I want to address those members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are among the groups of dissenters, critics, and agitators in the Church who suddenly find themselves in an uneasy association with people who increasingly are openly hostile to the Church, its leaders, and its teachings.
I know that some of you are uncomfortable with the direction in which your associates have gone. Uneasy with the comments and conversations on the websites you frequent. Some of you quietly feel misgivings and twinges of conscience about the blatant public denigration of the Church and the Apostles by the people with whom you identify and with whom you have built friendships. You were seeking answers to your questions and resolution for your doubts, but now all you see is increased doubt, questioning, and strife.
Some of you are asking yourselves “How did this happen? I’m a good member of the Church. Why do other members call me or the group with which I participate apostate? How did I get here?”
Let me reassure you that there is a place for you in the Church. We want you here. And yes, we want you with all your doubts, questions, and complaints.
The misgivings you feel about where you suddenly find yourself are valid. Don’t reject them. Listen to them.
It doesn’t matter how you got to where you are as much as it matters that there is a way back.
Goal-setting has often received emphasis in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and with good reason. We are an industrious, action-oriented people. Our ancestors were motivated by their faith to cross oceans and mountains, drain swamps, tame deserts, and build kingdoms.
Goal-setting can be a helpful way to organize effort and to prioritize our use of time by identifying activities and steps that are meant to move us toward a desired objective. It is often a valuable tool.
A while back I did a post called The Faith of Abraham where I discussed the considerable challenges surrounding the story of Abraham being told by God to sacrifice Isaac. I have been in conversation recently with a blogger from Wheat and Tares about this story because it really bothers him — to the point where he has come up with ways to discount it as truly having come from God. As the discussion went on we agreed to ‘take it public’ because its such an interesting topic for discussion. His response to my post is found here. He then posted it on W&T today.
One thing I’ve long believed is that this story largely defines the difference between what it generally means to be “conservative” vs. “liberal” when it comes to religion. Maybe I’m over emphasizing this, but this tends to be a pretty good litmus test. Further, this particular story and the discussion that follows is a fairly straightforward example of why I self-identify as a “conservative” despite being quite literally 25% atheist and only 75% believer. Those that know me know that I believe that liberal theology is a rational non-starter. It doesn’t even make it out the rational gate for me and this is a great example of why.
Summary of Liberal Friend’s Argument
First, let me summarize his argument, though I hope you’ll all go read his full post yourselves. Continue reading →
This is a third in a series about learning how to get the most out of the Temple.
When entering the Temple for the first time or returning, it might help to be aware of some important doctrines for better understanding. There is no “different Gospel” to be found inside that hasn’t been discussed and taught in church on Sunday. Those that say the Temple teaches new doctrine kept “secret” until entering either are ignorant on the topics or more likely exaggerating for the sake of emotional manipulation. Similar to any good literature, the content is deep with allusions, metaphors, and patching together of sometimes desperate truths for greater insight.
Because the format of doctrinal presentation is far more ritualized than typical public church activity, it might at first be hard to recognize the familiar. Even the most knowledgeable Mormon might be a little overwhelmed. Those who haven’t spent much time in personal religious study could likely feel like they are drowning. The reason is the “Plan of Salvation” taught over so many years time gets condensed into a tight presentation. The small drip becomes a flood. Try to drink in too much at one time and the mind and spirit could go into system overload. As was said before, don’t expect to understand the whole or that such will ever fully happen in this life.
Regardless of the difficulties in soaking up all that is offered, there are key doctrines that can help pave the way for inspiration and enlightenment. By no means is the following a comprehensive guide for study. In fact, there really isn’t any way to compile such a list as many things learned in the Temple are personal interpretations; like any Scripture study.
Instead of writing out long commentaries as if an expert in each area, the sections will have quotes from LDS Church leaders and Scripture. There are no better words than from the servants of the Lord. This is a quoted selection of essential readings. It is a starting point for those preparing to attend and more reflection for those having already gone. Continue reading →
In the spirit of describing personal religious turning points, I am presenting this observational essay. At the same time it touches on a few posts with themes about intellectuals and faith.
The Discovery Years
While reading about the LDS history articles in the Ensign, I was reminded of my own studies. When I was young, interest in the subject started because my own personal faith had grown. My house was filled with history books both secular and religious. As a reader, I would try and find anything I could on whatever subject interested me the most.
My first full biography on Joseph Smith was by John Henry Evans, a rather unsophisticated treatment. What intrigued me about the book was less how definitive it was and more how complicated and exciting Joseph Smith seemed. Noticing more to the man and the Prophet than the author presented didn’t bother me — it fascinated me. Perhaps it had to do with my understanding of history as storytelling rather than a collection of facts that had to be accounted for to make things true.
My second encounter with Mormon history was brief, and I had already gotten a beginner’s start by reading a few chapters in Joseph Smith’s 6 Volume history. At this point my focus of LDS Church history set with Joseph Smith as the center of study. Having read one biography of Joseph Smith, I decided to find another one; and like so many other people picked up Fawn Brodie’s treatment. I read a few chapters at the start and a couple in the middle before reading the rest. Unlike so many people who apparently read her book and become disenchanted, I was unimpressed. As a teenager I could tell where history stopped and her own unfounded biases filled in the gaps. Where Evan’s book was sketchy, this one had been overproduced. Other than a few original for the time newspaper reports, “No Man Knows My History” mostly used the Joseph Smith HIstory volumes and Journal of Discourses. Much of what she writes was discussed in B.H. Roberts History of the LDS Church with a difference of opinion. Reading Hugh Nibley’s criticism about the book was not a discovery, but a realization I wasn’t the only one seeing the problems.
Before graduating High School and leaving my home for college, I read all the historical Ensign articles I could. They contained the most detail on specific topics I had access to at the time. The articles were impressive for someone who didn’t have other treatments to rely on for more information. I lament that such writings in the magazine stopped during the 90s, although one or two good articles came out later. Still, it got me reading more than the outdated books written by a small group of believers. Continue reading →