A thought from C.S. Lewis

“In the earlier history of every rebellion there is a stage at which you do not yet attack the King in person. You say, ‘The King is all right. It is his Ministers who are wrong. They misrepresent him and corrupt all his plans –which, I’m sure, are good plans if only the Ministers would let them take effect.’ And the first victory consists in beheading a few Ministers: only at a later stage do you go on and behead the King himself.”

-C.S. Lewis

I leave the application of this quote as an exercise to our readers.

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About Ivan W.

Ivan Wolfe teaches rhetoric at Arizona State University. He has a PhD in English from the University of Texas - Austin, and a BA and MA in English (with minors in Classical Greek, Music, and Philosophy) from BYU. He has several credits on various Christmas albums aimed at the LDS market, several essays in Open Court's Popular Culture and Philosophy series, and various book reviews in academic and popular venues. He also competes in Scottish Highland Games and mud run/obstacle course races, and he can deadlit over double his bodyweight (his last PR was just shy of 500 pounds). He is currently married to Lisa Renee Wolfe. He has five kids and four stepkids.

24 thoughts on “A thought from C.S. Lewis

  1. The is definitely what happened during the American revolution. Up until 1776 (and beyond) most rebellious colonists blamed the ministers, not King George, for the problems.

  2. The rest of the quote goes
    “In the same way, the nineteenth-century attack on St. Paul was really only a stage in the revolt against Christ. Men were not ready in large numbers to attack Christ Himself. They made the normal first move—that of attacking one of His principal ministers. Everything they disliked in Christianity was therefore attributed to St. Paul. It was unfortunate that their case could not impress anyone who had really read the Gospels and the epistles with attention: but apparently few people had, and so the first victory was won. St. Paul was impeached and banished and the world went on to the next step—the attack on the King Himself.”

    But that part is less applicable to certain rumblings on and off line. However, I prefer to let readers draw their own conclusions on this issue; I’m not out to attack any sides – it’s just the reasons behind this quote make me hesitant to jump on any bandwagons.

  3. You’re clearly referring to some reactions to the church’s immigration stance. Reactions such as “the Church Newsroom doesn’t speak for the prophet,” and “what the Church Newsroom says is contrary to my favorite Article of Faith so obviously the Newsroom is wrong and I’ll just ignore them.” Yes. That’s obviously what you’re talking about. :)

  4. This has caused me some personal reflection. I’ve been disaffected from the Church and searching out answers for myself for quite some time now. Along my journey, I came across NOM, Mormon Stories, and some other websites offering what they do, but mostly just I keep to myself the thoughts, questions and dissonance I’ve been experiencing because I don’t want to be useful to an agenda which may or may not be in place by groups similar to the aforementioned before I am ready to make any firm decision regarding the Church and myself in it. (To be clear: I like Mormon Stories but there is a lot of emotional rhetoric I don’t like to be involved in; to me the issues are real but the reactions aren’t beneficial in my opinion.)

  5. Just out of curiosity, did anyone even think about the war in heaven when first reading the quote? I did, but I want to know how off I am from the rest of the readers. Also, if it does have any validity, I wonder what we may draw from such a parallel.

  6. Tim – to quote Doris Day: “Perhaps. Perhaps. Perhaps.”

    Louis G. – while I’m sad to hear you’re disaffected, your attitude towards those sources seems healthy. Things that seem like good ideas (and often have good ideas) are too often covering for other motivations (and sometimes the people behind them, I feel, are even lying to themselves about their true end point).

    dallske – well, it might work. I can’t really see the parallels, but we don’t know a whole lot about the War in Heaven. I’m sure it involved a lot of “war of words” as well, and I could imagine spirits arguing that “well, God wants us all to be saved, and that’s what Lucifer is aimed at – he’s not attacking God, he’s just trying to fulfill the plan – it’s that darn blasted older brother of ours who has it all wrong.” Who knows? It’s not what I had in mind, but a good quote like this has wide applicability.

  7. Louis G, I come from a Mormon family but did not get baptized until I was in my 30s. I am familiar with the tactics of the NOM, anti-Mormon groups. If you ever want to exchange thoughts/ideas with somebody who is faithful to the Church but not blind to its problems, please e-mail me at [email protected]. I have found a tremendous amount of joy returning to Church.

  8. bob – yes, but in this case, I’m thinking of the king as a metaphor for the prophet and/or God.

    As Eugene England said, the Church is as true as the Gospel. Too many seem to think their own version of their interpretation of the gospel is the real truth, and that God agrees with them. “We’re not questioning the prophet at all!” they say – just questioning everyone around him. Soon, there won’t be anyone left to attack (in their minds) but the prophet.

  9. Wait, the church is true, even if women don’t pray in GC? No, really. RU really suggesting the liberals have the wrong priorities.?

  10. Liberals, conservatives, moderates, libertarians, NOMs, DAMUs, etc. – take your pick. I’m not interested in hashing out specific debates here since I actually have about half a baker’s dozen issues in mind, and I’m sure there are applications with many other issues as well.

  11. I take this to mean that for all the faults of the auxiliary organizations of the church (such as, for example, the correlation committee), attacking them while saying, “the Prophet and apostles are just dandy, it’s just the young men’s organization, or the correlation committee, or the media department that are the problem,” may for many just be one step in a larger rebellion (when viewed longitudinally).

  12. Either way, Ivan,
    I really enjoyed the quote, and I’m not sure that I’d ever read it before, so thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  13. Some Mormon blogs have a history of attacking dead prophets and apostles of the current dispensation. Brigham Young, Spencer Kimball, and Bruce McConkie have been frequent targets. To a lesser degree Harold B. Lee and Mark Peterson.

    I just realized something. Elder Ballard’s call to blog may not have been solely for the purpose of outnumbering anti-mormon websites, but also to outnumber the Mormon blogs that feature so much criticism of the church.

    Louis G.: I feel for ya. I went through a disaffected period too. I had to learn how to forgive those who aren’t perfect and to forgive myself.

  14. Book:

    I can kind of see both sides of the issue, though. Some LDS insist on only talking about the good and right things leaders say, and try to hide and censor the wrong things some church leaders have said in the past.

    There is certainly a danger in focusing only on our church leader’s mistakes. But there is also a danger in pretending our leader’s don’t make mistakes. Banning comments, that in good faith, make both truths evident helps no one.

  15. h_nu:
    If there’s one problem the Bloggernacle/LDS online sphere has, it is not covering up and ignoring problems/mistakes of LDS leaders.

    Instead, there’s way too much focus on mistakes (and often, the criticisms aren’t really about real mistakes, either).

  16. Ivan – case in point is the prayer issue, which some of the major LDS blogs have taken up as their cause.

    It’s an interesting example using conference as the new rallying cry. The apostles teach certain doctrines and principles and ask us to do certain things. They call others and give them authority to preach that same message in their behalf. Every conference, we are asked to “do” a lot of positive things.

    By and large we fail to live up to that on a daily basis. We frequently don’t do the things we know we should an instead focus on all sorts of other distractions, etc. than living up to the degree of what we profess to know.

    Now some section of the membership (who by and large aren’t doing what they should — even though they/we are “good people” by any measure) is turning the tables and asking the Lord’s leaders to fix this tiny little mote that we see in their eye.

    The Lord is sending messengers to us with modern day revelation, which if we act on will refine our eternal character and save souls. Meanwhile, we turn around and say to them that they themselves aren’t doing good enough and only if they could just get a woman to pray for us then we will be on the right track.

    Mote meet Beam. It’s like questioning the church because we haven’t added new books of scripture or sections to the D&C when we don’t even live up to what we have.

    Here we are nodding our heads, saying we sustain the prophets and apostles, covenanting all we have and are to the building up to the kingdom, and for the most part conveniently ignoring those promises in a our daily lives turning around telling the apostles they need to get a woman to pray for us in conference.

    How about we have a conference where the women do most of the speaking, praying, and singing. Then will we listen and act on what they say? Oh wait, it happens every year at the General Relief Society Broadcast.

    This proves to me that the debate is more over form rather than function. The outward appearances (more/equal representation) is taking more focus than actually following through on our inward commitments.

  17. “This proves to me that the debate is more over form rather than function. The outward appearances (more/equal representation) is taking more focus than actually following through on our inward commitments.”

    A defining characteristic of Leftist thought, IMHO, is the exaltation of symbolism over substance.

  18. Ivan, you are 100% correct.

    The bloggernacle focuses almost exclusively 100% on the negative.
    And some of the far-righters focus almost exclusively 100% on the positive.
    And then both sides claim the other doesn’t exist.

    In reality, all people do well and poorly, even church leaders. Being honest with ourselves requires acknowledging both and not focusing on what WE want to see. We must acknowledge the good others do and be grateful for it, use it as an example, and have charity for the mistakes of others. It’s hard to be misjudged as always pointing out the negative, when in reality, you’re just asking people to be more honest about the fables we tell about our Church leaders…

  19. h_nu – Here’s the thing, if you have access to personal revelation from God, you’ve studied the scriptures, applied, them, serve others and seek to bless others and build up the kingdom I don’t know why it matters one bit that we idealize our leaders. If we are worried about being blind sheep, well then maybe it matters that we try lower expectations, so to speak.

    But the solution to blind sheep is not depending on flawed researchers to reveal the flaws of men in authority. The solution is to do the things that will give us greater access to personal revelation from God. As it turns out the things that give us great personal revelation from God are the very things the apostles are asking us to do.

  20. h_nu: That’s a bit too Manichean for my tastes.

    I don’t really know anyone on either side that’s 100% one way or the other, or that anyone claims “the other doesn’t exist.”

    Instead, I find that in general terms, conservative (theologically/culturally speaking) Mormons tend to feel the mistakes and errors of leaders aren’t as big a deal, but they are aware of them and don’t cover them up. The liberal (theologically/culturally speaking) side tends to at least pay lip service to the idea our leaders are inspired (of course, the problem, as the quote above shows is that lip service is pretty much useless and often a cover for motives that even those making the claims aren’t really aware of).

  21. Chris: “I don’t know why it matters one bit that we idealize our leaders.” I’m not sure what you mean by idealize here. The problem that I have is with the hyperbole and idolization. For instance, when general authorities state in their conference talk about how President Monson is the MOST loving man yada yada. I can’t imagine what good that does. Are we idealizing the man, instead of trusting in the Lord’s calling a mortal man?

    Perhaps I was a bit hyperbolic with the “neither allows the other to exist”. But in Sunday School, when I point out that we can learn from the Doctrine and Covenants how to have charity for Joseph Smith (in his weakness recorded in the D&C), and the class (and teacher) respond with silence (as though I had just sworn or something like that), that is an indication of idolization gone awry.

  22. Chris: I’m not sure what you mean by idealize here. The problem that I have is with the hyperbole and idolization. For instance, when general authorities state in their conference talk about how President Monson is the MOST loving man yada yada. I can’t imagine what good that does. Are we idealizing the man, instead of trusting in the Lord’s calling a mortal man?

    Perhaps I was a bit hyperbolic with the “neither allows the other to exist”. But in Sunday School, when I point out that we can learn from the Doctrine and Covenants how to have charity for Joseph Smith (in his weakness recorded in the D&C), and the class (and teacher) respond with silence (as though I had just sworn or something like that), that is an indication of idolization gone awry.

  23. Chris, your comment on January 25, 2013 at 10:05 am, was an excellent big picture analysis, and rather mature thinking, in my opinion. Thank you very much.

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