, we see monogamy as the default (the ideal) and polygamy as the exception.

    However, it’s also clear that the 19th century Mormons often thought of it the other way around.

    But consider the scripture in Jacob. It really doesn’t leave room for the 19th century view. That is why modern Mormons see their 19th century counter parts as having been mistaken on this point. The PR room is factually correct on how Mormons view polygamy today. Including the idea that monogamy was the ideal and polygamy the exception. So this is not a white washing of history, as you claim. It’s the honest truth of how believing Mormons view polygamy today. And, yes, we think our 19th century counterparts were wrong on this based on the strength of the scriptures (particularly Jacob)

    “Race”

    I was shocked that you truly didn’t realize that we really and truly don’t know how the priesthood ban began.

    If you do know, please publish. I know a lot of scholars that would kill for such authentic and verifiable information.

    “Location of the Garden of Eden”

    You are confusing Adam-ondi-Ahman and the Garden of Eden. They are not one and the same. Ideally they should be close by each other though. But the FAQ represented this and had it right.

    Mike, give the PR group some credit here. They were more accurate than you were and all within a few sound bites. That takes real effort to accomplish.

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  93. Ray on March 17, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    Mike, ultimately, I believe I will be judged by how well I follow “the dictates of (my) own conscience” – which means I am accountable for what I personally believe, do and am. Therefore, while I give serious weight and consideration to what the prophets and apostles say and “accept” what they say if I’m not sure how I feel about it, I can’t dismiss my own personal convictions if they are in opposition to the words of a prophet or apostle. Period.

    Following someone just because they are an authority figure is in opposition to D&C 121 – and, in practice, is no different than Lucifer’s plan. I don’t believe one bit that I will be blessed for doing something I believe is wrong just because I am following a leader. Our leaders aren’t Pied Pipers, and I’m not willing to drown by following someone I believe is leading me to that end.

    Finally, our own prophets and apostles have disagreed about LOTS of things over the years – and some of those things are considered important, foundational “basics” by most members. If apostles and prophets can disagree about grace, salvation, the Atonement, the Priesthood ban, the creation of mankind, evolution and numerous other topics, then I’m totally fine remaining accountable for my own views and perspectives – knowing they are different than they were 20 years ago and than they will be in 20 more years.

    Having said all that, I disagree totally with Jettboy’s characterization of those who question today. I think his description is a grossly unfair, inaccurate caricature in most cases.

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  94. Glass Ceiling on March 17, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    Hear! Hear!, Jetboy.

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  95. Glass Ceiling on March 17, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    We are all roughly one major disaster away from being at peace with these things. Yes?

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  96. Mike S on March 17, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    #91 Jettboy:

    My problem with today’s questioners is that they are making excuses, linking hands with enemies of the Church, murmuring and not actually discussing things with best intentions. They trust their intellects more than the Spirit and then act as if they are one and the same. If detractors (both out and especially in the Church) weren’t so loud I wouldn’t say much myself.

    I appreciate your comments, and the “Hear! Hear! Jettboy” by Glass Ceiling – I truly do. I’m glad when people who disagree with me just come out and say it, and explain why. The last thing I want is for anything on this site to be a series of “Good job” or “Attaboy” comments like we occasionally see on other LDS-themed sites.

    In reality, I would probably be considered just as orthodox as you. I’m active in my ward and just last week posted on Ten Things I Like About My Ward. I’ve always had a temple recommend and have always been a full-tithe payer. I teach the YM and Elders and Primary and whoever the standard orthodox lesson each week that I am asked to teach, and people tend to like the lessons. I’ve always been Mormon. I’ve been to every Church historical site, and was even baptized in the Susquehanna River at the Aaronic Priesthood restoration site where Joseph Smith was baptized.

    So, why do I write these? Am I “linking hands with the enemies of the Church”? Am I “making excuses”? Absolutely not. My nature is to question “Why”? I don’t know why, but I’ve always been that way. I like to see how things work and why they work. It led to a degree in Engineering, to figure out and to build things, and to a career in Orthopedic Surgery, to figure out and repair things.

    And asking “Why?” isn’t necessarily bad. It led Joseph Smith to what he did, which was seen as heretical to his time. Many of Jesus’ teachings were asking people “why”, and He specifically did things AGAINST the standards of His day to prove a point. Buddha asked “why”? Without someone asking “why”, we wouldn’t have the inventions that we have today. And all these inventions were, at one point, seen as heretical and “kicking against the pricks”.

    Therefore, when I see something that is at odds with what I thought I thought about the Church, I ask why? Do we really not believe in what President Snow and other prophets taught anymore? Do we really not understand what other prophets said about race and Adam and other things? It caused my mind to skip a beat and ask “Why”?

    At that point, there are 2 alternatives: Either bury the contradictions and experience cognitive dissonance, or else explore things to see if they can be resolved. Because of the orthodox nature of our congregations, it is impossible and actually frowned upon to actually discuss ANY of these things in an “official” meeting. So, I write a post to explore my thoughts on it and get feedback from other people. Hence, posts like this.

    If detractors (both out and especially in the Church) weren’t so loud I wouldn’t say much myself.

    Let not delude ourselves. I’m under no impression that I’m changing the world here. I’ve seen the stats for this site and my posts. The number of people who actually read this stuff numbers in the hundreds, out of 14+ million members of the Church. This isn’t even a little pond – it’s a drop of water. And for every person who has said that things like this are a “detraction”, I have received much more feedback from people who feel relief – they feel the EXACT SAME WAY – yet are too scared to speak up in Church or to other people. It’s people who enjoy the Church, who love God and Christ and their fellowman, yet who also wonder about incongruities.

    And realistically, I bet if you and I sat down, we’d probably agree on 95%+ of what it means to be Mormon. Anyway. Thanks for your feedback. I do appreciate your positive nature (and others who have commented) and it helps bring a lot of balance to the conversation.

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  97. Mike S on March 17, 2012 at 5:46 PM

    #92 Bruce Nielson:

    Mike, give the PR group some credit here. They were more accurate than you were and all within a few sound bites. That takes real effort to accomplish.

    I mostly agree and tried to do that. The beginning of the post explicitly stated that it was well-written and listed things I particularly liked about it. And at the end, I again said that there were many things I liked about it. I really like the emphasis on Christ. I thought they did a good job of defining “Christian” from an LDS-viewpoint.

    But there were some things that were somewhat unsettling to me, and that was the purpose of the post. Regarding a few of your comments:

    While widely believed, it’s well known that (unlike the other half of the couplet) that there is no scriptural backing for it…

    Perhaps, but there is no scriptural backing for much of what it means to be a Mormon in daily life. There is no scriptural backing for not using wine in the sacrament (even the WofW explicitly states this). There is no scriptural backing for white shirts or tattoos or multiple earrings or little girls keeping their shoulders covered or “R” movies or bikinis or Coke or not drinking beer (a mild barley drink) or defining increase as gross or no beards or ending polygamy or banning skinny jeans or having people sit on the stand a certain way or not having many women speak in conference or really any of the hundreds of things that we do in the Church.

    And regarding the couplet, it’s not just Lorenzo Snow. Once again, the Church was VERY EXPLICIT on it. If you haven’t clicked on the link to the Ensign article specifically about this couplet, please read it. The Church, in as strong of words as it can, short of canonizing it, said that THIS IS DOCTRINE.

    That is why modern Mormons see their 19th century counter parts as having been mistaken on this point. The PR room is factually correct on how Mormons view polygamy today. Including the idea that monogamy was the ideal and polygamy the exception. So this is not a white washing of history, as you claim. It’s the honest truth of how believing Mormons view polygamy today. And, yes, we think our 19th century counterparts were wrong on this based on the strength of the scriptures

    Really? We have multiple quotes from multiple prophets and apostles espousing polygamy. We have the Doctrine and Covenants that teaches it is the highest form of marriage. And it was wrong? Can the Church really go down that wrong of a path for so long? And if so, how can we know that the path the Church is currently going down is correct? Because that is the implication of your comment.

    I was shocked that you truly didn’t realize that we really and truly don’t know how the priesthood ban began.

    You are correct. I can’t give you an exact date that someone decided that blacks couldn’t have the priesthood. Unfortunately, our historical records are not that granular.
    However, at least as far back as 1859, one of our prophets, Brigham Young, taught:

    How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam’s children are brought up to that favourable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion.”

    There are a number of other quotes that say the same thing, from multiple prophets and apostles. So, how did it start? I assume because it was taught to us by our prophet. It’s the same way that restrictions on earrings started. Or reinterpretation of the Word of Wisdom to make it a commandment. Or anything else. Prophets taught the restrictions of blacks from the priesthood. If they didn’t teach it, your comment would make more sense.

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  98. Mike S on March 17, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    #93 Ray: …then I’m totally fine remaining accountable for my own views and perspectives – knowing they are different than they were 20 years ago and than they will be in 20 more years.

    I think this is the point. Ultimately, we are all responsible for ourselves. We have to work out our own salvation. It all comes back to what Christ taught as the 2 great commandments: Love God and love your fellowman. And everything else hinges on this.

    As in my comment above, there are many ways in which the Church helps me love God and love my fellowman. There are many inspiring things in it. But there are sometimes things the organization does which which I disagree. But this disagreement doesn’t mean I throw out the “gospel”.

    Thank you for your comments.

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  99. Mike S on March 17, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    Also, in one way, I REALLY like this FAQ. I personally believe that all of us (all people on the planet) are much more alike than different – whether we are Mormon, Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, etc. We all generally want to touch the Divine in our daily lives, we generally want to do good to each other and have it done to us, and we generally have the same ideals to be with our loved ones after this mortal existence.

    While this FAQ “reinterprets” things that I was once taught as LDS doctrine, if this more ecumenical flavor is reflective of the direction the Church is going, I’m all in favor. Pointing out how we believe much the same as everyone else is a breath of fresh air from the dogmatic days of McConkie, Joseph Fielding Smith, etc. I hope this portends a swinging of the pendulum away from all that.

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  100. Taylor Berlin on March 17, 2012 at 6:23 PM

    Mike S.–Can I just say that your responses to everyone here are so wonderfully respectful and compassionate. Thank you for being such a great example of how we can converse with others in a way that is loving and productive. Thank you.

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  101. Jettboy on March 17, 2012 at 7:18 PM

    Mike S. I do want to commend you on your responses to me as well. Having a less harsh tone and actually listening to what I have to say doesn’t take away from my concerns about this article, but it does leave me less critical of you. I think you hit it right when you said, “While this FAQ ‘reinterprets’ things that I was once taught as LDS doctrine, if this more ecumenical flavor is reflective of the direction the Church is going, I’m all in favor.”

    I think for us more orthodox Mormons who don’t see it as actual reinterpretations, its more about letting us decide for ourselves how to interpret it. I have always felt that we must start at a literalist level. After that, to use an example, we can believe that the Great Flood covered the whole Earth or covered the whole earth that the prophets where familiar with. Same idea with the Garden of Eden; literally existed and somehow related to Missouri, but how is not really understandable at least to me. And I really hate the first part of the couplet no matter how many prophets said it was true. It makes no sense and should be explained better or dropped (I have my theories that there isn’t room enough to expand without time and threadjack on how it can be explained better).

    “Pointing out how we believe much the same as everyone else is a breath of fresh air from the dogmatic days. . . ” I think its problematic in some ways, but yet I also think its a matter of Mormons and non-Mormons talking past each other for too long. We have been accused of believing things we don’t believe and mocked for those things we don’t believe. Makes it hard to be comfortable discussion the differences without feeling misunderstood and abused.

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  102. Glass Ceiling on March 17, 2012 at 10:12 PM

    Btw, I have always believed that God was once like us. It is the only thing that makes sense , and is a great selling point for the believeability of Mormonism.
    Sorry, but many of you lack perspective and seem to need a ‘pat on the head’ from cobventional Christianity. Why? They are essentially ridiculous and create as many questions as they do answers. Can the same be said of Mormonism? I suppose . But the fact that Mormonism answers the big questions that ALL others cannot is not lost on me. I don’t need the approprval of any other Christian organization or community to proudly be Mormon. And all I have to do to remind myself is to ask anyone not Mormon, “Who goes to heaven and how do they get there? ”

    I am not pretending that there are not problems in current decisions within what appears to be Church leadership. But I have yet to be invited to those meetings. Until I do, I have to choose whether or not I’ll live the Gospel. I don’t secretly throw my favorite sins and frustrations at my own church on one side of the scale with the Gospel and Church history on the other. It’s either true or it’s not.

    And I am a middleaged single. I have plenty to be frustrated about in the infrastructure of the current Church. Singles are all but forgotten by age 30, and it’s really no picnic at age 23. But does that make JS a fallen prophet?

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  103. SilverRain on March 17, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    There is more doctrinal and scriptural support for God once being like man than there is for a Heavenly Mother.

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  104. Glass Ceiling on March 17, 2012 at 10:58 PM

    Silver Rain,

    Precisely. And no one seems to be doubting her.

    About the idea of humans becoming gods, if we did…wouldn’t the day come when our spiritual progeny found themselves where we are at today? Deluded by the Satan of the day for millennia on matters of divine nature and so forth….man’s our children not being able to wrap their lil arms around how their folks became gods, or verse visa.

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  105. Glass Ceiling on March 17, 2012 at 11:01 PM

    AND our children not being able to wrap….

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  106. Glass Ceiling on March 17, 2012 at 11:28 PM

    In any case, I just need to say that the idea that God was once a man is a a man is a pillar of my testimony, and a gamechanger in terms of clarity of the big picture.

    It is a gift from On High to know this information. It isn’t required for Mormons to doubt their legacy just because great swathes of the Bible Belt rears its head because a Mormon runs for POTUS. Consider the source. Yet again, I agree with Jettboy that Mormons wrestle with the Traditional Christian pig way too much. We loose part of ourselves, they think they are winning, and some of us end up loosing IQ points along the way just to
    fit in, I guess.

    And I hate to break it, there’s a battle ahead folks. Organize your feelings now while it’s ‘the good ole days. ‘

    And just a thought …is it possible that the Devil himself is playing with our (the Church’s ) historiocity a bit just to add to the challenge?

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  107. Glass Ceiling on March 17, 2012 at 11:33 PM

    …we LOSE part of ourselves wrestling. ..

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  108. Ray on March 18, 2012 at 12:16 AM

    “Sorry, but many of you lack perspective and seem to need a ‘pat on the head’ from conventional Christianity.”

    Glass Ceiling, I’m not about to be condescending toward you due to your belief in this concept. I get it, and I don’t have any problem with members believing it. It very well might be true.

    Please don’t condescend to me or others who don’t believe it. It’s got NOTHING to do with wanting to be more mainstream Christian. That would be my worst nightmare – and I mean that sincerely. It also has nothing to do with a lack of perspective. I will stack my experience and perspective against anyone my age, and there’s a good chance I’m as old as you are or very close. I don’t want or need a pat on the head – and I don’t need to be mis-characterized so badly by someone with whom I agree far more than I disagree, I’m sure.

    I just don’t believe that particular concept. That’s all.

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  109. Douglas on March 18, 2012 at 12:26 AM

    #102 – well said. That’s why I chuckle when I hear the palaver about Mormonism being outside the traditions (whatever that’s defined as) of “Christianity”. For pity’s sake, how COULD Joseph Smith claim to have received a restored Gospel and re-establish the Church under the authority of Christ and then set up more of the same? While I respect those of “other” (related in that they profess Christ, or at least their interpretation of Him which I don’t want to get into niggling points about) related faiths, I have to say either the authority was established through JS and continues on down to TSM today, or else it’s just another man-made pile of hooey.

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  110. Glass Ceiling on March 18, 2012 at 12:46 AM

    Ray,

    We are both victims of blogspeak. If you and I sat in a park for an hour we would probably walk away mutually validated. I read this and other blogs like it regularly and your words I tend to appreciate and agree with almost always.

    I just feel that Satan is currently working overtime on the Church. I suppose we at times invite it a bit. But as far as Church leader, I get the idea that they are relying on the future efforts of the Church to save it’s reputation, rather than participate in putting its history on trial.

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  111. Glass Ceiling on March 18, 2012 at 1:08 AM

    Douglas,

    I could not agree more with you. The Gospel is either whooy, or it is THE TRUTH. If I walk away from it over historiocity, or frustration over current leadership, where can I go then for truth?
    Nowhere in any other church, for heaven’s sake. I guess I’d have to become one of those guys who sits on the beach, smoking a bowl, worshipping Gaia….

    The Gospel is eternal, the Church is in part temporal. Why should we expect perfection in it? Seems like a recipe for sorrow and frustration. OTOH, I believe that change in the Church comes from the bottom, up. I am all for freedom of speech and communication within the fold.

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  112. Jettboy on March 18, 2012 at 7:44 AM

    I am with Ray in not believing the whole “As Man is God once was . . .” because it seems to have negative support in the Scriptures. Frankly, it makes sense and I understand the concept. That would be enough for me if there wasn’t so many Scriptures that counter this idea in some places no uncertain terms. How can He have once been a man and also be called Perfect and an Eternal God? I can’t get myself to wrap around that other than He was more like Jesus Christ than he was us. I think, on the other hand, there is a lot of Scriptural support for Heavenly Mother, most of it very cryptic as if to hide the concept without denying it.

    Just to be clear, its the first and not the second part of the couplet that is problematic. There are a plethora of Scriptures to support theosis. Of that I am not denying. If it would have only said “As God is now, man may become,” I could get fully behind it as completely doctrinal. I guess the cat is out of the bag and I ask if someone could explain using the Scriptures the first half then I might give it another thought.

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  113. Mike S on March 18, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    Douglas / Glass Ceiling:

    I know that the black/white dichotomy has been used a fair amount frequently, where people have said that either the Church is all true or all fraud. I don’t know that I necessarily agree with it. I do think that there are truths and things found in the Church that are not found in other places. At the same time, there are things in the Church that have been shown to be basically wrong – even if preached by prophets and apostles. Additionally, I have seen a lot of truth in places other than the LDS Church.

    So, rather than the black/white dichotomy you present, I see all faiths as having shades of gray. Some are perhaps more “white” and some are less, but they all have some white. Because we are all individuals here on this earth, I think our challenge is to seek out truth where ever we see it, and use it to reconnect with God. I happen to find a lot of truth to do that in the LDS Church, but as mentioned, I have found a lot outside the LDS Church as well.

    So, I disagree that it’s as right/wrong as you perhaps suggest.

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  114. Mike S on March 18, 2012 at 8:41 AM

    Also, my personal resolution to the “As man is, God once was…” issue related to modern physics. I believe that we are getting closer to truth in the scientific realm as well, and most theories postulate the existence of a “multiverse” – or large (infinite) number of universes, of which this is just one.

    If this is true, is easily solves the problem. God was once a man in another universe, which had its own God. Having passed the test, he became God of this universe and has been running it since the Big Bang. Therefore, all the scriptures that suggest that He has been God since the beginning of time, or is endless, or whatever, are absolutely true. He has been God since before this universe came into being. He sits outside the universe, yet influences it (I’ve written about this in the Science & Religion series here on W&T if you’re interested in further details).

    And someday, if we pass the test, we too may become God in our own universe, which will have its own Big Bang, and so on… Again, this is all theoretical and my own personal opinion, but I do think it is interesting that something presented by Joseph Smith 150+ years ago seems to correlate with what we are beginning to get glimpses of in modern physics.

    Just my opinion.

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  115. Glass Ceiling on March 18, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    Here is one interesting factoid. The Hebrew translation of the word Elohim is “the many Gods.” Can you call three Gods “many Gods?” I suppose. But it would seem more accurate to say “three ” when you mean three. And if it does mean three, rest assured that it us rhw only instance where “many ” means “three” in the universe.

    And if it is conceiveable that men can become Gods, why is it so inconceivable that our God had the same road. It makes more sense to me that he earned he way there then that he always was God, always existed, etc….
    And it is interesting how how the idea can offend certain folks in the Church. For heaven sake, JS said this stuff himself.

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  116. Ray on March 18, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    Fwiw, I have no problem with the explanation Mike gives in #114. I actually believe it, despite my earlier words about not believing the full couplet. How can that be?

    First, neither option (GOD with a beginning or GOD without a beginning) makes total sense logically. Both options carry with them logical problems. Thus, it’s not clear-cut which one is the most logical. The very debate about the existence or lack of a beginning is one of the most fundamental in all of religion, science and philosophy.

    Given that unsolvable tension (at least, unsolvable currently), I choose to distinguish between GOD, as an entity, and God(hood), as a condition. I choose to believe in GOD, the Father of ALL, as the creator of ALL other Gods – those who become like Him and pave the way for ALL to become “like Him”. I believe that this likeness is literal in every way imaginable EXCEPT in the primacy of His existence and Godhood.

    (It’s important to state explicitly that I am using “Him” and “His” historically in this comment, not anthropologically to refer to a male Being.)

    Yes, I understand the inherent conflict in that view with many statements from our history, but I also recognize the inherent tension in the opposite view with many other statements from our history. In the end, for me personally, this is an academic, intellectual exercise ONLY – in that my own ultimate faith (the substance of my hope in what remains unseen) doesn’t change whatsoever even if I am totally wrong about this belief. My faith still is focused on the Atonement of Jesus Christ (even though I view it much more symbolically than many members) and its power to change me into a God – to make me GOD-like, as I described above. That is true whether or not GOD once was a man just like me, as long as I believe God once was a mortal man almost like me.

    That last part is the central reason why I don’t believe the full couplet. Our theology states unequivocally that the only God of whom we have record being a “man” actually wasn’t “as man is”. Yes, we teach that He was mortal in the sense that he had the ability to sin and to die, but we also teach that He wasn’t “as man is” in the sense that He had the ability NOT to sin and NOT to die.

    Thus, even in the case of Jesus Christ, we teach that God was not once as man is – unless we define “as man is” much, much more loosely than we do for every other discussion we have about every other topic possible.

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  117. Ray on March 18, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    #110 – Thank you, Glass Ceiling. I appreciate your comments, nearly always, and I appreciate your words in that particular comment.

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  118. Jettboy on March 18, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    Ray #116, I don’t think I could have explained my own problems any better than you on my uncomfortable relationship with the couplet. Maybe in the KFD Joseph Smith meant the now traditional reading, but all the evidence he used to back it up turns more toward God as Christ more than as Us. Perhaps both had a misreading of the revelation.

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  119. Jettboy on March 18, 2012 at 9:56 PM

    “. . . but all the evidence he used to back it up turns more toward God as Christ more than as Us . . ,” with the follow up that we then become like God through Christ.

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  120. Brian on March 18, 2012 at 11:15 PM

    “I have always believed that God was once like us. It is the only thing that makes sense”

    In my mind, there are countless alternatives to this. Beyond that, why does anything have to make sense to mankind to be real?

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  121. mcfamy on March 19, 2012 at 1:54 AM

    Like it or not, here’s my opinion:

    FAQ 1:

    All three sentances are correct. The first sentance says it all, “Latter-day Saints believe that God wants us to become like Him.” Clear statement. Second sentance says this teaching is often misrepresented. Here’s just one example of how (for more, go to anti-Mormon literature and find out things like how we are awarded “our own planet,” etc): People say we become equal or somehow even replace God for ourselves. God will always be over us, our Father who gave us life. We and our posterity give Him glory. He shares a part with us. Just like we don’t replace our earthly father or mother but can become like them, not over them. We forever honor them. The writer then slams the use of the scripture, “partakers of devine nature” and the fact that we don’t know a lot about it. Well, we are and we don’t …but read the first sentance again! I think that says it all and says it good enough for an FAQ (which is not intended to be deep or become a novel).

    FAQ 2:

    1st sentence is true. 2nd true. The 3rd is bashed because “the general standard has always been monogamy” …which is also TRUE! Here’s why: During the days of polygamy, members were REQUIRED to be monogamous unless called to polygamy, otherwise there would have been much abuse. Some say as few as 5% practiced polygamy but it could have been 20% – still a minority. 4th sentance: true. 5th, 6th and 7th: true. So what’s the issue? Does the writer think these FAQs should offer an entire history with full detail, quotes, journal entries, and doctrinal meat had by the BYU religion professors? That’s not the purpose and wouldn’t be fitting of the intended audience. The writer seems to think it is Church “spin”, I call it smart. I know some folks on this site don’t always like the milk before meat concept. I think it makes sense and seems to be the Lord’s way throughout history.

    FAQ 3:

    1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th sentances are true. 5th sentance is also true, but the writer doesn’t like it. He needs to find/cite evidence to the contrary if he so emphatically dislikes it. 6th and 7th sentances are true. Again, milk answers. Personally, I think a lot of the race question can be compared to when the gospel/priesthood went from the Jews to the Gentiles. Peter and many apostles and members were not quite ready and had to be coaxed by God. God sees the big picture. We are flawed. But that concept and many others cannot be elaborated in an FAQ.

    FAQ 4:

    The 1st sentance is …TRUE! Adam built the alter OUTSIDE the Garden of Eden. Adam-Ondi-Ahman was revealed to be the place Adam built the alter and where the gathering would take place before Christ returns. It appears to be near the G fo E, but the “exact” location of the G of E is not known. The writer conveniently changes “exactly” to “we don’t know where the vicinity is?” Is the writer guilty of something he is charging to the LDS Church? Sentances 2 and 3 are also correct.

    I read this article because I found it posted on Facebook. I prefer sticking to the scriptures and the Ensign over sites like this. Call me close-minded, but I like to have a strong testimony of the prophet and I find scriptures and prayer is the way to do that. Some tend to dive too deeply into speculation and easy criticism; they begin to ignore the basics. There are a lot of good books – and even good sites. Stick to the ones that build the Kingdom, not the ones that give tools to be spread around and tear down bits and pieces of the Kindgom.

    Just my opinion. I’ll probably now hear more of yours :o)

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  122. Mike S on March 19, 2012 at 4:03 AM

    #121 mcfamy: Just my opinion. I’ll probably now hear more of yours

    To be honest, I already gave my opinion, but I do appreciate you stopping by to give yours. It is certainly welcome and won’t be attacked. I, too, read each issue of the Ensign and the scriptures, so we’re a lot alike.

    I don’t know that going point-by-point will change either of our opinions, as it would be like arguing what the definition of “is” is. But stay tuned, my next post is about things I LIKE about the FAQ (and my last post was about things I LIKE about my ward)

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  123. Mike S on March 19, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    For those interested, there is a post that also discusses the FAQ over on The Exponent, particularly the portion of the FAQ that that relates to the role of women in the Church.

    Here is a link to the article, entitled Does This Add Up?

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  124. Michael on March 19, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    President Hinkley must have had a lapse in memory when he said:

    I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know.

    Because he, himself, spoke in conference:

    the whole design of the gospel is to lead us onward and upward to greater achievement, even, eventually, to godhood. This great possibility was enunciated by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the King Follet sermon (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 342–62; and emphasized by President Lorenzo Snow. It is this grand and incomparable concept: As God now is, man may become! (See The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, comp. Clyde J. Williams, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984, p. 1.)

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  125. Mike S on March 19, 2012 at 4:56 PM

    Michael:

    I couldn’t find a reference for that quote, but I did find the following that President Hinckley said at the Nauvoo temple site in 1994 (reference here on lds.org):

    …In March of the year he died—1844—the Prophet had amplified this doctrine in a monumental address which he delivered in the grove which was just below the temple site. The text of that address has become an important doctrinal document in the theology of the Church. It is known as the King Follett Sermon.

    So, here President Hinckley talks about the King Follett Sermon being an important doctrinal document in the theology of the Church. Then just 3 years later, in 1997, he says the following about the King Follett Sermon:

    I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.

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  126. Ray on March 19, 2012 at 8:37 PM

    #124 – Again, Pres. Hicnkley in that quote was asked about ONLY the “as man is” portion of the couplet. He wasn’t dealing with the “man may become” portion at all. That keeps getting butchered in comment after comment after comment on site after site after site – and it simply is a totally incorrect complaint.

    Mike’s #125 is legitimate to discuss, but saying Pres. Hinckley undermined exaltation for God’s children in ANY way simply is wrong. He didn’t.

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  127. Jon on March 19, 2012 at 10:33 PM

    I think Hinckley was a great person but some of his doctrine he taught I have to disagree with.

    Something even more direct in his teachings that was wrong (out of the many that he taught that were right – can’t complain about most of them) was the use of the 12th article of faith to justify things that shouldn’t be justified and really was a misinterpretation of the article especially when put in context with all the other scriptures. I think here on W&T a while back they talked about it.

    Here it is, a very contradictory teaching of the 12th article applied to polygamy. Although I don’t believe polygamy to ever have been a true teaching Hinckley’s justification is way off. Once again, we listen to leaders for direction and understanding but in the end we must not blindly follow and descern these things for ourselves.

    “I wish to state categorically that this Church has nothing whatever to do with those practicing polygamy. They are not members of this Church. Most of them have never been members. They are in violation of the civil law. They know they are in violation of the law. They are subject to its penalties. The Church, of course, has no jurisdiction whatever in this matter.

    If any of our members are found to be practicing plural marriage, they are excommunicated, the most serious penalty the Church can impose. Not only are those so involved in direct violation of the civil law, they are in violation of the law of this Church. An article of our faith is binding upon us. It states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (A of F 1:12). One cannot obey the law and disobey the law at the same time.

    …More than a century ago God clearly revealed unto His prophet Wilford Woodruff that the practice of plural marriage should be discontinued, which means that it is now against the law of God. Even in countries where civil or religious law allows polygamy, the Church teaches that marriage must be monogamous and does not accept into its membership those practicing plural marriage.” (“What Are People Asking about Us?” Oct. 1998 General Conference).

    http://www.wheatandtares.org/2011/08/05/seeming-contradictions-polygamy-plural-marriage/

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  128. Michael H. on March 20, 2012 at 6:25 AM

    My goodness, I thought that *someone* would have mentioned the elephant in the room here: a good number of these questions are directly in response to the song “I Believe” from the musical “The Book of Mormon.” Take that as you will; I’m writing my own blog post on that right now.

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  129. Glass Ceiling on March 20, 2012 at 6:46 AM

    Michael H.,

    Hey neet!

    Actually the big elephant on the room is why any Mormon would support such drivel or give it the energy it takes to mention it.

    Just sayin.

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  130. Michael H. on March 20, 2012 at 7:47 AM

    Here’s my analysis: http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com/2012/03/mormonism-101-dissection-of-faq.html

    @Glass Ceiling: Are you calling the musical drivel? If so, I’d agree; however, it’s worth it to mention it in order to understand the context in which the FAQ was released, the questions it answers, and the tone in which it is written. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine why the Church would talk about some of the questions in the FAQ if it weren’t for the musical.

    I think it’s important to understand what’s going on and what we’re up against, especially since the musical will probably be informing the popular perception of Mormons for years to come – especially if they make a movie, which I’ve heard is in the works.

    Besides, it’s obvious that the General Authorities who wrote or approved the FAQ gave the musical – or at least that song – the time of day and the energy it took to make the FAQ. And they’re more than “any Mormon”.

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  131. Mike S on March 20, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    Michael H:

    Interesting analysis – thanks for the link to your post. I hadn’t thought of the FAQ as a response to the “Book of Mormon” musical, but the inclusion of many of the topics now makes more sense.

    I still stand by my assertion that the “slant” of some of the things presented in the FAQ is different from what I understood to be “doctrine” as I was raised in the Church. Perhaps they weren’t truly “doctrine” but merely opinion, but they were things taught by Church leaders.

    As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, and as you mentioned in your analysis, there are things I LIKE about the FAQ. My next post this week was going to be on those things, but I think I’ll put it off a week. This week’s post is going to be the 2nd Annual General Conference Statistics Prediction (& Poll).

    Thanks for your analysis.

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  132. Steven on March 20, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    I’ve almost gotten to the point that if it’s not something clearly laid out in the Gospel Principles manual or in True to the Faith or the Bible Dictionary, maybe it’s just not doctrinal. Chapter 2 of GP says “..we can become like our Heavenly Father and receive a fulness of joy.” The chapter continues on to discuss how we can become like Him. I don’t think Polygamy is mentioned in the GP at all, nor is race or the location of the Garden of Eden. The Bible Dictionary simply says the Garden of Eden was located on the North American continent. I’m beginning to think more and more that many leaders have said things that were merely personal opinion, but because they were expressed in a book titled “Teachings of XXXX”, that over the years we’ve given them more weight than we should have, equating them to accepted doctrine of the church. Like I said, I’m pretty much to the point that if I can’t find a “doctrine” supported by the church’s basic teaching manuals and/or scriptures, I regared it as opinion and speculation.

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  133. Jon on March 20, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    @Steven,

    And yet you accept manuals, the bible dictionary, scripture headings as doctrine? Why do you uphold one above the other? What logic in that would make that true? If the previous leaders are fallible, then why not the current ones? Wouldn’t the current manuals etc have less weight now since they are written more by committee rather than by an actual prophet?

    Let’s look at one example why these manuals might also be fallible. The 12 and 13 year old Sunday school manual states that there are no more, or at least very little, angelic visits and should not be expected. Isn’t this teaching contradictory to the whole idea of the restoration that each individual can be taught by angels?

    Just questions. It would be interesting to hear responses.

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  134. Jon on March 20, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    One last comment about my comment #127. I just read about how Alma the elder when there were many in the church that were sinning and he didn’t know what to do. The first thing he did was put is trust in the flesh. Luckily, King Mosiah was a good guy and said, “Not my problem.” So then Alma did what he should have done, he went to the Lord to figure out the problem and reconcile it.

    I find it is interesting how Hinckley made his arguments for God’s law based on man’s current laws. This also has ramifications on Monson’s position on prop. 8. The true order uses natural law, not man’s law to overcome these sins of society. There is no reason to use force in these instances to make people do what we believe is right.

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  135. Nick Literski on March 20, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    #91:
    Obviously I’m an orthodox Mormon…I don’t think that Lorenzo Snow is per-say wrong either; just stating things in too simplistic a way to cover the whole idea. Since its the simplistic over the complicated that has been taken as “doctrine” by some, then in that way I don’t believe in it.

    I don’t think it’s at all obvious that you’re an “orthodox Mormon,” Jettboy. Anyone who rejects the classic Mormon doctrine of eternal progression (future AND past) isn’t an “orthodox Mormon.” They may be an orthodox LDS, but that’s increasingly becoming an entirely different religion.

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  136. Nick Literski on March 20, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    #126
    …but saying Pres. Hinckley undermined exaltation for God’s children in ANY way simply is wrong. He didn’t.

    I couldn’t disagree more. Joseph Smith’s teaching regarding the mortality, faithfulness, and exalation of this earth’s deity is foundational to the concept that “as god is, man may become.”

    Without it, human deification becomes a “new thing,” rather than a continuation of the “one eternal round” that Joseph taught of. In fact, without the track record of deity having already progressed from the status of a mortal man, human deification becomes an untested concept, and this earth’s inhabitants become nothing more than a collection of guinea pigs, upon which deity “experiments” in the hopes that some few might accomblish what even he wasn’t capable of.

    Knowing the doctrine as taught by Joseph Smith, on the other hand, creates hope and faith on the part of ordinary mortal men, knowing that because a “man like [them]selves” has achieved an exaltation, so can they.

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  137. Glass Ceiling on March 20, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    Nick,

    Your “untested concept ” took the words out of my mouth. You are correct right on your point.

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  138. Mike S on March 20, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    #132 Stephen: I’ve almost gotten to the point that if it’s not something clearly laid out in the Gospel Principles manual or in True to the Faith or the Bible Dictionary, maybe it’s just not doctrinal.

    I’m not really sure how to take this. This implies that we shouldn’t “trust” something just because a prophet or apostle said it, because it might be his opinion. So, are you suggesting that President Monson (or Brigham Young or Joseph Smith or McConkie or whoever) need to run everything by the Correlation Committee before they say it? That just seems totally at odds with how God has worked through prophets in the past.

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  139. Mike S on March 20, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    #126 Ray: but saying Pres. Hinckley undermined exaltation for God’s children in ANY way simply is wrong. He didn’t

    I’m with Nick here. If he didn’t undermine it, he certainly redefined it. Saying we are going to be “partakers of divine nature” is certainly different from saying that we can be “Gods”.

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  140. Glass Ceiling on March 20, 2012 at 1:51 PM

    Mike H.,

    I couldn’t care less about the “BOM Musical. ” It’s a fart in the wind in terms of the future of the Church. Those who decide their religious preference on a crass, lowbrow, attempt at insult (wrapped in bizarre admiration ), probably aren’t ready to take out their endowments anyway. In other words, there is Babylon and there is the honest seekers of truth. They don’t usually hang out at the same theaters.

    Still, maybe the musical forces the hand of the Church on some level, but the internet does so exponentially, as does the current Presidential campaign. Ultimately, exposure is good for us because it will eventually shut the mouths of lying religious leaders of other denominations who are bent on misinforming their fold.

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  141. Michael H. on March 20, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    I think the danger from the musical comes from its melding truth about the Church with lies about it. Half of the song “I Believe” is correct; the other half is crazy. Even honest seekers of truth could be misled away from something they would otherwise love by the misrepresentation of the LDS Church. It’s not a matter of deciding religious preference; for most people, they have no idea what’s true and what’s not about Mormons, and know not where to find the truth.

    By the way, I know at least one “honest seeker of truth” who went to see the musical (and was deeply offended by it). By the very existence of the FAQ, I know that at least several higher-ups in the Church listened to the songs and decided they were more than “a fart in the wind.” And none of those people were members of the “Babylon” you so decry. Please don’t stereotype.

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  142. Glass Ceiling on March 20, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    Michael H.,

    Would you please relax? You know what I meant and who I was referring to. Obviously, Church leadership took an interest for obvious reasons. But people of their character are not who keeps the show on Broadway.

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  143. Mike S on March 20, 2012 at 9:42 PM

    Michael H / Glass Ceiling:

    I couldn’t care less about the “BOM Musical” It’s a fart in the wind in terms of the future of the Church. Those who decide their religious preference on a crass, lowbrow, attempt at insult…

    Even honest seekers of truth could be misled away from something they would otherwise love by the misrepresentation of the LDS Church.

    Obviously, no one will go to the BofM musical to learn facts about the truth of the LDS Church. And I wouldn’t expect anyone to get a testimony of the Church from the musical.

    However, there are going to be a lot of people potentially interested in the Church BECAUSE of the musical, or because of the Romney campaign, or because of the “I’m a Mormon” ads. And as they do this, they are going to stumble on sites like “Mormonism 101: FAQ”. And they are also going to stumble on “anti-” sites.

    In this day and age, I would expect a true seeker to actually look at both. If you were buying something, you wouldn’t just go look at the manufacturer’s website – you would look at reviews, both good AND bad. Often, it’s obvious that the bad reviews are over some trivial thing, so you just ignore them. But you truly seek out all sides.

    People are going to do the same from the Church. For better or for worse, they are going to run into things like blacks and the priesthood, or the Lorenzo Snow couplet, or whatever. And they will learn about our history USING ACTUAL WORDS OF OUR PROPHETS AND APOSTLES. Then, when they read things like “Mormonism 101: FAQ” that perhaps conflict with our own leaders’ own words, they will get more skeptical. Something like this FAQ can potentially do more harm than good.

    Just my opinion.

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  144. Glass Ceiling on March 21, 2012 at 2:12 AM

    Mike S

    Nice job with this thing. Really.

    About something earlier that someone said about how our leaders sound like lawyers not prophets. There are reasons for that. The world has changed. We are established and growing, not a fledgling religion. And many of us are comparatively complacent as compared to the early Saints. But things will change again in the Church as the world changes …and it will.

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  145. UnderCover Brother on March 21, 2012 at 5:37 AM

    Hi Mike,

    Great post. Some thoughts and I would appreciate your perspective on this (sorry for the long post).

    The fact that you are confused is worrying. I am confused too, and our confusion should worry the authorities of the Church. The Lord himself stated in D&C 132:8 – ‘Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.’ The fact we have members confused about the basic doctrines of the Church should be deeply concerning.
    I don’t know if you have listened to the Mormon Matters podcast on, ‘How Can We Truly Confront Racism within Mormon Thought and Culture?’, but the more I listened to it and the more I read your remarks, the more I feel that we are trying to address the symptoms rather that looking at the actual cause itself.
    I’ve been reading ‘Understanding the Book of Mormon’, by Grant Hardy (a great read, BTW). In it, he mentions the discussion between Lehi and Sariah (I think this is the only time that Sariah speaks) when their sons travel back to Jerusalem to get the plates (1 Nephi 5: 1-9).
    In those verses, she complains 3 times to him saying. ‘Behold…’.
    Lehi responds 3 times, ‘But behold…’.
    And at the end of these verses, Sariah responds, ‘Now I know…’ with 3 items.

    The question Grant asks is why would Nephi add this in. He (Nephi) obviously wasn’t there when this discussion took place. It obviously breaks up the narrative (no discussion between Lehi and Nephi as to why he killed Laban, where Nephi got the sword from and who on earth is this guy, Zoram).

    In the book (page 21) Grant asks these questions: ‘How do people come to accept the words of the prophets as the word of the Lord? What is faith founded upon? How is prophetic credibility established? Is there a way to convince his brothers – and modern readers, for that matter –
    to accept his spiritual authority?’
    So why was prophetic credibility a problem? Well, we know that false prophets was a ‘critical issue’ in biblical times and the Old Testament is full of verses that cover this (Jer 28:9, 15, Deut 18:20,
    22, 13:5, Ezekiel 14:9, Jer 23:21). Deuteronomy and Jeremiah are full of scriptures about how to test the credibility of prophets. I think these questions get to the heart of the matter and Lehi and Sariah’s discussion really help clarify this.
    Notice in 1 Nephi 5 how Nephi positions these verses with Sariah changing from verse 2,
    ‘Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness’
    to verse 8 where she says,
    ‘Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them.’
    In essence, Sariah moved from saying it was Lehi speaking as a man – ‘you led us out’ (opinion and speculation) to the Lord commanded him, The Lord protected and the Lord gave them power to accomplish it (Doctrine).
    So (as mentioned in the New Oxford Annotated Bible for Deut 18:20-23 footnotes – page 280), 2 things have to happen in order for prophetic credibility to be established:
    1) The prophet should speak exclusively on behalf of God and report only God’s words (as covered in 1 Nephi 3:5).
    2) The second makes the fulfillment of a prophet’s oracle the measure of its truth… (as covered in 1 Nephi 5:8) Agreed that a false prophet can say something that comes true, but you get the idea.
    So the reason why Nephi add these verses was to establish the prophetic credibility of Lehi for the Nephites and for us – the modern readers.

    So can we use that same test today? Can we establish prophetic credibility now?

    I think the scriptures are clear –
    Deut 18:22 – ‘When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him’.
    Jer 28:9 – ‘The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him’
    Jer 23:16 – ‘Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord’

    As I have lightly applied the test, I believe that the core issue now is prophetic credibility. The more we see the shifting of the Doctrines of the Church to mere speculation or ‘we don’t know’, the more I see the weakening of prophetic credibility and the erosion of spiritual authority. A great example is the current 1st Presidency message by President Uchtdorf, who asks ‘Why do we need Prophets?’
    That is a great question, but some better questions are, ‘How do we accept the words of the prophets as the word of the Lord?’ ‘How can you and I know so that we are no longer confused?’ These are never asked today, yet it makes perfect sense that the Lord would provide a way to
    make sure we are not confused or easily led astray.
    With all my heart I want to know this. We desperately need prophets, but like in biblical times, the Lord has established a test so that we can know for ourselves today.
    But do we really want to run this test against our current Prophets and Apostles? Do we as individuals and as a Church really want to go there?
    Let me add in closing: I have no problem whatsoever with Thomas S. Monson saying he is the President of the Church or with the previous ones saying they were Presidents of the Church (excluding Brother Joseph). I think the problem is that the second you say you are a ‘Prophet of the Lord, a Seer and a Revelator’, a member of the Lord’s Church (or any follower of the Lord throughout time) should have the right to be able to use the prophetic credibility test against you. We can then know for ourselves whether you speak as a man or woman or on behalf of the Lord. This was established by the Lord in both The Bible and The Book of Mormon and it makes perfect sense. For me, it is for the Prophet to prove they are who they say they are, else all they say is just opinion and speculation.

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  146. Nick Literski on March 21, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    The more we see the shifting of the Doctrines of the Church to mere speculation or ‘we don’t know’, the more I see the weakening of prophetic credibility and the erosion of spiritual authority.

    You can be sure that amidst all the doctrinal evasion and shapeshifting in modern LDS-ism, one doctrine will not change or be de-emphasized. The LDS doctrine of exclusive priesthood authority will continue to be repeated at every opportunity, as long as that church exists, lest its leaders lose their power and influence.

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  147. Mike S on March 21, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    #145 UnderCover Brother:

    That is a great question, but some better questions are, ‘How do we accept the words of the prophets as the word of the Lord?’ ‘How can you and I know so that we are no longer confused?’ These are never asked today, yet it makes perfect sense that the Lord would provide a way to make sure we are not confused or easily led astray.

    Thank you for your comment as it brings up some good points. I agree that this is the crux. I think the problem is that if you ask those questions, your testimony is questioned.

    We had the recent General Conference talk about revelation to individuals and revelation to leaders – which putatively is a way to help answer the question, but we were then told that if our answer differed from the “official” answer, then we were to go back and ask until our answer conformed. As also had repeated multiple times in a single conference the “Twelve Points” that essentially reemphasized prophetic infaliability.

    So, I think those are vital question, yet no one truly wants them asked.

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  148. Michael H. on March 21, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    There has always been confusion about seemingly “basic” doctrines in the LDS faith. (For example, did you know that until 1894, people were prohibited from being sealed as children to men who didn’t hold the priesthood in their earthly life? It was only after that point that seeking out one’s own ancestors was important at all!) However, never have the authorities of the Church proclaimed that the full truth has been revealed and is understood at present. (In the 1894 talk that permitted people to be sealed to non-Mormon ancestors, Wilford Woodruff declared that Joseph Smith was only operating with the light and knowledge of his day, and more had been revealed since.) There is confusion; there is speculation; there is folklore; there is ignorance. There will always be these things – until we reach the Celestial Kingdom (and even then, we believe that there’s progression – which will mean that there won’t even be full comprehension right off, even in the presence of God!). The issue, however, is what we do with it. How do we deal with the confusion of our past and previous prophets’ pronouncements? We can get worried about inconsistency, or we can note that “the knowledge and power of God are expanding; the veil o’er the earth is [still] beginning to burst.”

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  149. Jon on March 21, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    Michael H.,

    As I pointed out in #134. There is no leader of the church who has been perfect. I don’t know if we look at King David as a spiritual leader, yet we still revere many of his writings. So, take truth where we can, trust no one but God for true knowledge and be willing to change our minds when we need to and be willing to say, “I don’t know.”

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  150. UnderCover Brother on March 21, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    #147 Mike S:
    Here’s a quote from Brigham Young that I also believe fits the ‘prophetic credibility’ test:
    “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not”.
    So according to President Young, each of us has a responsibility (by the whispering of the Spirit of God) to influence our leaders if we feel they are not walking in the path the Lord dictates. Are we now saying that this is no longer the case (our testimony is questioned, The 14 Fundamentals, etc) because we no longer (want to) influence our leaders? Have we allowed ourselves to become the very people President Young was afraid of?
    Is this why we are now confused – because of the possibility that our leaders may have walked in a path the Lord did not dictate (opinion/speculation), we are now reaping the results of that path choice and we still won’t acknowledge it?

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  151. Mike S on March 21, 2012 at 7:17 PM

    #148 Michael H: There is confusion; there is speculation; there is folklore; there is ignorance. There will always be these things – until we reach the Celestial Kingdom

    I like this concept a lot. I just wish we emphasized it more in the Church. In the strict hierarchical model we use, there is not a lot of room for this model, however. Implicitly or explicitly, people expect their leaders to be increasingly “right”, culminating with the prophets and apostles.

    I would love to see this topic addressed directly at conference. Rather than a talk on the 12 points, have a talk where this concept is explained more fully. I just don’t see this happening, however.

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  152. Mike S on March 21, 2012 at 7:18 PM

    #149 Jon:

    I really like this entire comment.

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  153. Mike S on March 21, 2012 at 7:21 PM

    #150 UnderCover Brother: and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders

    This is a good concept. I do think that this is something lacking in the Church. There is very little feedback, or “influence” from members to their leaders, in the Church. If a member were to write something to a General Authority, it would usually just get sent back to their local leaders for review and explanation. But those local leaders essentially do what the General Authorities say. So the feedback is essentially cut off.

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  154. Glass Ceiling on March 21, 2012 at 7:31 PM

    Very true, Mike S. But I believe it has more to do with corporate mentality from the bottom, up rather than the top, down. Local leadership are the eyes and ears of the Church. If they do nothing to get the message sent up, then nothing gets done.

    I’ve been trying to fix the singles program for a years. I finally gave up.

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  155. Mark D. on March 22, 2012 at 12:25 AM

    Who wins?

    “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be”

    “Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end.” (D&C 20:28)

    Or is this just a capitalization problem?

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  156. UnderCover Brother on March 22, 2012 at 2:46 AM

    #149 Jon:
    Who is ‘we’ that you mention in your post?
    If ‘we’ is the the people, then I totally understand and agree. But if ‘we’ is the prophet – isn’t it the prophet’s role to answer the ‘I don’t know’ as he receives instruction from God for the people?
    And where does the Mormon Newsroom fit in with ‘we’? Are they speaking on behalf of the people, or the prophet? Isn’t that contributing to the confusion?

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  157. Jon on March 22, 2012 at 7:53 AM

    @UnderCover Brother,

    We is each individual.

    I don’t necessarily believe that it is the prophet’s role to answer all questions for the people, or for himself. But if a prophet were going to declare something to the people then I would hope that they would seek guidance in the issue, but I don’t expect it so I put the onerous for truth on myself, not someone else.

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  158. Mike S on March 22, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    #154 Glass Ceiling: Local leadership are the eyes and ears of the Church. If they do nothing to get the message sent up, then nothing gets done.

    I think this is the crux of the problem. There is a heavily ingrained culture of deference to someone higher in the hierarchy in the Church – and this extends from top to bottom. Apostles have even talked about how they pass a box of chocolates in order of seniority, so the junior apostles have less to choose from. Simple example, but it proves the point. And all the way down to the ward level – we had a bishop micromanaged RS enrichment night activities.

    Because of this nature of things, people chosen for leadership positions tend to be ones who don’t “make waves” but defer to those above them. This essentially eliminates the idea of passing a message “up” that perhaps something is wrong or doesn’t make sense.

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  159. Mike S on March 22, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    #155 Mark D:

    We have lots of problems like that where we have conflicting statements that require explanations to say what they “really” mean. Example, Mosiah 15:1-4.

    1 And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.

    2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—

    3 The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—

    4 And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.

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  160. Mike S on March 22, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    #156 UnderCover Brother: And where does the Mormon Newsroom fit in with ‘we’? Are they speaking on behalf of the people, or the prophet? Isn’t that contributing to the confusion?

    And this is the crux of the problem. If we are going to change doctrine, or interpretation of doctrine, it needs to be something an actual Church leader says in a formal setting. Having the MormonNewsroom change things in a press release that prior prophets have taught just doesn’t work for me.

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  161. Michael H. on March 22, 2012 at 9:56 AM

    Sorry to break it to you, but most of the “doctrines” you’re talking about people changing here were not “something an actual Church leader [said] in a formal setting”. Most of the elaboration of “doctrines” concerning polygamy, the Garden of Eden, and human divinization has occurred outside of formal contexts. There are paltry canonical scriptural references (and none, in the case of things like the veil of forgetfulness) you can point to to support the full weight of folkloric explications.

    Besides, what’s a “formal context”? There are plenty of things that have been said in General Conference that aren’t regarded as doctrinal, and there are plenty of things that aren’t said in General Conference (not to mention all those sources used to populate the pages of the “Teachings of the Presidents of the Church” series) that many regard as doctrinal. I think if you’re looking for further clarification of these things, you’ll probably be somewhat disappointed. I doubt that the GAs want to create a litmus test, to be applied to every statement throughout Mormon history, that will tell us how much to weigh various statements.

    Besides, what were the Articles of Faith but a press release (literally!) with Joseph Smith’s name undersigned? ;)

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  162. Mike S on March 22, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    #161: Michael H:

    As per comment #125, we had President Hinckley say:

    …the text of that address has become an important doctrinal document in the theology of the Church. It is known as the King Follett Sermon.

    Also, in the Ensign article references in the OP, it specifically states:

    It is clear that the teaching of President Lorenzo Snow is both acceptable and accepted doctrine in the Church today.”

    It can’t be more blunt than that. If a prophet explicitly saying something is doctrine AND the official church magazine explicitly saying something is doctrine isn’t enough, than we do NOT have an accepted way of establishing doctrine.

    If those aren’t enough, what do YOU propose?

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  163. Jon on March 22, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    @Michael H.,

    I guess what I would be looking for is for the brethren to stand up and say that each individual must seek out their own salvation and not rely on them for correct doctrine, but to take their words, weigh them, and choose to reject or accept them as true doctrine. Instead of that, it seems, we get, that we should “follow the prophet” without thought, which only leads to darkened minds, as Joseph has said.

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  164. [...] couple of weeks ago, I wrote about some aspects of the new Mormonism 101: FAQ that were confusing.  These seemed confusing in the sense that they seemed to change things that I thought were taught [...]

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  165. [...] Joseph McKnight, on folk doctrine, commenting on Mike S’s post “Mormonism 101: A Confusing FAQ” at W&T: I take all the blame for all of it. I invented the polygamy thing, as I know now the church always taught only one man and one woman. I made up the priesthood and temple ban from blacks and taught it in Sunday School again and again until 1978 when I heard the announcement from KSL TV and I thought the world was going to end because I had preached that blacks would only get the priesthood after everybody else had gotten it and no sooner. I was the one who made up the couplet about God being like man. I love taking the blame, too, from Elder Holland and others, because I AM the common folk. It was all folklore and I am the folk who made it up. [...]

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