This is a guest post by Tom Stringham
Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
A month ago I wrote that faithful bloggers are “often failing to productively engage their opponents within and without the church,” because “they have not openly challenged the importance of discourse itself by supplanting it with the word of God through scripture, His servants or our own inspired testimony.” Because of my unclear wording, I was misunderstood by some readers as saying that rational discourse should not be used in defense of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What I meant to say, as I explained to one commenter, is that a blogger should “teach and preach” the gospel, not just “teach” or “preach” it.
With that in mind, however, I’m following up on my last guest post not so much by way of qualification of my original argument as by expansion of it. I am convinced that earnest testimony is what is needed from faithful Mormon bloggers of this generation. More specifically, I think what we really need is a culture of testimony-bearing.
This is a guest post by Michael Davidson a father, husband, member of the Church, and lawyer. He’s speaking this Sunday in his branch about the Sermon on the Mount.
A month and a day ago Kate Kelly was excommunicated for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church.” That conduct has been widely documented on this blog and in other places, but the letter informing Ms. Kelly of her excommunication set forth several things that Ms. Kelly must correct in order to return to full faith and fellowship in the Church. Specifically, Ms. Kelly must “demonstrate over a period of time that [she has] stopped teachings and actions that undermine the Church, its leaders, and the doctrine of the priesthood. [She] must be truthful in [her] communications with others regarding matters that involve your priesthood leaders, including the administration of Church discipline, and [she] must stop trying to gain a following for [herself] or [her] cause and taking actions that could lead others away from the Church.”
The letter went on to detail specific instances in which she had done things contrary to the counsel of Church leaders (which constitutes apostasy) and had released “Six Discussions which were intended to proselyte others and to persuade them to support [her] particular interpretation of Church doctrine.” But these things are in the past, mostly. As touching Ms. Kelly and her potential to rejoin the Church, it’s all about what happens going forward, so I’m more interested in what is happening now and in the future instead of what has already past. It is for this reason that this post will not be about what Ms. Kelly has done, but what she is doing today.
Today the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a joint statement concerning Priesthood, Questioning, and Apostasy.
“In God’s plan for the happiness and eternal progression of His children, the blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women. Only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices. All service in the Church has equal merit in the eyes of God. We express profound gratitude for the millions of Latter-day Saint women and men who willingly and effectively serve God and His children. Because of their faith and service, they have discovered that the Church is a place of spiritual nourishment and growth.”
“We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding. We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them.”
“Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy. Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.“
This is a guest post by Tom Stringham, who is a returned missionary and student of economics and mathematics at the University of Calgary. He keeps a blog at VirtuousSociety.com, and is on the editorial staff at Hustings.ca and PrinceArthurHerald.com.
True religion, whenever it has existed on the earth, has always had its enemies. Over the period of history recorded in the scriptures, these enemies often took the form of foreign armies, oppressive governments or brazen idolaters. The word “enemy” implies more than a passive conflict with the church—an enemy is usually conscious of his animosity.
If there is a war being waged against the Lord’s church today, it is being waged as a campaign of op-eds, podcast interviews, digital monologues and legal briefs. While the battlefield of the religious world is strewn with many inanimate and inadvertent obstacles, the church also has antagonists, and the method of the modern religious antagonist is rational discourse, or as Jeff G. wrote in an excellent analysis last year, critical discourse.
O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men!
Faithful Mormon bloggers and commentators respond to discourse mainly with discourse, at least in the online world. As a result, they are often failing to productively engage their opponents within and without the church. This isn’t to say they don’t mean well. But many writers have allowed the church’s enemies to set the terms of engagement. Under those terms, argument is preferable to testimony, and analysis is better than scripture. In other words, believing intellectuals are falling short because they have not openly challenged the importance of discourse itself by supplanting it with the word of God through scripture, His servants or our own inspired testimony.
This is a guest post by Daniel Ortner, who blogs at symphonyofdissent.wordpress.com.
As I recently read Kate Kelly’s letter to her Bishop as well as the “legal brief” submitted on her behalf by Nadine Hansen. As a current law student, my immediate first reaction was to attempt to write a reply brief critical of the arguments advanced therein. Yet, as I thought about the possibility of doing so, I realized how inappropriate such an approach would be in the Church.
I was reminded of Bruce C. Hafen’s timeless warning from a talk entitled On Dealing with Uncertainty:
I found myself wanting to tell our third-year law students that those who take too much delight in their finely honed tools of skepticism and dispassionate analysis will limit their effectiveness, in the church and elsewhere, because they can become contentious, standoffish, arrogant, and unwilling to commit themselves. I have seen some of these try out their new intellectual tools in some context like a priesthood quorum or a Sunday School class. A well-meaning teacher will make a point they think is a little silly, and they will feel an irresistible urge to leap to their feet and pop the teacher’s bubble. If they are successful, they begin looking for other opportunities to point out the exception to any rule anybody can state. They begin to delight in cross-examination of the unsuspecting, just looking for somebody’s bubble up there floating around so that they can pop it with their shiny new pin of skepticism. And in all that, they fail to realize that when some of those bubbles pop, out goes the air, and with it goes much of the feeling of trust, loyalty, harmony, and sincerity so essential to preserving the Spirit of the Lord.
If that begins to happen in your ward, in your home, or in your marriage, you will have begun to destroy the fragile fabric of trust that binds us together in all loving relationships. People may come away from some of their encounters with you wondering how you can possibly have a deep commitment to the Church and do some of the things you do.
Unfortunately, I saw many of the symptoms that Elder Hafen warned of as I read Nadine’s brief. Continue reading