Friday, June 13, 2014

Response to "The Great Divide" from

I don't normally do this, but an article I read about a so-called "Great Divide" in the LDS church made me want to respond.  What started out as a simple comment to my friend sharing the article on Facebook, became a long commentary that I felt was perhaps better suited as a blog post. 

It may be helpful to read the article that precipitated my spending a few hours of contemplation to form my response, which you can find here.

Here is my reply:

Interesting article, however, I think the author is incorrect to assume that a "Traditionally Believing Mormon" or "TBM" doesn't test what they are taught or directed to do against revealed scripture and seek to receive their own confirmation of the truths taught by their leaders.  I don’t think the example he gave of the difference between how a “TBM” and a “New Order Mormon" or "NOM” would respond to the Stake President in the scenarios given is necessarily accurate.  I wouldn’t consider myself a “NOM,” but I would have the same response to the Stake President changing the temple recommend interview.  I would venture to say that most “TBMs” don't follow blindly, but rather trust that those who God has ordained as prophets and apostles do have a different vantage point, and understand that they definitely are not perfect and may say things of their own opinion which are not necessarily always through the inspiration of the spirit, nevertheless they are chosen to reveal God's will for the church and are given revelation through the direction of the spirit.  

I agreed with all the quotes from the past church leaders stating that they are not perfect and we should confirm all teachings through the spirit.  I don’t know that there has been anything different taught.  We are always told to find out for ourselves.  Personal revelation is a fundamental principle of the gospel and we are taught to seek it.  The church and the scriptures teach that we should ask and we will receive answers.  The Book of Mormon concludes with the exhortation to ask to know for ourselves if it is true and the promise that we will know through the Holy Ghost the truthfulness of all things.  The gospel was restored by a 14 year-old boy’s desire to ask God to know for himself what was true.  I don’t quite understand how the author of this article could claim that we are not taught to question and receive our own answers.  

There is a difference between questioning and being critical.  The author says his meaning of criticism is not a negative version, but a thoughtful evaluation similar to that mentioned above to confirm God’s will.  Once again, I don’t believe that sort of criticism has ever been frowned upon in the church.  What is frowned upon is criticism that comes from pride, from assuming that you know better.  Are there changes that have been made in the church and that will continue to be made in the church?  Of course.  To imply that “TBMs” assume that God is completely happy and the church has no more progress to make is false.  But I believe there is a difference in how we believe it should go about.  Revelation often has come through recognizing a need, for example with the Word of Wisdom.  In fact, that is usually how it comes, since I believe the Lord lets the church grow and progress just as He allows us to individually—line upon line, precept upon precept as we are ready to receive it.  Seeing a need for women to be more involved and asking the church leaders to consider how that should happen through the direction of the Spirit is one thing.  Deciding yourself how it should be done and requiring it of our leaders is another.  One shows humility and the other shows pride.  Humility is the only way we can receive and accept the Lord’s will. 

Sometimes we don't completely understand why things are the way they are, but as we act in faith and obediently do those things, we can come to know of the truthfulness.  "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.".John 7:17.  Jesus here himself acknowledged the possibility of a man to speak from God or of himself, but the way to know is often to do the will and then we will know the doctrine.  Faith, humility, and obedience are critical principles taught throughout scripture that will lead to profound growth, knowledge and understanding.

I liked the author’s analogy of seeing the church as a child sees their parents compared to how an adult sees them.  I think it is a pretty adept analogy of how most of us come to see the church as we get older or learn more.  I feel like I, too, can see the “flaws,” or evidences of the fallibility of leaders within the church, but still believe it is the Lord’s church, so I don’t see the difference between us really on that point.  
I'm not sure why the author would say the “TBM” relies on his church leaders for salvation and a “NOM” takes responsibility for his own salvation.  I don’t ever remember being taught that I should rely on my leaders for my salvation.  I have only ever been taught that Christ is my salvation and is the only means by which I will be saved.  I have only ever been taught that it is my individual responsibility to follow Him and to have a personal relationship with Him.

I do believe the Lord chooses prophets and servants to reveal His will.  That is a pretty foundational principle of the gospel in every dispensation.  If the author is implying that following the counsel of church leaders means I am relying on them for my salvation, then he is definitely mistaken about most “TBM’s” understanding of the role of a prophet and the apostles.  They only point us to Christ, who is the author of our salvation.  

I do agree that we need to be cautious not to alienate others who question or are critical.  We are not all the same and the best place for all of us to be is within the same church walls serving each other and showing love to all.  This article was a good reminder to me to be more loving and inclusive when someone is questioning or expresses views that are different than mine and not to see it as a threat to my beliefs nor necessarily an indication that they are falling away or want to leave the church.  It is an opportunity for both of us to be accepting of one another despite our differences and to focus on our mutual love of all that we find good in our church. 

I realized by reading how people felt they had changed since becoming a "NOM" that, as someone they would likely deem a "TBM", I have not really felt many of the things they felt, at least not in the same way, so their departure from those feelings of insecurity and not fitting "the mold" or of being judgmental or less loving is good, since I don't think we are all meant to be exactly the same and we all have different personalities, weaknesses and strengths.  Our challenge is to accept others, especially those who are different, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  

I love Jesus' teaching on this subject:  "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."  (Matt. 5:44-48)  

Just as we should be cautious not to alienate others who question, however, I also believe that those who find themselves often disagreeing with the prophets and apostles should perhaps also be cautious that they truly are seeking to know God's will and not being led astray by their own will and/or the cunning devices of the devil.  The devil can be subtle and is patient.  We may not even realize the course we are taking until it is too late.  "...yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever."  (2 Ne. 26:22)  

Remember, what it says in Isaiah 55:8-9: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."  We are here to learn to conform our will to that of the Lord's, not to reconcile His will to ours.  That is the challenge for all of us regardless of where we stand in "the great divide."   

2 Nephi 28 is a great chapter warning about apostasy in the last days and the many false doctrines and precepts of men that will be taught.  It talks of the devil cheating men's souls and leading them carefully down to hell.  It also ends with this warning, which I believe could again be applied to either side:  "Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost." 
One of my very favorite scriptures is Proverbs 3:5-7:  "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil."

One conclusion I have come to in studying the scriptures is that the key to avoid being misled is true humility and avoiding the vain things of the world.  Pride truly does come before the fall.